Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Meet the new boss, not as strong as the old boss

Newly appointed City Manager A.C. Gonzalez, Dallas' answer to Howdy Doody
A couple months ago I thought the "Uber Affair," in which interim City Manager A.C. Gonzalez tried to railroad past City Council an ordinance governing transportation companies that would have forced one of them, Uber, a smartphone car service, out of business, was going to cost Gonzalez a shot at becoming the fulltime city manager.

Turns out I was wrong. Way wrong. 180 degrees wrong.

The City Council severely chastised Gonzalez for his actions in the Uber Affair and afterwards realized "Hey, this guy now knows his place. We can keep our collective feet on his throat and he will scream ‘Thank you!’."

According to the outlines of the City Council-Manager form of government, the role of the council is set policy and it’s the role of the City Manager to run the city. And publicly, all the parties involved express fealty to that concept.

However, in reality, this council, one of this most incompetent in memory, has decided that it is going to run the city and the last thing they want in the City Manager’s office is a strong leader like immediate past City Manager Mary Suhm. When council members talk about "change" at City Hall and keeping Gonzalez "on a short leash," this is what they are talking about: "From now on, we’re running things here and neither you nor anybody else better get in the way."

That’s why Gonzalez, who, because of Uber, has become the council’s whipping boy, was named City Manager today instead of the much stronger candidate, David Cooke, a former county manager in North Carolina, who would have run the city as he saw fit, much in the same way Suhm did. (Cooke was also "cooked" as a candidate because he is a white male. Hate to admit it, but that’s an accurate statement.)

I also think Cooke wouldn’t have lasted much more than a year in the job. Much sooner than later, he would have thrown up his hands in disgust at the incompetence of this council and walked away.

Let me tell you just how incompetent this City Council is. If any one of these council members (outside of Mayor Mike Rawlings) really cared about the city as a whole, having a marionette as city manager might not be that bad, at least for a while. But, as was feared by the critics of 14-1 (I most definitely was not one of them) when it was instituted more than 20 years ago, these council members have decided they are the mayors, the bosses, the ward healers of their individual districts, nothing more.

This was abundantly clear recently during the debate over a possible plastic bag ban in Dallas. Every single council member began their individual remarks on this topic with "In my district …," or "What I’m hearing from people in my district …," etc. During a conversation about renovating the dog park at White Rock Lake, the topic became "How come there are no dog parks in my district?" Earlier this week Sandy Greyson became incensed that a study of Dallas County did not include a significant portion of her Far North Dallas District. When she was told that the part of her district that was not included was in either Collin or Denton County, she didn’t care. She wanted all of her district included whether it was a legitimate part of the study or not.

So what I’m seeing is Dallas evolving from a city into 14 individual fiefdoms and today the City Council appointed someone as City Manager who will not stand in the way of that transition. And that’s a tragedy.

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