Dear Mayor Leppert

Dear Tom: Mayor, huh? Bet that’s about the last thing you ever thought you’d do. But here you are, and getting ready to handle your first budget, too.

Allow me to offer some advice. I realize that we probably don’t have much in common, given our different worldviews. You’re a Park Cities, big money, big-business Republican. I’m an East Dallas, middle class, small-business populist. Still, regardless of those differences, we’re in this thing together. And, regardless of what you may have heard about people like me (or may even think yourself), we each want the same things — economic growth, a city that serves all of its citizens fairly, and a police department that is as honest as it is competent.

The problem, I think, is that we have different approaches to getting those things. This is neither good nor bad. What works, works. I hope you realize this and that you don’t dismiss a good idea because it would make your pals on the Citizens Council look askance or raise an eyebrow in the card room at the Dallas Country Club.

Know, too, that regardless of what Dallas’ Only Daily Newspaper wrote, you don’t have carte blanche. You won easily, but considering all the people who didn’t vote, your totals were nowhere near any kind of a mandate. Besides, a lot of people who voted for you — especially in this part of town — did so because they really, really disliked your opponent.

And I’ll be honest: So far, you haven’t filled me with confidence. You said Dallas needs to be more pro-business. My god, Tom, how much more pro-business can we be? What can we do that we aren’t already doing, what with the tax breaks, the relocation incentive money, the TIFs and enterprise zones? You said we don’t need to raise taxes to hire more cops. Again, I have to ask: How much more can we cut from the budget to find the extra money? Have you driven the streets around here and dodged the potholes? Have you been in a library and seen all the books that aren’t there?

You also need to keep an eye on the police department. I don’t know that you have noticed this, but we not only need more cops, but we need better ones. First, the fake drug scandal, and then, this year, rogue cops on Lower Greenville. In between, it seems like an officer gets fired every week — only to be reinstated because the hiring and firing system is screwed up. In addition, the city and council are using the department for personal and political vendettas, which even the Legislature noticed when it held committee hearings about the way the city abuses an urban nuisance law. Gated communities and rent-a-cops, Tom, which are popular where you live, are not the solution.

Finally, being mayor is a lot different than running a business. You actually have to pay attention to the stockholders. Which would be us, the voters. We stockholders can be persistent, even those of us who don’t have columns and blogs. I was no fan of your predecessor, but she did one thing very well. She almost always sat patiently while every resident who signed up to speak at each council meeting made his or her comments. She understood that everyone deserved to be heard. I hope you realize this — that it’s not the sort of thing you’d try to fob off on a flunky. Which is what too many CEOs in the private sector would do. I wonder: Did you ever talk to any ordinary stockholder during your days in the construction business?

I hope this helps, Tom. I’ll try to be supportive, but you have to earn that support. And I don’t think I’m the only one who feels that way.

Jeff Siegel

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By |2010-12-14T19:05:54-05:00August 1st, 2007|All Columns, City Hall, Last Word, Politics|0 Comments

About the Author:

Jeff Siegel
JEFF SIEGEL writes a monthly opinion column about neighborhood issues. He also blogs about wine. Email him at jsiegel@advocatemag.com or follow twitter.com/wine_curmudgeon.