I’m a bit giddy about 2017, and it’s not just a residual effect of my New Year’s Eve bacchanalia that included some very comfortable pajamas, an even more comfortable sofa and a temperate amount of sparkling cider.
No, I’ve got a really good feeling about this year. I don’t want to overstate it, and I don’t want to jinx it, but I feel like this year could be a game-changer for our city.
The last few weeks of 2016 gave us what even the Scroogiest among us would have to admit are a couple of Christmas miracles.
First, the Dallas City Council voted 12-3 to appoint a guy who actually rides DART to the DART Board. It’s unheard of. I mean, who would imagine that someone who rides buses and light rail would be a good candidate to oversee the operation of an agency responsible for buses and light rail?
East Dallas Councilmember Mark Clayton, along with Oak Cliff’s Scott Griggs, nominated Patrick Kennedy to the DART Board, with a strong push from Lakewood representative Philip Kingston. You may remember that I spoke with Kennedy last month about regional transportation issues. He’s a smart, young urban planner who has smart, young urban planning ideas like making our bus system run more efficiently, increasing the frequency of transit to increase ridership, spending less on highways farther and farther from our urban core and working to make our bus/bike/rail network work together as a seamless system.
The DART board doesn’t have any transportation experts, so Kennedy will be a great addition in that respect. And I like that he knows so much about transportation. I really do. But what I really love is that, until recently, Kennedy had given up his car for nearly a decade. He was carless in Dallas, totally dependent on the very public transit system that he will now oversee.
But shouldn’t that be mandatory? Shouldn’t all DART board members have to use public transit for at least half their commutes? That should apply to DART management as well. I am certain we’d see a sea of change in how DART functions if the decision-makers also were riders.
So we’ve got great new blood on the DART Board as we ring in the New Year. Perhaps an even bigger and more surprising change for our city was the Dallas City Council’s selection of a new city manager.
For decades, Dallas has chosen an insider to serve as our city’s top administrative official. In a weak-mayor system like Dallas’, the role of the city manager is incredibly powerful. But every time, the council has voted for our next city manager to be someone who has been working within the Dallas city government for years. And, not surprisingly, we don’t get change agents but flag bearers of the status quo. For some reason this comes as a surprise – every time – to the council members supporting the insider. They never understand what went wrong.
But not this time. Nope, this time, the council zigged. They could have zagged, gone the insider route, in fact they were poised to go the insider route but they zigged. They chose an outsider, T.C. Broadnax, most recently the city manager of Tacoma, Wash., and before that, a highly regarded assistant city manager of San Antonio.
Mr. Broadnax is coming in to our city at a time when we’ve got some serious fiscal challenges, not the least of which is the Police/Fire Pension Fund crisis. He may not have all the answers, and in fact, I’m sure that he won’t, but he’ll bring fresh ideas, new insights, and new ways of doing things. He won’t have pledged fidelity to the Dallas Citizens Council, and he won’t be supremely loyal to City Hall’s old guard. Like Kennedy, he’s a much needed breath of fresh air.
It’s going to be a great year.