Since the May 1 Council elections, I have frequently been asked what I think about the new Council that will be sworn in June 7. Although run-off elections are currently underway (at press time) in three of the Council districts, and I am certainly no soothsayer, I think several things can be expected from this new group.
First, Mayor Steve Bartlett should be a much stronger mayor than he was during his first 18 months on the job. I think this will be the case not only because he’s learned a few tricks of the trade, but more so, because several veteran Council members, from both the left and the right, who consistently challenged the mayor, will no longer be on the Council.
I think that Mayor Bartlett was probably surprised at the nasty nature of City Hall in the ’90s. Although he might have expected criticism from Lori Palmer for being too conservative, some of his strongest criticism came from Jerry Bartos, who felt that the mayor wasn’t conservative enough.
On June 7, only Councilman Max Wells and I will have been on the Council for more than 18 months. With 13 Council members having less than two years of experience, they will be less likely to be critical of the mayor, especially because they must rely on the mayor for key committee assignments. Also, with new allies like Barbara Mallory, the mayor should be able to build strong majorities on issues important to him.
Building these alliances will be critical, because this Council faces some major challenges over the next 12 months. First on the agenda will be the passage of the 1993-94 annual budget in September.
In no other area is experience more important. You have to know what questions to ask and which buttons to push in the city manager’s office. However, with 13 Council members having one or less budgets under their belts, the budget battles this summer could be a free-for-all.
Also of pre-eminent importance to the City for the remainder of this decade will be the development, and hopefully the passage, of a major bond program, which will most likely be scheduled next spring. Our last major bond program was approved in 1985.
Due to the length of time between bond programs, each Council district has a backlog of demands, not the least of which include District 9 projects like the dredging of White Rock Lake, Dixon Branch drainage improvements and the second phase of the Dallas Arboretum’s four-phase development plan.
Furthermore, this bond program will also be the first clear difference that the new 14-1 Council will be able to point to in terms of the distribution of City services.
Expect a huge portion of this bond program to go for projects in the southern sector of the City.
Even with all its inexperience, I expect this new Council to work together more closely than any Council in recent memory. I would also anticipate less rifts, and for the City’s sake, let’s all hope so.
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