It’s business as usual at City Hall. Apparently, the strong mayor defeat – and it’s repudiation of She Who Must Not Be Obeyed (thanks, John Mortimer) – has enabled the assorted bureaucrats, mopes and hangers-on downtown to go back to sleep. How else to explain all of their it’s-our-city-and-we-don’t-care-what-you-think behavior this summer?

  • An assistant city manger nearly derailed a multi-million dollar downtown redevelopment deal not on its merits, but because, he said, if the City spent money on the project, it wouldn’t have any more to spend. This is classic bureaucratic thinking, in which decisions are not based on merit – will this deal help downtown redevelopment, do we need to give tax breaks to developers? – but on some  kind of civil service logic that prevents them from spending money that has already been budgeted. Assistant city manager Ryan Evans messed this one up so badly that even the most pro-manager members of the council, who wouldn’t notice if the city manager passed away (“Boy, she didn’t say much at today’s meeting”) publicly criticized Evans. But that’s not the best part of the story. Since this is Dallas, Evans wasn’t fired or demoted or reassigned. Apparently, he’s going to be in charge of the redevelopment project he tried to scuttle.
  • In 1998, Dallas voters approved $3.5 million to build an animal shelter to replace the too-small, too-old Oak Cliff shelter. In 2003, another vote raised $11 million more. So what did the city staff come up with in June, seven years after the original bond election? A $17.7 million project. I’m not sure that even my harshest critics, who give me such a hard time because I’m so consistently cynical about how the city works, can find a way to explain this one. The only way 11 equals 17.7 is if you’re so arrogant you don’t take the time to count. But what’s worse is that the staff has taken seven years to fix a serious problem, and who knows how much longer it’s going to take now? Dog pounds are horrible places, and despite heroic efforts by the employees, the Oak Cliff and Forney Road shelters are not pleasant. I know this because I have spent considerable time at each. Has anyone involved with the project? Here, too, as near as I can tell, no one will be fired, reassigned or even reprimanded. The same staffers, as well as the same architects, are just going to do it again. Wish I could find a job like that – get paid twice for screwing up.
  • A group of Advocate-area residents has been cited by code enforcement inspectors for the heinous crime of leaving their brush not on the yard side of the curb, but in the street (see page 28). This is, again, classic bureaucratic thinking, in which the spirit of the law is irrelevant, and all that matters is enforcing the letter of the law. The city’s code enforcement department has been a mess for at least 20 years, and this is just another example of how messed up it is. Given the serious code violations that go on every day, why waste time and money on this? No doubt because they can. Here’s a thought: Why not cite everyone who waters their sidewalks, driveways and front porches in violation of the city’s watering ordinance? This will not only meet any ticket quotas inspectors might have, but actually address water conservation, which is the real issue.

Know, too, that this isn’t belly-aching because I supported the strong mayor vote. It’s about accountability. This is our city; it doesn’t belong to a group of people we pray. Strong, mayor, weak mayor, whatever, we need to let them know – and their supposed bosses on the council – that we won’t put up with this mindless thinking. Heads need to roll, and we’re the only ones who can make sure they do.

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