In the next six weeks, we’re going to hear a lot of marketing-speak about the mayor’s race from a variety of mayoral candidates. They’re going to throw around phrases like “working together” and “can-do city” and “accountability,” the usual sorts of things that test well with focus groups and mean absolutely nothing.
What they won’t do, unless we ask them, is discuss the issues in specific, “What are you going to do about these problems?” ways. So here are a few ideas to get everyone started. It’s not an inclusive list, and I don’t mean it to be. For too long, we’ve had a top-down approach to government and elections in Dallas, and it’s far past time that the voters started thinking for themselves. We are, after all, the bosses.
1. What are you going to do to get the 150 extra cops Chief Kunkel says he wants on the street? We don’t want to hear excuses that a lawsuit is preventing the city from hiring more police, or that we don’t have capacity at the police academy.
2. How are we going to pay for the extra cops? Will we have to raise property taxes? And if we’re not going to raise property taxes, which programs are going to be cut to pay for the additional police? And claiming that you’re going to find “efficiencies in government” to make up the difference doesn’t count.
3. How did the recent fiasco with recycling bin distribution, where residents who weren’t supposed to get them did and residents who were didn’t, happen? What is going to be done to prevent something like this from happening again? And, again, don’t say it’s about finding “efficiencies in government.”
4. How do you define economic development? What kind of businesses do you want to bring to Dallas? Is there a standard in terms of number of jobs or quality of jobs? Does a call center in Irving count?
5. How are you going to attract business to Dallas? Are abatements and preferential tax treatment the only way to do it? And is it time to set limits on this kind of incentive, so that companies that don’t meet hiring goals or that leave town when the abatement expires have to refund some or all of what we gave them?
6. Are we ever going to fund the library system legitimately again? If not, then have the honesty to tell us so, and stop the charade that has been going on for a decade.
7. Did voters approve what the city wants to do with the Trinity River bridges? I’m not asking if the bridges are a good idea or not; rather, did the bond election allow the city to do this? If not, what are you going to do about it? If it did, how are you going to make that right to those of us who disagree?
8. How do you feel about the manager-council form of government? Do we need to look at the strong mayor system again? If not, what makes you think this system — that everyone seems to say is broken — will work with you in charge, given that the mayor is just a council member with a better office?
9. Code enforcement is another area that has traditionally been under funded. How close are we to full strength? Is there a mandate to go after homes, apartments and the like that aren’t up to code, or is it enough to use the few resources we have to cite residents who aren’t complying with the bulky trash regulations?
10. Is it time for the city to consider more serious water conservation measures, along the lines of San Antonio (more restrictive watering rules, free low-flush toilets, more comprehensive restaurant rules), given the growing demand for water, the persistent drought, and the cost of building new reservoirs? Or can we get by just by building new reservoirs?
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