Dallas needs to take charge of it’s own destiny.
It is critical to improve communication between appointees, public agencies and the people, in order to align towards the same goals and vision for the city.
The city of Dallas has a bevy of boards and commissions to which elected officials appoint members to represent the priorities of the city and of individual council districts. There are more than 60 of these, some of which are more consequential (the Dallas Area Rapid Transit board) than others (the Automated Red Light Enforcement Commission). But they are integral to the city’s operations, and often mark a progress point for how the city and its partners enact policy. An appointment is not a place to return a favor or reward the person with the largest checkbook.
The city has made strides that we find encouraging—the urban planner Patrick Kennedy’s appointment to the DART board, for instance, has brought major changes to the transit provider’s footprint in the city. He and Dallas’ other new appointees successfully killed a proposal that would’ve extended a rail line through the streets of downtown Dallas, causing significantly more damage to the core than it would’ve helped in alleviating the rail’s capacity problem. Now, we have approved a subway instead. The board also urged the agency to rethink its bus routes to improve frequency and reliability. These are examples of how much power these appointments can wield. It is critical to improve communication between public agencies and align towards the same goals and vision for the city.
Where We Stand.
Board appointees should be subject matter experts on whichever they sit. But the city must also set clear policy directives for their representatives to follow. This extends beyond board and commission appointments, however. Clear policy—such as the city’s housing policy, the first ever in Dallas’ history—helps inform the way city staff does their jobs. We advocate for the city manager to hire subject matter experts within City Hall to implement the council’s will. But there can be wasteful or fraudulent procedures and activities within government agencies and our partners that need to be exposed and corrected. To that end, we advocate a robust budget be given to the city auditor to investigate and analyze city departments. This is how we will improve efficiency and expose any malfeasance. The city must define its vision and a strategy, and council, staff, and appointees must be held accountable in implementing those principles. That is good government.