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Good News Dallas
by Scott Bennett    Tue, Nov 8, 2005, 10:31 AM

Mayor Miller
Election Day in Dallas finds voters confronted with two controversial local ballot items: Prop 1 expands the power of the Mayor and raises the office’s pay. Prop 14 provides $23.8 million for a homeless shelter to be built in downtown Dallas.

Prop 1 seems to be again about whether Dallas wants a stronger Laura Miller not a stronger Mayor. The fact is that Laura Miller will only be a stronger Mayor if this measure passes AND Dallas voters re-elect her in 2007. If voters don’t want her to be a stronger Mayor there are at present half a dozen strong candidates who plan to provide voters an alternative.  That is the whole idea behind democracy.

For the most part the Dallas City Council opposes the plan. They prefer to continue governance my committee. Several members (e.g. Ed Oakley) that were instrumental in drafting the “less strong Mayor” proposal have switched sides and now oppose the measure apparently feeling that Dallas citizens should trust their Councilman not their Mayor.

The Mayor says she will vote for Prop 1 but that she doesn’t really care. Yes, she does. Does anyone really think Laura Miller doesn’t want the power to fire the City Manager? Does anyone think she won’t do that before her term is over? What the Mayor doesn’t want is to be associated with one more personal defeat. And defeat is what I predict for Prop 1.

The homeless shelter has actually drawn considerable opposition. Downtown developers who are pouring a collective half billion dollars into downtown’s revival have poured funds into an effort to defeat the proposal. They maintain downtown won’t revive if there is a homeless shelter sitting nearby. (However, none has suggested they will cancel their projects) The shelter is also opposed by some on the grounds of cost. There are an estimated 6000 homeless in Dallas County so the cost is about $4000 per homeless person.

It is hard to vote against the homeless having a shelter and the head of the commission that selected the location, long time civic leader Tom Dunning, is as thoughtful and deliberate as they come. Most of the established civic organizations have endorsed the measure. But my guess is voters will send the City back to square one. The homeless are not a very powerful voting block and the investors have a reasonable point and taxpayers are hurting. The problem is no one has any idea where square one is.

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