Bennett is right. Voters gave City Manager Mary Suhm a thumbs-up and Mayor Laura Miller a thumbs-down by rejecting the strong mayor proposal on the ballot yesterday.
The fact is that the strong mayor concept, once a sizzling hot issue, just fizzled. Even the business community that offered financial support was lukewarm about it. Too much doubt existed about whether this change could “fix” what’s wrong at City Hall.
To be sure, it created too much opportunity for mischief-making by giving the mayor the power to fire the city manager, on the one hand, and a majority of the city council the right to fire the manager, on the other hand. Talk about having to serve two masters… The so-called “fix” would put the manager in an impossible situation of trying to please both, at a time when the mayor and council are often at odds. Plus, who wanted to pay Laura Miller more to be mayor?
As for Suhm, Dallasites saw her manage the post-Katrina situation with amazing aplomb and gave her a vote of confidence, I believe, with the proposition’s rejection.
Having said that, problems at City Hall remain. Miller outlined them briefly when she said she was disappointed and perplexed by the outcome, “given the continuing FBI investigation of corruption at City Hall, the constant tax giveaways, and the now relentless residential property tax increases.” Folks may be turned off by Miller's style, but she's frequently out front in identifying what's wrong.
But after two defeats, who will go back to the drawing boards?