Friday, October 20, 2017

A Broken System in Garland

With a 6-3 vote, the Garland City Council approved a motion to demolish a National Guard armory to build a dog and skate park. Mayor Douglas Athas was on the losing side of that vote and afterward announced his intention to resign. If you believe the mayor, it was all about a failure of process, a breakdown in how things are supposed to happen in government.
"We have checks and balances in our system. Professionals on staff make recommendations, we have peer review and then it comes to council for final decisions," he said. "When you skip that, when a council comes up with its own ideas and suddenly starts doing it without professionals, without peer reviews, then you have a system that's broken and extremely dangerous."

Council member Rich Aubin had a different view of the process.
"We had almost 50 meetings on dog parks," Aubin said. "It's 13 years ago that we approved the skate park and we don't have a skate park. At what point do you say we just gotta make a decision and move forward."
If elected officials and staff have a good working relationship, the system will work as Athas describes. But it's been 13 years since the skate park was funded by a bond and nothing has been built yet. That's a broken system. So the elected officials decided to do it themselves and made a decision that hadn't had all the reviews and public hearings that some thought necessary to reach a consensus. That's a broken system, too. Checks and balances are hard.

The Richardson City Council often votes 7-0 for whatever staff brings before them. That could be a sign of a good working relationship with city staff (and each other). Or it could be a sign of the council being made up of rubber stamps for the business establishment that put them in office with donations in kind for their election campaigns.

I certainly don't like the contention happening in Garland and I've never been all that comfortable with the conformity of opinion in Richardson. Maybe a happy balance is possible. Good governance is hard, at any level.

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