Saturday, April 15, 2023

Looking for Leadership in a Mayor

Source: Dubey for Richardson

The mayor's race is heating up. The Dallas Morning News endorsed Janet DePuy. In its interview with her opponent, "[Bob] Dubey said Voelker’s 'micromanagement from the top down' has deterred some council members and residents from speaking at council meetings." Then, in a Facebook post, Dubey said, "I vow to show each city council person and city staff member respect and let their voices be heard." It all sounds good (if you ignore the disrespectful subtext Dubey himself shows towards Mayor Voelker), but what's really behind it?

I've had disagreements with Mayor Paul Voelker over the years (all documented in the archives at The Wheel), but "micromanagement" is not one of them. Just the opposite. One of my persistent complaints about Richardson's "weak mayor" system of government is that it places too much power in the hands of the City Manager. It's simply impossible for the mayor, in this form of government, to "micromanage" city government if the City Manager doesn't want him to. The charter doesn't give him the powers.

Maybe it's the way Voelker runs meetings that Dubey thinks deters Council members from speaking at meetings. If so, he doesn't give any examples. I'll give just one counter-example. Dubey wasn't deterred from upsetting tradition by removing from the so-called consent agenda a proposed ordinance codifying a zoning change that the full Council, in an earlier meeting, had held a public hearing on, deliberated fully, and then voted to approve. Dubey simply wanted one more chance to change the Council's vote at a stage of legislating where the Council never changed its vote before. He succeeded. Voelker wasn't happy, but he didn't prevent Dubey from taking advantage of a detail from "How a Bill Becomes a Law", Richardson style. Dubey demonstrated what I've long thought. Someone who knows Robert's Rules of Order could run rings around this Council. If they don't use the powers they have on that dais, that's on them, not on the mayor, whoever he is. They are docile. I like both a take-charge mayor AND a take-charge council.

Bob Dubey's behavior on that one zoning case shows he can take charge. That's not what I don't like about him. It's what he wants to accomplish when he does take charge that I worry about. His "Inclusive, Energized, Transparent" slogan strikes me as empty promises, or perhaps, false promises. His promise of "A Strong Foundation of Ethics and Integrity-based Decision-making" does as well.

As for "Inclusive," we only need to look at that zoning request Dubey was so adamantly opposed to. It was for a Middle-Eastern restaurant near a residential neighborhood. Alluding to the cultural attraction of hookah, Dubey said, "My question is 'Why does the culture need to come to Richardson, Texas?'" Dubey inclusive, my eye.

As for "Ethics", look no farther than Richardson's Code of Ethics. Before Dubey's tenure, the City experienced the worst scandal in its history. Its Code of Ethics proved totally inadequate. In 2019 Dubey said no changes were needed. I wish he would have had some ideas for reform. Or showed he cared about doing something, anything, to strengthen Richardson's Code of Ethics to prevent it from happening again.

As for "Transparent", look no farther than the Social Media Policy that the City Council adopted, with Bob Dubey's support, in 2020. The policy resulted from the City's embarrassing BimboGate in early 2019. The policy could have been as simple as "don't call women bimbos". Or more generally, "Don't say stupid things." Instead, it became "In order to not say stupid things, don't say anything at all." Way too broad. Gag order broad. Probably unconstitutional. But certainly inconsistent with transparency.

Borrowing noble sentiments for use in campaign season is not leadership. It's pandering. You've got to walk the talk.

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