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April 08, 2005

Ron Kirk, Laura Miller Debate Dallas Strong Mayor

By Byron LaMasters

They're both Democrats, but the two never agree on anything, and strong mayor is no exception. Miller supports it, Kirk opposes it. The Dallas Morning News reports:

On Thursday, they renewed their storied rivalry, jousting over the merits of a May 7 referendum that would give the mayor more power, while joking about their feud that changed the city's political landscape.

Mr. Kirk, the former Dallas mayor, described the proposal by Dallas lawyer Beth Ann Blackwood as a divisive, almost diabolical plan that would push the city over a cliff.

Ms. Miller, who served on the City Council before succeeding Mr. Kirk as mayor, said the Blackwood proposal was the tonic needed to pull the city out of its doldrums.
Also Online

The lively debate before the Metro Tex Association of Realtors, moderated by University of North Texas Chancellor Lee Jackson, gave a glimpse of how both sides of the strong-mayor debate will frame their arguments.

Ms. Miller frequently criticized City Hall and its workers – past and present.

"No accountability, no one in charge, no one to blame," she said. "It's been like this for years at Dallas City Hall, and that's what this is all about."

She then invoked memories of ousted Police Chief Terrell Bolton and former City Manager Ted Benavides, both of whom she fought hard to vanquish.

Speaking at times in an aggressive, tense tone, she even insulted Mr. Bolton, the city's first black chief, who was unpopular in parts of Dallas.

"I spent the first two years as mayor trying, trying to get a better city manager, and no one on the council supported me," Ms. Miller said. "And that manager hired an idiot to be a police chief without even interviewing anybody."

Near the end of the debate, Mr. Kirk accused Ms. Miller of using Mr. Bolton as a boogeyman.

"Bolton was a failure as police chief," he said. "But this has nothing to do with Terrell Bolton."

Mr. Kirk, who is a member of the Dallas Citizens Council, said the Blackwood proposal would confirm the fears of minority residents who say the plan would diminish their clout at City Hall.

"We would return to the days when a handful of people get into a room and make the decisions for the rest of us," he said, explaining that the proposal was developed by a small number of people.

"If Blackwood passes, they [minorities] would be right. ... I want us to go for a strong-mayor form of government, but I want us all to go together."

Ms. Miller and Mr. Kirk agree that the mayor should have more power, and both were rebuffed when they asked their respective councils to produce a plan that would allow the mayor to hire and fire the city manager.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at April 8, 2005 02:45 PM | TrackBack

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