Dear Mister Mayor ...

The inauguration of a new Mayor and almost half of the City Council has been marked not by fireworks and parades, but by pundits and columnists writing about what they think the new leadership should do, could do, or might not do.

Rather than spout electrons in the hope that someone may read them, BD prefers the direct approach: An open letter to the new mayor.


Dear Mayor Leppert...

(Since I met you only briefly at the VPNA Mayoral Forum, I just don't feel comfortable calling you Tom. Yet.)

You have been in office for just one week. Surely by now your head is spinning from all the requests and pleas for help from folks all over Dallas.

And by now you must be asking yourself -

Just what was I thinking when Ron Kirk and Roger Staubach asked me to run for mayor. And I said Yes???

No matter. You are the mayor and it's time to make good on all those high-sounding but very non-detailed promises you made during the campaign. The next four years are gonna be so much fun, I can feel it in my old dog bones.

Instead of giving you a list of special requests, please allow me to send you a list of ideas and concepts. You probably won't need much help in doing many of them. The positive benefits of doing them will follow you for years to come.


Go back into the neighborhoods

During the campaign, all the newspaper columnists wrote about how you were seen all over Dallas - north, south, east, west - in neighborhoods most people would never visit on a good day.

Now that you are mayor, don't give up this habit. There are neighborhood meetings taking place nearly every evening, and your staff (and the staff for every city council member) can tell you exactly when and where they are.

Go to these meetings, but don't call ahead. Show up without your entourage. Make a little speech, sit back and listen, and bring lots of paper to write down what everyone says.

Two things to remember: Holding a Meet the Mayor session in NorthPark or Galleria is a waste of time. And there is no reason to ask a city council member permission to visit a neighborhood meeting in their district.


Hold council meetings at night

There are many issues that the council decides that require the input of residents. We in the neighborhoods hear that all the time, but let's be honest, not all of us are independently wealthy or can afford to take a full day off from work to speak (or just sit) at the chambers waiting for an issue to come up.

So why not hold the meetings later in the day? Start the regular session at 1 pm, break for dinner, and then hold court on those zoning issues that require our input after we get off work.

This won't always work for all the issues, or all the people involved in an issue, but it's going to bring more people to City Hall. That may be the most exciting - and scariest - thing of all.


If the people can't get to the council meeting, why not bring the council meting to the people?

Why can't the council meet in the neighborhoods, either in the evening or even on - dare I say it - a Saturday???

This won't work for all those times Mitchell Rasansky wants to quiz someone from Planning, but it's going to encourage more public participation from (gasp!) the public.

If you hold one meeting every two months on the road, you will cover every district in less than the two year term for each council member.

I am sure DISD would have no problem letting you use the high school buildings for these meetings.

And while you are doing that, how about webcasting all the briefing sessions and council meetings?? Not everyone has access to cable or public access television. And don't forget to archive all those meetings.


Listen to the people

The two mayors I grew up knowing in Philadelphia - James H J Tate and Frank Rizzo - both went on live TV every Sunday afternoon and took calls from the public on absolutely everything (thankfully, I was too young to make phone calls).

And they read many of the questions on the air, and all were forwarded to the proper city department.

Philadelphia was a city of 1.5 million people way back in the 60's and 70's, so there is no reason you can't do the same thing with positive results today. Just don't do it from your office - how about a public park?

I am sure the three major stations in town - and the Hispanic stations - would fall over themselves to host this program on a rotating basis (say, every two weeks).

And by the way, no substitutes - it's gotta be the Mayor on the air or no one.


Lower Greenville

You knew I could not write this letter without talking about Lower Greenville.

As previously noted, you need to be at neighborhood meetings down here - Belmont, Lower Greenville, Vickery, Lakewood Heights, and on and on.

You also need to sit down with the two council reps for the area - Ms. Hunt and Ms. Medrano - and consider restarting the Lower Greenville Land Use Study program. LGNA short-circuited this far-sighted plan nearly five years ago, and we have paid the price for it every single day.

Code enforcement is hit and miss down here. It's no problem issuing tickets to residents for yardsigns on the parkway on a Sunday, but what happened to the audit of bars and restaurants? How about St. Martins Wine Bistro parking cars on the empty lot across the street on Marquita every weekend (for the past ten years)? What about the parking problems caused by bar patrons on streets where the residents live in dread of noise or worse every weekend?

And on and on and on. I could dedicate a whole website to all these problems.

Oh wait, I did!

I also own the domain MayorTomLeppert.com just in case you don't pay attention (Allen Gwinn at Dallas.org owns MayorLeppert.com).


Get ready for redistricting in 2011

The US Census takes place in 2010, and you will lead the redistricting process in 2011.

Please, let's not repeat the suicidal mistakes caused by Mad Maxine Aaronson and Joe Don't Call Me Jose May. Districts 2 and 14 need to be redrawn with Central Expressway as a natural boundary. There is no logic to including Lower Greenville in the same district as Dallas Love Field, or the people around Lakewood Library being tied to those living in Arlington Park.

Start getting familiar with today's population trends and how they will impact redistricting in 2010. Better to be prepared than to screw whole neighborhoods. Again.


This is my short list. I am sure that I will add to it over the next few years.

Here's wishing you all the best for the next four years.

Barking Dog

By Avi S. Adelman under Dallas City Council , Dallas City Hall