Many of the city’s most successful business people live in this neighborhood and read our magazines. Average household incomes are more than $141,000 among our 200,000-plus readers. Many of our neighbors clearly know a little bit about running a business.
So if you’re a successful, powerful executive already earning six figures annually, and you’re offered a prestigious, powerful job that pays $60,000 annually, how interested would you be?
If the “strong mayor” proposition passes May 7, that’s how much we’ll be spending to hire an executive to oversee our $2 billion annual budget and manage 13,430 city employees. Not to mention having total responsibility for filling all of our potholes.
You’ll have pretty much complete control over city budget decisions, contractor bids, hiring and firing city employees, and approving construction of roads. You won’t be earning much money yourself, but you’ll have lots of our tax dollars running through your hands.
You’ll have enough power to get things done at city hall and too much power to dodge blame if things don’t go your way.
You’ll also be traversing the city daily doing your job, so you won’t have much time for family and friends. Investigative reporters will be tailing you, hoping to catch you doing things you shouldn’t be doing as mayor of the country’s ninth-largest city. And learned commentators with the city’s various political and media institutions will enjoy debating your shortcomings and anticipating your inevitable fall from grace.
Still willing to endure all of this for $60,000 annually?
I’m not here to tell you how to vote, and I don’t think the sky is going to fall on Dallas regardless of which way we vote May 7.
But I am concerned: Short of the five or 10 truly civic-minded and economically independent people left in Dallas, what kind of person would assume virtually absolute responsibility for 1.2 million citizens in exchange for $60,000 per year?
My guess: Either a person with so much money that $60,000 is chicken feed, making the mayoral position merely a brief stepping stone to something or somewhere else (it’s hard to attract good employees if the boss isn’t planning to stick around), or a person who – because he or she thinks $60,000 is a huge amount of money – probably isn’t capable of running a multi-billion-dollar corporation.
I agree with what I’ve heard from so many of you: Things are messed up in City Hall, and something needs to be done.
I just don’t believe that most of the people willing to serve as Dallas’ “strong” mayor for $60,000 are people we want in complete charge of our city. If we want top-quality talent, we need to pay for it. This charter change doesn’t allow for that, and it’s politically unlikely a future mayor will stick his or her neck out for an appropriate pay raise.
So here’s one final thought: If we won’t pay a “strong” mayor enough to run the city properly, someone else will.