Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Support an accountable mayor, get smeared

Where Robert Wilonksy saw a neo-Nazi conspiracy, Channel 11 sees financial malfeasence in the campaign to change the city's charter and redefine Dallas mayoral powers. Headed by lawyer Beth Ann Blackwood, the campaign seeks to minimize the role of the city manager -- who really runs Dallas -- and give the mayor more hire-and-fire control over the city's most important officials.

Many of those opposing the change like to point out that most of those funding the campaign for change are not technically residents of Dallas. True, quite a few live in the tiny, tony enclave of Highland Park. Never mind that they work in Dallas, raise money for Dallas charities or have businesses in Dallas. Just never mind that. These people have to be denigrated because, apparently, those who oppose charter change cannot argue the issue on its merits. And that petition with thousands of signatures from actual Dallas residents? Well, never mind that too.

I'm not saying don't investigate the finances. Some details seem odd, but are they unprecedented? Channel 11 doesn't say. There's no context. What is odd is that instead of the beginnings of a healthy debate, all we're getting is breathless non-stories seeking to smear the people who support charter change.

UPDATE: This DMN article did shed light on the finances of Beth Ann Blackwood's Strong Mayor campaign. Things do look odd. Blackwood comes off as a little incompetent, her fundraising should be subject to investigation and she's probably a damaged council candidate. All of which makes this move very wise: "Dallas Mayor Laura Miller...officially [filed] paperwork for the 30-member organization she put together to ensure the measure passes. Ms. Miller said the effort would be unrelated to that of lawyer Beth Ann Blackwood." The professionals have taken over. Let's hope this means a real debate about the measure can now begin.

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