Former Addison Councilman’s Message
to Mayor & Councilmembers
From: Jim Duffy
Sent: Sunday, July 12, 2015 4:58 PM
Subject: Unsolicited input
Mayor and Council Members,
It was my understanding you were contacting former council members for input on what attributes are needed for a successful City Manager in Addison. Since no one has reached out to me I have decided to offer some thoughts unsolicited. Maybe there is an expiration date on the input from former council members and I am past that point. Regardless, I do have some thoughts to share with you.
In my view the single most important attribute for our City Manager is a willingness to withstand the pressures of a council determined to cross the line between policy makers and operation of the city. The council sets policy and the City Manager manages the city in compliance with those policies and the established laws and ordinances. That is the form of government in Addison. Unfortunately, recent councils seemed determined to interfere with the day to day operation of the city. I will admit I sat on councils who also tried to cross that line from time to time. Most councils do. Fortunately we had a City Manager willing to stand up to our encroachments. The recent councils seem to have not wanted that input from the management side and when management pushed back they were pushed out.
Which leads me to the next critical attribute of a successful City Manager. The City Manager must be one with the ability to select quality employees, manage them successfully and protect them from the whims of the politicians. If the City Manager is not strong enough to be independent in the selection and retention of the employees he or she will not be successful. More importantly, the city will not be successful. Over the years the quality of our city employees has been exceptional and, as a result, the expectations of the citizens for city services are high. If the new City Manager cannot support that culture Addison will become just another suburb instead the the jewel it has been.
The Addison Way seems to have become The Way Out. We have lost a significant portion of the institutional memory of the city as senior managers and trained employees continue to depart. In my conversations with some of the ones who have left the only consistent reason I hear is “politics”. We need a City Manager who can truly protect the employees from politics. It seems clear to me that this whole exodus of senior managers, especially City Managers, has been orchestrated so the Mayor can have his man in that office. (I say his man because I will be amazed if he selects a woman to fill that role.) Just remember, the Mayor will not be our mayor forever and the council will not be this council forever. The City Manager you select will hopefully be here for many years working with many other mayors and councils. Choose someone for the long term. It is your decision, not the Mayor’s alone.
On a second subject, I’d like to share some city history with you regarding DART since I don’t believe any of you even lived in Addison when the citizens made the decision to join DART and, subsequently, to approve DART taking on debt. The conversations you are having and the legal fees you are expending to explore abandoning DART or getting our money back from DART are wasteful. You seem focused on the DART rail question as if that was the only reason we joined DART. We did not join DART so the mayor and council could ride a train to the airport.
For those of us who were involved in this program early, the primary reason we promoted approval of DART and DART debt was to support Addison businesses. Our hotels, restaurants and office buildings need mass transit to get their employees to and from work. We needed the businesses to create the great community we now have. Don’t mess it up. If you abandon DART you are abandoning the business community you all so proudly campaign as supporting. The citizens of Addison made a commitment those many years ago to support DART for a perfectly valid reason. I urge you not to renege on those commitments. If you want results from DART you need to find a better solution by working with them. Maybe getting someone from Addison on the DART board is a start instead of riding piggyback on other communities. Isn’t it our turn amongst the communities with which we share the seat?
Quit spending money on battles you can’t possibly win. Legal fees for the DART effort are just another example of wasteful spending on the “shiny object” distractions we seem to charge after lately. Seven figure losses for an ill conceived and poorly executed cute water tower project are still going up. Eight figure expenditures for half of the Beltline improvements the citizens approved with no real understanding of the ultimate final cost is not good fiscal management on your part.
As I indicated in the title of this email, the comments I made above are unsolicited and I’m pretty sure they will be treated as such. However, as a 30 year citizen and former city official of Addison I feel it is my obligation to share with you. I don’t think I am alone in these views.
Thank you for taking the time to read this far, if you did.
(published with the permission of Mr. Duffy)