WHAT A RELIEF that the indulgences of August have yielded finally, with resolution and regret, to the disciplines of autumn. We’ve played the parlor games of Indian summer and imagined a thousand what-ifs. But October is a no-nonsense month, a time for defining and getting down to business.

The most critical matters facing Dallas this fall and for the next two seasons center on City Hall: Who are we going to elect as mayor and to the City Council come April? What kind of authority are we willing to assign our public officials? How do we want to apportion power in city government?

Jack Evans’ decision to leave the mayor’s office after one term has initiated a new debate about the council-manager form of government and how it might be modified to meet the challenges of pluralism. Some possibilities include giving the mayor a four-year term, the right to name the chairs of all boards and commissions, and the power of veto.

Certainly the most controversial is the veto. Some argue that a vote on the council, which the mayor now has, is worth more than a veto. Others point out that in cities where the mayor has veto power, it is seldom used. Still others fear that a strong-mayor system would encourage partisanship in city races and introduce party machine politics to City Hall. It’s also been said that a strong-mayor system would be disastrous in the hands of the wrong mayor.


To rebut, it seems clear that the veto, even if seldom exercised, carries a lot more clout than simply one vote among 11. Its uses are many and subtle; it could be an important tool in hammering out a working consensus on the council.

To some extent, partisan politics are already in the picture at City Hall and have been for several years. Former Mayor Earle Cabell went on to become a Democratic congressman, and his protégé, Democrat Garry Weber, was elected county judge after a long stint on the council and an unsuccessful try for mayor.

They were partisan, and so were State Senator John Leedom and congressional candidate Steve Bartlett, who both got started in politics as councilmen elected with North Dallas Republican backing. Now Democratic County Chairman Bob Greenberg has formed the Neighborhood Coordinating Council, which may get involved in next year’s race for mayor. It’s likely that neighborhood groups with members from both parties will participate in the ’83 city election, but there’s no reason to suppose that a strong-mayor system would accelerate this partisan interest any more than has already occurred.

As for electing a weak or wrong-headed mayor to a strong-mayor’s office, this, it seems to me, is the major risk in the new system. But what about the risk of immobilizing an able mayor with a contentious, stalemated council? That has not been the case this term with the current council, but who knows what next April’s election will bring?


It will bring a new mayor, and it’s time to look carefully at our prospects.

One potential candidate who merits our attention is Starke Taylor. It seems that he has suffered a far more adverse response in recent weeks than he deserves. This is because Taylor is not nearly as well known as possible opponents Lee Simpson and former Mayor Wes Wise, both currently serving on the City Council. He’s also a man of Far North Dallas, and this new world seems distant and fantastically futuristic to those who live and work south of LBJ. In fact, that’s where Dallas’ center of gravity is moving; so a mayor from north of LBJ may not be such a bad idea, as long as that mayor remembers that it takes four quadrants to make a city whole.

Taylor is a close friend of former Mayor Bob Folsom, which may not be the liability that some have supposed. In a poll taken last year, Folsom pulled a reasonably favorable rating. Taylor’s business association with Folsom, an important developer, has obscured the fact that Taylor made his money in cotton. Only after selling that company did he get involved in development, which, incidentally, need not be regarded as a political faux pas. Development is vital to the growth of Dallas. Our challenge is to civilize it and be sure that development serves, not stifles, our aspirations.

Starke Taylor also got involved at City Hall, serving as president of the park board. Tricia Smith, possible candidate for the council and former park board member says of him: “I have an extremely high opinion of Starke. He’s a businessman first of all. I saw him evolve into a very sensitive person. [If he gets elected] he could go down in history as one of the very best mayors Dallas has had.”

Billy Allen, who’s serving now with Taylor, says, “Starke is a pretty forceful individual. When he wants something, he really works hard to get it. He allows for input, but it’s designed to get you to the point of his thinking. Starke should be a good mayor, [but] I don’t know if he would enjoy the level of involvement that Jack [Evans] has.”

Betty Marcus, also currently on the park board, calls Taylor “a very, very decent guy; I think he’s got his eye on the whole picture. He’s careful and thoughtful. He always gets back with answers.”

Another park board member, John Sar-tain, adds: “He’s been a very good president and a real leader. He’s eminently fair. He’s strong when it’s time to get tough; he can play hardball. I think he would have an excellent chance of winning.”

Whoever does run and win, 1 hope oneof the first items on the agenda will be theformation of a new charter committee toconsider modifying our council-managersystem into a strong-mayor adaptation.This is a workable way of building a newcity on the proven foundations of the old.


Keep me up to date on the latest happenings and all that D Magazine has to offer.