Friday, January 28, 2022 Jan 28, 2022
43° F Dallas, TX

CITYSCOPE

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Political observers and reporters who cover City Hall have taken to calling Annette Strauss the “silent mayor.” In the months since she became the city council’s presiding officer, she hasn’t spoken out much or taken any visible leadership positions. In August, she wasn’t really even here, preferring to maintain her long-time tradition of spending the month with her family in the California coastal resort of La Jolla.

Still, council members give her high marks so far, asserting that the absence of leadership is due more to lack of issues than initiative. Her first real tests will likely come this month, when the council concludes its wrestling with the city budget and appointments to the various boards and commissions. Strauss does get all the credit for taking a leadership role on the election of councilman Diane Ragsdale to another term as the council’s deputy mayor pro tem, which is essentially a ceremonial honor. Ragsdale had sought the mayor pro tem role vacated by Strauss, but she realized, early on that she didn’t have a prayer of winning that post, so she turned her attention to winning another term as deputy mayor pro tem. It turned out to be a very close call, and council sources say that Strauss is responsible for Ragsdale’s hanging onto the job.

One city official about whom there is unanimous praise is Assistant City Attorney Ron Kirk, whose duties include serving as the city’s chief lobbyist to the Texas Legislature. Kirk carried a heavier-than-usual package of legislative priorities to Austin during this year’s regular session; under Kirk’s guidance, Dallas achieved eleven of its twelve legislative goals. One of the more important changes will allow the city to condemn and repair rental properties at the owner’s expense and place liens on proporties that do not meet housing code requirements. This removes a major stumbling block to cracking down on slumlords and negligent owners. Other new legislation will help the city funnel more contracts to companies owned by women and minorities. Before, the law limited the city to considering only the lowest bidder in awarding contracts.

“No question about it, a large part of the success we enjoyed in the regular session was directly related to him,” says City Manager Richard Knight. “The city would suffer a significant loss if he should choose to market his skills elsewhere.”