It was a busy week for appointments, with a new city manager, a new district attorney, and a big appointment to the DART board. Here's what happened in Dallas this week.
New city manager
Tacoma City Manager T.C. Broadnax has been nominated as the finalist for Dallas' next city manager. Following a closed-door meeting with the city council on December 9, Mayor Mike Rawlings announced that Broadnax's appointment will be up for a vote on December 14.
Broadnax has been city manager for Tacoma, Washington, since 2012, and he was previously an assistant city manager in San Antonio. He earned a Master's of Public Administration from the University of North Texas in 1993.
Dallas finally gets a DA
Governor Greg Abbott finally filled the district attorney seat vacated by Susan Hawk, who resigned in September after several extended leaves of absence for mental health treatment. Abbott appointed Faith Johnson, a former district judge and prosecutor, and the first black woman to hold the position.
Johnson has worked in private practice for the last decade after serving 17 years at Dallas’ 363 District Court, where she received the lowest rating in a poll of judges conducted by the Dallas Bar. She was reelected four times before losing her seat in 2006.
Her tenure as a judge has one major blemish. According to D Magazine, the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct admonished Johnson in 2005 for throwing a party in her courtroom after a suspect was captured after fleeing his trial. Johnson celebrated Billy Ray Williams' apprehension with balloons, streamers, cake, and ice cream, and invited the media "to capture Williams' bewildered expression as he entered the courtroom and observed the celebration," the commission found.
She'll hold the post through next year. The seat will be up for election in 2018.
Save the Pension
The City of Dallas launched a website, savethepension.com, detailing a plan to save the Dallas Police and Fire Pension. The pension fund has halted all withdrawals, and the city is proposing a reduction in benefit checks for members who have withdrawn more than $500 million in deferred retirement funds since August.
Elizabeth Reich, the city’s chief financial officer, predicts that the plan will bring the pension back to 100 percent solvency in 30 years. The city council is scheduled to vote on the plan next week.
The pension downward streak began with some bad real estate investment and was made worse by large volumes of withdrawals. The fund is estimated to run out of money by 2027, placing future retirements in jeopardy.
This year the city will contribute $124 million to the pension system. Mayor Mike Rawlings acknowledged that funds will be removed from other areas of the city like roads and libraries, but said that keeping police and fire benefits outweighs other needs.
DART board appointee
Patrick Kennedy was appointed to the Dallas Area Rapid Transit board with a 12-3 vote by the city council. Kennedy is an urban planner with nearly a decade of experience using public transportation and has said he would like to immediately overhaul and streamline bus routes.
DART is currently dealing with construction of the Cotton Belt north of the city, while tunneling a second downtown rail line and delaying bus route redesigns.