City Hall News
A proposal is underway that would declaw a powerful Dallas citizen commission which oversees parks.
Two proposed amendments to the city charter would move Dallas' Park and Recreation Department under the authority of the city manager, and have the director of the department appointed by the city council rather than the parks board, as is the current policy.
- Amendment 85, submitted by Chris Luna, would move the Park & Recreation Department under the authority of the City Manager.
- Amendment 103, submitted by Charter Review Commissioners Adam Medrano and Marshall Mills, would have the Park and Recreation Director report directly to the City Council.
The Park Department has enjoyed autonomy during its century of operation, governed by a 15-member board of citizens, appointed and approved by the mayor and city council.
The Park board is just one of 15 boards and commissions with citizen appointees, but it's also one of the most powerful. Park board members say that the current structure is a key reason why the Park & Recreation Department has not suffered from the same challenges of typical city departments under the bureaucracy of the City Manager’s office.
“The Park & Recreation department is a little different than some of the other city departments in that the director reports to us,” says Scott Goldstein, a member of the board. “There is this question that has been raised on these changes; what is broken here and what are we trying to fix? I think the system is working. It’s a brilliant system set up over 100 years ago."
His position is echoed in an alarmist-sounding letter from a group of former board presidents opposing the amendments, stating that they'd "undo nearly 100 years of history."
Luna, a former council member, says that the unusual organizational structure first came to his attention when he served on the Dallas City Council in the '90s.
"It was during that time that I learned of this anomaly, in which the Park Director reports to the Park Board and not to the city manager, and I thought that was odd," Luna says. "We only do a charter review like this every 10 years, and I regretted back then that I didn’t float this idea earlier."
The city reviews its governing city charter every 10 years, appointing a board that fields proposed changes. Those are discussed and presented to the city council for approval or denial. That vetting results in a list that is presented to voters. The proposed changes are scheduled to appear on the November ballot.
The Park topic will be reviewed by Charter Review Commission at their March 4 meeting at 6:30 pm.
"Charter amendments give us an opportunity to make city governance more effective, and that's how I see this, can we improve the situation," Luna says. "For me, this is just a good governance amendment."