Laura Miller

The 47-year-old mayor of Dallas on the weakness of her office, saying no to the Cowboys and Ray Hunt, why African Americans don’t like her, and what she’ll do next.

Evan Smith: You don’t look so divisive and unpopular to me.

Laura Miller: I’m wearing the same costume pearls I’ve always worn.

ES: Why are you in the crosshairs?

LM: There are two issues. One is “strong mayor.” I ran on strong mayor. I totally believe in strong mayor. I think it’s the right thing to do. All fourteen council members were strongly opposed to any change.

ES: Surprise, surprise.

LM: If I were still a council member, I would be right in there with them—you know, “Don’t change to strong mayor because that means that we have less power and she has more or he has more.” The only thing I’m surprised about is that I really expected the business community to support it. Forget me—this is about the next ten mayors who are elected. It’s the one way to launch Dallas into another category of city. You can’t have the ninth-largest city in America run by an unelected city manager who has to spend every day catering to fifteen politicians.

ES: Is there a weak mayor—for lack of a better phrase—in any of the eight more-populous cities?

LM: Yeah, San Antonio.

ES: If it works in San Antonio, why doesn’t it work in Dallas?

LM: San Antonio doesn’t need a turnaround. And there’s another difference too. We’re one of the only big cities that have single-member districts in a city-manager form of government. Most other cities that have a city manager have council members elected at-large, so there’s more of a balance, more of a citywide perspective among the elected officials. With us, the way a city manager stays in the job is by apportioning everything into fifteen equal pieces to keep everybody happy. And the way you keep a council member happy is you take care of his potholes and his sidewalks and her alleys. I know—I used to be one. When the city manager got me a sidewalk, I was indebted for a year.

So, fundamentally, one of the major problems I’ve had in the last year is that I started a year ago running and leading a campaign for strong mayor that failed, and failed by a pretty large margin.

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