The City Council was briefed again on the location for the homeless assistance center. All the councilmembers left City Hall in three vans and visited the St. Louis site (which is the first choice of Mr. Dunning’s Homeless Task Force), and the Blue Bell site. At the request of the new councilmembers, we also visited the Industrial site.
I had seen the St. Louis site before, but going out and visiting all the sites, one after another, was very helpful. A number of business leaders are concerned that putting the center at the St. Louis site will hurt businesses and revitalization. The Blue Bell site is not easily accessible from Downtown (it’s across I-30 and hard to get to on foot). Same for the Industrial site, which is far from current homeless services (though the services could arguably move), and right in the middle of the Trinity Park.
When we got back to City Hall, one thing we all agreed on was the need to make single-room occupancy units (“SROs”) part of the bond package. We are NOT going to “fix” the homeless problem by building an intake center, and we would be wrong to try to sell it as such. It’s not a shelter, and it won’t house the 6000 homeless in Dallas. What it will do is direct the homeless to helpful resources (mental health, drug rehab, job training, etc.). In addition to the center, we need SROs to help some of the homeless back on their feet and back into society. Cities that have dealt successfully with the homeless problem also incorporate SROs.
Next week, we’ll discuss the size of the bond package to put before the voters in the November election.
Today we considered whether to remove Councilmember Don Hill’s appointee to the City Plan Commission, D’Angelo Lee.
There was a lengthy discussion and debate. Those supporting Mr. Lee’s removal (including myself) argued that Mr. Lee’s conduct on the Plan Commission violated Dallas’ Code of Ethics. Other councilmembers were concerned that Mr. Lee was being tried in the press, that he was innocent until proven guilty in the FBI investigation, and that this matter should have gone first to the Ethics Commission.
I supported Mr. Lee’s removal for several reasons.
First, l strongly believe that we at City Hall must keep our own house in order and hold ourselves to the highest ethical standard. My support for Mr. Lee’s removal is not based on the fact that he is being investigated by the FBI. That is a separate matter that will be dealt with on the federal level. The City Council’s responsibility is to enforce our Code of Ethics. Facts have come to light recently that Mr. Lee violated our Code of Ethics by accepting money from, and working for, a non-profit that was a direct beneficiary of a zoning case he then voted on. The facts are not in dispute. The only question is whether Mr. Lee’s actions violate our Code of Ethics. Our Code of Ethics prohibits a city official from taking any official action on a matter affecting the economic interest of his employer or client. In my opinion, Mr. Lee’s actions violate our Ethics Code and we have a responsibility to enforce it.
Second, as to the argument that this matter should have first gone before the Ethics Commission: Our Charter (Ch. XXIV, Sec. 17) states that the City Council may remove board and commission members “for any cause deemed by the city council sufficient for their removal in the interest of the public.” The Ethics Commission may investigate ethics violations, but the City Council also has the power, and responsibility, to remove board and commission members when it’s deemed in the public interest.
Third, our Charter provides due process to the removed commissioner. If requested within ten days, the commissioner may have a public hearing to respond to the City Council.
ACTION: The Mayor moved to remove Mr. Lee from the Plan Commission. FAILED 9-6 (AH voting to remove). Councilmember Oakley moved to delay the issue for three weeks. PASSED 9-6 (AH voting not to delay)