Ethics reform and the mayor’s race

The question is not whether ethics reform, which former police chief David Kunkle has made his primary issue in the mayoral runoff, is a good idea. Everyone wants ethics reform. We also want peace in the world and good will to mankind. The question is whether Dallas voters care enough about ethics reform to elect Kunkle.

Which is a trickier question to answer. We’re in mostly uncharted territory in the runoff between Kunkle and park board president Mike Rawlings. This is only the second mayoral runoff since 1990, so any prediction about turnout and what voters will do can only be an educated guess — if that. The several city council runoffs in the last 20 years aren’t much help either, since they involved only handfuls of voters.

Kunkle sees ethics reform as a way to tar Rawlings, who was accused of giving park contracts to his pals, and to play on his image as the police chief who lowered Dallas’ crime rate. Which is a good idea. Best yet, it’s cost effective — it’s the sort of story that all of the major media outlets will cover, and which will give Kunkle the TV time that he apparently can’t afford to buy.

But will it matter at the polls? Your guess is as good as mine. It’s not so much that Dallas voters are apathetic; it’s that corruption at City Hall doesn’t seem to particularly bother us. We’ve had three council members convicted on federal charges in the past 15 years, and yet it doesn’t seem to make the least bit of difference to voters or how things are done at City Hall. Remember the big stink over the Love Field concession contracts? The council members up for re-election who wanted to keep the no-bid system were re-elected.

It’s enough to make me wonder, to paraphrase the late Chicago alderman Paddy Bauler, whether Dallas will ever be ready for reform.


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