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Dallas City Council Members Expect "Changes" From Gonzalez

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - There was a nationwide search, but in the end Dallas City council members went with what they knew best and tapped interim city manager A.C. Gonzalez for the job full-time. Despite some rocky weeks last summer -- when as interim city manager Gonzalez seemed to want to ramrod through some ordinances that appeared to be protecting taxi companies -- he nonetheless got all 15 council member votes Tuesday.

"Mr. Gonzalez, you have my hearty support," Vonciel Hill Jones told him. Carolyn David echoed, "For me and trying to make the right choice, I think you have the history of our city."

In the end that familiarity seemed to trump some council members' obvious misgivings. Jennifer Staubach Gates said, "And I, too, will be voting for you. But I have to be honest and say it's with some apprehension and hesitation and concern."

Philip Kingston was even more direct saying, "We are not competitive with our peer cities, we have a higher tax rate at our peer cities, our service -- I would argue -- are not as good."

And though all voted to stand behind him, they left no doubt they expect changes in the way city hall is run, such as in animal services and code enforcement. "We want to see some changes; I want to hold you to that. You were committed to that," said Adam Medrano.

Scott Griggs added, "You realize that the council and the citizens of Dallas should not accept any excuses for the changes that need to be made that are long overdue."

Mayor Mike Rawlings continued the "change" theme. "The reality is we are too slow for our citizens, we're not responsive enough for our citizens, we're too slow for businesses that want to start up and expand. And we must be more transparent that each of us at city hall make."

Despite the lectures, Gonzalez claimed to be pleased with Tuesday's vote. "I'm greatly honored…greatly honored by what y'all said. And I guess more importantly by what you decided. And I'm thrilled. And I'm thrilled."

He talked with reporters later and outlined where he thought some of those changes need to be made. " EMS, housing, strategic planning, the budget process, hiring, procurement, those are all examples of areas where we can do better."

Gonzalez didn't outline specifically how proposed changes might be made, though he may have privately done that during council interviews. It must still negotiate a contract with Gonzalez, including salary. He thinks that can be one in a week.

Council members had nothing but praise for the two other finalists who visited them last week. "I believe an outside candidate would have offered us new eyes and fresh approaches instead of status quo. I was also very impressed by the caliber of the other two finalists," said council member Gates. But in the end council members were more comfortable with someone who already knew the lay of the land.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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