Legacies: A History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas, Volume 16, Number 01, Spring, 2004 Page: 59
This periodical is part of the collection entitled: Legacies: a History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas and was provided to The Portal to Texas History by the Dallas Historical Society.
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An early chapter traces the changing economic
and social patterns of Dallas including the
loss of Dallas-based businesses and business leaders
as national corporations replaced locally controlled
banks and firms. As a result, the new business
executives saw their companies' future tied to
national and international issues rather than merely
to the city's fate. The city's rapid growth and
rising diversity also challenged the old hegemony
of past business leaders dedicated to growing the
city. The new business leadership simply had neither
the same commitment nor clout that earlier
business leaders possessed while the civil rights
movement made it more difficult for those leaders
to placate all Dallasites, many who pushed
agendas quite different than simply growth.
Allegiance to an old system that seemed to
have worked when the city was more homogeneous,
however, now adversely affected the governance
of Dallas and resulted in a city that by
this account might be well managed but horribly
governed. Indeed the author argues that because
of the structure of Dallas government, the weakening
influence of business leaders along with the
demographic and economic changes that have
taken place in the city, Big D has become increasingly
reliant on professional managers such as the
city manager, the school superintendent, and professional
executives of the city's top economic
organizations, including the Dallas Citizens
Council, the Greater Dallas Chamber of
Commerce, and the Central Dallas Association.
But these managers are simply unable to exert
the type of leadership needed by the city, so the
new reality of modern Dallas, according to the
author, is that no one is really in charge.
The other major consequence of the continued
reliance on the "Dallas Way" of doing
things is the failure to develop what the author
terms civic capital, or an informed citizenry that
shares responsibility for resolving public problems.
Because such emphasis had been placed on
consensus, and any opposition often characterized
as disloyal to Dallas, contemporary citizens
are either apathetic or unable to voice public dis
sent in a civil and helpful way. Problems are
addressed through litigation rather than negotiations
between sides. Even public-private partnerships
in the city often remain instruments of
social control rather than a way to promote
broad civic engagement.
In the last section of the book, the author
offers suggestions on how Dallas could provide
opportunity for new and effective leadership. He
not only calls for structural change in city government
but suggests the need for a new civic
culture that encourages more citizen participation
in matters of leadership and governance. Dr.
Hanson writes with passion and concern for his
former city and provides an important analysis of
its shortcomings along with suggestions how to
address them. Unfortunately, the book's reliance
on the jargon of political science and the occasional
use of thick detail will probably limit its
public appeal. But its central theme should not
be ignored-that the peculiar civic culture of
Dallas, something that promoted growth and
expansion of Dallas during its first 120 years-is
not so appropriate for a city that has changed
drastically in the last forty years. From the
author's perspective, the real problem has not
been the city's growing diversity, its failing education
system or the suburbs; rather it has been
how its leadership responded to these and other
challenges. While it is possible to quibble with
some of the book's interpretations of the city's
earlier history, and debate how much of what ails
Dallas is the result of national cultural trends
rather than the city's own civic culture, this is a
valuable and useful book not only because of its
analysis of the city's recent past, but because of its
prescriptions for a better future. *
- Robert B. Fairbanks
University of Texas at Arlington
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Dallas Historical Society. Legacies: A History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas, Volume 16, Number 01, Spring, 2004, periodical, 2004; (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth35092/m1/61/: accessed July 22, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Dallas Historical Society.