From TDMN: Rawlings’ legacy depends on a second term

June 13, 2014

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings often turns for inspiration to his most accomplished predecessor, the late J. Erik Jonsson.

In preparing for the biggest speech of his political career, at the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Rawlings re-read Jonsson’s famous “Goals for Dallas.”

In February, he celebrated the anniversary of the Goals program by outlining his own Jonsson-esque objectives in a speech at Southern Methodist University. He said we must build a tax base in southern Dallas that’s greater than that in the north; that Dallas can become the business “epicenter” of the Western Hemisphere and a destination for the world’s greatest artists; and that we can have the best public schools among the 10 biggest U.S. cities.

Rawlings has created a task force to develop short-term, substantive ways to combat poverty. He’s created another task force to come up with “dramatic ideas” for Fair Park. He is partnering with the Fort Worth and Houston mayors in pushing for high-speed rail to link the three cities. He’s doing his best to woo the 2016 Republican National Convention. He’d also like Dallas to host a future summer Olympics.

This week, he’s playing host to the New Cities Summit and the U.S. Conference of Mayors, hoping to raise the city’s profile nationally and internationally. It’s the first time the mayors meeting has come to Dallas since 1966, when Jonsson was in office. Rawlings has taken to quoting a Jonsson mantra: Dream no small dreams.

The 59-year-old mayor has a lot of work to do with less than a year left in his four-year term. He says he’ll start thinking this summer about whether to seek re-election. With a successful second term, Rawlings could become the most transformative mayor since Jonsson. The two have much in common — for better or worse.

Like Jonsson, Rawlings previously enjoyed great success in the private sector. Jonsson was one of the founders of Texas Instruments. Rawlings ran the Tracy-Locke ad agency, then Pizza Hut, the world’s largest pizza company.

Both men came to the mayor’s office unburdened by larger political aspirations.

Like Jonsson, Rawlings brings forth bold ideas molded by a genuine concern for the future of his adopted city. Like Jonsson, Rawlings favors partnerships with Fort Worth and other surrounding cities for regional prosperity.

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