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Columnist Claps Back at Mayor’s Broadnax Speech

Screengrab of Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson
Screengrab of Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson | Image by City of Dallas

The Dallas Express was not the only news organization to take note of Mayor Eric Johnson’s swipe at the media during his farewell speech to outgoing City Manager T.C. Broadnax last month.

In an opinion piece titled “Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson, we see your charade of a fond farewell for the city manager,” Dallas Morning News city columnist Sharon Grigsby fired back, accusing him of trying to change the narrative about the two men’s working relationship over the last five years, rewriting history, and “invoking media distortion.”

Near the end of a Dallas City Council meeting on April 17 — and just before he entered executive session with council members to deliberate Interim City Manager Kimberly Tolbert’s start date — Johnson heaped praise on Broadnax for his service, repeatedly claiming Dallas was better off than it was five years ago, The Dallas Express reported.

“I’m going to deal with 800-pound elephant in the room, or whatever people call it, right up front because that’s how I am,” he said. “And I’ve always been that way. This man and I have not always agreed. That’s not a secret, and in a town this big and a city this large and dynamic, the media is going to feast on those times when we’ve not agreed. They’ll never tell you that 90% of the time, we do. That’s not a news story.”

Johnson was referencing issues that have been widely reported by Dallas media, including when he nearly fired Broadnax after 20 terabytes of Dallas police data was lost. Broadnax has also repeatedly been scrutinized for his handling of the City’s building permit process, which prompted some officials to push for his termination in 2022.

“We’ve had disagreements about what direction we want to go on something or how we want to do something,” Johnson said during the April 17 meeting. “But I will tell you … that the times that we’ve disagreed have been very much overblown and very much exaggerated and played up for various reasons.”

And just before Johnson ranted about how the media has to “write to get people to click on stories in a dying industry,” he said that he has looked “back over the last five years and … [saw] a lot of wins.”

“You’d have to be disingenuous to say that Dallas is worse off today than it was five years ago,” he said.

DMN’s Grigsby took Johnson to task for the statement.

“Dallas is not better off than it was five years ago. Government costs more and delivers less. Housing is more expensive. Businesses are leaving downtown. Homeless camps are more entrenched. How big a part the Broadnax-Johnson dysfunction played in this can’t be known, though their discord has impeded the city’s ability to do business,” she wrote.

In his newsletter dated February 26 — five days after Broadnax announced he would resign — Johnson listed the criteria for hiring a new city manager. He suggested that Dallas needed an effective leader and communicator and asserted that “the basics must take precedence,” The Dallas Express reported.

Johnson said that such basics include providing fundamental services to residents.

“But when problems do inevitably arise, the next city manager must be forthcoming about them. Then this person must take responsibility, work to correct the issues, and share plans to move forward effectively. There should be no passing the buck. It’s not enough to say a problem is a collective failure, shrug your shoulders, and effectively tell taxpayers, ‘oh well,'” he said.

DX reached out to Mayor Johnson for comment, but he was not immediately available.

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