“Can’t we all just get along?” Dallas has been put to the test on this famously problematic question.
Every community has a wide range of viewpoints. In the old days they were expressed over the back fence or at the coffee club. But in the age of Facebook and Twitter, with the touch of a button, opinions - noble or not so noble - go global in a few minutes.
On November 7th, Micky Garus, a Dallas City Councilor, pressed the button on a Facebook post on some very sensitive topics that went viral. In consequence, the media has now put our community's beliefs, lifestyle and courage of convictions under their microscope for the world to dwell upon.
In the week following the post, I have had about 70 contacts on this subject via the internet, phone and letters. I answered virtually all of these contacts and here is what I have been saying.
Dallas has a large, 9-member City Council. Mr. Garus was elected a year ago by the voters in our community as a Council member. The topics he raised in his recent personal Facebook posts have not been the subject of any debate or discussion with our City Council, either formally or informally prior to the Council meeting on Monday, November 16th.
Mr. Garus, like the rest of the Council and the Mayor, does not have a City- sponsored Facebook page. Thus, the postings on his private social media pages reflect his personal viewpoint. His opinions do not represent or reflect the views of our City Council as a body or government, my views as Mayor, or my personal views. In my experience (I am 4th generation Dallas) they are also far from the cultural norms of our community.
The City of Dallas has a very strong written commitment to non-discrimination in all our programs and services as well as regards the personal status and beliefs of our citizens and public. Our Affirmative Action Policy Statement reads, for example, "The City will not tolerate any form of discrimination or harassment and endeavors to maintain a tolerant and respectful work environment free of hostility or unwelcome behavior.” These are not simply words on paper, these principles are deeply ingrained in our culture. We have a wonderful, inclusive community here in Dallas. As a matter of habit, belief and lifestyle, we treat each other and visitors with dignity and respect.
Given that Mr. Garus' has acknowledged that he does not speak for the City or the Council on this matter, it would not be in the purview of the Council to take action against him for statements he has made in a personal capacity on his own social media site. As offensive as his statements may be to many people, his right to make them is protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution, and we have to respect that.
Can’t we all get along? Given our long history of collaboration and civility, I’m sure we will.
Brian Dalton is the Mayor of Dallas