Some city council districts so rarely make the news, I wonder what their representatives get up to all day. Some, like Oak Lawn’s District 14 are top-heavy with an unending train of development-related decisions and brouhahas. But my old District 13 has had more than its share. It’s flooded, lost electricity for days, been gassed by Atmos and most recently blown away by tornados – and on top of that faced several large, always-contentious zoning cases (The Laurel apartments, Preston Center parking garage, skybridge, Highland House, PD-15 and St. Michael’s to name a few).
At the center of this has been Dallas City Council member Jennifer Gates and her team.
Love her or hate her, you can’t fault her communication skills. I lived in her district during most of the disasters and zoning cases (another form of disaster), but I’d decamped by the time the tornados hit. When I was a resident for those earlier issues, her communication was the background hum of those events. Meeting notices, resource listings, progress updates, etc. filled email boxes with regularity.
However, it was after the tornados hit (after I’d moved), that I realized the amount of work her office performed to keep track of the myriad of moving parts required to keep her constituents informed. Being afar and unaffected, I saw the effort in a new light.
At 7:23 a.m. in the morning after the October 20 tornados, Gates sent her first update listing 22 street closures and reported gas leaks. Eleven hours later, a second update covered safety issues, ONCOR power outages, Atmos contact information, updated road closures, sanitation services, and traffic signal outages.
Those detailed messages continued daily (sometimes more) for weeks before slowing as the area recovered municipally. The most recent was on December 23 and covered diverse topics. The city had set up a new website for tornado victims, updated information on DCAD reappraisals, information on FEMA disaster declaration and timetables for final storm debris pickups. Gates office also included information on the Texas Trees Foundation discussions to restore the lost tree canopy and info on low-interest disaster loans from the Small Business Administration.
That’s some very comprehensive communication and I take my hat off to Gates and her staff. The work required to research, investigate, keep track and post is a lot more than you imagine. Because filtered into all this effort are the individual requests for information that likely flooded her office – oh, and of course the rest of their jobs helping to run the district’s and city council’s day-to-day operations.
Those who read my columns with any frequency know that I’m slow to compliment. I feel most council members’ activities fall under “that’s the job”. But the number and severity of weather events and the resulting meticulous aftermath with a plethora of corporate, city and federal departments and agencies make calling out Gates and her team easy.
Let’s remember, these are the same folks who dealt with the terrible storms that knocked out power to great swathes of her district for days just four months before the tornados struck.
I don’t know what Gates’ next career move may be (this is her final term), but her disaster recovery and communication skills should be in high demand.
Maybe we need more nurses than lawyers in government.
Remember: High-rises, HOAs and renovation are my beat. But I also appreciate modern and historical architecture balanced against the YIMBY movement. In 2016, 2017 and 2018, the National Association of Real Estate Editors recognized my writing with three Bronze (2016, 2017, 2018) and two Silver (2016, 2017) awards. Have a story to tell or a marriage proposal to make? Shoot me an email firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to look for me on Facebook and Twitter. You won’t find me, but you’re welcome to look.