The VisitDallas Mess Isn't a One-off

Recent concerns over VisitDallas and the issues revealed by a city audit of its operations highlight a bigger issue than just one messed-up enterprise. The VisitDallas mess represents a failure of the city to oversee and enforce its contractual relationships, as much as an abuse by one high-profile city business partner. In light of the bad practices, abuses and waste uncovered by the audit, calls for privatization of various city operations will no doubt increase.During my 18-plus years as a Dallas assistant city attorney dealing with these sorts of transactions, my opinion on whether things are best run by a city department, a non-profit entity, or a for-profit enterprise has vacillated and remains open. I worked on numerous such transactions and participated in countless discussions at the highest levels of city government. Much depends on the nature of the operations and the outcomes sought. Some are better served by non-profits, some by for-profit businesses, and some, (perhaps fewer than one might think) are appropriate only for the government (think police.)All approaches require meaningful oversight and enforcement. VisitDallas presents a glaring example of what happens when we overlook oversight. Yes, the City Auditor's Office uncovered problems. Unfortunately, that is like an oncologist reporting inoperable colorectal cancer to a patient who has gone decades without a colonoscopy or prostate exam.  Continue reading...

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