Saturday, March 26, 2005

City Council Candidate's Forum

I wasn't involved in the committee that planned this, but I am pleased and proud that our Democracy For America group managed to pull this off and even got Sam Baker of KERA to moderate the forum. I attended the entire Dallas slate and here are my impressions of the candidates who attended. Disclaimer: This is based on my notes and impressions and I do not claim to be 100% accurate, but I have done my best to state every candidate's position as I noted it. If you find an error please email me and I'll correct it.

Each candidate was given three minutes to make a statement and then took questions from the moderator and the audience. Each candidate was given the opportunity to answer all the questions as well as the same amount of time.

District 7
City Council district 7 takes in a chunk of Dallas immediately south of downtown and east as far as Jim Miller.

Kevin Felder attended. His opponent, Leo Chaney, the current incumbent, did not, and Mr. Felder made that point by bringing along a sign with his name on it and hanging it on an empty chair.

Mr. Felder was very well spoken and had some intelligent things to say about crime, zoning, etc. One of his more novel ideas was getting police cars and helicopters fixed by asking for corporate sponsorship and then putting the logo on the vehicle. He also advocated marketing Fair Park as a year-round tourist destination, which I think is a good idea, although they already do a certain amount of that. Another of his good ideas was to get Dallas involved in the "HUD Dollar Housing Program" in which the city can buy a house for a dollar and, in partnership with private enterprise, fix it up and sell it.

Mr. Felder is against Proposition #1, the Blackwood Amendment.

District 10
This district includes the northeast corner of Dallas, on the border with Mesquite and Garland, and includes part of Lake Highlands. Bill Blades, the incumbent, and Joe Glogowski both attended.

Mr. Blades tended to stay more on-topic and have more succinct things to say than Mr. Glogowski did. One point of disagreement came with regard to the question of crime particularly in the Audelia and Forest area. Mr. Glogowski said that the northeast district of the police department could use a checkup. Mr. Blades stated that he thought that the officer in charge of the northeast division was doing a fine job, that crime has dropped 10% in the area and that the department is going in the right direction and basically needs more support.

Another point of contrast was when they were asked about tax incentives for multi-family housing. Mr. Blades said that he has voted for them in the past, but that he doesn't think that this is necessarily the best way of handling things, and that we need to be careful about creating tax-exempt programs. Mr. Glogowski decried waste in city government, saying that we need to take better care of our money overall and that incentives would be less necessary if the city government did not waste money.

Proposition #1 was not mentioned in this Q&A session. (either that, or I missed it.)

District 2
This district includes (what looks like) Oak Lawn, Uptown, Deep Ellum, and some neighborhoods along 30. Monica Greene and Se-Gwen Tyler attended. Pauline Medrano did not.

I really enjoyed hearing both of these ladies speak. Se-Gwen Tyler sounds like she has had a long-time grounding in serving on Dallas' various boards and commissions and was very articulate. Monica Greene's main theme appears to be her business expertise as she returned to that repeatedly during the conversation.

Ms. Tyler had a really great point to make about using technology to make city government more transparent. She talked about all the tools that the Texas Legislature has to make their government more open, such as the filing of bills online, and the online broadcast of sessions, and so on, and she said that she would like to see something like that happen for city government. I thought that was a great idea. Ms. Greene said that she would like to create a report card for herself, and have her constituents grade her. Also a good idea. The residents in this district are going to have a hard choice to make. Both of these candidates sounded very intelligent and had good points.

Neither candidate supports Proposition #1, but Ms. Greene made a point of saying that she would support a different form of a strong mayor amendment in the fall.

District 5
Yolanda Williams was a no-show. Camile White attended.

I confess that I missed most of Ms. White's Q&A session since I stepped out to have a break.

District 9
This district includes some of Lakewood and East Dallas, all the way to the Mesquite – Garland border. Albert Turner attended. The incumbent, Gary Griffeth, had a previous engagement.

Mr. Turner had some things to say specifically about this district, and I was interested to hear him as I am a resident of this district. He came out strongly against the proposed high rise which the zoning committee has approved at White Rock Lake, and pointed out that the city council has yet to approve it, and he would definitely vote against it. He also said that he is very interested in the re-development of the intersection of Northwest Highway and Buckner, and would be very opposed to the proposed resurfacing using asphalt, which will last 2 or three years at the most, and would encourage the use of concrete.

He reiterated the need to improve Dallas' tax base and make the city more business friendly, and pointed out that it is very important that the city council learn to work together and be unified for the greater good of Dallas. With regards to Proposition #1, he said that he did not agree with some parts, but that we do need some change in our city government.

All in all, he said some good things, but I'm going to have to hear from Mr. Griffeth before I can make up my mind. I hope I'll have a chance to do so at some future point.

District 6
Both Linus Spiller and Steve Salazar were no-shows.

District 8
This is the most southern part of South Dallas. Al Lipscomb attended, Clara McDade and Adrian Drake were no-shows.

Mr. Lipscomb is a bit of a controversial figure in Dallas politics but damn, he's a great speaker. It was highly entertaining to listen to him for the allotted half hour. Every single candidate up until this point harped on the fact that "Dallas is the #1 city for crime for 7 years in a row," but the only solution they had was to support the police. Mr. Lipscomb pointed out that there are 150,000 prisoners right now in the Texas Department of Corrections, and when they get out and come back to Dallas, if they can't make any money by going straight or getting a real job, they'll go back to "Dallas' #1 employer – crack cocaine." He wants to start a camp similar to the Civilian Conservation Corps, to pay people a stipend to work, and to train them for the future. He wanted to pass a resolution to do this, involve the Texas Municipal League and the various chambers of commerce in the city. It was a bit high-flown at times but it was a nice break from the same old mantra of "more cops, more cops."

Sam Baker and even the audience broke up when Sam asked Mr. Lipscomb about Proposition #1 – because Al's been quite an outspoken opponent of it – he even compared it to the rise of Hitler -- and everyone there knew perfectly well that he was about to get out the flamethrower. And he did not disappoint us. He said that the system is not the problem, it is the councilperson's egos that are the problem.

He had a novel proposal for the homeless – he'd like to use the old Parkland building, which is on Maple, to build a homeless center. He pointed out that of course no councilperson wants this in their district, but that this building has the advantage of being owned by the city, of being in working order, and of being able to house the approximately 6,000 homeless which are on the streets of Dallas.

Anyway, there's no doubt he's a controversial figure – he was forced out by a federal bribery conviction (which was eventually overturned), and there are other allegations out there – you can google to find out more – but there's also no doubt that he was one of the most entertaining and interesting speakers of the day.

District 11
This district covers part of North Dallas, from Walnut Hill all the way to Arapaho. Danny Harrison and Linda Koop attended.

Danny Harrison was the only candidate to come out loudly and clearly in favor of Proposition #1. In fact, he talked about it so often that I was kind of left with the impression that promotion of Proposition #1 was his campaign's raison d'etre, so to speak. Linda Koop took the more moderate position that the city needs a change, but that she was against the Blackwood proposal. For example, when asked, What are the factors influencing businesses in Dallas, Ms. Koop talked about licensing and inspection and developing a consolidated department to help businesses. Mr. Harrison basically said that we needed to adopt the Blackwood proposition.

Mr. Harrison owns a landscape company, and stressed his business background. Ms. Koop, a former land use planner, has served on the DART board and the Dallas Park Board and also runs a family owned business. Both came out in favor of a Limited Government Corporation for downtown, but Linda Koop stated that it should be implemented with care. Basically, between the two of them, Ms. Koop came off a bit better simply because she actually addressed the issues instead of harping on the Blackwood amendment.

District 12
This is the northernmost city council district, from Arapaho all the way to the city border. Tony Fleo, Matthew Bach, and Ron Natinsky attended. Mike Mansfield was a no-show.

By this time I, I hate to say it, nothing that these three guys said really leaped out at me and my notes are just horrible. Sorry, District 12 voters, you're on your own here. J

District 14
This is Veletta Lill's old district. It comprises a weird section around Lemmon Avenue, downtown, East Dallas along Cole, and the area east of Central to Abrams. It basically looks like a ring around the Park Cities. Candidates Angela Hunt, Kathy Ingle, Candy Marcum, and PD Sterling all attended.

The most important thing I learned from THIS section of the forum is that a half an hour is too short of a time for four candidates to be able to speak. And, unfortunately, I took awful notes for this one too. I think by this time I was getting pretty tired since I'd been listening to city council candidates the whole day. There was an interesting tone to the discussion about the Wright Amendment, though. This is what keeps long-haul flights from leaving Love Field. Most of the candidates throughout the day were all in favor of repealing it. Love Field is actually IN this city council district, though, so these particular candidates were much more cautious, and they repeatedly mentioned the "Love Field Master Plan Agreement," which limits growth of Love to 32 gates, and which Southwest Airlines has signed off on.

The day closed with a discussion on Amendment #1, the Blackwood Amendment, also known as the "Strong Mayor" proposal. It wasn't much of a discussion, though, since David Laney, of "Stronger Mayor, Stronger Dallas," didn't bother to show up. So we heard from Michael Jung, who gave us seven very concise and convincing reasons against the amendment. The strongest one being, in my opinion, that it has inconsistencies with state law and would probably be litigated as soon as it was put into place. Also, it was developed by one person, who has very little history as a Dallas voter, who in fact did not live in Dallas until recently, and who did not ask for any input from Dallas activists or the citizens of the city. He also pointed out that we should soon be able to get an idea of the City Council's counter proposal, which they hope to put on the ballot in the fall. (In the fall? I wasn't aware we had an election in the fall. Hm.) All in all, quite

Anyway. I guess I'll wrap this up. It was a very worthwhile day, although we didn't get as large of an audience as I had hoped. However, by the end of the day, the audience had expanded greatly. There seems to be a lot of consensus among the candidates about the problems facing Dallas. Crime, the tax base, and the schools were mentioned the most often. It's a paradox, of course, that it's difficult to attract businesses (and thus expand the tax base) because of the crime and the schools, but, fighting crime and fixing the schools also takes money. Other issues: almost every candidate asked came out against the Blackwood Amendment (Danny Harrison being the notable exception), and most of them came out in favor of repealing the Wright Amendment.

Honestly, the two candidates whom I most enjoyed hearing from were Se-Gwen Tyler and Al Lipscomb. I thought her idea about improving the City of Dallas website in order to foster more citizen involvement is absolutely brilliant. And Al, as controversial as he is, was at least entertaining, interesting, and had some new ideas. I was most discouraged by the candidates from North Dallas simply because they were all so flipping bland. Not an original thought between 'em.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to the election and to getting more involved in Dallas politics. There's so much to learn....


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't know that you had a blog. I love it. Keep it up.

I missed the forum but glad yall put it on and we need more people to talk about their impressions so I know who to vote for....

4:18 PM  

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