Monday Night Politics: Forum features Dallas City Council District 3, 7

The Dallas Examiner

Monday Night Politics: Meet the Candidates, presented March 6 by The Dallas Examiner, featured several candidates running in the May 6 general election.

Held at the African American Museum in Fair Park, it began with candidates contending for the Dallas City Council position in District 3: incumbent Casey Thomas, Joe Lawrence Tave and former councilwoman Sandra Crenshaw.

Tave kicked off the forum by introducing himself and discussing why he’s running for city council.

“All over this country, we are having problems, and one of the problems we have is leadership,” he said. “We can have our likes and dislikes, but that is one of the major crises we are facing in this country. I am running again because I want to solve that problem. I also want to take my knowledge and my experience to apply that to make a difference in not only District 3, but the lives of people who live in District 3.”

Thomas followed and revealed to the audience his future plans for the district.

“It has been an honor to be a city council member and represent you who live in the city of Dallas on the city council,” he said. “We focus on bringing economic development into Southern Dallas. It doesn’t happen overnight. It is a process. If anybody understands how the city works, then you know it is a process. It takes time, but we have laid a very solid foundation where you will see over the next 30 days we’re going to be doing a District 3 development update where we are going to give updates on projects that are about to take off. So, I ask for your vote, and I ask for your support for at least two more years.”

Crenshaw then introduced herself and discussed why she was running for city council. This will be her fourth attempt at a city council position.

“Each year that we have had a class of council members take that seat, our rights have digressed,” she stated. “It has gotten to the point to where this particular class I don’t think has enough experience or enough knowledge to continue representing us. Whenever there is redistricting done, it is based on whether they want something and not what’s best for the public.”

During the forum, members of the audience took advantage of the opportunity to ask the candidates questions regarding the needs of the district.

Question: When are we going to be able to have quality grocery stores in our community?

Crenshaw: We have to concentrate first before we can attract and obtain businesses. We’ve got to get back to the basics. We’ve got to do a better job being better consumers. We also have to demand quality customer service, so people will not drive to the Galleria in Cedar Hill so they can walk in a clean restaurant. It’s demand, demand, demand. We got to do a little bit of homework before we can do the kind of things we’re talking about in our community.

Thomas: We can continue to advocate, which we’re doing in the council, for grocery stores in Southern Dallas, but at the same time, we need to take advantage of opportunities for funding that we have for community gardens and farmer’s markets. We have to hold these developers accountable. If they want to build one up north, then you need to count to eight in order to get votes in order for the funding that you need.

Tave: If we are going to attempt to demand from these developers that try to do this and do that, we have to do our part. We have not been doing our part. Those grocery stores need a certain amount of income that they gross every month or weekly to be sustainable. We got to shop. We can’t be here, there and beyond and not spend money here in our community. We have to get our problems fixed.

Q: Thomas, why did you vote against housing complexes accepting vouchers, and what would the competitors have done differently in that situation?

Thomas: It was a situation where we had to look at the legalities of going forward. We were advised by city attorneys that if we voted for it that the city of Dallas would be at risk of a lawsuit. Therefore, based on that information and many organizations that advocate for housing, I made the vote that I made on that issue.

Crenshaw: We’ve got to do a better job of explaining things in the tax base. It is a very complicated deal, and what happens is, if you are not on your toes down there, the mayor and different people have agendas to come in with attorneys as the boogeyman and tell you that if you vote in the interest of your constituents, you’re going to get a lawsuit. At some point, we have to vote in the interest of our constituents. You don’t have to compromise. Stand your ground, and democracy will win in the end.

Tave: How can we sit here and allow people to represent us at that horseshoe and not respect people who are in need? If I’m there, I am going to listen. I don’t care about a lawsuit. Dallas needs some lawsuits. I am going to be concerned about the disenfranchised. We are faced with some lawsuits right now because there have been so many wrongs that have been done to people in our community, and we always come out on the short end of the stick. We got to work together to fortify those who represent the Southern Sector.

Q: After the new Muslim ban, how do you feel about Dallas being a sanctuary city?

Tave: This is a nation of laws. If you are here, put forth the best effort you can to become a United States citizen, so we won’t have all of these horrible things that are happening. I have no problem with Dallas being a sanctuary city because we are concerned about all people. We need to make sure we are prepared legally, and we must do our part. We also have a responsibility to help to try to bring about the changes that are needed. It has to begin with us then it will stand beyond us.

Thomas: Our new city manager, TC. Broadnax, has just sent a memo out Friday [March 3] where he has created a new organizational chart. Part of that organizational chart is an office for welcoming communities. Every council member received that memo. Nobody responded or had an issue with it because, as our mayor showed when we had the situation at the DFW Airport, everyone deserves to be respected. Everybody deserves to be equally treated. The president has his own agenda, and his agenda is not reflective of most of us who live in Dallas, Southern Dallas in particular.

Crenshaw: These people are being taken advantage of. We need to get in there and start coming up with rules of our own.

The forum concluded with candidates seeking the City Council seat in District 7: incumbent Tiffinni Young, Adam Bazaldua, Kevin Felder, James Turknett, Tammy L. Johnston and Marvin Crenshaw. Young was not present.

Bazaldua began by introducing himself.

“I would like to thank The Dallas Examiner for providing me this opportunity to speak with you all. I am a culinary arts teacher with Dallas ISD. I am a father, a husband, a first-time homeowner and a concerned citizen,” he said. “I think that it is time that I took some advice from a student who challenged me and said, ‘You’re always talking about change, but you aren’t doing anything.’ I’m now going to make a change. I want to be that transparency, and I want to put that message out to the constituents.”

Felder followed by introducing himself and providing his administrative background.

“I was the runner up in this race in 2015. I lost the race by only 97 votes,” he said. “After that, I received a number of requests to run for this office again. I am the current vice president of the Dallas branch of the NAACP. I am also on the executive board of the Dallas-NAACP, and I have served as the political action chair under two administrations. My work has manifested itself throughout the city of Dallas.”

Turknett, president of Building Lives Academy, discussed his reason for running for city council again and his qualifications.

“The reason I am running for city council is because I’m the best person for the job,” he said. “I am going to be the hardest working man. America is coming down right now. We need leadership. Leaders are people that influence others to accomplish missions. I am a leader. I’ve been a leader in the army and a highly decorated soldier. I’ve served on all kinds of boards, and I’ve worked to defend District 7.”

Johnston has lived in Dallas for 20 years and is a current resident in South Dallas.

“I’ve been in Dallas for 20-something odd years,” she said. “I went to Grambling State University. I got my first job out of college, and I have been here off-and-on ever since. When I decided to plant my feet, I bought a home right here in District 7 on South Boulevard.”

Johnston addressed what is needed in order to improve District 7.

“Our leadership in District 7 has been lacking,” she said. “My campaign slogan is Community First. I believe that city council and the constituency should work together. The constituency and the community should be back in city council. That’s what I am here – to put the community back in city council.”

Crenshaw, a local political activist, provided his background on his involvement in handling city council.

“The first time I spoke at the city council was in 1972,” he stated. “I came down with the original activist when Elsie Faye Heggins was elected to the city council in 1980. The first time I became a candidate was in 1980. If you are going to serve in the council, you have to be consistent, persistent, and you have to know the ways of city hall. We need experience to help people out.”

The audience then began asking the candidates questions regarding their district.

Question: What is your viewpoint and strategy for Fair Park, and what does it look like in the future?

Crenshaw: There needs to be a committee set up with people from the community to find out what they want to see. As councilperson, that’s what I will present.

Johnston: My position for Fair Park is this: I’ve advocated for and will continue to advocate for a world-class, year-round park that has green space. The reason is the increased foot traffic coming into the area will completely transform the businesses and communities surrounding the park. The second thing I will do as councilperson is that any city support that this entity is seeking to revitalize the park should diminish over time, and the park should become a revenue generator for the city.

Turknett: We’ve got to have more activities in Fair Park. We’ve got to have a world center in Fair Park. Dallas is becoming a world-class place. Fair Park is a key player. We’ve got to ask other city councils to give up some of their budget to help Fair Park grow and become the place it is supposed to be. We have got to come up with a plan where the people and the city are benefitting. We’ve got to communicate with our people and get them in there. We can’t live off of North Dallas money.

Felder: Take down the fences. This is a public park, so we need to put the public back in public park where the people in the community can walk in and out when they get ready, and not only during fair time, because there is a psychological barrier. As long as that fence is there, they feel intimidated. They feel uncomfortable, and it shouldn’t be that way.

Bazaldua: This is something we do need to be willing to invest money in if we want to be able to get a return back on, and this is something we need to reach out to the constituents. That’s the part of my platform that differs from everyone else. I am only one person, and I don’t know everything, but the one thing I do know is my job as a councilperson is supposed to have a collective collaboration of views and concerns from the constituents that is directly affected by each issue. That is how I will determine what needs to happen with Fair Park.

Q: For a couple of decades now, there has been talk about Trinity Park and the toll road. If any of you ends up at the horseshoe and that comes up, which way will you go – yes or no?

Bazaldua: My vote would be absolutely no for that. We should finish one project in one area before we can even consider another.

Felder: We all voted for something a long time ago. I don’t know how it is that you vote for something and a group of people decide to change the scenario. My vote should count. Your vote should count. Whatever we voted for, that’s what should happen. At the end of the day, don’t play with my vote. I would not support any change going into a flood zone and something contrary to what I voted for.

Turknett: The way things are looking, it’s like they are not paying attention to the constituents. They continue to do what the constituents don’t want. My answer would be no. If the people are not for it, we got to make some changes.

Johnston: We have so many quality of life issues here in District 7 that I couldn’t, in good conscience, vote for any high dollar, vanity project without first taking my constituents’ needs into consideration. I would vote no.

Crenshaw: I would vote no. One thing about Dallas and those who try to develop different things and destroy communities is that they are not just going to stop at one time. They’ll continue until they catch us at a weak point, and then, they’ll come in and do their dirt. That is why we have to have experience and teach our young people the history of what’s going on.

Q: What will you do to try and get a cultural district here that can benefit all of our cultural organizations?

Johnston: As a city councilperson, I will be looking to implement programs that will integrate the arts and put the arts into the revitalization process.

Felder: I’m working with Dr. Robinson right now on a major project. Wednesday [March 8], people from the East Coast will be here because I am bringing them here. If we pull it off, it will put the African American Museum on the map.

Crenshaw: I will not be able to do anything unless the community is organized, especially the cultural arts. When we got the museum and the South Dallas Cultural Center, those were struggles that came along. We got to fight.

Turknett: I would fight to bring the cultural arts. We’re working on some projects. I brought a lot of people to Dallas from all types of concerts we have promoted over the years. Right now, we are looking to bring something. A lot of programs we are talking about initiating, like a Grammy award-winning group that will bring a play here by Juneteenth to educate and elevate.

Bazaldua: If this is something that you guys want, then the first step is to bring in transparency that we are lacking right now and to get a response if this what you are advocating for. I’m here. I’m accessible. That’s what I plan to bring. If that’s what is best for the constituents, that is the way I’m going.

The next forum will be held March 20 for Place 4 and Place 8 in Dallas City Council.

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