Monday Night Politics – Meet the Candidates: First forum features candidates for mayor

The Dallas Examiner

Monday Night Politics – Meet the Candidates, presented by The Dallas Examiner, hosted its first of a series of forums at the African American Museum on March 4 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The political forum featured seven of the nine candidates running for mayor of Dallas in the May 4 general election. Those not in attendance were state Rep. Eric Johnson, state Rep. Jason Villalba and Stephen Smith.

To begin, each candidate was given two minutes for opening statements, which was then followed by an open Q&A session where audience members could ask questions and candidates had one minute to answer.

Opening statements began alphabetically by last name, starting with Mike Ablon, a Dallas real estate developer and founding partner of a local commercial real estate development, investment and management company called PegasusAblon.

“Well I get to welcome everybody, so my two minutes is going. I was having lunch the other day at Elaine’s. … While I was there, I get asked a question and the question was really straightforward. It was what do I think about the Fair Park management contract? … I think we flat-out asked the wrong question. Did we listen to the neighborhood? Did we listen? Did we talk about it? We went and put a Band-Aid on some bleeding. You cannot do that.

“We have a great Arts District, but what is the future of Fair Park? What is the future of the area? It is a gem of our city. It was the cultural center of our city. Cities are a sequence of neighborhoods and it ties the bind. Why am I talking about mayor? Why do I want to be a servant leader for the city? It’s because we have to focus on the neighborhoods and we have to focus on the ties that bind, and then we need to make decisions. We need to execute, and we need to build. We need to build communities; we need to build infrastructure; we need to build jobs; and at the end of the day, we need to build neighborhoods. That’s what makes a great city. That’s what I’m going to be talking about. Thank you.”

Next to the podium was Albert Black, former chairman of the Dallas Housing Authority, president and CEO of On Target Supplies and Logistics, former chairman of the Baylor Health Care System, Dallas Regional Chamber’s first African American chairman, and Oak Cliff native.

“Thank you for everybody coming out tonight. We have a lot of good to talk about tonight, and I’m hoping that you’ll ask the kind of question that will bring the very best out of the candidates that are spending their time with you tonight. This program is about you. You get a chance to hear a little bit about us. About me … I was born just southeast of here in Frazier Courts housing projects. We came here to the Fair Park once, and we got beyond Negro Day at the fair. We came just about anytime we wanted to. We stayed here; we had fun; we walked around; and we went home safe because the neighborhoods were safe then. Much different today. Those same neighborhoods have been neglected. Those same neighborhoods are not kept in a manner that they should be.

“We’re going to talk about neighborhoods and some of the neighborhood redevelopment, neighborhood support, the neighborhood augmentation program that we have policies… that we will recommend to our city. We’re going to talk about economic development in a broader sense and that is how this city can be so generous on the large-scale to major corporations, but citizens down in the communities are not feeling like that economic development is reaching them. We’ll also talk about the 2018 bond program, what it has allocated for Fair Park, and what we should be thinking about, coordinating our efforts in order to optimize the opportunity for citizens like you and citizens all over our city.”

Following Black was Scott Griggs, vice-chairman of the Government Performance and Financial Management Committee, who also calls Oak Cliff home. Griggs also serves on the Dallas City Council. He was first elected to District 3 in 2011 before being elected to represent District 1 in 2013, which he continues to serve.

“I’m a lifelong Dallasite who served the last eight years on the Dallas City Council. In doing that, I have worked with people from all over the city and know that together, there’s not a problem we can’t solve, an opportunity we can’t seize, or a challenge we can’t beat. I have more faith than ever in you, the people of the city of Dallas, and I recognize that we need a new kind of mayor. For too long, mayors of the city of Dallas have been focused on Dallas, the postcard. A city with pretty bridges, a city with a beautiful convention center hotel, but we need something more. We need a man who is going to focus on Dallas, a place where people live. And we can do that by focusing on our shared values, transparency and accountability in government, strong and safe neighborhoods, and focusing on what matters. The basics.

“Let’s take care of our streets, our parks and our recreation centers. Let’s also take care of our first responders and make sure that employees throughout the city of Dallas have high wages. If we do these things, we can build the city we want to see in the future. A city when you wake up in the morning, you can drive to work on beautiful smooth streets, or you can take DART to work and not have to wait outside. A city where economic development isn’t just big projects coming – it’s small projects that are rebuilding your streets in your neighborhood, bringing life to businesses, and making the city great. Having the money spent in the neighborhood, that’s the kind of city that we want to build: A city that’s made for people.”

Next came Alyson Kennedy, an activist from Indianapolis who has come to find herself representing the Socialist Workers Party movement in North Texas. Some of her accomplishments so far have been securing the Socialist Workers Party nominee for the 2016 United States presidential election, where she received some 12,467 votes, alongside running as vice president in the 2008 United States presidential election.

“Good evening and thank you for inviting me tonight. … I represent the views of the Socialist Workers Party and the Socialist Workers Party is running candidates in ten states in the United States in local elections in this election year. And we’re running in this election to represent the millions of working people, small farmers, and small proprietors that are not part of the so-called economic recovery. You see it in Dallas – the booming construction, the development, the massive real estate boom that is going on here, but for working people, there is no recovery. A lot of workers work two and three jobs to make it.

“A lot of workers are faced with the high incarceration rate in this country, that you gotta ask yourself what kind of society we live in when 40 percent of those incarcerated are African American. When 90 percent of workers that are in prison plea bargain, they don’t even have a jury trial. These are the kinds of conditions we’re living in, and these are the kinds of conditions that the Socialist Workers Party believe that working people are capable of changing, because we have changed things in this country. There have been historic struggles in this country. If you just look at the labor struggles in the 1930s, when you look at the historic civil rights struggles, that was historic and that was led by ordinary working people and that’s why we have confidence we can do these kinds of things again. That’s what needs to be done if we’re going to have a road forward for the future. Thank you very much.”

Afterward was Lynn McBee, a self-made philanthropist who has donated much of her life and profession to solve some of Dallas’ toughest issues, from homelessness to education. She has served on The Bridge Homeless Shelter’s board, is CEO of the Young Women’s Preparatory Network, and has worked as a research scientist for 25 years.

“Thank you for coming out tonight. A couple things about me and why I’m running for mayor is, ultimately, I’d like to earn everyone’s vote this spring. I was born in Freeport, Texas, a small town in the Gulf Coast. I’m a child of a really strong public education. I graduated from University of Texas at Austin with a degree in biochemistry and then went on to work for New England Biolabs and helped grow the company to be the genomic leader in research today. For the past five years, I’ve been the CEO for the Young Women’s Prep Network. We’re investors in public education and we invested in eight public all-girls schools across the state of Texas, and we’ve got one really strong school right here, the Irma Lerma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School. It’s a school that’s right up the road and it’s a school that, since we opened it, has boasted a hundred percent high school graduation, a hundred percent college acceptance, and last year, 358 young women in our network earned 53 million dollars in academic merit scholarships. We are changing lives and breaking cycles of poverty.

“For the past 25 years, I’ve been working on some of Dallas’ most critical and challenging issues, from homelessness to domestic violence to human trafficking to my work with the Dallas County Community College District, getting a workforce up and ready for our city so we can track jobs, and so we can track growth and have economic development. I would be honored to be your mayor and it’s a time that we need to get on top of some very basic things. We need to recruit and retain police; we need to work on our basic infrastructure; we need to have accountability and ethics across the board; and we need to start to look at how we invest and how we’re champions for public education.”

Next was Regina Montoya, a corporate and healthcare attorney, as well as civic leader for many years. She has sat on many boards, such as the DFW International Airport board of directors. She also serves as general counsel for Children’s Medical Center, and received a mayoral appointment to chair the Mayor’s Task Force on Poverty.

“Well, thank you very much for the opportunity to be with all of you this evening, and thank you for taking time to listen to us and to hear about this incredibly important campaign that we’re running right now. The election is on May 4th, and you’re going to see differences that could change this city for decades to come. My vision for this campaign and for why we need to be making the kinds of positive changes that we do, is that we need to build upon the successes of Dallas that we’ve already seen, but we need to ensure that every single person has the opportunity to achieve his or her dream. That’s what we’re talking about when we talk about investing in people, when we talk about people being our best resource. That’s the vision of this campaign and that’s the vision that we need to have in Dallas going forward – investing in our people.

“I want to tell you just a little bit about where I come from and why this has been so important because I’ve been able to live the dreams because of the sacrifices my parents have made. My grandfather, who went into the coal mines the age of 13; my father, who was the first person in his family to go onto high school and then onto college; and then my mother, who went back to school with four children and got her degree and then taught at Thomas Jefferson High School. I’ve spent my entire life here in Dallas, and I have the experience to take us forward in investing in people. I have been the general counsel to Children’s Medical Center. I’m an attorney, but in addition to that, I have also been the vice chair of the DFW Airport board, and I have served on many, many boards here, including Girl’s Inc., including ChildCareGroup, and I have been chair of the Mayor’s Task Force on Poverty. I understand the issues inside and out and that is why we’re going to need to have someone who can hit the ground running, not looking for any other kinds of positions. This is what I’ll be focusing for all of us here in Dallas.”

And last was Miguel Solis, co-founder of the Latino Center for Leadership Development and a mayoral appointee to both the Citywide Poverty Task Force and the Joint Committee on Education. Solis is also a former teacher, Dallas ISD’s youngest-ever trustee, and a President Barack Obama 2008 campaign staffer.

“Thank you all for coming out tonight. My name is Miguel Solis and I’m the grandson of immigrants who came to this country, ended up in Texas, met each other, fell in love, and went and had four kids, my dad included. When my dad was two years old, my grandfather passed away in a chemical spill. My grandmother was left with four kids, speaking nothing but Spanish with a fourth-grade education and little hope, but luckily there was something called the ‘infrastructure of opportunity’ that existed for her and her family that allowed her son to thrive. Good education – public schools that they can trust that they can put their kids in. Public transportation that got them where they needed to go because they didn’t have a car and they relied solely on. Housing that they could afford that they didn’t have to worry every month whether they were going to be evicted. Public safety – a community that felt safe. You could leave your doors unlocked, and you could build community with other people that are from that community. And jobs and wages that got them the opportunity to make something of themselves, to afford to be able to go to high school and work, go to college and get your degree.

“I’m standing here in front of you as mayoral candidate because that infrastructure of opportunity worked for my family. What I realized serving on the Dallas School Board, having been a public school teacher in our city and on the administration as well, is that infrastructure of opportunity is not real enough for far too many Dallasites. So that’s why I’m running for mayor. I want to rebuild the infrastructure of opportunity. Let’s keep improving our public education system, and it has improved. I’ve got a great friend that’s here today, trustee Foreman, who has been working with us on Dallas ISD and even before that as a leader helping shape our education system to improve outcomes for kids. Housing – we have an affordable housing crisis. I want to be the mayor that works to try to solve this issue with you. Public transportation that gets people to where they need to go on time, instead of the four hours it takes some people to plan to get there. Public safety – let’s invest in our police department, so long as we’re holding them accountable and they build trust in our community. And jobs and wages – let’s have economic development in this community. Miguel Solis running for mayor and I’ll talk to you a little bit more about this, this evening.”

Next came the Q&A section, where audience questions covered many important topics, such as promoting diversity within Dallas police departments, finding potential solutions to the affordable housing crisis, improving city transportation systems like the DART, ensuring that children in Dallas ISD are getting the best education possible, and simply making life better for those within the Dallas city limits as a whole. Also, many participants addressed some of Fair Park’s most sensitive issues and needs. Visit https://dallasexaminer.com to read a few of the questions and how the candidates answered them, as well as a video of the forum.

The next Monday Night Politics – Meet the Candidates forum will be held March 25 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the museum, which is located at 3636 Grand Ave.

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