Monday Night Politics: Meet the Candidates Forum features candidates for Dallas City Council District 9, DISD Trustee District 4, and DeSoto Mayor

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The Dallas Examiner

Monday Night Politics – Meet the Candidates, presented by The Dallas Examiner, hosted its last of six forums at the African American Museum on April 15. The political forum featured candidates running for Dallas City Council District 9, Dallas ISD Board of Trustees District 4, and mayor of DeSoto in the May 4 general election.

Each candidate was given two minutes for opening statements, followed by an open Q&A session where audience members had a chance to ask the candidates questions.

District 9 went first. Candidates in attendance included Sarah Lamb and Erin Moore. Incumbent Council member Mark Clayton did not attend.

Opening statements began with Lamb, a community activist who co-founded the Lakewood Citizens for Responsible Traffic organization.

“A little background on me – I was responsible for bringing about awareness to the Gaston-Garland-Grand Project. … Now, the option that I oppose is the option that’s moving forward, but what’s really important is the fact that we were able to engage 2,000 people in a public planning process. That’s a small number considering that in the last municipal election for District 9, only 4,600 people showed up to vote. And why this is important is now the city of Dallas … for me, my neighbors asked me to step and run and it’s just about doing the basics – let’s pay the police, let’s pave the roads, let’s take care of the lake – all of the things that our tax dollars should be funding instead of these vanity projects we’ve been prioritizing.”

Next was Moore, who serves as chief of staff to the Dallas County Commissioner’s Court District 1. In this position, he works on city issues, such as public safety, criminal justice, homelessness and housing, and offers expertise in the areas of media relations and art production.

“My top issues are affordable housing and homelessness. I’ve been working at the county for the last four years … on that issue primarily. It should be everyone’s issue, even if you’re in a stabilized neighborhood. … My second top issue is transportation, which should be every city council person’s top issue. … Primarily, I want to see our roads put into the general budget, so that they’re not paid for with bonds and debt. I also want to do a complete overhaul of DART. … And then the third thing is our environment. Somebody said, ‘That’s not my issue.’ But it is. The air quality in Dallas is bad for everyone. … Oh, and then the last thing is police and fire. We have to get our police and fire up to full strength.”

The forum then opened up for questions from the crowd. Among topics covered were curfew, panhandling, collaborating financially with Dallas ISD, dividing the city budget more equitably, public-private partnerships and Visit Dallas.

Question: How will you make the city budget more equitable?

Moore: Most of the budget is already made by the time it gets to the council … so we’re fighting over 15% of the budget essentially and that usually just, for equality, is divided up into 14. Well, equity is not equality, and I think some districts have more need than other districts.

Lamb: There’s more districts that have greater need than others, so we certainly don’t need to necessarily have it even across the board. … So, I think if we start focusing as city council members in our districts and what our priorities are … you advocate for what you really need, and you allow others to advocate for what they need.

Afterward were the candidates for Dallas ISD’s Board of Trustees in District 4., left vacant by incumbent trustee Jaime Resendez upon his resignation on Feb. 6. Candidates Omar Jimenez, Karla Garcia and Camile D. White were in attendance. Amalia Lozano was not.

First to give opening statements was Jimenez, a member of several Democratic organizations, and proponent of Dallas ISD. As vice chair of youth for 23rd Senatorial District Tejano Democrats, he has fought against budget cuts in our magnet schools as well as against the Home Rule Charter.

“I have been a fierce advocate for our public schools for the last ten years and it started out as a student of Booker T … they wanted to cut funding to our magnet schools … ever since then, I’ve been an advocate …. I want to make sure that we have a fierce advocate to fight against the charter schools that have been popping up all over, not only our part of the district, but all over the district. Number two – you need someone who’s also going to help the students out by safety .… Our students and teachers don’t feel safe, to the point where they’re holding their students out and we’re losing them to charter schools as well. And number three – we need to make sure that we have a voice for our community.”

Next was Garcia, who in her last semester at UNC, worked at White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics at the U.S. Department of Education. Currently, she is working with the Dallas County Promise to address academic inequity citywide.

“Like most students in DISD, I check the box of English language learner, low-income family, Title I schools, free-reduced lunch, the first in my family to graduate from high school. And now, only a few years removed from DISD, I check the boxes that most students don’t. … I graduated from a four-year university not requiring remediation, I graduated debt free, and now I have access to a job and a career that will sustain me for the rest of my life and for years to come. … I’m tired of walking around Pleasant Grove like I’m the exception when it could be the expectation if we invested in students, educators, and families strategically.”

Following Garcia was White, a realtor and a FEMA independent claims adjuster, who has run for the trustee position before, most recently against Jimenez in 2016. White involved civic pursuits since the early 2000s when she joined the Dallas Council of PTAs – Area 1. Currently, she serves as House District Precinct Coordinator for District 110.

“I didn’t just come into this overnight – I’ve been working in the schools for years. I’ve taught at the schools and I’ve also taught on a community college level. The things I have noticed that needs change and worked on in DISD is we do not market our schools. When you turn on the TV and you see Fort Worth ISD marketing their schools – Dallas has a lot of great things going on in our schools, but it’s not marketed. I’m a Texas realtor and … I’m getting ready to go to one in Mesquite where they have them every year. DISD does not have one, the city of Dallas does not have one. Those kids get up there and market their schools … but they’re not telling you that their kids are breaking down the doors to get into Booker T. Washington and our magnet schools. They’re taking spots from our kids.”

Next, candidates fielded questions about their visions for community education, how they have worked to enhance the district on their own, charter schools and privatization, and universal pre-K.

Question: What did you do personally to enhance DISD outside of your paid job?

White: I actually was working to help organize PTA on my side of town. … While working with Ms. Knight, I went to a school and helped them get their PTA started. … Also, what I have done is make sure to speak when I saw things coming across that I felt weren’t good for us, such as this tax increase that just recently came up.

Garcia: I now work with students all across Dallas County [Dallas County Promise], but outside of my job, I’ve also been a part of mentoring programs is DISD that help foster the opportunity of youth. … It’s all about working with young people and if I can be the representative, that’s why I’m here.

Jimenez: So five years ago, when I was in college, I managed to still become involved in DISD affairs, and guess what happened five years ago, folks. We had the Home Rule [Charter] Commission created. … I fought against that with the community and I am glad to say that because of that, we were able to defeat Home Rule.

Last were the mayoral candidates for DeSoto. Incumbent Curtistene S. McCowan, Rachel Proctor and Byron Sanders were in attendance.

First to give opening statements was incumbent McCowan, whose election to the office in May of 2016 made her the first-ever female mayor and 21st mayor for the city. She has spent a lifetime in public service as well. She has served as chair to the Audit and Finance Committee and as Internal Audit Chair, vice president and president to the DeSoto Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors, and has also served on the DeSoto City Council since May 2012.

“I have been involved in the community since we moved here 42 years ago. My husband and I moved with our two sons, who are graduates – successful graduates – of DeSoto High School and are doing very well. We have raised our family there [DeSoto], and I have been involved beginning with PTA. The first African American president, the first African American elected to public office when I won a seat on the DeSoto ISD Board of Trustees. Since that time, I have been blessed to experience many firsts. … I served as mayor pro tem two times before being elected in 2016 as mayor. As mayor, I plan to work with our school district to ensure that there are educational opportunities so that we can reach the level of excellence that our community deserves.”

Next was Proctor, current mayor pro tem for DeSoto. She is also co-owner of family-owned Early Childhood Learning Center and principal owner of Property Management Inc.

“I’m actually a six-year council member … three of those years I served as the mayor pro tem. … Having a seat on the City Council for that amount of time has really given me the opportunity to see many of the things that DeSoto has done well. But it’s also given me the opportunity to see a lot of the things that I feel like we can improve upon. Over the course of this campaign and even prior to that, I’ve had a lot of meetings with the community, several town halls as of late, and the community is continuously frustrated with a lot for the same things. … I want to run a platform that is talking about accountability, economic development, community engagement, and programming for our youth and seniors to be able to help alleviate some of the issues that our community is crying desperately for solutions from the City Council for.”

Lastly was Sanders, the CEO Of Base Communications, where their primary goal is blending customer commotions with corporate public relations the best they can. In this experience, Sanders believes he knows what DeSoto’s economic development needs.

“I’m running in DeSoto for the ‘hopers’ – those that hope for a better DeSoto experience. After my six years of being the mayor of DeSoto, we will have better shopping, eating and entertainment experiences. We will have better educational experiences, and we will have better safety and police experiences. We will have better health and social experiences. So, I’m just saying, if you hope for better for the city of DeSoto, vote for better. Vote for Byron D. Sanders.”

Following opening statements, the mayoral candidates tackled some questions from the crowd. Topics during this portion of the forum touched on issues such as paid family leave, mass transport infrastructure plans, and first 90-day plans.

Question: If you’re elected mayor of the city of DeSoto, within your first 90 days, what do you plan to do?

Proctor: I would love to be able to start the process again of planning a strategic plan. Taking our comprehensive plan, looking at what the data shows, looking at what the trends are, and then looking at possibly hiring an outside firm to work with us to get the big picture.”

Sanders: I’m going to work on differentiating us from the rest of the south region. … We’re going to separate ourselves. Then, I’m going to get with the CEO of Economic Development and I’m gonna look at the deals that we lost. … I want to make sure that we see why we lost those deals and if we can bring those back to them table.

McCowan: We will be heavily involved in the succession plan with the city manager leaving, and I will be heavily involved with that as the current mayor. … Secondly, I disagree on this position of separating. We are a small city compared to some, and the stronger we are in terms of working in collaboration with our neighboring cities … the better we are.

Thank you,

Robyn H. Jimenez

VP of Production & Editorial

The Dallas Examiner

www.dallasexaminer.com

214-941-3100

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