Monday Night Politics – Meet the Candidates: Forum features candidates for Dallas City Council Districts 3, 4

MNP 04.01.19

The Dallas Examiner

Monday Night Politics – Meet the Candidates, presented by The Dallas Examiner, hosted its fourth of six forums at the African American Museum, April 1. The political forum featured candidates running for Dallas City Council Districts 3 and 4 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 were given one minute for questions that each candidate would then have an opportunity to answer. District 3 went first, of which all candidates were present except for Denise Benavides.

Opening statements began with incumbent Casey Thomas II, who was first elected in 2015 and reelected in 2017. He also serves as chair of the Human and Social Needs Committee and is a member of the Economic Development and Housing Committee and the Mayor’s Housing Steering Committee.

“We have low crime, 90% single family homes … 10% multifamily. We have middle to upper- middle income and the majority of those who are active in our district are those who are college educated. So, we’re going against every stereotype that you can think of when it comes to Southern Dallas. However, there is a perception that we don’t have the income … the density … the things that they have out north, and we’ve been working diligently to go against every one of those perceptions. If you’ve noticed, we’ve made tremendous progress and strides in this district and I ask that we continue to do that.”

Next was Britannica Scott, regional supervisor for IT services in DISD’s Northwest Quadrant. She is also an administrative coordinator at the UNT Dallas College of Law and has spent much of her career working with educational programming and community outreach.

“Being a resident of District 3, I have to agree with the incumbent. There is a perception … that we don’t offer certain amenities and that we don’t have the working class, but we do. … There is a workforce in our community, but I believe it takes a stronger leadership to put money into our community rather than into developers’ hands. My plan as a leader is to put money into our district. … That means providing programs, that means providing services to our elderly. In addition, redoing the way our infrastructure is. … My main goal is not just economic development, but providing additional housing in addition to providing reform programs to assist your children.”

Following Scott was Charletta Rogers Compton, president of Rogers and Associates, Creative Productions and a board member of the Dallas County Community College District Board of Trustees for 18 1/2 years.

“I’m running for this seat because I believe all of District 3 matters. What I’ve seen in past years is that only a small portion of District 3 is receiving the time and attention of the councilperson and that needs to change. We all want the time, attention, and resources allocated to our neighborhood. … We have pot holes, we have decaying streets all over District 3. I believe in equity and fairness, and I want to represent all of the residents of District 3 to make their possibilities a reality.”

Lastly was community activist Davante Peters, perhaps best known for his efforts to fight police brutality. He was one of the “Dallas-9” arrested and charged with obstruction of traffic outside of AT&T Stadium on Sept. 16, 2018, while protesting the police shooting deaths of Botham Jean and O’Shae Terry.

“My platform is on the side of the working class. We’re doing things like giving the youth some jobs programs and economic opportunity because … instead of increasing the police presence and the occupying force in our neighborhoods, I think we need to give the youth a fighting chance and not criminalize them. … I’m the youngest candidate, but I believe I’m the strongest candidate. I’ll show to you a different way of how to engage. … I’ll hold my co-workers to a standard of excellence and … transparency, and I don’t believe that’s what’s going on currently in City Hall. … I believe this is a historic election, not just for the mayors but for the City Council as well, so put a progressive candidate in office and let’s do something different.”

The forum then opened up for questions from the crowd. Among topics covered were best solutions for economic development, thoughts about paid sick leave, and rising property taxes.

Question: What is your No. 1 priority as it relates to economic development for your district?

Davante Peters: My priority for economic development is definitely to give people a fair chance at employment. Our recently incarcerated individuals need a chance at fair hiring and not to be discriminated upon when they’re trying to just feed themselves and feed their family. I believe people, they want to work, and if we’re limiting opportunities for them, it’s going to create a culture of crime and everything that goes with that.

Charletta Rogers Compton: There are a number of things that I think can be done. We need to make District 3 a destination for the rest of the city, and as a matter of fact, I’d like to see it as a destination for the region. I think we can look at venues and then our strip malls that we have – some unique shops, restaurants that will bring people into that district. We need permanent jobs rather than temporary jobs.

Britannica Scott: To address economic development in District 3, my plan is to support local businesses – to give them more employment opportunities or business with the city of Dallas. In addition, what I plan on doing is an education reform system that will be funded by the city of Dallas … and what it will be is an educational technical program that will be based on a six-month program that we’ll do in partnership with the local community colleges.

Casey Thomas II: I led the effort to build, for the first time in the history of the city of Dallas, a workforce development program – $1.5 million for four community-based organizations. Three of them have already received a grant, one defaulted so there’s an RFP that should be going out real soon for another community-based organization. Another thing is, we want to have greater opportunities for contractors of color on joint venture projects. Not just participate at 15% or 20% level, but an actual joint venture.

Next was District 4, of which all candidates were present. Due to circumstances, opening statements for incumbent Carolyn King Arnold and Asa Woodberry were not available, but their platforms are as follows.

Carolyn King Arnold is the incumbent representative for the district. As a retired educator, she offers nearly 30 years of Dallas ISD teaching experience in which she has “served on PTA, Site-Based Decision and District Advisory Boards and has been a part of the assessments that determine the quality of the schools.” Arnold’s top priorities are listed as public safety, code compliance and job creation/employment public safety.

Asa Woodberry is a volunteer at Methodist Charlton Hospital and a member of the Urban Planning Association, as well as a member of both the Texas Tech and Alabama A&M Alumni Associations. When attending Alabama A&M, Woodberry worked as a graduate research assistant and helped start the school’s first graduate student council.

Following Arnold and Woodberry was Karon Flewellen, who is a long-time Oak Cliff community servant, most notably having partnered with the United States Center for Disease Control to educate stylists on AIDS awareness and prevention. While there, she worked with the city of Dallas and UT Southwestern Dallas to launch FADE OUT HIV.

“216 was the second highest ZIP code in the nation for new cases for HIV. I found that to be startling and appalling, and I made a partnership with the Dallas Urban League. … And then, after I worked with the Dallas Urban League, I created a partnership with the city of Dallas, UT Southwestern and the Centers for Disease Control. I became a partner, an advocate, a spokesperson, and I sold them on the idea that we needed to use the hair salons as a platform for HIV awareness and prevention. That’s what I can give, that’s the experience that I have. Now, not only do I have experience. I think experience matters, but I think integrity matters, I think leadership matters, I think vision matters. … I have a plan and I’m ready to execute on day one.”

Next was Keyaira Saunders, who went to a runoff in 2017 against Arnold. She is a resident of District 4, where she is a small-business owner, mentor, volunteer and community leader.

“I’m running because I believe I’m who District 4 needs – a new face, a new train of thought, a new leader. … I’m tired of the southern sector being the face of corruption. I’m here to stand up and say, ‘Family, it’s time to wake up.’ I’m tired of us being left behind. It’s time to wake up, and the issue is within our community; we’re not bringing our youth up for positions like this. That’s why when I stand up people say, ‘Oh baby, you don’t got no experience.’ Why not? I’m living just like we all are, and I’m also suffering like we are as well. … We need progression. Our leadership has had us at loss. There’s no reason for a small number to succeed and the rest of us are failing. It’s not as if we don’t have the money. We do, but it’s circulating within a small circle. It’s time to wake up.”

Last was Dawn Blair, who started her professional career at the city of Dallas, where she spent 14 1/2 years before joining her family real estate business, Blair White Realty. She returned to the city of Dallas in 2013 and has since served as Real Estate Manager at city of Dallas’ Department of Aviation.

“I’m running for three main reasons. One, because I’m passionate … about where I live … the fact that I don’t have equality of life that I think I, my neighbors, and the residents of District 4 deserve. I’m running also because I am prepared. We’re going to talk a lot about that tonight, at least I am, because to be honest with you, 20-plus years working at the city of Dallas, while my opponents are admirable in their desires, my 20 years far outweighs all of them combined. … Then, let’s start with the issue of being transparent. I want you to know that’s what you’re looking at right here. I’ve had to deal with funds my entire professional career. Not yet have they asked me any questions about how money was spent. And they will not have to ask me those questions. That’s what I was built on.”

The forum then opened up for questions from the crowd. Topics during this portion of the forum touched on issues such as cash bail, corruption in the Dallas City Council, infrastructure solutions, and paid sick leave.

Question: Whether or not candidates will support paid sick leave.

Asa Woodberry: I do support paid sick leave. … I support it not only because it’s popular, but it’s the right thing to do. If my constituents want it, then that’s what I’m doing, because I work for the people, because I’m pushing the people’s agenda.

Karon Flewellen: In 2010, I ended up having to have a surgery, which caused me to be out of work for about six months. … Fortunately, I was somewhat prepared for the surgery and for the time off of work. When I came back to work, because I had employees at the salon, what I did was I got insurance for every person that worked in my salon so that they could have paid sick leave. … So not only would I support it, I’ve already provided that to the people who work for me because I understand the value of it.

Keyaira Saunders: I absolutely support a proper, paid sick-time leave. … I gave birth to my youngest son, Jeremy, and suffered because I had a cesarean – it wasn’t a natural birth – but I needed just a little extra time to heal and get back to work. I felt like I was setup on a pipeline to poverty. You give me a job, but I don’t get any other type of assistance, and my family suffered from that.

Dawn Blair: Yes, I do support paid sick-time leave, but for two reasons. Not just because when you work, you want to gain sick time. It’s two-fold – you pay your time and go to work every day; you should be rewarded with that time. But let’s also look at the work environment that we work in. If I come to work sick and I make everybody else sick, now what do we have? We have nobody at work. So, it’s two-fold. We have to understand from an employer perspective and an employee perspective.

Carolyn King Arnold: I support paid sick leave, but what you’re not getting tonight is that even though those petitions were signed, I did the research. … You need to pull it up … so you can look at the language. Right now, we run the risk of not having a direction. This is what the attorneys have told me: If we pass the paid sick leave bill as some would like to, we run the risk of being sued as they were sued in Austin when that council passed that bill. So, we do have some work to do.

The last Monday Night Politics – Meet the Candidates forum was held April 15 at the museum, located at 3636 Grand Ave.

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