The Dallas Examiner
Monday Night Politics – Meet the Candidates, presented by The Dallas Examiner, hosted its fifth of six forums at the African American Museum on April 8. The political forum featured candidates running for Dallas City Council Districts 6, 13 and 14 in the May 4 general election.
Each candidate was given two minutes for opening statements, followed by an interactive Q&A session with questions from the audience.
District 6 went first. Candidates in attendance were Monica R. Alonzo and Tony Carrillo. Incumbent Omar Narvaez was not.
Due to circumstances, opening statements for Alonzo and Carrillo are not available, but information on each candidate – a summary of top priorities for both – are as follows.
Alonzo: Keep the community and families safe. Bring down crime rates, violent crime especially, in District 6. Cut wasteful spending in the city of Dallas. Expand upon educative programs, such as pre-K and all day pre-K. Provide affordable housing solutions for the citizens of District 6, while continuing to facilitate economic development and growth.
Carrillo: Address the shortage of law enforcement personnel in Dallas. Utilize city facilities, like recreation centers, to host and promote events for District 6 teens in need. Demand accountability in the DISD budget. Make it a priority to help homeowners with housing repairs. Support organizations such as Soldiers for Christ, Big Brothers and Barrio Outcry that help address drug and alcohol abuse issues in the Dallas community.
The forum then opened up for questions from the crowd. Among topics covered were how candidates would garner votes from other council members and how they might vote or handle issues that aren’t particularly important to them in District 6, in addition to charter school moratoriums, housing vouchers and gentrification.
Question: On the topic of placing moratoriums on charter schools.
Carrillo: Some of the deals by DISD have been really bad. That Pinkston deal over there was really sad. All of this charter school development in West Dallas came in before I was here and I’m very disappointed. Having enough faith, we can probably put a stop to it [charter schools spreading through Dallas]. We’ve got to work really hard and I believe we can do it.
Alonzo: I’m a parent of a student from DISD, so I am very familiar with the Dallas Independent School District. Even though many say that there’s a lot going on, it’s a great independent school district. They’re doing a lot of good things, not only in the West Dallas area, but in the Northwest Dallas area, that we need to talk about, folks. We need to talk about the good, not just the bad … because there’s been a lot of great students coming from there. And I will share with you, there have been some projects that come through the city to help those independent school district students. Unfortunately, the representative that we have today has not implemented them.
Next was District 14 candidate, incumbent Councilman Philip Kingston. The other candidates, Warren Johnson and David Blewett, were not present.
Kingston has served as District 14’s representative since his election in 2013. Graduating with his J.D. in general civil litigation from Baylor Law School in 1999, Kingston has spent the almost 20 years since serving District 14. In this time, Kingston has worked to address issues such as homelessness and living wage rates, the law enforcement pension crisis, insufficient art funding and LGBT rights. He was also a founding member of the Dallas Bar Association’s Public Forum Committee and was chair in 2010.
“Since going onto council in District 14 six years ago, we’ve moved forward a package of progressive legislation that is aimed at making the lives of every Dallasite a better life, and giving people the opportunity that has been so long denied to people just based on their race or their geography. And I’m very proud of those efforts – they have come at great cost against the members of the establishment and really the people who have been mostly in charge of this city for decades – and I’ve been pleased to fight those fights mostly side-by-side with people from these communities in southern Dallas. So, I would hope to have two more years to really finish that work and accelerate it with a new group on council members focused more on what the people of Dallas need.”
Following his opening statements, he fielded questions about police harassment, prejudicial curfew ordinances, rising property taxes and the new comprehensive housing policy, best cases of action for confederate monuments in the city, and the best way for the district to work with and influence other council members.
Question: What can we in the southern sector do to impact our northern council members to actually have an impact on them supporting opportunities and growth in the southern sector?
Kingston: Well I’d say that your northern council members have been far more effective at advocating for equality and equity for the southern sector than your own representatives, in particular in District 4. So, you can stop calling for ‘clean up our neighborhoods so we can get some economic development in here’ – that’s not how you do that. You spend the economic development dollars and once things are going, people keep it clean. You go ahead and invest. You don’t need to be waiting on infrastructure for your neighborhood. Everybody knows a neighborhood that doesn’t have sidewalks, that doesn’t have storm drains, that doesn’t have good lighting. Nobody is getting the police and code service that they deserve because those policing and code services need to be supportive of the community, not punitive. And that’s the comprehensive infrastructure plan that we’re gonna bring forward this fall. It’s going to invest all of the city’s remaining infrastructure dollars in the neighborhoods that we already know are disinvested. We don’t need expensive consultants – I can drive to the neighborhood that needs the money. I already know how to do this.
Following Kingston was District 13. Former mayor Laura Miller took the stage. Incumbent Council member Jennifer Staubach Gates, district representative since 2013, was not present.
Miller served as the 58th mayor of Dallas from 2002 through 2007, the third female ever to do so.
“I am the first mayor of Dallas to ever run for the Dallas City Council, so I don’t have extraordinary political ambition because I’m not going up – I’m running for council,” she said. “And I’m running for council just because I’m a homeowner and I’m really frustrated at what’s happening in the neighborhoods in the area where I live, in the district where I live. I think that when you’re a citizen and you’re a homeowner and you see that City Hall isn’t being responsive to your situation, you can either help homeowners try to fight City Hall, which I’ve been doing for about six years … or, if you feel like you just can’t get anywhere and you just can’t help those homeowners, then your choice is go down and run for office and represent those homeowners yourself. And then, if you’re not successful, go back and be a homeowner. That’s my choice: I’m either going to be a homeowner or I’m going to represent the homeowners.”
Following her opening statements, Miller tackled some questions from the crowd. Topics during this portion of the forum touched on issues such as slowing down gentrification, providing low-income housing and livable minimum wages in a wealthier district, property rights and affordable housing solutions for District 13 overall.
Question: On the topic of affordable housing and how to provide that in wealthier districts like District 14.
Miller: Well, I like the city’s approach to making sure that quote-unquote affordable housing is available throughout the city. I tell the homeowners in the area that I live that there’s a stigma that really makes it sound like there’s gonna be blight or crime or problems, when all it is really if you think about it is, when my kid graduates from college and doesn’t make much money, where is my kid going to live? Could my kid come live in my neighborhood? Well that’d be nice – can they afford to do that? Where is the secretary going to work, where is the teacher going to work? Affordable housing – all it means is how much I earn and how much I can afford to spend. That’s the only issue in my mind that’s important. I believe we need to have a lot more housing at every level. Single-family homes, duplexes, multifamily at all different price points spread throughout the entire city.