By DIANE XAVIER
The Dallas Examiner
Monday Night Politics: Meet the Candidates, presented by The Dallas Examiner, continued online March 29. The forum featured candidates running for the Dallas City Council District 7 seat.
Candidates included incumbent Adam Bazaldua, Marvin Crenshaw, Tramonica Brown, Kevin Felder, Walter “Changa” Higgins, Calvin Johnson, Donald Parish, James Turknett and Israel Varela was not present.
Bazaldua was elected in June 2019. He has been the youngest person to serve on City Council.
“I am running for reelection for the District 7 seat,” he said. “I am running on a platform of delivering results… I believe that despite very big challenges of the past two years that we have made great progress. In the past two years, we have brought two grocery stores to the district. One in the south and one in the east. We have completed our land bank inventory of building 400 homes that have been approved by the council and over 50 that have been complete. We have added $32 million on public safety initiatives outside of law enforcement that didn’t have to cut from the police department for us to be innovative to help in other areas of public safety. We have held the police department accountable along with every other department because that is what I vow to do to the taxpayer when you elected me. I have led the charge to increase minimum wage to all of our hourly employees of the city of Dallas including part-time to $15 an hour. I also led the charge on COVID-19 eviction ordinances that saved thousands of residents in the city of Dallas from being evicted from their residences during the pandemic. Right now, we are seeing the fruit of the labor that has come through with the crime initiatives we passed last year and year to date we are seeing 3% overall crime down in District 7. We have 18% of property crime down and we are down 5% and a projected 15% for the month of March year to date from 2020…”
“… We have to continue the momentum of all the progress we have made. I am proud of the neighborhood leaders that I have had from Joppa to Bonton to Park Row South. We have a lot of momentum built and we are building consensus that has not existed in the past. I need your vote and support to continue that for our district. I want to continue to be a champion for the working class people for equity and for the betterment of the city of Dallas as a whole.”
Marvin Crenshaw, a long-time activist.
“I am a write-in candidate in District 7,” he said. “I am one of the reasons why all of us are here tonight because of the fact that I am one of the plaintiffs in the 14-1 lawsuit. I have been running for Dallas City Council since 1984. I just don’t run to run, when the election is over, I continue to stay involved. I’ve been to city hall and help make sure legislation is passed even though I am not on the council. I was also one of the authors and fought for sanctions against apartheid in Africa. I am always here. I don’t leave. I don’t get mad if I am not elected on council, I just continue on and continue to do what I can for the citizens of Dallas and particularly for those in District 7.”
“I think we are in a predicament in the city of Dallas. We are about to lose all our first amendment rights. Because of the fact that we are under attack. American cities are under attack. We need to stand up and fight in the same manner we are talking about fighting homelessness and everything else. We need to fight for our first amendment rights. And we need not to send any more council members to Israel because most of the time, they will take council members from Dallas and different places and give them a free vacation or free trip to Israel. No more. No more police brutality and we cannot hide and act like it doesn’t exist. It is there and we need to deal with police brutality. We need to start supporting and building our communities again and take control of our lives. The struggle continues.”
Tramonica Brown, a social activist.
“I am for the people,” she said. “We need somebody who was born and bred here. I am from Pleasant Grove, left for a little bit and when I saw the need of my community had not changed, I did what I was taught to do which was return home and to support our communities. When we had the winter storm, I housed over 600 people. We need real leadership. We need somebody who understands what it is in both sides of District 7. We are a very large community with different aspects who need different things. I am here to fill the gap, and I service my community monthly through my organization, Not My Son. We feed the homeless, we feed the houseless, and it is a difference between the two. We are helping to provide resources to build up sustainability within the District.”
“Within everybody that is running, we need to make sure that we have somebody that is going to make sure they fight for the community after the race is over. It is a plethora of us here and we need to make sure that we have somebody that is going to establish community. We need somebody that is actually going to be for the people. Within the time of me stepping into this realm, I have fed, I have clothed, I have housed unapologetically without a single dollar from my city government. I managed to make no money, some money in quite a bit of time. We spent close to $300,000 on hotel rental assistance without receiving any funding. You show me somebody else that can do that. Imagine what I would do if I was actually in the seat. We need somebody that can stand up and be for the people at all times and that means yes sometimes we have to take politics out of it. We need somebody that is going to come up to the forefront and be able to speak with us … I am number one in the community, and I plan to be number one in your heart.”
Walter “Changa” Higgins, has been an activist for many years.
“What makes me different and why I am running is because in 2020 we started ground shifting down in Dallas politically,” he said. “We saw people coming out all over the city demanding for reallocation of funds, demanding for more of a participatory budget and more of a say in how our city is run and being a stakeholder and how money is allocated in our city. After an overwhelming 100 days of protest, we got nothing from our city leadership. During that time, I realized … the time is now for people who have a real background in community organizer activism to step forward. … Because the conversation needs to change. Right now, the conversation is focused around profits. It is focused on development. It is focused around city agendas and other political agendas. We need the conversation to be focused on the people. The only way that is going to happen is to get people like myself who have a background of working in the community, working on the frontlines of the issues that matter the most to people in our community … We need someone who will fight for our community, who will speak truth to power and also call what is happening in South Dallas in Fair Park criminal … Environmental, economic and all kinds of different fronts. What is happening to our community is criminally historic. I have been working on these problems and have dedicated the last 20 years to working in the community and trying to figure out how to solve these problems, and I will continue that fight down in city hall.”
“Our leadership right now is disconnected from the people. When you walk around South Dallas, when you walk in my neighborhood across the district, people feel disconnected from our entire leadership. The time is up for people with the same old solutions that haven’t been working to these problems. It is time for innovation. It is time for courage and it is time for someone to lead that isn’t afraid to speak to these issues that are systemic issues. They talk about fighting them in a way that speaks to immigration. It is time for someone who understands the history and the pain, the struggles, the context and the cries of the community that South Dallas, Fair Park that can come up with real solutions. …”
Kevin Felder is a real estate broker and former councilmember.
“I held the seat of Dallas City Council District 7 from 2017 to 2019,” he said. “And we did a great job … I bought my house 25 years ago. I lived with my wife … I have voted for myself every time that I have run because I wanted to win, and I could do so legally …”
“I have lived in this same district for 25 years,” Felder said. “I didn’t move into this district to run. I have been engaged in this district for 25 years. I founded my homeowner’s association where I live. I am the only candidate here tonight that is ready to start on day one. I have done the job. Check the bond program and see how the money was allocated when I was there. Every part of the district received money. With regard to what I did and what I can do, look at Joppa there were two giants that were trying to impose large plants on Joppa. I was featured on ‘Dismantle and Erupt’ with Soledad O’Brien just last month. They sought me out because of the work that I have done. My work has manifested itself throughout the district. While I was in office, I opened the satellite office for the first time in the MLK Center. … I was there every Thursday from 9 to 5. I wanted to meet the people. I met the people. I got the Dallas Symphony Orchestra to come to the MLK Center and train the kids on how to play the instruments. Then they gave them the instruments. That’s my work. I gave a bond for Exline Park to have an aquatic center. I earmarked $250,000 dollars to upgrade the South Dallas Cultural Center. I earmarked $50 million dollars to upgrade all the buildings in Fair Park. I allocated several million dollars for road construction, sidewalks, curbs, gutters, from South Dallas, Pleasant Grove, Joppa, Buckner Terrace. I did my work. Finally, I brought Thomas Jefferson slavery Monticello to the African American museum. Eighty thousand people saw that exhibition. I convinced T.D. Jakes to be the co-chair of that exhibition.”
Donald Parish is a local pastor.
“I am the very proud assistant pastor of True Lee Missionary Baptist Church,” he said. “We are 111 years old; my grandfather was a pastor for 55 years, my father is in year 29 and I have been his assistant for 17 years. Through our church we have Hope Restoration… One of the things that I am most proud of is our involvement in schools and our free summer camp that we have done for 15 years. I have had the opportunity to help plan and run that summer camp and as soon as COVID is over with, we will get started completely free to any young person that comes. Many people know of me because of the work that we have done with Dade Middle School which led me to starting A Steady Hand, which is a nonprofit focused on mentoring. We were behind the Breakfast with Dads that went national and global, and I thought that would be the extent of what I would do specifically. I am on a bunch of boards such as the African American Museum, on the police board under former Dallas City Police Chief Brown. And we looked to make sure our community on both sides of the district get equal treatment, get the equity that we deserve so we can bring an end to the 253 murders, 144 of them were African American of last year.”
“My tagline is leadership for a change,” Parish said. “I am most proud of the work that we do in the inner city in our schools. I am very proud of, not just proud of, the Breakfast with Dads program that went national but also the stuff that the cameras don’t catch. The lives in which we have been able to change. I am running for you to represent you at city council because it is a time for a change. We need stability, we need accountability but most importantly we need servant leadership, someone who understands that we are here to serve the people. We are not here to be self-serving; we are not here to promote our own agenda. We are here to serve you.”
Calvin Johnson is an attorney.
“I am a lifelong District 7 resident,” he said. “I came back to District 7 and opened my first law office on MLK Jr. Boulevard, and I have been running that office for the last 20 years. I represented thousands of individuals in South Dallas, in Pleasant Grove and the District 7 area. … I also participated in a number of mentoring programs and community programs … We got to focus on the things that are important like reducing crime, like watching the gentrification that is happening, trying to revitalize the community and then try to build a better relationship with this community and law enforcement. We also have to help our seniors and we really need to dig into the mentoring programs that are available or create additional mentoring programs for our youth. The best thing we can do is try to keep people from getting into trouble and be an asset to their community instead of a distraction. I want to make sure that we get the crimes down … and really try to get down to help this community grow …
“I want to serve you,” Johnson said. “I am a son of this community. I became a lawyer coming out of some of the roughest neighborhoods. Nineteen years ago I started a business with $1,500 on MLK Jr. Boulevard. In November, it will mark my 20th year in business … because of this community.… I want to use my education, experiences and business experience to bring solutions to the Dallas City Council. I will use my relationships with the courts, the community, community organizations and the district attorney’s office to try to figure out how we can develop a better relationship with the police department. … What I want to do is just serve you. We need to get people there that run their own businesses … I will serve you and will serve you with honor. I will always have my door open for the entire district, not just north, not just south, not just east. But the entire district. I will always have my door open, and I will always make you proud.”
James Turknett is a pastor.
“I am a United States Army veteran who served two years,” he said. “I bring leadership that we need that we are lacking in District 7. I was a former therapist, youth pastor, senior pastor and Bishop for over 30 years in the District 7 area. We have outreaches to youth and to everyone. We had a work program for a solution, helping people get a job. We want to pull the crime levels down. We want to bring the police officers back into the schools to get acquainted with our children. We want to help bring a plan in here that will decrease crime. We want to bring opportunity here to District 7.”
“I love serving District 7,” Turknett said. “Our organization has served over 30 years in District 7. We have owned a shelter of people that were homeless, a 100-day shelter, three daycare centers, and we have given millions of dollars back into the people and training them, feeding them and training them by going to work, a workforce solution out of our pockets. And now they are going to be great people in our community. Some of them are going to be teachers, pastors, leaders, and some that got out of jail and now they are doing great things and the opportunities they have, they are surviving. I want to be your Dallas City Council member so I can help and be the voice for the people. So that the people that are down can come up. If I can come up, I know you can. I’m going to work for you. I have the experience. Let us bring opportunities to the people and bring District 7 back to the people.”
Each candidate also participated in a Q&A session during the forum. To view the entire forum, including the question and answers, visit: DallasExaminer.com or The Dallas Examiner facebook page at https://www.facebook/thedallasexaminer.
Early voting for the elections starts April 19 and Election Day is May 1. The last day to register to vote is April 1.