By Nolan Adams, NDG Special Contributor
Carrollton’s recent election was rocky for the Metrocrest Democrats, a local Democratic political action committee. The organization’s endorsee for place six, Young Sung, was elected. Their progressive pick for school board, Candace Valenzuela, was elected in lieu of the Tea Party’s candidate. Their mayoral endorsee, Michelle Beckley, was unsuccessful. The next mayor will be determined by the upcoming run-off election between Steve Babick and Kevin Falconer. Both candidates have a history of voting Republican and have served on the city council. The Metrocrest Democrats invited them to their forum on May 22.
Before questions began, the candidates introduced themselves. Kevin Falconer addressed the Democrats first. After discussing his family and his experience living in Carrollton, Falconer ended the introduction with a history of his public service in Carrollton
“I served my city for over 20 years. I was really happy to do that, and I hope I can serve you as mayor,” Falconer said. As a registered architect armed with a Master’s Degree in Business Administration, Falconer as a city councilman focused on the development and beautification of the city.
Babick, a three-year veteran of they city council, opted to run for mayor instead of completing his term on council. Babick’s history in Carrollton government began with his involvement in a local neighborhood association, where he served as treasurer, and then president before being recruited to run for city council and now mayor.
“My name is Steve Babick, and I am also a public servant. I’ve actually just finished my term as a city council member.” Babick motioned to Young Sung, Carrollton’s first Korean council member and said, “I am pleased to have turned my seat over to Young Sung.”
Candidates were then asked how they would address what has been characterized as the Carrollton Police Department’s documented practice of racial profiling Hispanic men, especially in light of the passage of Senate Bill 4 (SB4) which prohibits Texas cities and counties from passing laws preventing the police from questioning individuals about their immigration status. The law signed by Governor Greg Abbott last week now faces a lawsuit filed by El Paso County this week.
Babick acknowledged his endorsements from the police and fire ranks but did not directly address racial profiling, or SB4. Falconer replied, “On the SB4, well, first of all, I think we’re going to have to sort out what that even is going to mean to us in regards to racial profiling.”
Participation with ICE – 287(g)
For months now, Carrollton’s Tea Party members and local Democrats alike have attended council meetings, going toe-to-toe over the city’s agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E). The agreement, formally known as the 287(g), has been called a “force-multiplier” by researchers. The ACLU has warned Carrollton against continuing the agreement. Despite the evidence against the 287(g), candidates have avoided taking a stance, fearing it will polarize voters.
Falconer began his response with a brief explanation of the agreement. “When someone is arrested, those jailers can run that against the I.C.E. detainee database. If it connects, I.C.E. is contacted. We let them make a determination on that.” Falconer, unprompted, noted Carrollton never participated in the task force model. “(The current agreement) has been in place for nine years. Quite frankly, back then, it seemed to work fairly well.”
He promised to release the program data to the public, citing a need for transparency.
“One thing that is certain: we have to have a work session,” Babick shared. His position on the agreement has changed during the election when he previously indicated support for 287(g), now he is open to discussing the agreement in a council work session to determine if the agreement should be discontinued. “I will have that take place almost immediately after getting on council,” he continued.
Small Business Friendly
The candidates were asked how will they address the perception Carrollton is not small business friendly. Falconer proposed a city-operated concierge service for small-business owners, and to help open the door for communication between the city and small business owners.
“We need, as a city, to do a much better job communicating with businesses,” Falconer stated.
Babick began his reply, “As a small business owner, I know firsthand some of the issues. As a city, we are not necessarily the most friendly area to grow a business.” He went on to criticize the city’s sign code and the difficulties in obtaining city permits.
North/South Economic and Racial Divide
Carrollton’s east-west railroad tracks act as a noticeable racial and economic divide. Whites and the wealthy tend to live north of the tracks. Diversity exists south of the tracks, where the homes are older and the incomes range from low to moderate. Mary Claire, the president of the Metrocrest Democrats’, addressed this issue by asking the candidates, “What programs did you initiate to address and advance the infrastructure and quality of life in the older parts of Carrollton?”
Babick referred to his experience working on a previous bond election. The bond was “focused on not only our amenities but also streets and roadways.” The repairs began in the north before the predominantly-Hispanic south received repairs.
“We created a single-family rehab incentive, that helps with anyone who wants to improve their property,” Falconer spoke about his work with the redevelopment subcommittee. However, the home must be up to code before the homeowner is eligible for assistance.