By David Wilfong, NDG Special Contributor
It was a lively exchange to say the least when the four candidates for District 3 on the Dallas County Commissioners Court met for the Dallas Examiner’s Monday Night Politics forum at the African American Museum in Fair Park on Monday night.
The candidates appearing were incumbent John Wiley Price, Micah B. Phillips, Cedric Davis and Dwaine Caraway.
Price, who has held his position on the Commissioners Court for 31 years, received the lion’s share of criticisms hurled by each of his three challengers. The most recurring of which was a lack of water service for people living in the Sandbranch community.
“For 15, 20 years they have been without water because a plan has been put in place to take the land away from them,” Phillips said. “By digging down to the water table – at the gravel level, the sand level – would suck their wells dry.”
Price responded the Sandbranch water situation has been brought up to draw a false parallel with crisis in Michigan.
“The people who are there, part of them squatters, have got to understand that we cannot build (water service),” Price said. “FEMA said you cannot go in there unless you are going to elevate the structures at least 10 feet. That is just impossible ladies and gentlemen.”
There was only a brief mention of the legal troubles facing incumbent Price, and it came in the form of potential roadblocks to economic development in the area.
“Let me just get it out there,” Phillips said. “This indictment has hurt us. No one wants to invest their money in District 3, but I guarantee you on day one I have a plan and it’s contextualized.”
Price rebuked claims of underperforming development and emphasized numerous corporate investments in his district.
“What is it that nobody seems to understand?” Price said. “We helped drive those initiatives … so when you look at it, we got the jobs. We got thousands of jobs. The problem still is the infrastructure.”
Price ended his presentation by saying he has a history of getting difficult projects done with very little resources.
“Talking about creativity, that’s what I’ve had to do,” Price said. “So if you’ll look at the record, you can see. I provided.”
Former Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Caraway, who arrived late, took little time in taking a shot at the character of Price and Phillips.
“What’s the difference with me and John, and other gentlemen on this stage?” Caraway asked in his opening round at the microphone. “I’ve never hit a woman.”
Caraway quickly qualified the statement adding, “Cedric (Davis), that don’t go for you.”
Visibly irritated, Phillips fired back.
“The problem we have in our community, black men will go to jail,” Phillips said. “I’ve never hit a woman in my life, but I’ve been arrested three times for it. How many of y’all can identify with that? And I’ve never been found guilty.”
Phillips also returned the favor, pointing to Caraway’s past dealings on the city council.
“Ask him about the South Dallas Trust Fund money and where it’s at,” Phillips retorted.
He criticized the Caraway for “sagging pants” and a plastic bag program, continuing with allegations of criminal misconduct.
Phillips, a developer, ended the forum by telling the audience he has a plan that would allow local residents to “buy in” to future businesses in the area and help direct the economic growth at home.
As to the criminal accusations, Caraway replied with “So let’s just go to court about it.” He then defended his handling of the South Dallas Trust Fund, saying that 60 business grants were given out under his direction.
“When you talk about jobs; you create the jobs for a brother, so that the brother can hire folks like us, so they can go back out and enjoy a quality of life, then have jobs,” Caraway later added.
Davis, former Mayor of Balch Springs, stayed out of the heated fray for the most part, choosing to continually go back to a record of development in his city.
“All these guys are my friends,” Davis said. “But guess what? This is politics.”
Davis said he excels in working with colleagues and that he will be a more collaborative commissioner if elected.
“That’s what I keep hearing up here, ‘I … I … I’,” Davis said. “I didn’t do things by myself. We hired great people (in Balch Springs). We worked together on our council. I’m not going to sit here and lie and say we didn’t beat up on each other sometimes behind closed doors, cause we did. But the final product benefitted the whole, and that’s what I’m about, being a bridge-builder.”