By David Wilfong
NDG Special Contributor
It was standing room only on March 6 at the African American Museum in Fair Park as the Dallas Examiner hosted another round of Monday Night Politics. This time the focus was on the Dallas City Council, and in particular two South Dallas districts that will be heavily contested on the May 6 ballot.
Places 3 and 7 were in the hot seat in the museum’s auditorium with moderation provided by Taylor Toynes (Place 3) and Matt Houston (Place 7).
The first round saw council incumbent Casey Thomas, II defending his place on the city council against challengers Joe Lawrence Tave and Sandra Crenshaw. As of press time, Sandra Crenshaw is not listed on the Dallas City Council’s website as a candidate in the race, and she explained to the audience there had been some confusion as to her candidacy due to redistricting lines.
A preliminary question regarding the development of the executive airport gave Thomas the opportunity to remind the audience of developments taking place in the next 30 days. Red Bird Park is a development that includes residential, commercial and special-use amenities that Thomas points to as a positive accomplishment in the community on a variety of levels.
“The development is led by African Americans,” Thomas said. “It’s financed by African Americans. It will be at the Dallas Executive Airport and I can’t wait for it to take place.”
Tave is challenging Thomas on a question of “leadership,” and a question about “food deserts” in South Dallas gave him the chance to rebuke Thomas’ reminder to the audience that it took eight votes to approve developments on the council.
“So far ‘counting to eight’ has not worked for us,” Tave said.
Citing a lack of money in the community for investments, Tave told the audience the approach most likely to bring in quality, community-serving businesses is to adequately address the neighborhood’s current shortcomings.
“Once we get our problems fixed, then I think we can have a better opportunity to attract others to our area,” Tave said.
Crenshaw stated that she’d personally experienced a lack of response from Thomas to issues she’d raised and attempts she’d made to communicate with him in the past. She made the case for an accessibility mandate from the council.
“I’m running to educate the constituents and voters,” Sandra Crenshaw said. “You start demanding. Don’t let it just be me and those people who know the inside.”
Place 7 was a whole different ball of wax, with five challengers appearing for the forum and the current incumbent – Tiffinni A. Young — absent, a detail that was reiterated by more than one of the candidates addressing the crowd.
The challengers attending the Monday Night Politics event included; Marvin E. Crenshaw, Tammy L. Johnston, James Clyde Turknett, Kevin D. Felder and Adam Bazaldua.
Bazaldua, a culinary arts teacher with the Dallas ISD told the crowd one of his students, who was present, had inspired him to run for the office. He was seeking to be the change he encourages in his students.
Felder reminded the audience that he had been the runner-up in the last iteration of this race, and had only lost by 197 votes. Felder said constituents have continually encouraged him to run again.
Turknett said he sees the entire country moving in a bad direction, and he believes his combined experience on boards, working in the community and even an extensive military background make him simply the best man for the job.
Johnston settled in Dallas immediately after graduating from Grambling State University. Having lived across the Metroplex, Johnston said she “planted her feet” in District 7 as part of her “community first” philosophy, purchasing a home in the county’s “most challenging zip code.”
Marvin Crenshaw first spoke a city council meeting in 1972 and first ran for office in 1983. He cites the need for persistence, and a candidate who has taken the time to learn the process and the “ways of city hall.”
The candidates fielded questions ranging from the future of Fair Park (a hot-button issue for the district and city as a whole) to why there are not university sports opportunities available in South Dallas. District 7 is also one of the city’s areas most hit by homelessness and temporary camps. While one of the more challenging areas, the candidates’ opinions on many issues were overlapping, but united in their dissatisfaction with the status quo.
Due to the sheer volume of candidates in Place 7, each candidate had little opportunity to break from the pack in a highly competitive council race. To unseat an incumbent and win a spot on the council, the challengers each have their homework cut out for them between now and election day.