By David Wilfong, NDG Special Contributor
The Monday Night Politics series hosted by the Dallas Examiner at the African American Museum wrapped up on April 3 with a look at the highly-contested Dallas City Council race in District 6. This is one of three council seats with a half-dozen or more candidates vying for the spot. District 6 is located on the western side of downtown Dallas.
Councilmember Monica R. Alonzo has held the seat for six years and is seeking a final term on the council. Three of her five challengers were on hand to address the audience at the Monday night gathering. Not present were challengers Tony Carrillo and Gilbert N. Cerda.
“I would like to say we’ve done a lot in District 6 and we want to continue,” Alonzo said. “We have a lot of work to do. I attribute all of that to not only the voters who put me here and gave me that opportunity, but also to those that have been working very hard before me to be able to move all of the projects forward.”
Linus Lynell Spiller’s past experience includes banking and finance, non-profit services, IT project management, and most recently education.
“I am the person with the most experience at the community level that can meet that challenge,” Spiller said. “I’ve also been appointed to three different boards by the city council, so I know my way around city hall. I know how to get things done.”
Alex S. Dickey is a high school government, history and economics teacher at Irving ISD. A lifelong resident of District 6, Dickey recalled having news teams broadcasting from his front yard to report on the prostitution problem in the area. He said he was running out of frustration that, 30 years later, the problems are still as prevalent.
“Our streets are falling apart,” Dickey said. “Our parks are full of trash. Prostitutes still walk freely along Dennis Rd. There’s still gunshots every night, and there’s still gang tagging every time a wall opens up. All the while the City of Dallas had a booming economy. There’s cranes everywhere. We’re building symphony centers and opera houses and baring eight lanes of freeway to put a park on top. Meanwhile, Bachman Lake Park, the third largest in the city and in my district, has been neglected and deteriorating for my entire life.”
Omar Fermin Narvaez said he has 80 years of generational ties to the district through his family and pointed to his experience on the Board of Trustees of Dallas County Schools as an example of his qualifications.
“I wasn’t afraid to stand up to those extreme challenges,” Narvaez said. “That’s what you want in a leader at city hall. You want a leader that will step up to the challenge and get things done. And that’s what I’ve been able to do, and that’s why I was recruited by community leaders, friends, neighbors, family members across the entire district to run, because they felt completely underrepresented.”
West Dallas is experiencing a heightened level of interest from commercial development while also housing some of Dallas’ lowest income neighborhoods. The balance of those interests is going to be an important part of the job for whoever wins the seat in May.
“You stated that District 6 is booming, but District 6 is booming in just one area and that’s along (IH-35),” Spiller said. “If you took IH-35 and swapped it that way, it would be in the Oak Lawn district. So District 6 in that area is not booming, even though it’s in our district. I want to create a TIF (Tax Increment Financing) that is going to hit the core part of West Dallas, that is going to be the first thing I do when elected.”
Dickey took an opposite view of development, stating that more needs to be done to protect current residents from being hit with the escalating cost of development around them, calling for “neighborhood stabilization.”
“Economic development is this buzz word that everyone likes to throw out,” Dickey said. “It’s this great thing that’s supposed to bring up land values, provide jobs and improve the city. It’s been happening my entire life. And in District 6 in West Dallas there’s a lot of economic development. Trinity Groves moves in and yet the unforeseen consequences is that it’s displaced almost over three hundred families. And so economic development is great for some people – developers and the guys that have the connections – and it can be terrible for the individuals and the community.”
Alonzo, the incumbent, pointed to developments like the recent move into the area by Toyota as examples of current development, and stressed she wanted to see that development benefit those already in the district.
“There is now, and there is going to be, more development in District 6,” Alonzo said. “There’s a lot of economic development, a lot of jobs coming to our city, but I will tell you that those jobs also create making sure that we are included, and casting votes that are bringing those developments to consider the people in the neighborhood to be able to be considered for those jobs.”
Narvaez said the city’s strategy for development was backwards, focusing on the businesses instead of the neighborhoods which support them.
“We keep putting our tax dollars into economic development and not into housing, and not into city needs that create quality of life,” Narvaez said. “So what we need to do is we need to move a lot of that money from investing into big, giant developers and we’ve got to put it back into our neighborhoods so we can build big neighborhoods.”
Rick Callahan, the incumbent for the District 5 race, had been absent during last week’s MNP forum and was given the opportunity to address the crowd on Monday night.
“Really this election, I think, comes down to something as simple as the word, ‘experience’,” Callahan said. “I have a great deal of experience. I’ve worked for a Democratic state representative from 1984 to late 1987. I was a candidate for the legislature in ’94. I’ve been a Chamber of Commerce chairman and Visitors Bureau. I’ve worked on the ’95 bond campaign.”