By David Wilfong, NDG Special Contributor
It was an encore edition of Monday Night Politics (MNP) held by the Dallas Examiner on May 22 at the African American Museum at Fair Park. On stage, the remaining candidates for runoff spots in Districts 7 and 8 made part of their final push to secure seats on the Dallas City Council.
First up was District 7, where incumbent Tiffinni A. Young is seeking to hold on to her seat against Kevin Felder, the last challenger in what was one of the heavier fields in the May 6 election.
Much was made of Young’s absence in the original round of MNP. Challengers in that forum had noted it quite telling that Young “didn’t bother to show up” for the event. However, Young’s first order of business was to point out to the audience that she had a previously scheduled event when the original forum was announced, and she had informed the host of the schedule conflict.
Standing on her record, Young spent much of the evening’s discussion correcting apparently misreported accounts of her position and voting record. Questions of protocol were also rebuked by Young, as she met a suggestion from Felder that crime in the district could be alleviated by shutting down a 24-hour business with a special use permit (SUP).
“A councilmember cannot just slap an SUP on a business that already has a permit,” Young replied sharply.
Felder indicated that Young was supported by the “status quo” on the city council and the status quo was not supportive of the African American community which makes up a majority of residents in District 7.
“The City of Dallas has been promulgating racism,” Felder said. “Twenty-some-odd TIFs in Dallas, I challenge you to find affordable housing in any of them.”
In his closing remarks, Felder said, “There’s something nefarious going on with our sitting councilmember.”
In District 8, challenger Tennell Atkins, a former councilmember seeking to regain his seat, also brought up the specter of outside influence in South Dallas. Referring to the For Our Community PAC which has been widely scrutinized as of late, Atkins suggested incumbent Erik Wilson had lost touch with the constituents he was supposed to represent.
“Most of the community feels like we are not engaged,” Atkins said. “It’s always after-the-fact (the residents learn of development plans).”
Atkins also pointed to nine vacancies on boards for District 8, and added that the Planning & Zoning representative did not live in the district as examples of the incumbent being removed from his base.
Like Young, incumbent Wilson spent much time correcting the record for assertions made from the audience about who and what he had supported in the past two years on the council. When Dallas ISD board member Joyce Foreman questioned him on his support for a charter school in the district, Wilson fired back, noting the school in question was not the only charter school in the district.
“I am not going to tell you that you cannot raise your child in whatever manner to give them the best education,” Wilson said. “Are you familiar with Gateway? Are you familiar with Hampton Prep? Are you familiar with Children First? Are you familiar with the charter school at Paul Quinn College? And are you familiar with Dallas Can? Those are all charter schools that were started not under my watch, but in my opponent’s watch.”
In the end, Atkins stated outside support was driving the election, and that he was returning to the council only after being asked to run by an overwhelming number of active residents.
“I wish I had (For) Our Community’s support, but I don’t,” Atkins said in his closing remarks. “If you don’t know who Our Community is, look it up. See who is Our Community. We do not want him back in office … Why are they trying to take over District 8? Why do a small group of people want to invest in District 8? I wonder why?”
District 7 and 8, along with District 6 where incumbent Monica Alonzo is attempting to stave off an upset by challenger Omar Narvaez, will be decided in the City of Dallas runoff election scheduled to be held on June 10. Early voting begins on Tuesday, May 30 due to the Memorial Day holiday and runs through Tuesday, June 6.