Thursday, May 23, 2024

Candidates for Dallas Mayor address South Dallas in the MNP forum

Moderator Demetria McCain (center) takes questions from the audience during Monday night’s forum at the African American Museum in Fair Park. Seated behind her are candidates (left to right) Albert Black, Alyson Kennedy, Miguel Solis, Regina Montoya, (to the right of McCain) Lyn McBee, Scott Griggs and Mike Ablon. (Photo: David Wilfong / NDG)

By David Wilfong, NDG Contributing Writer

The latest installment of Monday Night Politics featured candidates running to replace Mike Rawlings as the mayor of the City of Dallas. Despite frigid temperatures, enough residents made the trek to the African American Museum in Fair Park to fill the foyer of the museum and ask questions of their potential future mayor. The Dallas Examiner hosts the Monday Night Politics during each election season.

There were seven of the nine candidates vying to become the city’s next mayor. Texas Rep. Eric Johnson and former Texas Rep. Jason Villalba were not present for the forum.

Mike Ablon believes his background as a builder gives him an understanding of Dallas neighborhoods which could translate into success as a mayor.

“Why do I want to be the mayor? Why do I want to be a servant leader for the city?” Ablon asked rhetorically in his opening statements. “It’s because we have to focus on our neighborhoods. We have to focus on the ties that bind, and we need to make decisions. We need to execute and we need to build. We need to build communities. We need to build infrastructure, and we need to build jobs, and at the end of the day we need to build neighborhoods.”

Albert Black told the audience he had grown up very near where the forum was being held and contrasted his early days in the area with current conditions.

“We came here to the Fair Park, once we’d gotten beyond ‘Negro Day at the Fair’,” Black said. “We came just about any time we wanted to. We stayed here. We had fun. We walked around and we went home, safe; because the neighborhoods were safe then — much different today, those same neighborhoods. They’ve been neglected. Those same neighborhoods have not been kept in a manner that they should.”

Scott Griggs is a current council member, representing the North Oak Cliff area in District 1. With a reputation as a watchdog, Griggs called for fundamental change in the mayor’s office.

“I recognize that we need a new kind of mayor,” Griggs said. “For too long, mayors in the City of Dallas have been focused on Dallas: the postcard; a city with pretty bridges, a city with a beautiful convention center hotel. But we need something more. We need a mayor who’s going to focus on Dallas: a place where people live. And we can do that by focusing on our shared values; transparency and accountability in government, strong safe neighborhoods, and focusing on what matters, the basics.”

While the mayor’s race is a non-partisan election, candidate Alyson Kennedy emphasized she is running to promote the platform of the Socialist Worker Party and said the country as a whole needs a fundamental change in values.

“We’re running in this election to represent the millions of people — small farmers, small proprietors — that are not part of the so-called ‘economic recovery’,” Kennedy said. “You can see it in Dallas with the booming construction, the development, the mass real estate boom that is going on. But for working people, there is no recovery. A lot of workers work two or three jobs to make it. A lot of workers are faced with a high incarceration rate in this country. You’ve got to ask yourself what kind of society you live in when 40 percent of those incarcerated are African-American.”

Lynn McBee, a research scientist, has been active in social issues like homelessness and education in Dallas and seeks to bring that background to the horseshoe in Dallas City Hall.

“For the past 25 years, I have been working on some of Dallas’ most critical and challenging issues; from homelessness, to domestic violence, to human trafficking, to my work with the Dallas County Community College District, getting our workforce up and ready for our city, so that we can track jobs, and track growth and have economic development” McBee said. “I would be honored to be your mayor, and it’s a time where we need to get on top of some very basic things.”

Regina Montoya is a local attorney and has experience serving on the city’s Task Force on Poverty, as well as involvement in other civic and non-profit organizations.

“My vision for this campaign, for why we need to be making the kind of changes that we do, is that we need to build upon the successes of Dallas, that we’ve already seen, but we need to ensure that every single person has the opportunity to achieve his or her dream,” Montoya said. “That’s what we’re talking about when we talk about investing in people; when we talk about people being our best resource. That’s the vision of this campaign and that’s the vision we need to have in Dallas going forward.”

Miguel Solis, a former teacher, now serves on the Dallas ISD Board of Trustees; and recalls his family’s beginnings in Texas as immigrants as an illustration of the “infrastructure of opportunity” he would like to see strengthened in Dallas.

“I am standing here in front of you as a mayoral candidate because that infrastructure of opportunity worked for my family,” Solis said. “What I realized serving on the Dallas school board, having been a public school teacher in our city and in the administration as well, is that that infrastructure of opportunity is not real enough for far too many Dallasites. So that’s why I’m running for mayor. I want to rebuild the infrastructure of opportunity.”

Questions from the audience ran the gamut from preventing racists from joining the Dallas Police Department to business and middle-class housing development in South Dallas. Responding o a question from a high school student, all candidates pledged to use their position to support and protect DREAMers, the children of undocumented immigrants currently working their way through the U.S. educational system. All candidates also promised to seek more women and people of color to serve on the boards and commissions they appoint as mayor.

With a recent guilty plea from Carolyn Davis, another former councilmember brought up on charges of accepting bribes in conjunction with her role as a city leader, all candidates were also challenged to root out what many audience members see as a continuing litany of corruption at Dallas City Hall.

Dallas has a tough choice to make with so many candidates running in an election which historically sees low numbers actually making it to the polls. The eventual winner in this contest could hinge on which candidate can motivate enough residents to get out the vote, and then successfully repeat the process in the likely event of a runoff.

The election will be held on May 4, with early voting starting on April 22.


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