Early voting for the City Council election begins today (Monday, April 27). Seems like a good time to begin assessing where each candidate stands on the big issues facing Dallas and District 9.
Roads? All five candidates agree priorities should be adjusted so more capital goes toward fixing potholes in East Dallas.
White Rock Lake? All candidates support keeping commercial development off the shores of the lake.
Public Safety? Who isn’t for safer neighborhoods?
These issues feel like Mom, baseball and apple pie. Who runs a campaign against that?
Ok, there is some diversity of opinion on the Trinity Toll Road, but aside from that, all five candidates agree on the big issues. The fights, if any, are at the margin.
So how does a voter compare the candidates?
Some voters may look for similarities between the candidate and themselves: If all the candidates agree on the big things, maybe I’ll vote for the guy who likes the TV show “Parks and Recreation,” because “Hey! I watch it, too!”
So, who do you like … or who is like you?
Daren Boruff feels like the Establishment candidate. Representation for the area around White Rock Lake for the last 50 years has largely come from the west side of the lake, and he is the only candidate from the Lakewood neighborhood. Boruff is supported by the last two councilmen, Sheffie Kadane and Gary Griffith. He is the only District 9 candidate who is a member of Lakewood Country Club and has a son attending private school. He helped run and then sell a family business and is a member of the Greater East Dallas Chamber. In neighborhood candidate forums, Boruff rarely touts his business acumen but stresses his experience on the city’s Parks Board and other work around the lake. History has shown that a Parks Board member often is current leadership’s “next-in-line” candidate for a Council seat.
Mark Clayton channels Philip Kingston, who succeeded Angela Hunt. Kingston, Hunt and Oak Cliff councilman Scott Griggs support his candidacy, and there is a coalition in the making there. He is the only candidate who uses the words “litmus test” when it comes to describing his (and others’) position on the Trinity Toll Road. Clayton believes you can’t be for the Trinity Toll Road as a six-lane highway thoroughfare and be right about much else since in his opinion, that represents an old approach to a new age. Clayton lives east of the lake and is the only candidate who sends his kids to public school (Sanger Elementary).
Christopher Jackson seems to be the cerebral candidate. Educated on the east coast in Greek and Latin, Jackson seems to have a heart for service and a serious approach on the stump. Is he the Al Gore of this race? Having said that, Jackson is the candidate who most emphasizes his business experience. His real estate firm specializes in master-planned, single-family developments, and he stresses his competency in building roads, negotiating economic development agreements and working with other municipal staffs for building permits. He hopes to bring best practices he has seen in other cities to Dallas. Jackson says his children are home-schooled, and he is an accomplished marathon runner, having run 26.2 miles in under three hours.
Sam Merten was an investigative journalist who jumped to City Hall. Is that déjà vu all over again? Have we seen this movie with heroine Laura Miller before? The stepping stone for a City Council position has often been the Parks Board. Is it now having worked as a reporter with the Dallas Observer? Along with Clayton, Merten sounds like the anti-Establishment candidate. That’s odd, given he came to the race from his position as Mayor Mike Rawlings’ primary policy advisor. Merten has a balancing act — he stresses his experience navigating City Hall but distances himself from Rawlings on several issues. Most forums have a candidate question on accountability of City Hall staff. Merten’s answers have been hard on City Manager A.C. Gonzales and other city staff, more so than the other candidates. He has hammered Assistant City Manager Jill Jordan on her performance (she is the city’s guiding light on the Trinity Toll Road issue, among other tasks). He is tougher on Sheffie Kadane than anybody else in the race. Merten recently moved to District 9, so he admittedly does not have years of residency in East Dallas. Does that set him back or give him a fresh perspective?
Will Logg is our Kinky Friedman, a former musician turned politician. His interest in serving the community seems earnest, and his platform differs from the other candidates in his advocacy for a bird sanctuary at White Rock Lake and concern about the water level at Lake Ray Hubbard. Logg is another east-side-of-the-lake guy living in Little Forest Hills. Remember the yard signs in Little Forest Hills that said “Keep Little Forest Hills Funky”? ’Nuff said. Well, maybe one other thing. Nobody can accuse Logg of catering to special interests because he reported zero contributions from outsiders to his campaign. And he definitely has the bird vote — at least the indigenous ones, as the migratory birds can’t register to vote here.
Who do you like … or who is like you?
See all of the Advocate’s 2015 election coverage here.
Click to sign up for the Advocate's weekly news digest and be the first to know what’s happening in Lakewood/East Dallas.