As predicted, voters were apathetic and some hacks remained in office, but there were some glimmers of hope

Regular readers know that I am not, by nature, an optimist, especially when it comes to Dallas politics. I’ve been here too long and seen too much foolishness to expect good things to happen. All that those of us who care about good government can do is hope for the best and keep pushing the boulder up the hill.

So why am I so surprisingly optimistic after last month’s City Council elections? After all, there was a lot to be depressed about — the pathetic turnout, the re-election of some of the biggest hacks on the council. But the results were not nearly as depressing as they could have been — and, in fact, offered several glimmers of hope for those of us who want the city to focus on the neighborhoods and not what the Downtown elite tell us is good for us.

In East Dallas’ District 14, Philip Kingston will face Bobby Abtahi in a runoff on June 15. Kingston led the field in the first round of voting, taking about 34 percent of the vote against the better-financed and heavily endorsed Abtahi, who — to put it politely — is not a particularly neighborhood kind of guy. Kingston was endorsed by District 14 incumbent Angela Hunt, and it looks like voters in the M Streets, Lower Greenville and surrounding neighborhoods want to continue Hunt’s good work.

I wouldn’t bet against Kingston in the runoff, though much depends on turnout. Will Kingston be able to get his supporters to vote one more time? How deep is Abtahi’s support? And will those who voted for long-time neighborhood type Jim Rogers, who finished third, vote in the runoff? If so, whom will they vote for?

In north Oak Cliff, Scott Griggs beat Delia Jasso, another incumbent, in District 1. It’s not so much that Griggs won, but that he ran a smart campaign and won easily, with almost 61 percent of the vote in a race the Downtown elite wanted him to lose. Why else was he redistricted into a district against the reasonably effective and popular Jasso? Griggs’ victory demonstrates two things: neighborhood voters want truly neighborhood-friendly candidates, and neighborhood-friendly candidates aren’t flaming Marxists. Griggs is an Aggie and an attorney; not a whole lot of Berkeley hippie there.

Griggs’ performance was so impressive, in fact, that he will now be mentioned as a potential mayoral candidate in 2015. Wonder how they feel about that at City Hall?

If Kingston beats Abtahi, then the next council will have at least three pro-neighorhood members — Kingston, Griggs, and North Dallas’ Sandy Greyson. There’s a chance — and I’m trying not to get too giddy about this — that those three, plus newcomer Lee Kleinman (District 11 in North Dallas) and several holdovers I won’t mention so as not to put undue pressure on them could, for some issues, vote as a neighborhood bloc and maybe even win a council vote on something that matters. Kleinman, a former park board president, has said all the right things about sustainable development and spending money for potholes and libraries.

What might those votes entail? First, the 2013-14 budget, and whether city manager Mary Suhm will be held accountable for the continuing deterioration of the city’s infrastructure and services. Deck parks are nice, but what’s the point of them if we don’t fix the roads and make sure the police and fire departments respond in a timely manner to 911 calls?

Second, gas drilling and fracking. This spring’s dustup over the secret deal that Suhm signed to allow fracking on city park land may be the beginning of an effort to allow fracking elsewhere in Dallas, including areas close to where many of us live.

This has already happened in Tarrant County and some Dallas suburbs, and I can’t shake the feeling that it’s headed here too, under the guise of pro-business development.

 

 


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