City News Roundup
There's an election in Dallas coming up on June 8, prompting loads of campaign action. Meanwhile, presidential hopefuls Joe Biden and Beto O'Rourke came through town.
Here's what happened in Dallas this week:
Philip Kingston unanimously cleared
Dallas City Council member Philip Kingston was unanimously cleared of accusations of ethics violations stemming from an anonymous complaint about a zoning change in his neighborhood.
Kingston's attorney Victor Vial successfully made the case that Kingston's vote for the accessory dwelling units and his subsequent construction did not benefit him over any of his neighbors.
At a hearing on May 29, Vital argued that council members can make votes at the horseshoe that affect their economic interests as long as it's not “distinguishable” from the public. Commissioners agreed.
"There's virtually nothing that you do for the city that doesn't affect you as a homeowner in that city," said Commissioner William Coleman. "Our government would grind to a halt if we forced all the people that were doing the votes to not vote on a matter that affected them in some fashion." Commissioner Paul Castillo said he heard "not an iota of evidence presented here today that provided any semblance of 'particular' economic interest."
An audiotape of a political fundraiser for mayoral candidate Eric Johnson has surfaced, in which a group of wealthy donors can be heard plotting against his opponent, Dallas City Council member Scott Griggs.
The recording was made anonymously and covered by both the Dallas Observer and D Magazine. The fundraiser took place on May 26 at the North Dallas home of Maggie and Robert Murchison, and included well-heeled attendees such as Dallas oil tycoon Ray Hunt, Dallas City Council member Jennifer Staubach Gates, and Hunt Consolidated VP Jeanne Phillips.
In one quote, Phillips says, "We planned to stay out of the race in the first round. A lot of good people were running, and we just knew one thing, and I'm going to be very direct here, we did not want to see Scott Griggs elected mayor."
After asking attendees to consider skipping a night out at a restaurant and channel their typical $500 tab towards Johnson's campaign, she says, "We're up against a very serious opponent who will not rest because his supporters have a different reason for going to the polls. They're against things. We're for things."
Early voting for the June 8 runoff election began on May 28 and will extend until June 2. As of May 30, 2 percent of voters, or 19,160 people, have cast ballots, in a city with more than 1.3 million residents.
The election includes a runoff race for mayor between Scott Griggs and Eric Johnson, plus four city council seats:
- District 4 in far southeast Dallas, between incumbent Carolyn King Arnold and Dawn Blair
- District 7 in south Dallas/Fair Park, between Adam Bazaldua and Tiffinni Young, who held the seat for one term in 2015
- District 9 in east Dallas, between Erin Moore and Paula Blackmon
- District 14 in downtown/East Dallas, between incumbent Phillip Kingston and Davit Blewett
Trinity real estate deal
The Trinity Park Conservancy, the nonprofit group that's supposed to be building the $200 million Harold Simmons Park in the Trinity River floodway, has "detoured" its attention to real estate with its purchase of the Dawson State Jail building located across the street from Lew Sterrett jail.
A release from the Conservancy says that the purchase, which was made in March, is part of the vision for Harold Simmons Park. "As part of a national trend of nonprofits which see their ability to influence equitable development and secure the funding essential to the long-term operations and maintenance of their projects through investments in the community, the Conservancy sees this purchase as an extension of their mission to fulfill the Balanced Vision Plan and transform the Trinity River area for recreation, environmental stewardship and economic growth," the release says.
Built in 1995, the 10-story building has been vacant for several years. Zoning for the area includes commercial, retail, office, multi-family, and miscellaneous use. According to the release, the Conservancy will review options for renovation and usage. "While no decision has been made, the Conservancy is considering moving offices into this space for better access to the Park and to better support its needs," the release says.
Other ideas being considered include work space for nonprofits and small businesses; spaces for Park-related services such as a bicycle repair shop or "refreshment stand"; and mixed-income housing.
However, the property is not part of Harold Simmons Park, "and as such was made apart and separate from The Trinity River Corridor Local Government Corporation, as this is a larger part of fulfilling the mission of the Conservancy."
Biden and Beto
Joe Biden and Beto O’Rourke were in Dallas fundraising and rolling out campaign platforms. O'Rourke appeared alongside U.S. Rep. Collin Allred in Uptown on May 30 discussing his proposals to overhaul immigration. Attendees included Dallas ISD Trustee Miguel Solis and LULAC national President and former state Sen. Domingo Garcia.
Biden joined Mayor Mike Rawlings at a town hall with students in the Mayor's Intern Fellows Program at SPARK. They met at Southside Ballroom after a fundraiser in Highland Park. Rawlings, who leaves office next month, endorsed Biden’s run for president.