City News

Candidates line up for Dwaine Caraway's seat and more Dallas city news

Candidates line up for Dwaine Caraway's seat and more Dallas city news

Councilmember Dwaine Caraway
One good thing Dwaine tried to do was ban plastic bags. Photo by Claire St. Amant

This was a busy week in the city of Dallas, from a newly opened seat on the Dallas City Council to a resignation from a top city official. There was good news about Dallas ISD, but not-so-good news for the Dallas Police Department.

Here's what happened in Dallas this week:

New Dwaine
One week after former councilman and mayor pro tem Dwaine Caraway pleaded guilty to bribery charges and resigned from the city council, applications from challengers hoping to fill his Place 4 seat have begun to trickle in.

There'll be a special election on November 6 to replace Caraway, whose presence was quickly scrubbed from Dallas City Hall, including his nameplate and official portrait.

According to city records, six candidates have filed for candidacy so far: Kebran W. Alexander, Asa O. Woodberry, Countess Vlandermir, Kendrick B. Mobley, Brandon Vance, and Carolyn Arnold, who held the seat for two years, from 2015-2017.

Candidates must collect 25 signatures to earn a slot on the ballot. The deadline is August 23, so it's likely more candidates are coming.

Caraway pleaded guilty to accepting more than $450,000 in bribe and kickback payments from Force Multiplier Solutions in an illegal and allegedly financially-motivated partnership that ultimately led to the downfall of Dallas County Schools, a now defunct organization formerly tasked with providing transportation to schools in the Dallas Independent School District.

He faces up to seven years in jail if convicted of the charges of criminal conspiracy, wire fraud and tax evasion.

Go DISD go
The Texas Education Agency on Wednesday released a new ranking system, scoring schools in the Lone Star State with letter grades based on cumulative grades ranging from zero to 100.

According to TEA's website, districts' grades are calculated based on performance in three key areas:

  • Student Achievement, a measure of year-over-year improvement in students
  • School Progress, how much better students are doing this year compared to their peers in similar schools
  • Closing The Gaps, whether performance gaps exist among different groups of students.

Dallas ISD scored an 81 out of 100, which is categorized as a "recognized performance." In other words, the district serves students well and encourages high academic achievement and growth for most students.

Four DISD schools received F grades: Oliver Wendell Holmes Humanities/Communications Academy scored 57. William Hawley Atwell Law Academy scored a 59. Elisha M Pease Elementary scored 59. John Leslie Patton Jr. Academic Center scored 57.

"We are proud of our tremendous gains in Dallas ISD, and our families, teachers and staff should feel great accomplishment in what we have done together," Superintendent Michael Hinojosa told Dallas ISD publication The Hub. "But this is not the finish line, we have just started this race. We still have much more work to do."

Dallas ISD oversees the education of 156,726 students across 238 campuses.

Police shortage
To pay police officers more or to cut property taxes — that’s the question the Dallas City Council faced Tuesday during a budgetary meeting for the 2018-19 and 2019-20 fiscal years.

In a proposed city budget for 2018-2019, city manager T.C. Broadnax recommended spending 60 percent of the city’s $1.35 billion general budget on public safety, including funding a pay raise for police that would bring the department’s starting salary up to $51,688.

Critics blame low pay for Dallas' inability to retain officers, and for good reason: The average starting salary for a police officer in other North Texas departments is $59,000.

Even with the recommended pay increase, the city estimates that Dallas will have only 3,069 officers by October 2020, down from 3,070 officers employed in Dallas as of October 2017.

Councilman Scott Griggs suggested increasing pay raises by 5 percent across-the-board, totaling approximately $20 million in additional public safety spending. But some fear it could come at the expense of sought-after tax cuts. If prioritized, the proposed cuts could bring property tax rates down by 2 percent in 2019.

Rawlings opposed Griggs' suggestion, saying, "Doing across the board pay raises is like taking a chainsaw to heart surgery. You can't just throw money against the issue. You have to understand where the issues are."

The council will vote on the city budget next month. The proposed budget can be viewed in full here.

Dallas City Attorney resigns
On August 15, Dallas City Attorney Larry Casto announced in a letter to the mayor and city council that he will resign on August 31 to "focus on the next chapter of [his] career."

Casto, who has served as city attorney for less than two years, hinted at a mayoral run, writing, "The public discussion over the next few months must be about more than who the next Mayor is. It must be about who we are as a community and what we are willing to do to get the Dallas we want… To that end, I have begun developing a bottom-to-top blueprint that will challenge our entire community — from politician to press, from business to neighborhood."

Councilman Philip Kingston shared Casto's letter on Facebook, along with a caption lauding his performance, calling him the "best lawyer ever to have held the top spot at City Hall."

"His farewell letter has some extraordinarily provocative and, I think, true thoughts about the mayor's race and the chance the City has for meaningful change in May (and a bit in November)," Kingston wrote. "Keep in mind when you read the letter the level of inside knowledge Larry has… I feel physically ill."