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A Daily Conversation About Dallas

Mayor Eric Johnson will today appoint Lynn McBee as the city’s workforce development czar, a topic that wasfoundational to his 2019 campaign

McBee is the CEO of a statewide network of STEAM schools for girls, a board member for the Bridge homeless shelter, a philanthropist, until recently co-CEO of EarthX, and third-place finisher in the 2019 mayor’s race. During his campaign, Johnson called workforce development his “number one priority.” But the pandemic derailed efforts on that front. Only recently has his strategy come into focus, and McBee will be charged with pulling it off.

“I know there is a huge need in construction trades and warehousing and healthcare. Now, how do we let people know about these opportunities?” McBee says. “I’ve heard too many people say we can’t find nurses, we don’t have people that are technically trained enough. … Those jobs are there.”

Johnson commissioned a report in April about the city’s workforce. It was released in November andputs numbers to what was largely anecdotal: majority White, college-educated Dallasites hold the jobs that pay the most, while Black and Latino residents are disproportionately likely to earn $32,000 or less each year.

The mayor is nervous that automation might wipe those jobs out in the coming years, but the report signals something deeper. The city and its partners haven’t done enough to recognize the disparity in its workforce. These entities have failed to organize resources to provide education that could help elevate families out of poverty.

According to the report, just 40 percent of all jobs in Dallas pay more than $32,000 while also offering “positive or stable future growth.” The report defines a “family-sustaining wage” as $42,000 or more annually. White workers hold 54 percent of these jobs, a little less than double the total share held by Latino (16 percent) and Black (15 percent) workers. According to U.S. Census data, the median income for a family of four in Dallas is $86,200.

“We got here because of decisions that were made 10, 20, 30 years ago,” McBee says. “This is how it plays out, right? If you don’t give people access to opportunities, if you don’t give them the resources, then guess what happens. This is what happens.”

Local Government

Philip Kingston Files to Run for County Commissioner

Matt Goodman
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Philip Kingston. Yes, he’s running.

Former Dallas City Councilman Philip Kingston is running for county commissioner. This has been an open secret since late last month, but it seemed to become less hush-hush this week; it has bookended more than a few conversations I have had since Monday. Kingston made it official today and filed the paperwork withWFAA’s Jason Whitely in tow

Kingston, an attorney by trade, lost his District 14 council seat in 2019, felled by a banker and a father and a former SMU football player named David Blewett, whose platform was basically that he was not Philip Kingston. He sat out the next cycle, and Paul Ridley, Kingston’s former plan commissioner, beat Blewett to win the seat in May.

Kingston says he didn’t have any plans to run for anything until he got wind of how the county commissioner’s court was redrawing its districts. Each of the options showed that Kingston’s Belmont Addition home in East Dallas would no longer be in District 1, which was represented by the Democrat Theresa Daniel. He would now be in District 2, the sole seat on the Commissioners Court held by a Republican—J.J. Koch.

“I can’t be represented by somebody like that,” Kingston told me Thursday afternoon. “It’s not OK. … There hasn’t been any particular showing of competence on just basic policy accomplishments for the betterment of the people of Dallas.”

There he is.

New to North Texas

Red State of Mind

Peter Simek
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paul and brenda chabot
The Daytrippers:Inspired by a layover in McKinney, Paul Chabot and his wife, Brenda, decided to move from California to North Texas. Now they help others do the same. Photographed in their home office called the War Room.

Here’s the story that Democrats like to tell each other in Texas: according to the 2020 Census, over the past decade the state grew by roughly 4 million new residents. North Texas added 1.2 million. Much of this increase has been driven by people moving here, with about 687,000 of these new Texans—17 percent of the state’s total population increase—coming from California. These liberal transplants are helping to turn Texas blue.

Not so fast.

Good Public Transit

Have We Reached Peak Return on Highway Infrastructure Investment?

Peter Simek
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The Texas Department of Transportation wants to bury this highway to allow for improved neighborhood connections.

There is one aspect ofthe infrastructure spending billthat is being batted around in Washington that both political parties appear to agree on: spending billions on America’s roads will boost the economy. Of the $579 billion in proposed new spending, roughly 19 percent is earmarked for roads, according toa report in theWall Street Journal(subscription required). That same report points out both Republicans and Democrats are bullish on the impact that plowing that kind of dough into the country’s roads will have:

President Biden last week touted the agreement as delivering “higher productivity and higher growth for our economy over the long run.”

俄亥俄州共和党人参议员罗布·波特曼帮助craft the deal, said last moth that the plan would “increase our productivity as a country.”

The problem is much of the research around the impact of highway infrastructure spending shows that it doesn’t produce much long-term economic productivity. In fact, as careful observers of the history of North Texas’ development might know, spending money on roads promotes some short-term economic gains, though over time it tends to merely redistribute growth with no real net increase in GDP.

Politics

Poll: Should We Raise City Council Salaries?

Peter Simek
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iStock/Liia Galimzianova

On Tuesday, I argued that it was past time wegave the city council a raise。更好的薪酬=更好的候选人。这意味着体育ople can run for office that can’t run for office today because they have jobs and families and lives. It means that we can better avoid things like over representation by millionaires, mayors who need second jobs, and bribery scandals. It doesn’t cost that much, and it would make our government run better. So why not?

In the comments to that post, former council member Philip Kingston gave some context to the debates that swirled around the horseshoe the last lime council got raise:

。。.my first motion was to go to $100K for council and $200K for mayor with an automatic increase indexed to inflation. Rawlings wouldn’t back anything higher than $80K for mayor and asked me why it should be higher to which I said so not every mayor looked like him. The council members terming out would support ANY raise that took effect immediately, and Carolyn Davis even mentioned making it retroactive. The north Dallas reps wouldn’t support any increase that took effect immediately, but would support even $100K if it went into effect after everyone who voted on it was off of council, which is another of the 300 motions I made that day. End of the day we wound up with $60K not indexed. . .

But what do you think? Should Dallas elected officials receive a raise, and if so, how much? Vote after the jump.

Over the weekend, as results of the Dallas City Council election runoffs rolled in, I couldn’t shake a cynical reaction to the end of what felt like a very prolonged campaign season: why would anyone want a job as a city council member?

Being a member of the Dallas City Council is a thankless position. It is more than a fulltime job; requires tangling with both local politics and the impossible bureaucracy of Dallas City Hall; and even the most unflappable, talented, and idealistic city council members find it difficult to enact real and meaningful change. For their services, city council members receive a salary of $60,000, which, while substantially higher than the city’s median salary, is either a big pay cut or a bonus token to most who run for office. The $80,000 mayoral salary was such an afterthought to Mayor Mike Rawlings that he donated it to charity. The salary wasn’t enough to keep Mayor Eric Johnson from accepting a gig as a partner with a large law firm not long after taking office rather than making being mayor his only job.

And yet, this election cycle saw many Dallas residents working hard – and spending tons of campaign dollars – to try to get into office. As I reported inmy (admittedly incomplete) analysisof some of this cycle’s campaign spending, some candidates for council spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on their campaigns, with district 13 candidate Leland Burk outspending all others. Burk came up short in his runoff, which, regardless of how you felt about Burk as a candidate, at least shows that council seats can’t be bought outright. There’s still a neighbor-to-neighbor scale to local politics that candidates must respect. But then again, not all neighbors canaffordto run for city council.

Local News

A Dallasite’s Guide to the Fort Worth Mayoral, City Council Runoffs

james russell
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Sundance Square in Fort Worth.

The same week Fort Worth voters will decide who succeeds Mayor Betsy Price and a handful of other runoff races, the city received some news. According to U.S. Census Bureau estimates, Fort Worth surpassed Jacksonville, Florida to become the 12th largest city in the country. The city grew by 2.1 percent from 2019 to 2020, the most of any of Texas’ largest cities. By comparison, Dallas added just 74 totalpeople—a minuscule percentage increase that Fort Worth and the surrounding suburbs easily trounced.

In fact, Fort Worth’s population has grown by 24 percent since 2010, one year before Price took office. Only Phoenix and San Antonio grew faster. Whoever succeeds her will have to direct policy to accommodate such growth.

Neither Mattie Parker nor Deborah Peoples, each of whom bested more than a dozen candidates in May to make the runoff, have chimed in on the news. But city officials and civic boosters were jubilant. On Twitter, a stock photo circulated of the city’s downtown emblazoned with “12th largest city in the country.” (To me, a photo of the city’s mascot Molly the Longhorn emblazoned with an outline of a longhorn cheering “We’re No. 12!” would have sufficed. That’s the sort of hokey civic boosterism I’ve come to expect from Cowtown.)

Parker is Price’s former chief of staff. Peoples is the former Tarrant County Democratic Party Chair. Both have taken heat for being stridently partisan. Peoples is clearly a Democrat, backed most notably by former Congressman Beto O’Rourke as well as U.S. Reps. Marc Veasey of Fort Worth and Eddie Bernice Johnson of Dallas. Parker is a Republican who has Price’s backing and, as of this week, the support of Gov. Greg Abbott.

They have similar goals: diversifying the city’s tax base, which relies too much on residential property taxes; providing more affordable housing; expanding the city’s paltry and underfunded public transit system; and policing reform.

They differ in approaches to achieving these goals, however.

Politics

It Is Time for Dallas to Adopt Ranked-Choice Voting

Peter Simek
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Lines were short or nonexistent on Election Day. Here, Mark Twain Leadership Vanguard, in Oak Cliff.

Amid all thepostgame analysisthat has been flyingabout in the aftermathof last Saturday’s municipal elections, one simple and striking fact bears mentioning: up until a few election cycles ago, sitting council members were rarely challenged. That has changed – big time. Last Saturday’s elections saw competitive races in nearly every district, and three incumbents—David Blewett, Adam Bazaldua, and Carolyn King Arnold—have been forced into runoffs. In general, that’s a good thing. More candidates mean more ideas are brought to the table, more citizens are engaged in the electoral process, and council members are more responsive to the constituents who put them in office.

But this new era of Dallas politics has also created a situation in which runoff elections are almost inevitable, particularly in crowded races where there is no incumbent. This means the city’s general election basically functions like a primary. We saw this in the 2019 mayoral election and in the 2017 mayoral election. When 9 or 10 candidates are running for a single office there is virtually no way one of those candidates is going to secure 50.01 percent of the votes. The first election narrows down the field; the real decision is made in the runoff. That’s a problem. Municipal voter turnout isalready very low, and it is even lower in the runoffs. They’re also expensive. But there’s a simple solution: ranked-choice voting.

Ranked choice voting — which we’vementioned before— is an electoral process that is gaining popularity throughout the country, particularly in local elections, precisely because it remedies some of these problems.According to FairVote.org, 22 municipalities and states have adopted ranked-choice voting, including some large cities like New York, Oakland, and San Francisco. Ten additional cities and states, including Alaska, are considering or have adopted ranked-choice voting for future use. Austinjust adopted itover the weekend.

So, what is ranked-choice voting and how does it work?

Local Government

How Much Does a Dallas City Council Vote Cost?

Peter Simek
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Photo by Kelsey Shoemaker.

As theresults of the city council electionwere coming in Saturday night, a familiar storyline took shape. There were plenty of intriguing political subplots building up to the election. And now we have weeks of limbo as we await a staggering six runoff races that will determine the make up of the next council. But the big takeaway was low turnout.

Every election cycle we are reminded that the city’s government is determined by precious few voters. This year, 67,788 people voted in the council elections, which is about 14 percent fewer than who voted in 2019 (when the mayor was also on the ballot). This year’s turnout was up around 46 percent from the last council-only election in 2017, but turnout was still fewer than 10 percent of the total number of registered voters.

Per usual, northern council districts drew more voters than southern council districts, another depressingly familiar statistic. But what was different about this year was that, in the weeks leading up to the election, Mayor Eric Johnson attempted to influence some of these southern Dallas council races. His influence drove more dollars into the campaigns in an effort to unseat two of his rivals on the city council. It didn’t work, but it got me thinking. There was a lot of money spent on this year’s council election but that money did not translate into huge voter turnouts. It seems like council candidates spend a ton of money each election cycle to win very few votes. But how much?

委员会候选人要花多少钱to turn out a single vote in their favor?

I spent yesterday crunching the numbers, tallying up the 2021 expenditures for the top finishing council candidates in all 14 districts. In some close races, I analyzed the top two or three candidates. In races in which incumbents didn’t face serious opposition, I tallied the expenditure totals for all the candidates. Most new candidates did not report spending in 2020, so I didn’t include incumbent spending in 2020 (there wasn’t a ton save a few candidates, such as Chad West) because it was too difficult to determine if 2020 spending was directly related to the 2021 campaign. These numbers also reflect the latest publicly available figure filed, so they may miss the last week-and-a-half or so of last minute fundraising. In other words, these numbers may be imperfect, but they are pretty close.

The results offer an imperfect metric for determining the effectiveness of council campaigns, but they also reveal several fascinating disparities in how campaign spending drives election results. Here’s one glaring example: District 13 candidate Leland Burk spent about $61.41 for every vote he received in Saturday’s election. His opponent in the runoff, Gay Donnell Willis, spent just $10.31 per vote. So what does this tell us about that race?

I break down the rest of the data and offer some interpretations after the jump:

Politics

What Is Behind Mayor Eric Johnson’s City Council Endorsements?

Peter Simek
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Mayor Eric Johnson recently had his official city portrait redone to drive home the message.

Although he isn’t on the ballot, there is a lot at stake for Mayor Eric L. Johnson in the upcoming Dallas city election. During his first two years in office, Johnson has struggled to establish a clear mayoral directive. This is partly to do to the fact that his term has been dominated by crises, beginning with the North Dallas tornados in 2019 and continuing through COVID-19, the George Floyd protests last summer, and February’s winter storm. Johnson has also butted heads with many top officials at City Hall, and his occasionally combative approach has alienated a Council that has been unwilling to line up behind his policy agenda.

It makes sense, then, that Johnson is publicly backing a few council candidates that are running against incumbents the mayor perceives as obstacles. In the race for District 7,he has come out in supportof Donald Parish Jr., the son of aSouth Dallas preacher, against Adam Bazaldua, one of the loudest progressive voices on the Council. In District 5,Johnson backsperennial candidate Yolanda Faye Williams against Jaime Resendez in a race that has become framed by Resendez’s vote last fall to reduce the police department’s overtime budget. He did so against the mayor’s objections and has raised around $20,000 since Johnson endorsed his opponent. Behind the scenes, there are whispers that Johnson has also stuck his nose into the races to unseat East Dallas council member Paula Blackmon and Oak Cliff representative Carolyn King Arnold.

但在另一个层面上,约翰逊的支持不make any sense at all. I have spoken with a lot of people who have worked with Johnson over the years or have been following his political career since he first ran for the Texas Lege, in 2009. One thing they say is that Johnson doesn’t endorse candidates. Period. They say he sees it as too risky. Why hitch your political fortunes on someone else’s talents and ideas? Perhaps, then, Johnson’s willingness to come out in support of candidates in this year’s city council election suggests an appreciation of just how isolated he has become at City Hall, or a willingness to adapt to the demands of its unique political culture. Regardless, it represents yet another behavioral shift that has baffled many of Johnson’s former colleagues, friends, and associates who confess that they don’t often recognize the mayor as the man they once knew.

Politics

Dallas Council Candidate Jesse Moreno Returns $11,000 in Campaign Contributions

Matt Goodman
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候选人杰西·莫雷诺,谁想当选District 2.

Dallas City Council candidate Jesse Moreno recently found himself in an interesting predicament. He is running to represent District 2, an oddly shaped swath of the city that sweeps from Love Field, the Medical District, south of downtown, and into the Cedars and Deep Ellum. From January 1 through March 22, he raised more than $36,000 in contributions, but aD Magazineanalysis revealed that nearly a third of the money appeared to come from limited partnerships that were governed by a single person. Election law limits contributions in Dallas municipal races to just $1,000 per individual and certain businesses.

When asked last week about the origins of the money, Moreno pointed out—correctly—that everything was aboveboard. This week, though, he has returned all $11,000, saying that he wants to avoid even the whiff of funny business. The episode illustrates an interesting gray area in election law that it appears few local campaigns have taken advantage of, particularly during this cycle.

The contributions, each in the amount of $1,000, were made by 11 limited partnerships all registered to the developer Scott Rohrman, whosepurchase of many buildings in Deep Ellumalmost a decade ago helped begin the neighborhood’s latest resurgence. Rohrman says each limited partnership has varying interests “in or near” the district and wanted to support Moreno. And that is, without question, legal. The state’s election code allows individuals and certain businesses (e.g., limited partnerships, limited liability corporations) to give to political candidates; the city’s election code limits each to a maximum $1,000. But what happens when one individual controls multiple partnerships?

“Is this the sign of someone who’s putting his toe right on the ethical line, or, alternatively, is this the sign of a shrewd businessperson who knows how to get things done?” asked Dallas appellate attorney Chad Ruback, who has experience with election law. He was speaking generally about the situation after hearing a description of it. “I think two different voters can interpret it two different ways.”

Rohrman says even raising that question was enough for him.

“We determined that everything is aboveboard, but I did not want anyone questioning my intent,” he said. “The donations have been sent back.”

Local Government

调用所有律师:你能理清HB 19 Trucking Bill in the Texas Lege For Us?

Christine Allison
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Texas led the nation last year with 685 truck-related fatalities, ahead of California with 463, and Florida with 282.

This morning, criminally early, I stumbled across a piece of legislation, House Bill 19, which caught my attention because I had insomnia and there’s this rabbit hole called YouTube that, well, anyway… I had no idea that Texas had such an abysmal record in trucking fatalities on our roads and highways. According to Ware Wendall of Texas Watch, a consumer group, Texas led the country with 685 trucking fatalities last year alone, which was more than Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas, New Mexico, Arizona, Kansas, Colorado, and Mississippicombined

I thought reckless trucking was just a Pennsylvania Turnpike thing, where my parents narrowly escaped death by truck years ago. So I am sensitive. But here’s how I read this bill: it would eliminate the right in a civil case to hold responsible the company that put the commercial vehicle on the road, no matter that they hired a bad driver, or had maintenance or repair problems. Only the driver would be responsible.

First, know thatthe billis still in committee. It will morph. Our Texas House representative from Collin County, Jeff Leach, R-Plano, chairs the committee and sponsored the bill. Still my mind flashed through a number of scenarios, and I’d love to know from the legal world—not just personal liability lawyers but including personal liability lawyers—what this could mean.