Projects like the Shops at Park Lane in Vickery Meadow have shown how thoughtful partnerships between the city, business community, and neighborhood leaders can transform parts of our district. While continued discussions about the future of Preston Center will undoubtedly continue, we must simultaneously pursue other fantastic opportunities to foster development such as the intersection of Marsh and Walnut Hill. With the right leadership, we can create and implement a vision for these areas that primarily reflects the needs and desires of the surrounding neighborhoods, while also providing housing and employment opportunities that will re-energize areas of the district that are not maximizing their potential.
While the City’s economic performance has understandably been impacted by COVID-19, revenue for fiscal year ’19-’20 fell short by approximately $40 million, and revenues are expected to decline in the current year from sales tax, franchise tax, and fines/forfeitures. However, overall, the current year’s budget has increased slightly by 0.5% over last year’s adopted budget, and steady growth is expected over the next 5 years.
Generally, I will advocate for a dedicated pursuit of development opportunities to expand the property tax base in an effort to compensate for future unforeseen events like we have recently experienced. I will also encourage the Council to return to our department budgets with a more critical eye and correct for potential inefficiencies instead of continuing to proportionally increase current expense items on an annual basis. Identifying opportunities to maximize the impact of our tax dollars will provide us far more flexibility in the event that cuts must be made so that residents will not be faced with increased tax bills in the midst of an economic downturn.
Rising property tax bills in Dallas are a major cause for concern. Property values are disproportionately rising as compared to resident incomes and the resulting property taxes owed have the potential of pricing residents out of their homes. A basic commitment to “lower taxes” lacks the creativity and tax-focused solutions that we need to realize long-term solutions for homeowners. Texas is the largest economy in the world without an income tax, yet our property tax system has not adapted to the needs of our cities and their residents. I am excited about the opportunity to work with our state representatives to reform our property tax regime so that local governments can have more flexibility to provide relief to property owners in times of unprecedented crisis without sacrificing the much-needed funds we use to keep our essential services and public safety resources intact.
Representing all of District 13 requires that all residents be informed and given the opportunity to provide feedback. The current outreach efforts from City Hall have not reached all corners of our community. Whether we need to introduce a new method of sharing information or make a greater effort to enroll residents in existing programs, I am dedicated to connecting the people of District 13 to City Hall in order to increase awareness of the Council’s business and engage residents in the process. Our many city departments and offices have separate strategies of sharing their available services and important updates, but the job of our next councilmember is to make all of that information as accessible as possible.
(For example, did you know that the Dallas Public Library is out there tweeting up a storm? Check them out! @dallaslibrary)
We need to focus on efficiently and intelligently carrying out street and sidewalk improvement projects. We have projects funded from the 2017 Bond Program that have yet to even begin and others that have construction timelines slated for up to 2 full years just to reconstruct a small street.
Any time that a solution is causing more disruption than the original problem, we have failed to deliver on our promise to increase the quality of life of our residents. We need (i) data driven scheduling to maximize efficiency and (ii) to intelligently carry out projects so that we can maximize the results. For example, in the east of our district on Northwest Highway near Skillman, a guardrail was recently repaired and if only 10 more inches of concrete were laid, we could have had a new sidewalk connecting an isolated cul-de-sac neighborhood to shops and restaurants nearby. As we tackle the task of improving our transportation technology and strategic mobility plans, we must keep in mind how to improve pedestrian safety and such easy adjustments to current projects, like connecting neighborhoods with a short sidewalk, are the key to making progress.
District 13 concerns vary by neighborhood with no one-size-fits-all solution.
In the center of District 13, petty crimes including car break-ins, vandalism, and package theft remain prevalent. Neighborhood crime watch groups and efforts to encourage residents to lock cars and remove valuables have lessened the amount of incidents.
Neighborhoods east of highway 75 within the Public Improvement District (PID) have been combating severe violent crime including murder, rape, aggravated assaults and robbery. The PID has invested in initiatives such as the Midtown Code Red 311 program to stay vigilant about code and regulatory compliance to create a cleaner and safer neighborhood. Also, the Midtown Blues program is a $225,000 annual investment by the PID to provide private security to supplement and support the Dallas PD, which has lowered crime by 75% since the inception of the PID.
For those in the west of the district, quality of life is uniquely diminished by the sounds of nearby gunshots that are increasing with frequency. We need to be working with our counterparts in District 6 to jointly develop solutions with the same effort and urgency that we would put forth if a problem arose in the middle of our District.
Our public safety solutions must be comprehensive. We must strategically fund our police to ensure that we can hire, train, and retain neighborhood patrol officers to reduce criminal activity and also incorporate a more holistic approach to our strategy. Affordable housing is a public safety issue. Redeveloping abandoned and dilapidated properties to create job opportunities, well-lit areas, neighborhood-centric green spaces, and increased foot traffic is a public safety issue. Improving our transportation infrastructure so that neighborhoods don’t fall into decline as their streets and sidewalks fall into disrepair is a public safety issue. Only when we seriously address the root causes of crime will we see the results our residents expect.
District 13 needs a leader with a fresh perspective to solving the problems we face instead of having someone simply step into the shoes of our current councilmember only to maintain the status quo.
I was not born and raised in this district like some of the candidates in this race, and because of that, I am not committed to the same vision and policy priorities that have been pursued by our councilmembers for the past 20+ years. My experience has prepared me to invest in new ideas and welcome innovative approaches to problem-solving so that we can not only bring more positive change to our District, but we can also create a more positive, collaborative environment at City Hall that will pay dividends all over our city for years to come.
In addition, my tax background will be a welcome respite from the development-centric agenda pursued by our representatives. I know how to spearhead our redevelopment strategies, and I have a studied plan to work with our state representatives to reform our property tax regime so that local governments can have more flexibility to provide relief to property owners in times of unprecedented crisis.
Importantly, the 2017 Bond Program provided $20 million to fund housing facilities for the homeless. Almost all of these funds are still unissued. The Housing and Homelessness Solutions Committee must work with the Office of Homeless Solutions and advisory bodies (e.g., Citizen Homelessness Commission) to finalize project plans and commit these funds toward their implementation.
Further, ongoing collaboration with local organizations will also allow us to expand homeless services. These initiatives include: the rapid rehousing program with Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance; expanding shelter capacity with the Bridge Homeless Recovery Center; and providing housing and support services to help families regain self-sufficiency with City Square and Family Gateway.
We also need NEW ideas – I believe that we need to reimagine abandoned and functional property into temporary housing solutions for those without shelter. For example, Dawson State Jail is a facility on Commerce Street downtown that has been vacant since 2013. It is now owned by the Trinity Park Conservancy which is a missed opportunity because it was a government property with the ability to house, feed, and medically treat individuals in need. Vickery Midtown has adopted this vision as well and has been advocating for reimagining the former fire station into a homeless processing center to account for those experiencing homelessness and connect them to helpful resources. Only with a new perspective can we capture these otherwise overlooked opportunities.
The City currently provides a platform to promote opportunities to both job seekers and employers. With agency partners, Workforce Solutions of Greater Dallas and the Texas Workforce Commission, we provide information and direct individuals/business to helpful resources beyond job search assistance, such as connecting working parents to childcare and guiding young adults through career planning.
With DISD and DCCCD as additional partners, individuals can find adult education and literacy classes and other programs tailored to provide the skills and training necessary to qualify for the next great opportunity.
By ensuring that online job listings are up-to-date and by facilitating an applicant’s submission directly to employers, the City can play an integral part in workforce development. Providing these resources allows employers to trust that investing in and hiring from our workforce will result in talented employees, thereby establishing long-lasting relationships between employers and the City of Dallas that will create reliable opportunities for our residents looking for work.