Politics & Government

City Council Report: The Mayor Explains His Park Board Vote

Is it just us? This explanation doesn't make sense.


Mayor Mike Rawlings claims he wasn’t aware that the Park Board vice chair he voted for yesterday shouted down other board members for asking where city funds are going

As Jim Schutze noted two weeks ago, Dallas Park Board member Sean Johnson repeatedly yelled, “Learn your role!” at board members, chiefly Jesse Moreno, who tried to get visiting representatives of the State Fair to explain a bit more about how its scandal-plagued body was spending the tens of millions of dollars that an audit and its own federal filings have already shown to have been misused. As Peter Simek noted on Tuesday, Sean Johnson also happens to work for the son of the chairman of that very same State Fair board that the Park Board is supposed to be overseeing. As I noted yesterday, the Dallas City Council nonetheless voted to replace acting vice chairman Jesse Moreno, the guy who wants more transparency, with Sean Johnson, the guy who screams at people who want more transparency. And so I’ve now reached out to each of the eight council members, including the mayor, who supported Johnson over Moreno two weeks after that very incident.

I sent (via my editor) the following note to the mayor’s Chief of Policy and Communications, Scott Goldstein, yesterday afternoon:

I write about the Dallas city council for D Magazine and was wondering if you could comment on the reasons for Mayor Rawlings’ vote in favor of Sean Johnson over Jesse Moreno for the park board position. And does the mayor have a position on the incident in which Johnson criticized Moreno for supporting more transparency for Fair Park? Thanks.

Goldstein responded as follows:

Jesse had been in “holdover” status on the Park Board since the beginning of the current board and commission term in 2015, meaning he was never formally re-appointed to the Park Board before today and any council member was free to nominate a new vice president. It was a difficult decision because he considers both men bright young leaders in our city and, in fact, he voted for Jesse for his previous term. Diversity is important in these board and commission leadership positions, and that was part of why he ultimately thought it was time to give Sean a shot. As he said following the vote, he’s grateful to both of them for continuing to serve.

The mayor was not aware of the details of the Park Board meeting you referenced, so it had no impact on his decision today.

There you have it. The mayor claims to have voted for a black guy to hold the vice chairmanship over a Hispanic guy in the interests of racial diversity. Whereas previously we had a Hispanic guy and a black guy on the board, you see, now we have a black guy and a Hispanic guy. And the mayor says he was “not aware” of the single most telling and impactful incident to have occurred on the Park Board in recent memory, and which featured both of the very Park Board members who were in the running in starring roles and was likewise referenced in a several articles in two of the city’s major publications in the days leading up to the vote.

This response naturally prompts other questions, such as why the time to “give Sean a shot” just happened to come right after Sean effectively stymied board inquiries into the wide array of already documented misconduct by the State Fair Board, and what exactly the mayor does know about the goings-on of the Park Board if he doesn’t know about a recent, widely discussed, and unprecedented incident that goes right to the heart of what the board is doing and provides a highly indicative example of the differences between the very candidates that he’s supposed to be evaluating.

In the absence of any non-ridiculous explanation, we’re thus forced to rely on the analysis that Councilman Philip Kingston provided to me yesterday: “This is what Rawlings does to people who oppose his deals with Walt Humann. He does petty political payback.”


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  • Woodrow Wildcat

    The explanation I heard last night from someone supposedly in the know (and not my friend Jesse): “the mayor was pissed”.

    I’d be glad for the mayor to dispel that sentiment.

  • veronica lee simmons

    And what prompted the Mayor to act now on an issue that’s been open since 2015? Is the term for this board two years? Why not just wait for the terms limited to turn over and make changes at that point if the Mayor didn’t think there was an issue with Commissioner Moreno’s performance?

  • mrEmannE

    As Ronnie Reagan used to say, you gotta “send them a message.” Rawlings is a sky writer.

  • Willie Stark

    Having D Magazine’s Barrett Brown, Peter Simek and others covering the mischief at City Hall cannot be overstated. Thank you Tim Rogers for filling the gaping hole in City Hall news coverage left by our “mainstream” daily. Unfortunately Wilonsky values his access to the Mayor and Goldstein so much that he won’t write anything critical of Our Dear Leader. And the rookie beat writers can’t find a scoop unless it has to do with the Pension fiasco. Without D and The Observer the common man wouldn’t have a clue!

    • SkyMasterson

      Well said, Willie.