Marcos Ronquillo, you’ll recall, was the lawyer who tried to unseat Mike Rawlings in 2015. It wasn’t his year. A really smart, active, progressive candidate ran up against the Rawlings political machine. But Ronquillo knows a thing or two about a thing or two. So you should read this open letter that he wrote to Dallas on February 6. It gives some pretty solid guidance in how you should think about your vote for the next mayor of Dallas.
Dear Friends and Dallas Residents,
When I decided to run for Mayor in 2015, it was a deeply personal one born out of a vision to ensure representation for all the people of Dallas, and not a calculated political move designed to lead to higher office. In October of 2014 I stood on a pothole between a tire shop and liquor store on Samuell Blvd. to bring focus to the critical infrastructure needs of our neighborhoods and community. As I have often said, we live, work and play in our neighborhoods. Any great city is merely a collection of great neighborhoods. And any great neighborhood has a great public school. But no city is great unless it works for everyone.
The pothole was emblematic then and now of a larger failure and neglect in leadership to embrace a long-range urban development policy at City Hall for our community. Progressive policies and neighborhood plans are the lifeblood that nurture and expand the quality of life for all residents regardless of zip code.
In the last Mayor’s race, 11,384 Dallas residents, representing 27% of the ballots cast, agreed with this vision for all Dallas and voted to challenge the status quo, replace an incumbent Mayor and fix the pothole!
Earlier this month, Robert Wilonsky of the Dallas Morning News continued his series on potholes and noted in his January 4, 2019 article:
“Dallas’ very bad streets aren’t going to get any better for a very long time” and worse Dallas is “in a permanent pothole.”
It’s not just about the pothole. But by now you get my point.
The decades old challenges to promote sustainable urban development are clear and well documented. Kudos to Robert Wilonsky, Mitchell Schnurman, Jim Schutze, Wick Allison and Wylie H Dallas for always keeping our community informed and engaged on these critical needs. Yet City Hall fails to address a myriad of urban problems: real mass transit, density, walkability, gentrification, segregation and poverty by zip code, humane animal control, racial wealth divide, immigrants and other vulnerable populations, food deserts, eroding middle class and tax base, city budget overruns and credit ratings, potholes, protection of urban forests and greenspace, public art and parity in arts funding, revitalization of neighborhoods, vacant lots and malls, historical preservation, affordable housing for veterans, teachers, police, fire fighters, millennials and seniors, cronyism and political corruption, continued reliance on toll roads and our cars, and the list goes on.
Our past Mayors and City Council have continued to chase shiny objects under the false flags of regionalism, corporate relocations and economic development with the use of tax payer funds while keeping our residents in the dark, with little transparent fact-based results on our return on our public investment. For example, the past and continued pursuit of professional sports stadiums, toll roads, misguided philanthropy and the abuse or misuse of “public private partnerships” that in the end are one-sided deals only serve to benefit the few at the expense of the many.
In deciding whom to support in the next Mayor’s race, I offer the following commitments in making a decision about who and what makes a good candidate and even a better Mayor:
• Commit to two full terms. We have had several past Mayors who abandoned us and sought higher office
• Pledge not to accept support from PAC or dark money
• Commit not to promote regionalism at the expense of Dallas residents and taxpayers
• Pledge to be the Mayor of all Dallas residents regardless of zip code
• Commit to a “Blue Print” and real world neighborhood solutions to promote sustainable communities
• Pledge to build bridges to all communities and not engage in partisan politics or political tribalism
• Commit to building diverse coalitions on the city council and count to eight
• Pledge to honor and respect City Management and Staff (they are public servants too)
• Commit to interview with a broad spectrum of non-profit, civic and above all neighborhood associations with a “Blue Print” in hand. I was glad to see that the Dallas Citizens Council is no longer endorsing candidates.
We also need to avoid candidates who are:
• Career politicians who have been subsidized by others in their work, career and political pursuits
• Seeking the Mayor’s office as a stepping stone for higher office as they are not focused on us
• We also need to avoid candidates who: cannot demonstrate a track record of serving a diverse community and cannot demonstrate a steady career path or focus
I offer these views given our recent past mayoral history. We have had candidates whose success in the private sector was their main qualification to run for Mayor. A person’s skills set or experience in the private sector does not automatically translate into the public sector. Success in the private sector does not equate with the ability to build diverse economic, geographic and political coalitions or much less govern a public entity.
Our next Mayor must have the academic, professional, technical and battle-tested experience in representing and working with City Hall, and the understanding how we as a city fit in the state, federal, statutory and legislative schemes. Our city and other major cities in Texas will need key legislative agendas, strategies and initiatives in Austin to allow more local control. Given our patch work of laws and restrictions placed on our cities, we do not presently have the legislative tools to fix our problems today.
We will need new legislation and charter amendments to address poverty, housing, health insurance, transportation, water, education and a host of other issues where our hands are simply tied.
Mitchell Schnurman of the Dallas Morning News writes on January 8, 2019, that our legislature:
“should let Dallas try to fix its troubles” and that the “city’s outsize problems call for more local control, and not less.”
Our next Mayor should lead the way and hopefully without another task force to “study” the problem.
Our most vulnerable communities lack any real voice or representation at City Hall and often times, City Hall is not designed to hear that voice in the first place.
In his Sunday January 13 Dallas Morning News article: “Watching as the new West Dallas devours old one,” Robert Wilonsky writes about gentrification in ethnic and moderate income neighborhoods. Dallas is at a crossroads. It is important that our next Mayor have a vision for the future of these neighborhoods but grounded in the reality of today.
We need a Mayor who understands and can lead the megacity of the future, the DFW Metroplex, one of the five (5) largest metro areas in the nation with the worst income inequality by neighborhoods in the US. Our next mayor must lead and frame the conversation for social mobility and sustainable neighborhoods not just for our region but for our nation. As Dallas goes, so goes our region. Dallas should lead the way.
Based on 40 plus years of experience representing federal, state and local governmental entities such as the City of Dallas and the DISD, and my candidacy for Mayor in 2015 and advocacy for neighborhoods since that time, I was prepared to support Larry Casto.
Like many others I was disappointed and disheartened to learn from Larry that he was no longer running for Mayor. The Dallas Morning News reported on January 23, 2019:
“Larry Casto was a good candidate for Dallas mayor; exactly the sort of candidate you would want to see in a race to lead the city.”
I agree whole heartedly.
In my support of Larry, I recognized the following characteristics and now hope we will find some of those characteristics in the next mayor.
• A Mayor who already knows what works and what does not work in DC, Austin and City Hall.
• A Mayor with an insider’s perspective with the view of helping those on the outside looking in for leadership and a vision for our community.
• A Mayor with a proven track record of serving and working in City Hall who has earned the respect of the Mayor and City Council.
• A Mayor who understands how to build “bottom up” a real “Blue Print” for change and progress, based on actual legislative, legal, civic and business experiences.
• A Mayor who is skilled in the art of legislation, compromise and working with diverse coalitions.
• Finally, a Mayor who already has a track record of helping to solve some of our most complex challenges while at the same time continuing to be respected by colleagues and city management/staff in the process.
In the past, the Mayor of Dallas was usually selected for us and not by us. Not this time. We have an opportunity to change our “business as usual” approach to City Hall in this upcoming election.
I look forward to the final field of candidates and supporting the candidate who best serves our entire community regardless of zip code.
Marcos G. Ronquillo