Place Two; seeking a second term; executive director of the North Texas Food Bank; forty; married, two stepchildren
Palmer’s politics all emanate from a strong conviction that government ought to operate from the bottom up. She is well known for references to her belief that “broad-based, community-wide consensus building” is the way for government to get things done. Palmer feels as if she has made some headway in getting more people involved at City Hall, particularly in the last bond election through the creation of two citizens advisory committees that found new alternatives for redevelopment in the Trinity River area. For those populist convictions, she is widely disliked by more traditional politicians whose beliefs are along more paternalistic lines. But Palmer is also a likely future candidate for mayor. Many City Hall observers consider her the only real “leader” on the council, albeit a leader of a three-vote faction of Palmer-Ragsdale-Holcomb. Palmer’s district is among the more diverse, both racially and economically. It includes neighborhoods around Love Field, parts of Oak Lawn, East Dallas, and Walnut Hill, all of West Dallas, a portion of North Oak Cliff, and the Central Business District.
ON HER AGENDA: High on Palmer’s agenda is her “continued commitment to preserve and enhance the quality of life in our neighborhoods.” Palmer thinks it’s very important for people to want to live in the city of Dallas rather than the suburbs. “So, Dallas needs to be a good place to live, not just a good place to work and a good place to invest money,” she says. The council can market Dallas as a good place to live. Palmer says, through its policies concerning quality of life issues-like health care and human services, planning of recreational and open spaces, urban design, and the reduction of noise at Love Field.
Another of Palmer’s priorities is to solve the “adjacency challenges” that are particularly prolific in her district where older neighborhoods, new redevelopment, and areas of high and low density exist side by side. Public safety will continue to be a priority with Palmer. She says she is hearing from businesses as well as residents about the negative impact of the high crime rate. “I am not sure that the answer to that problem is adding more dollars to the budget,” she says. “We need to impact the state legislature to make sure that they are doing their part. They need to support us.”
Palmer says that in the next few years. DART will be this city’s biggest developer and the city council will be required to participate and be concerned with the same issues it addresses with other developers- the location of DART stations, the land use around them, parking, density, and accessibility.
ON THE ROLE OF GOVERNMENT: I don’t believe that government should be unnecessarily involved in the lives of people. But there are certain areas where government must fill the gap |left by the private sector), certainly with education, health care, public safety, transportation, the protection of the environment. The government needs to establish standards.”
PROUD OF: Palmer says she is particularly proud of providing support and initiative in the protection of the public health through the passage during the last two-year term of the ordinance that restricts smoking in public places.
Place Four; seeking a third term; vice president of financial services for Recognition Equipment; forty-four; married, wo children
Vanderbilt is widely regarded by members of the city council and the political community as the sound, conservative fiscal analyst on the council. Vanderbilt’s background is in business, and he was the city budget director in the late Seventies. Although he can be considered one of the pro-business members of the council, like any single-member representative, Vanderbilt has been mindful of pro-neighborhood issues that affect his district. He is the beneficiary of a well-organized political network humorously called the “Lake Highlands Mafia,” a group that tends to be affluent, moderate Republican, and occasionally progressive.
ON HIS AGENDA: If you think the last city budget was a tough one, just wait until this year. That’s one important message Vander-bilt has for Dallas, Last year, the problem was with a decrease in sales tax revenues; the council, after much struggle, managed to raise the tax rate slightly less than 2 percent. This year, Vanderbilt says the problem will be with property taxes. “I think the decrease in property values has been fairly well documented. We have another tough budget or two to go,” he says.
“Along with that we need to focus on the city’s role in economic development. The city needs to avoid being a drag on the economy. Crime, unfortunately, becomes a bigger problem in tough times,” Vanderbilt says. He adds that transportation will continue to be a top concern with more and more responsibility being heaped upon the local governments to maintain those systems. In regard to DART, he says the council needs to give its support to the new administration.
ON THE ROLE OF GOVERNMENT: ’From a fiscal standpoint, I am conservative and think the city needs to spend money carefully. But at the same time, I am pragmatic,” Vanderbilt says. He believes that the city government is the most important type of government in people’s day-to-day lives and thinks the council needs to continue to come up with practical solutions to real problems, avoiding cutbacks in programs like the parks system and city services such as trash pickup.
PROUD OF: “I’ve had a lot of impact in the budget process and have been through two pretty difficult years-1983 and then last year-and I was able to provide some leadership,” Vanderbilt says.
Place Five; seeking a third term; operates a dry cleaners; thirty-eight; single
Holcomb has been a consistent pro-neighborhood voter. He represents a highly organized district-wide bloc of voters put together by his predecessor. Lee Simpson. But Holcomb has come to stand on his own and has managed to pull off the fairly difficult job of pleasing competing constituencies within his East Dallas district-neighborhood groups versus small business owners. He accomplished that through keeping his community up to date on controversial issues like the Planning Policies Paper. Holcomb wields a powerful vote on the council with the help of his very vocal constituents (he affectionately calls them the “East Dallas crazies”) who won’t hesitate to flood City Hall and make their opinion known.
ON HIS AGENDA: Holcomb is a member of the Criminal Justice Task Force and serves as chairman of the council’s public safety committee. He would like to expand the responsibility of the committee to include some “in-depth work on minority hiring, community relations, and the causes of crime. Just hiring more police isn’t the answer,” Holcomb says.
“For Dallas, in terms of economic growth, and just being a good place to live, we need to follow through with DART,” Holcomb says. He believes that through their council appointees to the DART board and by being involved and knowledgeable about DART, council members can bolster public support of the transit system.
ON THE ROLE OF GOVERNMENT: “Controlling the growth of government is important. We need to keep expenditures down. I’ll be in Dallas the rest of my life. We know the tax rate is never going to go down significantly, so it’s very important to keep it down now.” PROUD OF: Holcomb is pleased with the outcome of the Planning Policies Paper. His constituents were “the most organized and vociferous” about the neighborhood issues, he says, and many of them wanted the policies to take a stronger stand against cumulative zoning. But overall, he is pleased with what was passed and believes the new policies will allow the city to plan better. “The potential development problems have been cut way back.” he says.
Place Six, deputy mayor pro tern; seeking a second term; registered nurse; thirty-four; single
Ragsdale, a dependable member of the pro-neighborhood voting bloc led by Lori Palmer, will probably strengthen her position when this new council is seated. She has been just as aggressive as Al Lipscomb on minority issues. Ragsdale says she and Lipscomb are a “powerful duet” that has been successful in bringing a number of minority concerns to the top of the council agenda-issues like low-income housing and health and human services.
ON HER AGENDA: Ragsdale is very clear on her priorities, She wants a council composed of ten single-member representatives and a mayor. She wants that council to concentrate on the issues of crime and police misconduct, which she feels are closely related. She wants the council to address low-income housing needs, to be concerned with health and human services in this city, and to strive for community-based economic development.
ON THE ROLE OF GOVERNMENT: “The city council needs to reorder our priorities, and from there, set public policy that can change the direction of this city. For example, crime has always been at the top of the council’s agenda, but we must begin to seriously address the underlying causes of crime. It is my opinion that we can put 5,000 police officers on the streets and not see any difference in crime. We need to look at the underlying causes,” Ragsdale says.
PROUD OF: Ragsdale says that she is proud of the role she has played in affecting the city council’s agenda and the ranking of “quality of life” issues. “It seems to me that we’ve made some movement. Low-income housing is now a top-level issue. And I think I’ve been one of those instrumental in pushing it to the top. We have made the city staff come up with alternatives to demolition,” Ragsdale says.
Place Seven; seeking a second term; retired; sixty-five; married, five children, twelve grandchildren
Evans is another City Hall veteran, having served as chairman of the Dallas City Plan Commission and the Zoning Ordinance Advisory Committee. He can be characterized as one of the pro-business members of the city council and once served as president of the Southeast Dallas Chamber of Commerce. Evans now serves Southeast Dallas as a council member. He is frugal when it comes to city spending, and colleagues concede he understands the nuts-and-bolts operations of the city-things like utilities and sewer systems-better than anyone else on the council.
ON HIS AGENDA: “Crime is at the top of my list,” Evans says. And as part of the solution to the problem, Evans thinks the citizens need to get involved. “The council members can encourage not only the formation of Crime Watch groups [which Evans helped to initiate], but also can encourage citizens to stay active so that there’s always someone watching.” Evans says.
“An area where our first steps have been good but where we need to keep going is with the street people. We need to continue to build the public/private partnerships like the shelter on Austin Street.. .where the city puts money into the project and then churches and volunteers keep it going,” he says.
Evans thinks the city needs to expand the police service centers in neighborhoods so that “the children in those neighborhoods grow up knowing the police as friends.” And he thinks the city park services need to be expanded to meet the needs of senior citizens.
ON THE ROLE OF GOVERNMENT: “My political philosophy, if I have one, is to use it up, wear it out, and make it do. You ought not spend it if you don’t have it. And you need to save some. I spend the city money as if it’s out of my own pocket,” Evans says.
“One thing that really disturbs me about city government is that we use too much outside help, high-paid consultants,” Evans says. He thinks the city could save millions by setting up a think tank to examine some of these jobs and decide if they could be taken care of in-house.
PROUD OF: “The mayor allowed me to chair the pornography task force, and we were successful in passing a new ordinance that will really make a difference,” Evans says. The ordinance prohibits the establishment of various X-rated businesses (adult book stores, movie lounges, topless bars, etc.) within 1,000 feet of a church, school, residential area, or park. The ordinance also prohibits such businesses from locating within 1,000 feet of each other. Evans says the ordinance will result in “the thinning out of these places” in areas such as Industrial Boulevard.
Al Lip scorn b
Place Eight; seeking asecond term; operates a janitorial service, and is a fresh fruit and vegetable vendor at the Farmers Market; sixty-two; married, eight children, nine grandchildren, one great-grandchild
Lipscomb has been a fixture at City Hall since the Sixties when he made a name as a tenacious voice for racial equality and greater opportunity for blacks. His name is on the lawsuit (Lipscomb v. Wise) that set up single-member council districts in Dallas and gave blacks a voice on the council. His agenda tends to reflect the activism of his earlier years. In regard to zoning issues, Lipscomb has angered some of the more consistent pro-neighborhood council members by voting pro-development on projects that won’t affect his district. Lipscomb says he does “court” the developers, because one of his priorities is to bring more planned development and jobs to the South Dallas community that he represents.
ON HIS AGENDA: “It is important to maintain a relationship between the city council, the school board, the county commissioners, and the state representatives. There has been a vacuum in the past, but there is no way that we can be fair to our constituents unless we maintain that rapport, that communication. We have to work together to get things done.
“We are working on and need more meaningful economic development in District Eight. And I am very positive about that with the Mayor’s Task Force [on Southern Dallas], and with our appointments to the planning and zoning boards,” Lipscomb says. He believes that improving the education system and providing jobs will be deterrents against another problem he gives high priority-crime. “There is no room in America for a dummy,” he says. But he adds that the relationship between the police and the citizens in this city needs to improve. He believes a new storefront police station planned for District Eight will be a step in the right direction.
ON THE ROLE OF GOVERNMENT: The city government needs to maintain order versus chaos, maintain a peaceful transitory existence in this city. That’s what we are charged with. The city is a custodian of the people, a guardian,” Lipscomb says.
PROUD OF: “On budgetary matters, the council has to work together. And there has been a system of checks and balances, and a good balance, I think, between a person like me, who is perhaps more liberal in spending, and those like Mr. Vanderbilt, Mr. Richards, and Mr. Rucker. I’m proud of that.”
Place Nine, at large; seeking a third term; lawyer; forty-five; married, two children
Rucker has tended to vote pro-development, and, economically, he is among the austerity-minded members of the council. He has been one of the more isolated council members and is generally regarded as “an unreliable vote” on all but pro-business issues. Rucker has an explanation for his stand-alone reputation: he’s an at-large council member and is responsible to the city as a whole rather than a smaller, neighborhood constituency. Rucker is a City Hall veteran who has been around in one appointed capacity or another since the early Seventies.
ON HIS AGENDA: How does Rucker foresee Dallas’s future? “Dallas should remain a mecca for jobs. Dallas needs to maintain the transportation systems to make this an accessible, convenient, efficient place. Dallas needs to be a metropolitan and cosmopolitan area where people should not have to choose between living in Dallas and sending their children to a quality school system. But how should we allocate the costs? Dallas is at a crossroads right now. We are taking a test to see if we will become a Cleveland. Can we resist the political thrust to invade the public treasury? Because the day we prove we cannot resist the urge-which transient politicians find irresistible-to purchase constituencies with the citizens’ money and the next generation’s hope, then the public is free to treat us with contempt.”
ON THE ROLE OF GOVERNMENT: “What is the purpose of government?” asks Rucker. ’To do more and more good for more and more people? Or is it to be engaged no more than is necessary to maintain a civil society.. .the role of a referee who maintains fairness in play? I lean more toward the latter,”
PROUD OF: On a lighter note, Rucker ishappy to say he “single-handedly slew theblack-and-white striped dragons” thatthreatened motorists on the Dallas NorthTollway. Rucker led the unanimous DallasCity Council action that banned tollgate barsfrom the tollway. -S.G.
Place One; anesthesiolugist; fiffty-seven; married, one child
Tandy is described by political observers as a man who has a foot in both the pro-neighborhood and pro-business camps. That’s a pretty good position for a would-be Oak Cliff council representative, since Oak Cliff area residents are traditionally keen on both business development and the preservation of their rolling, tree-filled neighborhoods. Tandy’s record attests to his straddling that line: he has been a member of the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport Board, served as president of the Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce, president of the East Kessler Neighbors Association, and is now a board member of the Old Oak Cliff Conservation League. Tandy would replace Bill Milkie, who is not running for reelection.
Place Three; founder and president of Bartos Inc.; fifty-three; married, four children
Bartos, as a fiscal conservative and a Republican, fits the mold of a candidate for District Three in Northwest Dallas. Political observers say that Bartos may be another Jerry Rucker, predictably pro-business, but a stand-alone thinker. Bartos was a member of the Dallas Independent School District Board from 1979 through 1981 and was president of the Greater Dallas Planning Council from 1984 to 1986. Dr. Syd Reagan may pose a serious challenge to Bartos. At this writing Reagan is being urged to run and is “seriously considering it.” Reagan is known as a homeowner activist, but he was a professor of real estate at SMU for many years and is now a businessman.
Place Ten, at large; president and founder of Gulf-Tex Construction Inc.; fifty; married, two children
Gonzalez has been active in Dallas political circles, and with the endorsement of Mayor Starke Taylor and other members of the Dallas establishment-like his campaign treasurer W. O. Bankslon and his campaign chairman Norman Brinker- Gonzalez should be a shoo-in for Annette Strauss’s old city council seat. Gonzalez wasaco-chairman of the 1985 Dallas bond campaign. Currently he is a member of the Dallas Multi-racial Committee and the Dallas Citizens Council. Gonzalez would be only the fourth Hispanic to sit on the city council, but he claims he will not run “as a Hispanic.” Local housing activist Dallas Jackson is a challenger with significant support but a shoestring budget. -S.G.
FOUR KEY VOTES
When the blustering and filibustering are over, it all comes down to two little words: aye or nay. Here’s how your council members voted on some of the key issues of the last two-year term.
Certainly one of the more emotional to come before the Dallas City Council in the past two years was an ordinance restricting certain business transactions between the City of Dallas and the Republic of South Africa. On September 24, 1986. a draft of an ordinance proposed by Marvin Crenshaw, representing the Malcolm X Community Council, was put on the agenda by council member Diane Ragsdale. The Crenshaw ordinance, in addition to restricting contracts with companies or securities dealers that did business with the governments of or businesses in South Africa or Namibia, also specifically restricted the city from making contracts of more than $10,000 with IBM, the Xerox Corporation, Mobil Corporation, or Exxon Corporation, all of which at the time had ties to South Africa. City attorney Analeslie Muncy says the Crenshaw ordinance was “patently illegal.” That ordinance was defeated.
VOTING AYE: Ragsdale, Palmer. Holcomb, Lipscomb
VOTING NAY: [Taylor]* Strauss, |Milkie], (Richards], Vanderbilt, Evans
Love Field Noise Control
The long, hard struggle between Love Field noise control advocate and council member Lori Palmer and Southwest Airlines has been well documented. It was a classic battle between the business and economic interests of a city and the lifestyle and personal interests of a constituency, namely those who live in the vicinity of Love Field, which is part of Palmer’s district. Palmer and the noise control advocates asserted that the voluntary noise restrictions in effect at Love Field were not working and that harsher mandatory measures had to be imposed. Southwest Airlines asserted that the voluntary measures were working. Following the release of a recent study that said the overall noise level was being decreased at Love Field, the council left the voluntary noise reduction measures intact and adopted a resolution on December 17. 1986, that would authorize the city manager to execute a contract with Southwest Airlines regarding fleet mix and airport access.VOTING AYE: [Taylor], Strauss. (Richards]. Vanderbilt, Evans, Lipscomb, Rucker
VOTING NAY: Ragsdale, Palmer. Holcomb
ABSTAINING: |Milkie] (Council member Bill Milkie had ties to a business entity that would be affected by the resolution.)
A Free Meal
Not every item on the council agenda is of earthshaking proportions. Nor does the council always address the concerns of the many versus the interests of a few.
The city council was reminded of that when it reduced the City Hall food service program for the 1986-87 fiscal year, thereby doing away with the free meal program for council members and a long-lime city employee’s job to boot. After a little lobbying by the employee and some rejuggling of budget numbers, the council reinstated the food service program on October 29, 1986. The cost of that “free” meal: $23,500 per annum.
VOTING AYE: [Taylor], Strauss. Ragsdale. [Milkie], Evans, Lipscomb
VOTING NAY: Palmer, [Richards], Vanderbilt. Holcomb
On November 19, 1986, council member Rucker moved that redistricting plan A-15 (plan 33, version 14. which redrew District 2 as 42.67 percent Hispanic compared to 25.61 percent black and 31.72 percent “other”) be approved in concept. Under plan A-15, districts 6 and 8 would have a black majority and districts 1, 3, 4, 5, and 7 would have a majority of “others.”VOTING AYE: [Taylor], [Richards], Vander-bilt, Evans, Rucker
VOTING NAY: Strauss, Ragsdale. [Milkie], Palmer, Holcomb, Lipscomb
The motion lost. So, Rucker moved to approve in concept plan A-15, to become effective on January I, 1989. But the vote was unchanged. At the time, there was speculation as to why the so-called North Dallas business types supported redistricting while the inner-city liberal types voted against this plan. Some observers say that the sheer number of plans presented and the lack of time to study them produced the peculiar line-up of votes. Others say it was a chance for some of the business types to get back at Lori Palmer, whose district would be chopped at more than the others to produce the Hispanic seat. -S.G.