At Last Night's Debate, David Kunkle Wasn't About to Let Mike Rawlings Steal His Script

Rawlings_Okpa_Natinsky_Kunkle.jpg
Photo by Sam Merten
Left to right: Mayoral candidates Mike Rawlings, Edward Okpa, Ron Natinsky and David Kunkle
Former Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle came out swinging at Tuesday evening's mayoral debate at the Fairmont Hotel, with most of his barbs aimed at ex-Pizza Hut CEO Mike Rawlings. The two candidates have collectively engaged in what has become a clear battle of public- versus private-sector experience.

"This may sound a little bit paranoid, but in all the debates I've gone first, and I think these guys steal my ideas, so let me say that first," Kunkle said to an audience highlighted by former Dallas Citizens Council chair John Scovell, city of Dallas Office of Economic Development director Karl Zavitkovsky and more than 200 real estate professionals.

Several attendees laughed, but Kunkle wasn't joking. He's annoyed by the use of his slogans and language by Rawlings, who sent out a mailer claiming the city is "overtaxed and underserved" -- the exact words used by Kunkle on his campaign website, in his first official statement, during several debates and in a February robocall announcing his candidacy for mayor.

Kunkle later referenced Rawlings's use of the term "beachhead" when discussing southern sector development.

"Mr. Rawlings, I use the word beachhead," Kunkle said. "And I'm glad he likes that also."

When asked after the debate about the use of "overtaxed and underserved," Rawlings claimed he was unaware Kunkle had been using it too.

"Is there a trademark there on that?" he said, laughing, and added that he does "steal good ideas in business" because "that's what a good leader does."

Rawlings took swipes at both Kunkle and Natinsky in his opening statement.

"Two of the candidates that you're going to hear from today have spent most of their time in the public sector. Chief Kunkle has spent almost 40 years [in the public sector], not one day has he spent in the private sector. He's never created a job. He's never grown a business. He's never made a payroll," he said. "Councilman Natinsky has been on the city council for six years and been the head of the Economic Development Committee when development fees have gone up to five times as much as the suburbs, and it takes you twice as long to get through City Hall."

Kunkle lashed back after Rawlings said, "We can hand-carry the stuff around," referring to ways the city can expedite paperwork related to building permits.

Moderator Brad Watson of WFAA mistakenly moved on to the next question without allowing Kunkle to speak, but Kunkle reminded him that he had been skipped.

"That must have been what happened to my Pizza Hut pizza," he said. "It must have gotten hand-carried around too much before it got delivered to my house."

There were as many groans as laughs in the crowd, but Kunkle told Unfair Park afterward that he was attempting to be humorous, not malicious, and he wouldn't take it back if he had a do-over.

"Mike champions his private sector résumé and diminished my public-sector [résumé], and I need to have some humor about it," he said. "It's an attempt to be humorous."

After Kunkle's comment, Rawlings said he'd try not to be offended.

"First it was [living in] Preston Hollow, and now you're making fun of where I worked," he said. "I don't even understand it."

Kunkle at an earlier debate referenced Rawlings's residence in Preston Hollow, claiming it's easy for someone who lives there to tell other people what kind of housing to have in their neighborhoods. He later apologized for the remark.

Rawlings told us afterward that he didn't attack Kunkle's record and didn't even understand Kunkle's comment.

"I think what he said was, 'I got a bad pizza once,'" Rawlings said. "I thought, 'Wow, why is he talking about that in a debate?' It's the No. 1 pizza place in the world. It's been taste-tested as the best pizza in America."

The four candidates reiterated their pledges not to raise property taxes, with Natinsky and Rawlings claiming they would work to roll back the 4.91 cents per $100 valuation increase from last year, Kunkle saying he'd consider it and Edward Okpa not addressing the question.

"We need to live within our means," Natinsky said. "It's that simple."

Kunkle described himself as "a public-policy wonk and geek," and, although he didn't name them directly, he attacked Natinsky and former Mayor Tom Leppert, claiming there was "misinformation" given to voters during the Trinity River toll road campaign in 2007. He cited statements indicating that the road was paid for and that it had been approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

"Neither of which I believe to be true," he said.

Natinsky claimed the funding gap for the second Santiago Calatrava-designed bridge -- the Margaret McDermott Bridge -- has nearly been filled by private funding.

Okpa said he has an unconventional Ph.D, which stands for passion, hard work and dedication. He mentioned that he held a fund-raiser for Governor Rick Perry at his house and said he was "victimized" by the red tape at City Hall because he waited three years and spent $150,000 on legal fees to erect video boards downtown. Okpa also said he'd be the best candidate to advocate for South Dallas.

"We are challenged because a good part of our city -- both north and south -- have been left behind," he said.

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43 comments
Texas_Dawg
Texas_Dawg

Bizguy:

"And from what I can tell, Mike is about as far from Wall Street as it gets. Do a pie chart of years worked in private equity vs. total career, pretty sure it would be about 25%. But needless to say, you are the reason he is probably not talking about it. People do not understand it."

I can tell you this is true from first-hand experience. I recently had a conversation with him in which I was using some terms as they are commonly understood in the investment banking industry, but he had to stop me as he wasn't clear on what I was referring to. It was my mistake as I had forgotten that his background is in marketing, not private equity or investment banking.

And you are exactly right about why he doesn't lead with his time at CIC. It certainly has nothing to do with anything he can't publicly defend but that 1) it represents a small portion of his career and 2) it's an industry that many people don't understand and that people like Brenda have already decided is something it isn't, for obvious reasons.

Anyway, all 4 candidates strike me as good men who have made positive contributions to the city. Demonizing any of them as the "evil CEO," "evil cop," or evil whatever other caricature Brenda is looking for is just silly.

Bettyculbreath
Bettyculbreath

Please people,Kunkle and Rawlings has spent many hours in Southern Dallas.Southern Dallas needs to help Southern Dallas.Southern Dallas voters need to know the Director of Economic development as well as the North Dallas voters.Rules are the same develop our own,the money is there.

cantgetfooledagain
cantgetfooledagain

Not sure why Rawlings is getting all the blame here. Kunkle seems very passive-aggressive to me. He throws all kinds of accusations and then, after he gets the reaction he is looking for, he backs off. Reminds me of a 4 year old.

Stan
Stan

Here is a link to the partnership that Mike Rawlins is currently involved with: http://www.cicpartners.com/ind...

He was only at Pizza Hut for 6 years.

Bizguy
Bizguy

Some of yall's comments are so left field. As someone in the same industry you all should know that he is building businesses and creating jobs for small businesses in Texas, period. Talk about Oil and Gas and pay day lending all you want, but I am pretty sure O&G is the foundation of Texas and the latter is a business that several of its customers would be extremely hard pressed if it went away (clearly they don't have access to other means of capital).

As for his Pizza Hut comments, get over it. I am sure there was some test that said it was the best tasting national brand at the time. Clearly Domino's thinks its a nice marketing ploy with their current commercials. Obviously none of those pies compare to Grimaldis, Fireside Pies, coal vines or the like - his comments are an example of his solutions approach to a business / CITY!

Fire away.

Brenda Marks
Brenda Marks

Biz Guy -- he's buying and selling companies for a profit. So is Blankfein at Goldman Sachs but that doensn't mean he's "creating jobs for small businesses in Texas." And your statement that "several of its customers would be extremely hard pressed if it went away" is bullshit. They don't market themselves as "last chance" investor or do they claim to invest in distressed companies. In fact, their sales sheet says they invest in "proven operators." I'd hardly call that companies with no other access to capital.

Besides, that's not the point. The point is why is he NOT talking about what he does now? Why does he avoid it like the plague? Could it be that "Wall Street banker types" don't poll well?

Texas_Dawg
Texas_Dawg

I think the point was that without the ACE Cash Express centers the people choosing to use them would have one less option for accessing capital. No one is forcing anyone to use these places.

As to the rest of your post, it doesn't appear you have a very good understanding of what private equity firms do.

Brenda Marks
Brenda Marks

You assume I don't know the business. I'm pretty familiar with the business. And it's about return on investment.

Bizguy
Bizguy

If you knew the business, you would know that you don't make a profit unless you grow - especially in mid market investing. It's sad that the Goldman's and Citi's of the world, which are investment banks mind you, have soured the world of anything financially oriented. And from what I can tell, Mike is about as far from Wall Street as it gets. Do a pie chart of years worked in private equity vs. total career, pretty sure it would be about 25%. But needless to say, you are the reason he is probably not talking about it. People do not understand it.

Aside: Agreed it's not the point, but you clearly misread my pay day lending comment. By "customers" I meant the pay day lending customers, not CIC's customers or investments. Not trying to staunchly defend the industry, but pay day lending is a business with a customer - it wouldn't exist otherwise. The liberties that people take with the transitive property here are amusing and irrelevant.

Keep Moving
Keep Moving

ACE Cash Express, the payday loan company that litters every strip mall in depressed areas of town is right there on that CIC Partners website as being in their portfolio.Me no likey that.

Texas_Dawg
Texas_Dawg

Why do you want to limit the financial options of poor people?

Mister_Mean
Mister_Mean

"We need to live within our means," Natinsky said. "It's that simple." Where was Ron all these past years? Seems like he just woke up from a long dream where he was part of this spending frenzy. After all --the refrain from city hall has been 'it's not happening here-look at all the construction cranes we can see from our windows here at city hall". Ron you and the council were short sighted back in 2008 when the housing market and economy from across the country started to tank and what did you all do? As captain Smith said on the Titanic "ice? what ice? Oh you mean my drink-it has plenty of ice" as the ship ran into the iceberg. Yes Ron you are part of the problem!

Brenda Marks
Brenda Marks

One thing that has really bothered me (and Joanne R mentions it as well) is that Mike Rawlings has been gone from Pizza Hut since 2003. He's been a managing partner of CIC Partners ever since (including through the purchase and sale of a company that was the major source of pepperoni for Pizza Hut). Almost all of CIC Partners' current investments are in oil and gas, including natural gas projects in the Barnett Shale. Yet he NEVER talks about his current employment or current investments. He avoids them like the plague. WHY? And why is the press not raising this issue?

Joanne R
Joanne R

Brenda, thanks for saying it so well.

And, Jim S, and Sam, if you're still reading these comments, get out there and ask Rawlings why he's reinventing himself, hiding his current dirty deed businesses at CIC Partners.

JS
JS

Rawlings lies and good pizza dies. There is no way in hell that Pizza Hut has "been taste-tested as the best pizza in America" -- they may have found some consumer research company to "test" Pizza Hut's horrible, greasy "pizza" against other chain pizzas, but there is no way that Pizza Hut's slop has been tested against all the great local pizzeria pies!

Rawlings is a marketing guy, pure and simple. I wouldn't trust anything that he says.

Ricky
Ricky

Roll back the tax?

What magic wand does Rawlings think he is holding?

Last time I checked, the mayor spot holds only one vote at the horseshoe. One out of 15 votes.

We know Neumann will not win re-election.Scott Griggs will take seat 3.

We know Natinsky will not be a city council vote.

Last year the tax hike passed 8 to 7and in May election two of the 7 who voted on the losing side of tax hike will not return to the horseshoe.

By my math the roll-back might have 5 votes. And, 5 won't cut it.

Natinsky and Rawlings are promising voters anything in the world, not what they can do, but even what they know they cannot. They are two desperate politicians who know they will not win over enough votes to win.

Kunkle needs to invest in a couple extra cans of bullshit spray.

Joanne R
Joanne R

Rawlings told us afterward that he didn't attack Kunkle's record and didn't even understand Kunkle's comment.

huh? Rawlings didn't "understand". How can that be? He's supposed to be this high-ranking CEO type and he claims he cannot understand it. My 12yr old had no trouble understanding it.

and

he claims to also not understand Kunkle making fun of where he works.

But, let's remember, Rawlings does NOT work at Pizza Hut. He worked there ten years ago. Although Rawlings is ashamed to remind us he is now CEO of CIS Partners which was major owner/funder of the check cashing businesses all over the poorer parts of town that prayed on lower-middle income workers. So Rawlings propoganda machine keeps calling him "former" Pizza Hut CEO.

Yeah, like TEN years ago. Could he be reaching far back in his career to find a job that doesn't have so much blood all over his hands.

Joanne R
Joanne R

oh, my, god,Kunkle was great in this. I'm so sorry i missed.

MattL1
MattL1

Man, Rawlings is making it tough for me to convince myself to vote for a fellow Eagle.

Dallas Diner
Dallas Diner

He sayas that PIzza Hut has taste tested as the best pizza in America? Really? What was the competition, pizza barfed up by his dog?

G_David
G_David

I think he meant the "best pizza that everyone in America can get". Which means the "competition" is Cici's, Dominos, Papa John's, and Little Caesars? Too close to call which is worst.

Guest
Guest

Yeah, and how many Pizza Huts are in South Dallas?

Guest
Guest

Oh, and just FYI, Rawlings also stole Okpa's "Servant Leader" message. However, Okpa didn't act like a punk and cry about it. We all know Rawlings doesn't know the first thing about being a Servant Leader. He's cocky and arrogant, not a humble bone in his body. And do you think people of color want the racist police Punkle as mayor? I don't think so.

Anna
Anna

I am sick of Rawlings attacking everyone first and then whinning like the idiot he is....grow up! He is just all mouth....can you imagine him for 4 years UGH! Go back to Addison and Pizza Hut.

Guest
Guest

Dallas Morning News and Dallas Observer are trying to choose the candidates for the people instead of providing information to the people so they can make up their own minds. Why not break this story down the way the debate was set up and give each candidate a voice? I don't want to keep hearing about how Rawlings is stealing people's ideas and how Kunkle is acting like a punk about it. The questions were posed to all candidates so print what each candidate said. Report the freakin facts and stop highlighting the antics. That's why the city can't get half the stuff done because we're putting idiots in who aren't seriously thinking about what they can do for the people EXCEPT when they're running for a spot.

Questions posed at the TREC Mayoral Forum:

Would you support a tax increase?

Building permits. How high a priority will Building permits be and what will you do to shorten the response turnaround time?

With regard to Economic development, specifically, tax abatements, in a tight budget time, how deep do you think abatements should be, should they be broadened or forego them all together?

With regard to Transit railways, how supportive would you be to transit development for southern sector, specifically along the Lancaster Keist area, tying Mockingbird station to that area?

With regard to the Trinity River Project, how much would you work with the federal government to get funding for this project and if you don't get federal funding would you ask taxpayers to help pay with their taxes?

With regard to transportation, specifically the tollways, do you see Tollways as the only way to build new construction of roadways?

Clyons
Clyons

Actually Rawlings has gone to Okpa and Agreeded on the things he was saying. When poling the crowd, they were high on Okpa's responses

Guest
Guest

Are you telling me that that's all you got from Ed Okpa and Natinsky? Your paper is so blatantly biased.

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

The Okpa response is above. As for Natinsky, if we were biased against him, why would we cover this:

http://blogs.dallasobserver.co...

Or this:

http://blogs.dallasobserver.co...

Snookie Pie
Snookie Pie

Sam, you're wasting your time communicating with this blogger.It appears he/she is a paid camp. worker for one of the probable loser candidates.

No point playing with him, it's what he wants.

Guest
Guest

And there was more to the story than Kunkle and Rawlings going back and forth acting like idiots for half the time they were supposed to be answering questions.

Guest
Guest

So you're saying that biased coverage is ok. It doesn't matter whether they're a paid worker or not. It's blatantly clear that the whole story isn't being provided here and throwing a small bone to "shut people up" is a slap in the face to any candidate who's being treated that way. I don't care if it's Rawlings, Okpa, Natinsky, or Kunkle. Give everyone a fair shake and allow the public to come to their own conclusions.

Guest
Guest

Excuse me: I meant APPEASE. I'm just so hopping mad. I'm tired of opening the paper and seeing everything about PUNKLE and RAWLINGS. Okpa had some very good responses, especially with regard with the Transit system and you TOTALLY overlooked it because you're biased.

Guest
Guest

Are you freaking kidding me???!!! I WAS THERE. I KNOW WHAT WHAT EVERY ONE OF THE CANDIDATES said and that little piece you threw out there is supposed to opposed supporters of Natinsky or Okpa? Give me a freakin break.

Reality
Reality

Well, we know this is going to end up being a runoff election since none of these people will be able to nab 51%.

Okpa's simply too unknown and will recieve no press. Natinsky has too much baggage...especially given that he's trying to run on the heels of a mayor that is running on an anti-Obama platform. Reality check for the RN campaign is that the next mayor will have to pull votes from both the North and South.

My guess is that it'll be a Kunkle vs. Rawlings matchup in the last half with the edge going to Rawlings by the simple fact that he has the financial resources to effectively fund a second campaign. Something that none of the others can afford to pull off.

Guest
Guest

You're correct. Okpa receives no press. Why is that?

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

No press?

Robert interviewed him about the Trinity River toll road:

http://blogs.dallasobserver.co...

I wrote about what he said in Pleasant Grove and put his comments first among the mayoral contenders:

http://blogs.dallasobserver.co...

I wrote that he joined the mayor’s race:

http://blogs.dallasobserver.co...

And he’s been mentioned in several other items. What more do you want?

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

How willing are they to restructure bond payments to prevent a TAX increase ?

Guest
Guest

I want you to stop being biased against him. Hell, stop being biased against Natinsky. If you go through all of the blogs you've posted, you are so quick to highlight Rawlings and Kunkle and what they're all about. They're slimey slicksters. Coming to South Dallas when they know good and well they NEVER went there before and IF elected, they will NEVER go there again. Stop going to black churches and faking and shaking. People are not as STUPID as you try to make them out to be. We know the dirty games politicians play.

Clyons
Clyons

The same kind of press, last night was more than just Rawlings and Kunkle going back and forth. When you don't give the same press, you make the readers feel like he is not in the race because media feels that he is unknown.

claytonauger
claytonauger

Was there not a single question about gas drilling in Dallas and the current controversy over Exxon leases on city land?

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