Mayoral Candidates David Kunkle, Edward Okpa and Mike Rawlings Talk Neighborhoods and Economic Development in Pleasant Grove

Mike_Rawlings_money_Merten.jpg
Photos by Sam Merten
While this looks shady, Mike Rawlings is actually handing out a business card.
All four mayoral candidates are running on similar platforms to improve neighborhoods and boost economic development. But underdog Edward Okpa sought to set himself apart from the field this afternoon, claiming David Kunkle and Mike Rawlings "don't have the relevant facts" to make the necessary progress in neighborhoods. He also said they lack the experience to add small businesses, pointing out that Kunkle served as a police chief and Rawlings is a former chief executive.

"You tell me what you want, and I will deliver for you," the real estate broker and international trade consultant told approximately 80 folks gathered at the Pleasant Grove Campus of Eastfield College. "That's economic development."

Rawlings, the ex-CEO of Pizza Hut, said the city needs "a dealmaker," and he aims to recruit "blue-chip CEOs" to move their headquarters to Dallas by committing one day per week making phone calls as mayor. He admitted that he doesn't have many objectives, listing economic development three times on a list of three.

"We will beat Irving. We will beat Plano," he said. "And that's the attitude we have to have."

Kunkle held up a copy of the book Good to Great, which describes great leaders as socially awkward and non-charismatic -- two qualities that describe him. He was chosen as one of four leaders in a documentary about the book written by Jim Collins. Kunkle said there are times to build signature bridges and convention center hotels, but now is the time to focus on neighborhoods. The difference between him and Rawlings, he said, is Rawlings had a narrow focus as CEO, while his experience as police chief forced him to look at all facets of government.

Candidate Ron Natinsky had a prior engagement and did not attend.

Edward_Okpa_fist_Merten.jpg
Edward Okpa
Okpa, who bussed tables at the Hilton Anatole hotel when he moved to Dallas from Nigeria 25 years ago, touted his land acquisitions for the Dallas County Community College District without litigation and said he wants to "unleash" the city's value that has been hidden by City Hall. The former board member of the Dallas Development Fund also claimed City Hall has been resistant to hand out the new markets tax credits that are available through the DDF.

Okpa sprinkled several unconventional comments throughout the afternoon, including "The only thing we cannot change is death," and "I am coming to you as your servant leader."

Rawlings said Kunkle has "a great history in the public sector," while he has "a great history in the private sector," so it's up to voters to determine which experience is best for the city. He touched on the budget only briefly, saying, "You have to look at waste and find a way to cut it out." Rawlings also said the city needs to eliminate the red tape for developers.

"We don't have to get a big fund," he said. "We just have to get the paperwork through."

When asked about the upcoming redistricting of council seats, Rawlings issued what has become his catch phrase while urging residents to be involved and vocal in the process.

"Are you gonna walk down to City Hall and say, 'No mas?'" he said.

David_Kunkle_GoodtoGreat_Merten.jpg
David Kunkle
Kunkle said the "single worst part" of the previous redistricting was the effect on Pleasant Grove, pointing out that it's part of four different council districts, with no council members living there. He said the city is "overtaxed and underserved," which is why Dallas grew only .17 percent since the last census. Kunkle also mentioned that crime fell each year he was chief and said he raised $17 million for the department as chief.

Kunkle stressed that the city should have a strong commitment to the inland port and said he's "troubled" by various economic incentives handed out by the city. He mentioned one under consideration by the council to Dean Foods that he claims amounts to $400,000 per job.

The three candidates were allowed introductory statements followed by four prepared questions by members of various chambers of commerce and a final statement. Kunkle was allowed to speak first and answer each question first, with Okpa second and Rawlings third. The moderator cited alphabetical order as the reasoning. Only during the closing remarks did the order change, with Rawlings first, Kunkle second and Okpa last.


Sponsor Content

My Voice Nation Help
20 comments
Thelisma Partridge
Thelisma Partridge

"Candidate Ron Natinsky had a prior engagement and did not attend."

Last month Candidate Ron Natinsky showed up about an hour late to the public forum at Hitt Auditorium due to a prior engagement. Apparently he (a) is too busy to present his platform to the voters, (b) is afraid to answer questions from the voters, (c) has a terrible time keeping his schedule straight, or (d) only shows up for big fund raisers.

EtxObserver
EtxObserver

Dear DISD "Teacher":

I really hope you don't teach civics. Please explain how it is that you think the Mayor can do anything about DISD.

Glenn Hunter
Glenn Hunter

Thanks for including Okpa's views, Sam. The Morning News account today did not include even one of his utterances.

elbueno
elbueno

The job of Mayor is by definition a Public sector job. So it would seem that kind of experience would be more important.

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

Rawlings, the ex-CEO of Pizza Hut, said the city needs "a dealmaker,"

Yes I guess we need one .....We will be flush with cash once those Nigerian Generals send us the cash they promised the last Mayor .

DoubleOJoe
DoubleOJoe

"Rawlings, the ex-CEO of Pizza Hunt"

Freudian slip?

Anyway, jokes aside, I think one of Rawlings' quotes merits discussion: '"We will beat Irving. We will beat Plano," he said. "And that's the attitude we have to have."'.

I don't agree with this at all. Politics and city growth isn't a competition. How, exactly, do you mean to "beat" these other cities? Higher growth percentage? What does that matter, except for being higher in the meaningless lists that get published every year?

The way to succeed isn't to look at what other cities are doing, it's to figure out what your city needs. If Irving hires 500 more firefighters, great. Maybe they need firefighters. If Plano dedicates 25% of the city budget to repairing roads, great. Maybe they need new roads. Does that mean that Dallas should automatically hire 600 new firefighters and dedicate 30% of the budget to roads? No, it means that the Dallas council should weight the options and do what's best for the city, not follow in someone's footsteps.

You're not trying to beat anyone, Mike. You're trying to improve the city that might elect you. Stop worrying so much about what others are doing and work to improve what you have.

HomelessBumatCliffManor
HomelessBumatCliffManor

I will vote for Mayor Mike if he sends me free Pizza Hut pizza to go along with my free place to live in Oak Cliff!!!

Snookie Pie
Snookie Pie

I agree with Kunkle about the tax incentives. I'm tired of giving away the candy story to the rich friends of politicians. The Dean Foods deal needs to be cleaned up. Natinsky and Rawlings want help their friends at the expense of our City services. They are not paying their fair share of taxes, so we suffer.

Downtowner
Downtowner

For a moment I thought that was MaryAnn Russ discussing what it takes to open a cable ski park in Oak Cliff.

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

Pleasant Grove is Exhibit A when it comes to how bad schools can kill a city or a neighborhood.

Bad schools = no financial incentive to redevelop.Bad schools = unaddressed blight.

Let's hear these mayoral candidates address the elephant crushing the city: DISD.

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

Apparently you are the only person in Dallas who doesn't realize how the bad schools drag this city down and that the mayor represents and serves the same city being stifled by DISD.

Some astute "observer" you are. What exactly are you observing?

The current mayor and every person trying to grow Dallas and its economy definitely gets it that ignoring DISD isn't working. But maybe you were in a coma back when the mayor floated the idea of a mayoral takeover of the district.

Here's what the mayor can do: Publicly bang the drum about the need to audit the school district for corruption and cronyism. Publicly and frequently connect the dots for Dallas citizens that crime, blight, and low-performing schools are frequently clustered together.

The mayor can pressure the heck out of the Citizen's Council to clean out DISD.The mayor can remind the public of the dismal school system until the public is marching on 3700 with pitchforks and torches.The mayor can form a task force to detail the correlation between the schools and growth (or, in Dallas' case, the lack thereof).

All that without ever stepping foot in 3700 Ross Avenue.

It ain't civics, buddy; it's politics, and these candidates need to speak out about what they would do to "partner" with DISD to get this city back on the map.

Bill Holston
Bill Holston

It looks to me that we have some really good choices for once. I really like the idea of a man, that is a true entrepreneur. I'm really going to pay attention to what Mr. Okpa has to say. The immigrant story of hard work is a classic one. It's very often based on appreciation for our economic system that native born Americans don't have the same enthusiasm for. They have experienced government systems that inhibit business.

Oak Cliff Res
Oak Cliff Res

The City of Dallas is a City Manager form of government not Strong Mayor. The City Manager is ultimately in charge of setting forth an operating budget for each fiscal year, the Council and Mayor only make recommendations on what they want they specifically want the money to be spent on. Kunkle's experience as an Assist. City Manager and Police Cheif only gives him the credibility of taking direction not giving direction.

elbueno
elbueno

I think he talking specifically about attracting Fortune 500 companies...to which I ask again...

How is that more important than improving the quality of life for people who actually live in Dallas?

Robert Wilonsky
Robert Wilonsky

I ate at Pizza Hunt once -- it's off MacArthur -- and I'll never go back. A kill-yer-own pepperoni.

Oak Cliff Res
Oak Cliff Res

It doesn't improve the quality of life one bit. But because citizens always want more but want to give less the city must rely on big businesses to come in raise the tax base with sales, and lease out empty buildings and hire local employees that will eat lunch at those empty restaurants that will allow those restaurants to hire more employees aswell as attract other unselfish individuals from other cities/states that want to work for these companies and buy those empty houses and again increase the tax base. More tax base than everyone gets to keep their selfish wants from the city and thus improve their selfsh perception of "quality of life". Hope this helps

Just the facts, ma'am
Just the facts, ma'am

As yes, in Irving. Heading further south down the county you'll find some great Road Kill Cafes.

DoubleOJoe
DoubleOJoe

I have a vision of Masaai hurling spears at wild roaming packs of sausage and peppers.

Thelisma Partridge
Thelisma Partridge

But don't large cities typically entice large corporations to move by offering them large tax breaks/abatements/incentives?

FYI Pizza Hunt refers to the unannounced merger of Pizza Hut and Hunt Oil. "Pizza Oil" just didn't sound right...

Now Trending

Dallas Concert Tickets

From the Vault

 

General

Loading...