Rawlings Says "Scrape, Beg, Borrow, Steal" for Trinity Project; Kunkle Says He Can "Say No"

Categories: Campaign News
DallasBarAssoc_RawlingsKunkleDebate.jpg
Patrick Michels
David Kunkle and Mike Rawlings illustrate the tremendous ideological rift between them.
In the comments earlier today on Unfair Park, there was no shortage of speculation as to what the two mayoral hopefuls would cover in their next debate: City Manager Mary Suhm's job security, dead rabbits and Sunday's Dallas Morning News piece on the Trinity River tollway among them. And sure enough, Mike Rawlings and David Kunkle covered just about all of them this afternoon at the Belo Mansion. Except the rabbits.

Dallas South News' Shawn Williams moderated the debate, hosted by the Dallas Bar Association, and didn't waste any time before getting into one of the biggest disagreements between the two candidates: whether to drop that toll road into the Trinity River floodplain.

Rawlings said his position is essentially unchanged: There's not enough information yet to say whether or not Dallas should go ahead with plans to build the toll road, and won't until the Army Corps of Engineers sends its word on whether the road is safe to build between the levees -- a decision that won't come till 2014.

One way or another, though, Rawlings said the city needs to "power through" its money woes to deliver on the promise of the Trinity River Project -- whether that means redistributing money from old bond issues, or holding a new bond election. "The Trinity River will define the city of Dallas in the 21st century," Rawlings said. "We need to scrape, beg, borrow and steal if we need that money."

Kunkle said we've got all the facts we need to make the call on the toll road, and that scrapping the toll road plans is an "easy answer" for him at this point. "I can say no when no is a correct answer," Kunkle said.

From there, the candidates discussed the atmosphere at City Hall, and any shakeups they'd make as mayor.

Kunkle said he believes in government that's "open, transparent, where it's a little bit messy, where people debate issues that are important to the city." He said that's largely been missing from talk about the Trinity -- where "one council member" can be "ostracized and shut out" for questioning the party line. The convention center hotel, Kunkle said, is another place where there's room for more openness. "It was marketed to us like somebody was selling a car."

Rawlings said City Hall needs to be clearer about its rules, and that morale at City Hall is "very bad right now," something he'd like to improve with "rewards and recognition programs."

Asked specifically about Mary Suhm, both said they'd like to keep her on as City Manager. Rawlings called her "a very good city manager," while Kunkle said she "does a good job." Kunkle said his only beef is with city staff acting like it's their job to protect council members who might be embarrassed by details about how the city operates.

While Rawlings stuck with his grander "Big D" themes, and Kunkle referred mostly to small, neighborhood-level improvements, the two still found plenty of common ground on the importance of revitalizing downtown, improving trails and supporting DISD.

"I'm a believer in the accountability movement," Kunkle said. "We need to do some more with the charter schools." Rawlings said it was exciting to see new charter schools going in downtown, and said it'll be key to bring in the private sector to find ways to support public schools.

Given an opportunity to address that "perception that candidates are more alike" than not, as Williams put it, Kunkle said that while they're "both decent men, I am not funded by the Citizens Council." He also questioned Rawlings's role in awarding the city's Happy Trails ad campaign to Jake:Ferguson, and a pending open records request covering the contract.

Kunkle also tried to distinguish his vision for Dallas from Rawlings'. "We can't be a better Frisco than Frisco. We've got to be a great, great American city," Kunkle said, with "old historical buildings that have been brought back to life," and "unique restaurants that aren't a part of chains."

Rawlings called the Happy Trails fiasco a "media ploy" Kunkle has organized. "Once again your facts are completely wrong. Nobody got paid $80,000, and I don't have the right to do anything at City Hall," Rawlings said, so there's no chance he's holding up a records request.

"The Citizens Council has never given me one dime," Rawlings said. "To liken me to being funded by the Citizens Council is just inaccurate."
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31 comments
Bill Holston
Bill Holston

The neighborhoods versus big projects idea is a powerful one for me. I don't think CEO is actually the right person for the job.

I voted for Kunkle in the election, and will for runoff also.

Chris Danger
Chris Danger

One way to fix the Suhm problem: Finally have the balls to switch to a  "Strong Mayor" system of government. That way, the mayor is the end all of how things are handled in the city. Thats how you resolve most of the issues that we've seen in the past several years...

J. Erik Jonsson
J. Erik Jonsson

I'm bewildered by the lack of criticism for Suhm.  She's the chief executive of the City.  It's HER budget that has us looking for services to cut.  It's HER staff that hides public information from citizens (and possibly provides false information during Trinity discussions).

PM, I think it's "Shawn" Williams, who did an outstanding job, BTW.

Watching South Detroit
Watching South Detroit

Rawlings sounds like Leppert Part 2.  Shove that Trinity project through by lying and concealing facts that citizens don't need to know about.  Notice how newly released e-mails from the Corp of Engineers show that he greatly exaggerated the Corp position, Leppert "cannot be reached for comment".  The "Happy Trails" episode showed that Rawlings has little ethics - just the good old crony network.  If he "suggested" 3 firms, why did only 1 firm get invited to bid - the firm of his buddy?  Anyone who has ever working in a large company or organization knows that if the head guy "suggests" or "recommends" something, even if it against explicit rules, that is the way he wants it and it is up to the staff to make it that way.  Now he is just crawfishing and trying to cover his a__. 

Anonymous
Anonymous

If the Trinity Project is so important, just tell people you're raising their taxes to pay for it. If you think people would vote you out of office for doing so, then you've got your answer on the importance that people place on the whole thing. Don't tell them it will be bond money. People are stupid, and they think bond money is free (just like they think their furniture is free if you don't have to make any payments until 2015). Don't tell them that the money will come from other "pockets" because again, people are stupid, and they don't understand what that means.

Ellum08
Ellum08

Morale at City Hall would improve once the pay cuts, furlough days and reduction in benefits stopped.

Guest
Guest

Why would we need to beg, borrow or scrape any money for the Trinity project? Mayor Tom said there were buckets of money out there for the project. Just go dig up the buckets.

yeahIsaidthat
yeahIsaidthat

Vote Kunkle and vote in place of your dead grandma too. Whatever it takes.

thisisnotatest
thisisnotatest

"Scrape, beg, borrow, and steal", so essentially, we're talking business as usual for Mr.Rawlings. Bless his heart:)

Brenda Marks
Brenda Marks

I was at the Belo Mansion debate today, and Mr. Rawlings’ answer to all questions related to the Trinity Toll Road very scripted (hello Mari). To each question (and there were 2 specific, 1 indirect) and in each response to the DMN front-page article yesterday, Mr. Rawlings kept saying “we don’t know all the facts….” Nothing else, just dodging by saying “we don’t know all the facts.”So, even agreeing with him that we don’t know “all” the facts, we know quite a few facts. The first being the Corps and NTTA both said (and the contracts between the City, the Corps and the NTTA specifically state) the Corps has primacy over the road. In other words, if the Corps determines that the high-speed-tollroad-in-a-floodway is impeding, in any way, the Corps ability to maintain and control the Trinity River floodway, they can order the road removed, shut down, blown up, painted pink, turned into a skate ramp, you name it. They can do it. And the bondholders who paid for that road get screwed. And bond investors who know there is any chance they may get screwed either don't buy, or demand a premium equivalent to Bernie Madoff's jail sentence.I know this, and I’m no rocket scientist.  Just someone who read the underlying docs (part of the record for the EIS) and who asked, at the public hearing, off the record to an NTTA official “can you sell bonds in the bond market for a road over which the Corps can assert primacy?” to which question the NTTA official smiled and said “No”. It was clear that the Dallas message machine had churned hard and fast over the weekend to come up with the “we don’t have all the facts” response to cover for the lack of truthfulness given to Dallas taxpayers over the past 4 years. I'm betting that message machine will be churning full throttle until June 18.And I found that to be very disappointing -- yet predictable.

Dallas Diner
Dallas Diner

"We need to scrape, beg, borrow and steal if we need that money."  Isn't that what got us in this pickle in the first place?  Over half the money from the bond issue is gone with nothing to show for it.

Bob
Bob

Trinity Project = possible fraud

And I'm taking about the whole project. Not just the Trinity tollway.

Irony13
Irony13

Is that Number 5 in the corner, texting PaPaw the answers to the questions?

El Rey
El Rey

So Rawlings wants to trust in the people that were manipulated (by local politician types and special interests, no less) into letting levees fall into disrepair and letting mother nature destroy a great river city. I see a parallel, does anyone else?

I think I would prefer a leader, not a puppet. I would prefer someone who uses reason and logic, rather than political half-truths. Sorry Rawlings, I'm not buying what you're selling.

yeahIsaidthat
yeahIsaidthat

Of course they want to keep Mary. Be afraid, be very afraid of a Suhmnami on your ass. As far as DISD is concerned, no mayor has any influence. That simple. Rawlings mailer today gives the impression that he can have an influence. Remember the word, "independent" in the DISD moniker? No influence. It's never going to happen. Beg, borrow, or steal? Wanna rethink that Mike? While he will never admit to DCC influence he does have Lepperts people, so....................

Lisa Phranc
Lisa Phranc

Mike Rawlings was never the "CEO" of Pizza Hut because that position never existed. He was the president of the Pizza Hut division. He has never managed a large organization of people. That is a fact. He is a been counter and marketing guy. A salesman who can add and subtract.

Jim Bob Guthrie
Jim Bob Guthrie

I agree.  Replacing her needs to at least be on the table.

Ellum08
Ellum08

Perhaps with Griggs election, along with Natinsky's replacement, Hunt and Margolin, some harder questions will start being asked of the budget and how exactly it is formulated each year. Count on the the South Dallas reps to continue to take Suhm at her word, which makes no sense to me considering their neighborhoods are the most affected by budget cuts.

I wouldn't want Mary's job, but after year three of continued budget cuts, with no end in sight, something needs to change at how the City does bidness.

yeahIsaidthat
yeahIsaidthat

if more people, council members, and media had that attitude(which is correct), she would have been gone a long time ago.

trannyntraining
trannyntraining

I think I just saw Arthur and Archie leaving town with em...

Watching South Detroit
Watching South Detroit

So Rawlings says on the one had that "we don't have all the facts" but we need to "beg, borrow, or steal"?  Seems we that since Dallas has already committed a lot of money - the facts should already be known.  As far as Suhm goes - why should a mayor be elected depending on whether Suhm stays or goes?  There have been many problems under her watch that could have been prevented or corrected.  Suhm should NOT be guaranteed her position.

David
David

I was there, too.  I went with an open mind.  I might have been one of the few in the room who was trying to decide whom to vote for. 

Both are good, but I was instantly impressed by Rawlings and my opinion of his ability to serve as Mayor continued.  I thought he answered all the questions clearly, concisely, straightforward and honestly. 

I thought Kunkle wiggled around on two questions:  1) economic growth, and 2) whether or not he would keep Mary Suhm.  I did not hear him say he would.  In fact, it sounded to me that he was hinting she wasn't his choice. 

Just my opinion.

David wilson
David wilson

Now, Mari, be nicer to your friends cuz you never know when you will need to work with them again.

Dallas Diner
Dallas Diner

If he really gave that much of a damn about DISD, why doesn't he go for the superintendent's position instead of running for mayor?

Juan Valdez
Juan Valdez

I think its time for the Observer to showcase Ms Suhm. What shes done. What she has not done. And other things of public interest. Why is she so sacrosanct?

L_Streets
L_Streets

Were they fleeing on their solar powered water taxi?

Anonymous
Anonymous

Special interest groups of every flavor know how to get what they want from Suhm, and how much it will cost them. They fear the unknown, so they are bullying both candidates into the idea of sticking with her, or at least keeping the option on the table that they might keep her.

Brenda Marks
Brenda Marks

As to Mary Suhm, Kunkle and Rawlings had the same answer.  Both thought she did a good job and were unwilling to take the bite of "would you replace her."  I believe Rawlings is a good man with good intentions.  I'm just not willing to vote for another Mayor, whoever he or she may be, who is unwilling to tell the truth on the Trinity Toll Road.  Never again.

thisisnotatest
thisisnotatest

I'd rather him take option c...where he finally finishes those chest of drawers he's been promising the ol'lady.

Brenda Marks
Brenda Marks

Actually, my thought was "what's he doing here?"  He should be in Austin camped at the door of Strauss, Dewhurst and Perry.  If he really wants to make DISD the best school district around, his job moves to Austin.  And his friends need to take their kids out of private schools and put them in the district and work to make sure it does its job. The working middle class and poor (which is the majority of DISD parents) don't command the voice on Ross Avenue or Canton Street that gets that done.  

stupidisasstupiddoes
stupidisasstupiddoes

Special interest groups like the folks over at the Trinity Trust? Mary Suhm asks "how high?" when Gail Thomas tells her that she needs to jump up. By-the-way, what exactly are they doing over there at the Trust, I mean, other than organizing the Living Plaza and all, since one can clearly see how the City Hall Plaza has everything to do with the Trinity River Project?

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