Dallas Really Doesn't Care About City Government and Other Takeaways From Saturday's City Council Election

There was a City Council election on Saturday and, if you're like the vast majority of Dallas, you didn't notice. But whether you were paying attention or not, some important things were decided and some interesting trends emerged.

Here's what you need to know:

Angela Hunt's legacy: Saturday's most interesting race was the District 14 contest to replace Angela Hunt, who is term limited. The vacant seat drew a crowded field of seven challengers, but the race soon turned into a referendum of sorts on Hunt's term in office.

Hunt threw her weight behind attorney Philip Kingston. Her name and face were featured prominently in his mailings, on his website, and at his campaign appearances. His main challenger was Bobby Abtahi, a 31-year-old former community prosecutor and City Plan Commission member who has the backing of Hunt's opponents in the Dallas establishment.

They're headed for a runoff, Kingston having grabbed 33 percent of the vote to Abtahi's 25. The attacks began almost immediately. "Now the voters have a clear choice -- someone with a record of success strengthening neighborhoods, or someone who sues their neighbors," Abtahi told The Dallas Morning News after the results came in on Saturday.

(Kingston called to offer a response. "There's only one candidate in this race that has any record of service to District 14," he said. "The other one is a stranger to the district.")

(Abtahi called to respond to Kingston's response. "I was born on Greenville Avenue [and] got my first job in the district," he says. He's lived in the district since college, plus "I'm the only candidate born and raise in Dallas.")

Should be a good show.

Roger Staubach is a football god: How else to explain what happened in District 13, where his daughter, a nurse and community volunteer, just trounced longtime businessman Leland Burk?

To be fair, Jennifer Staubach Gates seems eminently competent and like she will do a fine job on the City Council. It's just that she lacks the decades of business experience and demonstrated fiscal hawkishness that Preston Hollow loves. Her two immediate predecessors, Ann Margolin and Mitchell Rasansky, both endorsed Burk. One imagines the vote would have turned out differently if her name were simply Jennifer Gates, or if her campaign hadn't so thoroughly highlighted -- and bold-faced, and underlined -- the Staubach name.

Then again, her dad did lead the Cowboys to two Super Bowl victories and throw that Hail Mary touchdown pass to Drew Pearson. We could use some of that on the council. The picture from the front page of Sunday's Morning News suggests that Mike Rawlings thinks so.

Hispanics need to exercise their political muscle: The maps that were finally adopted following 2011's redistricting battle seemed to promise that Hispanics would add a seat on the City Council. Four of the new districts had a Hispanic voting-age population of 56 percent or more. It could have been five, but at least it wasn't three.

Now, there's a distinct possibility that Hispanics might actually lose a seat. Scott Griggs soundly defeated Delia Jasso in heavily Hispanic District 1 while in Pleasant Grove's new District 5, which was also drawn to favor Hispanics, longtime activist Jesse Diaz finds himself in a runoff with white businessman Rick Callahan, who came away from Saturday with a plurality of votes. If Callahan wins, Monica Alonzo and Adam Medrano will be the only two Latinos on the council. Which brings us to our next point ...

Scott Griggs is a prodigy: Demographics were stacked against Griggs, who this year found himself battling fellow incumbent Jasso for a district that's three-quarters Hispanic. It didn't matter. Griggs' leadership on key issues (gas drilling comes to mind), his embrace of North Oak Cliff-style urbanism and a well-documented independent streak has won him a dedicated following. Now he officially takes over from Angela Hunt as the City Hall's resident thorn in the side of the Dallas establishment. His future is bright.

Dallas really doesn't care about city government: We knew going in that turnout in Saturday's contest was going to be low. With no mayor's race, no big-ticket stadium or convention center hotel, and America's general enthusiasm for exercising the franchise, that was a foregone conclusion. But Dallas County Elections Administrator Toni Pippins-Poole and others predicted the tally would at least creep into the double digits.

Alas, such predictions gave Dallas voters way too much credit. The final count put turnout at a shade under 7 percent. Just how bad was it? Attorney Michael Li offers this handy graph on his Texas Redistricting blog.

DallasMunicipalElections.jpg
Texas Redistricting

Congratulations, Dallas. You really outdid yourself.

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65 comments
leehigh21
leehigh21

Conversly, my neighborhood is too cool to have someone supported by Avi Adelman represent us.  Hence, Abtahi won't be getting my vote.  It's going to Kingston.

victor1935
victor1935

My neighborhood is too cool to have a Tea Party wacko like Kingston represent us. Love Angela Hunt but not going to vote for the next Ted Cruz of the Dallas Council.

anon
anon

Demographics were only against Scott Griggs if you look at the district superficially. If you looked at eligible and likely voters in the new district, he was always going to win this thing. Beating Dave Neuman was the more impressive accomplishment, in my opinion.

DrewPearson
DrewPearson

Jennifer will do a GR88T job .. she has a good mentor.

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

Low voter turnout is a GOOD thing.  It means that people feel safe and prosperous and that they're confident that things will remain so.

whatever
whatever

As a "Hispanic" person, it is appalling that it is assumed we represent only one group of people. I was taught to represent the human race and supported Scott Griggs because he was the best man for the job, as stated by others. He is the reason I would vote for Kingston, if I could.  Kingston and Griggs are not naysayers. They vote to take a step back and look at the big picture in regards to social, environmental and economic issues. Sometimes the environment and quality of life, doesn't jibe with the economic opportunities. I am personally sick of the Veletta Lils and Craig Holcombs, who will do and say anything to keep on the side of the old cronies and assume they and their minions are entitled to power, which keeps a lot of good and qualified people shut out.  We need more people who are not part of that machine.  

keeponkeepinitdown
keeponkeepinitdown

About the only article I recall about a candidate in from this paper, was trying to decide whether someone was gay or not.

So I guess the voters cared about as much as the media in this town.

mikestone1169
mikestone1169

It looks like the gloves are coming off in the D14 runoff with Abtahi's quote about Kingston "suing his neighbors." From what I understand, Kingston actually sued a developer who was building a new incompatible house in the Belmont Conservation District (which Kingston helped create). That's not quite the same thing as suing a neighbor. In fact, that's kind of a badge of honor in District 14, so I'm not sure how effective that attack will be.

I think that Bobby Abtahi should be more worried about people finding out that his service on the Plan Commission was as Dwaine Caraway's appointee. I notice that he touts his city service, but never mentions that he was representing Dwaine Caraway in District 4 the whole time. Once people are clued in to this fact, along with the Citizens Council endorsement he refuses to acknowledge, I think he'll have an uphill climb in D14, especially in East Dallas.

MikeWestEast
MikeWestEast

I assume most of the contributors have the same work ethic regarding absorbing info as the author of this column. Did anyone actually read the NY Times story. The "chemical company" is a depot owned by an 82 years old man. The typically uninformed comments below make it as if Dow or DuPont was making fertilizer. Apparently these depots are scattered all over TX, all owned by local people (the main business of the 82 year old is some kind of hardware store). They serve a function as farmers like to bring up trucks to grab the nitrate without making long trips. That way, the farmers do not have to store the stuff and can quickly get to work. I sincerely doubt this guy was lobbying the Legislature on anything.As for the FEMA applications, they are in the same category as the numerous benefits I see going out the door as a volunteer tax preparer. Though I personally question the rightness of those benefits, I zealously ensure the taxpayer gets every single penny that I can possibly use the rules to justify. Why? Because it is the law and the system of law that sets the rules. If I do not like the laws I work to change them. I do not suggest to people to pass. Until the law changes, the money flows in verbatim compliance. If the law says West people qualify, then they get the money.

district14
district14

Could someone please explain to me what exactly IS Angela Hunt's legacy? Gimme eight things that she accomplished in the eight years she was in office. I'm being serious, because I have a hard time understanding why she is so well liked.

And being against the trinity tollroad, convention center hotel, etc. don't count. Being against something isn't really doing anything, in my opinion.

I see Kingston as more of the same....against everything, but not actually doing anything. I don't know if Abtahi would necessarily be an better, but Kingston (especially his wife) are bullies in their neighborhood.

ColinZ
ColinZ

Unfair park poster's dont really care about apostrophe's

iwearblack
iwearblack

It's too bad we're not allowed a vote of "No Confidence"... If 2/3 majority votes against all candidates, especially those running uncontested, a new general election could be called with those candidates struck from the ballot...

Daniel
Daniel

An errant apostrophe in the actual headline?

JohnNeelyBryan
JohnNeelyBryan

5 of the 14 districts were uncontested. Don't know how that compares to past elections, but almost 40% of us had no reason to go to the polls. So 7% turnout is a little misleading, but still pretty lame.

Tom434
Tom434

Time to set the over/under for the runoff, higher turnout in 14 will be offset by low turnout in 5, so lets go with 4.5%

cynicaloldbastard
cynicaloldbastard

"Jennifer Staubach Gates seems eminently competent and like she will do a fine job on the City Council."

Bullshit.  She raised over $400,000 from very interested parties, yet would not commit on any issues.  She will vote with the money; Fracking in parkland, Trinity Toll Road and any other real estate or big bidness deal.  If it's bad for the city, no matter, she will vote with the way the money tells her to.

crimjunkie
crimjunkie

@bvckvs Ghost of James Madison makes an appearance at Unfair Park!  Welcome, James.

observist
observist

Then it's clearly a lagging indicator.

victor1935
victor1935

I made sure everyone I knew voted against Kingston. I didn't care who they voted for. He's a tea party flip flopper trying to say anything to win in the district.

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

@keeponkeepinitdown There were other articles.  That you saw just the one says nothing about the paper - but it speaks volumes about the kind of stories on which you focus.

Jam110380
Jam110380

@mikestone1169it is a pretty well known fact that Kingston tried to shut down the Libertine, Matt's, and sued a neighbor over a chandelier.  And, from what I've witnessed, his interactions during the campaign trail have demonstrated he is nothing short of a bully - which is something I personally don't feel we need on city council.  (I've heard rumors about his wife being a bigger bulldog than he is, but I haven't met her and don't feel it would be appropriate to comment as she is not running for city council)

Meanwhile, as a voter of district 14 you're telling me I should be "worried"  because he was appointed by Dwaine Caraway in one of the tougher district's we've got (District 4) and did a remarkable job of cleaning up the area - including tearing down drug houses and nuisance bars?  He's also a master of city codes.  Am I missing something here?   If anything, what you're saying is that Bobby Abtahi demonstrates the ability to work with anybody in a cohesive manner for the betterment of my district.  That's someone I could really rally behind and vote for.  

Really, am I REALLY missing something here?  If anything I think you just sold me on him even more as its becoming evident this is the right man for the job.  

bealotcoolerifyoudid
bealotcoolerifyoudid

@mikestone1169 Who knows, they were separated by 75 votes, so really it's anyone's guess.  I am more concerned about who will do what in the district that who will be a dissenting vote on an issue they still lose.  (I admit that last part may be a little strange, but as a commenter below said opposing something isn't the same as accomplishing something).

Daniel
Daniel

@MikeWestEast


Mike, I think you meant to post this in the thread about the blind pole vaulter.


Now, back to my pathetic day of faulty info-absorbing ... 

keeponkeepinitdown
keeponkeepinitdown

@district14 She's popular because she is more liberal friendly and has a slight bit more charisma than wallpaper(aka the rest of the council).


bealotcoolerifyoudid
bealotcoolerifyoudid

@district14 

1) Killed Lower Greenville's nightlife

2) Pushed for rezoning of Ross Ave and forcing longtime business owners out to make way for condos? (not sure if that happened just before she took office or after so grain of salt)

3) Bike plan

4) the whole municipal judge thing

5) fixed all the damn  potholes- wait that never happened, nevermind

Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

@ColinZ Apparently you love them. Even the extraneous ones.

PepperoneCalzone
PepperoneCalzone

@iwearblack I was going to write in "A reasonably intelligent tomato plant" rather than vote for Kadane. Unfortunately, no tomato plants, reasonably intelligent or not, had registered as write-in candidates, so there was no blank for a write-in on my ballot. At least, that's what the nice lady at the county elections office told me. WTF? I thought the whole point of a write-in candidate was that people voting wrote them in. What's the deal with having to register? 

observist
observist

@Daniel  It's a Nicholson thing.  It's like "Where's Waldo" with typos - you know there's one somewhere in every post, you just have to find it. 

James080
James080 topcommenter

@Tom434  

I'll take the under for another $20.00.

Schulz75206
Schulz75206

@victor1935 Where have you been? Prices and leases are up in Uptown. Arts District. Well, okay it's led by cats in glass houses, but look how much has been built while Angela was in office the past, how many years? Lower Greenville has never looked better. The area has grown up and with the price of housing and more families moving in and sending their kids to Stonewall Jackson, we need more family restaurants and shopping, and fewer bars. The Greenville Avenue parade which rakes in a lot of money for local business, finally got under control and is more professional. We don't like that Angela  supported Harlan Crow and was against the Hotel.

However, Veletta Lil sided with the Trinity River Freeway, as did Holcomb. Guess who got a job at the Arts District, out of the deal from Tom Leppert, for supporting the toll road?  Food trucks were already on the plate for AD. She just helped them with the permit process. Unfortunately, Angela saw the light on the Trinity River too late.  

What has Craig Holcomb done lately, that isn't handed to him? They're all whores, so we're choosing Kingston.  Can we predict Kingston won't roll over?  No we can't.  But we can predict Bobby will, since he uses the same political consultant that Harlan Crow did.

LowerGreenvilleTruth
LowerGreenvilleTruth

@Jam110380   What you are saying about Philip Kingston is false.  If you ask the owners of The Libertine, you will find out two things.  First, that they were being placed in a bad position by their landlord--who was holding a lease negotiation over their heads.  The Libertine didn't have specific parking locations that were guaranteed to them...and to make it worse, their landlord was (illegally) skimming parking money from the parking they DID have.And Second, that Mr. Kingston represented the neighborhood's position that the landlord had no right to charge money on The Libertine's city-required parking, and if said landlord wanted The Libertine to have their late night permits with no interference, they needed to guarantee that The Libertine would have the full required amount of FREE PARKING.

So, in fact, the end result of Mr. Kingston's representation of the neighborhood coalition was that The Libertine got their Late Night Permit, and their landlord was forced to stop poaching their parking.

On the other hand, when Mr. Abtahi was serving on the CPC, he voted against District 14 neighborhood interests on almost every case.

So, in fact, you are missing a number of things.  Luckily, you have an opportunity to check the facts I've presented for you, and you will be able to determine their veracity.  And, you will find them to be truthful.

bealotcoolerifyoudid
bealotcoolerifyoudid

@Jam110380 @mikestone1169 Abhati is backed by DCC, so instead of 2 dissenting votes on big ticket items there would only be 1. 

I haven't met Mr. Kingston, but I have interacted with his spouse, and yeah she can be a piece of work.  She can be pleasant, but she she really deserves Avi Adelman as she is every bit the bully as he. 

mikestone1169
mikestone1169

@bealotcoolerifyoudid 

Nah, Philip Kingston beat the entire field by almost 400 votes and won 30 precincts to Abtahi's 10. 

 http://results.enr.clarityelections.com/TX/Dallas/46765/117059/en/md_zoom.html?cid=0124&

Kingston won all of East Dallas and the most populous areas of Uptown (blue on the map), while Abtahi led only in Oak Law and Downtown (red).  There simply aren't enough votes in those areas for Abtahi to win a runoff, especially when his ties to Dwaine Caraway, the Citizens Council, and pro-Toll Road & Gas Drilling forces becomes more widely known.

schermbeck
schermbeck

@keeponkeepinitdown @district14 No - because she has more balls than anyone else on the council and isn't afraid to challenge the Powers That Be. When you're trying to do good works in Dallas, Texas, it's often a rearguard fight. Her legacy is her integrity, which I never saw her sacrifice in the fights I was involved in, and her courage to get up every morning and go bang her head against the wall...again. That's what it takes to bring change.

district14
district14

And yet, she didn't change anything. That was my original question posed...what did she accomplish?

Say what you want about the Craig Holcombs and Veletta Lills in this City, but their 'legacy' is far more substantial than Ms. Hunt's.

Integrity doesn't fill potholes.

keeponkeepinitdown
keeponkeepinitdown

@ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul @keeponkeepinitdown @JohnNeelyBryan Some of these people are elected with just a few hundred votes out of 10-100k residents in the district. That's disgusting. For the amount of power they hold over our lives it's terrifying. 

I also don't think it's an accident that the city council meetings are held at a time where most working people are unable to attend.  Or that the information on election results are pretty much buried. 

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