Mayor Johnson: Building communities that are more than ‘good enough’
And why defunding the inspector general is the wrong move.
The following was adapted from my email newsletter. To subscribe, visit MayorOfDallas.org.
Remember when the Dallas City Council unanimously approved my ethics task force’s proposal for major ethics reforms?
It was a monumental day for a city that has seen far too many corruption cases and accusations of ethical wrongdoing that have cost taxpayers and undermined trust in city government.
The centerpiece of these reforms was a new ethics “cop on the beat” — an Inspector General to monitor, investigate, and prosecute public corruption and potential ethics violations among elected officials, city officials, and city employees.
In March, the new Inspector General was hired and began setting up the office and hiring his team. Already inundated with dozens of tips and complaints to investigate, he proposed six new positions in the upcoming fiscal year budget (for a total of 16).
And as you likely remember, in a memo to the city manager in June, I listed fully funding the Inspector General’s office as a top priority.
But on Wednesday, some members of the Dallas City Council already tried to defund the Inspector General by proposing an amendment to eliminate those new positions. That would have slashed the office’s inaugural budget by about 25%.
They even pushed forward after the Inspector General rattled off the types of allegations his office has received so far, including embezzlement, conflicts of interest, fraud, nepotism, improper gifts, inappropriate workplace relationships, sexual harassment, and unfair employment practices.
Thankfully, the amendment didn’t pass Wednesday.
However, this year’s budget process isn’t over yet. There is still another chance for your City Councilmembers to propose amendments on September 21. And this unfortunate episode demonstrates why your engagement in the budget process is so critical.
The city’s annual budget must reflect your priorities. In many ways, the budget proposal does just that. This budget invests in public safety, provides a historic tax-rate cut, makes key infrastructure improvements, and continues new strategies to address encampments and rapidly rehouse people experiencing homelessness.
Ethics, though, is the foundation of everything your city government does. The Inspector General and the new ethics reforms are meant to help ensure that the only interests served at Dallas City Hall are your interests.
The other piece of that accountability comes from you. Remind your elected representatives where you stand on this critical issue by sending them an email here.
Investing in safer communities
For those of you who don’t know, I was born in this city and raised in two underserved and overlooked communities, West Dallas and Oak Cliff.
So I know how it feels to be part of a community that is counted out, neglected, and ignored — to live in places that would be deemed unacceptable for many families, but “good enough” for others. In other words, places that are considered “just fine” for someone else’s kids.
These divides in this city were created by past generations and driven by a litany of factors: by poor planning and policies, by apathy, and sometimes by bad intentions.
While it’s important to acknowledge and understand that history, this job is not about relitigating the past. Dallas has opportunities now to build a better, stronger, and safer future for all families who call this city home.
Three years ago around this time, the Task Force on Safe Communities began to meet. While the police department’s job was to enforce the law and take criminals off the streets, the Task Force had a different challenge: researching and developing community-based strategies for fighting and deterring violent crime.
The Task Force developed four data-driven and community-based recommendations. One was blight remediation.
The research has been clear: Remediating blight helps to both reduce violent crime and beautify communities. After the Task Force released its report, the Dallas City Council voted to fund the recommendations.
And over the last two years, the new Office of Integrated Public Safety Solutions, which is primarily devoted to implementing the Task Force recommendations, worked collaboratively to remediate thousands of blighted lots and properties across this city as part of the broader “kitchen sink” approach to reducing violence — an approach that embraces both data-driven policing strategies and community-based solutions.
That approach has worked. No major city in the country has seen the results that Dallas has seen. This city has bucked national trends and continued to reduce violent crime. And the men and women of the Dallas Police Department and the communities that have bought into the approach deserve everyone’s gratitude.
But there is still more work ahead. There are more communities that need more resources to fight violence and decades of indifference.
That’s why it was great to announce a new grant for Builders of Hope Community Development Corporation’s initiative to reduce blight in the South Dallas neighborhood of Mill City.
This grant is possible because of the Communities Foundation of Texas and the support of other generous donors who believe in researched-backed solutions to violent crime. With a strong community organization like Builders of Hope leading this charge, this funding is going to be put to good use in the Mill City neighborhood.
Mill City deserves this city’s support. It deserves attention. And like every community in this city, Mill City deserves to be safe. Because without safety, no one in Dallas can be expected to thrive. And together, this city can ensure that no part of Dallas remains underserved or overlooked.
Park of the Month
In honor of the effort in Mill City, Juanita J. Craft Park is September’s Mayor’s Park of the Month!
The park — an anchor of the Mill City neighborhood that is located just blocks away from Fair Park (where the State Fair of Texas will begin later this month!) — is nearly 22 acres and includes athletics fields, tennis courts, a basketball court, and the Juanita Jewel Craft Recreation Center that features a Baylor health clinic.
The park was originally called Wahoo Park, and the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s outfitted it with a community building, retaining wall, landscaping, walkways, and other improvements.
The park was renamed for Craft, a civil rights activist, civic leader, and Dallas City Council member, in 1974. If you’d like to visit, the address is 4500 Spring Avenue, Dallas, Texas 75210.
That’s all the updates for you today. Stay tuned for more in the coming days, including about how you can help memorialize Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, who made an official visit to Dallas in 1991.
But there is one more important thing to say to one reader of this newsletter: Happy 15th Anniversary, Nikki! Your patience is worth some kind of award!
Take care of yourselves, and have a great week. More updates soon.