This blog post first appeared on February 26, 2015. For more information, click here.
It’s an odd question to ask indeed, but perhaps not so odd if you have kept up with recent news stories about this year’s Dallas mayoral election. Several recent stories in the Dallas Morning News, for example, continue to praise Mayor Rawlings for the programs that have been initiated during his tenure as Mayor of Dallas, and his campaign fundraising success in comparison to his one challenger, Marcos Ronquillo. The DMN has made no secret about its love affair with Mayor Rawlings, and that a second term would be a piece of cake for the mayor.
But the stories did not stop there. One rather bold DMN columnist stated that “Marcos Ronquillo has a zero chance of being elected” as mayor of Dallas. Yet another story announcing Ronquillo’s candidacy for mayor was placed next to the Obituary section of the DMN. Of course, this was probably just a coincidence.
While it may be obvious to the Dallas Morning News staff that Mike Rawlings is destined to win the next mayoral election, I believe that Dallasites are smart enough to make up their own minds about who our next mayor should be. With voter turnout rates at historic lows, it doesn’t make sense to discourage voter participation by telling voters that the mayoral election is a done deal.
The voting public needs to understand what the mayoral candidates have in mind for improving the quality of life for City residents. The subjective opinions of media pundits should not substitute for a series of well-planned public debates that would require the candidates to address important issues in their own words. Once scheduled, the candidates should embrace the challenge and not avoid open debate.
Following are a few questions and issues that I would personally enjoy hearing the candidates address in a public debate:
Trinity Tollway: Is there any scientific evidence that Dallas needs the Trinity tollway as a transportation solution? Are there any scientific polls that tell us whether Dallas residents favor or oppose this tollway? Wouldn’t it make better sense to first upgrade our local streets, bridges and highways which are suffering from a lack of maintenance and increasing traffic?
Education: Mayor Rawlings stated in a recent DMN story that Dallasites “do not value education.” What evidence allows you to make such a profound statement? How does this conclusion fit your role as the self-proclaimed “Education Mayor?”
Poverty and Unemployment: Efforts to remediate poverty and unemployment often focus on helping people improve their job skills, business plans or personal skills. However, poverty and unemployment also result directly from the loss of millions of contract dollars that leave the City of Dallas every year to companies located outside of the City of Dallas. These lost dollars contribute nothing to our local economy. Moreover, the City’s poverty rate is among the highest in the nation. As mayor, what plans do you have for awarding more contracts to local business firms and bringing more jobs to City residents?
Fundraising Roadblocks: Current City policy places a $5,000 cap on the amount of funds that a mayoral candidate can raise from any one donor, although the policy does not apply to the incumbent mayor. This policy clearly gives the incumbent mayor a decided advantage in fundraising. How does an incumbent mayor justify accepting donations larger than $5,000 when it clearly creates an uneven playing field for other candidates?
Of course, the notion of not having a mayoral election this year is ridiculous. But equally ridiculous are efforts by the media that discourage voter participation by suggesting that the election outcome has already been determined and that some candidates have a zero chance of being elected. Perhaps the media pundits can find something more useful to do with their time rather than discouraging voters from participating in important elections.