Sunday, March 29, 2009

How to Pick a Candidate Pt 3

As promised, I went to see each candidate in person and killed three birds with one stone by getting to ask them all one question. Felicia and I went to see the Candidate Forum at Methodist Hospital in Oak Cliff last Wednesday. My goal was to see if I could hear each one in person before making my decision and I can honestly say that going helped me to narrow down the choices.

First, I want to explain the setup of the forum. It was pretty basic: each candidate gave some opening remarks and then took questions from a panel of four community people affiliated with the Dallas Examiner. After the panel asked their questions, then the candidates had to answer questions from the audience. The audience submitted their questions prior to the forum and the moderator read them. After a few audience questions, they went back to the panel and then closed up with the closing statements.

All three candidates spoke about community unity, safe neighborhoods, economic development, and quality of life. There were differences of opinions on the Dallas Convention Hotel and the Teen Daytime Curfew. During the audience question session, my question was selected: What is your position on the Daytime Teen Curfew idea that is set to come before the Council? How will the police handle the students that are from private schools, charter schools, and other districts who have different days off from DISD? Each candidate got a chance to answer and it was the first the question that they wanted to rebut each other on.

Here are my comments and ranking on each one from weakest to strongest in my opinion as of today:

#3....Victoria Walton.

Listening to her struggle with the answers and then admit that she was having a hard time focusing was a little troublesome. They asked her my question on Daytime Curfews (if approved, the curfew would be from 9am to 2:30 pm). Ms Walton believed it was a good idea because, to paraphrase her opinion, "teens are staying out too late and getting shot". When I heard that I looked at Felicia and she had the same lost look on her face as I did. Later she was asked a question about getting rid of the civil service commission, who can sometime override the police chief's decision to terminate an officer. She went on about all boards and commissions for the city and how each person needed to ask themselves if they are serving the best interest of the city. I understood what she was trying to say, but she lost me when lumped in the school board with the group of council appointed boards and commissions. The DISD School Board is a separate entity and would not have anything to do with the city until Mayor Leppert gets a chance to take it over.

In my honest opinion, Victoria Walton is not ready to be a City Council member. She does not fully understand the way the Council works or the issue it is facing today. Another disturbing moment for me was when she was answering a question about small businesses. I think it is great when a city wants to help small businesses grow as a policy, but I do not think it makes good business sense for a small business owner to look to the city to help them out. Ms. Walton said that as a small business owner she has looked for the city to help her out and they have not. I could not believe it. She actually looks to the city to help her with her business. I believe out of the three she is the weakest candidate, and I will not be casting my vote for Victoria Walton.

#2....Dave Neumann

Dave Neumann had a pretty good performance, and as the incumbent he had more facts and figures readily available in his mind. He did not take a position on my question because he was waiting on the public forum on that issue later in the week. He did go over the proposal and clarified some exceptions the ordinance allows for teens to be on the streets during the curfew. He did make it known that he is for the Hotel Convention and believes the city will benefit from it. Personally, I have not made up my mind on the Hotel Convention. How is it going to benefit the city to get into the hotel business and will it be run like the other city businesses are?

One comment that Mr. Neumann made that did turn me off was about Singleton. In full disclosure, I went to school on Singleton at Saint Mary of Carmel School and took offense to when Mr. Neumann called Singleton "nasty." Singleton Boulevard was congested and needs to be cleaned up, but to call it nasty is insulting to the many business on the boulevard. I am talking about St. Mary's, Wimpy's, Dog House, Tire shops, Odom's, Jerry's and the many other business that have been supporting West Dallas when the council was not. It wasn't until recently that the city realized they can make money in the area and now Mr. Neumann wants to insult the only people who have been servicing West Dallas over the years. For me, this weighed heavily for putting Mr Neumann second.

#1....Casey Thomas III

Casey Thomas understood well the role of the City Council position he is seeking. Some issues he did not firmly take a stance on but he did let you know which way was he was leaning. He is leaning to oppose the Convention Hotel and the Daytime Curfew. He did make a good point: if the Convention Hotel is a good idea, then why isn't a private company opening up a hotel there? Mr. Thomas did lean a little too much on his fall back answer, which was "to form a committee or task force" to get the answer.

I live near the Bishop Arts District and love seeing the locally owned business that are there and have survived this economic crisis so far, but I have seen some of my favorite places board up and leave: Jaci's, Grill 400, and Nodding Dog. I often wonder what can be done to help these small businesses grow and survive. I was happy when Mr. Thomas expressed his concern and how he believes helping small businesses grow and maintain is a priority. What I also liked about Mr. Thomas was that he seemed very genuine about representing the entire district. When he would make references to the specific areas in the district, it did not seem like he was struggling to remember exactly what is in his district. He was not able to get into it last Monday, but I wanted to hear more about a Police Store Front in the Mountain Creek Area, because as of right now, police come from the station on Illinois.

I have ranked Mr. Thomas first and Mr. Neumann second by their debate performances. I still have not picked who to vote for, but I do know who I am not voting for and that is Victoria Walton. I still have have homework to do.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

How To Pick A Candidate Pt 2

I have looked over Dave Neumann's website and discovered the issues he has targeted for this campaign are the same issues he ran on before. The first question that comes to my mind is did you accomplish anything if you still have the same checklist?

After looking at his site, I decided to google his name and see what came up and there were some unflattering articles. One was about him going over budget in his Council expense budget, the other was about how he changed his mind about reimbursing the city for his overage, and the third was about having to return campaign funds to a donor.

These three articles carry a lot of weight in my decision. First, he is allotted $16,000 for his budget and he spent $24,000. I don't believe, in anything that I have read, that he has taken responsibility for this oversight. Instead, he blamed his staff and then he blamed the expense reports not updating in a timely fashion. Nowadays, everyone is having to live within their means and make sure they account for every dollar, and businesses are laying off people to bring the expenses down and our councilman is spending money that he does not have. Not only did he go over budget, but he was the only council person in Dallas to do so.

Instead of offering to pay it back, he said he could use the overages from other council member's office to offset his mistake. I know the city budget is facing $100 million shortage and what's $8,000 going to do, but for me it shows that if he can't manage his $16,000 budget what makes me have confidence in him that he can help manage the city's budget. At first, he refused to pay for the shortage out of his own pocket and when the Dallas Morning News reported it, he had a change of heart and pledge to cover the expenses.

After those two bad stories, he gets hit with having to return a $1,000 to a donor because it violated local campaign finance regulations. Other contributions that would have been technically illegal were shifted to show that the spouses of the donors made a contribution to rectify the reports. My follow-up question would have been did anyone actually ask the spouses if they made these contributions or are we just fixing the books?

I know I am in the beginning stages of my research, but right now it does not look good for Mr. Neumann.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

How To Pick A Candidate

It's that time of year again. We need to pick new city leaders in Dallas. I live in Council District 3, where the incumbent, Dave Neumann has two challengers, Casey Thomas and Victoria Walton trying to unseat him. I have to admit that I do not know much about the Councilman or the other candidates so I am pretty much starting from ground zero, but I am ready for the task of picking the best one to represent me at City Hall.

I have had only one experience with Dave Neumann's office. I read a blog on Dallasnews.com about how the Dallas City Council wanted to pass a Daytime Teen Curfew, so I called his office and wanted to know more about the ordinance and where my councilman stood on this issue. The aides in his office told me that they had no idea about the ordinance and were trying to forward my call to another department. When I asked if I could find out where he stood, I was told to go to his website and submit questions in writing. Feeling like I really was not helped, I called the Mayor Pro Tem Elba Garcia's office. Her office told me the ordinance was still being worked on and when I asked to find out where Dr. Garcia stood on the issue they offered to have her call me back. To my surprise, Dr. Garcia got back to me within a couple of hours and explained her stance on the issue to me. I mention this one instance because I feel it is important for each elected official to be accessible to their constituents. I feel that in this area Councilman Neumann's office was lacking accessibility. This will not keep me from voting for him if I feel like I agree with him on other issues and with the direction he wants to lead our district.

What am I looking for in a candidate?

1) Looking for a person who is willing to listen to the voters and will make sure that they are accessible to the people in their district whether they agree or disagree on issues.

2) Looking for a person who wants to continue the growth our area has seen without losing the soul of the community. I like how the area is improving, but would hate to lose the green scenery, the quiet, and some of the locally owned businesses.

3) Looking for a person who will represent the entire district and not just the nice parts of town or their own neighborhood. For example, in my neighborhood we have some great sidewalks for my wife and I to take the kids walking on and not have to worry about the flow of traffic. However, in other neighborhoods there are no sidewalks at all. Parents cannot feel safe on an early evening stroll without fear of getting hit by a car or someone falling in a drainage ditch.

4) Looking for a person who is ready and willing to fight for the interest of this district and the city as a whole.

I am starting to do my homework and will determine who I will support. The first person I will start to research will be Councilman Dave Neumann, since he is the incumbent.

For every candidate, I will read over his/her website, search for news articles on him/her, and will see every candidate speak in person at least once.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters

Felicia and I are having a little girl in February and I have been worrying ever since I found out. Wanting to be the best dad I can be and raising my children with the highest of moral principles, I turned to this book. During a Dave Ramsey broadcast, he recommended it for all men with daughters. I decided to check it out and looked it up online. After researching it a little, I decided to buy it and give it a read.

This book makes a lot of sense, and a lot of it is common sense. Sometimes you have to read it or hear it for it to make sense. Dr. Meg Meeker begins by reminding fathers that they are the most important figures in their daughter's life and they should keep that in mind when living life and raising children. Even though the book is geared towards Fathers and Daughters, a lot of it, I believe, applies to raising children in general. Dr. Meeker stresses the importance of teaching humility, teaching her to fight for herself and what she believes in. It is also important to have your life reflect a positive example about what a husband and father should be. Dr Meeker does not say that men need to change too much, but just setting good examples goes a long way. A simple conversation while you change the oil in the car or honesty when she approaches you about God and your beliefs.

I honestly think that the book goes for both sons and daughters. Being a father in a kid's life is very important; it can have an effect on all the decisions they make in life. By showing them the way, you can help your kid make the right decisions, hopefully, when it comes to pre-marital sex, drugs, who they hang out with, who they marry, and the kind of parent they will be to their kids.

I just pray that I am giving my kids what they need to be a good person and hope that my actions serve as a good example to them!!!