'I'm not that stupid'

City council hopeful Brenda Reyes shows amazing inventiveness in meeting residency laws

The sprawling new apartment complex called Jefferson at Gaston Yards has become popular in recent months. The trendy, gated complex in Deep Ellum is still under construction, but some up-scale renters will do just about anything to get inside.

One tenant in particular could not wait to call the Yards home. That tenant is Brenda Reyes, who says she lives in Building 5, apartment number 5110. Exactly where Reyes lives--and when she moved there--is important, because the 36-year-old businesswoman is running for the District 2 seat on the Dallas City Council, hoping to replace outgoing councilman Chris Luna.

Since she didn't previously live in District 2, Reyes was required by state law to establish residency within its bounds by November 3, six months before the May 3 election.

Reyes says she did just that and lists apartment 5110 as her home address. But the building Reyes calls home was not even finished until early December. Unless she camped out in the building while it was under construction, Reyes could not have moved into the Yards in time to meet the legal requirement to run for the District 2 seat.

It looks like this year's election is going to be deja vu all over again for voters in Reyes' adopted district. Incumbent councilman Luna also was hounded by questions about his residency when he moved into the district to run for office in 1991. Although Luna has not officially endorsed Reyes, he appears to be quietly transferring his support to her. Most of Luna's big-money supporters have already jumped on the Reyes bandwagon.

District voters seem to have no trouble embracing carpetbaggers, and God knows Reyes isn't the first local candidate who has crafted her living arrangement to conform with her political ambitions. But Reyes must be able to substantiate at least some legitimate claim that she lives in the district she hopes to represent.

So just where was Reyes living on that all-important date of November 3? And where is she living now? The council hopeful is apparently confused about those questions herself.

On a recent Tuesday evening, a Domino's pizza flyer hung undisturbed from the doorknob at apartment 5110. Reyes was not at home.

Across town, meanwhile, a dim light glimmered behind the blinds of a tiny, one-story brick house at 6112 Ravendale Lane. The house, located in City Council District 14, is one of two homes Reyes and her husband, Brooks Gould, have recently claimed as their home address.

At about 9 p.m., Brenda Reyes answered the door of the Ravendale home. The council hopeful was dressed in a pair of green sweatpants and a blue T-shirt with flowers on the breast pocket, and looked to be settled in for the evening.

But Reyes quickly explained that she does not actually live in the Ravendale house.

"I live at 2732 Gaston," she said, giving the address at Gaston Yards. Her words were muffled by a glass door that she would not open. What was she doing at the Ravendale house?

"This is my husband's residence," she said, opening the door a crack. Reyes explained that she and Gould are separated, but that she was staying at his house for a few days because she had strep throat, and Gould was taking care of her.

Reyes walked away from the door for a moment. When she returned, she offered up three bottles of prescription pills and three bottles of cough syrup to prove that she was truly ill.

"See," she said, thrusting the medication out the door and coughing slightly. "I would invite you in, but I'm sick."

Reyes said she did not want to discuss the details of her recent separation from Gould, an understandable position. But the question remained--when did she move into the Yards?

Reyes paused.
"It was probably at the end of October," she said, her voice rough and her eyes groggy with sleep. Asked whether she would be willing to provide a copy of her lease, Reyes declined.

"I try to be cooperative with the press, but there are some privacy issues," she said, adding that the Yards is her home. "That's where I live. That's where I pay rent."

Suddenly, Reyes appeared to wake up, remembering that Luna had problems with the residency requirement after he won the seat that Reyes is now seeking.

"Chris had trouble with residency. Being cognizant of that, I took the appropriate steps to cover myself," she said. "I'm not that stupid."

If not stupid, then adaptable. If Reyes really did move into the Yards in October, as she claimed last week, her first two months in her new apartment must have been terribly uncomfortable, what with the building still going up around her.

Apartment number 5110 is located in Building 5 at the Yards. The city did not issue a temporary certificate of occupancy--meaning that people could not start living in the building--until December 5. A Yards official confirmed that the first tenants began moving into Building 5 on December 9.

Last Friday, three days after Reyes spoke from behind her glass door, she again declined to produce a copy of her lease from the Yards.

"I don't see any reason to do that. I'm an adult and I don't like being treated like a child. I have nothing to hide," she said, speaking from a car phone. "That's not an issue that I even think is an issue."

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