By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
The climate worries Bledsoe, who wants to attract more businesses to Farmers Branch. "Corporations pride themselves on being diverse entities," he says. "Are they going to run the risk of moving to a city that may be perceived as racist?"
Immigrants and Latinos aren't the only people that critics say have been marginalized. Zealous code enforcement—which last year captured headlines after reports that an 80-year-old woman faced jail time for a violation—has been particularly hard on elderly people living on fixed incomes, according to Rendon, Bledsoe and others. "We need to make sure we have a way to help them get their property up to standards," Bledsoe says. "The objective is to get the code followed, not throw an 80-year-old woman in jail."
Mary Jane Stevenson, former Farmers Branch librarian and assistant city manager, supports Bledsoe and thinks he would be more inclusive than O'Hare. "I think he'd listen to people," she says. "Things would be presented to citizens like they used to be in the past. We would get input on which direction people wanted to pursue."
The question is whether a majority of Farmers Branch voters feel the same way. Judging from last year's landslide vote in favor of the rental ban and the election of O'Hare council allies Scott and David Koch, not to mention the candidates' campaign coffers (O'Hare has raised $48,614 compared with Bledsoe's $38,825), the answer may be no.
Bledsoe doesn't have illusions about running against a well-known and well-funded council member, but he remains upbeat. "I can't promise that we're going to win, but it's going to be very close," he says. "Just by mounting a credible campaign, by shedding light on what this council is doing, we've changed Farmers Branch, and it will not be the same."