Oakley served on the council with Natinsky from 2005 to 2007 and helped campaign for the toll road and hotel. On this mid-March afternoon, Oakley's on the phone soliciting donations and endorsements from inside the Uptown offices of Reed, who joins Natinsky in a conference room to oversee his Observer interview.

While Natinsky sells his council experience as a plus, there's also a significant downside: He has a track record to dissect.

He represents himself as a fiscal conservative, but he backed tax increases in 2005 and 2007 and was busted in October 2008 by The Dallas Morning News for spending $12,000 in taxpayer funds for thousands of plastic pizza cutters, letter openers, dish-scrubbing brushes and other trinkets bearing his name. He didn't see anything wrong with it then and doesn't now either.

Mike Rawlings' pedigree is corporate America. But the mayoral hopeful was instrumental in making Dallas' homeless center, The Bridge, a success.
Mark Graham
Mike Rawlings' pedigree is corporate America. But the mayoral hopeful was instrumental in making Dallas' homeless center, The Bridge, a success.
Former Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle has positioned himself as the outsider. He is widely credited with restoring public confidence in the DPD.
Mark Graham
Former Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle has positioned himself as the outsider. He is widely credited with restoring public confidence in the DPD.

Natinsky fought against last year's 6.5 percent tax hike but makes a startling admission: He claims he could have found the $40 million needed to avoid the tax-rate increase that restored rec center and library hours, park maintenance and street repairs. Some of that gap could have been filled with private donations, Natinsky says, but instead of asking for money, he told companies to save their dough to pay their taxes because an increase was imminent. But why not cobble together as much funding as possible in an attempt to avoid that predicament?

"It appeared to me that the iceberg was coming toward the Titanic, and we were gonna have a tax rate increase," he says. "It was real clear that there were enough votes to do it."

The council passed last year's budget by an 8-7 vote. Had he secured the funding and found the cuts he claims would have balanced the budget, all Natinsky needed to do was convince one of the eight not to vote for a tax hike that was no longer necessary. But he didn't.

Astoundingly, Natinsky says he believes some council members wanted to raise taxes even if the services could be restored without one.

Natinsky also made several erroneous claims during the toll road campaign and in 2010 reversed his position on concession contracts at Dallas Love Field Airport after Leppert publicly criticized awarding "no-bid contracts." Natinsky offers no apologies for his comments during the '07 toll road campaign but admits a couple of his statements proved to be inaccurate. He says he switched his stance about the airport contracts because the deal changed, but it was actually restructured because of his own effort to devise a new bidding process that would appease Leppert's concerns. Natinsky shrugs off both issues, seemingly attributing any inconsistencies to savvy salesmanship. Perhaps that's because it's in his blood.

Natinsky, 65, found his way to Dallas in the back of a Chevy station wagon in 1958 after spending his first 12 years in Detroit. His first job was at M.E. Moses, a five-and-dime store, and Natinsky later worked at Goff's Hamburgers on Lovers Lane. After graduation from Hillcrest High School, Natinsky enrolled in the pre-dental program at the University of North Texas (called North Texas State University at the time). He found himself consumed by thoughts of starting his own business, though, and ultimately abandoned college to start Dallas Tape Deck, which, through the years, installed stereos and sold 4-tracks, 8-tracks and cassettes.

Natinsky followed that with several other businesses, involving radar detectors, plastic molding, computer technology, clocks and convention and trade shows. Natinsky also had what he calls his "tchotchke business" (Yiddish for a cheap trinket), which imported items from China and sold them to distributors nationwide.

Natinsky's wife, Nancy, has not only been his life partner for nearly 42 years, but the two are also business partners, and she's constantly by his side at public events. The Natinskys have two grown sons and remain investors in several businesses. "I'm always looking for that next company to start," he says.

Natinsky, chair of the council's Economic Development Committee for nearly four years, takes credit for encouraging international investment in the city, the relocation of corporate giants like AT&T to downtown Dallas, the recent sale of the former Statler Hilton hotel and a proposed expansion by Walmart.

Natinsky declines to suggest budget cuts and seems to want it both ways: no tax increase and no reduction of services.

"Parks and rec and all those things are used more heavily when the economy turns down, so I certainly don't want there to be a negative impact when people need those facilities more than in good times," he says. "But, at the same time, we've got a budget we have to live in."

Since Kunkle's the insider running as an outsider, and Natinsky's the insider running as an insider, that leaves an opening for an outsider running as an outsider—a role Edward Okpa knows quite well.

Despite running for mayor a third consecutive time, Okpa is hardly a household name. To fully appreciate his dearth of prominence and support, consider the 2007 mayoral candidacy of Jennifer Gale, who died in 2008. Gale was transgender, homeless and a perennial candidate for city council and mayor in Austin, never receiving more than 10 percent of the vote. She took a shot at becoming Dallas mayor in '07 and garnered only 554 votes. But she didn't finish last in the field of 11 candidates. Okpa did.

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20 comments
Ann Maxwell
Ann Maxwell

Can you tell me (since they won't) how the top candidates voted for President? This is very important to me!!

Ann Maxwell
Ann Maxwell

Can you tell me (since they won"t) how the top candidates voted for President?

Hasanmary
Hasanmary

At first Nantinsky was the Citizen Council candidate. Next Rawlin is the citizen council candidate. Why don't you ever refer to Kunkle as Laura Miller's candidate? We know he is but since he is also the observers' candidate, you try not to do anything which might cause him problems.

Guest
Guest

I'm surprised with Dallas:

We gave the police force a reduction in pay.. We laid off teachers.. We are in a budget crises..

YET - we have unnecessary building projects going on right now that make NO SENSE financially - for example - the homeless parks that we are building across 75.. in downtown.. the bridge to nowhere. the trolley turnaround in Uptown.. the convention center hotel..

Just makes NO SENSE.. Dallas has a lot of problems..

One thing I liked this weekend about Southlake and Fort Worth - they had a very successful turnout at the art festival.. they wanted people.. lots of people..

Did they charge for parking? NO - free parking.. free event.. lots of people.. lots of people throwing money at all the businesses.. lots of tax revenue

Dallas - what do they do - overcharge for parking.. for any event .. and under deliver.. and they continue to with every new project: Opera House - $20 to $50 parking.. $100 to $500 ticket.. Mavericks.. Hockey.. Same thing.. there is no draw for tourists.. there is high line clothing stores and high prices food places.. NOTHING to bring in tourists and people who spend money..

YET we have a budget crises.. because we're mismanaging our funds and spending it on things that don't matter.. things that won't bring in tourists..

Dallas Cowboy Stadium.. oh the list goes on and on and on..

Darrylrs
Darrylrs

Five marriages and all, Kunkle is the only one of the bunch who will look out for the middle class. All in all, a boring selection. Can we just write in Robert Wilonksy?

Pdfreeman69
Pdfreeman69

Why is it when a Republican incumbent leaves office, the next guy comes into a $hit$torm?

samplerayt
samplerayt

Well, it'll be just like every other time. Property tax increases will be proposed and met with great consternation. If that doesn't get approved, then a property tax rate INCREASE will occur. A good percentage of folks will be forced to move to the suburbs because they can't afford the RENT Dallas charges for land and dwellings. Meanwhile, the over-the-top grandiose projects will continue only to be followed by more over-the-top grandiose projects, most of them simply stupid. To them, it's better to drive on ruined roadways to their latest 'Taj Mahal' than to have no 'Taj Mahal.' Each one leaves some soft of very expensive marker that soothes their ego. For those that live here, their only accomplishment is ever oppressive property taxes. It won't matter whomever wins as most of us lose.

samplerayt
samplerayt

Well, it'll be just like every other time. Property tax increases will be proposed and met with great consternation. If that doesn't get approved, then a property tax rate INCREASE will occur. A good percentage of folks will be forced to move to the suburbs because they can't afford the RENT Dallas charges for land and dwellings. Meanwhile, the over-the-top grandiose projects will continue only to be followed by more over-the-top grandiose projects, most of them simply stupid. To them, it's better to drive on ruined roadways to their latest 'Taj Mahal' than to have no 'Taj Mahal.' Each one leaves some soft of very expensive marker that soothes their ego. For those that live here, their only accomplishment is ever oppressive property taxes. It won't matter whomever wins as most of us lose.

Noemail
Noemail

Problem is that our current mayor is unable to add and subtract, and completely clueless regarding public policy and his domestic disturbance scandal

BNJB33
BNJB33

VOTE DAVID KUNKLE

Mister_Mean
Mister_Mean

Natinsky--“He represents himself as a fiscal conservative, but he backed tax increases in 2005 and 2007 and was busted in October 2008 by The Dallas Morning News for spending $12,000 in taxpayer funds for thousands of plastic pizza cutters, letter openers, dish-scrubbing brushes and other trinkets bearing his name. He didn't see anything wrong with it then and doesn't now either.”-----that statement reminds me of the southern sector and the no bid Love Field Contract issue. Like Natinsky the southern sector too does not see any problem with their position on that issue of no bid contracts.

However I must point out too that the claim that Natinsky has “Republican Values” too is ludicrous in that he just can’t control himself when it comes to tax dollars-he can squander them like a pro too. As to Natinisky’s claim about being against taxes I just can’t get the image out of my head of all the council members sitting behind closed doors figuring out how they were going to raise taxes with out being accountable “you guys in the southern sector should come out in favor of raising taxes while us northern sector will come out opposed (and save our political skins with our constituencies) and we can go on a spending spree after we fund our budget.” And look at the spending they have embraced after a record tax increase and property value increases by the DCAD. No control what so ever in restraint on spending or prioritizing projects.

Oh yes lets not forget about the tax on Atmos pipe lines that was passed on to gas customers to fund the libraries and parks for 2010. A stealth tax is still a tax be it a fee or a valuation increase on property or increase on tax rate.

mpound
mpound

It looks like either Kunkle's head was photoshopped on to Rawlings body or vice-versa. Mike looks more commanding in his suit and purple tie than David does in his, no?

Oak Cliff Res
Oak Cliff Res

This might just be the most un-biased story I've ever seen the Dallas Observer put out. THANKS!!!

Jkwaghorne
Jkwaghorne

It's a shame to see history distorted by wealth and power. The Bridge was fought for and won by advocates on the ground and former Mayor Laura Miller was dragged tooth and nail to the table as were a majority on the council. (Dallas being ranked as the 6th meanest city in America also helped). It's sad how the eggs benedict always get the credit.

yeahIsaidthat
yeahIsaidthat

Queen Mary makes the decisions at city hall. The mayor merely carries her robe as do the others. Until she leaves, there is no great changes at Dallas City Hall.

Bung
Bung

Or Mike Moncrief.

md
md

Why is it when a Democrat incumbent leaves office, everything is rosy?

Oh, that's right, it's not.

Big Tex
Big Tex

Before you start crediting KNUCKLE with having the undying devotion of his rank-and-file "men-in-blue", why don't you poll heads of the different DPD organizations.Have you seen any of them endorse KNUCKLE as a candidate? NO!Besides, the idiot has stated that he would initiate Section 8 housing in North Dallas"because those ND rich people don't what it's like to struggle".Why not just make the idiot Mayor Pro-Tem the permanent Mayor of Dallas?He's a minority version of KNUCKLE....besides you could save the cost of inaugeration.

Mark Anthony Dallas
Mark Anthony Dallas

Kunkle was endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police Dallas and the Latino Peace Officers. They liked being treated with respect, as opposed to the DPA which would prefer to tell (any) Chief how to do his job.

 
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