During the end of his time as homeless czar, Rawlings took some lumps over the creation of 50 permanent supportive housing units for the formerly homeless at the Cliff Manor apartment complex in North Oak Cliff, which angered nearby residents who say they were blindsided by the move. He deflects the blame to council member Dave Neumann, claiming he failed to convey the plans to his constituency. Neumann, who didn't return a phone call seeking comment, publicly expressed his surprise about the units in May 2010, even though a council briefing in April 2009 outlined the plans for Cliff Manor.

Rawlings says he's spent a lot of time thinking about the budget, but he makes it a perfect four-for-four in candidates without an overall plan for reducing the deficit. Generally, he says he'd axe "non-relevant programs" and fire lackluster employees.

"I want to create jobs, and the only way you create jobs is to have the best and brightest at City Hall," he says. "And if we don't have the best and the brightest, we need to get them."

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.

Tonight's stop on the mayoral caravan is Thomas Jefferson High School. It's only March 28—long before most voters begin paying attention—but, as Kunkle explains to a crowd of some 75 North Dallas residents, the candidates are already out of new material.

"We can give each other's speeches and answer each other's questions because we do this three or four times a day at different venues throughout the city," he says.

And compliments among the four candidates are more prevalent than criticisms. "Thank God Kunkle was our chief," Rawlings says.

The first question of the night might have been the best: Why are you the best and most qualified candidate?

"In every city, the single most difficult job where you have to provide leadership and work with the community is being the police chief," Kunkle says. "I've been a success in a way that helped achieve national recognition."

Natinsky says he's "the best of both worlds," having run small businesses and serving on the city council. "I can provide both the leadership and the vision to work with the council, city staff and community to move the city forward."

Okpa says he's led without authority and accomplished things nobody thought he could. "I am the candidate who will relate to everybody in the city, no matter their circumstances."

Lastly, Rawlings says he's the only one with experience running a large company. "Simply put, I've done it before. This is ultimately about execution. It's not about strategy at this point. It's about who can do it."

And there it is: a perfect summary of the choice facing voters. Unless there's a dramatic shift in how the candidates sell their ideas about improving the city, this race has become about the personalities behind a shared platform. Because no one, it seems, has the guts to take on the elephant clomping around City Hall—that budget, and all the tough choices it represents.

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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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