Abtahi and Kingston: Who's the bigger SOB?

It takes a hard case to represent council District 14.

Heard an interview with some actress on the radio recently talking about how she chain-smoked and behaved badly in college, causing her to lose a lot of weight and wake up incredibly beautiful one day. She said it gave her the confidence she needed to become a movie star.

I feel as though that's the story of East Dallas. Decades of bad behavior, irrational opposition to all authority, an appetite for a fight even when there was nothing to fight about, and all of a sudden East Dallas wakes up. It's skinny, it's sexy and it has a big Whole Foods store.

But that's also the challenge. Drive the streets south of Lovers Lane, and you will see plenty of evidence that the real estate development community is ahead of the game in East Dallas, packing in new stuff — good, bad and ugly — as fast as it can in anticipation of a bigger boom.

The better times ahead are a richly deserved, hard-earned reward for inner city neighborhoods, but the last thing a successful community wants to be is too nice.

Which brings us to the runoff race in City Council District 14 for the seat being vacated by Angela Hunt, who must leave the council because of term limits. Hunt's anointed and endorsed successor is Philip Kingston, a sole practitioner lawyer. His opponent in the runoff is Bobby Abtahi, also a lawyer.

In the past I have described Abtahi as a Manchurian candidate for the mafia, which, I should tell you, was unfair and more a comment on my own character than his. Note to self: Please, please, please, self, try to avoid jokes containing ethnic references.

Abtahi is a nice guy, Dallas-born, boy-next-door, went to UT Austin and SMU law school. I have sipped tea and ginger ale with him twice, and I have lunched with Kingston once. Kingston is a nice guy too, but as I have already set out, nice don't cut it in East Dallas these days. One question counts in this race. Which one of them is enough of a son of a bitch to protect East Dallas from sleazy exploitation?

When I sat down with Abtahi the second time, he challenged me on an assertion I had made on the radio to the effect that he consistently voted against neighborhoods when he was a member of the Dallas Plan Commission, which controls zoning questions. Abtahi was appointed to the commission by southern Dallas council member Dwaine Caraway.

We went through each of the votes I had cited as evidence of his anti-neighborhood bias, and I must tell you that he defended them all on grounds I found persuasive, mainly by pointing out that in most cases he had voted in concert with Hunt's appointee.

The other way-wide-of-the-road issue that crops up again and again in this race is a pledge Kingston signed saying he's a Democrat, after having voted in Republican primaries. All I know is that Kingston got a thousand bucks from Lisa Blue Baron, the rich lawyer who is kind of Glinda the Good Witch to Democrats, so I'm figuring that makes him OK with Democrats even if he did vote for a couple Republicans early on. I have never believed a young person should be tarred forever because of one or two heedless flings with Republicans, nor did I ask Kingston if alcohol was involved.

And anyway, who gives a shit? No, seriously, listen to me: They're both nice guys. They're both smart lawyers. They both want to serve the city and East Dallas. But none of that is what counts at this moment.

The question is who brung them? With whom will they dance? Let me give you an example of why that's important — the soccer-lights question at Ursuline, a private school for girls. I have no idea what it was really about, no dog in the hunt, no bias one way or the other. I saw some people on TV saying they had been blinded or were about to be blinded, something. That's all I know.

That vote on the City Council came down entirely to one thing — the will of the council member for that district. That's how it works. If it's an issue within a council district, the council person for that district has absolute say-so. Her thumb up or thumb down means all thumbs up or thumbs down. In this case the member from that district voted for the soccer lights and against the blind people, so the entire council voted against the blind people. Turn on the lights, hand out the canes. It's over.

So when things really heat up in East Dallas — or in North Oak Cliff or Oak Lawn or any of the city's other soon-to-boom districts — you can count on some kind of soccer-lights showdown at City Council where it will come down to the council member from that district.

When those questions come to the moment of battle, nobody talks philosophy. If there are people out there who have a chain they can pull tied to the council member in question, they yank. Generally speaking, when that chain is yanked, it's over. That's it. All she wrote.

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18 comments
Joseph
Joseph

What Schutze invariably fails to disclose in his Trinity road obsession is that Dallas voters have twice voted for the road. If Abtahi is for it , it might be because he supports democracy whereas Schutze would defy a democratic election to have things his way.

Barack
Barack

As long as Sandra Fluke gets her free birth control pills what difference does it make?

Justin1234
Justin1234

Every time I see that picture of Bobby grinning ear-to-ear with Veletta Lill, Ed Oakley and Craig Holcomb, I immediately feel a cold chill running down my spine. I think Phillip Kingston ought to feature that picture on his own campaign flyers, it would work much better as an anti-Bobby flyer rather than something to actually brag about. I live in District 14 and will NOT EVER vote for someone who will push the Trinity Toll Road. 

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

Abtahi has been endorsed by the right-wing fanatic, David Blewett.  I'll hold my nose and vote for Kingston.

Willie
Willie

Good stuff.  Gotta love Abtahi's I-Gotta-Pee wiggling over the toll road question. Did you notice if he was also sitting on his hands, holding his crotch, or just grimacing in general?  

bealotcoolerifyoudid
bealotcoolerifyoudid

You mention Brian Loncar but not Larry Friedman?  That omission probably hurt Larry's feelings. 

MisterMean
MisterMean

@Joseph As I recall the last vote on the road was worded (by the city attorney?) to be misleading.   Many were confused on if to vote yes or no not sure what effect it would have.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@Joseph 

That's certainly a legitimate argument for the road. It goes way wide of the issue here. The question is not for or against the road. It's about why Abtahi won't answer the question. I've thought from the beginning he might have been able to sell a pro-road position to District 14, maybe by couching it just as you have: the people have spoken, who am I to interrupt? His problem is not manning up about it. And even there, I suspect his own personal inclination would have been to man up. The scary thing is that apparently he wasn't allowed to do so  by his sponsors, which means he won't be able to vote his convictions in office.

This whole Avi thing about attacking Kingston over his wife is fraught with many ironies. First of all, Avi, whom I have loved, is completely nuts about this, and wow does it show. Secondly, if it were anybody else saying this nasty misogynist stuff about strong wives, the whole district would be up in arms. The fact that people let it pass is evidence of how unseriously everybody takes Avi these days. But lastly, the hate-his-wife stuff combined with the McCarthyite business about his party affiliation is an attempt to turn the real race on its head.

In fact, Kingston is the one who has manned up on all the issues, said exactly where he stands and stuck to his guns, while Abtahi has been doing all this embarrassing weaseling on the toll road.  I don't know if this is coincidence or more than  that, but this kind of night-for-day swift-boat big-lie campaign strategy is straight out of the big money Citizens Council playbook.

Anyway, Joseph, take this as a challenge. Why don't you take a crack at this question: why won't Abtahi answer the question about the toll road? C'mon. You might surprise yourself.

James080
James080 topcommenter

@Joseph  

Texas voted to secede from the United States in 1861. By all accounts it was a democratic election. It was also an unmitigated disaster for the state and it's people. The fact is that the voters of Dallas have twice voted in favor of the submersible tollway based on incomplete, or false, information provided by the city, along with the usual backroom purchase of support from South Dallas voters. 

Unlike JimSX, I'm fairly confident that now that Kay Baily Hutchinson is out of office, the Corp of Engineers will never approve the inane idea of building a road inside a flood plain, and the federal government will never provide funding for it. I see the question of support of the road as a non-issue, but if lip service is what it takes for a candidate to secure campaign funding, it's really a harmless gesture. After all, what politician doesn't lie about their real agenda, or for whom they intend to carry the water once in office?

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

When I saw that photo, I recognized most of the family, but I thought, "Where's Lurch?"

harry24lewis
harry24lewis

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz   I know what you mean.  I got a political flyer in the mail before the election from Blewett insinuating that he's more qualified than some of the other candidates because they weren't married and/or had no children.  I'm single and have no kids myself!  Do you think that jackass got my vote?

joseph
joseph

i don't know Mr. Abtahi's mind. If I had to guess, I would speculate that since the toll road is settled after 2 elections, it is waste of time to keep beating a dead horse. There are lots of other issues, why waste energy on one that is settled?

joseph
joseph

A good local example of a road built in a flood plain is the stretch of Northwest Highway between Lawther and Buckner in the White Rock Creek Flood Plain.

joseph
joseph

The only thing Texas secession and the toll road have in common is that they were both settled long ago. Why in the world would you think that in a world where causeways cross swamps and water that a road in a flood plain couldn't be built?

James080
James080 topcommenter

@joseph  

Reading comprehension is key my friend. I never wrote that it couldn't be built. I wrote that I didn't believe it would ever be built due to lack of approval form the Corp and lack of funding from the federal government.

 
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