Driving southbound on U.S. 75 just north of downtown, you can't miss it: Former Dallas Police Chief David Brown's smiling face, imploring Dallas City Council District 14 residents to vote for Matt Wood. But this endorsement may not be as much about helping Wood as kicking his opponent, incumbent city council member Philip Kingston.
The board wasn't paid for by the Wood campaign. Instead, the sign was paid for by a group Wood says he has nothing to do with, as he told the Observer earlier this month. For Our Community is the pro-Trinity toll road political action committee started by Mari Woodlief during Dallas' last city council campaign. It funds candidates amenable to the ideas of her most prominent client, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, and those of some of Rawlings biggest political supporters, like the non-profit Dallas Citizens Council.
This year, For Our Community seems focused on Kingston, one of the most outspoken critics of the mayor and the toll roadl. Thanks to a cash infusion of nearly $200,000 from Rawlings-supporting donors, For Our Community has flooded District 14 with glossy color mailers bashing Kingston as, basically, too big of a jerk to be an effective council member. Now, the PAC's got its newest bauble, the giant, Brown featuring billboard.
"I encourage everyone in District 14 who cares about public safety to elect a new council member," Brown said in a statement announcing his support for Wood. "It's time the district has leadership on the city council that will work with law enforcement in a productive and respectful manner."
Brown, who has frequently clashed with Kingston since Kingston joined the council in 2013, has had enough.
In the fall of 2015, critics began circling Brown, blaming the chief for slow 911 response times and poor officer morale. When Dallas' police unions pushed to oust Brown, Kingston was one of just three council members who refused to sign a memo written by Council member Lee Kleinman expressing support.
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The Dallas Police Association, which supported Brown's ouster, is supporting Kingston in his race against Wood.
Kingston, who declined to comment on Brown's endorsement for this story, also battled Brown repeatedly on the potential implementation of cite-and-release for Dallas residents arrested for marijuana possession in 2016. During debate over cite-and-release, Kingston admitted that what he actually wanted was de facto legalization in the city of Dallas. Brown, despite admitting the deleterious effects misdemeanor marijuana arrests had on the lives of those arrested, pushed against cite-and-release.
He cited Timothy McVeigh, pulled over for a traffic violation, as evidence that small arrests could lead to big busts. The chief also underrepresented the number of marijuana-only arrests made by DPD. Brown told a council committee the number of arrests that would've been covered by a cite-and-release program in 2015 would've been about 200, when that number actually turned out to be closer to 900.
Later that year, Kingston fought back against Brown's call for more police officers. At the time, Kingston said that if Dallas couldn't effectively fight crime with its already bloated public safety budget, maybe it shouldn't exist. He also pushed back on Brown's plan to deal with an uptick in violent crime, which he believed was unsustainable.