Mayor Backs Out of Citizens Meeting Tonight. "Unexpected Circumstances." (LGBT Protest.)

Left a message this morning for Paula Blackmon, chief of staff to Mayor Mike Rawlings, to talk about his decision to pull out of a long-scheduled meet-and-greet with the citizens tonight at Kiest Park on Hampton. It's been on our schedule for a month, and just Monday morning he (or someone, Blackmon, whatever) posted to his Facebook page the reminder: "Due to limited space anyone interested in attending the community meeting tomorrow at Kiest Recreation Center please be sure to RSVP by 12 noon today." Except: Last night, Rawlings used his Facebook page to back out of the event, writing:

I would like to thank everyone who is planning to attend tomorrow evening's community meeting for Districts 1 and 3. It is important for residents to have the opportunity to engage in a productive open dialogue with city staff and their elected officials. Due to unexpected circumstances, I will not be present. However, Councilwoman Delia D. Jasso, Councilman Scott Griggs, and city staff will be present to address city services and neighborhood concerns.

I apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. My goal is to maintain open communication with constituents and would like the opportunity to meet with you in a more intimate setting. In order to do this, please feel free to email dates and times to my staff of when your neighborhood association or crime watch group meets.

Those "unexpected circumstances": a protest planned for tonight, led, in part, by Daniel Cates, the Texas regional coordinator for GetEQUAL and a Huffington Post contributor who wrote last night that "Mayor Mike Rawlings has spent the last few days in an unsuccessful effort to appease his city's LGBT population" after refusing last week to sign the Freedom to Marry pledge to which some 80 other big-city mayors attached their names. Blackmon told the Dallas Voice late yesterday that a protest would be a distraction from what people really want to talk about -- potholes and loose dogs -- and that "he just does not want to put them through that, so he plans to meet with them on a more individual basis."

Blackmon tells Unfair Park this morning she and the mayor didn't want folks attending the meeting tonight walking through "a demonstration line," and "in the meantime we're putting together a meeting with people in the [LGBT community] who know the issues."

Blackmon says, "Are there policies we can implement here that can directly impact and help the community? We can't directly impact the and federal legislation. He doesn't feel signing that pledge is the appropriate role of the mayor. They're going to use [the pledge] as a lobbying effort, and the city hasn't signed off on it. We'd be supporting legislation. ... We know they're upset, and I know they want us to sign the petition. And he's not going to sign it, so let's move the conversation forward and work together."

The mayor told us last week why he declined to sign the pledge: "There's no substance behind it, and what I want to do is focus on substantive issues for the citizens of Dallas -- things that would ensure that gays are not discriminated against at the city and get the benefits that are due them." I see more than 1,160 have signed that petition demanding the mayor sign the pledge. Again, in the words of Liz Lemon: "Why did you have to offend the gay community? It is the most organized of all the communities."

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