Dwaine Caraway's fifth term on the Dallas City Council was just a blip on the radar. Tuesday night, Carolyn King Arnold, the former high school teacher Caraway defeated to regain the District 4 seat on the council, won the seat back, picking up more than 59 percent of the vote in a runoff against Next Generation Action Network activist Keyaira Saunders.
Caraway first gave up his seat to Arnold in 2015 because of term limits. He gave Arnold his blessing, and she cruised to an easy victory. Two years later, Caraway came back for what he'd given up, blasting Arnold for, among other things, her failure to support a new city deck park over Interstate 35 near the Dallas Zoo.
Caraway didn't even make it to the end of his term. In August, he pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges and resigned from the City Council, opening the door for Arnold's return. While there's still a sense of melancholy around the Observer's office about Caraway's coming disappearance from the public eye, we are grateful to at least be getting Arnold back in return. She is almost as capable of turning an otherwise boring council meeting on its head as her predecessor.
During her two years sitting at the horseshoe, there were jeremiads about the deck park, which Arnold repeatedly referred to as the "wreck park," and all sorts of other city projects and proposals.
In September 2016, she crashed a Caraway press conference held in support of the park.
"The further south we went, the more pushback we received. And that's when we began to realize it wasn't about economic development. It was about a vanity project," said Arnold, who'd initially called for the park to be pushed south of the zoo. "I cannot have my constituents neglected by some vain vanity projects. I'm here as an advocate for the quality of life, and I'm bound and determined to continue that fight."
Arnold said the City Council vote to allow an Uplift charter school near Camp Wisdom Road and Interstate 20 was "tantamount to rape" for the surrounding neighborhood, and she once railed against the downtown-to-Oak Cliff streetcar because the short rail line was free-to-ride and there wasn't anything similar in her council district.
Then there was the time Oak Cliff restaurant Los Sapitos needed an adjustment to its liquor license because a nearby school planned to construct a new building.
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After peppering District 1 council member Scott Griggs about whether he'd consulted with Dallas ISD about the license change — Griggs said he'd spoken with Oak Cliff trustee Audrey Pinkerton, but not the whole board — Arnold mixed up the following word salad, helpfully transcribed by D Magazine's Barrett Brown:
“Just so you all know for the record, because I know they love me in the Twittersphere, and they love to comment on any gray areas of confusion they think I’m confused on — the reason that I’m asking this question for the record — case in point, as we’re moving forward for example with the Southern Gateway, plans were moving ahead without including the DISD at the table so the parents would know about the changes in patterns of traffic and other developments. And so I continue to ask for clarification. I don’t expect the board to come up and just — I think as we’re building schools and we’re pushing for quality neighborhoods, and the whole safe neighborhoods that we talk about, the schools need to be a part of that conversation. So that’s why I’m asking. I do understand the process. I had been with the district for a number of years, so I’m not confused.”
For emphasis, Arnold later added that she was not "not confused or discombobulated in any way."
Thanks to her win to fulfill Caraway's remaining term, Arnold will get to serve about five months before being up for re-election, again, in May. Plenty of time for us all to get discombobulated again.