David Blewett is not Philip Kingston. If you aren't Blewett's wife, one of his seven kids or The Dallas Morning News editorial board, that's probably all you know about him, but Blewett wants people to know he's more than that. To that end, and in the interest of pulling together as much information as we can about the biggest non-mayoral contest on the June 8 runoff ballot, your friendly local alt-weekly news vertical thought we'd sit down with the guy who got the most votes in District 14 on May 4 and have him tell us why he was more than just the box into which everyone who hates Kingston has chosen to throw their votes.
Here, lightly edited for content and clarity, is where Blewett stands on some of the issues facing his downtown and East Dallas district, as well as the city as a whole:
Here's why the former SMU football standout says he's running to replace Kingston:
"The big mistake is looking at me as Matt Wood 2.0," Blewett says, dismissing the idea that he's the second coming of Wood, the Dallas Citizens Council-backed candidate Kingston defeated in 2017. "Look at some of the core issues that I really care about in District 14 that for 15 years have really been an issue whether it was Angela (Hunt) or Philip."
"You could talk about the Trinity toll road, you could talk about drilling in the parks, you could talk about transparency on Fair Park," Blewett continues. "These are issues that I'm pretty similar with Philip, and I agree with him on a lot of issues that affect D14. Where we differ is on how we — it is a tone issue, but it's an effectiveness issue. I think that he has gone so far with so many people, whether it's councilmen or city staff or even neighbors, friends — he's burned a lot of bridges and I think it's made him more ineffective because there are just a whole bunch of people who don't want to work with him."
Blewett on what Kingston's temperament has cost City Council District 14:
"That's a question that's difficult to answer. It's called proving a negative. You can't point to the things that aren't there. You can't point to the deals that weren't done. You can't, I mean it's difficult," Blewett says. "I can talk in broad terms. You talk about Greenville Avenue, for example, being a success story. Well, I've been here since the mid-'90s, it's been a problem since the mid-'90s. It's better down lower, around Belmont, where you've got more of a complete street. There were more kind of rougher bars and now there's a Trader Joe's. There's popsicles. It's a different mix of retail there now, but we're still dealing with (the northern portion) of Lower Greenville, where you've got things that haven't changed much. ... It's not fixed yet."
Blewett believes the Dallas Police Department should hire 1,000 more officers. He doesn't think Kingston and the City Council's recent 3% across-the-board raise for officers and newly established $60,000 police starting salary are enough, however:
"I don't really think salary is the biggest issue for us. These guys love their job and they love this city. Yes, you've got to be competitive, but that's not the primary driver," Blewett says. "The secondary thing that I talk about is the tools. Philip and I disagree about the teen curfew. I grew up in Colorado. We had a teen curfew. I was a good kid, but I knew when the clock got to 11 I better go home or else. I do think — I've talked to enough officers about — they're not looking to abuse it. They're looking to have it as tool. They wanted it and they wanted city leadership to back them because they asked for that tool. So give them the tool."
He hasn't settled on how to pay for shoring up public safety:
"Whether it's a family budget or a city budget, it's all about priorities and it isn't easy. If you had to take a pay cut personally, you'd have to make certain choices. And the answer is, we're going to have to make some hard choices. We're living through an economic boom right now in terms of property values going up and tax revenues going up, and we're spending every nickel. If something should happen which would cause us to stumble a little bit, we're going to have serious issues pretty fast. I don't think that we've made fiscally prudent decisions to get ready for that, if and when it comes. How do you find the money? You know, it's going to be a big fight. I'm not going to commit today that I'm going to cut this or I'm going to add that, because that's just foolish, but I am committed to prioritizing (public safety) properly."
Dallas needs a more robust middle class, Blewett says. The key to affordable housing, according to the candidate, is creating housing stock to accommodate different parts of the housing market:
"I kind of got in trouble because I start out with the perspective of a mortgage broker and realtor that affordable housing starts with affordable dirt, and the reality is for very large segments of, certainly, D14 and other districts, the dirt's not affordable anymore. So, the idea of affordable housing in those neighborhoods is problematic because there's nothing you can put on expensive dirt to make it cheaper, I just don't get it. Again, if I want to have that bell curve of working class and middle class, we're going to have to have more. Quite frankly, I like the idea of smaller houses. I like — you know, you talk about density — density comes with a problem. I don't want just apartment density, I want multi-family, two- and four-plexes. I've looked at dirt, because most people who want to own something, they can't afford a single-family with a place for their dog to go out back. I like a little patch of dirt attached to something and I like home ownership, but the reality is you've got to find the dirt that is affordable. There are lots. The city has a land bank where we can release more lots.
"Housing is driven by income. The old ratio used to be 3-to-1, 4-to-1. So, if you want to buy a $200,000 house, you've got to make $50, $75,000. That's just the math. If there's no stock at that price point, you've got to go where the stock is. It's not just Dallas. If you look at some of these suburban areas, they're not cheap anymore either. The idea of buying a $250,000 house in a nice neighborhood in the suburbs — good luck with that. You might be 30 miles out. It's just not easy. That's true in other markets, too. Go to Chicago, go to New York. We're becoming a big city.
"We are becoming competitive with other big, established cities. It's income. It's housing. There used to be a time — I had friends of mine that were lawyers — and you'd make X if you were a lawyer in New York or Chicago and half X by being a lawyer in Dallas, and housing would be cheaper to make for that, and now that's gone. Today, that's gone. If you're a really good lawyer in Dallas, you're making comparable money to the Chicago or New York area. Because the income has gone up, the price of housing has gone up.
"The way they did it in older, established cities like New York is you had neighborhoods that were kind of, I don't want to say ethnically segregated, but they had different towns or areas that were specific to different wage groups or different ethnicities. Dallas didn't really have that. It's actually kind of funny. If you want really good Italian food, you have to go — we don't really have, we didn't have a lot of it — now we do, but different ethnic neighborhoods in Chicago or New York had that kind of working-class housing.
"Somehow, we've got to create more supply, and we've got to have more neighborhoods that are geared with housing stock towards those people and that's smaller lots, smaller houses. Those houses will not be attractive to the higher-income people, so that'll kind of keep a lid on it."
Blewett played a big role in the fight over renaming Stonewall Jackson Elementary School, including writing several op-eds criticizing the process in The Dallas Morning News. Here's how he feels about Dallas' fight over Confederate monuments and symbols today:
"I am philosophically opposed to the idea of any government agency taking power away from the people. When you look at what DISD did on the renaming process, they came in and decided that we had to have an emergency resolution to change a long-standing DISD policy for school name changes. My argument was, and still is, that the existing policy is completely appropriate," Blewett says. "You have community input and you decide on a name change, if the name has been 50 years or longer, and then you choose a name that is more reflective of the community today.
"I've been to a number of buildings in Turtle Creek and I've talked to them and the biggest thing that they're upset about — a lot of people are upset about the (Robert E. Lee) statue being removed — but more people are upset that they weren't even listened to. There was never a town hall, there was never any kind of meeting with these people to solicit their advice or their opinions about this. It was just kind of imposed in the middle of the night.
"The concept that (removing the Lee statue) was an emergency was overblown. Look at where we are today, not just in Dallas, we're still pushing on certain other issues, schools and streets and monuments and it's a year or two later. Is there an emergency? Is there violence? I mean, these things can be done reasonably and I don't, I just don't buy into the idea that there's a bunch of people out there that are looking to be violent. I just don't buy into it. You know, the Virginia thing, I watched the videos, I've read about it and I have some questions about the whole thing. I don't really understand how it even started ... I don't know the specifics of it. It just seemed like total chaos. Could it have come to our city? That's a decent argument that if the chaos did come here, then yeah, that would've made it more of an emergency."
Finally, here's Blewett on how City Hall could be more civil:
"I've got seven kids. The only way you get seven kids and actually make it so you're not crazy is you have rules," Blewett says. "There are rules about how I treat my kids, how they treat me and how they treat each other. You come into my house, you'd be surprised — people think it must be total chaos. No, because my kids know the rules of how we treat each other. Doesn't mean we agree, but that needs to happen in city government, too."