With Angela Hunt passing on a mayoral run and instead seeking a fourth and final consecutive term on the city council as District 14's representative (term limits), we called the five candidates who have filed campaign treasurers for her seat to find out which ones are willing to stay in the race. (Strangely, Hunt has drawn the most opponents, while no one has filed a treasurer for Ron Natinsky's soon-to-be-vacated District 12 seat.)
True to the comments he gave us in mid-January, former Zoning Ordinance Advisory Committee member and ex-Bryan Place Neighborhood Association president Jim Rogers has pulled the plug on his campaign.
"The whole premise was that the District 14 community wanted to make sure that they had someone in that position that they could trust, that they had experience working with and knew had been in the fight with them for years," he tells Unfair Park. "Now that Angela's staying in that seat, the premise on which my candidacy was based is gone."
However, Rogers vows he'll be back.
"I still expect me to be the person who succeeds Angela in the District 14 seat, but, at this point, that's going to be two years from now," he says.
Vernon Franko, a 46-year-old resident of District 14 for approximately 20 years, hadn't heard about Hunt's decision when we reached him yesterday afternoon at the insurance company he owns in District 2. He wasn't happy to hear the news but said it wouldn't affect his plans.
"I'm staying in," he says. "I made my mind up two years ago before the mayor's race."
Franko claims the district "can do a little bit better" than Hunt. While discussing his candidacy, he first mentioned his concerns about the Dallas Independent School District.
"I understand that the council doesn't have much to do with the school district, but I think it is a high profile office -- higher profile than the district," he says. "I think they should be using that to lobby for better pay for our teachers. I think they're grossly underpaid."
And although there's nothing the city council can do about property values either, Franko says while improvement values have dropped, land values are "overblown." And how would the city recover the lost taxes if land valuations are lowered? Franko says the council needs to streamline the budget by eliminating waste and redundancy.
We also asked Franko to address Hunt's positions on the convention center hotel and Trinity River toll road. While he says he needs more information about both, Franko's concerned about the hotel competing directly with private businesses.
"It just goes smack in the face of free enterprise and the free-market system," he says. "There's no way private businesses can compete with the government."
Franko isn't fond of toll roads but hasn't made up his mind about the one proposed near the Trinity River, claiming he wants to evaluate whether it makes financial sense to build it inside the floodway. However, he really likes the bridges -- one of which is under construction (Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge) while the other two lack funding.
"Those will add a lot aesthetically to the city and make it more attractive, which is a good thing, especially for businesses," he says. "I think Dallas is a world-class city, and we need to act like one."
Brian Oley, a 34-year-old real estate consultant for Jones Lang LaSalle, isn't stepping out of the race either.
"It hasn't affected my decision thus far because I'm really moving forward with my campaign and think I've made good progress," he says.
Oley, a native Texan and resident of the district for five years, plans to rely on a three-pronged approach in his attempt to oust Hunt based on his business, community and academic experience. His community work includes co-founding the Friends of St. Jude's -- Dallas Chapter, which is a fund-raising arm of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. He's also a member of the Friends of Katy Trail and board member of the MLK Community Center (appointed by Hunt). Oley has an MBA from Arizona State University, earned his undergrad degree at Texas Christian University and recently completed the international economic and policy program at Southern Methodist University.
In addition to his three-pronged approach, Oley also has three issues he aims to address if he's elected: safety, promoting economic development and enhancing quality of life. He didn't elaborate on his plans but says his website, which is under construction, will provide more detailed information.
So, what has Hunt done wrong to prompt him to run against her?
"That's a tough question," he says. "Given her situation with the information she's had on the table, she's done a terrific job. I'm not so much interested in what I'd do different, I just bring something different to the table. I bring a business mind to the table -- an entrepreneurial, creative, innovative mind to the table. It's difficult for me to say at this point that she's done a bad job. That's not the case."
We left messages for James Nowlin and Chad Lasseter and haven't heard back yet. [Update: Lasseter called to confirm he's still running. More on him later.] However, Nowlin did tell the Dallas Voice that he's staying in the race as well. The filing period for all council seats begins on Monday.
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