Dallas City Council member Paula Blackmon doesn’t support defunding the police, but try telling that to Keep Dallas Safe, the shadowy campaign behind a crop of anti-Blackmon flyers showing up in mailboxes around town.
On the mailer, a portrait of Blackmon, who represents District 9, is juxtaposed over what appears to be Black Lives Matter protesters. On the left side of the flyer, Keep Dallas Safe makes a number of claims, including one stating “She DEFUNDED the POLICE (she now denies it!).”
The mailer also claims Blackmon “stands for HIGH CRIME,” an accusation that she calls “absolutely ludicrous.” And while the top of the ad spells her last name correctly, the bottom doesn’t.
Blackmon insists Keep Dallas Safe knows that rather than defunding law enforcement, City Council actually increased the police department’s overall budget last September. The group also understands that the council’s push to get 95 police officers from behind desks and back out onto neighborhood patrols isn’t anti-public safety, she said.
“And yet they still put this stuff out, and they can’t even spell my name right,” Blackmon said. “I mean, it’s like, spell the name right, and maybe we’ll start there.”
In an email reply to the Observer's questions, Keep Dallas Safe said the misspelling was a mistake by the printing house, and that the group saw “no value in contributing to what is obviously a hit piece.”
When asked about the mailer, Blackmon accused Keep Dallas Safe of spreading lies and misinformation. For instance, the flyer claims that violent crime is up by 50% in District 9, but the council member insists crime has actually decreased. Blackmon said crimes against persons are down by 5%, while crimes against property and society are down by 12% and 6%, respectively.
Keep Dallas Safe is endorsing one of Blackmon’s opponents, chiropractor John Botefuhr. In a campaign mailer, the group said Botefuhr “believes in” accountability for “rioters,” 2,000 additional police officers and is a “5th generation Dallasite.”
The group makes no secret of their dislike for Blackmon. In an April tweet, they cited a letter the council member wrote to the city manager in which she said, “It is time to reimagine public safety.”
But Blackmon insists public safety is her "top priority,” and she unequivocally denies supporting the movement to defund the police.
Activists agree. According to a D Magazine article published last week, one local organizer said activists aren’t interested in police reform. “We are interested in defunding,” she said. “I don’t think there’s anyone on City Council who would be up for that.”
Although Blackmon signed onto the move to cut the department’s overtime budget by $7 million, she said its overall budget increased by $15 million.
Last week, The Dallas Morning News' editorial board also endorsed Blackmon, writing the incumbent is “committed to a strong police force.” But the way Blackmon sees it, Keep Dallas Safe isn’t interested in the truth.
“They just keep persisting in this campaign of lies, and they won’t tell us who’s funding them,” she said.
Thanks to a Trump-era rule, certain nonprofits like Keep Dallas Safe don’t have to reveal their donors. But one of the group's main players is a man named Daniel Taylor, who was once part of an "astroturf" scheme that paid actors to attend public meetings to pressure New Orleans' City Council to approve a power plant.
While some lingering questions over who funds Keep Dallas Safe remain, Blackmon believes she’s being targeted because she’s a leader on City Council who "[gets] things done." Her district also isn’t as conservative as it once was, she said, and by voting for her, constituents elected someone who is more moderate and practical.
Blackmon isn’t the group’s only target. Keep Dallas Safe also sent a mailer attacking Jaynie Schultz, a candidate for District 11.
According to Keep Dallas Safe, Schultz is a “Radical Leftist” who wants to defund the police. They also said she “HATES TEXAS VALUES” and “Stands With RIOTERS, LOOTERS And GANG MEMBERS.”
Beyond the colorful language, Blackmon wants to know who controls the group’s coffers. “Tell us who’s funding this,” she said, “and then we can say if we give you credibility or not.”
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