Mike Rawlings formally announced his candidacy for mayor this morning to a group of approximately 150 supporters in front of Dallas City Hall, claiming he'll utilize public-private partnerships to protect both the city's infrastructure and its citizens during what he said would be a budget deficit as difficult to overcome as last year's more-than-$100-million shortfall.
"That just means we have to work harder and we have to work smarter to protect our infrastructure, while at the same time not further burdening our taxpayers," said the former Park Board president and ex-CEO of Pizza Hut.
Rawlings, who also served as the city's homeless czar and chair of the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau, also stressed the need for the city to focus on the basics.
"That means making smoother roads that are free of potholes, beautiful parks where our families are safe together and can spend time together, libraries like across the street that are open and equipped with books and resources to serve our families, rec centers and swimming pools that our children can go to not only to have fun but to get fit," he said. "Our firefighters and police officers have to have the resources to do their jobs and to make this community safe for us."
Dallas Cowboys Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach, who's serving as the campaign's chair, said he knows Rawlings from their membership in the World Presidents' Organization. He described Rawlings as having "a linebacker mentality" and someone who gives back to the community.
"Mike really gives a darn about others than himself," he said. "I believe in him. I trust him. And I think we're really fortunate."
Former Cowboys tight end Pettis Norman was not in attendance as expected, but Arcilia Acosta, the president and CEO of CARCON Industries & Construction and STL Engineers, and Curtis Ransom, a Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise owner in the area for 21 years, said Rawlings was not only trustworthy, but someone to lead the city in the right direction.
Four billboards have been erected in Dallas thus far to promote Rawlings's campaign. Two feature Staubach (one on N. Central Expressway and another on the Dallas North Tollway), one features state Senator John Carona (Central) and another features Norman (Interstate 35). A fifth featuring Carona is expected on the Tollway soon.
Like almost every mayor and mayoral candidate before him, Rawlings said the Southern sector is one of the city's "greatest untapped resources."
"For too long, Dallas has been two cities: the North and South, the black and white, the rich and poor," he said. "No mas. OK?"
And, much like those before him, he claimed the city must "fire up" its economic engine to become great.
"Business is the lungs of our city," he said. "It breathes life into the basics."
Economic growth is not a luxury, it's a necessity, Rawlings said, and he touted his experience at Pizza Hut as the CEO of 3,500 stores and 150,000 employees. He vowed to continue to encourage companies to relocate to Dallas, listing the ones who have arrived recently "because of the leadership of our mayor."
"I'm not here to point out what's wrong, but it can never be too easy to do business here," he said.
Tennell Atkins was the only council member in attendance, and he says he's supporting Rawlings. We asked what makes Rawlings stand out compared to the other candidates -- fellow council member Ron Natinksy and former Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle -- and he refused comment.
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When pressed about why he's supporting Rawlings, Atkins first stated his desire for more candidates to choose from before offering his reasons.
"We need someone who looks out for the South, East, West and North and pulls everyone together as one," he told Unfair Park. "We need someone who understands the passion of the people, how to make deals work, how to reach out to other CEOs. We need to build our revenue and our tax base to fix our streets and libraries. ... I think he's got the passion and drive to do it."