A Guide to Dallas for Mayoral Candidates New to the City

The downtown Dallas skyline, viewed from between the Trinity River levees — in case anyone, a mayoral candate, say — has trouble recognizing it.EXPAND
The downtown Dallas skyline, viewed from between the Trinity River levees — in case anyone, a mayoral candate, say — has trouble recognizing it.
Scot Miller
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A couple of Fridays ago, someone you've probably never heard of jumped into the Dallas mayoral race. We didn't write about it because Lynn McBee's announcement came at 5:30 on a Friday afternoon, prime news dump time, and because no one was kind enough to even send us a press release — not that we're bitter.

As we learned the details of McBee's background and campaign, her communications team's decision to leave us out started making a lot of sense. In her press release and a brief interview with The Dallas Morning News' Robert Wilonsky, McBee, heretofore best known as a philanthropist and fundraiser for local nonprofits, revealed that she moved to Dallas from her longtime home in Highland Park in August, just beating the city's six-month residency requirement for mayoral candidates.

"Without the 25 years of being a servant leader, it's a valid argument," McBee told Wilonsky about how she'd respond to those who took issue with her having moved to the city so recently from Highland Park. "But it's not a valid argument when you've been giving 25 years to Dallas' most critical issues."

While we're not willing to concede that raising money for nonprofits — however noble that might be — is the same as paying Dallas property taxes, sending one's kids to Dallas ISD schools and living without benefit of one of the United States' most impenetrable bubbles, the Observer is interested in ensuring everyone has a fair shot as they seek the city's top title.

To that end, we thought we'd help McBee out by illuminating a few of the things she might want to keep in mind as she gets acclimated to her new home.

1. Dallas' roads may as well be the Wild West. — On top of the potholes — they're those small crater things that pop up about every quarter-mile as soon as you drive outside the 75205 ZIP code — and near constant construction, Dallas has little to no traffic enforcement, thanks to our understaffed police department.

Over the last three years, the Dallas Police Department's traffic division has been cut from 36 to 18 officers, making it essentially impossible to get a traffic ticket unless you do something really, really dumb. Given Highland Park's vigorous traffic law enforcement — familiar to many Dallasites who have sped through the suburb in cheap domestic cars — that should come as some relief as you learn Dallas' streets.

2. A few tips for living downtown. — Now that you live downtown in a fabulous high-rise facing Klyde Warren Park, here are a couple of tips: 1. Don't engage with aggressive panhandlers, but don't call the cops on them either. That's tacky. 2. Those green, red and orange signs you see on every corner are for 7-Elevens. Those are "convenience stores," where you can overpay for a small bottle of Advil or some toilet paper in an emergency or purchase a variety of sodium-filled delights from a rolling grill. 3. Unlike Highland Park, you can't call the city to impound any of the hundreds of rental bikes and scooters that dot downtown. 4. Please, for the love of God, watch for pedestrians when you turn right on red. Almost getting killed by a behemoth SUV headed for the suburbs is a daily occurrence for those who walk downtown. 

3. What we call you people. — You are a Parkie. Nothing you can do, not even getting elected mayor, will ever change that.

4. It's really hard for a lot of us to pay the rent. — According to a report from Candy Evans' Candy's Dirt real estate blog earlier this month, your Highland Park estate is now on the market for $4.25 million. While that may be par for the course in a town with a median household income of more than $200,000, it is staggering to Dallas residents, who have a median household income of just more than $47,000. The downtown building in which you chose to live isn't exactly a step down either, with one-bedroom apartments starting at $2,299 per month.

One of Dallas' biggest problems is a lack of affordable rental housing, even for middle-income residents. Since 2010, Dallas apartment prices have gone up by 35 percent, according to a recent study from Realpage. Median income went up by just 16 percent over the same span.

5. Highland Park has its own municipal elections. — From the town's website: "Municipal elections for the Mayor and five Town Council Members are held on the first Saturday in May of even-numbered years. The Mayor and all Town Council Members are elected at-large and serve without compensation for a term of two years. The next election will be held on Saturday, May 2, 2020." Just sayin'.

6. Be careful about the assumptions you make. — In Highland Park, it might be easy to assume that any nonwhite person you encounter is either a domestic employee or simply up to no good. The town is more than 90 percent white, after all, according to the latest census estimates. Those same estimates reflect Dallas' growing diversity. Fewer than 30 percent of Dallas residents are white non-Hispanics. Forty-two percent of the city identifies as Hispanic, Latino or Latina, and more than 24 percent of Dallas residents are black.

7. People try to escape our public schools, not sneak into them. — Just ask Dallas City Council member Adam McGough, another white knight from the Park Cities, who's thinking about running for mayor himself. (He had some issues about whether his kids could rightfully attend Highland Park schools if he lived in Dallas.)

8. Just in case. — Here's a list of U-Haul locations in Dallas, if you find yourself needing to move sometime soon. Not sure if they sell carpetbags, but you probably already know where to find one of those.

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