Sure, the city council elections are still more than seven months away, but candidates are starting to file, and none may be more significant than Ann Margolin. After spending a year on the Dallas Park and Recreation Board representing District 13, Margolin quit the board and filed to replace Mitchell Rasansky, who is leaving in June because of term limits.
And with all due respect to Raj Narayanan, an aerospace consultant who has already put up $20,000 of his own dough in a bid for Rasansky’s seat, we’re calling this race all but over. With Rasansky and Donna Blumer as honorary campaign co-chairs, Ebby Halliday as campaign treasurer, Tom Dunning and Lee Jackson as campaign finance co-chairs, and support from Ron Kirk, Laura Miller, John Scovell, Florence Shapiro, John Corona and Maurine Dickey, Margolin shouldn’t have any problems fighting off Narayanan or anyone else who comes along.
Margolin not only brings experience from the Park Board, but she also spent two years on the Dallas City Planning and Zoning Commission approximately 20 years ago, which she calls “the minor leagues” of the city council. Additionally, Margolin was appointed to the North Dallas Chamber of Commerce by Kay Bailey Hutchison and was active there in the 1990s. Perhaps most notably, Margolin was named to the Parkland Hospital Board in 1988 and was later elected as the first woman chair of the board, eventually spending more than six years as a board member.
A Dallas resident for more than 30 years and District 13 resident for almost 25 years, Margolin has an MBA and has been investing in real estate and small businesses for the last 10 years. She says the expectation of her district’s seat has become that of a fiscal conservative, which she has no problem with. Margolin says she was known to focus on the budget while on the Parkland Hospital Board and learned a lot while on the Park Board, such as how bond packages build costs into subsequent budgets. “I’m wise to that now,” she tells Unfair Park.
Margolin sees herself as an independent voice and likes that Rasansky is willing to be the lone vote against some items. If elected, she hopes to be named to the council’s Public Safety Committee so she can better understand how the police department works and make sure officers are being deployed efficiently and correctly.
“Just because you’re willing to add officers and spend more money doesn’t mean you don’t need the oversight and questioning to make sure that money is being spent wisely and that officers are being used to maximum capacity,” she says.
A regular Republican donor, Margolin also contributed $100 to Mayor Leppert’s campaign. But she stresses that she won’t be a Leppert robot, noting that she brings a common sense approach and was the single opposing vote on a handful of items throughout her time on the Park Board. “I’m not going to be anybody’s puppet,” she says.
As for Leppert, Margolin says he runs council meetings well, shows respects to the citizens and manages the council well. When asked for his notable accomplishments, she noted that he “got the Trinity done, which was what he wanted to do.” However, Margolin balked at going into the issue further.
“I think he’s a good mayor,” she says. “He’s brought the council together and is very respectful of people.”
With a referendum on the convention center hotel likely to be on the same ballot as the council seats in May, Margolin admits it will be a hot-button issue. She says projections by HVS Consulting provided to the city of 68 percent occupancy and more than $200 average room rates for the hotel “are pretty generous assumptions.” Margolin also says the process of moving forward with plans for the hotel project was “unduly quick,” and comparisons to the hotel in Houston cannot be made because the debt on that hotel is much lower.
“My impression right now is that we are getting into something way over our head that could really pull us down in the long run,” she says. “Now, if someone can show me different, I’d be open to looking at it.”
Margolin says she would rather see downtown be built up to where it makes sense for the private sector to fund the hotel.
“I cannot believe that Tom Leppert or anybody else, if it were their money or their company’s money, would be making this bet,” she says. “It seems to me that we need to be looking at the problems with the convention center.”
She admits that she doesn’t have all of the information but notes that neither do the taxpayers. Margolin says using revenue bonds instead of general obligation bonds was a way to keep voters out of the process.
“If you’re going to issue more than a half billion dollars of debt that citizens of Dallas will be responsible for if this thing fails, I do think that the citizens oughta have a say in it,” she says.
Margolin will be spending the rest of the year fund-raising and gathering support (as if she didn’t have enough already) before formally kicking things off in the new year. --Sam Merten]