At a campaign forum in far western Oak Cliff's Mountain Creek neighborhood last night, David Kunkle and Mike Rawlings each said that if elected mayor, they'd push for a moratorium on gas drilling.
"As I try to better understand the impact of the gas drilling issue, I believe that I'm becoming convinced that it can't be done in an urban area," Kunkle told the crowd of around 125, gathered in a half-circle around all four mayoral candidates plus city council candidates Dave Neumann and Scott Griggs. "It seems to me that the fracking process, the impact on the air quality and on our water sources make gas drilling too dangerous to be done in an urban area," Kunkle said.
Rawlings too said it was at least too soon to know if gas drilling would be safe in Dallas, and said he'd call for a moratorium. He's particularly worried about what happens to the spent fracking water once it's trucked away from the drill sites, and said he would never have supported leasing city land to gas drillers in the first place.
"As mayor, if I need to go and sell gas rights to make the budget, I'm not a very good mayor. You need a mayor that is able to grow the pie in a clean and productive way," he said, not necessarily referring to pizza, but maybe.
Edward Okpa repeatedly said opening up the city to drilling was a question of "opportunity cost," one of a handful of Econ 101 bullet points he marched out for the crowd last night.
Ron Natinsky, and Dave Neumann, who turned up to defend his District 3 council seat, defended their votes to lease city land to XTO years ago, saying the city's always made sure there were safeguards in place to protect residents, especially now that we've got a City Hall task force studying the issue.
Neumann's challenger Scott Griggs -- who's often called Neumann out for waffling on gas drilling and accepting campaign contributions from companies in the natural gas industry -- was the most outspoken of all six candidates in calling for a moratorium on drilling and defending the city's right to enforce it.
That last point's especially timely now, with a bill by State Rep. Jim Keffer that would allow civil suits against a city that "impairs, or prohibits development of a mineral interest." All six candidates used a question about that bill to riff on how hard they'd fight for Dallas's right to govern itself.
"Whether it's gas drilling or schools or whatever, OK? We need to be the fathers of our own destinies," Rawlings said, sounding every bit the hard-chargin' civic gladiator he said he'd be as mayor.
"We want to be able to feel and touch those decision makers that have influence on our school children," Neumann agreed, which sounded almost as gross as his insistence much later that "the public juices need to flow."
With a crowd full of residents from around the hilly, remote corner of the city, questions got very specific -- and Neumann spent much of the night showing off how well he knew his turf, calling audience members out by name, recalling meetings with residents over the years, and seeking common ground by name-dropping streets and intersections.
Griggs said he'd already done plenty done plenty to promote business around North Oak Cliff and could do so for Mountain Creek as well. "I'm the candidate with the endorsements," he said.
Along with new business and jobs, Griggs said gas drilling, replacing the trees at Grady Niblo and fighting new public supportive housing developments in the district were his priorities.
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A few residents complained about the trouble they've had fighting for police and paramedics in their remote corner of the city. One woman's long-winded tale of organizing neighbors to fight for better police coverage drew an awkwardly droll, "Go, girlfriend," from Rawlings.
Natinsky said the key was to do all you can to sweep crime across the border into Duncanville. "Fort Worth would be even better," he said.
As another example of Mountain Creek's trouble getting city resources, one woman said for years they'd relied on Duncanville for paramedics, but even that had just been cut off. Neumann assured her there was an emergency response team on the way, being transferred out of Lakewood. Natinsky said even that wasn't a real solution, because we're still just shuffling resources around while communities grow.
Kunkle, for his part, congratulated the neighborhood for getting a new ambulance. "I just learned that we lost our ambulance in East Dallas. It's about a mile from my house, and as soon as we get out of here I'm going to call my council member and see how that happened."