Recently departed Dallas City Attorney Larry Casto is running for mayor, he tells The Dallas Morning News' Robert Wilonsky. Casto is now the second candidate to officially jump into the race, joining Dallas businessman Albert Black. Mike Ablon, a prominent real estate developer in the Design District and potential candidate, has filed campaign paperwork with the city, but it doesn't specify which office he plans to run for.
"When you step back and look at where our city is, there are a lot of people and politicians and wannabe mayoral candidates who can paint a very beautiful picture of where we want to be, and I can't add much to that," Casto told Wilonsky. "What is in short supply is how do we actually get there? That's uncomfortable. That's an awareness and a conversation around what's working and what's not working."
Casto has plenty of experience when it comes to helping Dallas solve major problems.
After leaving his job as Dallas' director of legislative affairs and taking over as city attorney from Warren Ernst in October 2016, he helped dig the city out of two legal holes, working with the Texas Legislature on a compromise to keep the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System solvent and securing a settlement with the plaintiffs in Dallas' decades-old police and fire pay lawsuits.
Either of those crises could've bankrupted the city; now they're in Dallas' rear-view mirror.
"I knew [the lawsuits] had been hanging around for a long time. It was affecting the morale of the police and fire departments. It needed to be solved," Casto told the Observer in June. "When you combine that with the pension crisis, I firmly believed that we needed to get back in a place of trust with our first responders."
Outside of steering Dallas away from financial disaster, Casto's biggest call during his time in the city attorney's post was his decision to buck the mayor and issue an opinion that required the city open the future management of Fair Park to bidding, rather than handing it over to Walt Humann and the Fair Park Foundation. Last month, the Dallas City Council signed off on a plan to give management of the park to a private foundation and Spectra, an events management company. The deal is expected to save the city more than $100 million over the next 10 years.
After Casto announced he was leaving the city in August, Dallas City Council member Philip Kingston, another rumored mayoral candidate, said Casto was the best city attorney in Dallas history.
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"Larry Casto served the city as city attorney for two years, and in that time he assembled a record of accomplishment and integrity that makes him the best lawyer ever to have held the top spot at City Hall," Kingston said. "That he did it under constant, withering and unwarranted abuse proves the strength of his character."
The afternoon Casto called it quits, he gave the Observer a polite "no comment" about his plans, but his resignation letter gave a strong hint of what was coming.
"The City's next mayoral election looms around the corner. Already, people are talking about who should be selected to fix all the what's — the affordable housing crisis, the transportation stalemate, homelessness, health care, public education, job creation and poverty," Casto wrote. "The public discussion over the next few months must be about more than who can best recite the problems we all know exist. It must be about more than who the next mayor is. It must be about who we are as a community and what we are willing to do to get the Dallas we want."