Formally ending Dallas City Council’s recess summer recess, Mayor Eric Johnson restructured the Ad Hoc Committee on Legislative Affairs, removing its only Latino representative, Paula Caldwell Blackmon. Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Adam McGough is Blackmon’s replacement. District 12 councilmember Cara Mendelsohn has also been appointed to serve as the committee’s vice-chair.
In a memo sent out on Friday, Johnson said he believes these changes will best serve Dallas in the months ahead.
While the council has five Latino members, a sign of progress toward equal representation in Dallas’ governance, councilmember Adam Bazaldua says the restructuring of the committee is a step in the wrong direction.
“Our city’s most current (but far out of date) data shows our Hispanic population greater than that of any other demographic at 41.1%,” Bazaldua said in a statement on Facebook. “This is absolutely unacceptable, especially during a time with social justice and racial inequities at the forefront of society’s conversations.”
Blackmon’s office says she didn’t find out about her removal until Johnson’s memo hit her inbox on Friday. She had nothing else to say about the restructuring.
Marco Bayllegas, a Dallas resident who’s active in local politics, says the lack of Latino representation on the committee is striking considering the city’s demographics. Bayllegas says with the nationwide discussions about inequities taking place, there should be more effort to “avoid systematic exclusion of any group to something as important as Legislature down in Austin.”
Bazaldua said experience matters, and Blackmon had the most experience by far lobbying in Austin. Blackmon, a lifelong Texan, has become a leader in local politics over the years. She was the deputy chief of staff for the former mayor pro tem, the chief of staff for former Mayor Mike Rawlings, and a senior advisor at the Dallas Independent School District among other work.
Bazaldua said the restructuring of the committee is contradictory to Johnson's campaign platform. “It’s beyond frustrating to watch as a mayor who ran on a platform of unity and civility continues to play into the hand of politics as usual and causes the people of Dallas hurt because of it,” he said.
In a Facebook post about the restructuring, local activist Soraya Santos says it seems that the mayor believes having a deeply conservative majority on the committee is best suited to represent the city’s interests at the Legislature and in Congress. As for how Blackmon heard about the restructuring, Santos says, “The fry guy at McDonald’s gets more respect than the progressive elected leaders of this city.”
Santos says she thinks Johnson is not interested in representing the city honestly and fairly and that he has a greater commitment to pleasing Republican backers.
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The committee now comprises:
- Eric Johson (chair)
- Cara Mendelsohn (vice chair)
- Tennell Atkins
- Jennifer Staubach Gates
- Adam McGough
Johnson, Mendelsohn and McGough could not be reached for comment.
“We need LatinX representation on this committee,” Bazaldua says. “If you agree, it would be most helpful to contact the mayor's office and express your disappointment with this misstep.”