If I ask a guy to his face if he’s running for mayor and he says no, can I still write a newspaper column saying I think he’s running for mayor anyway? Yes. And you know why? Because this is America.
You don’t have to believe me, but if you had been there with me Tuesday, I think you would agree that 32-year-old Dallas School Board trustee Miguel Solis must at least be thinking about it.
In the course of less than an hour before an otherwise rigidly sedate crowd of more than 200 people at a white-tablecloth brunch, Solis drew applause and even amens — as in, “Amen!” — on several occasions. His remarks sounded clearly and distinctly mayoral to my ears.
But when I asked him afterward if he’s running for mayor of Dallas in 2019, Solis said this:
“I am not a declared candidate at all. But to be honest with you, I think people that are positioned to be leaders on the issues that I just talked about should seriously be considering whether they need to be a candidate or not, and so I certainly am considering those things.”
So … yes? No? Yes-no? No-yes-maybe?
OK, when a reporter asks somebody if he’s a candidate and he doesn’t feel like saying yet, does that person have a right to tell the reporter no-yes-maybe? Yes, he does. And you know why? Because this is America.
The event was the unveiling and release of a new study of child poverty in Dallas and Texas carried out by the nonprofit Center for Public Policy Priorities. The report uses hard data to sketch the dystopian landscape of hunger, fear and want that is the real and only world for 155,000 children in Dallas County — a total of one in every five children in the county.
Solis was part of a panel discussion of the report, sharing a stage at the Communities Foundation of Texas with Regina Montoya, who is a declared candidate for mayor. Montoya, a longtime Democratic political activist and former presidential adviser, was well-known to and well-received by an audience made up mainly of people connected in one way or another with local social causes.
But it was Solis, talking about what Dallas needs to do to free itself from a burden of racial injustice and biting poverty, who drew bursts of applause and shouted prayer words.
Speaking about public school finance in Texas, he said, “Quite honestly, we are staring at a financial cliff, and we are in an existential crisis. It has everything to do with the unwillingness of a majority of our state legislators in Austin to do something about this.”
The line about Austin drew claps here and there in the large room.
“If we truly want to go to scale with what we are doing in Dallas and prove the promise of public schools to the nation,” Solis said, “for our schools to serve as a lodestar for this nation and potentially to the globe, we need the funds to ensure that we can scale these programs, and it needs to be adequate and equitable.”
That one got a slow-rolling applause. A little later on, he said, “I cannot reiterate enough how bold our community needs to be in advocating for things that we know we should have done years ago and have to do now.
“But when I think about where we need to go and the boldness that comes with that, I also recognize that this is going to be dangerous. It’s going to be controversial.
“The great British explorer George Mallory, who was to die on Mount Everest, was asked why he wanted to climb it. And you know what he said? ‘Because it’s there.’”
People were nodding yes, yes.
“Fully funded education that’s adequate and equitable is there. Closing the health insurance gap is there. Ending poverty is there. Are we willing to be courageous as a city and as a community to lead in these areas? I think we are.”
That drew an eruption of serious applause. So you can see, right, why I would walk up to him afterward and ask if he’s running for mayor. I mean, c’mon. George Mallory? Mount Everest?
Montoya earned plenty of head-nodding approval from the house as well. She said, “As sobering as those numbers were this morning, it’s actually even a little bit of a worse story when you think about Dallas.
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“When you think about Dallas County, there are some very wealthy areas that are included in those numbers, including Highland Park and University Park, the Park Cities. In actuality for Dallas, we have 115,000 children living in poverty.
“Thirty-one percent of Dallas children live in poverty. We are the third-worst city of cities greater than a million [residents]. Instead of the one in five number for Dallas County, you see it’s closer to one in three.”
The house nodded in agreement but kept its hands in its laps for that. And, anyway, we already know Montoya is a candidate for mayor, because she has declared.
I have been trying to spy Solis out about this for some weeks, but, as you can see, I have not enjoyed any success in my effort to get him to declare his candidacy to me. So I have decided to just declare it for him. He’s not bound by that, because … well, you know why. The country. Hey. Things get more interesting by the day on the mayoral front.