Tom Leppert is running for Senate, but Chris Heinbaugh will remain in the mayor’s office

In case you missed it, Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert officially announced his candidacy for U.S. Senate today.

Not long after Leppert’s video announcement (above) was posted to his campaign website, we spoke with his openly gay chief of staff in the mayor’s office, Chris Heinbaugh.

Leppert, who announced his resignation Wednesday, will remain mayor until 11:59 p.m. today, at which point Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway will take over.

Heinbaugh declined to publicly comment on the Twitter message sent out by Leppert on Wednesday, in which he slammed President Barack Obama for ordering the Justice Department to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act in court.

Heinbaugh, who is no longer handling media calls for Leppert, advised Instant Tea to contact the mayor’s Senate campaign office about the tweet. We left a message with campaign spokeman Shawn McCoy but haven’t heard back.

Chris Heinbaugh
Chris Heinbaugh

Heinbaugh did tell us that he plans to remain in the mayor’s office to help Caraway, who will serve out the remainder of Leppert’s term — until a new mayor is elected in May and sworn in in June. In other words, Heinbaugh will not be going to work on Leppert’s campaign.

“I’m gonna be here for a while,” Heinbaugh said from City Hall. “I’m just going to continue on in the office and do whatever I can to help Mr. Caraway. If I can make it a good, stable, smooth transition, then great.”

Heinbaugh said he won’t serve as Caraway’s chief of staff, and it’s still unclear what exactly his role will be. However, he said both Caraway and City Manager Mary Suhm have expressed a desire for him to stay on.

“We’ve got a lot of things going, and they don’t just stop if the mayor walks our the door,” Heinbaugh said.

We asked Heinbaugh about the challenge of working for Caraway, whose recent missteps have prompted concerns from other council members about him serving as mayor — even temporarily.

“Mr. Caraway is a good guy,” Heinbaugh responded. “I’ve known him for a long, long time. Ever since I moved to Dallas, I’ve known him. His heart is in the right place, and he will work very hard for the next four months.

“Over and over again he’s said, ‘I’m not going to start some new initiative — dig up Main Street and stick a river down it,’” Heinbaugh said. “We’re just going to continue the things that are already moving forward. I’m here to help him do that as long as he wants me here.”

—  John Wright

Hunt draws another challenger in District 14

Chad Lasseter

IT Sales professional says differences of opinion with council incumbent led to candidacy

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Chad Lasseter said this week that he decided to run for the District 14 Dallas City Council seat after meeting with incumbent Angela Hunt in January and discovering he has “a basic difference in philosophy” with her.

While he called Hunt extremely gracious for taking the time to meet with him, he said he found that he differed from her on how to approach a number of issues.

“From that meeting, I found I would do things differently” in a number of areas, Lasseter said.

Lasseter said one of District 14’s biggest challenges has always been Lowest Greenville Avenue, where business owners are often pitted against neighborhood groups on questions of parking for area bars and restaurants, noise, litter and destruction of property by patrons.

While a solution for the area is in the works, Lasseter said that the problem has been around for years and that only after Hunt faced opposition in her re-election was anything done.

Lasseter also said he would have taken a different approach to solving the area’s problems, and that he would have chosen an approach that didn’t involve homeowners in the area giving up property rights.

Walking up and down Cedar Springs Road and talking to storeowners along the way as he talked to a reporter, Lasseter said he believes the gay entertainment district should be used as a model for the East Dallas area. But the gayborhood has issues, too.

Lighting in Oak Lawn on streets around the Crossroads area has been a problem. Lasseter wants to expand sodium arc lighting into the neighborhood to increase safety.

Lasseter said the deciding issue in his decision to run was property taxes. He called Hunt’s vote to increase taxes last year the deciding vote on the council and said raising taxes on senior citizens”criminal.”

“These are people who spent their lives paying into our system,” Lasseter said. “These people are, for the most part, on fixed incomes and we’re now running them out of their homes.”

He wants to freeze property taxes for seniors, look into rolling them back and implement a senior tax cap.

“I’d like to see a government that’s more responsive,” he said. “I’d like to see a government that’s more transparent and a government that’s more accountable.”

Lasseter called public safety the first responsibility of local government.

“We have mounting debt services and a budget shortfall,” he said.

With a billion dollar budget, 75 percent is for essential services, which doesn’t leave much fat, he said.

There are three ways to balance a budget, Lasseter said: Raising taxes and cutting spending are the first two, but he’s against tax increases and said that there’s little room for cuts that allow for maintaining the quality of life the city’s residents expect.

The third is to increase revenue and Lasseter believes there are a number of things the city can do in that area.

“Create additional revenue and grow the tax base,” he said.

Lasseter said that he’d like to make it easier to do business with the city by limiting the amount of paperwork and permits a business needs to operate in Dallas. And he called public-private partnerships like the Lee Park Conservancy another example of how the city can work with organizations to increase revenue.

Lasseter said he has been looking into the possibility of bringing the Texas Rangers to Dallas once their lease at the Ballpark in Arlington expires in 2018, a move he said would generate more revenue.

Creating incentives for businesses to return to the city from the suburbs and to move here from out of state would help the tax base grow, Lasseter said, pointing at the growth and development in downtown Austin as a model.

He mentioned a number of quality of life issues he supports including maintaining the parks, expanding rail and trolley lines and repairing roads.

Throughout the campaign period, Lasseter said he plans to issue platform position papers. The first will be about public safety and include his ideas on reducing crime and lessening the burden on the police force. Others will follow.

Lasseter, 37, is director of sales and services for NorthWind Consulting Services. He lives in the Hollywood Heights neighborhood of East Dallas.

He said that a number of public forums are being planned for the candidates to discuss the issues as the campaign progresses. •

Meet the candidate campaign launch party at Barley House, 5612 SMU Blvd. Feb. 19 from 2 to 5 p.m. For more information, visit ChadLasseter.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 18, 2011.

—  John Wright

Franko running in District 14

4 candidates have started campaigns in Oak Lawn district; still no definite word from Hunt on mayoral candidacy

TAMMYE NASH  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

Vernon C. Franko is one of four candidates who have already appointed campaign treasurers to run this year for the District 14 seat on the Dallas City Council, according to information posted online by the Dallas city secretary.

And that doesn’t count incumbent Councilwoman Angela Hunt, who may — or may not — choose to run for mayor instead of for re-election to the Council.

Franko said in a recent interview that he has been planning to run for the council for about two years because “I just didn’t think we were getting the representation we deserve in this district.”

Franko said that he is “upset that property taxes didn’t go back down after the adjustments for the [housing bubble]. We have seen some decrease, but not enough.

“I think we need to bring back integrity and fairness to the Council,” Franko continued. “There have been some closed-door meetings held that I really didn’t like. Everything should be out in the open. We just aren’t getting the kind of representation we had in this district back in the 1980s and ’90s.”

Franko also said that he is unhappy with the way “education issues” are being handled in Dallas, and that public school teachers have been “underpaid for way too long” and property taxes levied by the school districts are too high.

Although the City Council has no authority over public schools in the city, Franko said he believes the council “should be working with the school districts around here to make these issues better known. The council is prominent enough to help bring attention to these issues in a way that the school board can’t.”

And, he said, the council should also work with other entities that assess property taxes in Dallas, like the hospital districts.

“Homeowners are being discouraged from buying and maintaining homes because the way the tax situation is handled just isn’t equitable,” Franko said. “Property owners — and even renters who have to pay higher rents so that property owners can pay taxes — they are all carrying a disproportionate share of the tax burden.”

Franko, who lives on Cedar Springs Road, said he has been an insurance agent and small business for 15 years. Although he did not say if he is gay, he did describe himself as “a part of the Oak Lawn community,” and pledged to treat all his constituents fairly and equally if he is elected.

“I think the LGBT people should be represented just as fairly and equally as any other community,” Franko said. “I believe in fairness in representation for all groups, whether it’s about race or gender or orientation or what have you.

“I am a part of the Oak Lawn community, but I wouldn’t want to give Oak Lawn residents better treatment than someone from another community. All community’s deserve equal treatment,” he said.

Council election overview

Dallas City Council and mayoral elections will be held May 14.

Although candidates have already started filing paperwork designating campaign treasurers, the candidates cannot actually file to run for the council until Monday, Feb. 14. The deadline to file is March 14. The drawing for placement on the ballot will be March 18, and March 21 is the last day that candidates can withdraw from the races.
April 1 is the deadline to register to vote in the May elections. Early voting runs from May 2-10.

Four candidates for District 14 — considered the district with the largest LGBT population — have registered information on their campaign treasurers with the city secretary’s office so far: James Nowlin, Jim Rogers, Erin C. Lasseter and Franko.

District 14 incumbent Angela Hunt has said publicly she is considering a run for mayor to replace first-term incumbent Mayor Tom Leppert, who has said he will not run for re-election. However Hunt has not yet registered a campaign treasurer with the city secretary’s office for either a District 14 re-election bid — incumbents running for re-election are not required to file a new campaign treasurer form — or as a mayoral candidate.

Nowlin, who is openly gay and was the first to register a campaign treasurer, said he has been discussing the possibility of running for the District 14 seat with Hunt for more than a year, and he is confident she will run for mayor.

Rogers, however, said that if Hunt decides instead to run for re-election to the council, he would drop out of the race.

Two other incumbents in districts with significant LGBT populations — Delia Jasso in District 1 and Pauline Medrano in District 2 — so far face no declared opposition in their re-election bids.

But in District 3, neighborhood activist Scott Griggs has appointed a treasurer and is running to replace incumbent Dave Neumann. The District 3 seat was long held by Ed Oakley, the openly gay man who made national headlines with his 2007 campaign for Dallas mayor against Leppert, a race Leppert won in runoff balloting.

Other candidates who have registered campaign treasurers with the city secretary are Monica R. Alonzo and John M. Lozano, running for the District 6 seat held by incumbent Steve Salazar; Edward D. Turner, running for the District 7 seat held by incumbent Carolyn R. Davis, and Richard P. Sheriden, running for the District 13 seat held by incumbent Ann Margolin.

Other council incumbents facing no declared opposition yet are Dwaine R. Caraway in District 4, Vonciel Jones Hill in District 5, Tennell Atkins in District 8, Sheffie Kadane in District 9, Jerry R. Allen in District 10 and Linda Koop in District 11.

District 12 incumbent Ron Natinsky is a declared candidate for mayor.

Mayoral election overview

Natinsky is one of three candidates who have registered campaign treasurers with the city secretary, and is considered — at least so far — the frontrunner for the seat. Oakley, who lost the mayor’s race in Leppert four years ago, has already endorsed Natinsky’s mayoral bid, as have several other well-known leaders in the LGBT community.

Jim Moore, an attorney with offices in Oak Lawn, was the first mayoral candidate to register a campaign treasurer. He recently joined Stonewall Democrats of Dallas and he, too, said he counts LGBT leaders as friends and supporters.

The third declared candidate to replace Leppert is former Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle who, during his years leading the Dallas Police Department, earned a reputation for treating the LGBT community fairly, and who was the first Dallas Police chief to participate each year in the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 4, 2011.

—  John Wright

2 candidates launch mayoral campaigns

Jim Moore, left, and Ron Natinsky

Natinsky, Moore outline campaign issues, both claim LGBT support

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice

With incumbent Dalla Mayor Tom Leppert confirming this week that he will not run for re-election in May, the field of candidates to replace him has begun to fill up.

District 14 City Councilmember Angela Hunt last week said she was considering a run for mayor, but while she has not publicly made up her mind yet, two other candidates have.

District 12 Councilman Ron Natinsky made his mayoral candidacy definite with an announcement on Monday, Jan. 17, and Jim Moore, an attorney whose practice is based in Oak Lawn, has also declared himself a candidate.

Both Natinsky and Moore said this week that they will be reaching out to the LGBT community for votes. And both said they already have support from the community.

“I want to get support from all the communities. I will be campaigning equally in all parts of the city because I am going to treat everyone equally,” Moore said.

But he acknowledged that he has a special fondness for the Oak Lawn area because he lived in the neighborhood for many years and his office has been located here since he opened his practice in 1984.

“These are the restaurants I eat at. These are the people I socialize with. These are my friends. The LGBT community knows me and trusts me,” Moore said, adding that openly gay former Dallas City Councilmen John Loza is “a dear friend” and one of his campaign advisors.

Moore, who recently joined the LGBT political group Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, said that new Stonewall president Omar Narvaez is also a close friend. Narvaez, in a previous interview, said he would not speak publicly about supporting or endorsing any candidate until after Stonewall Democrats has held candidate screenings and issued endorsements.
Natinsky also can point to gay former councilmembers in his roster of supporters.

“Ed Oakley [who was on the council and ran his own high-profile race for mayor against Leppert in 2007] called from Thailand yesterday [Wednesday] to say that he is endorsing me,” Natinsky said. “Craig Holcombe [another gay former councilmember] is also supporting my campaign. And there are several others in the community who have signed on to support me and give me their endorsements.”

Natinsky, who has been on the City Council since 2005, said Thursday that he has “been involved at City Hall” for 25 years, and that he has consistently supported issues in the LGBT community.

“I have had a significant number of people in the LGBT community support me in my previous races for the council. I have been endorsed by the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance. I have participated in events and have ridden in the parade,” he said. “I am committed to doing those sorts of things.

“It’s hard to second-guess what specific issues that affect the LGBT community might come up in front of the council,” he continued. “But my attitude is the same on every issue, to roll up my sleeves and work it through.”
Moore said that if he will be “the candidate of the common guy,” and that if he is elected, he will continue to reach out to his constituents for input.

“When I am mayor, I am going to spend my Saturdays going to the grocery store in Oak Cliff or Lake Highlands. I am going to go to the Kroger on Cedar Springs. I will go to J.R.’s. I am going to talk to the people and her what they have to say. I’m not going to spend my time at the country club, playing golf and sitting around,” Moore said.

The issues

Moore said that public safety is “a huge issue,” and offered a plan to get the private sector involved in making the city safer.

“I talk to people all the time who live in fear, and that’s not much of a life,” Moore said. “Our focus needs to be on making citizens more comfortable living here rather than building a half-billion-dollar hotel that most people who live here will never even see.”

Saying that much of the funding for the city’s revamped Arts District came from the private sector, Moore added, “I love the generosity of Dallasites that do those things. I love what the private sector has done for this city. And I have this vision of converting a lot of the public safety efforts to the private sector.”

Moore said that about 80 percent of all crime in the city is property crime committed in parking lots outside of stores.

The companies that run those stores could take responsibility for putting police watchtowers in those parking lots — and in other high-traffic areas susceptible to crime — and not only help their customers by keeping them safer, but gain a highly visible advertising platform as well.

“It’s just a creative way of making sure the public is safe without spending tax dollars. If I can sell that idea, we won’t need those 600 officers the police department is short right now,” he said.

Moore also proposed working to help forge alliances Dallas Independent School District and private sector corporations, such as programs through which corporations could adopt a school and donate funds and supplies to help those schools out.

Such a partnership, he said, would help improve public schools that are hurting for funds, and improving the schools makes the city more attractive to potential new corporate citizens, thus improving the city’s tax base and stimulating economic growth.

For Natinsky, the key to the city’s future is economic development.

He said Dallas has been “very fortunate overall” during the recent economic downtown, and while “we have had our issues to deal with,” the situation has not been as drastic as in other cities.

“I think we have started to turn the corner. Our sales tax revenue is starting to come back up, and our building permits are up,” Natinsky said, and that makes Dallas attractive to companies looking to relocate from the hard-hit regions of the West Coast and what he called “the rusty northeast.”

Bringing new companies to the city means “growing the economic base and providing jobs for the people who are here, and provides a foundation for the things that everybody wants to get done.”

Natinsky said the city has made strides in reducing the crime rate, and that continuing that trend — as well as providing the necessary city services — depend on economic growth. But Dallas needs to pay attention to more than just the basics, he said.

“We work hard here in Dallas, and we play hard, too. People want their parks and recreation centers and the opera house and the theaters. We have got to have those things to balance out the ‘work’ part of people’s lives. They are very important assets,” he said.

While others suggest the city cut back in those areas to make up for the lack of revenue during the recession, Natinsky said that instead the city should “reinvent the way the city government operates.

“There is always the question of revenue vs. expenses, but that doesn’t mean you have to cut services,” he said. “If you find more efficient ways to provide those services, you lower costs and you don’t have to cut services. I think you can always find more efficient ways of operating.

“And if we can work more efficiently and at the same time grow the economic pie, grow our tax base, we can lessen the tax burden on everyone who lives here and at the same time continue to provide the services we need.”

The elections

Dallas municipal elections will be held May 14. All 14 council seats and the mayor’s seat are up for election.

The first day to file as a candidate is Feb. 14, and the filing deadline is March 14.

The Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance PAC will be sending out informational packets and setting screening appointments with candidates seeking the DGLA endorsement probably beginning in late February or early March.

Stonewall Democrats of Dallas will hold its candidate screening session on March 19.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Jan. 21, 2011.

—  John Wright

Another candidate files in District 14

Jim Rogers

Although Angela Hunt has not officially announced her plans, a second candidate, Jim Rogers, has filed to run for her District 14 City Council seat in May. Hunt is expected to make a run for mayor after Tom Leppert announced he would not seek re-election.

Rogers said others made the decision for him after a meeting with supporters on Sunday. He filed his paperwork with the city this morning at 9:30 a.m. and his campaign website went live.

Former State Rep. Harryette Ehrhardt, a pioneering LGBT ally, has endorsed Rogers, he said.

James Nowlin, a gay business owner, announced last week that he’s running for Hunt’s seat. More coverage of the District 14 race will appear in Friday’s Dallas Voice.

Rogers said he will attend tonight’s Stonewall Democrats meeting. Stonewall meets at 6:30 p.m. at Ojeda’s Restaurant, 4617 Maple Ave.

—  David Taffet

Nowlin would be Dallas’ 1st gay council member since Oakley stepped down in 2007

In Friday’s Voice we reported that gay business owner and attorney James Nowlin is planning to run for the District 14 seat on the Dallas City Council, assuming that incumbent Angela Hunt steps down to run for mayor.

If he wins the seat, Nowlin would become the city’s first openly gay council member since Ed Oakley, who vacated his District 3 seat in 2007 to run for mayor – a race he lost to Tom Leppert in a runoff.

Oakley’s departure meant that for the first time since 1993, the council didn’t have an openly gay member. But thanks to some strong allies on the council, as well as Leppert’s openly gay chief of staff, the sky hasn’t fallen.

Still, with 14 representatives plus the mayor on the council in the nation’s ninth-largest city, it makes sense for Dallas to have at least one openly gay councilperson. And Nowlin certainly seems like a qualified and viable candidate.

Among other things, we’re impressed with Nowlin’s candidness about his sexual orientation. He hasn’t at all shied away from interviews with the Voice, and he states plainly on his campaign website that, “James and his partner, John, live in Lakewood Heights and attend Cathedral of Hope as well as Unity Church of Christianity.”

Anyhow, following our story, Nowlin sent out an e-mail on Saturday formally announcing his candidacy and requesting donations. We’ve posted the full text of the e-mail after the jump.

—  John Wright

HRC still calling on Target to ‘Make it right’

Target Retail StoreA reader wrote to me last week and said that he and his boyfriend are continuing to boycott Target, and he requested an update.

I contacted Paul Guequierre, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, who said the organization is still calling on Target to “Make it right.”

At issue was Target’s $150,000 donation to MN Forward, a political action committee supporting the candidacy of anti-gay Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer.

Guequierre said HRC has staff in Minnesota working for the Mark Dayton campaign. Dayton is the Democrat opposing Emmer, a Republican.

“Minnesota could be the next state to have marriage equality,” Guequierre said.

But he said that will only happen with Dayton as governor. Currently, Dayton is ahead in the polls.

Target’s parent company was originally called Dayton-Hudson and candidate Dayton, whom Target opposes, comes from the store’s founding family.

Guequierre said if Dayton wins, “Target will have to ask themselves if it was worth it. Their reputation within the community has changed.”

Personally, since being asked to leave a local Target for asking questions while trying to cover this story, I’ve stayed away and am unlikely to go back. I don’t shop where the LGBT community is not welcome, but I really avoid stores where I’ve been thrown out. (The offensive question: Has the LGBT boycott of Target affected your store at all?)

Target once received a perfect score of 100 percent in HRC’s Corporate Equality Index. This year, the company had 15 points deducted because of the political contribution and its refusal to make it right.

Best Buy also made a large donation to MN Forward and has not made it right either.

But Guequierre said HRC has never called for a boycott.

“Both companies treat their LGBT employees right,” he said.

So there is no HRC-sanctioned boycott, but many members of the LGBT community have decided to find other places to shop.

—  David Taffet

Despite apology Target controversy continues

According to the Chicago Tribune, the controversy revolving around Target’s $150,000 contribution to a PAC that supported a virulently anti-gay candidate continues.

In West Hollywood, this weekend, activists plan a day of buying and returning items to the local Target. Each return costs the company $3.

Human Rights Campaign is negotiating with the company to make an equal donation to an LGBT group. They are backed by members of the San Francisco city council. Target has proposed building two stores in that city. The commissioners are holding up approval of zoning for the stores.

In July, Target hired Matt Zabel, right-wing Senator John Thune’s long-time chief of staff to be their government affairs director. The next week, Target made their donation.

When the LGBT community objected, the company took notice. The Chicago newspaper notes that gays are among Target’s most loyal clientele.

Gregg Steinhafel, Target’s CEO, has apologized for the donation promoting the candidacy of the anti-gay candidate for governor of Minnesota, the company’s home state. He said in the future political donations would be reviewed and approved by their board. But the hiring of a partisan figure like Zabel says more about where the company stands than a make-up donation that HRC might extract from the company.

—  David Taffet