Vernon Franko criticizes James Nowlin for criticizing Angela Hunt in District 14

Angela Hunt

It’s not every day that one candidate in a race criticizes a second candidate for attacking a third candidate. But that’s exactly what happened tonight in the District 14 Dallas City Council race, when challenger Vernon Franko sent out a press release criticizing fellow challenger James Nowlin for criticizing incumbent Angela Hunt.

Franko’s press release comes in response to an email sent out by Nowlin’s campaign on Saturday night touting his fundraising lead in the race. The headline of Nowlin’s email read, “Nowlin surges ahead, Hunt a celebrity not a servant.”

“The incumbent is more focused on being a celebrity than a servant and District 14 has taken notice,” Nowlin’s email stated. “Ms. Hunt tried to run for Mayor and failed at that. Now, she is using the 14th District as her backup political plan and that’s unfair to our great city and our district.”

The Nowlin email went on to criticize Hunt, whom it called “entrenched,” for voting in favor of a tax increase. The email also alleged that Hunt is ineffective because others on the council are “openly hostile” to her ideas.

“District 14 lags in consensus-building and suffers for Hunt’s arrogance,” the Nowlin email said.

And apparently that upset Franko, who sent out a press release tonight under the headline, “City Council Candidate Vernon Franko Condemns Email Attack Ad by Candidate James Nowlin as Embarrassing and Immature.”

—  John Wright

Mister Sister

Headlining or opening for Gaga? It’s all the same to Scissor Sisters’ Marquis

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

Scissor-Sisters-red-blinds
MAKING THE CUT | Del Marquis, far right, has sex appeal with bearish qualities, even though frontman Jake Shears, second from right, gets press for taking his shirt off.

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GAGA/SCISSOR SISTERS

American Airlines Center,
2500 Victory Ave.
March 14 at 8 p.m.  $52–$178.
Ticketmaster.com

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Despite headlining their own tours and high profile music festivals for their acclaimed CDs, the Scissor Sisters kinda had a secret agenda when they joined Lady Gaga’s tour as the opening act. As big as the band is, when you go on the road with The Biggest Pop Star of the Moment, benefits abound. The Sisters may not seem like they need the benefits — having their own rabid following — but guitarist Del Marquis thinks it could always be bigger.

“There are only a few people you’d want to open for that are well beyond our capacity,” Marquis says. “We think her audience would get us but may never see us. We don’t get video or radio play, so after our show people may go and look us up.”
Funny, being that Scissor Sisters has just been named to big time gigs at the Coachella festival in April and headlining a night at the U.K. festival, Lovebox, in July. But for Marquis, headliner or not, this shakeup keeps the band on its toes.

“When we headline and we feel like we own it, we work it and peddle our wares,” Marquis says. “But people have paid a certain amount to see Gaga and so we just work harder but in a different way. Yet it’s fun to work for it that way again.”
Besides, it’s less work.

“Oh yeah, half an hour on stage and we’re done,” he laughs.

Vanessa Franko from the InLandSoCal blog wrote recently that “the band is still tragically under appreciated.” Scissor Sisters aren’t an obscure indie band, but their very radio-friendly music doesn’t get the mainstream play. In that regard, Marquis brazenly agrees.

“In the States, yeah, but of course, tragic is a point of view,” he says. “I think we write great songs and we’re great live band.

There are not a lot of both out there. Songwriting is almost just a vehicle to a performer now and some bands are a bore live but have great songs. We work really hard at both things, so we’re a rarity. There are a lot of rock bands and pop stars, but we’re a pop band and, against the odds, become something larger.”

Which the band seems to have found overseas. The Brits love the Sisters, and maybe it has something to do with the band’s constant comparison to vintage Elton John that go even beyond having flamboyant gay members like Marquis and lead singer Jake Shears.

“We do love our U.S. tours, but the audiences seem much bigger in Britain,” Marquis says. “They are really great and there we don’t play to people with arms folded. But really, whether it’s a crowd of 1,500 or 33,000, we play to get an immediate reaction anywhere. We are blessed we do get in that high range of audiences. We want to indoctrinate more people.”

Marquis has enough sex appeal to rival frontman Shears (for that matter, so does fellow bandmate BabyDaddy), but he might appeal to a more fur-appreciating contingent. With the Texas Bear Round-Up around the corner, Marquis and his hairy chest would fit right in. Except Marquis is not inclined to embrace an ursine identity.
“Am I a bear?” he laughs. “No, I don’t like to think of myself as an animal. A lot of my best friends are bears, though.”

Marq
BOY IN THE BAND | Marquis doesn’t mind the ‘opening band’ status when he and the Scissor Sisters are opening for ‘the biggest pop star in the world.’ They just plan to find more fans.

Marquis isn’t shy, but says he is rather ordinary compared to his frontman’s explosive charisma, as seen in the recent coffee table book One Day in the Life of Jake Shears by photographer Tim Hailand. Marquis admits a book about his day just wouldn’t be all that.

“Oh, I don’t think it would be all that exciting,” he says. “I find pleasure in mundane things. I like to walk and garden. I’m not too exciting so all that would have to be staged. My extrovert is on the stage.”

If ever his stage moments are gone, Marquis is keeping his future options open.  If there is ever a post-Scissor Sisters existence outside of music, Marquis hints that it could involve design work or even shrubbery.

“I have a new idea every few months about what the future holds. It’ll always be there in a sense,” he says. “I’m constantly driven by pleasure and fulfillment and inspiration, but because music is so heavily saturating my life, I have to turn to something else as a hobby or a pleasure. So sometimes I think I might get back into design or even small business. I’m even interested in landscape architecture.”

Cooking however, is not on his list. Marquis has admitted to loving food, but don’t expect a dish from his hands.

“Yeah, I don’t cook,” he says. “I like to find boyfriends for that.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 11, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

FEEDBACK: Looking at District 14

Looking at District 14

This spring’s Dallas City Council District 14 race should draw our community into the voting booth in far greater numbers than any prior municipal election. Angela Hunt, the incumbent, announced Feb. 9 that she would run again for her seat. Jim Rogers had previously announced with the stipulation that he would withdraw from the race if Hunt ran.

The Feb. 4 issue of Dallas Voice announced that Erin Lasseter and Victor Franko were also running. I do not know either of them, but I do know the final announced candidate, James Nowlin.

Frankly, I think the race will be between Hunt and Nowlin. They have important commonalities: Both are experienced attorneys, highly analytical, forthright and hardworking.

Their differences are just as striking. Hunt is straight and married; Nowlin is openly gay. Hunt has served three two-year terms; Nowlin would be a fresh face. Hunt considered a run for mayor; Nowlin announced early for the council seat.

And Nowlin is a Stonewaller — a long-time member and former board member of the Stonewall Democrats of Dallas — and a neighborhood activist.

Monday, March 14 is the last day for candidates to file. April 1 is the last day to register to vote or to change your voter registration if you have moved since your card was issued.

What happens in Dallas affects us at least as much as what happens in D.C. Your voice is your vote. So is mine. Let’s speak out loud and proud to assure that our community is heard.

Phyllis Guest
Dallas

—  John Wright

Hunt ends speculation over mayoral candidacy

Angela Hunt, left, and James Nowlin

District 14 councilwoman won’t for mayor, but gay candidate James Nowlin pledges to stay in race and challenge three-term incumbent

From Staff Reports
editor@dallasvoice.com

Dallas City Councilwoman Angela Hunt, a staunch LGBT ally who represents the heavily gay District 14, announced this week that she has decided not to run for Dallas mayor in the May municipal elections.

Hunt will, instead, run for re-election to her fourth term representing District 14. Mandated term limits mean that if she is re-elected, it will be her last two-year term on the council.

Although candidates cannot officially file to run in the elections until Monday, Feb. 14, four District 14 candidates have already filed paperwork with the city secretary designating campaign treasurers.

One of the four — Jim Rogers — told Dallas Voice last month that if Hunt decided to run for re-election to the council instead of for mayor, he would bow out of the race. But another, openly gay candidate James Nowlin, said this week he does not plan to withdraw.

The two other declared candidates for District 14 are Erin C. Lasseter and Vernon Franko.

“Angela made every indication that she was running for mayor, and our campaign team moved forward, and as we were moving forward we received tremendous support from voters across the district,” Nowlin said Wednesday. “Her waiting put the district and the potential candidates in a very awkward position. I’m in it to win it and I’m moving forward to the May 14 election.”

Nowlin told Dallas Voice last month he was confident that Hunt would run for mayor and that he had been discussing the possibility of running for the District 14 seat with her for more than a year.

“I’m not running against anybody,” Nowlin said. “I’m running for the district, and this is about putting the district first.”

Hunt said Wednesday that she had decided to not to run for mayor because she believes she can be more effective as a councilmember.

“For me, it’s never been about what office I hold. It’s about where I feel I can be the most effective and do the most good for my district and the city,” Hunt said. “And the issues I feel most strongly about are issues I can address most effectively as a councilmember instead of as mayor.”

Hunt said those issues are ones that focus “providing top quality basic city services” and projects that enhance the quality of life for the city’s residents, including efforts to “re-energize” the Trinity River Corridor Project and making sure the river levees are repaired and the proposed park built.

Hunt said she is also concerned with the issues of redistricting and the upcoming 2012 bond elections.

“With all due respect to the other [District 14] candidates — I know them, and they are all good people — these are issues that need someone with experience to deal with them,” Hunt said.

The three candidates that have so far declared themselves candidates for mayor are current District 12 Councilman Ron Natinsky, former Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle and criminal defense lawyer Jim Moore.

Hunt said this week she has not decided who — if anyone — she would endorse for mayor. But she did say she believes the city needs someone not currently serving on the council as its next leader.

“I think it will take someone new, someone coming in from outside the current council but who also has experience as a leader” to be the best mayor for Dallas, Hunt said, adding that she is looking for a mayor who will “focus on the issues that are really important to our neighborhoods, instead of on high-dollar, high-profile projects” like the Convention Center hotel, the Trinity River toll road and the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge — all projects that current Mayor Tom Leppert championed.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 11, 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