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

Fort Worth council to finalize budget Tuesday; cuts could impact Human Rights Commission

The Fort Worth City Council will hold its regular weekly council meeting tomorrow — Tuesday, Sept. 21 — and a final vote of the fiscal year 2010-2011 budget is on the agenda.

The council meets at 7 p.m., at the budget hearing part of the session is No. 13 on what looks like a pretty lengthy agenda. You can go here to see the entire agenda.

Like most other cities — and counties, and states, and the federal government — Fort Worth’s income from property taxes has dipped considerably, thanks to the significant drop in property values that occurred when the real estate market bubble burst. And that has left the City Council struggling to find a way to maintain services without having an huge increase in fees or the tax rate.

Back in August, Fairness Fort Worth posted this notice, explaining that one of the possible budget fixes the council was considering was to “eliminate the Community Relations Department as we know it.” That possibility left the Fort Worth Human Rights Commission with “grave concerns” over the possibility that, although the city has ordinances protecting its LGBT citizens and other minorities from discrimination, the commission’s ability to enforce the ordinance and investigate complaints would be compromised, since the Community Relations Department was the city department that provided support for that purpose.

I’ve gotten no word yet on whether the Community Relations Department is still on the chopping block, but you can go here to read the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s article today on what’s happening with the budget.

If you can’t get down to Fort Worth City Hall to watch the proceedings in person, you can keep up with what happens by watching the council meeting streamed live on the Internet here.

—  admin