Council incumbents discuss election issues

Angela Hunt, from left, Delia Jasso and Pauline Medrano

Medrano, Hunt face challengers; Jasso unopposed but still plans ‘get out the vote’ effort in April

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Three incumbents — Pauline Medrano, Angela Hunt and Delia Jasso — running for re-election have forged close ties with the LGBT community. All are running for reelection, they said, because they love their jobs and each highlighted particular community issues and economic development in their districts.

The one thing all three mentioned was making Dallas more bike-friendly. Two of them — Jasso and Medrano — returned from an urban biking conference in Seville, Spain last week with ideas on how to accomplish their goal.

 

Pauline Medrano

“Crime reduction, economic development and quality of life issues” are what Medrano said she has been focused on for the past six years on the council.

Running for her fourth term as District 2 councilwoman, she said, “I take my job very seriously. I put in an eight-hour day, and I love it.”

Although she said that people in her district know her well, she is taking nothing for granted as she faces an opponent in her bid for re-election. She said she talks to people around the district daily about what she’s done and what she still plans to do.

Neighborhood watch groups have been a key to crime reduction in the district, Medrano said. She touts the 10-70-20 plans that the police department helps implement — 10 percent of a neighborhood are non-tolerant and actively report crimes, 70 percent are tolerant and uninvolved, while 20 percent make up the criminal element.

By involving more of that 70 percent, Medrano said, one neighborhood reduced crime by more than 30 percent.

Medrano said she always has her eye on the neighborhood. She said she’s out five nights a week and constantly reports street lights that are out.

“If I’m in someone else’s district, I pass on the information,” she said.

Medrano is excited about development coming to her area, including two new Krogers — one at the current Elliot’s Hardware site and another at the former Loew’s Theater site. Both neighborhoods lack convenient grocery shopping and residents asked for her help in bringing the stores to the area.

Medrano noted that Elliot’s is staying in the area and is relocating to a space across from Inwood Station that was formerly a Carnival supermarket.

The CityPlace development will also include new housing units and an LA Fitness.

Medrano called the Green Line expansion that cuts through her district the best economic engine in the area.

She said that with construction of the new Parkland Hospital, the challenge has been to keep traffic in the area moving, but once the rail line is complete, employees can walk over to the new Kroger, shop and then hop on the Green Line to get home.

Medrano said she would like to integrate an idea she got in Spain to her district’s new DART service. She called them docking stations: Run a card through the docking station to get a bicycle. Ride to DART and return it to the docking station there before boarding a train. Take the train to another station and pick up another bike.

Medrano said she talked to someone who runs the bike share program in Seville who told her it was a way of life there.

Medrano called her job a seven-day-a-week job and her work on the council a privilege and an honor.

Angela Hunt

The incumbent that attracted the most opponents in her race for re-election is Hunt, with five. One of them, Chad Lassiter, will appear on the ballot but has dropped his campaign.

Hunt’s delay in deciding whether to run for mayor or for re-election to her current seat may have been a factor in attracting those opponents. In her last two races, she was unopposed.
Hunt said she was surprised she hasn’t had opponents in the past and thought every race should have a choice of candidates, saying a choice of candidates is healthy.

Hunt said she decided to run for the council rather than mayor because, “I don’t think this council can best be run by someone from the council.”

Hunt has her eye on citywide issues like the 2012 bond package, the budget and redistricting. But she has spent a lot of her time on neighborhood issues.

“We need to be focused on more bike-friendly streets and make neighborhoods more walkable,” she said. She wants to add streetcars to downtown. She said the Katy Trail, which runs through her district, has become more than a linear park and is now used as a transportation device. She said she’d like to see the 2011 bike plan fulfilled.

On one issue, Hunt remains a holdout against the rest of the council:

“I’m still against pouring millions of tons of concrete into our floodway,” she said, adding that she wants to see “the parks the voters were promised,” which she said would be an economic generator.

Hunt called improvements to the Trinity River levee system a public safety issue.

Hunt said she has been working with police, business owners and neighborhood groups to solve problems on Lower Greenville Avenue. She said that the city would invest in streetscape improvements this summer, including planting trees and making the strip more walkable.

New zoning will require businesses to obtain city permits to remain open after midnight to lower the concentration of bars.

Hunt said she worked with neighborhood groups and the landlord to change zoning for a property on Oak Lawn Avenue. Neighborhood groups didn’t want another convenience store or liquor store on the street, and the landlord needed additional options for the space. Rezoning will allow the owner to lease the storefront as an office, a restaurant or a variety of other new possibilities.

On the other side of her district, Hunt said that while the city is investing a half-billion dollars to modernize Love Field, she’s working to address noise issues with neighborhood groups when the Wright Amendment goes away in three years.

Delia Jasso

After 20 years of trying, Oak Cliff’s Bishop Arts neighborhood finally has taken off during the two years Jasso has been in office.

“I’ve liked being able to affect Bishop Arts,” Jasso said.

And, she said, she hopes to bring that success to other parts of her North Oak Cliff district.

Jasso said she is working with the city to come up with solutions to improve tricky intersections on Westmoreland Avenue and hopes to bring some of the sparkle back to Jefferson Boulevard.

But while Jasso wants to spread some of the Bishop Arts success, she is keeping a close eye on the successful area.

“I don’t want Bishop Arts to go the way of the West End,” she said.

One difference, Jasso said, is that West End developers worked hard to keep out LGBT-owned businesses while those businesses are an important ingredient in the Oak Cliff success.

Jasso said that during her first term she learned a lot and spent quite a bit of time helping small businesses navigate the city’s complicated permit and inspection process.

“Lucia is a perfect example,” she said.

Without her intervention, that new restaurant, which has already received a five-star rating, would have had a more difficult time opening.

Jasso said she would like to see some of that process streamlined.

Also recently back from the bike conference in Seville, Jasso said, “It’s amazing how easy it is to put in bike lanes. We make it hard on ourselves.”

She said studies show that women are less likely to ride bikes as transportation without buffer zones protecting them from vehicular traffic.

Jasso has become a biking enthusiast herself. She’ll be leading Bike Friendly Oak Cliff on a ride to City Hall on May 22 in honor of International Bike Day, and said she would ride in this year’s Lone Star Ride in September. Among the Lone Star Ride beneficiaries is AIDS Services of Dallas, which is in her district.

In her first two years, Jasso spearheaded an anti-graffiti campaign funded by a $100,000 donation from Mark Cuban. She initiated the GLBT Task Force to update policies and procedures and begin diversity training for Dallas Fire and Rescue. Working with a wide cross-section of animal advocate groups, Jasso also started Dallas Loves Animals.

“We need pet adoptions and [to be taught] how to treat our pets,” she said.

Although she wasn’t on the council when ExxonMobil paid the city $30 million for drilling rights inside the city limits, Jasso said she’s very concerned about the process of  frakking and what goes into the air and water.

Although she faces no opposition in the May election, Jasso said she’s running a “get out the vote campaign” in April to keep people used to voting for city council members every two years.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 1, 2011.

—  John Wright