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Former Councilman Lipscomb and Other Candidates Cite Need for New Representation in District 8

By Bill Zeeble, KERA 90.1 reporter

Dallas, TX –

Bill Zeeble, KERA 90.1 reporter: James Fantroy faces a crowded field of five opponents in Southern Dallas' 8th council district. Some are former committee appointees who resigned, saying the incumbent failed the district. Best known is the man Fantroy succeeded in office, supported financially, and never expected to face May 7th - Al Lipscomb. At a recent League of Women Voters election forum, Fantroy, sitting with District 8 candidates Claire McDade, E. Ruth Steward, and Lipscomb, unleashed his campaign cry.

James Fantroy, Incumbent, Dallas City Council District 8: Ask yourself who got indicted? Ask yourself who got convicted? Ask yourself these questions and you'll see I brought integrity back to the community. I brought development. There hadn't been new houses here in over 30 years!

Zeeble: Lipscomb, barely looking bothered by Fantroy's forum invective, says his own run should not be taken personally by the incumbent.

Al Lipscomb, Candidate, District 8: I haven't denigrated him one way shape or fashion since this race started. It's my right to run, to withdraw, and my right to file again.

Zeeble: Lipscomb acknowledges his damaged reputation, but says he's learned his lesson. On the other hand, a recent Channel 4 story suggests Fantroy may also be damaged. He's the treasurer of a community development corporation - a CDC - that received nearly $600,000 in government money. $50,000 of those dollars allegedly ended up in Fantroy's pocket, which would be illegal. Fantroy says he did nothing wrong, and has sued the CDC. But his reimbursement check for $8,000 is $42,000 short. SMU political science professor Matt Wilson says no matter: Fantroy and Lipscomb are still the ones to watch.

Dr. Matt Wilson, Political Science Professor, Southern Methodist University: The winner's almost certainly going to be one of the two scandal-tainted candidates. They're the ones with the name recognition.

Zeeble: But that's not stopping Fantroy's challengers, all of whom say they're running, in part, because Fantroy didn't tell residents about changes in this southern Dallas district. Most frequently mentioned is the site shift for the planned UNT-South Dallas campus. Candidate Theresa Washington - who was interviewed but didn't want her voice aired - says Fantroy worked to move the site from Interstate 20 and Bonnie View Road to Houston School Road and Lancaster, off Camp Wisdom. At the forum, candidate Ruth Steward said the change surprised local residents, and many don't like it, because the campus would cut them off from roads and neighbors.

E. Ruth Steward, Candidate, District 8: Notify people in those areas. Talk to the people with respect and people will respect you and talk to you and you'll get more done in the community. At this time, we don't have that type of representation in District 8. We don't have the respect.

Zeeble: Fantroy rejects his opponents' accusations, saying he reaches out to residents through town hall gatherings.

Fantroy: I'm one of the only councilmen to hold at least six community meetings every year, to keep the citizens involved in what we're doing and what we're trying to do. And no development comes into the district unless I have a meeting with the citizens and explain to them what's coming in to the district.

Zeeble: Candidate Adrian Drake, a 35-year-old businessman, says explanation or not, bad projects have come into the district on Fantroy's watch. They include truck stops near a new youth center he wishes his 11-year-old daughter could use.

Adrian Drake, Candidate, District 8: But next to it is two truck stops where you have drug dealers, prostitutes and drug users that walk continually. So no parent in their right mind is going to allow your kid to walk to the neighborhood.

Zeeble: Drake says as a council member, he'd work to increase police patrols around truck stops and other high crime areas. Crime, after all is everyone's top issue. Fantroy says he'll try to close the worst of the truck stops, built before he took office, but warns truck stops also improve the district's economy. Economic development is another top issue for the candidates. Drake and Fantroy advocate tax abatements to attract business. Lipsomb says drug crime and poorly-educated youth must be tackled first. Only after those problems change will business flourish in the district. Ruth Steward would ban apartment construction, because, she says, too many poorly-maintained apartments hurt the economy. Claire McDade, who works at Paul Quinn College, offers a different solution to spur the economy.

Claire McDade, Candidate, District 8: There's not enough marketing in the area or things necessary for the convenience of the people in the area. So marketing would be one of the things we need to do.

Zeeble: On the citywide topic of the Blackwood Strong Mayor proposal, every District 8 candidate opposes it except Steward, who says city hall needs a change. But SMU's Matt Wilson says it may not matter where these candidates' stand on issues.

Wilson: Most people, in any city, any election, are fairly ignorant of policy issues that confront city government. So if you generate excitement, it must be personality driven.

Zeeble: At a nearby car wash, District 8 resident Marsha Jackson proves Wilson's assessment that personality and personal actions matter.

Marsha Jackson, Resident, District 8: I won't vote for Fantroy. My house flooded in July. He came out, looked, said he'd get us some help. Never heard from him again.

Zeeble: As for the other candidates, she's also never heard of any except Lipscomb.

Jackson: I don't know if it's going to be Lipscomb. Might be. 'Cause he did look up for us when he was here. Everybody's had problems before. If you look at a lot of people's background, they probably had some, just hadn't come out. I always try to give a person a second chance.

Zeeble: But District 8 resident Rosemary Ward is of a different mind. She likes the incumbent.

Rosemary Ward, Resident, District 8: I think Fantroy's stronger. He's helped the community out more. He got us new buildings, land development.

Zeeble: Because of the six-person race, observers expect a runoff. Early voting ends May 3rd. Election Day's Saturday, May 7th. For KERA 90.1, I'm Bill Zeeble.


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