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Dallas Mayor Calls For Unity, But City Council Turnover Could Be An Obstacle

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Dallas City Council chambers pictured in 2008.

At Dallas City Council's first meeting on Wednesday, newly inaugurated members and familiar faces from South and West Dallas will fill the seats of four ousted incumbents.  

Monica Alonzo, Erik Wilson, Carolyn King Arnold and Tiffinni Young, seen as regular supporters of Mayor Mike Rawlings, won't be at the table.

Tristan Hallman, a reporter with The Dallas Morning News, offers a look at how the turnover could affect the dynamics of the council.

Interview Highlights:

Loss for the mayor of four incumbents: “I would say less Arnold, but certainly Wilson was considered an ally. Alonzo and Tiffinni Young were considered fairly close allies. There’d be some votes where you’d see Tiffinni Young split off. But for the most part, they were considered reliable votes. Now, that said, Tennell Atkins, Dwaine Caraway – they will vote their own way. They’re not going to join another alliance necessarily, but they could also be counted on by the mayor for some votes.”

Changes with the new council: “It’s going to be an interesting few years. There are definitely more swing votes, I would say, on the council now. We’ll see how it pans out. Omar Narvaez, who won in West Dallas, is sort of going to be part of this contingent – which is still a minority – but could swing some votes of bigger issues of council members who are opposed to the mayor.”

Issues on which Mayor Rawlings could benefit from a coalition:

  • The bond package: “The bond package is the big ticket item coming up immediately. It’s hard to draw a philosophical alignment there just because there are so many different interests and everyone wants something different for their districts. It’s really going to be a mess until it all comes together.”
  • DART Board: “There’s a strong contingent on the city council that believes that the Dallas DART board members are not serving the interests of the city. And so they want to replace them with members who will be more urban friendly, someone who will put Dallas first and fight the good fight against any suburban expansions.”

How divisive the new council could be: “There’s a group of council members led by Philip Kingston who are very opposed to the mayor, who are not afraid to say so, and sometimes those debates can get contentious. And the mayor is trying to get out in front of that."

Tristan Hallman, a reporter with The Dallas Morning News, is on Twitter at @TristanHallman.

Sam Baker is KERA's senior editor and local host for Morning Edition. The native of Beaumont, Texas, also edits and produces radio commentaries and Vital Signs, a series that's part of the station's Breakthroughs initiative. He also was the longtime host of KERA 13’s Emmy Award-winning public affairs program On the Record. He also won an Emmy in 2008 for KERA’s Sharing the Power: A Voter’s Voice Special, and has earned honors from the Associated Press and the Public Radio News Directors Inc.