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North Dallas mayoral candidate forum leaves one voter pleasantly undecided

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By Eulaine Hall

Four Democratic clubs and North Dallas Texas Democratic Women sponsored a mayoral debate last night (4/28/11) at Northaven United Methodist Church – a perfect venue for the large attendance. Hosting were Knowing more about Chief Kunkle and Mike Rawlings, I was there to decide which of the two should get my vote. Big surprise.

All four candidates were outstanding. Edward Opka blew me away with his brilliance and his ability to give us financial and economic information in a concise and compelling form even I could understand. He drew rare applause from the audience when he asked for more civility and respect for those who have been savaged by words, such as the head of DISD, City Council members, city officers and more.

Mr. Opka wants to make it possible for our policemen to live in Dallas (rather than less expensive suburbs) because a policeman we know as a neighbor is much more valuable to us when he or she knows us and vice-versa. Opka pointed out that a certain “Dark Triangle” he described held a population of 150,000 people with no banks, full-service grocery stores, drugstores, theaters, shopping…nothing. He would work to change that.

Ron Natinsky has an incredible history of service to Dallas – most recently as City Councilman. He has brought major businesses to Dallas in the past, and is unashamedly Conservative – aligned with former Mayor Leppert’s goals. Natinsky is certainly the most experienced of all four candidates. His easy manner makes one know that he could be a very effective, but tough negotiator.

Natinsky has been instrumental in the development of the International Inland Port of Dallas – quite important to the economic development of our region. He brought Fortune 500 business to Dallas at a critical time for the city, drawing praise for that from the other candidates. Natinsky is a native Dallasite and, for all of his adult life, has been a public servant both as volunteer or elected official.

Chief Kunkle stresses his belief that our city government should be most concerned with local issues of its citizens. His vision would promote neighborhood activities to make Dallas even more attractive to new businesses who are already wooed by the basic advantages of no income taxes in Dallas or Texas. Kunkle stated he was running for the office of Mayor precisely to fight the Trinity roadway which he thinks will detract from everything we hope to gain from development of the Trinity River.

Kunkle and Rawlings seemed to have a tongue-in-cheek battle with one another, adding a bit of levity to the debate. The one other applause from the audience came when Moderator Gromer Jeffers, Jr. asked why the Chief thought a kill-free animal shelter was an important issue.  In his reply, Kunkle noted he believed dogs had souls. This amused Jeffers, and he questioned, “You believe dogs have souls?” The audience applauded and shouted “Yes,” in answer to Jeffers.

Mike Rawlings is tall, forceful, with an advertising background and a true passion to sell Dallas in the traditional way. He has connections with CEOs all over America, and enthusiastically anticipates making a pitch to many for moving their headquarters to our city, theoretically bringing more jobs and tax base to Dallas. He says he learned a lot from his experience in South Dallas while on the board of Ace Cash Express, trying to service those who have no possibility for banking their money, confirming what Edward Opka had said earlier about the absence of banks.

Rawlings said we must solve that problem to prohibit loan sharking and exorbitant fees. Rawlings seems to have and interest in Southern Dallas, in particular, and a plan to change it for the better. He also worked to push through building “The Bridge” for the homeless, but wants to go much beyond to provide for homelessness.

I left this debate totally sold on all four candidates, and to this minute have no idea how I will vote. My friends and I agreed we have never had a better slate for Mayor and Dallas wins, whoever is elected.

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