District 13 Debate Recap: Trinity Water, Redevelopment, Police Shortage

District 13 city council candidates agree on at least this much: They’d rather run around NorthPark Center in the uniform of a Dallas Cowboys opponent than drink untreated water from the Trinity River; they’d also never consider moving from Dallas to University Park.

Those answers came in response to a couple of fun questions from D Magazine editor Tim Rogers, who moderated an otherwise often tense debate Monday night at the Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas. Watch the debate here.

(FROM LEFT: Tim Rogers, Jennifer Staubach Gates, and Laura Miller. Photo by Elijah Smith)

D Magazine is a sister publication of Preston Hollow People, which sponsored the debate between incumbent Jennifer Staubach Gates and former mayor Laura Miller.

In exchanges that D described as “punchy,” the candidates spent most of the hour tackling issues surrounding approaches to development and public safety.

Gates has sought to make temperament and style an issue in the race, presenting herself as the leader able to work with all stakeholders and willing to withhold judgment until the zoning process has allowed all voices to be heard.

“You are going to see a lot of differences here tonight – and I’m the one who is going to be able to get things done,” Gates said.

Miller has been critical of Gates’ approach, claiming it shows a lack of leadership that puts neighboring residents on the defensive in zoning cases.

“That’s the stark difference between the two of us this evening: decisiveness vs. vacillation, strength vs. weakness, action vs. hesitation,” Miller said.

Preston Hollow People had originally planned to have the debate elsewhere on March 28, but Gates dropped out when the 250 free tickets made available online went too quickly and a larger venue could not be found in time.

Voters encouraged the candidates to reschedule and the campaigns agreed to a new date and location. More than 500 people made reservations for the event at Jesuit and newspaper staff checked in 343 people before the debate began.

On Monday, Gates indicated early on in the debate that she was eager to talk about public safety and her efforts to raise officer salaries and reserve a shortage in the police department.

Gates, who has the support of the police association, blamed the officer shortage on troubles with the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System, a crisis she traced back to lack of oversight during Miller’s time as mayor, 2002 to 2007.

Miller blamed the pension problems on bad investing that started long before she became mayor.

During remarks on development along Northwest Highway, Miller criticized Gates for veering away from the ideas outlined in the Northwest Highway and Preston Road Area Plan adopted in 2017. She held up the plan and promised to bring it back.

“You know the way you protect neighborhoods?” she asked. “You listen to the people who live in those neighborhoods and you do what the majority of them want, because you are elected to protect them. That is your job.”

But Gates said that protecting neighborhoods also involves making sure commercial and multi-family properties adjacent to them are redeveloped when needed and done so in quality ways.

“We’re growing in the city of Dallas,” the council member said. “We have got to be able to grow appropriately.”

William Taylor

William Taylor, editor of Park Cities People and Preston Hollow People, shares a name and a birthday with his dad and a love for community journalism with his colleagues at People Newspapers. He joined the staff in 2016 after more than 25 years working for daily newspapers in such places as Alexandria, Louisiana; Baton Rouge; McKinney; San Angelo; and Sherman, though not in anywhere near that order. A city manager once told him that “city government is the best government” because of its potential to improve the lives of its residents. William still enjoys covering municipal government and many other topics. Follow him on Twitter @Seminarydropout. He apologizes in advance to the Joneses for any angry Tweets that might slip out about the Dallas Cowboys during the NFL season. You also can reach him at [email protected]. For the latest news, click here to sign up for our newsletter.

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