City To Promote ESG in 2024 Bond Program

Dallas City Hall
Dallas City Hall | Image by Kit Leong/Shutterstock

City staff say ESG will be factored into the 2024 Bond Program as staff and City leaders deliberate how to allocate funds in the upcoming $1.1 billion bond package.

Assistant Treasury Director Jenny Kerzman said on Monday that staff are working with the Public Finance Initiative Bonds and Racial Equity Cohort “to include ESG, which is the environmental, social, and governmental factors” in public reports on the bond issuance.

“We want to include ESG and equity reporting in the official statements, so we have more information … to highlight those equity factors specifically,” Kerzman said, adding that these reports would be directed specifically toward bond investors.

“Similar to Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) factors designated for bonds and investments, the concept of equity is inherently imbedded in the City’s bond issuance process via the City’s budget, bond propositions, and selection of bond issuance partners,” the staff’s presentation read.

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ESG has garnered vocal opposition over the past several years, as The Dallas Express has reported. Critics argue these goals lead to funds being allocated based on political agendas rather than financially and pragmatically wise determinations. Commentators have alleged that ESG will be used to strip freedom from individual citizens who do not conform to left-wing political goals.

Florida governor and GOP presidential candidate Ron DeSantis signed a bill last year barring the use of ESG when issuing bonds and determining how taxpayer dollars will be spent in Florida.

The Texas Legislature reportedly introduced 12 anti-ESG laws last year, but only one was signed into law — SB 833, which bars insurance providers from considering ESG criteria when setting rates.

ESG initiatives have largely been pushed by private corporations alongside actors within the government. Last year, a group of state financial officers wrote a letter to one of Wall Steet’s biggest champions of ESG, BlackRock, expressing concern “that taxpayers’ best long-term economic interests might have become subordinated to environmental, social, and political interests often divorced from shareholder value — and often pushed through shareholder proposals,” as Bloomberg reported.

Kerzman’s statements came during a Monday briefing to the Dallas City Council Workforce, Education, and Equity Committee on the City’s participation in the Public Finance Initiative Bonds and Racial Equity Cohort.

Dallas was one of eight cities selected to participate in the nine-month cohort, which aims to be “a bold effort to create a new framework that centers racial equity in municipal bond-funded projects and capital investments.”

The 2024 Bond Program ignited divisions at City Hall after City Manager T.C. Broadnax insisted the City move forward with bond recommendations from staff as their foundation rather than recommendations from the council-appointed Community Bond Task Force. Mayor Eric Johnson was in favor of proceeding with recommendations from the task force.

City officials are now in the process of determining the final bond allocations, with issues such as “racial equity” being expressed as priorities of both elected leaders and City staff in regard to how the $1.1 billion bond package should be spent. After the city council finalizes the bond program, it will be placed on the ballot to be voted on by Dallas residents.

It has yet to be officially determined whether the City will hold the bond election in May or November of this year, but Council Member Paula Blackmon noted Monday that the deadline to call a May election is quickly approaching.

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