Council Member ‘Belittles’ West Dallas Residents

West Dallas
GAF shingle plant | Image by Azul Sordo / KERA News

Some residents say they feel “disrespected and belittled” by their council member, Omar Narvaez, over concerns they expressed about a shingle plant in West Dallas they claim is polluting their community.

The District 6 representative held a community meeting with his constituents on Saturday, during which residents raised concerns about the GAF shingle plant on Singleton Boulevard, according to KERA News.

Residents have taken issue with the plant for many years, expressing concern over possible air pollution and alleged health risks, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.

A grassroots campaign to shut down the plant has been underway for two years, and residents are now asking Council Member Omar Narvaez for his support. However, some said they felt “belittled” and “disrespected” by his response.

On Saturday, residents asked Narvaez to publicly oppose a drafted amortization ordinance that could limit the rights of residents to file for a forced closure of the plant. The council member claimed his weighing in on the matter would be unethical and possibly illegal. Residents reportedly pushed back and asked what specific codes or laws would be violated.

“From what I hear from you, you’re just like hiding behind rules and ethics,” said resident Esther Vasquez, per KERA News. “You’re not really trying … people are here because we want to see change. But you put up this wall of hiding behind rules and ethics.”

Narvaez argued the issue was complicated and noted that GAF had already planned to voluntarily leave the area by 2029, a move previously covered by The Dallas Express.

However, residents maintained that 2029 is too far into the future. According to Narvaez, a zoning proposal that could rezone the entire area is “getting closer” to a city hearing, but he said the whole process would take a minimum of two years.

Janie Cisneros, leader of the Singleton United community group that has been working to shut down the plant, said all attempts residents have made to close the facility have been stalled by the City.

“Everything is going in favor of giving GAF more time to stay here,” said Cisneros, per KERA News. “It’s not very complicated for us that we are out here inhaling poison … It’s not complicated for us that we want the poison to cease. We want [the] toxins gone.”

Cisneros asked Narvaez on Saturday why they have not heard anything about him backing them on the issue. The council member claimed he was “ethically and legally” barred from publicizing his opinion on the issue.

“I am supposed to allow the process to go through without directly or indirectly influencing the commissioners and the commission,” he argued, according to KERA. “Let’s say it’s a 50/50 split between the community — I’ve just told half the people that I’m never going to listen to you again.”

After the meeting, multiple residents told KERA they were not happy with how Narvaez handled the situation and questioned whether City officials were actually working to serve the interests of Dallas residents.

“I am appalled at how he disrespected and belittled his constituents,” said Cisneros, per KERA. “He is not willing to fight for his frontline residents. It was very clear that Omar Narvaez is City Hall first, not people first. … We’ve been expecting a champion, a gladiator because that is what he claimed … turns out he’s not.”

The City Plan Commission is scheduled to take up the proposed amortization ordinance in early 2024 and may consider GAF’s zoning change application at the same time.

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