Dallas City Council candidates for District 3, Zarin Gracey and Joe Tave, met with district residents at the Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce on Monday afternoon for a spirited debate.
Neither candidate earned a majority vote in the May 6 general election, triggering an ordinance ordering a runoff election to be held on June 10, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.
Council members approved the runoff during Wednesday’s council briefing.
At the forum, the candidates discussed why they thought they deserved to be the new council member to represent District 3.
Among the topics primarily discussed were code compliance, public safety, economic development, and housing.
Both candidates agreed that code compliance was a pressing concern for District 3.
“I’m going to put people first,” Tave told residents on Monday.
Tave added that after 32 years of the current City officials’ leadership, he wished things were better.
“I certainly wish [the] Code Compliance [Department]… would avail themselves and commit to resolving issues that citizens have,” he said. “If they were just as diligent in making sure that we received the services that we paid for, then things would be a lot better.”
Gracey agreed that there are improvements to be made.
“I think there are a lot of inconsistencies throughout the district … and some of the response times as well,” he told residents on Monday.
Gracey added that he thought the City needed to address staffing issues and engage more with the community.
“Understanding that there’s a shortage across the board in, really, across the United States, but in particular, the City of Dallas that there’s a shortage of staff,” he explained. “So, the first thing is really just recruiting: actively recruiting.”
Gracey said he would have code compliance do what he called “spot calls,” where compliance officials would call residents and ask if their concerns had been addressed.
When candidates were asked how they would approach public safety issues, Tave said citizens must take responsibility.
“Quality of life is not going to improve in certain areas until we citizens and residents of those areas take responsibility for our communities, take responsibility for our children, take responsibility for what is going on in the education system, [and] take responsibility in terms of what our churches will do,” he said. “It starts with families.”
Tave noted he is not in favor of defunding police, telling residents, “We cannot allow that kind of thing to happen.”
“We’ve got to work together,” he added. “And it must start with us as individuals and families and churches and communities to bring about these changes.”
Gracey explained to residents that he received endorsements from the police and fire associations as a testament to his civil commitment.
He also made clear his passion for recruiting police and fire personnel.
Gracey added that he understood the importance of police and fire budgets. He wanted the public to have a deeper understanding of how taxpayer money is spent on these departments.
Regarding economic development, Tave made clear that he wanted proof that businesses that come to District 3, first and foremost, will create jobs.
“I want something in writing before I commit one red cent of your tax money,” he told District 3 residents.
Gracey referenced his work on multiple committees and 16 years of experience in City government as a basis for his approach to economic development in the district. He said that shopping centers currently represent underutilized economic opportunity.
“One of the things I want to do — and this is some low-hanging fruit that exists — is just giving our shopping centers a facelift,” Gracey said.
He also wanted to ensure that businesses that come to District 3 offer residents hourly employment and career opportunities.
Gracey’s approach was part of a two-phase approach to what he sees as economic opportunities for District 3.
Regarding housing, both candidates voiced their dissatisfaction regarding the abundance of low-income housing in District 3.
Tave believed the City has consistently imposed low-income and “affordable” housing on District 3 and vowed to end this practice if he won the election.
Gracey emphasized the significance of neighborhood autonomy in determining aesthetic design and argued that residents should have the power to challenge major developers whose housing projects do not harmonize with the neighborhood’s character.
“D3 has the land and ability to meet all our housing needs, but we need to be more strategic on how we approach that,” Gracey said.