Dallas City Council Member Cara Mendelsohn discussed the 2024 Bond Program and City Hall’s fiscal responsibility during a Tuesday event with the Metroplex Civic & Business Association.

The MCBA hosted Mendelsohn, along with Council Member Jesse Moreno, for a lunch event on Tuesday.

Mendelsohn highlighted the rapid growth of taxpayer spending that has taken place at City Hall and encouraged Dallas business leaders to participate in civic engagement.

“When I was elected in 2019, our budget was $3.6 billion,” she said. “The budget this year that we had was $4.6 billion. … In five years, should our budget have gone up $1 billion?”

With the upcoming $1.25 billion bond program set to go before Dallas voters in May, Mendelsohn noted the difference between the bond and other sources of funding, such as the General Fund.

“We have over $17 billion of just infrastructure needs identified, but the bond we’re talking about is $1.25 billion. So we’re not going to meet [all of] the needs. And honestly, most of the work that we need to be doing should be budgeted through our general fund,” she said. “We need to be focusing more on taking care of the boring stuff.”

Throughout the various meetings the city council has held on the bond, hundreds of residents have come to City Hall to advocate for “affordable housing.”

However, Mendelsohn explained, as she has before, that other sources of funding are available for housing projects.

“The housing proposition to me is problematic because we have more than a dozen other ways to fund housing,” she explained. “It doesn’t mean we don’t need housing in general. It doesn’t mean we don’t need affordable housing.”

“It just means that there [are] a lot of state, federal, county, and City programs that already exist. We have a [Dallas] Housing Finance Corporation,” she continued. “They can issue bonds that don’t count against [the City’s] debt, which means we [would] have more money to actually fix the roads, the traffic system, [and] our park proposition.”

Mendelsohn noted redundancies in the City’s expenditures, such as the My Rides Dallas program, which provides free rides for seniors — DART also offers a ridership program for seniors.

“We funded DART $425 million of sales tax last year. I don’t think we need to also be funding a senior rides program,” she said. “If the senior rides program that DART has isn’t appropriate, let’s have DART fix the program.”

She added that the City of Dallas also funds a dental care program for seniors despite Dallas County being the government body responsible for public health.

“We cannot fix the world’s problems on a City budget,” she said, echoing Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson’s perspective. “We have to fix the things that we are responsible for.”

As previously covered by The Dallas Express, the Dallas City Council voted last week to move the $1.25 billion bond program forward with $75 million in discretionary funds to be equally divided among each council district.

The proposal also includes $500 million for streets and transportation, $310.5 million for parks, and $90 million for public safety.

Mendelsohn encouraged the business community of Dallas to come to City Hall and make their voices heard.

“It’s important to speak up,” she told the MCBA members. “Your voice is missing because [the people] coming down [to City Hall] are people who are very strong advocates for things you may or may not support.”

Many of the aforementioned activists who come to City Hall to advocate for “affordable housing” are associated with the Dallas Housing Coalition, which Mendelsohn described as “super far-left” and “ultra-progressive.”

The councilwoman said when the council has discussed issues of policing and public safety in the past, several “Defund the Police” activists have come to city council meetings as well.

Meanwhile, Mendelsohn suggested that if more people from the business community speak at city council meetings, they could “move the conversation” in a “more positive” direction.