Tolbert ‘Equity’ Inquiry Butts Up Against City’s Transparency Limits

Kim Tolbert City of Dallas
Kimberly Tolbert | Image by Dallas Doing Good

Documents obtained by The Dallas Express reveal that interim Dallas City Manager Kim Tolbert uses racial equity programs to guide City housing projects.

In response to a written Q&A with the Dallas City Council in August 2021, Tolbert, then chief of staff, noted how the administration’s R.E.A.L. Time Rapid Rehousing initiative was being reoriented. At the time, the City of Dallas was developing a metrics dashboard to measure the initiative’s success in reducing homelessness and vagrancy.

Tolbert wrote, “The dashboard will … include analysis of each of these metrics by race and ethnicity to inform practices that advance racial equity.”

In a separate Q&A sent to council members just a few days later, Tolbert elaborated on what the initiative meant.

“The [Continuum of Care] Coordinated Access System (CAS) through which unsheltered residents access the Initiative has a working group that also takes racial equity into consideration in terms of how the system identifies and matches residents with housing,” she wrote.

Despite the mantra of the Dallas City Manager’s Office, “Empathy | Ethics | Excellence | Equity,” the term “equity” is not very well defined in the City’s 78-page 2022-2023 Racial Equity Plan, and its relevance to a housing program remains relatively unclear.

The term equity is vaguely defined on page 16 of the plan: “Equity means that each person has the resources and services necessary to thrive in their own unique identities, circumstances, and histories. Equity reduces disparities while improving outcomes for all. Racial equity occurs when people are thriving and neither race nor ethnicity can be used to predict outcomes.”

The last document obtained by DX revealed Tolbert’s hand in organizing an event to rename a section of Lamar Street to Botham Jean Boulevard. The event hosted Jean’s parents and others who were influential in securing the name change. Jean was a black man who was killed by an off-duty Dallas police officer when she mistakenly perceived him through a window to be an intruder, mistaking her apartment for the victim’s residence.

These documents, three in total, were produced through a highly unusual process.

On March 11, DX filed a public records request with the City of Dallas to obtain information on the renaming of the street and other official acts.

Nancy Gonzales, the open records manager for the City Secretary’s Office, said the files were possibly exempted from public records requests because of an unspecified array of legal protections and could not be released without a decision from the Texas Attorney General’s Office. Then, the City claimed the records did not exist. However, the records mysteriously appeared without explanation, DX previously reported.

DX asked the City Secretary’s Office how the documents that “did not exist” could suddenly appear. DX also inquired how only roughly 17 pages of Tolbert’s work could be provided during a few weeks in 2021 when she worked for the City for many years. The City did not respond.

Given the peculiar nature of the exchange, DX asked the office if documents related to Tolbert’s work product were missing or destroyed. The City did not respond.

As previously reported by DX, polling conducted by the news outlet suggests many Dallas residents think the City has a problem with transparency.

The exchange with the City Secretary’s Office occurred after Tolbert blocked DX from following her on the social media platform X. The block followed a DX series that exposed the left-wing racial content on her account, which sometimes appeared to be critical of police. The social media block may be in violation of the law since several Supreme Court rulings have found it unconstitutional for public officeholders to block citizens from accessing their official accounts.

Tolbert has a long history of working to forward racial equity and other DEI-related issues, DX reported. Many of her social media posts and professional appearances appear to have been in support of DEI initiatives. For example, in one X post, Tolbert was pictured discussing Dallas’ Racial Equity Plan at the National Forum for Black Public Administrators.

She has also previously liked a video of a little girl chanting “No Justice, No Peace” as riots swept the nation in 2020 following the killing of George Floyd. Tolbert also regularly interacts with content produced by Ben Crump, an author whose 2019 book titled Open Season: Legalized Genocide of Colored People uses the deaths of George Floyd and others as evidence that police are committing genocide against black Americans.

Tolbert recently replaced former City Manager T.C. Broadnax, who left the post to become the city manager of Austin. His last day at the helm of City services was Thursday. Broadnax’s administration, which Tolbert has been a part of for years, has overseen taxation, municipal spending, and crime increases. There have also been issues with permitting backlogs and maintaining the security of sensitive City data.

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