Dallas City Council candidate Devante D. Peters: ‘I’m from the community and I know the issues’

Davante D. Peters, a community activist/organizer from the Oak Cliff area and candidate for Dallas City Council District 8, submitted the following responses to a Dallas Express questionnaire.

Question: Can you give us a little bit of background on yourself and why you decided to run for Dallas City Council?

Answer: A little bit about myself: I’m born and raised in Oak Cliff, Texas. I’m an activist, community organizer, Music Artist (stage name is “Brotha SHAWT”) and store owner. I own a Holistic Health Store named “Tha Alkaline Hour” at 4414 S. Marsalis Ave in Dallas. I grew up in impoverished communities all over Dallas from Highland Hills, Wynnewood, and Pleasant Grove, but I grew up mostly in Oak Cliff.

My decision to not only run for office but to continue to run, as this is my second campaign, was inspired by exposure to traveling and spending time in communities that do not suffer like the ones I lived in. Coming from Oak Cliff, and attending Hebron High School for a semester, was a culture shock that left questions in my mind at a young age, questions I haven’t been able to answer until recently.

I eventually learned that communities supported by leadership and resources are less vulnerable and exploited. Also, as an activist I got tired of marching, protesting and demanding these corrupt politicians to do the right thing. So, I decided to take my activism to City Hall to advocate for the common everyday citizen of Dallas and to get these crooks out of office that are selling out our communities to corporate interest.

Q. Why should people vote for you?

A. Everyone shouldn’t vote for me; I’m not the candidate for everyone.

I’ve learned that people are content with the ways things are and some benefit from the neglect of the southern sector. There is interest in keeping communities, like mine, down and oppressed. I’m the candidate for those who are seriously fed up with the ways things go in this city. I’m the candidate for people who are ready for palpable change and who are fed up with the exploitation of Southern Dallas. Only people who have a moral compass, who want to live in an equitable city, and who are tired of career politicians lying to them in their faces or lying to them via news outlets. I’m the candidate for those who are tired of those old ways of politics and who want change, I am that change.

Q. What are your strengths compared to your competitors?

A. My strengths compared to my competitors are that I’m actually from the community and I know the issues. I live here, do business here and I interact with people from all types of backgrounds, from affluent individuals to the most vulnerable. I have thick skin and the ability to relate to anyone. I know what to speak to where people can understand me, unlike the incumbent. I’m in the community every day and my heart is in the right place and I actually listen to people, unlike the incumbent. I have my own money and have no desire to make backend deals like former and current black politicians in this city.

Another strength is my ability to inspire people who don’t believe in the system to participate in it, my ability to connect with populations and neighborhoods that most people are scared of and would never engage in. Another strength is my youth, I am the youngest person to run in the city, which is a strength because I’m not married to the old way of politics, I’m the only candidate that can truly engage young people and make politics hip, cool and relevant to young people.

Q. What do you think of the proposal to defund the police and would you support it?

A. I support this proposal to the extent that funds are not shifted to another institution under the “public safety” umbrella and funds are directed to community programs, after school programs, vocational centers (with relevant skills), nonprofit and small business support, services for runaways, affordable/low-income housing and to mental health programs. Defund and divert those funds to these programs and I’m here for it.

The police departments receive way too much funding simply because a militant and occupying force in predominantly black and low-income neighborhoods is contradictory because when my constituents call them, despite police stations being in the neighborhood, they refuse to show up when our neighbors call unless someone is dead. There is no reason police should get all this funding but do not show up when they are called unless a murder took place, or when people, like myself, lead armed shut down of businesses that steal from the neighborhood; such as “Hi-Mart” gas station on Bonnieview and Simpson Stuart funded by Tenell Atkins. He is allowing this store to tax on nontaxable items and steals change from people, but if the people stole from this business the police would arrest them.

When residents of Highland Hills, Woodtown, Gannon and West Moreland, or near the preferred place by Red Bird Mall or in Pleasant Grove call upon the police; they do not show up! So yes, I approve of defunding the police because they aren’t a force that we can depend on. Safety has been taken into the hands of the residents themselves and groups like mine in which I led an armed Community Patrol in the “Greens” or Highland Park Apartments, in which we significantly reduced violent crime in this area but unfortunately our assignment ended abruptly after Tenell and Renee Hall, who I submitted multiple complaints on requesting her to resign, convinced the apartment manager to make us leave the complex. People get killed every two weeks in this community but not while our patrols were taking place.

Q. What do you think about the Black Lives Matter movement?

A. Concerning the Black Lives Matter movement, I’m not sure about the “movement” per se, but I obviously agree with the premise and the phrase: “Black Lives Matter”. I’m not in the business of begging people who obviously do not care about black lives to care about black lives. Not everyone values life in general nor black lives. We share this city with racists and people who have strong ties to racist institutions or families in this city. I do not support the Black Lives Matter organization that is funded by George Soros, spreading confusion in our communities. I’ve yet to see any Black Lives Matters representatives in my community doing anything despite over the $20 million dollars they’ve received in funding, they are not in district* or anywhere in Southern Dallas period, point-blank.

After viewing {its} website and what they stand for it also seems like an indirect attack on black men and the black family and I do not support that one bit. Yes, Black Lives Matter, but do not use our struggle and the deaths of black families to leverage your political agenda and raise funds while not giving money to the families of victims of police brutality.

Q. Dallas Express has learned that there’s a broad-based effort to enact a city charter amendment requiring substantially more transparency by city government. Would you support this measure? 

A. Of course, absolutely. That’s why I’m here!

Q. The city is constantly trying to provide more affordable housing, but it faces an uphill battle. How will you address the housing situation? Will you look at it from a property tax issue, a development issue or a resource issue?  Will you vote for higher taxes so the city can build more affordable housing? 

A. I believe we need affordable housing, but more specifically low-income housing. Affordable is a relative word and may not be the best language to support those who need housing the most. I wouldn’t look at it from any of these standpoints. The city has the money but is wasting it and putting it into meaningless and non-sustainable projects. The city would also waste resources on removing and displacing homeless populations while utilizing zip ties, police shields, patty wagons and man-hours for police officers. We need to find out what programs aren’t sustainable and take money from there. We do not necessarily have to tax the public to provide housing for people.

Q. How will you address homelessness? Do you think the city should be providing more services to the homeless?

A. I will address homelessness by advocating for our homeless citizens, I’m actually submitting this questionnaire late due to me supporting Camp Rhonda and the Dallas police harassing homeless citizens and attempting to throw away their items. I spoke with Chief Castro on the matter, and he admitted to the project taking up various resources to displace this population. The city should provide permanent housing for homeless populations in this city as opposed to taking an aggressive stance against the homeless. I was homeless multiple times in my life so I relate to this population and understand their issues.

Q. Do you feel safe walking around City Hall at night?  Should you?

A. Crime is definitely a problem in Dallas due to the lack of economic opportunity. Most people in my community commit survival crimes because they have limited access to institutions that allow them to become a value to our community as oppose to menace. Also depending on who is doing the crime, they aren’t equally punished as others (i.e Amber Guyger and former Chief Renee Hall.)

I’d fight this by speaking up on criminal activity in the Dallas government as well as find innovative solutions to crime prevention. The police, judicial system and prison industrial complex and their investors need crime in order to have a job so we know the city isn’t concerned with ending crime because that would in turn end their jobs. We are not playing that game, peoples lives are at stake.

Also, police and government officials and developers get away with crime all the time, that’s definitely a problem.

Q. How can Dallas address its trash problem?

A. Pay the homeless to beautify the city. Make elected officials clean up and be in solidarity with the community they are supposed to serve, but we will not hold our breaths on that.

Q. City workers get a number of employment benefits not offered to every citizen. Do you think this is fair? How do we make this more equitable so that all citizens can benefit from what their tax dollars are essentially paying for?

A. No it’s not fair. Every citizen that works, since workers are the backbone of this country, not corporations, need equal rights and benefits especially if they work for a large corporation. We should force these corporations that do business here and the same ones we give subsidies and tax abatements to include this in their contracts and/or agreements with the city.

Q. With all these corporate relocations to the Metroplex, why do you think so few people have relocated downtown?  How do we encourage people to move downtown?

A. I’m not the least bit interested whether people move downtown or not. I care about the southern sector of Dallas to be as affluent as far North Dallas. I’m also much more concerned with people who move to the southern sector of Dallas and the people who been here for decades are treated fairly and are represented.

Q. How will you help the local school districts improve those schools that have struggled? 

A. I will build relationships with Superintendents, Principals, school staff and board members and advocate. I understand that the Council doesn’t have direct influence but they can build and maintain relationships, advocate and collaborate for the betterment of our children’s public school experience. I will hold board members accountable by speaking out and holding community forums. I would like to speak at schools regularly to boost morale in the student body because the youth a lot of the time are not engaged in the school system and don’t have people that look like or talk like them, I will be that person.

Q. In order to solve a problem, it needs to be measured. So how do you measure systemic racism?  How much is there?  And what do you think the city’s role should be in solving it?

A. I’m offended by this question personally, but nonetheless, we can compare how much bank lending is going to communities above and under 30 and compare that.

We could compare school appearances and performance and supplies to those of the same demographics. We could look at the valuation of properties with black citizens compared to similar properties of white owners. We could also compare incidents of deaths caused by police officers, ticketing, speed traps, etc to the same demographics.

The question suggests if systematic racism is not real and/or it’s not measurable. We could measure and compare practices of taking people’s properties through eminent domain and city-supported projects. The city actually is founded on and supports systematic racism, the city should call itself out and denounce its further perpetuation and participation in systematic racism. The city should also close down Fair Park as it is an entire monument dedicated to white supremacy and systematic racism.

I do not wish to continue to speak on what people already understand, but we could continue this through video or voice if there is still a disagreement somewhere; I could write a book on the matter.

Q. If you had to cut $250 million from the city budget, where would you cut it? 

A. To improve the spending of Public Funds I will see where most of the money is going. I’ll assess which programs have been effective and see where we can be more sustainable in those areas. I understand nearly 60% of the budget goes to public safety, therefore I will access the effectiveness in my district and see where we can fund mental health, community improvement and other programs that could put less strain on our public safety departments, and therefore, utilize and allocate funding for community improvement. I would cut it from police and development in the northern sector and money being sent to Israel.

Q. How are you going to help the poorest among us?

A. By being amongst us championing us, having educational resources for us, and supporting permanent and low-income housing.

I’m one of those individuals, actually.

Q. What would be your first 3 priorities if elected to city council?

A. 1. End the food dessert in my district and advocate for a store we are actually proud of and doesn’t add an additional 10% tax to items.

2. Curb crime and violence by bringing vocational centers that give the community access to relevant skills for now and the future.

3. End environmental racism in my district.

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