Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson made headlines nationwide Friday when he decided to swap political parties and become a Republican. The move was slightly surprising, as Johnson had previously been a lifelong Democrat and was elected as one to his most recent term as mayor. However, the timing of his switch was not shocking.
The announcement in The Wall Street Journal revealed to the nation what many of us have seen recently at 1500 Marilla Street: the mayor’s increasing frustration with a City Council that refuses to set aside partisan talking points and do what’s best for Dallas as a whole.
Johnson unsuccessfully tried to prevent an increase in property taxes and control unnecessary spending. He compared Dallas’ financial situation to that of the Titanic and emphasized the need for its leaders to “turn the ship around” before it’s too late. It would be possible to significantly reduce the budget and lower taxes without compromising essential services, Johnson argued, to no avail.
Determined to kick the fiscal can perpetually down the road for someone else to deal with, the City Council responded to the mayor’s appeals by passing the largest budget in Dallas history — $4.63 billion — and a $120 million increase in property taxes.
The budget fight was probably the last straw, but his switch was an evolution. During budget talks three years ago, the mayor tried to make City Manager T.C. Broadnax reduce staff salaries.
Johnson’s proposal wasn’t seriously considered. Instead, the City Council axed the budget for police overtime by $7 million, stressing a department that needed every possible dime to fulfill its public safety mission.
Last year, the mayor’s attempt to build consensus around ousting Broadnax came to nothing when most of the City Council abandoned the effort, leaving Johnson to clean up the mess.
With the City Council unwilling to work with him on most of his primary objectives, Johnson turned to the community, which favored his common-sense approach in ways most council members should have.
In particular, The Dallas Express lauds the mayor for his focus on reducing violent crime and his efforts to ensure the city remains a draw for people, especially his bold plan to ensure Dallas has the best public park system in the nation. The mayor’s efforts in workforce development also tie in nicely with keeping our city business-friendly.
We wish him success with his new political affiliation, but there is still work to be done. For example, Johnson is correct to celebrate violent crime being on a slight downward trend the past few years, but we can’t afford to be complacent. There are still a lot of violent crimes being committed.
Despite the mayor’s positive statistics, rates of violent crime and property crime remain far too high. Vagrancy runs amok downtown, and it’s getting worse by the minute. Once-great American cities such as San Francisco have become dystopian Mad Max hellscapes due to flawed policies where drug use is permitted and business districts are ruined.
We won’t let Dallas suffer the same fate.
Given the amount of violent crime that still takes place in Dallas, the mayor and City Council have a long way to go to reverse the city’s direction. Downtown is crime-ridden, the police force desperately needs at least 4,000 sworn officers to fulfill its obligations, and homelessness and vagrancy are a blight. And the city is staring down another pension crisis that could result in further staffing issues for the police force.
It takes courage to switch parties and put your beliefs and values on the line. We hope the mayor can use his new affiliation to work across the aisle and deliver more tangible results for all of the city’s residents.
The clock is ticking faster than ever after the bloated budget that just passed. Now’s not the time for a victory lap.
There’s plenty left to do.