Despite Various Struggles, ‘Dallas Is The Place To Be Now,’ Mayor Rawlings Says | KERA News

Despite Various Struggles, ‘Dallas Is The Place To Be Now,’ Mayor Rawlings Says

Apr 2, 2014

NPR’s “All Things Considered” is broadcasting from Dallas all week and focusing on Texas, from demographic changes to televangelists.

The afternoon news magazine kicked off its coverage with an interview with Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings.

Dallas has changed through the years, but people can’t shake certain stereotypes of Big D. Rawlings is trying to change that.

Rawlings told NPR: “We're like a young adult now as a city and we've got a lot of energy, a fair amount of testosterone, and we've got a lot of tough issues to deal with. And I'm confident we will. But it's an interesting place. If you want an exciting place to live and work, you know, Dallas is the place to be now.”

As Rawlings talks about his city, he's been criticized regarding the controversial home-rule school proposal he supports that would change the way Dallas ISD is run. On Tuesday, Rawlings met with local reporters and apologized for the rollout, saying it was "misunderstood and poorly executed."

Here are some highlights from Rawlings’ earlier conversation with NPR host Melissa Block:

Interview Highlights: Mayor Rawlings on …

… Moving beyond the stereotypes of the Dallas Cowboys and “Who shot J.R.?” “We've changed a lot in 15 years. It's an amazing thing. People tell me that haven't been here for a couple of decades, they can't believe that we have the largest arts district in the country, a green space, the Trinity flood plain that is nine times larger than Central Park. People are surprised by a lot and what we've done here in the last couple of decades.”

… What Dallas was like in 1976, when he moved to town: “You know, it was like a gallon of white milk on one side and then we had the poorest part of town, but what it drew was great business people all over the country, a lot of big international headquarters were here. I was able to have my career here. And through that time, generations took place and started to change the city.”

… Income inequality in Dallas: “It is very troubling to me. Thirty-nine percent of our population is asset poor. They only have enough money to last them for 90 days if they lost their job. Almost 90 percent of our kids qualify for free and reduced lunch, so if you look at the future of a city and say it is going to be our children - and this isn't 30 years from now - this is, you know, 10 years and 12 years from now - the predictive nature of poverty is not good. And dealing with that and you've got to deal with it through our schools to make sure these kids are ready for a college and a career, those are the tough issues that we face. And I believe, ultimately, we can make progress and I'm very hopeful.”

… How being the city’s homeless czar affected him: “It made it a more interesting city for me, to hear the stories of our homeless and to figure out how to change their lives. It did. It made it a much more textured city and I think that's what we're seeing.”

Read more from NPR’s series “Deep In The Heart Of (A Transforming) Texas.”