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Mon June 17, 2013
Election Gives Dallas City Council A New Look: Less Diverse
Hispanics and women lost seats on the Dallas City Council after the May vote and Saturday’s runoff elections. KERA’s BJ Austin reports on what the new council will look like.
Hispanics lost one of three seats on the city council at a time when they are the city’s largest minority. First, council member Delia Jasso lost to incumbent Scott Griggs when redistricting put the two in the same Oak Cliff district. And Saturday, Rick Callahan, an Anglo real estate broker defeated longtime activist Jesse Diaz in a runoff for the newly drawn Pleasant Grove district.
Callahan says he was elected by a diverse coalition of enthusiastic voters.
“People kept saying keep me informed. I want to stay involved. I want to stay in touch. I want to be part of the change agent that we’re trying to be,” said Callahan.
He will represent a majority minority neighborhood that was previously divided into different districts.
University of North Texas political scientist Matthew Eshbaugh-Soha says diversity on the council is important and he says the pressure is on for Callahan and other new council members to deliver.
“It’s wise for these members to represent their constituencies to win re-election," Eshbaugh-Soha said. "The incentives are still there for responsiveness to the constituents.”
Eshbaugh-Soha says voters can make a change in two years if not satisfied.
The new council will have half as many women on it: four. Philip Kingston won Saturday’s runoff to replace outgoing council member Angela Hunt. He says his top priority is the budget. And he doesn’t see gender in the budget numbers.
“The budget means all things to all people," Kingston said. "It’s the start and finish to what the city does.”
Kingston and Callahan both want to see a focus on the basics, such as road and drainage repairs. Both say they’re eager to bring new eyes and ideas to city government.