No Labels UTD, a nonpartisan organization on campus, invited Dallas mayoral candidate Marcos Ronquillo to speak with students May 4. Ronquillo, who is running against current mayor Mike Rawlings, spoke about his focal issues of concern — connectivity and neighborhood development. Elections are May 9.
Listen to his talk at the event here:
Q: What made you decide to run for Dallas mayor?
MR: Well I’d been working on a whitepaper for about a year and a half and it was published in the Tower Center, SMU called “Texas: Quality of Life at the Crossroads,” and doing that paper I came across these two books — Parag Khanna’s “The Second World” and Benjamin Barber’s “If Mayors Ruled the World.” This was a year-and-a-half, two years ago. But before then I had been always mentioned as potential candidate for something and within last couple of years, a potential candidate for mayor for Dallas. Since Dallas didn’t have, and take care young lady, Dallas hasn’t had a Latino mayor, a lot of people asked me “Hey, would you like to run?” and I said I would. But I wouldn’t run as a Latino, I’d run for everybody.
Q: Apart from transportation, what are your plans for downtown, uptown and the residential neighborhoods of Dallas?
MR: If you have a good policy, it should be for everybody. To me, my biggest concern was disparity in the delivery of public services. It doesn’t sound too sexy, it doesn’t’ sound too glamorous. You want to make sure that all communities are getting potholes filled, water, energy, tree ordinances, things that happen all the time, no matter where you’re at.
The delivery of basic services should not be dependent upon how good your city council is or how bad they are. They should be argued upon based on analytics and metrics.
In my law practice, I look for the best experts in the world and in my law practice I get paid to produce, there is no grey area. Either I win or I lose. I get the transaction done or I don’t. And I think it should be like that with the delivery of services at the City Hall. It should be nonpartisan, it shouldn’t ethno-centric. It doesn’t matter what part of the city you’re in. To me, every neighborhood needs to have a basic modicum of services.
If we did that, then these communities … that don’t have infrastructure would have infrastructure. Those communities that are living off of septic tanks would have their water maintenance and water treatment facilities. We have got to bring everybody up to ground level.
Q: Where’s the bottleneck?
MR: Well, there’s a couple of things. One’s (say) that they need the money and to pass an ordinance, others say they have the money but so slow to fund it and some say they have the money but different priorities….We have a $10 billion current inventory. So everything from road repair, bridges to education, buildings, recreational facilities and city owned assets — there’s a laundry list as long as my arm — that since 2006, we’ve been kicking the can down the road. Every city council comes and looks at it and says “Let’s do something different.” So now, the current needs inventory has crept up to a little under $10 billion.
The second part is that there is another fund called the General Enterprise Fund and there we have a current needs inventory of a $101 million and that’s including the convention center, police and fire protection facilities. So why are we not setting our priorities and why are we kicking the can down the road? Well, it’s politics.
With analytics you take the ethnocentric politics out of the equation. It’s all black and white. They say the most successful projects in Dallas didn’t start at City Hall, they started in neighborhoods because they knew what their needs were.
Q: What were some of these successful projects?
MR: Bishop Arts, Klyde Warren Park, East Dallas projects all started with community-based organizations.
Q: You speak of building mixed-housing but there seems to be a fear, a paranoia even, of mixed-housing communities and the security concerns that come with it. Your thoughts?
MR: The problem with that is that first off, you’re trying to drop in, because of a court order, a very artificial environment. It’s sort of like you have a stable neighborhood and you want to parachute in an organism that’s not even a part of the ecosystem. What if that organism was the basis of your ecosystem, because before, there was nothing existing out there? Here’s the trick: you’re going to have over-developed suburbs and now the developers are going to look at South Dallas and say “Gee, it’s all the way in South Dallas.” But wait a minute, if DART comes in, if the city comes in and we create neighborhood associations to come in, we have finally someone to work with.
But, that means we have to integrate neighborhood associations, the city and you have to have philanthropy, the academia, places like (UTD) and wise investments moving away from the merchant builders. And you give smaller businesses those incentives.
Q: But then we have the classic chicken and egg problem — which comes first? The investment or the people?
MR: My generation is toast, but your generation, the millennials want to live in diverse mixed-income communities. Millennials don’t carry the baggage that those of us in the 50’s and 60’s have.
Q: If elected, how do you plan to change the legacy hierarchy in the City Hall?
MR: That’s the hard part and that’s the easy part. When I got to Dallas in the summer of ’79, the precursor to (the city council) was the Dallas Citizen’s Council. It’s a legacy of the business community working basically with the goodness of their hearts to select a new mayor of Dallas. So except for Wes Wise in the ’70s and Laura Miller in contemporary times, Dallas has never selected its own mayor.
We need to select our own mayors. We need more citizen candidates that need to step off the ledge, get the newspaper in the morning and read it over a cup of coffee like everybody else saying, “You know what? I need to run for mayor,” that didn’t ask for permission and didn’t ask the powers that be. And that’s how you change things.