Editor’s Note: This is the fourth installment of our series of Dallas City Council candidate questionnaires. You can view the first here, the second here, and the third here. We attempted to contact each candidate in every contested race (10 races total), and those who responded with a working email address received the same eight questions. We gave them until April 5 to respond. Below you’ll find the answers to our questions, which we did not edit or abridge.
District 2 is a pretty diverse area, and so is the field of candidates vying for the City Council seat. The spot is being vacated by Pauline Medrano, and another Medrano, Adam of the Dallas ISD Board of Trustees, is looking to win the vote. There are three more candidates, including Vernon Franko, Ricky Gonzales, and Herschel Weisfeld. Although we contacted each candidate and gave them ample time to respond, only Weisfeld returned a questionnaire. Read on for his thoughts on hot-button Dallas real estate issues.
1. In your view, what are the strengths of the Dallas real estate market versus the rest of the nation?
Dallas has an extremely active real estate community and I am proud to have received the endorsement of the MetroTex Association of Realtors representing over 13,000 real estate professionals and also The Dallas Builders Association representing homebuilders from across the Dallas region. The overall quality of life and the diversity of housing options make Dallas a great place to be a homeowner. According to a story published by Yahoo News in February 2013, Dallas is cited as the “sixth strongest real estate market in the country. Homebuyers would be hard-pressed to find a poor real estate market in any DFW neighborhood”. The strength comes from single family homes to luxury high-rise (and vertical housing) options that cross every economic level. Plus, Dallas has invested heavily as a city in the past decade in creating more parks/green space and major arts venues that are attractive and desirable features.
2. What are the next areas/neighborhoods you feel are poised for high-volume growth?
While there are several areas in Dallas poised for high growth volume, my focus is in District 2 with major employers such as Love Field, Parkland/UT Southwestern, and Baylor Hospital, as well as parts of the downtown and Deep Ellum entertainment areas. These are all opportunities for significant growth and vertical expansion. Dallas no longer has a backyard and I see great mixed income and mixed use opportunities for Farmers Market, The Cedars and other projects focused around Transit Oriented Developments.
3. What areas/neighborhoods need the most help and any solutions?
There is a major push for revitalizing South Dallas with the Mayor’s plan, plus there are parts of West Dallas where improvements are needed. I have taken an active role in the Revitalize South Dallas Coalition by supporting its founder, Ken Smith and attending the regularly scheduled monthly meetings because I believe that we must be physically present. The City should consider the value of assisting in the assemblage of smaller tracts of land that would then make economic sense for redevelopment on a larger scale. We should restrict low income housing tax credit projects that are earmarked solely for rental and support home ownership programs and mixed income projects. We must offer expanded mezzanine financing and we must invest in Fair Park.
Having said that, again, I will focus on District 2 where according to the latest economic report from the City of Dallas, there is $1.36B in real property residential taxable value, and this represents 2.5% of the city total residential value. There is true opportunity for improvements throughout District 2.
4. Would you support retaining the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research to do a study of the root causes of decline in the City of Dallas, as it did for NYC during the Giuliani era, leading to one of the most compelling restorations of a major city in history?
The study done by the Manhattan Institute of Policy Research (MI) dealt with many issues New York was facing, from public safety issues to significant budget deficits, etc. In my opinion, Dallas’ challenges today are not as broad as New York’s were in the Guiliani era of 1994-2001. According to MI; “Giuliani took office declaring that city government was too big and taxes were too high. His first two budgets cut the headcount of city employees and reduced spending…” I do believe there is always an opportunity for Dallas to partner with institutions of higher learning and think-tanks to constantly study where we are as a city and where we need to consider moving toward as a positive approach for the overall health and well-being of our city.
5. Would you approving the zoning variance to allow an on-campus lighted soccer field at Ursuline Academy of Dallas, winner of 22 state soccer championships?
I would be willing to support the will of the community. The residents who have made this area their home have a right and vested interest in maintaining the environmental and aesthetic amenities of the neighborhood they have chosen. However, if a democratic solution can be arrived at and the collective neighborhood agrees to make this change, I would be supportive.
6. How would you handle the Museum Tower/Nasher Sculpture Center impasse? Should the Nasher also play a role and adapt some structural changes? Or is the burden purely on Museum Tower and future residential developments to mitigate impact on surrounding structures?
The Nasher opened in 2003 and has brought the caliber of art and sculpture in Dallas to a world class level. The Museum Tower, which opened in 2010, should have perhaps researched more of the impact the structure would bring to the surrounding neighborhood. Now the two organizations must work together to come to an amicable/joint solution to move Dallas beyond this point of negative controversy and publicity for the best interest of the City, the Citizens and the Dallas Arts District.
7. Historic and conservation districts are a great way to maintain a neighborhood’s character, but some older districts have regulations that seem somewhat out of date. For instance, a homeowner in Junius Heights was cited for having xeriscaped his front yard in lieu of a traditional water-hogging front lawn even though our region faces long-term drought. Should alternative landscapes and eco-friendly materials be allowed in historic and conservation districts as a citywide policy change?
Alternative landscapes and water conservation should always be considered since it is the City’s responsibility to be good stewards of our environment and to set a good example. Overall neighborhood beauty in appearance can be maintained without requiring strict uniformity. We need to encourage creative designs that are mindful of our basic resources. We understand that the long term 60 year water plan calls for approximately 23% of our future water usage will be recycled and another 33% is expected to come from surface runoff. I will be an advocate for meeting the needs of our long term water plan by being environmentally conscientious.
8. What is your stance on hydraulic fracturing (better known as fracking) inside the city limits? Do you feel it poses a danger to residents and nearby businesses? Or does the potential income to the city outweigh overblown risks?
The citizens of Dallas have already dealt with the long term effects of lead smelters in West Dallas forty years after we thought it was safe to allow them to exist near residential neighborhoods, schools and play grounds. I would support fracking with the assurance that we can guarantee that we will have clean air, water and surface areas for the future generations of our city without unsightly visual pollution and noise pollution which have all been concerns of our citizens. I do not support drilling or fracking on city parks or close to spaces where harm could be done to the residents of Dallas and would ask that we seriously consider the recommendations of the City of Dallas Gas Drilling Task Force that was chaired by Lois Finkleman.