Dallas leaders spoke about unity Monday at the City Council Inauguration ceremony after bitter election campaigns that defeated several allies of Mayor Mike Rawlings.
The Mayor was not up for election this year and he faces a term limit that will end his time in office two years from now after 8 years at City Hall.
Rawlings denied aspiration for another political office himself but sounded like a candidate in an inauguration speech that promoted city issues and attacked state and federal politics.
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“At times our representatives value their primary electorate above all else and so they cater to the extremes of their gerrymandered districts,” Rawlings said. “We must signal to those who elected us that we reject the politics of division, fear, rage and personal attacks.”
He received standing ovations from the Dallas audience at the Meyerson Symphony Center.
“I think he might have his eye on another seat,” newly elected Councilman Kevin Felder said.
After 4 previous unsuccessful tries, Felder beat an incumbent who was supported by a political action committee run by Rawlings former political consultant. Felder said he and the Mayor have put that aside.
“I’m here to do the people’s business and if I can’t put aside campaign issues, then I don’t need to be here. And I’ve already done that. And the Mayor and I have had breakfast and that’s not an Issue,” Felder said.
The PAC opposed four winners in this year’s City Council elections including incumbent Philip Kingston, a frequent Rawlings opponent on Dallas issues. Kingston said he was impressed with Rawlings’ speech.
“I loved the things that he said,” Kingston said. “He sounded so conciliatory and I think we’ll have great opportunities to work together.”
After the inauguration ceremony, Kingston posed for photos with 3 other members of a coalition that has often sided with him against Rawlings; incumbents Scott Griggs, Adam Medrano and Mark Clayton. Joining that group as a 5th member for the photo is new Councilman Omar Narvaez who was also opposed by the PAC and supported by Kingston in defeating incumbent Monica Alonzo.
Narvaez also denied hard feelings.
“I’m known as a consensus builder and I’m excited to get the job going. The people elected this council and I’m excited to work with everybody on this council,” Narvaez said.
Mayor Rawlings said he is interested in getting things done, not fighting for power.
“Democracy spoke and citizens want this council to come together,” Rawlings said.
The new City Council includes only two women, incumbents Sandy Greyson and Jennifer Gates. Two former Council Members returned to office. Dwaine Caraway and Tennell Atkins who were term limited two years ago, both defeated the incumbents who replaced them.
The first votes by the new City Council were unanimous. Adam Medrano was appointed Deputy Mayor Pro-Tem and Dwaine Caraway was named Mayor Pro-Tem. Caraway held the post in the past and became interim Mayor when former Mayor Tom Leppert resigned for an unsuccessful U.S. Senate campaign.
Caraway praised Rawlings speech.
“It showed true parts of where we have to go,” Caraway said.
The first test comes Wednesday when members discuss a proposed November bond referendum for street repair and other needs.
The new Dallas City Council also faces a shrinking police force and rising violent crime. The futures of Dallas Fair Park and a proposed Trinity River Park are topics of heated debate. Affordable housing plans and a new city budget are key issues as well.