The Dallas Morning News offered it's day-after campaign highlights in today's edition. For Garland, they said:
WHO WON: Douglas Athas defeated his closest competitor, Larry Jeffus, by a large margin for the Garland mayor's seat. Current Mayor Ron Jones could not run for re-election because of term limits.
CAMPAIGN RECAP: Both Athas and Jeffus served together on the Garland City Council from 2006 to 2012. Athas waged a high-dollar campaign by outspending his three opponents combined, according to finance reports.
That last line struck a foul chord with me. Seriously, there is nothing in our campaign reports that shows we ran a "high-dollar campaign." Campaign reports filed to date are only snapshots; all the bills may not be in for any of the campaigns and may not yet be reported. That is true in our case. If we're high-dollar now, how will they characterize the real numbers?
What has been reported to date doesn't come close to what was spent in 2007, the last time there was no mayoral incumbent. So how's that "high-dollar?" What will ultimately have been spent in this race isn't a drop in the bucket to the Dallas races, especially the featured DMN race between Staubach Gates and Burk. The same highlights mentions the Richardson mayoral race. The final numbers for Garland won't be anywhere close to what was spent in Richardson.
One Garland mayoral candidate has reported no contributions and $27 in expenditures. Yet he had a billboard on I-30 and nice signs all over the city and at polling locations. Obviously his final report will be much different. Other campaigns sported new signage and media advertising toward the end. Final reports will be quite different than what has been reported to date. Nothing wrong with any of that. The point is that the DMN calls a Garland race "high-dollar" while they reported genuine high-dollar races, but characterized the Garland race with little actual evidence or historical perspective.
They could have said:
Athas received much more in contributions that his opponents. Or, Athas displayed much wider community support and endorsements than his opponents. Or even, Athas used his campaign funds for direct communication with voters rather than media buys.
Or they could have said many other things that would have been less prejudicial and actually informative.
The final results may well be high-dollar for Garland. We did spend more than our opponents appear to have spent reaching voters. With very limited sources of community news, it is a challenge for any candidate to share his or her message with voters.
Where's the press when you need them?
There are a number of forums during the campaign season by a number of organizations that sincerely try to assist voters by engaging the candidates in some degree of questions and answers. Yet without a press present to fact check the answers or to compare them from forum to forum, the answers often prove to be conjecture presented as fact, claims of success not earned, self-credit for someone else's sweat, or a two-minute dodge.
Government should be honest in its intentions. (Same goes for candidates.) Abuses can be rampant when the press is watching. What happens when it isn't?
Credit goes to CBS anchor Scott Pelley for his remarks at Quinnipiac University:
... [T]he republic relies on the quality of the news business. "Democracies succeed or fail based on their journalism," said Pelley. "America is strong because its journalism is strong. That's how democracies work. They're only as good as the quality of the information that the public possesses. And that is where we come in."
I'm committed to openness in government. I know the council and staff are.
However, as Ronald Reagan often said, "Trust but verify." Garland needs a greater presence by the press and more accurate assessments.
It has been an exciting day. Garland has elected me as it's new mayor. I could not have asked for more than to have been chosen by a majority in a four-way race as the new mayor. I am humbled and honored.
Here are the results (in ballot order):
|Harry J. Hickey||36||40||66||0||0||142||2.02%|
First, my congratulations to those others in the race. Each ran a hard campaign and each offered excellent ideas for Garland's future. Running unopposed is much easier but three opponents are much better for helping to define the goals and ideas that we need to move forward as a city. While I'm proud to have carried the vote, Garland is already stronger for having had several visions from which to choose.
Second, I have to thank my family for their unwavering support, for my campaign workers that literally gave their lives unto the campaign, for my endorsers that gave their name and reputations to my quest, to the contributors that gave their treasure, and, most importantly, to the voters that gave me their trust and mission.
I will work everyday to be worthy of this honor and challenge.
I gave only two promises in this campaign. One is very clear: I promise to move Garland forward. We’re ready; we’re primed. And I promise you’ll be able to measure the progress. If I couldn’t make that promise, I wouldn’t be running. (A hat tip to Brenda Ray.)
Larry Jeffus sent out robo-calls today with the Caller ID showing that it was Representative Angie Chen Button calling. It wasn't. She had no idea the calls were being made and did not approve them in any way. She learned of the calls when Jeffus called to apologize, telling her only a few hundred calls were made before the error was caught.
As he does professional campaigning work, he has made robo-calls for candidates before and seems to have inadvertently loaded the wrong information for his own calls.
The practice of using someone else's number instead of your own is referred to as "spoofing." The FCC can fine individuals up to $10,000 per call.
I learned of the mistake when Representative Button called to tell me of the incident and to assure me she had no part in the calls. She expressed her regrets to have inadvertently been drawn into a local race, especially while she is spending virtually all her time in the closing days of the 2013 Legislature.
She approved my posting this message to explain the situation.
I don't believe he intentionally used the fictitious Caller ID information and don't intend to make an issue of it but it is important that the mistake be acknowledged and proper apologies expressed.
Received a call this morning from the DMN asking about my involvement with Let Us Vote! in 2006. It's pretty well known that I was the spokesperson and one of the leaders. Several months after the court decision had been rendered in favor of Let Us Vote!, the defense fund filed a claim for legal expenses with the city for over $34,000. The claim was paid and those that had contributed to the defense fund received over 96% of their contribution to the fund back since most of the expenses were purely legal costs.
We've known for weeks, months really, that there were plans to claim that I and others pocketed the refund, even though some, like Mayor Jones, had told them that they received a refund. (We—Let Us Vote!—don't reveal the names of those that contributed but Mayor Jones has made no secret that he was a contributor.)
Add this to some of the other claims they've made: that Mayor Day and I orchestrated the move two years in advance, that we manipulated them into not calling elections so we could get rid of them, that we manipulated the claims process by putting pressure on the staff, that we wanted to get rid of them so we could run for the council.
Here's the truth: five of the 2005-6 Council were so corrupt that they gave no thought to cancelling elections, that they invented excuses to not call elections, that the since-fired city attorney told them they were "vested" in office (equivalent to having a property right to office), and they didn't even question the sanity of any of it.
Although one of those five is in the race for mayor, I don't know that he has anything to do with these claims to the DMN, and I don't know that he isn't in the middle of it. (The DMN didn't reveal sources.)
Bottom Line: I presented bank statements and other evidence to the DMN today to prove that all the money from the claim was subsequently distributed. Neither I or anyone else profited from fighting for our rights as citizens and for free elections. None of those that contributed and risked much for the citizens ever received all their money back.
I hope to be mayor. I think I can do a lot to move Garland forward. However, I will never be more proud than I am to have worked with so many that cared enough to protect the City Charter and the law by suing the city council and restoring elections to the citizens. We protected the liberty of citizens from the tyranny of the Gang of Five. They cost the citizens at least $150,000 for outside counsel and other expenses. That doesn't include the staff time, the overtime, the cost of a special election, or the many other intangible costs.
Garland is famous for it's eleventh-hour hit pieces in an election. Maybe when the DMN confirms their fantasies are just that—fantasties—they'll let it lie. However, they've not shown clear thinking in the past and there is a strong chance that they'll try to launch some vindictive hit piece before Saturday's election. Oh, well, you already know about it and will be able to see it for what it is: another hit piece.
In the negative campaigning realm, a supporter was told last night by someone on the phone that she wouldn't support me because I had a long criminal history, that I had multiple arrests in multiple states under MULTIPLE NAMES. (No mention apparently of multiple sets of fingerprints or DNA.) When asked where she got this incredible information, she named an opponent's campaign.
When the negativity gets this negative, it's a positive.
To quote Popeye, "I ams what I ams," and I'll add that I'm not anyone else, if that clears it up for anyone that doesn't catch the shear illogic of the claim.
I'm getting lots of emails about what the other candidates are doing in reference to campaign signs, especially that we aren't sticking signs where others are. Yes, our campaign is following a different set of rules: the legal ones.
Here are the basic laws on campaign signs: (1) signs cannot be placed in the right-of-way, (2) signs that can be seen from the road must have a notice that it is a violation to place the sign in the right-of-way, and (3) signs can only be placed on properties that owners have given permission.
All Athas Campaign signs meet these laws. (Although an enthusiastic supporter might occasionally stick one too close to the right-of-way—we'll correct those we learn about.)
The biggest complaint we are hearing about are the large, hand-painted signs that are actually the back of Rep. Stephanie Carter signs that have been sandwiched together. The hand-painted signs don't contain the required right-of-way notice (a $4000 state Ethics Commission violation) and many have been placed in public rights-of-way or on private property without permission.
Rep. Carter did not know her signs had been taken and used by someone else (a felony violation if she presses charges). When that campaign was contacted by the city secretary about the lack of proper legal notice on the signs, the excuse reportedly given was, "Someone must have stolen all our stickers." Uh-huh. Several land owners have already contacted that campaign and others to remove their illegal signs, or the owners have simply done so themselves. Haven't heard the excuse given for illegal trespass.
All those signs between the curb and sidewalk: illegal. Even those at early voting. That Athas sign on Walnut near early voting? On private property with permission.
Along Lavon where there are Athas signs and others? Only the Athas signs are legally placed; we have permission for our particular locations. Same for most of the vacant parcels with Athas signs along 190 and Centerville and other areas.
I have never been a paid consultant to political campaigns but we know enough to stick with the rules nonetheless.
The Dallas Morning News article mentioned in the previous post gets particularly interesting at the section entitled "Picking at Scabs."
It's easy to see who is the perceived front runner when the others start slandering you.
In the article, Harry Hickey claims I have had multiple charges against me in other states. Purely conjecture and absolutely false. As reported, I had the one DWI twenty years ago. No news flash. I have been upfront about it and even posted about it here on my blog seven years ago, all acknowledged by the DMN.
In an effort to find some "dirt" on me, Harry or whomever ran an Internet background check on me. Such checks are notoriously inaccurate. Still, for me, most searches simply show the Texas case and nothing else. A couple databases do mention the "not specified" Contra Costa County case. There are no records of a charge against me in Contra Costa County. A clerk suggested the case number indicated it might be for a "fix-it" ticket. I did receive a fix-it ticket from a police officer in Walnut Creek in 1990 that my tail light was out and not working, which I appreciated learning. He explained to me that the ticket would be removed if the light was fixed within a certain time frame and signed-off by a judge or police officer. I did all that.
I moved from California back home that same year and never heard any more about the matter until this week. There is no mention on most databases of the charge, probably because I have been positively cleared by the Contra County courts.
The whole accusation is just another attempt to "drive up my negatives." Here's why you might take Harry's statements with a grain of salt:
1. When Harry was on the council before, he tried to cancel elections as part of the Gang of Five but he lost when the courts ruled there had to be elections. Since I led that effort, he might hold a grudge.
2. He told the DMN Editorial staff through the Voters Guide that he had "No arrest No criminal No civil suits." In fact, he has had at least three financial judgments against him since 2008, a bankruptcy, a foreclosure, and a divorce. You can run a check through the online databases to confirm.
Sunday's Metro section of the Dallas Morning News carried an article to proceed Early Voting that starts Monday.
It could be soap opera as bankruptcies, gun-toting through the airport, and wild charges of drinking and driving were made by some of the candidates. It makes for educational reading:
Ron Jones’ mayoral bandwagon in Garland gained such momentum that by his third term, nobody ran against him.
But with the popular leader term-limited, four candidates are now vying to lead the second-largest city in Dallas County. Early voting for the May 11 election starts Monday.
Douglas Athas and Larry Jeffus served with Jones for five years, each coming off the council in 2012 after three terms. While making citywide decisions, Athas was elected in the city’s growing northern area that includes the Bush Turnpike corridor while Jeffus fought for redevelopment in his south Garland district.
Harry Hickey, meanwhile, says that Garland’s real growth came a half decade earlier during his own five years on the council. He takes much credit for the Bass Pro Shops development that happened then on Interstate 30 in his district.
And Delores Elder-Jones may not have the political experience, but she has worked in the public sector and has a history of volunteer work in the city. She campaigns with Garland’s downtown area at heart.
All have established solid pockets of support but must reach beyond them to convince voters that they are the best candidate for a city with three freeway corridors, an aging core and a shift toward redevelopment as it runs short of vacant land.
Bass Pro — and con
“I’ve been on the council before when we had change, when we had economic development, when we had positive leadership,” Hickey said. “We built bridges throughout different races and cultures.”
Hickey blames the recent council for a negative view of Garland, including a lack of new development. He said the leaders are to blame for bad publicity over a delay in ending use of gas to euthanize animals at the city shelter and for only recently joining the many cities that enforce a state law prohibiting cellphone use in school zones.
He said that he would try to reduce taxes and fees and that a different council — eight of nine seats will have changed since 2011 — is no obstacle.
The Bass Pro development has never developed two of its five restaurant pad sites along Lake Ray Hubbard. Its hotel has never been built, some of the satellite businesses are already closed, and the public debt incurred for the project is a long way from being paid.
“With the economy coming back up and hopefully some fresh new blood on the council, we’ll hopefully be able to get some new excitement on the site,” Hickey said.
As the political outsider, Elder-Jones believes she is the fresh face in the race.
Her campaigning has focused on turning out new voters and on balancing the economic emphasis along Garland’s freeways with a passion for downtown. If the core dies, the city dies, she said.
“I want to make sure that the people who want to be involved get that opportunity,” she said. “Most of the citizens in this city are tired of status quo — they want a change.”
Jeffus said it takes council training to handle the near billion-dollar annual budget of the city and its power company. And the mayor’s relationships need to be not only with cities but also with state, national and international contacts such as those he has accumulated.
Elder-Jones admits her strategy to campaign from outside traditional circles and rely on support from those who don’t typically vote is a test.
“Most people who I’ve encountered don’t even know there’s a race,” she said. “I’m trying to let people know they can do something about their situations themselves.”
Athas, meanwhile, is portrayed by opponents as anything but grass-roots. That’s because with an anticipated $70,000 in the race, he’s outspending his three opponents combined.
He points instead to his investment in the city’s progress. Athas said he is the only one who understands the planning and zoning side of Garland’s future well enough to turn its overhauled plan, Envision Garland, into a reality as the city’s remaining empty land is developed.
“The staff is moving in the right direction, and they will continue to do things on the right path,” he said. “But they take their leadership from the mayor and the council.
“I have nothing against any of my opponents. They’re all fine people with very interesting ideas. But I don’t think they have the 20 years of training on these types of issues that I do.”
Athas said the change to friendlier redevelopment has been slower in Garland than in neighboring Mesquite or Rowlett. However, the city has identified catalyst areas and, in downtown at least, has projects in motion.
“If we were at ground zero, then I wouldn’t be running,” Athas said. “But we’re really down the road. We have some opportunities right now to do some wonderful things.”
Jeffus said Garland Power & Light, the municipal utility, is key to drawing companies to best use the city’s remaining land and to redevelopment. Long-term sustainable growth needs to be based on continued reliance on Garland’s commercial-industrial base, he said.
“One of the things that comes up frequently is reliable power,” he said. “In Garland, when we have someone willing to pay for the service, we can provide two separate substations on their property. We service our lines as a municipality more frequently than a for-profit can afford to do.”
He credits Jones’ leadership and said the council did a superb job managing debt during down economic times.
“We need to encourage the businesses that are here to help them grow and expand, and we need to encourage jobs here in Garland,” Jeffus said.
Picking at scabs
There has been some picking at the various scabs of each candidate. Athas has long admitted a mistake in a 1993 DWI. Hickey says Athas also has had drinking and driving charges in other states.
Only the 1993 case came up in The Dallas Morning News’ check of candidates, though a 1990 “not specified” offense is listed for Athas in Contra Costa County, Calif., where he lived at the time. Athas said he has no recollection of any 1990 case and maintains that the 1993 charge is the only one.
Elder-Jones has two bankruptcies on her record, one in 1996 when a family business went under and another in 2011 when she said a creditor wouldn’t negotiate a discounted rate and she decided not to pay.
“I sure didn’t know I’d be running for public office when I did that,” she said.
Hickey’s record shows a lien of $8,845 placed by Citibank in 2008 and a 2009 Chapter 13 filing that was settled as a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2010.
“It was something my legal representation at the time told me I had to do, based on some of the things done by my ex-wife,” he said.
Emails confirmed by City Secretary Lisa Palomba show that Hickey asked out of the mayor’s race March 20, found out it was too late to be pulled from the ballot, then chose to stay in.
A grand jury declined to indict Jeffus in 2003 after he was detained at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport when a gun was found in his luggage.
Jeffus said he was coming off a target shooting trip and made a quick turnaround to accompany his daughter on an out-of-state house-hunting trip. He said he thought the gun had been removed from a suitcase.
In the previous post and on my website, I said that I had voted against three of four budgets that had tax increases. That is incorrect: I voted against two of the the four. I always want to be accurate but my memory doesn't match the council minutes or my blog. It's no excuse but the council votes on budgets twice a year, for the capital budget and for operations budget. I voted against some of the capital budgets to try to hold down debt and possible tax increases and I mixed the two.
However, it is really the operations budget that counts because that is when a tax increase would be approved or not. On those, my record is twice against and twice in favor.
One opponent wants to ignore those votes against and change the semantics to claim that I always voted for tax increases. Of the four candidates in this race for mayor, three have served on the city council. As previously stated, I am the only candidate that has voted against budgets with tax increases. My personal record isn't as good as I remembered, but the statement is still true.
|Vote on Budget||Corresponding|
|Year||Tax Rate||Increase||Athas||Jeffus||Athas Blog Post|
|2005||66.61||Not on Council||Not on Council|
|2006||67.86||1.25||Against||For||Taxes to Increase|
|2007||68.86||1.00||For||For||Taxes to Increase|
|2008||69.96||1.10||Against||Absent||Done. Budget Adopted.|
|2009||70.46||0.50||For||For||Tax Rate Increasing|
(I strongly suggest reading those links. I wrote those posts several years ago but the points I made then are still very much true today.)
There are two basic steps in the budget approval process: approve or disapprove the budget and then approve or disapprove any necessary rate change. Once the budget has passed, the only fiscally responsible action is to approve the necessary rate change. One could vote against the rate change as another protest vote - and I would understand that - but it isn't the responsible vote.
Jeffus has written that Harry Hickey voted against the rate change in 2006. That is true but it is also true that he voted immediately before that for the budget that required a tax rate increase. I don't know why someone would vote for a budget with a tax increase and then vote to not fund it but it doesn't change the facts: I am the only candidate that ever voted against a budget with a tax increase.
Tonight was the televised forum hosted by Eastfield College. (You can view it on the city's website: Council Candiate Forum). Things flowed well to the end. Each candidate was given two minutes for a closing statement. Larry Jeffus was last. His final comment was that I was a liar. He knew before the forum began that he would have that final word of the evening, that there would be no chance to contradict his claim.
And so the mud begins. On one hand, I'm flattered. It definitely shows that he considers me his greatest obstacle to becoming mayor. But on the other side, he's trying to cover his unbroken trail of supporting tax increases.
As it says on my website: "Doug voted against every budget that called for a tax increase, except one. He voted to allow a half-cent increase for debt service the same year that employee salaries were cut 1.15%, a year after a library closed and two fire engines were removed from service."
|Year||Tax Rate||Increase||Athas Vote on Budget|
|2005||66.61||Not on Council|
[My mistake: I voted against the budgets that called for tax increases twice and I voted twice to approve budgets that had a tax increase. (Added 4/8)]
Jeffus never voted against any budget or tax increase so he obviously feels vulnerable. His only so-called defense is to say that I'm a liar, that I did vote for those increases. Taxes rose almost 5.8% in his first three years on the council.
What he is actually showing is that once each budget was passed, over my objecting vote, the council had to fund it. If one of your principles is "fiscal responsibility," then you have to be fiscally responsible. While I obviously didn't like the budget, I did have to vote to fund what a majority of the council approved.
Council members Preston Edwards and Rick Williams both came to me after it was over just shaking their heads. It's distortions like this― hoping for political gain ―that they have endorsed me, as have Randing Dunning and Darren Lathen who were also there for most of those votes and joined me opposing some of those budgets.
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