Meet Scott Griggs, candidate for Dallas mayor

NEWS

WFAA invited each of the nine candidates for Dallas mayor to answer questions for voters before the May 4th election.

WFAA invited each of the nine candidates for Dallas mayor to answer the following questions to help inform voters before the May 4th election.

Here are Scott Griggs’ responses:

Occupation:

Attorney, Partner at Griggs Bergen LLP

Education:

J.D., University of Texas (Austin, Texas)

B.A. Chemistry, Texas A&M University (College Station, Texas)

How long have you lived in the city of Dallas?

Life-long resident, 43 years

Why are you running for mayor?

This year Dallas will elect a new mayor, but a new mayor will not ensure the change we need to move our city forward. Dallas needs a new kind of mayor. We need a mayor we can trust to champion our neighborhoods and our diverse communities — a mayor who will lead us to reclaim Dallas for the people of Dallas. I am ready to be the new kind of mayor our city needs. I have a deep understanding of our city’s challenges and opportunities. With the powers of mayor, I can lead our city to create transformative change and bring a higher quality of life to every part of our city.

Prior political experience or civic leadership involvement?

Dallas City Council, (2011 – Present)

Vice Chair, Government Performance & Financial Management Committee (2017 – Present)

Member, Economic Development & Housing Committee (2017 – Present)

Member, Arts, Culture & Libraries Committee (2015 – Present)

Dallas Police & Fire Pension System, Member, Board of Trustees (2012 – 2017)

Chair, Housing Committee (2015 – 2017)

Member, Budget, Finance & Audit Committee (2011 – 2017)

Member, Ad Hoc Legislative Committee (2015 – 2017)

Chair, Ad Hoc Judicial Nominations Committee (2013 – 2015)

Member, Education Taskforce (2013 – 2015)

Vice Chair, Housing Committee (2011 – 2015)

Member, Economic Development Committee (2013 – 2015)

Member, Public Safety Committee (2013 – 2015)

Member, Quality of Life & Environment Committee (2013 – 2015)

Member, Trinity River Corridor Project Committee (2011 – 2013)

President, Fort Worth Avenue Development Group (2007 – 2011)

Board of Directors & Executive Committee, Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce (Board 2008 – Present, Executive Committee 2008 – 2011)

Board of Directors & Executive Committee, Oak Cliff Transit Authority (2008 – 2011)

Board of Directors, North Texas Chapter of the Congress for the New Urbanism (2009 – 2011)

Advisory Member, Board of Directors, The Kessler School (2010 – 2011)

City of Dallas Appointee, Reinvestment Zone 15 – FWA TIF District (2007 – 2010)

City of Dallas Appointee, FWA TIF District Design Review Committee (2007 – 2010)

Vice President, Fort Worth Avenue Development Group (2006)

Member/Alternate Member, City of Dallas Board of Adjustment (2005 – 2007)

Managing Member, Citizens for Responsible Beverage Sales LLC (2005 – 2008)

President, Stevens Park Estates Neighborhood Association (2005)

There are a lot of candidates in this race, why should voters choose you over someone else?

My experience and record of service for the City of Dallas is unmatched by my opponents and makes me uniquely qualified to lead our city as its next mayor. My accomplishments include:

· Increasing pay for our First Responders in the FY2018-2019 Budget, including increasing starting pay from $48,000 to $60,000

· Increasing wages for workers at Love Field, temporary workers at the City of Dallas, sanitation workers, third-party contractors and others

· Killing the Trinity Tollroad boondoggle

· Successfully championing a competitive bid process for Fair Park

· Settling the decades old Police & Fire Pay Referendum litigation

· Saving the Dallas Police & Fire Pension

· Drafting and implementation of the first City of Dallas Comprehensive Housing Policy

· Successfully championing the selection of an outside City Manger

· Successfully championing the selection of an outside City Attorney

· Successfully championing the selection of new administration at the Dallas Police & Fire Pension System

· Oak Cliff Gateway Rezoning

· Jefferson Corridor Rezoning and Completion of Jefferson Corridor Streetscape Plan

· Facilitating sale of Dallas County Schools facility at Davis and Zang to encourage redevelopment on the streetcar line

· Encouraging historic preservation of the Kessler Theater, Kiest Park Pergola, Cannon’s Village, and Winnetka Heights 12th Street Church, Zang Historic Church

· Implementation of the first Group Home Ordinance in the City of Dallas

· Stakeholder-driven Redevelopment Plan and initial redevelopment of the Parks at Wynnewood & Wynnewood Shopping Center

· Completed phases I & II solution at the Parks at Wynnewood to remove the 40-year low income deed restriction cycle

· Reduction of term of deed restrictions, as part of the City’s legislative agenda, to end low income deed restriction cycle

· DHA-City of Dallas partnership to redevelop the Lakewest Shopping Center and Singleton/Hampton intersection

· Historic landmark status and protection for Sharrock Settlement and Cabin, the oldest structure in north Texas still located on its original site

· Bringing a grocery store to Mountain Creek/The Woods

· Obtaining approximately $80-million dollars in funding to the Oak Cliff-downtown Dallas streetcar line

· Preventing gas drilling in Dallas parks

· Completing the first tennis court to soccer field conversion at Lake Cliff

· Partnering with the community to build a disc golf course at Founder’s Park

· Building the first Complete Street (Mary Cliff) in Dallas, the first physically separated bicycle lane (Jefferson Viaduct) in Dallas, building and/or planning more than 12 miles of trail at Kiest Park, Elmwood the Coombs Creek Trial, and the Trinity Skyline Trail

· Developing plans for complete streets at Sylvan Avenue and Beckley Avenue

· Reducing crime by closing Passions Sports Bar

· Passage of the Fort Worth Avenue Tax Increment Finance District

In your view, what are the three biggest challenges facing Dallas? Specifically, how do you plan to address them?

Three big challenges the city of Dallas has are public safety, housing and transportation.

Public Safety. We have too few police officers and firefighters. While we’ve added hundreds of thousands of residents, our number of Dallas Police officers has decreased from 3,600 in 2011 to 2,900 today. The collapse of the Dallas Police & Fire Pension System coupled with low pay has decimated our uniform totals. Fewer officers means high priority calls, like Priority 1 and Priority 2 calls, are not being timely answered. Fewer officers means fewer neighborhood patrol officers to build relationships with the community.

In 2018, I led the effort to increase police and fire starting pay from $48,000 to $60,000 and provide across-the-board raises. We need to increase the pay further; it’s not enough that we went from the lowest pay in North Texas to average pay in North Texas. We need to have the highest paid first responders in north Texas, and we need to improve health benefits to increase retention and recruitment of the highest quality of officers. As mayor, I will make sure these changes occur.

Housing. As Mayor, I’ll put the programs, strategies and tools within our Comprehensive Housing Policy into action. When I was elected to the Council in 2011, the City of Dallas did not have a housing policy. As chair of the housing committee for two years from 2015 – 2017, I led the effort to create Dallas’ first Comprehensive Housing Policy with the goals of:

(1) Maintaining our existing affordable housing and creating more affordable housing;

(2) Offering more choice to residents on where to live; and

(3) Overcoming patterns of segregation and poverty through investment.

The Comprehensive Housing Policy identifies areas ready for redevelopment, areas to protect from gentrification, and areas of Dallas in need of infrastructure investment. The Comprehensive Housing Policy has programs, tools and strategies for meeting Dallas’ affordable housing needs, which includes the creation of 20,000 units of single- and multi-family housing. A Market Value Analysis (MVA) data driven approach supports the programs, tools and strategies, which benefit renters, single-family homeowners, landlords, and developers. Best practices from across our country incorporated such innovative ideas as utilizing Dallas’ land bank to rebuild neighborhoods, establishing and funding a Housing Trust Fund, protections from source of income discrimination, relocation assistance, first time home buyer assistance, home repair assistance, renter relocation assistance, low income housing placement guidelines, minimum housing standards, and inclusive zoning bonuses, for example.

Today, there is no longer a Housing Committee; rather there is a combined, Economic Development and Housing Committee. This has caused a bottleneck at the council committee level on the number of tools, programs and strategies we can implement. As mayor I will implement a new kind of committee structure that will end the bottleneck and allow us to put the tools, programs and strategies to work.

Transportation. As Mayor, I will implement a City of Dallas transportation policy. For far too long, we lived under the tyranny of DART’s transportation system, where people can’t get to work from point A to point B on time because of the terrible service. We need a transportation policy to set our expectations for the DART board: safety and cleanliness, level of service to get people to work on time, and ridership goals. DART needs to end its sole focus of building the largest light rail system in America and focus on building the best bus system for the City of Dallas. Right now, we are paying $280 million a year to DART — more than half of its budget collected from member cities. And since DART’s creation, the city of Dallas has given DART $5.8 billion dollars.

With growing property taxes, it gets more expensive to live in Dallas every year. If elected, what specifically would you do to address that?

We should hold the line on local taxes and expand the tax base; end wasteful spending projects that are meant to enhance the postcard of Dallas and focus on projects that will improve the quality of life for the people of Dallas to attract new residents and businesses. We should work to bring opportunities and high-wage jobs and implement the Comprehensive Housing Policy.

Examples of eliminating wasteful spending projects include the second Calatrava bridge and the fake white water rapids. Both multi-million dollar projects I opposed. Expensive corporate give ways like the recent $300,000 to ESPN for a football game the day after Christmas need to end. Operationally, the fraud, waste and abuse at VisitDallas needs to stop and we need to use a large portion of the $30 million in annual tax payer money at VisitDallas to improve our city’s arts and culture, rather than as a rental subsidy for holding conventions in the City-owned convention center.

Dallas now has hundreds of fewer police officers than five years ago. Emergency response times have increased, as well. How do you solve this problem?

We have too few police officers and firefighters. While we’ve added hundreds of thousands of residents, our number of Dallas Police officers has decreased from 3,600 in 2011 to 2,900 today. The collapse of the Dallas Police & Fire Pension System coupled with low pay has decimated our uniform totals. Fewer officers means high priority calls, like Priority 1 and Priority 2 calls, are not being timely answered. Fewer officers means fewer neighborhood patrol officers to build relationships with the community.

In 2018, I led the effort to increase police and fire starting pay from $48,000 to $60,000 and provide across-the-board raises. We need to increase the pay further; it’s not enough that we went from the lowest pay in North Texas to average pay in North Texas. We need to have the highest paid first responders in north Texas, and we need to improve health benefits to increase retention and recruitment of the highest quality of officers. As mayor, I will make sure these changes occur.

There is a growing homeless population in Dallas. Prior administrations have struggled to address it. What would you do differently?

Housing is the solution to homelessness. I will ensure the funding, governance, and public-private partnerships are present to help individuals experiencing homelessness. We need to ensure funding by continuing our audits of Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance (MDHA) and the Bridge. A recent audit by the City of Dallas showed we were missing out in millions in federal aid because of a bad data tracking system.

On governance, I support the City of Dallas Homeless Commission that comprises Dallas residents including financially disinterested parties. The Homeless Commission should report to the Housing Committee of the Dallas City Council more often and advise the Council on matters of Dallas homeless funding, planning and progress for handling tent cities, and the homeless voucher program, for example. The Homeless Commission should interface and cooperate with regional entities such as Dallas County on comprehensive strategic matters. Lastly, we need to actively look for partnerships with other agencies and non-profits to build on the efforts at the Bridge and other facilities.

Major strides have been made in Dallas’ southern sector but challenges remain. What are the two biggest opportunities you have identified?

On the balance of Southern Dallas, the City is not performing well when it comes to revitalization as the majority of the revitalization effort is not self-directed by Southern Dallas for Southern Dallas. Southern Dallas needs to be given additional control of its future.

And the City needs to focus more on what the City controls, which is how it spends its money and where:

Include Small Projects. In addition to large infrastructure projects, I will continue to encourage and include small infrastructure projects “between the buildings” that benefit people that live and work in a community. Dallas presently has a one-dimensional approach to new infrastructure, which is new infrastructure must follow new development. I support infrastructure-driven redevelopment as well. By way of example, 15 years ago, $2.6M was invested in the Bishop Arts District, which was worth $1.7M at the time. The $2.6M was spent in between the buildings on water improvements, parallel parking, street trees, and wider sidewalks. No money was spent on developer subsidies. Money was only spent on improvements that can be enjoyed by people that live and work in the community.

A short 10 years later, in 2013, the same area of land is worth $6.2M, which represents a 13% growth per year. And this remarkable increase in value has continued. Additionally, for some establishments, Dallas now collects more sales tax in one Saturday night than previously in an entire year. The Bishop Arts District was not an accident, but rather a success story waiting to be repeated. During my time on the Dallas City Council, I repeated this success on Jefferson with further improvements planned for Tyler/Polk and Elmwood. This successful strategy can be implemented throughout Dallas from suffering commercial corridors to aging strip shopping centers.

Use proportional infrastructure spending to ensure we spend money on small projects. Large infrastructure expenditures should be stepped-down and connected to neighborhood level infrastructure projects, particularly in the Southern Dallas where a focus is stabilizing existing neighborhoods and enhancing existing character. By way of example, the first Calatrava bridge ($182M) was built adjacent to the La Bajada neighborhood. As part of this project, a deck park was built on the decommissioned Continental Bridge ($10M), now the Ronald Kirk Pedestrian Bridge. The residents of La Bajada say that they need a neighborhood park upgraded, an internal street repaired, and a community-center roof rebuilt. Infrastructure spending should be proportional such that when a $182M bridge and $10M deck park are built adjacent to a neighborhood, a small amount of money (e.g., $500K) is reserved for neighborhood level improvements that enhance the existing community and encourage neighborhood buy-in by demonstrating city buy-in of the neighborhood.

Geography matters. In 2000, when the City of Dallas tax rate was 66.75, the City of Dallas had 18 Racially and Ethnically Concentrated Areas of Poverty (RECAPs). In 2010, the City tax rate grew to 79.70 and the City of Dallas had 33 RECAPs in Southern Dallas and throughout our City. Since 2011, Grow South, Housing Plus, Neighborhood Plus, and Neighbor Up have not targeted enough investment in these RECAPs.

We must target our federal funds for battling poverty, our infrastructure money, strategies from our Comprehensive Housing Policy, and our service delivery into our RECAPs to undue decades of neglect and lift our entire City. We cannot allow more than 10% of our City to be in RECAPs. We have the opportunity and obligation to change this.

For example, we should direct as much of our $30M received per year from the federal government to rebuild communities into improving our RECAPs. We should also utilize the City Landbank. The City Dallas owns hundreds of lots in some of our most impoverished neighborhoods. The City of Dallas should partner with developers and non-profits to use our landbank to rebuild our neighborhoods.

Have you ever been arrested, charged with a crime or faced criminal proceedings in a court? If yes, please explain:

Yes, during my freshman year of college, I was arrested by Texas A&M University Police for trespass and given probation.

Have you ever been involved in any lawsuits or declared bankruptcy? If yes, please explain:

I have never been involved in any lawsuits outside my role as a Dallas City Councilmember and Dallas Police & Fire Pension System Trustee. I have never declared bankruptcy. I have been involved in numerous civil suits in my official capacities as a Dallas City Councilmember and Dallas Police & Fire Pension System Trustee.

Favorite Dallas restaurant – or night out?

As a family with young kids, we enjoy walking to Nova — there are great dishes, and we can get plain noodles for the kids. Plus, they are stroller-parking-friendly.

Have you ever ridden DART?

Yes. My family frequently uses DART and I believe we can make DART much better for so many of our Dallas residents. I lived car-free during 2008 and 2009, when I used DART for work and other transportation needs.

Tell us something about yourself – unrelated to politics or this race – that voters probably don’t know.

I am an avid chess player.

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