District 4 needs a leader.
The one residents elected, Dwaine Caraway, resigned from Dallas City Council Thursday before pleading guilty to federal corruption charges. Caraway served on City Council from 2007 to 2015, the term limit, including a four-month stint as interim mayor after Tom Leppert resigned to run for U.S. Sentate. Caraway then sat out a mandatory two years and was elected to serve Oak Cliff again in 2017.
Caraway admitted to taking kickbacks totaling at least $390,000 from a company that convinced Dallas to install red-light cameras on school buses. Former Dallas County Schools superintendent Rick Sorrells pleaded guilty in April to federal wire fraud charges after admitting that he accepted more than $3 million in bribes in exchange for giving $70 million in contracts to Force Multiplier Solutions to install the cameras on school buses to bust motorists for traffic violations.
The scandal was such that Dallas voters elected in May to shut down the 171-year-old Dallas County Schools, which was based in Oak Cliff for decades and served as the transportation arm for school districts including Dallas ISD.
KXAS has been dogging this story since January, and their coverage goes deep into scandal.
Several City Council members, including Oak Cliff’s Scott Griggs, accepted campaign donations from the company. Most of them later donated the campaign cash to charity — Griggs donated $3,000 to the city’s school crossing-guard program.
Caraway’s deal means that he won’t serve more than seven years in prison, and he’s agreed to pay a six-figure fine and $69,000 owed to the Internal Revenue Service.
The only City Council member who voted against the deal was Jennifer Gates of Preston Hollow, who told the Dallas Morning News today: “I’m just so sad for our city and for Dwaine. I don’t even know how to process it all.”
Sad for him, yes. And for his wife, Barbara Mallory Caraway, who also is a politician.
District 4 needs a visionary
Caraway’s crimes are saddest for District 4, which surrounds Cedar Crest Golf Course and includes the Dallas Zoo, Beckley Club Estates and the Tenth Street Historic District in north Oak Cliff.
The district is a beautiful, diverse part of Dallas that currently has many challenges and opportunities.
These stand out:
- South Oak Cliff High School on South Marsalis Avenue is set to reopen in 2019 after students and neighbors demanded a full renovation. Meanwhile, students will still report to an alternative school campus at Village Fair when school starts this month.
- Violent crime is on the rise in Dallas generally, but the Dallas Police Department’s South Central Division, which includes District 4, is experiencing a greater increase in violence than most other parts of the city.
- Vicious dog attacks continue in South Dallas and Oak Cliff; these neighborhoods require vigilant advocates in the realm of animal services.
- The Tenth Street Historic District made The Advocate’s 2018 “Oak Cliff At-Risk” list because the city continues to demolish historic houses there.
Biggest of all here is the looming Interstate 35 bridge park, which will connect the Dallas Zoo to Zang Boulevard as soon as 2022. That is going to impact neighborhoods in District 4, including Tenth Street, where street, water and sewage improvements are the simplest of needs.
The park is a $7 million investment on the city’s end to create economic growth, and if all goes as planned, the adjacent neighborhoods will never be the same. The district deserves a representative with clean hands to guide it through the crucial next few years.
To fill Caraway’s vacated seat, Dallas will order a special election for the Nov. 6 ballot, which could be one of the most important mid-term elections in United States history, no less. It is expected that candidates will have until Aug. 23 to file.