Attorney Chad West won the District 1 City Council seat previously held by Scott Griggs. West is a U.S. Army veteran who grew up in rural Illinois and went to law school at Texas Tech in Lubbock. He lives in Oak Cliff with his partner, Brian, and their two small children, Victoria and Preston. West founded the Dash for the Beads run, which is a fundraiser for neighborhood public schools. He recently moved his law office from West Davis to South Tyler at U.S. 67. We spoke to him a couple of weeks after he took office.
How are things going?
It has been a whirlwind in a good way. Scott [Griggs] has been a good mentor to me the past eight years, so in that way it’s an easy transition. The stuff I’m not used to is being a politician — making sure you get your eight votes when you need it. That’s the real learning curve for me.
What are you worried about?
The big issue everyone is talking about is public safety. Our ability to immediately change that is limited because we’ve got to get enough officers trained. What we can do from a public relations standpoint is show that we are strong on crime. We don’t want people to have the perception that we’re soft on crime. There was a smash-and-grab [at an Oak Cliff restaurant] this morning. Seven or eight cars were broken into [on Fort Worth Avenue]. The shortage of officers is the big problem right now. Southwest Division is paying officers overtime to cover shifts, and they still can’t get all the shifts covered, especially for nighttime.
What are you excited about?
I’m working on the “crosswalk challenge” with Ben Mackey [the new Dallas ISD trustee for part of Oak Cliff]. We’re going to challenge elementary, middle and high schools to design crosswalks for their schools, and we’re seeking funding to pay for them. The winning designs will get to do another [crosswalk] in a significant area like Jefferson or Bishop. It’s going to be a three-year commitment on the school’s part, and Ben and I are working on the money.
Complete streets with amenities like bike lanes and wide sidewalks are an interest of yours.
I’ve been talking about complete streets and traffic calming for about three years now. We are looking at all of our street projects that are funded through the  bond and making sure they’re considering complete streets.
“One of the things I love about our district is the diversity.”
What else is on your list right now?
The North Oak Cliff Library. It would cost about $30 million to rebuild. We want to look at the entire block. Pretend the building is not there, and rethink what we could do with the library. I want to bring in DISD and create a task force with Ben Mackey, people from the library, cultural affairs, Methodist Hospital because they’re interested in helping, [Bishop Arts developer Michael] Nazerian and a complete streets person maybe from the Better Block. We know we need a new library there because the building is dated. It’s not efficient energy-wise. I just want the task force to go in and rethink it.
What about affordable housing?
In Oak Cliff, from Kessler to El Tivoli to Westmoreland Heights, everyone is talking about displacement. I worked on the comprehensive housing policy, the live/work part in particular and incentive zoning. I’ve also asked to be on the economic development subcommittee. There are a few things we need to do. Create a tax-stabilization overlay, freezing taxes for people who have lived in their homes for 30 or 40 years. I’m also interested in looking at tax-stabilization for commercial property as well. It ends up hurting the tenants if taxes on commercial properties go up, and it’s an easy way for tenants to be pushed out. Another thing is creating an affordable housing trust fund that is viable.
Part of your job is bridging the gaps in bureaucracy.
You’ve got to talk to people constantly, and you’ve got to know what questions to ask. My first week, I was running around like a wild dog just tracking down money for things. The North Texas Council of Governments and Regional Transportation Council have bundles of money, and they’re just starting to see the benefit of complete streets, and they have money for that. I am trying to get the mayor to put me on the transportation committee so I can get to work on that.