News

DMN: “We recommend Lee Kleinman for Dallas City Council District 11”

April 21, 2017

From: Dallas Morning News

Voters in the District 11 Dallas City Council race have a choice between experience and proven judgment, on the one hand, and untested enthusiasm on the other. We recommend they opt for the former, and vote for the incumbent, Lee Kleinman.

We have not always agreed with Kleinman, 57, a retired investor seeking his third term. But even when we disagree, we respect his thoughtfulness and consistency.

For instance, Kleinman believes Dallas should take a “pay as you go” approach to most improvements. We disagree, believing that responsible use of bond financing will speed up badly needed work on the city’s roads and other infrastructure.

But Dallas benefits from having this strong fiscal conservative on the council. His steady voice against higher taxes provides a meaningful counterbalance that is good for taxpayers.

Kleinman also has long argued that all of Dallas, including the North Dallas district he serves, benefits from stepped-up investments in southern Dallas. Last year, he supported in principle Mayor Mike Rawlings’ plan to greatly increase the city’s commitment to Fair Park and to turn over the management of that facility to a nonprofit foundation.

In 2014, he voted to create a tax-increment financing district for the massive new Dallas Midtown project at LBJ Freeway and Preston Road that would send 10 percent of the $400 million in expected tax revenues to redevelopment efforts at the struggling Southwest Center Mall in southern Dallas.

While we disagreed with the vote at the time, we heartily applaud Kleinman’s willingness as a North Dallas council member to support redevelopment of southern Dallas, for the good of the entire city.

His opponent, Candy Evans, 62, has gained a following for her real estate blog, CandysDirt.com, and she brings commendable passion to her campaign. But on too many issues — from her lopsided view of the ailing police and firefighters’ pension, to her support for redirecting some of the sales taxes Dallas shoppers pay for DART, to her preference for leaving the Trinity River as an unimproved “wild space” rather than as the center of a grand new park — we think hers would be a disappointing vote.

Incumbents have tough fights ahead as Dallas City Council campaign season officially begins

February 17, 2017

Dallas Morning News
Tristan Hallman, Dallas City Hall Reporter

Come June, the Dallas City Council could have a whole new look that might feature some familiar faces. Or not.

Eleven of the 14 council races in the May 6 election will be contested. Two Dallas ISD seats will also feature multiple candidates on the ballot.

Every Dallas council member south of the Trinity River has at least one opponent. And some of the races could turn out to be slugfests.

Former longtime City Council members Tennell Atkins and Dwaine Caraway are back again after term limits forced them to step aside in 2015. Caraway will have a one-on-one showdown with Carolyn King Arnold, whom he helped get elected. A proposed deck park spanning Interstate 35 near the Dallas Zoo will be a hot-button issue in that race. Atkins, meanwhile, will run in a crowded field that includes Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Erik Wilson and 2015 third-place finisher Gail Terrell.

In southwestern Dallas, former teacher Joe Tave will get a rematch against council member Casey Thomas after losing by less than 200 votes in the 2015 runoff.

In Pleasant Grove, council member Rickey Callahan will seek a third term against lawyer Dominique Torres, who lists prominent Friendship-West Baptist Church’s senior pastor Frederick Haynes as her treasurer.

And in South Dallas, Tiffinni Young has five challengers, including her 2015 opponent Kevin Felder and neighborhood activist Tammy Johnston. The campaign is likely to focus on the fate of Fair Park and quality of life issues.

In North Dallas, incumbent Lee Kleinman will square off against his neighbor, real estate blogger Candy Evans. While the Dallas Police Association and Dallas Fire Fighters Association have yet to endorse Evans, they’ve made clear they want Kleinman out.

Mayor Pro Tem Monica Alonzo will have to face a crowded field of contenders in her West Dallas district, where gentrification concerns are on voters’ minds. Dallas County Schools board member Omar Narvaez, who has the support of council member Philip Kingston, headlines the field of candidates.

But Kingston, who is seeking a third term and is known as an indefatigable campaigner, could be preoccupied in his own backyard. On Friday, he drew a surprise serious challenger: Matthew Wood, a lawyer and East Dallas neighborhood advocate who headed the city’s bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics.

Wood already has the endorsements of former Mayor Ron Kirk, lawyer Bobby Abtahi and activists Suzanne Smith and Mita Havlick. Abtahi lost a hard-fought runoff to Kingston in 2013, and Smith had Kingston’s endorsement in her campaign for Dallas ISD trustee last year.

Dustin Marshall, the CEO of Hazel’s Hot Shot who defeated Havlick and Smith in the last Dallas ISD District 2 race, is also up for re-election on the Dallas ISD board of trustees.

Marshall, 39, will face Richard Young, 37, a fourth-grade writing teacher at Dallas Gateway Charter School, and physician assistant Lori Kirkpatrick, 51. Young unsuccessfully ran for the Midlothian ISD board of trustees in 2013.

District 6 trustee Joyce Foreman, 68, has one opponent in the May election: author and nonprofit founder Phelesha Hamilton, 31.

Staff writer Corbett Smith contributed to this report.

Who is on the ballot?

Dallas City Council

District 1
Scott Griggs (incumbent)
Stephen Winn

District 2
Adam Medrano (incumbent)
Brian Ostrander*

District 3
Casey Thomas (incumbent)
Joe Tave
Sandra Crenshaw*

District 4
Carolyn King Arnold (incumbent)
Dwaine Caraway

District 5
Rickey Callahan (incumbent)
Dominique Torres

District 6
Monica R. Alonzo (incumbent)
Omar Narvaez
Gil N. Cerda
Tony Carrillo
Linus Spiller
Alex Dickey
Patricia Luckey Jones​*

District 7
Tiffinni A. Young (incumbent)
Kevin Felder
Tammy Johnston
Adam Bazaldua
James “JT” Turknett
Marvin Crenshaw

District 8
Erik Wilson (incumbent)
Gail Terrell
Eric Williams
Tennell Atkins
Moctezuma Seth Gonzalez​

District 9
Mark Clayton (incumbent)
Arthur Lee Adams, Jr.

District 10
Adam McGough (incumbent)

District 11
Lee M. Kleinman (incumbent)
Candy Evans

District 12
Sandy Greyson (incumbent)

District 13
Jennifer Staubach Gates (incumbent)

District 14
Philip Kingston (incumbent)
Matthew Wood
Kim Welch

Dallas ISD

District 2
Dustin Marshall (incumbent)
Richard Young
Lori Kirkpatrick

District 6
Joyce Foreman (incumbent)
Phelesha Hamilton

District 8
Miguel Solis (incumbent)

*Not yet declared qualified by City Secretary Friday night.

Talking Pension Crisis, Housing, Transportation With City Councilman Lee Kleinman

February 7, 2017

By Joe Pappalardo

Dallas City Councilman Lee Kleinman represents District 11. Last week he sat down with the Dallas Observer to talk about the city police and fire pension crisis, the future of a car-free Dallas, housing in the city and his upcoming election challenge from real estate blogger Candy Evans. Get ready to get wonky.

Dallas Observer: The city’s future seems very much clouded by the troubled police and fire pension, which is billions of dollars in the hole. You were on the pension board for a while; what’s your view on what happened and what’s next?

Lee Kleinman: The pension system is autonomous. It is chartered by the state and statute, not by the city charter, meaning that the state Legislature writes the rules. The city has little or no say and certainly no majority say in what’s going to happen. The city has always paid its contribution, for over 100 years without fail, to the pension system.

Over the years, the pension boards and administrators [made] horrible investments, highly risky investments [with] people’s pension savings. This is the money [officers and fire fighters] are going to live off the rest of their lives, and the board is investing in risky things that most regular investors wouldn’t invest in. In addition, by doing that, they spend a lot of time enhancing the features of the pension system above and beyond the monthly benefit that the city wants to make sure is covered.

I call it egregious enrichment. Literally the board members and the members voted themselves more features. That’s what the DROP is. [The deferred retirement option program allowed police and firefighters who’d served the 20 years to retire on paper but continue working. Their pension contributions would accrue interest at a guaranteed rate somewhere between 8 and 10 percent, an unsustainable amount that has contributed to an unfunded liability of between $3 and $5 billion. – Eds.]

Yes, the city wanted to have a DROP plan, but then it got enhanced. … It wasn’t even put into the statute. The way the statute is written, I believe this may be the only system in the state that has this. The members can actually enhance their own features of the system. They just went off the rails.

How did the creation of DROP benefit the board?

Most board members actually participate in DROP. They do things like a guarantee an interest rate and enable the amount of time you can stay in DROP to be infinite. They allow people that are a tier that’s not eligible for DROP to then start participating in DROP. They are just enhancing to their own stuff. I think it’s a conflict of interest. If you are doing that, what you’re really doing is you’re putting your interest in front of the rest of the members. Especially the members that are not participating in that part of the plan.

That’s one of the challenges that we see so many times in the pension system. Every time there’s a change it typically goes against the younger members, the newer members. Even at times when the pension system recognized, for example, the DROP interest was too high, they were looking to reduce the interest rate, [but] the first thing they did, was make younger members not eligible to participate in parts of that plan. That’s unfortunate because from the city’s perspective, we’re most interested in attracting and retaining officers.

In order to do that we have to have salaries that are competitive. When we end up stuck with a bunch of pension payments, that goes against our ability to pay those salaries. When we look at a system, even what’s proposed right now by the city, it actually restores cost of living adjustments (COLA) to the younger officers, which the system had actually taken away before. That monthly benefit is really important in my view, and that’s what’s called a defined benefit plan. In my view it’s important to maintain that. Public pensions are probably the only pensions left that have defined benefit plans. In the private sector they are virtually all gone.

Is there an inherent problem with defined benefit plans? Are they relics?

Originally these defined benefit plans were based on very low return expectations. Typically, you see in a private pension the assumed rate of return to be only 3 or 4 percent. In public pensions, they can pursue these really high rates of return. The [pension] system had 8.5 percent at one point. They pulled it down to I think, 7.24 percent. The reason given is because you have the taxpayer as the backstop. Whereas a private pension, if the company goes bankrupt, the backstop’s gone, although there is a private pension insurance company.

When they started moving from these very low interest rates and expectations were raised, they started following a model called the foundation model of investing. The idea of a foundation, like for an Ivy League school, is that you invest your money in riskier investments. It first started with just like stock market investments as opposed to the bonds. Then it moved to things like private equity investments, real estate and other riskier investments.

That’s a long way from the low risk of a 10-year U.S. Treasury Bond.

Exactly. You do that because you’re seeking higher returns so that you can … have more money for grants or for scholarships or things like that. Then the pension system started to follow this foundation model. They started setting higher rates of return and higher expectations and started pursuing riskier investments. The difference is, and the fundamental flaw in that thinking is, in a foundation, if you have a bad year or a couple of bad years, you just don’t make grants. You reduce the amount of scholarships you give, or you don’t give as much to the university. A pension system, without fail, has to make those benefit payments. When you have bad years on a pension system, you actually have to burn down some of the money you’re trying to use to invest, just to make your benefit payments.

When I left that pension system, I pledged to try to maintain this defined benefit for them. All this other stuff that they’ve piled on, that just makes it so much harder. As a matter of fact, with the amount of assets they have right now, I believe they could be long-term sustainable, with their current asset level, if all they had to pay was their benefit and not pay all these other features.

So what comes next?

The city put forth a plan. The plan basically reduces the COLA significantly, gets rid of the DROP interest and restates historical DROP interest. That is how we will jettison a huge amount of liability over there. By doing that, and then the city increasing its contribution, which we’ve said we would do, we can make the system solvent again within 30 years. That’s the direction from the Legislature: Make the system solvent within 30 years. There are two components to it. One is the investment piece of it, which they’re working to straighten out over there. With the exception of their general consultant, they have changed out virtually all their consultants over there or their money managers.

They’re working on the investment side, but the liability side is the other piece. There’s two pieces to every puzzle. We have to get rid of this liability that’s there from these additional features. The city’s position has been and will continue to be [that] the city’s not responsible for that. The city is responsible for the contribution as stated in the statute, and we’ve made it every year. I don’t want this to come across wrong, but the city even saying that we’re going to kick in additional contribution is above and beyond what we’re required to do.

Is that an admission or signal that the city is actually liable?

I don’t think so, because I think that we need to see the taxpayer contribution increase for it to be long-term sustainable. There’s no way we can ask the taxpayer to be hit up for DROP, COLA and all that kind of stuff. … The challenge that we always have in a balanced budget situation [is] if you’re giving from somewhere you’ve got to take from somewhere. The two places to take are from other services or increasing taxes.

We increased police pay, up like $93 million dollars of increase. Now we’re agreeing to increase the pension contribution, another I think $11 or $12 million dollars a year. We’re looking at, on public safety alone, increasing our budget $105 million dollars. That’s on a $1.2 billion dollar general fund budget? We’re going to have 10 percent of our budget is going to be diverted from other services to police and fire.

And the police and fire departments already get a lot of the budget.

It’s in the low 60s, 62 percent or something like that.

So the city could end up spending more than 70 percent of the budget on the police and fire departments.

Right. That means it’s got to come out of streets, which we’re hearing a lot about how important fixing our streets is. Where it really hurts us, in my view, is if we start reducing hours at libraries and rec centers.

Is public safety the most important thing of the city? Yeah, but people want other stuff too. They want the city to provide other things as well. We constantly get complaints about how high the property taxes are in the city. We have some of the highest property taxes in this North Texas region. We’re an aging city, we have aging infrastructure and the Legislature’s going to limit our ability to raise property taxes. Where’s the money come from?

In light of this, was it a good idea to delay the bond vote scheduled for May?

I think that the main reason we decided to delay the bond program, was because of the degree of uncertainty with the pension system and some degree of uncertainty with the new city manager coming in. It just seemed like there were too many unknowns for the future of this city to go ahead and start issuing yet another $800 million dollars worth of debt, on top of the $2 billion or so that we already have.

If we didn’t have all that $2 billion dollars of debt, we’d actually have $100 million dollars more in our general fund, to be paying for things like streets and libraries and even police. We’re in this kind of credit card situation that’s problematic.

Delaying the bond vote to November, we’ll have a lot more clarity from the Legislature with regards to the pension system, including if we need to include part of the bond program to make a lump sum payment into the pension system. I don’t think that’s a good idea because then we’re going to probably have to raise property taxes in order to do that. There are other solutions out there.

The May bond that we were working on had no money for pension in it. It provided new infrastructure but it was mostly about fixing stuff, so that is “deferred maintenance.” I’m not a fan of using bond money to fix things for deferred maintenance. The reason is, we’ll spend money on a 10-year fix but pay for it for 20 years. That just doesn’t make sense to me.

I think we should be using a general fund to fix the streets, because it’s maintenance. I think we should be increasing our streets budget enough so that we can not only maintain them but actually enhance the quality of our streets. Assistant City Manager Mark McDaniel came up with a plan to do that. It seemed to get pushed to the wayside when we thought we were going to do a bond program.

This city has a terrible history of just deferring maintenance. Borrowing money to fix things, I don’t think is a good use. I don’t see where that increases the value of the city. You’re just fixing an existing piece of infrastructure. Yes, people don’t like having crummy roads. But I haven’t seen that property values in this city have gone down because of our bad roads.

I’ve seen the property values in the city have gone up because of some of the investments, for example, in new streets where we did not have streets before. In new assets like new libraries, new trail systems or other new assets, these do drive property values up. I believe there are areas to use bonding, but it’s not for maintenance. It’s for investment. An investment means you expect a return. Investing in your city means new stuff, and expecting property values to go up because of it.

You say the city has a bad track record with maintenance. You mean the city builds things and doesn’t factor in the money needed to keep them up and running?

[The bond vote in] 2006 is a perfect example of that. We designed a lot of really great stuff that we put on the ground in the city. We put in the Arts District, parks and bridges. All kinds of great new investments. We got so excited about building a beautiful concert hall. We did just think, well we’ll just deal with the maintenance of it later. Now, in the budget, we’re having to pay the price to maintain those and it’s pretty painful. I think staff is a little better now. I know that when we put stuff forward, they do try to show us what the anticipated maintenance is and they try to budget for that.

Streets and trains are on a lot of people’s minds, and you’re the head of the transportation committee at City Hall. What does the future look like for Dallas residents?

We have to look at all the ways to move goods and services and people around in this area. The car is the biggest one that people like to use here. We’re not going to be able to maintain that long term, in my view, because of the growth that we’re seeing in North Texas. We expect North Texas to almost double in size in the next 25 to 30 years. Within one generation, we’re going to have almost 12 million people living in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

As chair of transportation committee, I put our complete streets plan through transportation committee and got it adopted by the council. Our bike plan, put it through the transportation committee and got it adopted by the council. Those were two of the things that were on my list when I became a council member to get done as quickly as possible. We’ve done these studies, and we’ve done these plans, but they’ve never actually been adopted.

When we adopt them at the council, that tells staff “You will look at these documents when you make decisions on streets. You will look at the bike plan and do what you can to enable the bike plan if you’re fixing the street. You will look at the Complete Streets Guide if you’re rebuilding a neighborhood or rebuilding a street. You’ll look at that guide, and follow the components to it as best as possible.” I think that’s really important. This helps us accomplish creating these nodes of density.

What’s a “node of density”?

The idea is to create an area that people can do everything they need to do without having to get in their car. In midtown, across 460 acres, there’s going to be residential, office, retail, recreational, entertainment, all in that area.

We’re having requirements for sidewalks, landscaping on the sidewalks, building set-back requirements, things like that that will be extremely pedestrian friendly. The people will just want to walk over to a grocery store, want to just walk over to the movie theater. A zone that big will have an internal circulator, so you still don’t have to get your car out of the garage to get from one part of the zone to the other. That is an important component to the way the city’s going to grow.

I frequently tell my constituents the only way the city’s going to grow is up not out. That’s how it’s grown north of downtown. South of downtown we have huge opportunities for single-family housing. We need to get those put in. North of downtown we’re built out; we’re ringed by our suburban neighbors and so we have to build up. Building up is not a threat to the single family paradigm. That’s one thing we have to get our homeowners to feel comfortable with.

Apartments and apartment dwellers are different than they were when a lot of that stuff was built in the ’70s and ’80s. I’ve got some really crummy apartments in my district that need to come down and be replaced with much better apartments where they’re going to get higher rents. A challenge where I am is explaining to people why I support a lot of the development in North Dallas. It’s not a threat to a family home ownership. I try to convince people it’s an enhancement.

Are they receptive?

If you look at what we’re doing Preston Hollow Village, which is a Walnut and at Central, we’ve had a lot of community involvement and how the development’s going to go, but it’s going to end up with 1,300 units in that one parcel. Neighbors have been very, very involved in it. In the end, what they’re getting is they got the first Trader Joe, not the first one in Dallas but the first one in North Dallas. They’ve got a bunch of restaurants in there. They’ve got retail in there. They’ve got all this stuff that is easily adjacent to their community.

The biggest thing that we always hear about is traffic. What do you do about traffic? More density does create traffic, there’s no question. We work hard to mitigate that as best as possible. Sometimes we can’t directly reduce the amount of traffic but maybe we can do other things that basically say the trade-off is you can accept a little bit more traffic but you’re getting retail [and] restaurants you didn’t have there before. It’s kind of that balancing act.

How does DART play into the effort to densify?

DART is densifying Dallas. It is. We have four DART lines that run through downtown. Guess what? We’re going to get people living in downtown without cars at all. What a shock for Dallas. When I grew up, [downtown] Dallas was ghost town after 5:30 p.m. You could race cars down Main Street and nobody would bother you.

People complain about how DART put their trains in the wrong places. DART put the trains where they can put them, which was on existing rail lines. The reason we don’t have train coverage in North Dallas is because the Dallas North Toll Road used to be a rail line, and they turned it into a toll road. Then when DART showed up it was like, “Oh.”

DART’s operational plan is trying to improve that. They have operational bus plan; I think they know it’s urgent. Some people seem to like to bash DART relentlessly. Nationally it’s considered one of the most successful systems out there.

We’ve got to get some of our transit and transportation issues straightened out. I’d love to bring jobs where people live. The reality of it is, we have job centers, so we’ve got to figure out how to get them to the job centers. Everybody wants to beat everybody bloody over this [Trinity River] parkway. If there are people that have jobs in southern Dallas, do we want to make them have to come drive through the core of downtown Dallas to get to those job centers? Would it be better to bring those jobs to southern Dallas? Yeah. Is that going to happen? Not short term. Those are some of the challenges we face.

You’ve got an upcoming election and a challenger. Do you look forward to these?

There are definitely parts of a campaign that I like more than others. I actually like walking neighborhoods and knocking on doors. As a matter of fact, in previous campaigns, if I’d get grumpy or aggravated [doing] fundraising calls, my campaign manager is like, “Just go knock doors, you’ll be a lot happier person.” I’ve always been kind of a people person. I like engaging with people. I like hearing from them. I like fixing their problems. Sometimes you get service requests at the door, which someone didn’t bother calling through on one. As long as you’re there they’re going to tell you about it, you know [you’ll] get it fixed. I enjoy that part of it. It is a distraction for the work that needs to be done here. There’s no question. I have to carve out time to do that. It just comes with the job. It’s just part of doing it.

In some respects it outs concerns in the neighborhoods that maybe you’re not hearing as much when you’re here at City Hall. I had 15 town hall meetings in the last four years. I’ve met with 300 neighborhood associations. I’m try to be engaged, but the campaign outs some issues.

He just got here, but everyone is eager to hear about changes wrought by new City Manager T.C. Broadnax.

I’m excited he’s here. I think that we’ll see some changes here at City Hall. I know some staff is really excited to have him here because they feel like they have not been heard on things they see the ability to improve the city. Even staff feels the mire of the bureaucracy that’s here. They’re eager to improve. There’s probably some staff here that’s probably shaking in their shoes, and if they are they probably need to be.

Can you give some examples?

The dog we like to kick around here a lot is housing. I don’t know if that’s just impossible. I’m really to the point where I think the city needs to consider not being involved in HUD (federal Department of Housing and Urban Development) anymore. Cities like Richardson, they just don’t take any HUD money and just don’t have to deal with all this nonsense. Other areas will see great advancement, like the Center for Performance Excellence, where people go through training to learn how to develop their departments. I think there will be a broader adoption of that. One thing I’ve heard about that department is people go and learn, but then they go back to their respective departments and people there are like, “We don’t want these new ideas.” The message will come down a lot harder that this is how to advance in the city, and you need to get your department on board with that. That’s just holding people accountable.

The quest for affordable housing seems to be a hot-button issue and one that spills over into nearly every other city issue.

That’s some kind of conundrum to me as well. If you look nationally, housing in Dallas is pretty affordable. Nevertheless, there are a lot of people who cannot afford to live in our city. We need to make some policy decisions, based on facts, like how many people [we] have at what levels of affordability living in our city? We are pursuing an affordable house policy without even really knowing the metrics of what the goal is, other than just more affordable housing. That’s just too amorphous for me.

One thing in housing that people don’t think about is in this city a single-family home needs to be worth about $225,000 to about $250,000 to generate enough tax revenue to pay for the services that that family will be using in the city. When we build houses that are less than that, we’ve made a policy decision that we’re going to subsidize the people that are living there. I’m not saying that’s a bad policy decision, but we should be conscious of that policy decision.

It’s the same way for affordable housing in apartments. That’s a little hard to figure out, but probably family [annual] income in the $60,000 to $80,000 range needs to be there. Maybe they’re paying enough taxes through sales tax. Of course, they pay property tax too through their rent to afford the services that the city’s using.

If all the poverty of North Texas is concentrated in our city, then we are carrying a burden for our suburban neighbors that they’re not carrying. We need policy decisions based on that. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have affordable housing, I’m saying we’ve got to understand where we’re making this policy decision, what we’re signing up to. In housing, there are so many unintended consequences that happen.

Joe Pappalardo is editor in chief of the Dallas Observer.

Editorial: Yelling and hurling insults is no way to lead

July 6, 2015

People who rise to top public offices sometimes mistake the power of their positions as license to yell and name call. A big part of leadership is serving as an example for others to follow, which means demonstrating dignity and respect instead of childlike behavior.

This newspaper has chided Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price for uncivil antics, but he’s far from the only culprit. Bad behavior on the Dallas City Council has reached the point where Mayor Mike Rawlings is calling for a reset, especially as six new members begin their inaugural terms.

Examples of obnoxious behavior abound.

Consider former council member Carolyn Davis’ embarrassment in 2010 after she encountered police officers detaining one of her South Dallas neighbors for traffic violations. Davis tried to use her council position to intimidate the officers and gain special treatment for her neighbor. Her interference led to a threat of criminal charges from Police Chief David Brown.

More recently, former council member Tennell Atkins was convicted of misdemeanor assault for accosting a guard trying to enforce new security rules at City Hall. Atkins was quoted as saying, “Do you know who I am?” as if he believed he were exempt from the rules.

Council member Scott Griggs came under investigation after he allegedly screamed at a city staffer and threatened her.

Equally disturbing is council member Philip Kingston’s suggestion that incivility is justified. “People don’t understand how depressing it is to work for an organization where yelling at staff actually works,” he told Dallas Morning News staff writer Elizabeth Findell. “I’ve worked places where yelling at staff would get you fired. Here, it’s the only way to get things done.”

Bullying staffers or using demeaning language with colleagues or constituents serves only to destroy working relationships and minimize the prospects for positive outcomes. How is it that other leaders thrive politically without resorting to such antics?

We need only look to Congress to see how the breakdown of civility has led to the worst kinds of partisan gridlock. A worrisome trend is developing even at the U.S. Supreme Court – the standard bearer of dignity and regal solemnity – where personal attacks are becoming more common.

Among the biggest offenders is Justice Antonin Scalia, whose recent writings have demeaned colleagues’ opinions as “pure applesauce,” “jiggery-pokery” and “argle-bargle.”

Insulting language and behavior might make some important people feel even more important, as if they’ve earned some kind of badge of achievement by being the loudest yeller and biggest insulter.

But they should never confuse such behavior with leadership, especially when they turn around and realize that no one’s following.

Photo of Wednesday

July 4, 2013

Wednesday afternoon, council member Lee Kleinman pulled a man from a wrecked car on Forest Lane

July 4, 2013

From Dallas Morning News:

Wednesday afternoon, council member Lee Kleinman pulled a man from a wrecked car on Forest Lane

RUDOLPH BUSH / Staff Writer

About quarter to six yesterday evening, the new North Dallas council member, Lee Kleinman, was driving down Forest Lane on his way to pick up his dog from day camp at the PetsMart on Inwood Road.

As he passed under the tollway, he saw a bright red four-door came skidding towards him down Forest, upside down and every which way but right.

The car came to a stop just across from the Forest Car Wash and Detail. A young man, in his late 20s or early 30s, was the only occupant.

A friend let me know last night about the wreck and told me it was Kleinman who pulled the man from the mangled car.

I called Kleinman this morning and asked if anything interesting happened yesterday afternoon.

He didn’t offer it up until I said I’d heard he pulled someone from a burning car.

“It wasn’t burning. It was flipped,” he said.

“I was going under the tollway, and I see this car going upside down and skidding towards me,” he said.

Kleinman pulled over, as did three or four other people. The man was in the car and bleeding. Kleinman and another man were set to pull him out but worried they could hurt him further if his neck was injured.

But then the man unstrapped his own seatbelt and came tumbling down. Kleinman then reached in and pulled him out.

He and others waited with the man while paramedics arrived. Kleinman praised the crew from Station 41 at Preston and Royal for getting there quickly.

He wasn’t sure what the final outcome was, he said. When the professionals arrived, he got back in his car and headed off to pick up the dog. ◼

Biking in Dallas

April 23, 2013
Home » Lifestyle

Lee M. Kleinman for City Council District 11

Submitted by on April 22, 2013 – 1:32 pmOne Comment

Due to redistricting I now live in District 11 which has been represented by Linda Koop for several years now. Koop is well known to cycling advocates for her work in transportation and support for a better cycling infrastructure. Note that District 11 is home to the Preston Ridge trail, Cottonwood Creek trail, White Rock Creek trail, and Northaven trail. Hike and bike trails matter and District 11 is a shining example of what can happen when a community works together in this respect.

photo credit Far North Dallas Advocate/ Can Turkyilmaz

Lee M Kleinman – photo credit Far North Dallas Advocate/ Can Turkyilmaz

Koop’s term expires next month and voters in District 11 will be choosing between Lee Kleinman and Ori Raphael. Both are business guys. Raphael is a former Pete Sessions staffer, yes that Pete Sessions. Kleinman has been knee deep in local politics for years. This is an easy choice for me: Lee Kleinman gets my vote and endorsement.

I met Lee for coffee a few years ago. I had some concerns about some of the trail construction in what was then District 12. As a member of the park board I thought he would be a good person to get to know.

He was very helpful and I was impressed with his dedication and commitment to our hike and bike trail system and Dallas as a whole. He’s a good person to know and has made numerous contributions to our city as a citizen and also member of many volunteer boards. He can be spotted now and then riding a tandem bicycle around town with his wife, Lisa.

I’ve linked to each candidate’s official web site where you can learn more about where they stand on pressing issues. Since this is a cycling blog I want to highlight some of Kleinman’s contributions that affect or interest our world:

  • Dallas Park and Recreation Department – Board Member
  • Dallas Zoological Society – Board Member
  • Dallas Zoo Long Range Planning Committee
  • Trinity Commons Foundation – Board Member
  • White Rock Centennial Host Committee – Finance Chair
  • Center for Non Profit Management – Judge – Awards of Excellence
  • Dallas Bicycle Plan Steering Committee
  • Temple Emanu El – Board Member
  • Temple Emanu El Pre-School – Board Member
  • Temple Emanu El – Ba’al Tekiah
  • Greenhill School – Capital Campaign Committee
  • St. Marks School of Texas – Class Reunion Committee
  • Friends of Northaven Trail – Founding Board Member
  • Friends of White Rock Creek Trail – Founding Board Member
  • YMCA Indian Guides Wappinger Tribe – Chief
  • OrgSync, Inc – Advisory Board Member
  • National Recreation and Park Association
  • Habitat for Humanity
  • Dallas County Grand Jury
  • CEO Netweavers
  • Metroplex Technology Business Forum
  • North Texas Crime Commission

I got a kick out of reading about a recent a District 11 forum at the North Dallas Chamber of Commerce in the Dallas Morning News City Hall blog. The two candidates were invited to share their vision for the district, Tristan Hallman wrote,

“Kleinman, a former Park Board member who earned Koop’s endorsement, said he supports theCotton Belt Corridor, bike trails, pedestrian access, mixed-use developments — think Mockingbird Station — and a Trinity River toll road.

Kleinman added, “Streets and highways are always important, but options are important, too”. Raphael was having none of that: “Let’s go back to basics,” Raphael said. “People spend their time getting around in their cars. That’s where our focus should be.”

Kleinman suggested Raphael was stuck in a “Detroit mentality” meaning drive there now. Raphael was quick to accuse Kleinman of being the candidate who’s “using my tax dollars to pay for bike trails”.

Goodness.

Tax dollars for bike trails, the horror...

Tax dollars for bike trails, the horror…

Imagine that: a city using bond and county/federal grant money to fund hike and bike trails.

Oh the horror

I mean practically everyone knows bike trails are a gateway drug. Today it’s bike trails, tomorrow it’s city parks, and later still: county nature preserves! Who will stop this madness?

For those new to Dallas politics, a bond fund must be approved by the voters, and sometime voters approve of projects that not every single voter is thrilled about. That’s what we call democracy. Old Abe had it right when he said you can’t please all of the people all of the time. Color me crazy but I don’t think the Tea Party mentality of “it’s all about me and my tax dollars” will serve this district or the City of Dallas very well.

In closing I’m looking forward to voting for Lee Kleinman and I think he’ll do an exceptional job for District 11 and Dallas as a whole. If you live in the far north Dallas area be sure to look at the latestdistrict 11 map. I was previously in district 12 and now I’m in 11, you could be too. I encourage you to visit both candidate’s web sites and learn more about where they stand on numerous issues and then make an informed decision. I did.

My Facebook profile
Chris started riding a bike again when he noticed the Preston Ridge Trail being constructed across the street from his house. Since then he co-founded Biking in Dallas, has gone through countless Craigslist bike projects (some better than others) and can be found pedaling around town on a Electra Ticino with a camera in tow.

Dallas Morning News Recommends Lee Kleinman for Dallas City Council

April 22, 2013

Editorial: We recommend Lee Kleinman for Dallas City Council District 11

Voters in Dallas’ northernmost City Council district have, on paper, two intriguing choices for a successor to term-limited Linda Koop.

Dig a little deeper, however, and it’s clear they would be best served by Lee Kleinman, an entrepreneur and technology company investor. His 29-year-old opponent, Ori Raphael, has some grasp of the politics that make up part of a council member’s job but falls short on the substance of governance. Kleinman, who turns 54 the day before the May 11 election, has put in the time learning the politics while building the experience that yields superior governance.

Raphael, a former staffer for Republican U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, is vice president for business development at FreshLoc Technologies, a company involved in wireless temperature monitoring over the cloud. He tends toward black-and-white solutions, understanding the value of a good talking point but too often not venturing beyond that. Still, he’s young and bright enough to give himself time to gain a broader, deeper understanding of how city government works, if he were so inclined.

District 11 voters looking to replace a top-flight council member in Koop should go with the far more finished product in Kleinman.

Unlike his opponent, he has immersed himself in city governance as a member of the Park Board and Dallas Zoological Society. This learning time, along with a demonstrated independent streak, has helped him better understand how city spending works.

Both candidates pledge to hold the line on property tax rates, for instance, but Kleinman displays a stronger background in how the city can spend taxpayer dollars wisely while also watching the bottom line. He correctly notes that debt service is a looming issue and wants the city to reduce its reliance on big-dollar bond programs.

Similarly, Kleinman understands how overinvestment in southern Dallas can pay off for all city taxpayers by increasing the tax base in the half of the city with the most room to grow. Raphael, on the other hand, favors closer to a zero-sum approach, with the parts of town contributing the most tax money getting more back in programs and services. That logic, while possibly seductive in a wealthier council district, offers little hope for bridging Dallas’ long-term north-south divide.

Kleinman oversees day-to-day operations for Bridge Metrics, a business-to-business software company, and speaks from a position of three decades of experience in managing finances and implementing best practices.

In the future, with stronger preparation, Raphael could prove a solid council member. In the here and now, District 11 voters should go with the superior choice in Kleinman.

One in a series of Dallas Morning News candidate recommendations.

Coming soon: More recommendations in selected municipal and school board races.

Voter Guide: To hear from the candidates in their own words, visit dallasnews.com/localvoterguide.

Early voting starts: April 29

Election day: May 11

For more information: Call the Dallas County elections office at 214-819-6300, or visit dallascountyvotes.org. For more help, including how to check your voter registration status, contact the Texas secretary of state at 1-800-252-8683 or visit votetexas.gov.

Greater Dallas Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

April 20, 2013

20130430-142332.jpg

The Greater Dallas Hispanic Chamber of Commerce PAC announced the endorsement of Lee Kleinman for Dallas City Council District 11.

Transportation debate ramps up at first District 11 candidates forum

April 3, 2013

Home > City Hall Blog

Transportation debate ramps up at first District 11 candidates forum

City Council candidates Ori Raphael and Lee Kleinman asked voters to trust them with the keys to the city’s transportation infrastructure during their first joint forum appearance Wednesday morning at the North Dallas Chamber of Commerce.

But the two candidates, who are vying to replace term-limited transportation aficionado Linda Koop in District 11, offered divergent routes to some three-dozen attendees at the League of Women Voters Q-and-A session.

Kleinman, a former Park Board member who earned Koop’s endorsement, said he supports the Cotton Belt Corridor, bike trails, pedestrian access, mixed-use developments — think Mockingbird Station — and a Trinity River toll road.

Kleinman also said he would favor bringing a high-speed railway station to Dallas. State transportation officials are currently studying the feasibility of high-speed rail along the Interstate 35 corridor from Oklahoma City to San Antonio.

“Streets and highways are always important, but options are important, too,” Kleinman said.

Raphael, a former staffer for Republican U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, said he supports the Trinity River toll road, but remains “up in the air” over the Cotton Belt Corridor, which would provide a train link between Plano and Fort Worth. Alternative transit proposals are often too costly for Dallas residents and benefit too few, he said. Plus, people who take trains to downtown Dallas still might need to hop in a car to get around anyway, he said.

Alleviating traffic, fixing potholes and alleyways and diverting 18-wheelers should be the city’s top priorities, Raphael said. He also said a texting-and-driving ban in Dallas — something Austin has done, and both the city of Houston and the state Legislature are considering — could help prevent traffic-snarling car wrecks.

“Let’s go back to basics,” Raphael said. “People spend their time getting around in their cars. That’s where our focus should be.”

Kleinman shot back at Raphael, 29, saying ”it’s ironic that you’re calling yourself the young candidate, but you go back to that old Detroit mentality: drive there now.”

After the event, Raphael responded by telling a reporter that Kleinman, who helped develop the city’s bike plan, is “the old candidate who is using my tax dollars to pay for bike trails.”

Update: Raphael called and said he meant that Kleinman was “the same old politician who wants to spend tax dollars on his projects,” not that he is an old guy.

Other notes on the District 11 forum:

– Both men said they believe the Valley View mall redevelopment will be a boon to economic growth in their North Dallas district.

– Neither took firm positions on hydraulic fracturing in Dallas, but both said drilling probably shouldn’t occur around residential areas or kids’ soccer fields.

– Although the League of Women Voters sponsored the event, there were roughly as many men as women in attendance.