Arnold in Dallas City Council District 4
Elections are about tough choices, and sometimes the options aren’t the ones we would prefer. Such is the case in the District 4 runoff election Tuesday to serve the unexpired term of disgraced former council member Dwaine Caraway.
While we have concerns about both candidates, our reluctant nod goes to former Dallas City Council member Carolyn King Arnold over 29-year-old community activist Keyaira Saunders, who comes to this race with a thin résumé.
Arnold, 65, has disappointed us on occasion during the two years she represented this district. A retired educator and neighborhood association leader, Arnold succeeded Caraway when the longtime council member was term-limited in 2015, then lost in 2017 to the former mayor pro tem, whose resignation and guilty plea to federal corruption charges in August led to the special election to fill the seat.
This editorial board disagreed with Arnold’s stance on a variety of issues, most notably her vehement opposition to the deck park over Interstate 35E linking north Oak Cliff to the Dallas Zoo. She called it a “wreck park” and “lipstick on a pig,” demonstrating a lack of understanding of its important role in the broader Southern Gateway project to create jobs, new investment and improve property values.
To her credit, Arnold helped attract a new Walmart in her Glen Oaks Crossing neighborhood at I-35E and Ledbetter, but she was less effective than she could have been on the council. She was most often a voice of opposition rather than a voice of vision and renewal for the district. Sometimes, she simply seemed confused about the issues at hand.
However, we have more serious reservations about Saunders’ ability to govern effectively. She’s a founding member of the Next Generation Action Network, a social-action organization that has held numerous protests and rallies in the past few years in the Dallas area. While there is a role for protest, there is a significant difference between social activism on the protest line and the nuts-and-bolts duties of finding consensus as an elected official at the council horseshoe.
More concerning, court records from Collin and Denton counties indicate apartment complexes have sought to evict Saunders in recent years. A mother of three children, Saunders said she had fallen on hard times financially but settled debts and was never evicted. Nonetheless, we find this troubling.
Saunders finished second behind Arnold in the November general election, garnering 17.1 percent of the vote to Arnold’s 25.8 percent in a crowded 12-person race. The takeaway is that voters want fresh, aggressive, committed leadership. We would urge Arnold to learn from her mistakes and embrace a governing approach that is solution-oriented and, failing that, we can only hope a new leader will emerge during the spring election when the winner on Tuesday will be seeking a full, two-year term on the council.