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Interview: John McClelland For Dallas City Council

The Editor's Column
Posted by WhosPlayin on 2007/2/25 23:18:32 (4934 reads)

Today, WhosPlayin interviews John McClelland, a resident of Northern Dallas, and fellow blogger / activist who is running for City Council in Dallas' Twelfth District. John recently announced his intention to run for the seat, currently held by one-term incumbent Ron Natinsky. He was kind enough to agree, so without further introduction, we'll hop right into it:

WhosPlayin: With apologies, because you're going to get this same question a hundred times: What is your motivation for running for this office?

John McClelland: You're right, I will answer it over and over again for the next 3 months and maybe even after the election. I believe it is my civic duty to give back to a city that I've been able to call home for the last 5 years. I want to steer Dallas in the right direction. We need a city government who will stop wasteful spending of our citizens' tax dollars. We need a City Council who feels they are not above the law. We should be model citizens, not model felons.

I am also running my campaign in memory of my brother. He died a year ago to the day I announced my intentions to run. He was a sergeant in the Army and had just returned home from his 2nd tour in Iraq, only to die in a tragic accident. I want to serve my city in the same way my brother served his country.

WhosPlayin: John, I am sorry to hear about your brother. I can appreciate your motivations for doing something for your community in that same spirit of service. What are the top issues facing Dallas right now, particularly in your district?

John McClelland: I think a lot of the issues in my district are the same issues city wide. You hear the cliché of being tough on crime, but it is a valid topic. My district alone had 3900 crimes in 2006. The Dallas SWAT is fun to watch on TV, but when they're in your parking lot at home, it isn't quite as fun. Some people may think we're more "well to do" in Far North Dallas, but that just isn't the case. We are not immune to the problems this city faces.

I also believe holding an ethical standard in government is the right thing to do. The city has an ethics code for a reason. We have City Council members who were being investigated by the FBI and not being able to answer where vehicles came from. While being investigated is not an admission of guilt, you have to do some pretty dumb to grab the attention of a federal law enforcement agent.

I also have a whole slate of issues and ideas on my new website,, since there are too many to list here.

WhosPlayin: On your website, "Ethics in Government" is the top item on your list. This seems to be something that a lot of politicians pay lip service to, but don't follow through on. How can you assure voters that you're not going to go down the same path? Do you have ideas for additional transparency? Also, even if it were not required of the other council members, would you provide personal financial disclosures?

John McClelland: A lot of what happens at City Hall is all about who can scratch who's back. I am not like that. I believe in merit and good service. At my own job, I decide what vendors to use to haul freight from point A to point B. And I do it based on who does the best job, not on how many perks a vendor wants to try and throw at me. That should be the same in government. If a contractor wants to bid on a project, there should be a fair bid process. If a councilman has a conflict of interest, he/she should recuse himself from the process. Bribes have never gotten anyone anywhere except behind bars.

As far as the financial disclosure goes, it is already a requirement by the Texas Ethics Commission to file one with the city when we run for office. So it is there for anyone to see right now. I don't have any savings & loan scandals to hide.

WhosPlayin: Everyone from just about every city is interested in crime reduction, and supporting the police with raises and more officers. From the perspective of city government, is this the answer, or are there other root causes of crime that can be abated by city policies and actions?

John McClelland: Unfortunately a lot of crime is path that people living in poverty choose to take to try and make their lives better. But it is also an end result of greed, just as much, if not more. If we could help poor people in the city with jobs programs that helped give them the necessary skills to excel in the world, they may not need to turn to a life of crime.

The drug trade also plays a significant role in Dallas in the crime rate. If we can effectively cut the supply, we may be able to reduce the murders and muggings associated with it. But this will only be accomplished by providing our police department with the resources they need, and right now that is providing more officers.

I also would like to propose a jobs program for the homeless in Dallas, as a way to deal with that problem as well. I am not saying every homeless person is a criminal. But some take that path. It is hard for the homeless to get a job because they do not have an address. If we allow these people to work for the city, then they could make a decent wage and be able to work towards building their lives back up. They could do something as simple as picking up trash off the streets or beautifying parks. There isn't any point to simply staring at them on the steps of city hall. We need to help them.

WhosPlayin: Dallas, and indeed the entire North Texas area suffers from very poor air quality. As you know, the air we breathe doesn't respect city limits and state borders. Mayor Laura Miller has taken a pro-active role in reaching out with other cities to prevent the proposed TXU coal-fired power plants to our west. What actions can the City of Dallas take to protect its natural resources and still be the thriving center of commerce that it is?

John McClelland: I believe the city could be a model in using alternative energy if we put our minds to it. Many of the DART buses already run on natural gas, which keeps emissions lower than diesel burning engines. We could possibly replace other city vehicles with flex fuel vehicles once they become cost effective for the city to purchase. DART's 2030 plan may also help to lower car use in the city once it expands the bus service and builds new rail lines throughout the city. Using mass transit is a matter of convenience to people, so it has to be easy to access.

And in reference to what Mayor Miller is doing, I think it is wonderful. The air quality here certainly does not need to be made worse by TXU. My allergies are bad enough as it is. I can not imagine what asthma sufferers go through. I believe Rick Perry has been enjoying too much of the TXU Kool-Aid if he thinks fast tracking these polluting plants is a good idea.

WhosPlayin: What is your view of the proper role of city government, and is the Dallas Council getting it right? In other words, where would you do more, and what do you think the city council should avoid?

John McClelland: I think the current City Council and Mayor all have the right intentions for our city. I don't believe they intentionally try to do the wrong thing. But I think our Council has lost sight of what reality is sometimes. Some of the City Council members would rather rule their own little city district as a principality unto itself and ignore everyone else, but I do not believe that is how our city should be run. We need to look at the broader picture and help the entire city, even though as a Councilman I would represent only a smaller section. However with the situation being that we have a City Manager who is supposed to actually run our city, with the support of the City Council (and a Mayor who is no more than just another Council member in terms of power), we all need to work together to make the city function. And that will especially be true this spring when we are set to replace at least ½ of the current City Council, as well as the Mayor. It will be a new Council with fresh ideas, I hope.

WhosPlayin: I can see your point there. When I think of the reality of what I expect out of my city, the first things that come to my mind are reliable utilities, garbage pickup, code enforcement, and police and fire protection. Do you think the council spends too much time on lofty ideas for "projects" rather than oversight of essential city services? You mentioned the Trinity River Project on your website.

John McClelland: Some of the council has its head in the clouds, no doubt. The goal is to make Dallas an attractive, nice place to live. But when you're a citizen of the city, the small things are what matter in every day life. And they need to be taken with as much seriousness as any project that wants to reroute a river. Making sure Time Warner is doing what it is supposed to be doing; making sure the trash collection is being managed in the right way; helping to alleviate why it took a fire station 15 minutes to respond to a lightning strike that burnt a house to the ground- those are the items a Councilman should be more in tune with. They may be small to people with lofty goals, but they are no less important.

WhosPlayin: John, when one looks into your background, it is easy to note that you are most unapologetically a Democrat. City Council races are non-partisan, but we live in times where the country is very much divided over issues on the national level. What do you say to the Republican or Independent voter out there who may disagree with your party on the national issues? Is there more common ground than they may think at the local level?

John McClelland: Well, like you said the race is nonpartisan. So I am not even supposed to state my party preference during the campaign itself. But you can no doubt see the history, just as it can be seen with the current Council members who are active in both parties outside of the Council. You would be able to find my own liberal blog entries on the internet, just like yours. But I want to be able to sit on the Council and be viewed as someone with merit who was put there because of his ideas, and not simply deemed worthy because they vote D or R. I have been a member of both political parties, as have you. But I make no apologies for my current views. They are part of a belief system that shapes who I am. But when it comes down to issues such as fighting crime, giving police a raise in pay, stopping wasteful spending, lowering property taxes, etc, those are all issues that people on both sides of the aisle can agree upon. And it has already been proven by the Republican Primary voters who have seen fit to sign my petition to be placed on the ballot on May 12.

WhosPlayin: That's great, John, and I echo your views on that. I wish you good luck and thank you for the opportunity to interview you. As the elections near, and issues come up, we'd appreciate the opportunity to get your opinions once again.

John McClelland: I appreciate the opportunity to have my first full interview on the other side of the blogger's keyboard. It is a lot different not being the interviewer.

I want to take this opportunity to speak to voters and make them aware that voting in city elections is one of the most important things you can do. The decisions made at this level affect your day to day lives more than what Congress comes up with. So please, make sure you vote in the May elections in your town. And please, get out there and help these grassroots campaigns. November 2006 may be done and gone, but politics is never on hiatus. We still need volunteers and donors for all of our campaigns this Spring.

Thank you again. Now on to victory in May!

WhosPlayin urges all Texans to get out and vote on May 12th, and make it known to your local candidates what matters to you in your city.
I'll also add that you should donate a few bucks to his campaign if you can. You can do that via his website.

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