With West Dallas Residents Fed Up With Their Ongoing Fights Against Evictions And Gentrification, District 6 Is Maybe Dallas’ Most Important City Council Race.
It was a warm Saturday morning in early October, and hundreds of concerned West Dallas residents filled the Anita Martinez Recreation Center’s gymnasium. These District 6 constituents came here to hear Dallas city council member Monica Alonzo share with them a plan, one that she said would save them from their impending eviction from the neighborhood.
Most of those in attendance were tenants of HMK Properties, the embattled landlord company that City Hall had effectively turned into a boogeyman after a zoning change meant their homes were no longer up to code and were being taken off the market. As the event began, Alonzo and her aides tried their best to ease the fears of these concerned citizens. But as the meeting wore on, the mood of the room shifted from hopeful to confused to angry — and the crowd let the organizers know this by asking increasingly pointed questions and eventually leaving without having received any information they deemed useful.
As Sunday’s elections near, Alonzo is once again feeling that same heat once again. Her re-election campaign may be flying somewhat under the radar, overshadowed by the expensive District 14 city council race between incumbent Philip Kingston and challenger Matt Wood — but that doesn’t mean a spirit of change isn’t coursing through District 6, too.
Longtime West Dallas resident Jesse Hernandez sees the tides turning. He says there’s now a clear desire among District 6 residents to see a new face representing their area after it became clear to them that Alonzo’s leadership was one of the driving forces of the area’s gentrification.
“She did a lot of things wrong, and everyone started seeing it,” Hernandez says. “Nobody wants her anymore. They’re not for her anymore.”
With six candidates running — and two clearly nipping at Alonzo’s frontrunner status — it seems that this year’s election is a battle for the soul of District 6 and for the city’s ongoing efforts to redevelop low-income neighborhoods. Alonzo’s top two challengers are Omar Narvaez, a Dallas County Schools board member, and Alex Dickey, a high school teacher from the northwestern area of the district who received the Dallas Morning News‘ endorsement. Also running are retired DPD officer Gil Cerda, human resources manager Lynus Spiller, and local entrepreneur Tony Carrillo.
There appears to be a consensus among these challengers that there’s a disconnect between Alonzo’s actions on the council and what her constituents desire. Throughout her current term, she voted in favor of housing standards that led to the HMK eviction crisis, and she supported allocating funds to move a cement plant away from Trinity Groves and next to a middle school and residential area.
Dickey, an Alonzo challenger who has lived in District 6 his entire life, says the city has not focused on basic infrastructure services, and Alonzo’s votes have contributed to that.
“She’s been voting for an agenda that is not taking care of the basics,” Dickey says. “She has a tendency to vote for the high-end projects under the disguise or mantra of economic development. I’ve seen it my entire life, yet how, with all the economic growth, is it that even the streets are in terrible shape?”
Narvaez, another Alonzo challenger, has been living in the district for a little more than a year and has received numerous endorsements from West Dallas organizations. He says a lack of communication between Alonzo and her constituents is what bothers him most.
“Most recently, it’s her inability to sit down and come up with a solution for the 300 families who faced eviction last year,” Narvaez says. “There could have been the ability to provide an extension for a year or 24 months. But on June 3, their time is done and there’s nothing that we can do for them now.”
Candidate Cerda echoes that sentiment.
“I understand gentrification is going to happen and that the city is going to beautify the area, but they should’ve started by consulting with the folks who already live here,” Cerda says, annoyed that Alonzo didn’t take the lead on such an outreach. “The city didn’t knock on anyone’s door to ask about what was going to happen to them.”
Alonzo did not reply to multiple requests for comment on this story on the race for her seat on city council.
Hernandez, who is supporting Narvaez, says that he’s been encouraged by the new attitude he’s seen of late from the people of District 6 — one where people are ready to stand up for themselves and demand more of their representatives.
“You don’t see the progress or anything that was promised to you,” Hernandez says. “You vote for them and what do you get? I walked up to Omar and told him, ‘I’m gonna vote for you and look at my face because I will confront you like I did Monica.’ And I think he got the message.”