Mayoral candidates Scott Griggs and Eric Johnson shared their views about Dallas’ future May 23 at the Aaron Family JCC in a community forum sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council. The program was moderated by KERA’s Sam Baker.
By virtue of a coin toss, Griggs, a current city councilman, gave his opening statement first. A father of three, Griggs makes his home in Oak Cliff. He outlined the issues of key import:
“Taking care of public safety, transportation, housing economic development. I’m looking forward to earning your support tonight and the conversation.”
Johnson, a father of two, has represented District 100 in the Texas House of Representatives since 2010.
In his opening statement he focused on improving education for children, saying he wanted children to have access to strong public schools and to “grow up in a city that supports them with strong recreation centers and strong public libraries.”
The first question of the evening focused on public safety.
“How will you address safety of all citizens both in places of worship and elsewhere?” Baker asked.
“Increasing the number of police officers,” said Griggs. “Public safety is my No. 1 priority.”
Griggs, who has been endorsed by the Dallas Police Association and firefighters, wants to get pay closer to $72,000 and improve benefits.
“We just aren’t paying our police officers enough,” he said.
He added that he would speak out against leaders who come to Dallas who have bad track records on human rights and other issues.
Earlier that week, Griggs spoke out against Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.
“We should not welcome him to our city because of his track record in Brazil of not being friendly to minorities, not being friendly to the LBTQ communities.”
Johnson explained that paying police more and improving their morale is something that both candidates agree on and that virtually every candidate in the race has agreed on.
He turned his attention to being proactive.
“I’m from a community that has dealt with this issue of hate and discrimination for a long long time. And what I think is missing from this discussion sometimes is, the way you have to deal with hate is you have to be proactive about dealing with it.
“The police focus is great and important; that’s reactive. Police respond once something has happened. Once a synagogue has been desecrated and vandalized, once someone has been dragged through the street or beaten up. They respond to something that’s already gone wrong.
“Proactively we need a mayor who is going to stand up and talk about these issues and push forward initiatives that bring people together and bring back some of those conversations that we were having in the city about being a more united city….”
Bringing candidates together is one of the focuses of the JCRC.
As the public affairs and external relations division of the Jewish Federation, the JCRC is engaged in advocacy for Israel, legislative outreach and interfaith and interethnic relationship building, said Chair Melanie Rubin.
Event chairs for the evening were Dawn Strauss and Jim Tolbert. In addition to the JCRC, community partners for the event were: AJC Dallas; Congregation Anshai Torah; Congregation Beth Torah; Congregation Nishmat Am; Congregation Shearith Israel; Hadassah; The Jewish Latino Alliance; National Council of Jewish Women, Dallas; Southwest Jewish Congress; Temple Emanu-El; and Temple Shalom.