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Sandy Greyson will soon term out as Far North Dallas’ council member. Again.
That means it’s time — again — for someone to take Greyson’s seat at City Hall. Greyson has backed her long-time City Plan Commission representative, Carolyn “Cookie” Peadon, to become her successor in District 12 over two other candidates: Cara Mendelsohn and Daniel Powell.
The race will test the value of Greyson’s and other endorsements in the district that at its core is a largely suburban community akin to neighbors Richardson, Addison and Plano — filled with single-family homes and rising property values.
All three candidates in the race — which has focused on issues such as public safety, property tax rates and infrastructure — have ties to Greyson, who was on the council from 1997-2005 and won back her seat in 2011. But her endorsement of Peadon has caused some friction in the race, especially between Mendelsohn and Greyson.
Dallas City Council member Sandy Greyson, right, speaks after the Dallas City Council voted to kill the Trinity River Toll Road on Wednesday, August 9, 2017 at City Hall in Dallas. (Ashley Landis/The Dallas Morning News)
Peadon has served as Greyson’s plan commissioner for the past five years. Greyson selected Mendelsohn to serve on the Housing Policy Task Force and the mayor’s and citizen homelessness commissions. And Greyson put Powell in a handful of roles over the past six years, including as a board member of two different Tax Increment Financing districts.
But Greyson said Peadon earned her backing in the race because of her decades-long engagement in the community.
A retired IT manager for American Airlines, Peadon, 74, has served as a plan commissioner for the last five years. Her campaign has focused on her familiarity with zoning and planning issues and touted her involvement in the city’s new landscape-and-tree ordinance.
A former homeowner’s association president, Peadon also helped organize a fact-finding group focused on Dallas Area Rapid Transit’s Cotton Belt line, serving as the chair of the Cotton Belt Concerned Citizens’ Coalition. Along with Greyson, Peadon’s group successfully lobbied for a $22 million increase in safety devices, betterments, and sound and vibration mitigation along the line, which crosses District 12 on its way from Richardson to D/FW International Airport.
“We’ve looked at everything to come up with something that would be a workable solution,” Peadon said.
Powell, 33, has concentrated his message on the need for more mixed-use, mixed-income developments in the district as a way to revitalize aging strip malls and apartment complexes. Large apartment complexes and condos on the northeastern and western edges of Far North Dallas give District 12 the most multi-family units of any district in the city.
New developments could provide new energy for the district and address mobility issues for young families who might be priced out of their apartments and homes, Powell said.
Mendelsohn, 52, also has a raft of civic experience, in both Collin and Dallas counties. The current executive director of a home repair non-profit, Rebuilding Together, Mendelsohn previously served as the president of the Plano ISD Council of PTAs, worked on a variety of homelessness boards and non-profits, and held leadership roles with the Jewish Family Service.
Mendelsohn’s campaign has highlighted her track record, centering its messaging on the need for better governance at City Hall.
“You could go through and find all sorts of issues and boondoggles with the city that we aren’t taking care of,” she said.
Mendelsohn has also said more leadership was needed at City Hall to stop the Cotton Belt commuter rail, which she said was “a disaster.” She said the district didn’t have "strong enough leadership" — an apparent shot at Greyson, who was a vocal opponent of Dallas Area Rapid Transit’s project.
Mendelsohn was also critical of the recent creation of the Neighborhood Forest Overlay, a new type of zoning instrument — which had Greyson and Peadon’s support — that allows neighborhoods to group together and establish a set of tree removal and mitigation rules. Mendelsohn said the law impinged on property owners’ rights.
Mendelsohn noted that her campaign materials haven’t included any attacks on the incumbent and said Greyson should be lauded for her years of service. But that doesn’t mean Greyson’s record and conditions within the district are immune to criticism, Mendelsohn said.
“I don’t think it’s negative when I’m pointing out deficiencies, and talking about what is wrong in our district and in our city,” Mendelsohn said, pointing to slow police response times and the lack of communication between City Hall and District 12 constituents.
She also questioned whether it was right that Greyson “pass the crown” to a personal friend especially after she said Greyson told her last year that she’d stay out of the race.
Greyson said she was “very disappointed with the negative campaign being run” by Mendelsohn, and said she never told Mendelsohn that she would not endorse someone else.
Peadon said her relationship with Greyson is friendly, but isn’t social. They have a long working relationship, she said.
Peadon also received another endorsement that stirred up some intrigue.
All three candidates sat for interviews with the Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, which works for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender causes in the city and state.
But while the City Council races are non-partisan, the Stonewall Democrats are not. For candidates to receive an endorsement from the group, candidates must be willing to affiliate with the Democratic Party platform in order to be considered, Stonewall Dems president Brandon Vance said.
Mendelsohn — a steady voter in Republican primaries and known in local GOP political circles — would not agree to those stipulations, and therefore was ineligible for endorsement. But she knew that going in, she said, and was happy to sit for an interview regardless; Mendelsohn — who is backed by the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance PAC — said she does not seek nor accept partisan endorsements.
Two current council members with clout among Stonewall’s membership — Adam Medrano, the chair of the mayor’s LGBT task force, and Omar Narvaez, a former president of the Stonewall Democrats —sat in on the interviews.
Narvaez and Medrano — who did not respond to a request for comment — share the same political consultant as Mendelsohn: Anna Casey, who has also guided campaigns of mayoral candidate Scott Griggs, incumbent council members Philip Kingston and North Oak Cliff candidate Chad West.
The group’s endorsement committee decided not to back a candidate, which could’ve helped Mendelsohn by default.
But when the committee’s recommendations came before the full membership, Vance said he was worried how not endorsing in the District 12 race would look. The item was reconsidered, and Peadon got the nod.
Mendelsohn laughed at the idea that her candidacy was being pushed as a part of a slate of city politicians, saying that while she shares some stances on governance as fellow Casey candidates, she far from fits the mold. In addition, Mendelsohn said she has also hired a right-leaning political consulting firm, Texas-based Murphy Nasica.
While Peadon has received both the Stonewall Democrats’ and Greyson’s support, several other key endorsements have gone to Mendelsohn, including an influential joint endorsement by the Dallas Police Association and Dallas Fire Fighters Association.
Powell has lagged in fundraising, raising less than half of Mendelsohn’s totals, and hasn’t had significant endorsements in the race. Peadon was the fundraising leader from January to March, reporting $25,780 in contributions.
Early voting runs through April 30. Election Day is May 4.