In his final months as Dallas mayor, Mike Rawlings is as encouraged as ever about the direction of the city.
In a wide-ranging interview on stage at a North Dallas Chamber of Commerce breakfast, Rawlings spoke on education, housing, tourism, and overall growth of the city as he approaches the end of his final term.
(ABOVE – FROM LEFT: Dallas Morning News editor Mike Wilson interviews Mayor Mike Rawlings on stage. Photo by Tim Glaze)
“Dallas has really become a ‘growth’ market,” he said. “I’m very competitive, and this group [in office] has really stepped up during my term. We’ve still got questions that need answering and representation. But I think this city is moving in a fantastic direction.”
Rawlings said his relationship with board members and delegates in the state capital is strong, but that he’s “constantly working” on ways to improve Dallas. The issues of education and affordable housing, specifically, have been hot-button ones for the mayor.
Tourism dollars have begun pouring into the city, and in turn, more money has been spent on attractions to continue bringing in visitors. Rawlings said that with the money coming in from tourism, he’d been asked about using some of that surplus on issues like housing.
The gap between the haves and the have-nots is still here in a significant way, unfortunately. We have to make sure this city is for everyone, not just a few. -Mike Rawlings
“I’d really like to avoid robbing Peter to pay Paul,” he said. “We definitely need more money for public housing, but we’re also becoming a mainstay for events, tourism, sports, you name it. Hopefully, we can find a way to balance everything.”
Rawlings said that housing for all residents remains an issue he’s “passionate” about.
“I don’t want us to be like other cities where you can get priced out, so we have to plan better,” he said. “The gap between the haves and the have-nots is still here in a significant way, unfortunately. We have to make sure this city is for everyone, not just a few.”
Rawlings continued, saying there are “housing battles” in north Dallas neighborhoods that need more support.
“Everyone talks a big game until it happens right down the street from them,” he said. “We’ve tried to put public and affordable housing in certain neighborhoods, and then they get voted down because people are afraid that their property values are going to decrease. We have to have the political courage to make a difference in those situations. We’ve got to be making progress [in housing], and we’re not making enough.”
It’s the same situation, Rawlings said, with education. Dallas ISD, which was recently named a ‘property-wealthy’ district by the state, has made huge strides in the overall quality, but Rawlings wants more.
“Education is the most important thing we’re putting out,” he said. “We’re not in the end zone yet, but the state is starting to look at Dallas as a lighthouse for education.”
Overall, Rawlings said, Dallas’ continued growth and prosperity are up to current and future residents and leaders.
“This city has grown more this decade than it ever has in history,” he said. “The key is, how do we keep it going? I don’t think about my legacy or anything. I just want this city to continue to prosper.”