2023 State of the City address tackles safety, taxes and parksdfwnewsa | December 16, 2023 | 0 | Dallas News
(The Dallas Examiner) – Each year, the mayor of Dallas is responsible for delivering the State of the City address in order to discuss the condition of the city, its financial situation, accomplishments, plans and future needs. The speech is a requirement of the City Charter, which lists the responsibilities of Dallas’ elected officials and government organizations.
Previous addresses were presented at Dallas City Hall. Last year it was held at Fair Park. This year, it was conducted virtually and through broadcast by WBAP News/Talk online. It was also scheduled to broadcast on 99.5 FM-HD2.
“In past years, we have made the State of the City address an in-person event. But this year, in an increasingly complex world that is fraught with uncertainty, I decided to keep things simple. No stage. No podium. No applause breaks. Just an honest conversation with you about Dallas,” Johnson explained.
Raised in West Dallas and Oak Cliff, Johnson said he has diligently served the public since he began his undergraduate studies at Harvard University in 1994. From leading community service efforts at the university to later assisting high-ranking public officials, Johnson’s early work forged a solid path to his more recent roles. His goal was always to return to Dallas after earning degrees, interning and gaining the experience that he needed. Johnson became a member of the Texas House of Representatives from April 2010 to June 2019 before assuming office as the 60th mayor of Dallas in June 2019.
During the Nov. 30 broadcast, Johnson spoke to the public about what he referred to as the four P’s: public safety, property taxes, parks and potholes. He asked listeners to keep in mind that these became topics of importance due to the influx of new residents from across the country.
“America is yearning for Dallas. The numbers prove it. People want what we have to offer,” Johnson said. They value what Dallas represents in a world where it feels like it’s getting harder and harder to stay afloat, much less get ahead. In search of a better life, people across this country increasingly want to make Dallas their home. Much like I did many years ago, they all see tremendous opportunity here.”
He attributed the city’s many opportunities to the mass appeal that the city has for newcomers. However, much of the expanding population has taken up residence in nearby suburban areas, thus presenting challenges to the city. These areas use the success and appeal of Dallas to draw the newcomers to the residencies, jobs and other investments of their smaller cities.
“As long as I’m your mayor, Dallas is going to play to win,” Johnson said.
The mayor went on to present some of the city’s key successes. Violent crime and homelessness are on a steady decline and property taxes are the lowest they’ve been in the past 15 years. Steadily increasing are corporate relocations, property development and the building of new parks.
“In light of all this, I am proud to report that the state of our city remains strong,” he said.
At the same time, Johnson emphasized that the city must remain on this same trajectory in order for people from across the country to continue to want to make Dallas home. To achieve this, He placed the onus on city government to be “responsive, responsible and restrained.” He reiterated the fall in violent crime, pointing out that no other top 10 city in America achieved that feat. He also declared that this year there will be a decline once again. The goal, he said, is to become the safest city in America.
“Our police chief and his team deserve a great deal of credit for working with criminologists and with our community to develop and refine our violent crime reduction plans, which have been remarkably successful over the past three years,” he said. “The men and women of the Dallas Police Department also deserve tremendous credit, praise and gratitude for implementing these plans.”
The city tax rate has decreased every year since he became mayor, and last year the rate was cut by the largest amount in the past 40 years, according to Johnson.
“This year, we cut the rate again for the eighth-straight year, and we increased the exemption for senior citizens. I’m proud of that,” said Johnson.
However with the growing number of new residents from out-of-state, property taxes are increasing. Johnson residents that city government will be more responsible with the revenue that’s generated from these rising property taxes. He also said that he plans to ask for a 2025 city budget that keeps spending flat and reduces taxes.
The first bond package since 2017 will likely be on the ballot next year. The bond will include funding for a new police academy at UNT Dallas, streets and parks. The Community Bond Task Force, led by Dallas citizens, heard the voices of city residents who said that they want the largest allocations to go toward streets and parks. Johnson said that what the people want is what he wants as well. He also said that he’s heard another popular opinion, which is that the majority of the bond should benefit more taxpayer-supported housing. However, Johnson wants the Housing and Homelessness Solutions Committee to come up with opportunities for private developers to build more housing, instead of using the bond funds.
“Ultimately, however, in our form of city government, it takes eight votes on your city council to give you real tax relief. This year, we had five votes, including mine., he explained.
“Our system of city government is up for debate right now as our Charter Review Commission will propose changes for voters to consider in an election to be held next year. I encourage every Dallas resident to learn more about their city government and to get involved and to give their input now, before any proposed charter amendments appear on the ballot.”
Lastly, the mayor talked about parks. Individuals and families from all racial and socioeconomic backgrounds come together at parks around the city, and these parks are vital for the continued growth and success of Dallas.
“I would say that, today, parks are to Dallas what Dallas has become to the rest of our nation: a place where we can breathe – and where promise and potential are still within our grasp,” said Johnson.
He closed with the importance of appealing to the next generation of adults so that they have the same yearning for Dallas as the rest of the country. There is still work to be done, he said, and it’s going to take the cohesiveness of City Council, neighborhood leaders, the faith community and all citizens to keep Dallas as a place where people want to live, raise their families and grow their careers.
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