A Democrat effort in the City of Dallas to increase the number of non-white residents coming to receive Chinese coronavirus vaccines resulted in more white Americans coming instead, and created confusion between the city and Dallas County. Commissioner J.J. Koch, the lone Republican on the county’s elected governing body, discusses what led to this, how disconnected the Dallas Democrat officials involved are from the minority community, and what should happen next.

Last Wednesday, Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson publicly rebuked County Judge Clay Jenkins for quietly telling “a select group of residents” they could forgo registering to receive a Chinese coronavirus vaccine at Fair Park in South Dallas—while the county publicly said people must register—and not informing the city of these changes.

“The reaction from the mayor is extraordinarily reasonable and expected,” Koch told Texas Scorecard on Friday, calling Jenkins’ actions “either really incompetent or shady.”

What Happened?

“There’s some problems and misfires with communication [of the vaccine process], getting it out,” Koch said.

Additionally, Koch said Dallas Councilman Lee Kleinman sent out a “direct appointment link” meant to go to those who sign up for a COVID-19 vaccine on the county’s reservation website. Kleiman’s email “went like wildfire,” causing a problem last Monday morning.

Texas Scorecard sent a press inquiry to Kleinman, who didn’t deny Koch’s claim.

“With regards to me sending a link, yes I sent my constituents a link to the vaccine reservation system, that apparently allowed making a reservation without checking for qualification, which at the time was 75 years or older,” Kleinman wrote. “This resulted in several vaccinations being given to residents from N. Dallas who did not meet this criteria.”

The result?

“Because it was a councilperson in a disproportionately white district, disproportionally senior district, [a] bunch of white seniors were there flooding the place because they made appointments crowding out those that were actually on the lists,” Koch said.

How did Jenkins respond?

“He reaches out to his Democratic allies to try to get more African-American folks and Hispanic folks to get [a] vaccine,” Koch said. “And what he gets are actually more white people than he had the day before, which is very telling to me.”

He went to [State Rep.] Rhetta Bowers, he went to Katherine McGovern—who’s a Democrat activist, [and] Preston Hollow Democrats.

“It got whiter the next day because it was just now white Democrats from my district,” Koch said. “Glad that he helped out my district, but not the people we need to help right now.”

Koch said for Jenkins, everything is politics, which is influencing vaccine distribution.

“His healthcare working group is all his political allies,” Koch said. “The people that he called on to get folks down in South Dallas [are] his political allies. He doesn’t have anything outside that sphere.”

When you think about Democrats and liberals constantly going ‘we’re the people that are there for the little guy,’ they don’t know the little guy. They don’t have the little guy on speed dial.

Koch says Bowers has the same problem. “She has white lobbyists, and rich white women, and Preston Hollow Democrats that raise money for her on her cell phone and on her email list.”

Bowers’ office did not respond to a press inquiry before publication time.

What does this say about the narrative that Democrats are connected to and care more about the minority community, while Republicans don’t?

“It just makes it a lie,” Koch replied. “That’s all. That’s it.”

The Solution

Hours after Johnson’s rebuke was published, Jenkins shared on social media those 75 and older could go to Fair Park without an appointment, and that Saturday they would probably return to by appointment “depending on sign ups.” It’s closed on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

A press inquiry sent to Mayor Johnson’s office on if he was satisfied with Jenkins’ actions since publishing his letter was not answered before publication time.

Another problem facing distribution is polling last month showing 45 percent of Black Americans would refuse to take a COVID-19 vaccine even if officials said it was safe.

After the Fair Park debacle, Koch believes it’s time for a “divide and conquer” strategy.

“I’ve already expressed to the governor through his staff that Mayor Johnson’s right,” Koch said. “He should get 10,000 doses a week directly and run his own operation, and the county should proceed and work everything outside the City of Dallas.”

This is not the first dust-up between Jenkins and county commissioners in recent history.

Because of his mandates in response to the coronavirus, Commissioners John Wiley Price and Koch led the court in repeatedly restraining Jenkins’ authority, to where Jenkins cannot issue executive orders during a state of emergency without approval from a majority of the court.

Further efforts to restrain Jenkins ended when Commissioner Theresa Daniel switched sides and voted with him in reinstating a county mask mandate last June.

When asked about the Fair Park situation, Daniels replied: “Sorry, too late.”

The commissioners will be meeting Tuesday, where Koch said a message must be sent to Dallas County Health and Human Services Director Dr. Philip Huang “that what happened was profoundly wrong, and that he does not report merely to the judge, he reports to the entire body, and we need explanations.”

Concerned citizens may watch tomorrow’s meeting of the commissioners court, and contact their commissioners.

District 1 Commissioner Dr. Theresa Daniel (D): Theresa.daniel@dallascounty.org, 214-653-7473
District 2 Commissioner J.J. Koch (R): jj.koch@dallascounty.org, 214-653-6100
District 3 Commissioner John Wiley Price (D): John.Price@dallascounty.org, 214-653-6671
District 4 Commissioner Dr. Elba Garcia (D): Elba.GarciaDDS@dallascounty.org. 214-653-6670

Robert Montoya

Born in Houston, Robert Montoya is an investigative reporter for Texas Scorecard. He believes transparency is the obligation of government.