One Dallas mayoral candidate says he’s fed up with the corruption at city hall, and he’s in a unique position to do something about it.
State Rep. Eric Johnson (D-Dallas), who’s serving his fifth term in the Texas Legislature while also running for mayor, announced Monday he plans to introduce legislation that will eliminate public corruption surrounding low-income housing.
Johnson’s announcement came just days after ex-Dallas council member Carolyn Davis pleaded guilty to taking bribes from real estate developer Ruel Hamilton in exchange for supporting his low-income housing project. Former Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway, who resigned last August after pleading guilty to taking $450,000 in bribes and kickbacks in the Dallas County Schools scandal, was also implicated in Davis’ bribery scheme.
Johnson said his bill will eliminate the use of support letters from elected officials in scoring proposals seeking affordable housing tax credits, which can be worth millions to developers, but will continue to include support from community organizations and neighborhood associations as part of the project evaluation and scoring process.
“Too many elected officials have abused their role in this process and abandoned their commitment to their constituents,” said Johnson. “These stories have become far too familiar, and I’m tired of reacting to the crimes. We need to prevent the crimes.”
His proposed reform comes too late to prevent Davis, Caraway, and other city officials from profiting off their positions. In fact, it’s curious Johnson didn’t push for these changes before now.
Nine years ago, Johnson swept into office in the wake of a much bigger scandal that became known as the “Dallas City Hall Corruption Case.” Federal authorities prosecuted over a dozen defendants—including then-Mayor Pro Tem Don Hill and Johnson’s predecessor, State Rep. Terri Hodge (D–Dallas)—in an extortion and money laundering scheme involving low-income housing.
Several other mayoral candidates have decried the corruption at city hall, but only Johnson is in a position to boost his campaign with a promise of pushing a legislative fix.
Johnson said he will file his bill by Friday, the deadline for filing proposed legislation this session.
With or without Johnson’s reform, the lure of big money will continue to incentivize corrupt real estate developers to cheat. They’ll simply switch to bribing private citizens instead of public officials, an improvement by Dallas City Council standards.
Early voting in the May 4 municipal election starts April 22. Dallas’ mayor and all 14 city council seats are on the ballot.