By Davin Bernstein
I was saddened to see a recent commentary on this site that says outright that candidates who oppose incumbents are suggesting “we live in a poorly run City and school district and that the folks currently serving us in elected positions are personally responsible and should be blamed for our impending demise.” As one of those candidates, I felt it was necessary to speak up and say this is ridiculous and explain why I tossed my hat in the ring to be on City Council as your mayor.
Before going into the details, I think it is important to say my campaign is about what Coppell can become: a more inclusive community that listens to people. People who have been disaffected by insiders who are not interested in representing a broader community. We can do better, and I believe at the end of this election, citizens will have spoken conclusively that they agree change is needed, which is why voting today is so important. The author of the article speaks of misinformation and scare tactics, yet offers only generalities and no direct rebuttal to anything substantive. That is the first clue that the deception is on the part of the author, not candidates who are promoting a platform of transparency and being a better guardian of tax dollars. My posts are mostly footnoted, sourced, and easily verifiable.
I attended a joint meeting of the City Council and School Board January 25th. I noticed a friend of mine, Ron Hansen, was there, too. In it, the Mayor started off by talking about how important “local government control” is for the ability to adopt any tax rate to accomplish its revenue objectives. Then she talked about being pro-business (who isn’t?), then negatively spoke about how our “local state representatives have not always been willing to even listen” and then started on a rant about how important it is to vote. She sadly and plaintively said that only 4% of citizens come out to vote in primaries and 10% of voters come out in general elections in November. She described OTHER elected officials as elected by “the fringe”.
I was incredulous. As someone involved in partisan politics as President of the Coppell Republican Club, I know the facts in our city were very, very different. So different, in fact, that the mayor was demonstrating she was totally out of touch with her own city!
We live in a community of highly involved citizens, who elect representatives we expect to work together for our collective benefit. The suggestion that our elected representatives in Austin are the fringe element and our local representatives are somehow the authentic voice of Coppell suggests the mayor doesn’t really understand election math. I have known for years that Coppell is one of the most actively engaged voting communities in Dallas County. Coppell residents need to know that we are doing very well, thank you very much.
In our 2016 State Representative primary race, voter turnout among Democrats and Republicans was at a very satisfying 35%. That is hardly a fringe element of 4%. And while I wished it was higher, that means a third of us residents value our civic responsibility to vote in a primary election, regardless of party. But it gets even better. In the last general election, over 70% of Coppell residents voted, a year that apathy and concern about the top of the ticket might have kept people away - not 10%. Matt Rinaldi is the only sitting Texas official for Coppell - from the Governor to any city council member - who has received over 11,000 votes, nearly 2/3 of the total cast by the Coppell electorate. Every major precinct in Coppell voted in the top half of all Dallas County precincts, and all but one were in the top third. So across the county, we are doing well. And we were 10 points above the state and national averages. Even 2014, a year with the governor at the top of the ticket, had over 12% primary turnout and a still respectable 39% turnout in the general. 4%? 10%? The mayor was completely wrong on orders of magnitude, but I have never heard a retraction or an effort to correct her statements in that meeting.
The one area where we were severely lacking was in municipal elections. In fact, when Mayor Hunt ran for office in 2012, only 12% of registered voters came out to vote in the mayor’s race, and she won with 6% of Coppell voting for her, or less than 1600 votes. That's a far cry from 11,000 votes, though. Locally, we most certainly can do better in coming out to vote. Despite Coppell voters being overwhelmingly in favor of less government and lower taxes, low turnout numbers in local elections allow local officials with less than 1600 votes to promote unfettered tax and spend policies (otherwise known as “local control”). We have a problem in that local elected officials, representing very few citizens, are focused on protecting government instead of the will of the citizens. Using the mayor’s own words, and by the numbers, the fringe elements are municipal and ISD officials.
I have already made a positive difference. Instead of the mayor being unopposed in another election (like in 2015), I have sought to provide an agenda that provides real choice to citizens. They have responded fantastically, getting involved and coming out to vote in such great numbers (3121 votes at the end of early voting), that we have already had more voters before election day than came out to vote in the entire election for the last two mayoral races. That is what the mayor asked for, and that is the kind of involvement that makes Coppell the incredible town I know it to be.
By the way, all of this information is available at www.dallascountyvotes.org, available to all, and quite easy to check out. With real data this easy to find, there is no excuse for the mayor being this unaware of her own backyard. And there is no excuse for the fear mongering of the insiders that you have to vote to maintain the status quo.
With a mayor this out of touch with residents, knowing that those who voted in the primary this year voted at a 90% rate to oppose the fundamental legislative agenda of the Mayor and City government, and having a past history of observing the mayor remove people from city boards so she could control the flow of money even better, I felt it was time to speak up, and step up with an alternive vision for the city.
My vision is a very positive one: Stop fighting the citizens and start listening. Instead of talking about being transparent, actually work to be transparent, and encourage citizen involvement by refusing to sit on citizen boards as a voting member.
Since entering the campaign trail, I have learned even more: We are a wealthy community, but we have people on fixed incomes, who cannot keep absorbing the tax increases current officials are proposing (and I’ll just say it now – no one cares about their tax rate, they care about the taxes they pay). They are downright scared that they cannot afford to stay in a community they have lived in for 25 or 30 years. I have also shared that our homestead exemption is only 5% compared to neighboring cities around us that have 20%. This was not well known before, and I think citizens are rightly upset that elected officials do not seem to be too concerned about citizen wants, but rather about finding ways to spend an ever increasing amount of revenue.
I am proud of my campaign that I have stuck to facts and sought to educate voters about what is happening at their city hall. Shining light on actions by my opponent is not “misinformation and rhetoric”. It is vital to the proper functioning of a democracy, which is that elected officials should be held accountable for their actions.
Your vote is an important part of this. If my opponent wins, things will go back to their old ways, and decisions will be made on items posted on a city agenda just before 5PM on the Friday before a city Council meeting 72 hours in the future. If that is the transparency you want, then I am not your choice for mayor. I think we can do better. That is not negative, that is calling on people to expect more from elected officials in the most positive way.
I am Davin Bernstein, I am running for mayor of Coppell, and I humbly ask for your vote. We must end practices that shield spending decisions from public scrutiny. As your Mayor, I will encourage transparency, fight wasteful spending, and work to decrease the taxes you pay to the city. I believe citizens want a mayor that works for them to represent their views to the city government, and not the other way around. If you agree, it is critical that you vote May 5th, at Coppell Town Center before 7PM.
You can learn more about Davin at davinbernstein.com and facebook.com/DavinForCoppellMayor/
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