Equal Representation at Center of Dallas’ District 1 City Council Race


Dallas City Council member Chad West bought his first home in the city more than a decade ago. He was elected to the council in May 2019 and reelected two years later. In January, West filed to appear on the May 2023 ballot, turning in over 200 signatures from voters in support of his candidacy. He said this is more signatures than his campaign gathered in 2019 and 2021 combined.

But he faces two challengers for reelection, Albert Mata and Mariana Griggs. Both say they’re running to unseat West because they feel he hasn’t been a good representative of the district’s Hispanic community.

West says one of his priorities is to work with the Dallas police chief on reducing violent crime in his district. He also wants to lower taxes and ensure residents have well-run, efficient city services. A big issue in the district though, West said, is neighborhood preservation. The West Oak Cliff Area Plan is meant to help guide future development and preserve neighborhoods in the district. The plan was unanimously approved by the Dallas City Council last December.

Both Mata and Griggs have criticized the community engagement that went into the plan, West said, particularly when it came to the district’s Hispanic community. One of the complaints surrounding community engagement was a lack of translation services throughout the planning process.

“I will say this, it wasn’t perfect, especially at the beginning,” West said. “But city staff adjusted and it got a lot better, and the plan did exactly what it was supposed to do. It got neighbors who had never been engaged before with the city, who didn’t trust the city, who never even knew what an area plan was. It got them engaged. It brought literally thousands of people to the table in various fashions.”

“It’s really important as a council member to be able to be a steady voice and a steady decision maker when the storms come at you from both sides.” – Chad West, Dallas City Council

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West said that engagement is never perfect and even applauded Mata for helping inform people about the plan. “Albert [Mata] was one of thousands of voices who contributed to it,” West said.

“It’s really important as a council member to be able to be a steady voice and a steady decision maker when the storms come at you from both sides,” West said. “So, when you’ve got a controversial thing like the West Oak Cliff Area Plan, it’s easy to stand up there and criticize it.”

He said it would have been easier for him to just drop the whole plan in the face of the criticism. “It would have been really easy to just fold it and say ‘You know, clearly this is just too hard to get done.’ But I didn’t do that. I pushed through, and I persevered and we got it done.”

In early January, Mata posted a Youtube video announcing a run against West. Mata’s family has lived in Oak Cliff for three generations. “Our community has so many needs,” Mata said in his video. “Affordable housing, better roads, better parks and stronger, safer neighborhoods.” Mata has been a board member of Somos Tejas, a group that advocates for Latino communities, for the last two years.

Mata told the Observer he’s running to make sure the district has “true and sincere representation for the entirety of District 1.”

“What I mean by that is there are several neighborhoods, several people that have felt for a really long time that although they have a representative, they don’t have representation,” Mata said. “I think that is kind of the reality of most people in this district. That is what I have felt for several years.”

“We need to include the community in decisions about development and zoning changes.” – Albert Mata, City Council District 1 candidate

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He said before he was a candidate he pushed for more community engagement and that as a City Council member he would continue to do so. “We need to include the community in decisions about development and zoning changes,” he said. “We need to make sure that information is accessible to them. Everything that comes out of the council member’s office should be translated … because this is a district that is 75% Latinx and a significant portion of that population is Spanish-language dominant.”

According to the West Oak Cliff Area Plan, 86% of people in the area identify as Hispanic and Latinx.

As a result, Mata wants to make sure everyone in the district feels like they have someone at City Hall working for them. “That informs everything else,” he said. “In terms of the development that we’re seeing and that we have seen in Oak Cliff, I’m not against development. But I want to make sure that development is done in conjunction with the community.”

Mata also said he thinks the city should put caps and limits on building heights in the district, as well as limit replatting. “I think those two things will go a long way to stem off some of the overdevelopment that some of the neighbors are weary of and fearful of,” Mata said. “I’ll reinforce that I’m not against development, change and investment. It just has to be done with us and not without us.”

He also wants to focus more on the district’s infrastructure. “We need to make sure that we correct the mistakes of the past by overinvesting in historically underinvested and neglected parts of our district, and there are so many of them,” Mata said.

“I wouldn’t be in this position if it weren’t for some of the boondoggles of the current City Council member,” Mata said. “I want to make it clear that I think the council member’s a good guy. I just don’t think he’s the right guy for this district. I don’t think he’s equipped or, in some ways, even has shown the desire or effort to make sure everyone in this district feels like he’s representing them.”

As an example, he points to the West Oak Cliff Area Plan. “The West Oak Cliff Area Plan, although it has good intentions, the implementation of it was shoddy,” Mata said. The task force put together for the West Oak Cliff Area Plan wasn’t representative of everyone in the district, he said. Mata worked to make sure that the Latino residents were involved in the creation of the plan.

Mariana Griggs announced her candidacy for City Council’s District 1 seat in January. Griggs has lived in the area she hopes to represent for over two decades. While this is her first campaign, she was formerly married to Scott Griggs, who represented District 1 from 2011 to 2019. Scott Griggs also ran unsuccessfully for mayor against Eric Johnson in 2019. 

“It’s a majority minority district.” – Mariana Griggs, City Council District 1 candidate

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Mariana Griggs has experience in forensic investigations, as well as teaching at Dallas public schools, a local university and community colleges. She’s a mother, urban farmer, bike rider and self-identified City Hall insider. “I feel prepared to adequately translate the interests of my community to take action to protect and grow District 1, together,” she said.

Griggs said the district has a rich, homegrown culture that needs to be protected. “Here we make things happen before other people even know they should,” she said. “Our economic powerhouses, including Bishop Arts, Jefferson, Elmwood and Wynnewood, must be highlighted and fostered, while at the same time, the surrounding neighbors must be engaged and assisted.”

She said she’s running because of her love for the district and for her daughter Catalina, who also plans to one day run for City Council with her mother’s help “because Latinas belong on all ballots.”

“It’s a majority minority district,” Griggs said. But those minority communities don’t always vote because they’re not always engaged, she said. Because of this, Griggs said, the district doesn’t always get a City Council person who’s representative of these communities. Griggs cited the West Oak Cliff Area Plan as an example of this lack of representation.

“The original task force was full of North Oak Cliff people because they volunteer because they have the luxury,” Griggs said. “When your expenses are covered, when you don’t have to worry about food on the table every night, things are a little different and you have more time to give to your community service. I don’t fault anyone for that but I’d like to find a little time for some of the people south of Clarendon to get that also.”

Some good things came out of the West Oak Cliff Area Plan, Griggs said. “Now, we get a newsletter in District 1 that is translated every time in Spanish. We didn’t have that before,” she said. “But I think that’s just the beginning. … The translation of the needs, that’s only the first step. The engagement and true understanding is what comes next.”

Election day in the Dallas City Council race is May 6. The last day to register to vote is April 6, and early voting begins on April 24.


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