Dr. Elba Garcia is a visionary leader who understands the issues facing those who live in District 4 and how best to address them. Here are the five issues she views as most pressing for the county:
Dallas-Fort Worth ranks second in growth among major metropolitan areas in the country. And Dallas County is among the ten counties in the U.S. with the largest growth.
That translates to more cars and more roads. But also to more people in need of less-expensive forms of transportation, such as buses and rapid transit.
I have been, and continue to be, a strong advocate for greater connectivity within, and between, the Dallas County cities I represent. I am proud of the progress we've made on such road projects as Medical District Drive in Dallas, Wildlife Parkway in Grand Prairie and MacArthur Road in Irving.
And I will continue to develop partnerships with Coppell and Cockrell Hill and other entities in and near District 4 that will help improve not just the options people have for mobility but also the quality of their transportation experiences.
District 4's best-kept secret is its network of trails. Few people realize we have almost 10 separate trails within District 4. And, the district is the home of one of the longest trails in the region – a 10.3-mile-long stretch that runs from Coppell to Grand Prairie.
However, I am a champion for our trail network offering Dallas County residents 360-degree connectivity. Not just from north to south, but also from west to east.
That's why I've been pushing for the creation of the Chalk Hill Trail in West Dallas and Oak Cliff. Why I've encouraged our finding funds to close the gap between the Campion Trail North and Campion Trail South segments. Why I'm working to connect the Coombs Creek Trail in north Oak Cliff to the pedestrian and bike lanes alongside the new Margaret McDermott Bridge over the Trinity River next to downtown Dallas. And why I voted to allocate $2 million in funds toward those bike lanes on that bridge.
Trails offer our county's residents a convenient, cost-effective way to live a healthier life and enjoy nature. They also matter, though, because (as we've seen with the Katy Trail in Dallas) they can be effective catalysts for economic development.
When I joined the Commissioners Court in 2011, the county had deferred maintenance on county assets to the tune of $90 million. I am leading the charge to reduce that number substantially.
Foremost among the maintenance projects is the renovation of our 105-year-old Dallas County Records Building in downtown Dallas, which has so much history and beautiful architecture connected to it. When this project is finished in a few years, the building will be a beautiful jewel again, it will be ADA-compliant and taxpayers will have a one-stop shop for undertaking their business with the county.
I would also like to see us redo the Dallas County Government Center on Beckley Avenue in Oak Cliff, which is now more than 40 years old. We have lots of opportunities to make that facility more efficient for the taxpayers who rely on it. And, the county owns several older buildings we should sell and replace with new, more efficient structures.
My goal is to reduce that $90 million in deferred maintenance to less than $40 million in the coming years.
Dallas County offers many services and programs that improve residents' lives and, long-term, save taxpayers money. Here are a few programs I believe it's essential we continue to fund:
I support a more effective approach to dealing with criminals than the 'lock 'em up and throw away the key' philosophy of the past. One that reserves jail space only for those who commit the most horrendous crimes. And then puts lower-level offenders into proven diversion programs the county offers.
That's because it costs you, the taxpayer, so much less each year for us to run these diversion programs and offer services to the mentally ill (less than $40 per person per day) than it costs you to house a non-violent criminal in jail. And, under this approach, the lower-level offenders are better equipped to avoid criminal behavior once they've re-entered society.
I've also been proud to support the 'Home for Hounds' program launched recently by County Sheriff Lupe Valdez in the Dallas County Jail. It teaches low-risk inmates how to train dogs to respond to basic commands. The program makes the dogs more adoptable and equips the low-risk inmates with skills they can use to gain employment after they've been released.
I also supported the county's effort to 'Ban the Box.' Since our removal in January 2016 of the rule that required anyone who's been convicted of any crime to indicate that when applying for a job with Dallas County, we've hired more than 30 people who were formerly incarcerated.
When it comes to the county's view on justice, I believe in being tough on crime and giving low-level offenders a decent chance at once again becoming productive members of society.