DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Eric Johnson received a standing ovation as he and his wife were introduced, along with the outgoing Mayor Mike Rawlings.
After Johnson and council members took the oath of office, the city’s 60th mayor welcomed the six new people joining him around the horseshoe.
“It is indeed a new day in Dallas,” said Mayor Johnson.
Among his priorities: increase civility and eradicate corruption at City Hall, use data to drive solutions and focus on education and workers in the city.
“Develop a workforce that is recognized as one of the most skilled in the nation,” he said.
Public safety though is his most immediate priority after the city saw a surge in murders and violent crime last month.
During a news conference following the ceremony, Mayor Johnson said, “Dallas is still one of the safest large cities in the United States and our goal is to keep it that way.”
He said he met with the head of the Texas Department of Public Safety last week to discuss sending state troopers to Dallas to help reduce crime, just as the state did in San Antonio.
“They deployed state troopers and sent equipment and manpower down there to create an enhanced police presence supplementing local police with state police. It was very effective in San Antonio and DPS is very confident those same techniques would be helpful here.”
Mayor Johnson says the longer-term solution is to hire more officers at the Dallas Police Department.
“We need more Dallas police department officers and I think that’s something we have to start working on right away and that’s a salary and benefits issue,” said Mayor Johnson.
He then challenged Council Members. “Is this an ambitious agenda? Yes. Will it be easy? No. But it will it get done? Absolutely. And we must get it done.”
Some of the new council members say they support DPD Chief Renee Hall and prioritizing public safety.
“Money can always be found in a budget, whether a family budget, a business budget, a city budget, it’s about priorities and we are going to have to make some hard choices,” said District 14 Council Member David Blewett.
“I’d like to see what Chief Hall can do when she has a full staff and then we need to find creative ways to keep the officers,” said District 1 Council Member Chad West.
During his speech Monday morning, Johnson also sought to unite the Council, which he believed had previously become divisive. “I promised the people of Dallas that I would seek consensus. And I will. I pledged that our new City Council would unite to find common ground and common-sense solutions to our problems. And we must.”
Councilman Adam Bazaldua, just elected to represent District 7, said he has a good feeling about the new council under the leadership of Mayor Johnson. “I think it’s going to be a good, fresh start for is all to build those consensuses, start working together.”
Council Member Blewett said, “The citizens of Dallas are demanding a new tone from us, and I’ve been quoted as saying if we don’t give that to them, then they’ll be replacing us.”
In a statement, City Manager T.C. Broadnax said, “I look forward to working with Mayor Johnson and the new Council to realize their vision for the City of Dallas. My hope is their fresh ideas and optimism permeate City Hall and that we can challenge each other to improve the lives of Dallas residents.”