It’s a tale of two cities, in a way. The race that’s shaping up next May for City Council District 13 pits the best of Dallas as we have known it against Dallas in a great wave of becoming.
Vying to replace the retiring Mitchell Rasansky are Ann Margolin, past trustees chair of Parkland Hospital and member of the Plan Commission who just resigned from the Park Board to run for the council, and Raj Narayanan, an aerospace engineer, who, at 36, has lived in many parts of the world and now is working hard with the Addison Rotary to create pure water supplies for orphanages in Southern India, where he was born. He is a welcome change from some who came to this part of the country 20 years ago to make money and stayed only as long as it lasted, corrupting the culture as they passed through it.
Ann Margolin, nothing like that, came to Dallas from Cleveland with her husband to start an insurance business, and when they sold it, they stayed. Raj Narayanan’s father, also an aerospace engineer, took his family from India to live in Britain, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Abu Dhabi, Nashville, Austin and Miami. Mr. Narayanan made his way to this city from Los Angeles, Seattle, Miami and Manchester, England. After a stint with Nordam in Fort Worth, he started his own aerospace consulting firm and, among other things, adapts corporate jets and government planes for use in difficult parts of the world.
While Mr. Narayanan exudes enthusiasm for the Citizens Safety Advisory Committee on which he serves at City Hall, Ms. Margolin speaks with enormous depth and expertise of her district in north Dallas. She laments the topless bars, drugs and “alcohol way past hours” that plague the borders of lovely neighborhoods.
Not surprisingly, they both put crime at the top of their list and stress the importance of police working close to communities. He puts great emphasis on development in the Southern sector, and both are obsessed with building the tax base through new growth in that and every area of the city. However, Ms. Margolin’s time on the Plan Commission alerted her to the fragility of neighborhoods. “You have to be so protective of neighborhoods,” she said . “You have to be careful of uses, heights, all the things that encroach on neighborhoods.”
Neither has reached a conclusion about a city-owned hotel near the Convention Center, though Mr. Narayanan conceded he “has concerns over it.” As for naming a street for Cesar Chavez, she, attuned to the Dallas way of avoiding acrimony no matter what, declined to comment. He, uninitiated into the vow of silence on contentious questions, called it “a total waste of time to even contemplate the issue.” A strong mayor system? No. Both are satisfied with the council-manager form of government.
Ann Margolin and Raj Narayanan will bring to their contest wildly different styles from widely different cites, both of them our own. She speaks for a Dallas that’s disciplined, that knows how to get things done, that understands economy of language and the uses of time. She gives the impression of having the whole of the afternoon for the conversation at hand whether that’s true or not. His is a fresh view gathered from technology centers all over the world. Always in motion, talking hurriedly while rushing to the next thing, he swears when asked that he does indeed have room in his life for the council and would give it 40 to 60 hours a week. From Ann Margolin would come intelligent continuity, from Raj Narayanan, the energy of the new. How nice it would be, at one time or another, to have both.