The tribulations that have swept big cities over the past few years have been nearly biblical in scale: a pandemic, racial strife, rising homelessness, a surge in violent crime. Which is why municipal elections across the map — in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Philadelphia among others — have been especially contentious and ideological. Dallas stands as an exception, writes Washington Post columnist Karen Tumulty. Last month, Democratic Mayor Eric Johnson, 47, cruised unopposed to a second term, marking the first time that had happened in the city since 1967. In a poll by the Garin Hart Yang Research Group, Johnson’s approval rating stood at a gravity-defying 77 percent, with 54 percent saying their city is headed in the right direction. Johnson’s is a remarkable personal story: a precocious kid from a rough West Dallas neighborhood whose drive and intelligence so impressed his first-grade teacher that she helped wangle a scholarship for him at an elite private school, where he thrived. He went on to earn three Ivy League degrees. When Johnson took office, violent crime was rising in Dallas to levels not seen since the 1990s. “And then it got even worse once the pandemic hit,” Johnson said. “I think it actually required a slightly different skill set than what is normally required. And that skill set really revolves mostly around a certain amount of conviction around some principles and being willing to hold the line on some things and withstand some direct hits politically.”
Johnson opposed reducing the police force and made a counterproposal to boost the number of officers on the street — and to pay for it by reducing what he called the “bloated salaries” of the highest-paid city officials instead. “#DefundtheBureaucracy,” he tweeted. Black Lives Matter protesters marched on his house many times. The city council resoundingly voted down his salary-cut proposal. Johnson also demanded a more aggressive strategy for combating violent crime, which was delivered by his police chief, Eddie Garcia, who took over in early 2021. Parts of it involved tactics such as deploying “violence interrupters” to resolve street-level conflicts and guide those who need them to social services, and cleaning up blighted areas, such as trash-filled vacant lots and dilapidated buildings, where crime can breed. of color. The plan also involves a policing "hot spots" strategy. Statistics suggest it is working. Of the nation’s largest cities, Dallas appears to be the only one to buck the trend of rising crime; in each of the past two years, statistics for murders, rapes and aggravated assaults have gone down.