December 7, 2012, Washington, D.C. – Robert “Bobby” Abtahi, former Dallas Plan Commissioner and former City of Dallas Community Prosecutor, recently announced his bid for a seat on the Dallas City Council. If successful, he will become the first Iranian American to serve on the council.
Born and raised in Dallas, Texas, Abtahi earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas and his JD from SMU Dedman School of Law. After graduating from law school, Abtahi went to work for the city of Dallas as a community prosecutor.
At City Hall, Abtahi worked to help rebuild deteriorating neighborhoods and was behind a popular program that used the National Guard to tear down drug houses. The program, which is a money saving initiative that the city continues to use, was recognized by the White House in January 2012 when it presented Abtahi with the MLK Drum Major Award for Community Service. After working for the city, Abtahi started his own private practice but continued to serve Dallas as a member of the city’s plan commission.
Abtahi is one of four candidates running to represent District 14 on the Dallas City Council. The seat is being vacated by term limited council member Angela Hunt. His campaign has been endorsed by former city council members as well as a number of community and business leaders throughout the city. Mark Melton, outgoing chairperson of EducateDallas, will serve as Abtahi’s campaign Treasurer.
Click here to learn more about Bobby Abtahi’s campaign.
PAAIA and its connected PAC, the Iranian American Political Action Committee (IAPAC), recently had the opportunity to sit down with Abtahi to discuss his campaign for the Dallas City Council.
PAAIA/IAPAC: Why are you running for the Dallas City Council?
Abtahi: Being born and raised in Dallas, I have always been interested in making this city a better place. That’s why I went to work for the City of Dallas as a Community Prosecutor after graduating from law school. While working as a city prosecutor, I saw how city hall could work better for the citizens of Dallas. Since leaving that position and starting my own business, I’ve continued to serve the city as a City Plan Commissioner. I’ve seen first-hand that when people work together we can accomplish great things for Dallas. I feel a sense of duty to bring that kind of collaborative leadership to city hall.
PAAIA/IAPAC: What are some of the challenges you believe your campaign committee must overcome to mount a successful run-off campaign?
Abtahi: The biggest challenge we will face is simply getting our message out to the voters. This will likely end up being a crowded field but with the endorsements of Former Dallas City Councilmembers Craig Holcomb, Ed Oakley, and Craig McDaniel, we hope to make this a grassroots campaign about the excitement of new leadership.
PAAIA/IAPAC: How will you communicate your ideas to the public?
Abtahi: We plan on having a very strong grassroots campaign. I plan on knocking on doors everyday until the May 2013 election. Direct mail, paid canvass crews, phone banks, and paid advertising will also be integral in getting my message out.
PAAIA/IAPAC: What are the fundraising goals of your committee?
Abtahi: Running a sophisticated campaign in the 21st century has become very expensive with costs for Websites, polling, opposition research, paid advertisement, canvass programs, data management and operations. Political insiders are speculating a successful run for District 14 could exceed $250,000. The first fundraising deadline is January 1, 2013 and this will be strong indicator of which campaign is the most serious about mounting a successful run.
PAAIA/IAPAC: What particular skills or experiences will you bring to the Dallas City Council?
Abtahi: I am most proud of my work of building coalitions both through my time as a community prosecutor and as a city planning commissioner. Through building relationships with Dallas Police, Dallas Fire, and Dallas Code Enforcement we were able to reduce crime in my assigned target area by 26% in the first year alone. As a plan commissioner, I worked hard to make sure that decisions were made based on logic and reason instead of politics. I plan to bring those skills and that attitude to the Dallas City Council.
PAAIA/IAPAC: What are the most critical issues facing the city of Dallas?
Abtahi: Dallas has been very fortunate over the past several years, our property values are up year or year and private investments are starting to creep back into the city. We are at the tipping point of becoming a true urban village. Just some of the proof can be found in the public projects that just finished up, including Klyde Warren Park, the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, and our brand new City Performance Hall. However, we must continue to keep an eye on increasing our city’s core population in and around Downtown Dallas. This will help achieve the critical mass necessary to build our tax base and reignite our sidewalks with shoppers, dog walkers, and restaurant goers.
PAAIA/IAPAC: How does your campaign plan on addressing those issues?
Abtahi: In a city as large as Dallas there are a multitude of voices that must be heard. It’s important that neither side dig their heels in when it comes to new projects that will grow our city. Instead of fighting out issues with all-or-nothing solutions, both sides can win if we work hard on compromise. I have a history of working with all sides and getting the best results for Dallas. When we take politics out of our decision making process we end up with real solutions.
PAAIA/IAPAC: What role do you think Iranian Americans can play in your campaign and what do you expect from the community?
Abtahi: North Texas is home to a large number of Iranian Americans. I will need help from the community with making phone calls, sending e-mails, registering voters who would likely support the campaign and encouraging friends in District 14 to vote.
Word of mouth and person-to-person contact is very valuable in local races.
PAAIA/IAPAC: What role can organizations like PAAIA/IAPAC play in assisting your campaign?
Abtahi: Raising money. More than any other political organization, PAAIA/IAPAC understands the importance of obtaining valuable polling data and research information regarding my background, heritage and positive/negative messages.