DALLAS – Fearing protests over his position on gay marriage, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings decided to keep his word and not show up at a community meeting billed as a chance “to meet the mayor.”
Some at the meeting had not gotten the message the mayor decided against attending. Tony Nuncio, president of the nearby Oak Park Estates neighborhood association, called the mayor’s decision “cowardly.”
“I was really disappointed he chose not to be here,” Nuncio said. “I had a specific question I wanted to ask him about the redistricting plans.”
Several attendees expressed irritation that the mayor backed out of the meeting.
“I’m surprised he would do that,” said Nancy Willson, who attended the meeting. “I didn’t think that’s how Mike Rawlings would handle things, by avoiding issues.”
The “Meet Your Mayor” event had been scheduled for weeks, and was promoted on Rawling’s Twitter and Facebook pages. Late Tuesday night, the meeting announcement, which promised the mayor, was still on the city’s official web site.
Council members Delia Jasso and Scott Griggs instead led the meeting, organized to answer resident’s questions about issues in their neighborhood.
“If it had been me, I think I would have addressed it, but you never know unless you’re in that situation,” said Councilwoman Jasso, about the mayor’s dilemma.
Rawlings announced on his Facebook page Monday evening that he would not attend the community meeting for Districts 1 and 3, the next night at the Kiest Park Recreation Center.
The mayor has refused interviews with News 8.
“I apologize for any inconvenience this may cause,” he wrote on his page. “My goal is to maintain open communication with constituents and would like the opportunity to meet with you in a more intimate setting.”
Paula Blackmon, the mayor’s chief of staff, told News 8 Rawlings didn’t want his presence – and the protests – to distract from the meeting. She also said the mayor is planning to meet with gay activists later this week.
“We have a meeting set up,” Blackmon said. “We need to understand where they’re coming from, and where we’re coming from.”
Rawlings has been facing pressure to join nearly 80 other mayors across the country to sign a pledge supporting the legalization of gay marriage.
“He’s more concerned with appearances than with actually facing the issues important to the citizens,” said Daniel Cates, with the action group GetEQUAL, which threatened the protests. “We are going to continue to pressure him.”
Cates says he’s planning a “Sign the Pledge” rally outside Dallas City Hall at 7:00 p.m. on Friday.
Rawlings has said he doesn’t feel he should get involved with social issues as a mayor. He said in a statement last week that signing the letter “is consistent with my view of the duties of the office of the mayor.”