Thursday, August 10, 2006

Don't be bashing Dallas!

It heats me up when people are critical of Dallas, and plenty of people find it easy to throw verbal stones our way.

Yesterday at lunch I learned something that stokes my fire even more.

Four suburban cities that ring Dallas to the northwest have made the conscious decision to accept no federal or state funding for public or affordable housing development. In essence the city councils of each of these cities have said, "We don't want 'those people' living in our communities."

Economic segregation is a cruel, evil, unjust reality in the Metroplex.

City leaders who do not plan for economic diversity impoverish their communities socially and, at the same time, add to the forces of racial and class discrimination, fuel economic deprivation, block access to new opportunities and deepen the challenges facing the poor.

Shame on them and every resident who tolerates such narrow, closed minded, injustice.

Thank God for Dallas!

Don't be knocking my city or its leaders!

Don't get me wrong.

None of us are perfect.

Our City Council, County Commissioners Court, School Board, Housing Authority and other community leadership groups are not perfect.

But, you know what?

For the most part they are trying hard. Most of the time, most of the members of these groups, or at least a significant and verbal portion of each group, are pressing for decisions that benefit people across a diverse spectrum in our city.

They fail at times.

Do we wish they did better? Certainly.

Do they need to hear from us when things could be improved? Absolutely.

Some few members would like to keep low-income, working people in selected and isolated areas of our city. We face economic and racial segregation inside the city limits of Dallas.

We get angry when leaders think in these terms. But others of our leaders really help blaze new trails for new approaches to old problems that often involve mixing our diverse population across the city. Just here I think of the leadership of Ann Lott, as she provides leadership for the Dallas Housing Authority. Or, Jerry Killingsworth who heads the Housing Department at the City of Dallas. I could name many of our City Council members just here and County Judge Margaret Keliher.

We know frustration in this city. We try to act against frustrating and unjust choices.

But, at least, on the whole, we aren't shutting people out as a standard, understood, agreed upon operating procedure.

We don't always do all we could. We have been known to leave federal and state dollars on the table that could really help the poor.

But, it is not like what I heard today about the inner-ring suburbs in north Dallas.

So, don't be bad mouthing Dallas, especially if you aren't living here.
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16 comments:

Jeff said...

Larry,

I knw this is off-topic, but what is your take on Cynthia McKinney losing the primary runoff? I know that you are one of her fans .

Just curious.

Larry James said...

Jeff, thanks for the post.

Congresswoman McKinney worked with us in attempting to secure a Congressional "earmark" for an innovative employment training initiative here at CDM for Dallas. Our plan was a classic public/private partnership and we would have been working with our own Congresswoman, Eddie Bernice Johnson who was behind our efforts. But, all earmarks out of the Dept of Labor were set aside and we didn't secure the funding. We will try again next session I expect.

All of that to say, Ms. McKinney was heading a multi-state effort to create high-quality construction trade training programs like the one we had in mind in about 10 states. She set up scores of meetings for us with Representatives and Senators. She allowed the team from across the nation to set up shop in her offices in the Capitol.

I found her to be engaging, creative, really smart and devoted to representing her district in Atlanta.

She was defeated largely due to two factors. The recent confrontation with Capitol police and her outspoken criticism of Israel and their policy toward Palestine.

Say what you will about Ms. McKinney, in my experience she was hard working, honest and very clear about her values and her positions.

RC said...

Larry,

You just blew the lid off of one of the best kept tools of segregationist. I live in the Memphis area. As with all larger cities, Memphis is surrounded with suburbs. One in particular stands out, Collierville. Over the years Collierville has prided itself as the up and coming community in the area, but there is a funny thing going on. If you can find a new house being constructed in Collierville with a price tag under $250,000.00 I would be shocked. How do you keep Collierville predominantly white? Simple. Price the majority of the blacks and hispanics out of the market, and the ones that can afford to live there, no problem. They are all well educated and for the most part like us. Most white people don't mind at all a few people of color living around them, especially if they are college educated and name their kids Bill and Heather. White flight has really hurt Memphis. Most whites simple are not going to live around a large number of people of a different race. The result is that when the whites all bail out often little is left economically to support the community that is left. A case in point is a community in Memphis called "Parkway Village." I grew up there, and from the 60's thru the 80's it was the place to be for working class whites, but then the white flight started and finally the crowning blow came when the "Mall of Memphis" located in the heart of Parkway Village, which was for a time the largest and best mall in the Mid-South was just torn down. It was not even 20 years old. I think that the city fathers of these suburbs are quietly telling their wealthy white friends that if you will spend $500,000 on a house in our town you can rest easy because unless someone else has the money to afford to live in your new neighborhood they can forget living near you. Good post.

Larry James said...

RC, thanks for your post.

You are correct, of course. Racism hides back of class and economics in our nation.

Where are the leaders?

What few in our churches want to recognize is the fact that "on-the-street" realities like you just described are matters of faith and justice that the Hebrew prophets addressed in their time. But we never make the connection because we are so glazed over with piety and religion.

Jeff said...

I couldn't care less about the color of the people who live in my neighborhood. But I do care about safety for my family. I don't want to live in a neighborhood where thugs will break into and vandalize my car and house, and where it is not safe for my children to play out on the sidewalk or go to the park by themselves.

I wish to live among law-abiding citizens who care about their property and want to build a good community.

Does that make me a racist?

1literatimommy said...

Jeff,
I do not think wanting to live in a neighborhood where your family will be safe makes you racist. But, unless you are helping to make that a reality for those less fortunate than you, I think it does makes you a hypocrite. Just a thought. (I am stepping on my own toes here, too.)

Larry James said...

Jeff, thanks for the post.

No, what you want does not make you a racist. However, cities that "plan people out" of good communities where economic opportunity exists guarantee the concentration of poverty and the creation of hopelessness in the face of the Madison Ave onslaught that we all are exposed to.

City planners need to be held accountable to providing healthy options and affordable spaces in diverse environments so that we can all live together.

Somebody has to stand and demand that this take place.

Anonymous said...

We're all inherently selfish. Rich speak up for the rich out of self-interest. I think that many poor folk do the same, albeit with quieter voices.

Let me play devil's advocate: Other than an appeal to justice, what incentive do those wealthy (read: white) communities have to create incentives for the development of low-income housing?

Larry James said...

Anonymous 1:53, thanks for the post.

You raise a very good question. But your comments provide the basis for my answer.

It is in the self-interest of the rich, the middle class and the underclass to see the development of communities such as I have described here. By allowing for those nearer the bottom of our economy to live in decnet housing with access to economic opportunity, better schools, transportation and the other benefits that come with a more dynamic and vibrant community everyone does better. As the poor earn, they immediately spend. The benefit relative to issues such as criminal behavior, drug abuse, and violence. When we reduce the density of poverty in an area, we improve life overall for everyone.

This has been proven right here in North Dallas, thanks to the efforts of the Dallas Housing Authority via their once controversial Frankfort Road project, a project that has been a great success.

Matthew said...

rc said...
Price the majority of the blacks and hispanics out of the market, and the ones that can afford to live there, no problem. They are all well educated and for the most part like us.

Nod, so let's not confuse our rhetoric. Socioeconomic prejudice is simply not the same thing as racial prejudice. If we protest too loudly about racism, we risk not being heard about the more important issue.

KentF said...

Many far northern Dallas communities don't even permit apartments or higher density housing, and most developments have minimum home size restrictions probably no less than 3,000 square feet. It's a Chamber of Commerce positive for many moving to the area

"hey, here in _____, we don't permit apartments, low income housing, or even median-priced housing" - i.e. - our neighborhood is incredibly safe and white. Sadly, that's also where most of the new churches are being built.

Janet said...

Jeff,
It sounds like you are assuming that people who are poor are "thugs" and less than law-abiding citizens.

belinda said...

Many (i.e., republicans) will argue that folks should take care of themselves . . . those "evil" democrats are the ones responsible for those awful (and I'm being sarcastic) hand-out programs. Thank GOD for these programs!

Larry James said...

belinda, thanks for your post.

What is needed is a return to non-partisan, bi-partisan commitments to work out our challenges for the good of us all.

Fed up Racist White Man said...

75287 is now another crime ridden hood, especially after the New Orleans blacks came.

Bring in the lazy and the useless blacks and they will destroy your area.

I'm RACIST and damn proud of it. and this is still a free country, most Whites choose not to live around lazy, destructive blacks and for VERY good reasons. We should just bring back Jim Crow laws. Blacks deserve to be confined in the ghetto.

Larry James said...

Fed up, I leave your rant up on this site so that all may see that we have not "arrived" when it comes to racial attitudes and, in your case I am sure, actions. For all who say we need to "move on" when it comes to race and racism, read this again and again.