Monday, November 16, 2009

Unify South Dallas

The Dallas Morning News published an editorial opinion in Thursday's print editions of the paper supporting the Unify South Dallas movement. 

Central Dallas Ministries' VP of Public Policy, Rev. Gerald Britt has been instrumental in the formation and work of the group.  The growing influence of the community-based group is really encouraging to watch. 

Here's a taste of our major news daily's evaluation of Unify Dallas: 

South Dallas group creates its own action plan

Many Dallas residents might not think it remarkable for the mayor to show up in their neighborhood and answer questions. The fact that Unify South Dallas considered it a big victory just to get Mayor Tom Leppert into the building Tuesday says a lot about the level of past city neglect.

Unify South Dallas, formed just a few months ago, is fast becoming one of the most effective organizations at work in this part of town. It exists to help residents and other stakeholders become full partners in shaping the revitalization efforts designed to bring economic growth to their neighborhoods.
The driving force is IKOJA, a group of young professionals and entrepreneurs, supported by people with experience in this struggle. Together they have rallied neighborhood associations, places of worship, businessmen and women, community advocates and such groups as SouthFair CDC and Frazier Revitalization.

The Forest Heights Community Center was packed for Leppert's appearance, with more than 75 people showing up in the middle of the day. The community meeting was significant for several reasons:

•Leppert not only carved out time to attend (and stay longer than he planned), but he listened to each agenda item from the group and generally gave thoughtful, frank answers. City Manager Mary Suhm was also there, as were staffers representing U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson and state Sen. Royce West.

•The group's action items, crafted through numerous grassroots meetings, are concrete policy proposals, rather than broadly stated desires. They include specific actions to create mixed-income neighborhoods, curb the havoc wrought by bars and liquor stores, and set aside jobs in city-subsidized commercial developments for South Dallas residents. (Leppert offered informed support for the first item, pointed out that the second is the responsibility of individual council members and largely rejected the third as unworkable.)

•The most immediate victory involves national developer McCormack Baron Salazar, hired to assess economic development opportunities in South Dallas. Leppert promised to have the developer brief the South Dallas community no later than it addressed the City Council's Economic Development Committee. (Of special interest to McCormack Baron Salazar is the Green Line through South Dallas.)

Although City Council member Carolyn Davis, who represents much of South Dallas, was in San Antonio on Tuesday for a weeklong National League of Cities conference, she's back in time to hold two town hall meetings today: 10 a.m. at the Exline Recreation Center and 6 p.m. on the sixth floor of Dallas City Hall.

We wouldn't be surprised if she fielded questions around the Unify South Dallas proposals. We certainly hope she does. South Dallas residents should hope that the ensuing dialogue starts a collaboration between their elected council member and an energetic, savvy new force.

Read the entire report, including other data in side bars here.

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