[What follows is the text of my opening statement last week before a briefing session of the Dallas City Council and Mayor Mike Rawlings. During the almost 3-hour conversation, we presented the initial findings of the Mayor's Task Force on Poverty. It feels like we are making progress.]
`About six months ago, Mayor Rawlings invited me to chair a task force on poverty for Dallas. The objective was to identify 5-6 steps that could be taken quickly to create catalytic impact relative to the problem of poverty in Dallas.
The mayor reminded us all that the short-term future of Dallas was bright for the next 5 years or so. Beyond that line of sight, things didn’t look so certain; in fact, the outlook for the longer term appeared troubling. The mayor understood that the surprising growth of poverty in Dallas posed a very real threat to our entire community, and that we had to find ways to pull together as one for the sake of all.
Poverty affects and magnifies every other challenge we face as a city. Public education, higher education, community health/wellness, employment skills matching available jobs, public safety, transportation, quality of life issues in neighborhoods, food deserts—you name the challenge, poverty intensifies the surrounding problems.
What you are about to hear is the product of the task force’s hard work. Much of what you will hear should be unsettling to you. It is to us. In my view, Dallas is not only the “tale of two cities,” it is also the untold tale of one city—a city within a city defined by poverty, limited opportunity and an uncertain future; a city well acquainted with unrelenting “toxic stress.” It is not acceptable for a city as full of wealth and opportunity as Dallas to be ranked as the 4th poorest urban center in the United States just behind Detroit, Memphis and Philadelphia.
Clearly the time has come to go to work with new vigor.