Sunday, May 31, 2009

Check out Robert Miller column in today's Dallas Morning News!

Dallas Morning News business page columnist, Robert Miller reports on the successful launch of The Donor Bridge.

Central Dallas Ministries is featured in the report. Thanks to everyone who contributed to this special campaign!

Read Miller's story here.

Meet Joshua DuBois

You can take a look at the entire, extremely interesting conversation right here.


We're hoping to get Rev. DuBois to Dallas in the not too distant future.


Saturday, May 30, 2009

Garden in the ghetto

Now here is a positive development from South Dallas! Take a look at what people can do by working together! My hat's off to Karen Dudley.

Bed building and planting day took place at Dallas International Street Church for The Garden: South Dallas, Texas. Community service workers from the City of Dallas Community Court came to help the teams get it done and it was a great day for everyone.

Visit for more information on this community project for the homeless.

Friday, May 29, 2009

CHIP needs your help today!!!

IMPORTANT PUBLIC HEALTH UPDATE FROM AUSTIN: Last night, the Texas House blocked consideration of a bill that would allow families with no health care options for their children to buy into the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Meanwhile, Gov. Perry said he does not support the bill, in his words because, "That is not what I consider to be a piece of legislation that has the vast support of the people of the state of Texas."

State leaders need to hear from you and as many Texans as possible immediately!

Call the Governor's office at (888) 746-9714 and tell him, "I and the majority of Texans DO support the CHIP bill to cover 80,000 additional Texas kids."

Contact your elected legislators, House Speaker Straus, and Lt. Gov. Dewhurst, and say, "Pass the CHIP buy-in bill in SB 841 or HB 2962."

Here are the toll-free phone numbers you'll need:

Speaker Straus: (888) 327-2086
Lt. Gov. Dewhurst: (866) 934-2619
To contact your Senator and your representative click here.

Ask your friends and family to call their elected officials--before time runs out to get 80,000 additional uninsured children the health insurance they need to stay healthy.

Please call immediately. Time is running out!!!

Justice denied, justice affirmed

When things go terribly wrong in a community, steps must be taken to ensure that the same mistakes and misjudgments are never made again. When systems are found to be broken or inadequate, they must be repaired or discarded altogether and replaced.

Take the matter of wrongly convicted, innocent persons who suffer incarceration at the hands of the State of Texas because of flawed and often intentionally misleading interrogation methods.

This week, The Dallas Morning News reported on the latest Dallas County man who has been cleared of all charges against him related to the rape of a co-ed at Southern Methodist University in 1986. The report makes it clear that forces were at work in the investigation that assured a wrongful conviction. Obviously, when tried, Jerry Lee Evans did not receive the benefit of the assumption of innocence until proven guilty in a court of law.

Consider the report by Jennifer Emily:

Dallas County's 20th DNA exoneration expected

Jerry Lee Evans matched the description of the man who abducted and raped a woman in Deep Ellum in 1986. He even had a similar speech impediment.

But today Evans, 47, is expected to walk out of the courtroom a free man because DNA testing shows he is not the man who raped an 18-year-old Southern Methodist University freshman at knifepoint.

Dallas County prosecutors Tuesday pointed to questionable witness identification procedures as a leading reason for his wrongful conviction.

When the woman looked at a six-picture photo spread, Dallas police officers "were leading and encouraging" her to pick Evans out of the photo lineup, said Mike Ware, who oversees the DA's conviction integrity unit. Officers were also "enthusiastically encouraging" after the woman selected Evans.

You'll find the full report here.

Whenever a community's basic systems of justice, fairness and discovery break down this badly, intervention seems necessary. Again, we should be grateful for the leadership of Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins. Where would Mr. Evans be without him and his leadership?

But, I'm wondering if more needs to be done to speed up ongoing investigations of other cases that need review?

We have seen now 20 individuals in Dallas County alone who have been freed after serving hundreds of years in prison for crimes committed by others, many of whom remain at large and a danger to us all. Dallas County should consider the formation of a special citizen's commission, a public "justice review board" of sorts, to consider, not individual cases as such, but the processes and patterns that have led to such terrible, unthinkable failure on the part of our criminal justice system.

It is time for systemic change.


Thursday, May 28, 2009

Poor outgive the rest of us. . .

Over the years, I've witnessed it again and again: the remarkable generosity of people who have nothing really. We see it in our food distribution center in inner city East Dallas. People receive something to relieve their immediate needs, but find it amazingly easy to turn to another and share from what they have received.

I've seen guys give their last dollar to a friend who needed bus or rail fare. The poor share their clothes, pool their funds and work hard at helping each other.

I know I've reported the fact that our poor neighbors who come to us for various services like health care or legal counsel out give the churches who support us by over 2 to 1. Not really a surprise to me.

Now comes the empirical data to prove up what's back of the anecdotal stories. A McClatchy analysis of census bureau numbers drives the little chart below. . .not sure you can read it too well.

So, here's the bottom line: the poorest of our citizens out give the rest of us by almost 2 to 1!
What does that say to and about all of the rest of us?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


I love this story from Kevin and Jackie Freiberg's great little book, Guts! Companies That Blow the Doors Off Business-As-Usual (2004):

When a Southwest gate agent in Austin, Texas, was approached by a very distressed customer who spoke only Spanish, her willingness to think like an owner may have saved the man's life. The customer was on his way to Houston for a kidney transplant, and he had mistakenly gotten off the plane in Austin. The gate agent spoke Spanish, too, and she was able to figure out that not arriving in Houston early the next morning meant that he could lose his chance to get the kidney. She knew there were no more commercial flights from Austin to Houston that night, but she remembered that Mark Robbins, an Austin ramp agent, was a private pilot. In entrepreneurial fashion, she explained the customer's predicament to Mark, who flew the man to Houston that night. And the gate agent went along for the ride, knowing the customer would be more comfortable having someone else with him who spoke his language. No call was made to the CEO or anyone else to ask permission. The two employees simply handled the customer's problem, knowing that the company would support them. . . .

Great breakthroughs and extraordinary acts of service usually happen out on the radical fringe of a clearly defined boundary (pages 86-87).

I really believe that story illustrates how to manage for impact and success. What works in business also works in community development.

Community members who have little to offer but their time and smarts can and do make a huge difference when they are trained and set free to serve our "customers." And, it is the same with our employed staff.

Much to think about here.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Pain and poverty

What I am about to say may sound self-evident, but I think we seldom experience the grace of true understanding when it comes to people who live in poverty.

"Poor people" hurt just like the rest of us (Note: I instinctively resist and resent using the phrase "the poor" to categorize human beings--people aren't poor, they have the circumstances of poverty thrust upon them, often through no fault of their own, as we are learning in this present economy. . .).

Of course, the burdens of poverty dump unusual difficulty on those who must endure that broad, often comprehensive burden. Surely, it hurts to be homeless in ways that I will not understand until I enter that state of being. It hurts to be ill without ready recourse to treatment, care and medication. It hurts to be unable to get places. It hurts to be broke. It hurts to be hungry.

But these are not the pains I have in mind today.

No, I'm thinking of the pains of the heart.

Being hungry hurts. What's worse and deeper and extremely painful to the heart is to see your child hungry and you having no way to relieve that pain.

Going further, those of us who try "to help" people who live in poverty seldom think in terms of the heart, the emotional life of people who face severe, often intractable economic and social problems.

Joe is a friend. He lost a 7-year-old child in a car crash. Joe knows poverty. Joe's heart was broken when his little girl died. Joe will be shaped by this one loss for the rest of his life, just as I would be should something like that happen to me. Will anyone see that, take the time to know that reality, to really know Joe?

People who face poverty also see marriages end, experience the apparent death of key relationships, have hearts broken wide open by betrayal and loss, watch children suffer and fail, stand and look down the road as a friend walks away. They know what it feels like to be ignored, passed over, and shoved to the back of most lines. They feel a deep agony as their children are sent away to prison.

Several years ago, not long after I came to Central Dallas Ministries, I met a very interesting couple. The man was several years younger than the woman. Whether they were married or not, I don't know. They certainly could have been, and they definitely were a couple. Both had experienced severe poverty and homelessness, thanks in large part to substance abuse, terrible childhoods and a basic lack of skills. She lived her life in a wheelchair. He attended to her with a tenderness that at times was palpable. At other times they fought like cats and dogs! They struggled with life, they struggled hard. We tried to intervene, to help, to make a difference. I don't judge that we were very helpful, not really.

A few years ago the woman died.

I encountered the man on the street just a few weeks after her death. He greeted me with his bear hug "hello" and promptly broke down into tears of grief as he explained his loss. He hurt so deeply for her.

You name the human situation of loss or despair and, guess what? Our neighbors who possess nothing also know, possibly as if magnified by their circumstance, the pains of life, loss and love.

We would do well to remember the power of human emotions. We must not forget the universal pain of being human.


Sunday, May 24, 2009


If my grandfather, John James, had survived, today would have been his 124th birthday. [Are we allowed to have "favorites" when it come to grandparents? Whatever, he was certainly mine.]

Born in Lampasas, Texas on May 24, 1885, "Gramps" spent most of his life working farms that he didn't own. His life as a tenant farmer and a sharecropper taught him the harsh realities of labor and justice in the business of agriculture and ranching.

Hanging in my office at home, I have a photo of the ranch house located on the JX Ranch where my grandparents worked in 1918-1919. Owned by Wyoming Senator John Benjamin Kendrick, the ranch is located on the Powder River northeast of Sheridan, Wyoming. The photo reminds me that low-income working people often turn into migrants in search of work, opportunity and a fair wage.

But, Gramps was Texan through and through. Born and raised in a part of Texas that was positive about the Grange, the birthplace of the Populist Party and at least one branch of the Farmers Alliance movement; my grandfather always remained aware of the plight of working people who stood face-to-face with market forces, usually without a voice in the economic matters that controlled everything about their livelihood.

He ended his working "career" as a night watchman in a Downtown Dallas office tower. I can remember as a little boy riding with him in the backseat of our car on our way home from my grandparents' house in Oak Cliff. We timed our visits so that we could drop Gramps off at this night shift job. He rode the bus home after work every morning.

As I remember this special man and how important he was in my life, I think I better understand my own values and my motivations today. I hope I can live up to what I saw in him.

He died at age 94.

I was 29.

I am very grateful to have known him for so long.

Biblical reflection, Sunday application

You trample on the poor, and take advantage of him in your markets. . .as a result, you are rich and uncaring. . .

You oppress the poor as a part of your overall plan. . .you regularly receive bribe money and you rob the poor of justice in the courts in the name of "law and order". . .because of your ways with those who are poor, you and your nation will suffer horribly. . .

Now understand this, God hates your Sunday worship services. . .God is sickened by your displays of religious fervor and piety. . . God detests all of your gifts and offerings and plans to give to further serve only yourself. . .God will not hear the silly sounds of your music and song in view of the terrible cries of the poor suffering outside your fine sanctuaries. . .God refuses to listen to your beautiful music because of what you have done to chain the poor. . .

Here's the "order of service" God desires from you: justice that rolls like a mighty river and right practice on the streets, in your courthouses and state houses and White House that results in a sacrifice of relief and hope for the poor who are God's true people.
[Interpretative thoughts drawn from Amos 5:11-24]
Order of Worship
A Time of Prolonged Silence to Ponder Our Oppressive Ways
Silent Prayers to Entreat the Lord for Forgiveness
Repentance and Confession
Closing Prayers for Mercy
Silent Benediction and Solemn Retreat to Life

Saturday, May 23, 2009

On Through

Clearly, life deals people some pretty tough hands.

Sometimes the best thing to do in some situations is to just change course. You know, turn around. Go a different direction. Take an alternative route.

Often that approach, though desirable, is not possible.

People find themselves trapped, surrounded by enemies and obstacles and, well, nothing with which to work on a solution.

Over the past 15 years, I've seen this reality what seems like a million times. Poverty creates such dilemmas and then imposes them on good people.


Often very, very hard to discover.

But I've noticed in my schooling from and among "the poor" that those who make it just simply keep battling, trying, struggling until they break "on through."

Faith is always a part of that movement through. And, so is community. No one makes it "on through" without help and engagement with others.

As I've been saying for a long time, poor folks have a lot to teach us.


Friday, May 22, 2009

Wallis on the changing face of homelessness

Jim Wallis, leader of Sojourners community, published a helpful summary of the challenges facing the homeless in the United States in a Washington Times last Sunday. Wallis makes it clear that the "profile" of America's homeless is changing. Much of what he says is not new to us in Dallas, but his words are helpful in understanding a wide range of issues and possibile solutions. The latest "point-in-time" census among the homeless here in Dallas was conducted in January. According to the poll, our homeless population had declined from the same time last year, unlike other major cities.

Here's a taste of Wallis' commentary, entitled "Handling America's homeless families" (May 17, 2009):

The stereotypical image of homelessness is a disheveled man, clutching a bottle of cheap wine in a brown paper bag and shuffling along the sidewalk. But that is an old image now and fails to reflect the growing reality of homelessness.

The combined effects of increasing unemployment, poverty and the lack of affordable housing, now exacerbated by the severe economic crisis, have led to a dramatic increase of homeless families. Recent news reports have told of tent cities and shantytowns, with parents and their children living out of cars. And it is clearly a growing problem.

A December 2008 annual survey of 25 major cities by the U.S. Conference of Mayors profiles the new face of homelessness: "The report reveals that on average, cities reported a 12 percent increase in homelessness from 2007 to 2008, with 16 cities citing an increase in the number of homeless families."

Similarly, the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions' latest annual survey at 137 rescue missions across North America in October 2008 reported that "women with children made up 66 percent of the homeless families counted in the survey, a jump from 55 percent in 2007 and the highest figure recorded in the last eight years."

What should we do? Ultimately, of course, reversing unemployment with jobs that allow a family to afford housing is the best answer to homelessness. But for the immediate crisis, cities around the country, partnering with faith-based and neighborhood groups, the federal government and the private sector, have been developing an array of programs that actually work. Let me suggest a three-step strategy. . .

Read the entire article here.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Join the Justice Revival--Dallas!

On November 10-12, 2009, Dallas will experience a "Justice Revival."

In concert with Sojourners and Dallas-based Foundation for Community Empowerment, a growing group of Dallas citizens from every sector are rallying together to bring this special event to our community.

Beyond the event, we envision a continuing civic and faith movement to establish enduring relationships, strong connections and continuing, coordinated action with a goal to see justice established in our city.

What is so cool about this justice movement is the fact that it is always open to new involvement.
Everyone is welcome to join the Justice Revival Dallas team.

The next meeting will take place on July 23, 2009 from 9:30-11:30 a.m. at St. Luke Community United Methodist Church (5710 East R. L. Thornton Freeway (I-30).

I hope you'll join us! You will be welcomed for sure!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

At last! Texas shows the way!

As you may have gathered from reading here over the past several months, Central Dallas Ministries has been intimately involved with a very special group of men as they work hard to rebuild their shattered lives. Known around here as "the Exonerees," all were convicted and imprisoned for crimes they did not commit.

Thanks to the efforts of lots of people, including our own Rev. Gerald Britt, the Texas Legislature has placed a new law on Governor Rick Perry's desk that will make Texas the national leader in providing for these who have been treated so unjustly.

Take a look here to read the short little AP note that made The Dallas Morning News last week.

To hear directly from one of these men and to revisit my previous posts go here.

Way to go, Gerald! Your trips to Austin certainly paid off!


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Health care challenges concern communities

If you read The Dallas Morning News, you may have seen the articles in Sunday's edition (May 17, 2009) addressing the health care challenges facing the nation and our communities.

Included in the newspaper version of the report was a interview with several of us who work in the health care space. You can read the "virtual roundtable" discussion here.

Also, in the feature report were the stories of individuals in our community and how they are handling their particular challenges with gaining access to affordable health care options. One of our Project Access Dallas patients was featured. Read this story here.

Health and wellness challenges affect our communities all across the Metroplex and shape our work as we attempt to make things better for individuals and neighborhoods.

Your ideas welcomed.


Monday, May 18, 2009

Double your investment impact on May 20

Thanks to the leadership and generosity of The Dallas Foundation, Communities Foundation of Texas and the Center for Non-Profit Management, our community is about to receive an amazing gift.

Donor Bridge will be a "one-stop shop" for donors who are interested in doing research to gain a better, more sophisticated understanding of charities and non-profit organizations in which they may have an interest in investing.

In connection with the launch of Donor Bridge, you can help Central Dallas Ministries and double the impact of your gift.

To learn more about what to do on May 20, go here.

Let me know what you think after you've had a look. Your support is important to us.


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Restore what?

The version of Christianity passed along to me was based on a very narrow sort of primitivism.

Growing up and on into my college and adult years, the fundamental (no pun intended here) concept behind the faith tradition of my family was "restoration." The goal was to restore in word and practice the life and teachings of the earliest Christian communities. We wanted to be "1st century Christians," never mind that we found ourselves in the midst of the tumultuous twentieth century, a fact that we seemed to work hard to ignore.

As I slowly began to awaken to a larger view of my faith, it became clear that both our understandings of the earliest Christians and our selection of just which words and practices to restore needed serious reconsideration.

For example, I grew up convinced that instrumental music in worship was a heinous sin worthy of eternal damnation! Our list of practices, terms and methods to be "restored" was set out very clearly and in terms that made it easy to pass along to others. And, did we ever try! The "five steps to salvation," the proper organization of the church, the correct terms for labeling church leaders, the frequency of celebrating the Lord's Supper, the strict avoidance of the historic creeds of orthodoxy (afterall, the earliest believers had no such statements), refusal even to pray the Lord's Prayer since it was a prayer from the Mosaic dispensation (never mind who first offered the prayer!). . .the list went on.

I remember working my way through a book written by a famous preacher from a generation before mine. "Why I am a member of [my denomination]." We worked our way through that book again and again. I remember as a young minister in training that I led my country congregation through the book. Reflecting on that experience, I think it was then that the sharp turn in my own view began to become clear. Internally, the book's title changed slightly but significantly to "Why am I a member of my denomination?"

While the notion of restoration had much to commend it as a framing tool/principle for biblical interpretation and hermeneutics, the major challenge with the method had to do with the choices to be made as to what would be restored. The subjectivity of the entire process made for lots of really strange divisions and practices in our little corner of the Christian world.

My questions began to revolve more and more around what Jesus said and did.

The value basis of his words intrigued me greatly. Consideration of their application led me to listen to other voices outside my heritage. And, Jesus led me to rethink my approach to the Bible in general.

Not surprisingly, I found the same values expressed in the Hebrew Bible, values that clearly under girded those of Jesus. I remember vividly when it hit me that Jesus was executed for his value statements and for what they meant regarding how he and his followers treated others. It became clear that his values and actions, his lifestyle and sacrifices charted a course that made lots of sense in a world of pain, need, war, division and injustice like mine.

I suppose I'll never completely escape the interpretive paradigm of my youth. So, for me the question will remain, "Restore what?"

How about this for a start?

"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat,

I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink,

I was a stranger and you invited me in,

I needed clothes and you clothed me,

I was sick and you looked after me,

I was in prison and you came to visit me."

Here it appears to me that we hit upon the restoration of people and our world.

What's your story?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

AmeriCorps expanding at Central Dallas Ministries

Here's the wonderful email message I received earlier this week from Keven Vicknair, Director of the CDM AmeriCorps and VISTA teams.

As you will see, this is great news for us and for our community!

Just had to pass along the good news!

Hello All,

I just wanted to share some good news we received this morning.

CDM was just awarded $731,511 in stimulus/recovery funds to significantly expand our AmeriCorps program.

This grant will increase the AmeriCorps annual operating budget to $1.58 million.

Under this grant we will undertake two main projects:

1. Continue funding all current AmeriCorps placements that we were set to lose under our current grant. . .

2. Fund the upscale of the Congo St project, which is a joint project of Central Dallas Community Development Corporation and bcWorkshop (This project will impact up to a 10 block area by rehabilitating all targeted properties in the area).

We would never have received these funds if CDM were not such a strong organization; so it is my fellow directors to whom I owe a debt of gratitude.

Thank you all!


Thank you, Keven! Your vision, leadership and hard work, along with that of your entire team call for celebration!

Here's one more very important detail: the new grant will mean that we can fund 335 new AmeriCorps positions in our neighborhood. We're getting to scale now!

We love AmeriCorps at CDM!


Friday, May 15, 2009

Short term gain vs. long term return

Read this note on Friday, May 8, 2009, in The Dallas Morning News. I post it, not because I want to discuss birth control, family planning or related issues, but because of what the facts behind the report illustrate.

Read it and then I'll get back to you:

Under the Dome
12:00 AM CDT on Friday, May 8, 2009
The Associated Press
Birth control pill funds targeted

A powerful Republican senator is blocking an increase in state funding for birth control pills, saying Texas can't afford the expenditure in such tough economic times.

The $7 million expenditure for the pills has become a sticking point between House and Senate negotiators trying to reach agreement on the budget. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, said Texas women could purchase their own birth control pills.

Family planning advocates say the money would go to a subsidy program that a patchwork of clinics, such as Planned Parenthood, uses to help low-income women get birth control bills. The reimbursement rate of $2.80 hasn't been raised since the 1970s, they say.

Okay. Let me see if I understand. We opt today to save a reported $7 million by not funding this health benefit for low-income women. Funds are needed because the reimbursement rate for the benefit via Medicaid has not been increased over the past 3-4 decades.

So, we choose to let these women, all mothers and potential mothers, "go it alone" when it comes to their reproductive health and welfare because we need to save money during these hard times.

You gotta be kidding me!

Does Senator Ogden know what it costs to raise a child? Does he understand the cost to the State of Texas to protect, educate and provide for the child of a low-income woman or family? I don't even need to mention the cost and dilemma's associated with "unwanted" children.

Here we have a classic example of penny wise and pound foolish. Surely, surely, saner heads will prevail here. Tell me this is a joke, please tell me.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Jack Kemp, class act

Jack Kemp always impressed me. I guess I just loved his style.

His athletic ability kept fans coming back for more week after week. He played through his pain. He never complained.

Kemp led the way in attempting to push the nation to face its racism, to talk about it and to engage in reconciling actions.

After football, Kemp entered politics as one of the chief proponents, better, salesmen for President Reagan's "supply side" economic theories.

Kemp served as the Secretary of the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development under President George H. W. Bush.

Kemp had ideas. He was smart. He was fair. He wanted to include everyone.

Kemp died earlier this month after a battle with cancer. He was 73.

Read a great tribute in the May 11, 2009 issue of Sports Illustrated.

Jack Kemp will be remembered and missed.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Ron Washington's Dugout Dance. . .

Anyone see the Texas Rangers' win last night over Seattle?

Defense was superb.

Pitching more than solid.

Josh Hamiltion's return from the minors and the DL with a home run.

And, did you catch Rangers' Manager Ron Washington and his dugout dance?

Excitement everywhere!

Four games over even!

Check this out.


Check out our latest e-magazine. . .

Take a moment for an inside reality tour of Central Dallas Ministries here.

Hunger, health, housing and hope--all these mission targets focus our work.

Reactions welcome!


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Demand way up. . .funds in decline

This is our reality these days, too. What our friends at the Wilkinson Center are seeing is what we are seeing, as well.

As demand goes up, our unrestricted funds used to support hundreds of new families falls.





Monday, May 11, 2009

Madeline Reedy's Mission Year

No surprise here. At least, not to anyone who knows Madeline Reedy.

Madeline has worked at Central Dallas Ministries for the past four years. Her focus has been on youth who "age out" of the foster care system here in Dallas. She has done a great job at everything under her charge since joining our team.

Now she is about to embark on a year-long mission assignment with Adventures in Missions. The project, "The World Race," will carry Madeline around the world where she will work in 11 nations before returning home next year.

Madeline's question to all of us is simple: "Will you choose to love the world with me?"

Madeline tells me that there are three ways we can help her.

1) Provide encouragement

2) Pray for her and her work

3) Provide funding

Take a look at the brief interview I shot recently and then, go to this website where you can learn more about The World Race and sign on to be her partner in loving the world!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Words Not Necessary: Mothers' Day and Spring Time in Texas!

I suppose I go to the flowers and the fields on this first Mother's Day after the death of my mother, Mildred Oleta James. Mom passed out of this world on December 14, 2008.

We miss her.

She loved the flowers, just as the other mothers in my life--Brenda, Jennifer, Joanna.

Happy Mothers Day!


Saturday, May 09, 2009

Baseball at its best!

Baseball is my favorite sport, hands down. I know lots of people who just don't get that, but it's the way I'm wired and it's been in my soul since I was old enough to hold a ball and pick up a glove.

I can remember my dad returning from a business trip when I was about 8-years-old with a catcher's mit for me, maybe the most memorable gift I've ever received.

So, it's no wonder that I get really jazzed when my grandson, Wyatt takes the field for the opening of T-Ball season at the YMCA!

Kids and baseball, the only thing better is grandkids and baseball! Just couldn't resist sharing the video footage. Humor me!

Friday, May 08, 2009

Mental illness, hard streets and public policy

Texas leaders boast about the state's financial surplus. Of course, they don't mention just how poorly Texas stacks up when it comes to providing for our most vulnerable residents.

Take the state's standing in mental health services for the extremely poor--48th!

The story turns terribly sad when you begin to put faces with the data. The movement to de-institutionalize treatment strategies for the mentally ill that swept the nation in the 1960 and 1970s dumped thousands of patients on the streets of Texas cities in hopes that breakthroughs in new medications would allow patients to live on their own. Trouble was funding for follow up, case management and a robust network of community support just wasn't funded.

Kim Horner's latest entry in her ongoing series on homelessness in Dallas, published by The Dallas Morning News, gets at the awful reality confronting the chronically homeless here in Dallas. This paragraph early in her report grabbed my attention:

"We've just come to accept the fact we have homeless people roaming the streets like we have rats roaming the alleyways," said Michael Stoops, executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless. "We have grown accustomed to having human beings living on the streets. It's kind of a sad commentary."

Take a moment to read Horner's sobering report here.

Unknowing folks find it easy to dismiss the homeless poor as hopeless, lazy, shiftless bums who choose to stay on the streets rather than work to enter the mainstream. Not only is this analysis based on cruel and lazy thinking, it is simply incorrect.

Homeless persons need homes and they need them now. Housing allows everything else to fall into place, even for individuals with mental illness.

It's past time our leaders in Austin woke up. Huge surpluses in a day and time of such suffering on our streets is nothing about which we should feel any pride. Shame fits our circumstances much better.


Thursday, May 07, 2009

City Hotel a Good Thing for Private Hotels says Downtown hotel developer Larry Hamilton

What follows is an Op-Ed essay written by Larry Hamilton of Hamilton Properties. Larry is a Downtown hotel developer. His insights are very helpful.

City Hotel a Good Thing for Private Hotels
By Larry Hamilton

The barrage of TV commercials opposed to the City owned Convention Hotel might lead one to believe it constitutes unfair competition with nearby private sector hotels but the opposite is true, at least in this investor’s opinion.

My partners and I are constructing a 193 room privately financed hotel virtually across the street from the proposed 1,000 room convention hotel and we see the City owned hotel as revitalizing convention and group meeting business that will bring more City-wide events to fill up hotel rooms throughout DFW.

I saw this happen in Denver which had a convention center about half the size of Dallas’s and built an adjacent City owned 1,100 room Hyatt in 2005 and saw business mushroom that raised room rates and occupancy levels of all the privately owned downtown hotels.

In contrast, Dallas has a 1.5 million sq. ft. convention center that is dying on the vine and not competitive with Denver even though it’s twice the size. Dallas which once was a top tier convention destination has descended to the minor leagues compared to cities like Denver, San Diego, and Houston.

The claim by the other side that if the hotel would make money the private sector would do it is demagoguery of the worst sort. A city financed hotel can raise funds issuing tax exempt revenue bonds that might bear an interest rate of say 6%. On the other hand a private hotel would get maybe a 60% conventional loan at 8% interest with say a 15% second mezzanine loan at 13% interest and 25% of the funds in equity that would demand a return of perhaps 25%.

Under that scenario the all in cost of funds for the private hotel would average 14% or 233% higher cost of capital than the 6% tax exempt City financed hotel. Thus the private model would have to get returns that were 233% higher which is not likely to happen.

Other cities have wrestled with this dilemma and decided to finance their hotels with tax exempt revenue bonds that pledge the revenues from the hotel for payment of the debt as opposed to general obligation bonds which would obligate tax payers to come up with the funds. This is another canard that has been widely advertised and is false – that the taxpayers will have to eat the hotel’s losses.

The bond holders will bear that risk and finance the hotel if they are convinced revenues will be sufficient to meet debt service. Because of the favorable financing the hotel is highly likely to generate a profit which is what has happened in Denver. The excess revenues have gone into the City’s general fund.

So if Dallas wants to be a player in the convention market it needs to compete on a level playing field with all the other cities that have used public financing vehicles to build their convention hotels.

Dallas needs a revitalized downtown and our firm has been active in that effort. Our new 193 room aloft hotel in partnership with Sava Group will open in September across Young Street and a block to the east of the site for the Convention Hotel. In recent years we rehabilitated the Davis Building, Dallas Power & Light, and Mosaic into hip urban loft residential projects with ground floor retail to attract residents and 24 hour activity to a formerly forlorn and empty downtown that shut down at the end of each business day.

The City’s aggressive attitude has helped to secure the modest gains we have made to date, but to have a really world class downtown we need convention delegates walking around in great numbers like our peer cities’ downtowns.

The irony is we do have a world class convention center, one of America’s largest, but it is dying on the vine because we don’t have the attached headquarters hotel that our competitor cities now all have. Dallas used to be a top five convention destination by most measures. Now we are barely in the top five in Texas since Houston, San Antonio, Austin and Ft. Worth all have publicly financed convention center hotels and we don’t.

That’s why all the private hotel owners I have talked to are ardent advocates of the hotel and would encourage a no vote on both the propositions before Dallas voters on Saturday. It seems the opposition is mostly one hotel owner of the Anatole Hilton that hasn’t seemed to grasp that a rising tide raises all the ships. Too bad for him but what is he doing to our City?

One more time: Vote No!

Voters in Dallas go to the polls again this Saturday. In addition to important City Council races, we're being asked to decide on two important propositions.

A vote "Yes" for Proposition 1 means that the city of Dallas can't build a convention center hotel.

An affirmative vote on Proposition 2 will mean that any city involvement in development projects that costs a million dollars or more must be voted on by the general public, a proposition that begs the questions, "So, why do we have a city council?" and "How do we schedule and pay for that many elections?"

As I've said before here, I'll be voting "No" on both counts. It's fairly simple for me. The project will create hundreds of jobs both now and going forward. The hotel will contribute to the continued renewal Downtown. The hotel will attract convention visitors along with their willingness to spend money in Dallas. The hotel will be paid for by bonds, not new taxes. The fact that private developers aren't interested is no argument against the city building the facility. Private developers demand a significant profit. The city isn't limited by that consideration. The cost can be covered and even a break even enterprise will mean big gains for the community.

The propaganda surrounding this election has been amazing, to say the least. Read Steve Blow's analysis in The Dallas Morning News last Sunday for a reasoned approach to the question.

Check out the Enough is Enough organizational website for more details.

And, spend a moment to watch the following ad that pretty well sums up the past two months, as well as the facts of the matter on Proposition 1.

Whatever your opinion, if you live in Dallas, please take the time to vote.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Convention Center Hotel: Good Analysis

If you are looking for sound analysis of the issues surrounding the proposed Convention Center hotel development that Dallas residents will vote on this coming Saturday, read what John Greenan writes here.

John serves as the Executive Director of the Central Dallas Community Development Corporation.

As usual, you'll find his insights smart and on-target.

To vote for the hotel, vote NO on the ballot!


The whole world's about to change. . .

Since October last year, we've been working closely with a Fortune 500 international corporation to build a business model that could affect great changes in inner city Dallas and, by export, any other major inner city community.

While I am not at liberty to go into the details today--and that is tough because our progress is very real and I want to give the company all the credit that I can and that day is approaching--I can share the video below. Produced by some amazing employees and leaders from our corporate partner, it seeks to open a window on the people and the community of inner city Dallas.

Great plans are in the works.

Could the song be true--The whole world's about to change?

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Our Mexican Friends and Neighbors and Cinco de Mayo

Every Sunday I see them.

Scores of families walking across Ross Avenue into a huge Downtown church where thousands gather every weekend for prayer and worship.

Almost all of these families moved to the U. S. from Mexico.

As I watch these beautiful people and their children, I know instinctively that they are here in Dallas working hard to create the best possible life for themselves and their children., just like all of the rest of us. I also know that if they were not here, Dallas would not be he same city. Their departure would be our loss.

At the same time, I know they encounter hatred and opposition as they build their lives.

Word from Washington these days includes reports that immigration reform will move onto the agenda of the U. S. Congress before the end of this year. We know that there is strong movement to bring the D.R.E.A.M. Act forward again with indications that its chances of passage are much greater this time around. I hope both happen. Somehow we've got to find new ways to manage the obvious: the U. S. and Mexico are neighbors and should become much closer working partners, as is the case with Canada.

Here we are at Cinco de Mayo once again. I've decided to publish the post I put up two years ago as a reminder of the holiday's significance. Just to let you know, I plan to use this post every May 5 until we have a D.R.E.A.M. Act. The history that binds us is very important.

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

This is a special day across the United States and Mexico.

Numerous neighborhoods across Dallas are celebrating the famous Battle of Puebla, Mexico on May 5, 1862, the day on which Mexican General Ignacio Zaragoza SeguĂ­n, outnumbered 2 to 1, routed the French army.

So, why Cinco de Mayo?

Under Emperor Napoleon III, the French invaded Mexico with designs of staying in order to challenge the United States, at the time involved in its own Civil War.

Napoleon's Army had not been defeated in 50 years, and it invaded Mexico with the finest modern equipment and with a newly reconstituted Foreign Legion. The French Army left the port of Vera Cruz to attack Mexico City about 100 miles to the west. The French believed that if the Mexican Capitol fell, the nation would be theirs.

Under the innovative and daring leadership of Zaragoza, the Mexican army more than prevailed. The outcome of the battle on United States history is often overlooked. The victory prevented the French from supplying the Confederate rebels in the U. S. for another year.

As the American Civil War wound down, following the Union victory at Gettysburg, U. S. General Phillip Sheridan traveled to the Mexican border to bring materials needed to expel the French completely. At this time American soldiers were discharged with their uniforms and rifles if they promised to join the Mexican Army to fight the French. The American Legion of Honor marched in the Victory Parade in Mexico, City.

Almost 100 years later, thousands of Mexicans crossed the border after Pearl Harbor to join the U.S. Armed Forces. As recently as the Persian Gulf War, Mexicans flooded American consulates with phone calls, trying to join up and fight another war for America.

Cinco de Mayo is a community party! It is a day to celebrate liberty and freedom. It is a celebration bringing together the United States and Mexico. It is a day for remembering our common heritage and our connection as people. It is a day and an event that I remember almost every morning as I drive by Ignacio Zaragoza Elementary School in my neighborhood!

It seems to me that it's a party we all need to join, now as never before.

What do you think?


Monday, May 04, 2009

Van Jones and Green Jobs

I've referenced Van Jones here in past posts. Now Jones has joined the Obama Administration as Special Advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation at the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

Great pick, at least in my view.

Green jobs could play a huge role in renewing inner city America.

Take a look at the May 2009 issue of Sojourners. Great issue. Needed emphasis.

At Central Dallas Ministries we are trying to gear up for green jobs training.

Opinion needed
: How would you feel about a meeting involving T. Boone Pickens and Van Jones in a lively conversation about alternative sources of energy, green jobs and urban renewal? Both of these very powerful leaders have an interest in all of these issues. We might be able to attract the pair to a future event at CDM. What do you think?

Sunday, May 03, 2009

The Hole in Our Gospel: Interview

Check out this interesting interview with president of World Vision, Richard Stearns. I lifted it for you from the May 2009 issue of Sojourners magazine:

The Hole in Our Gospel: Interview with World Vision’s Richard Stearns by Robert Gelinas 04-24-2009

As the pastor of a church with a deep desire to love others as Christ would, I’ve recently been telling folks, “If you only read one book this year, then you must read The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns.” And that’s saying a lot, given that my own book just came out! I feel that strongly about Stearns’ message.

Stearns, who has been president of World Vision U.S. since 1998, has a love for God and a passion for hurting people that’s immediately evident. A former CEO for Parker Brothers and Lenox, Inc., he jettisoned a lucrative career in corporate America to answer God’s call to humanitarian ministry. And a decade later, he says he has no regrets. “The world we live in is under siege,” he says, before ticking off the severity of our problems — famine, AIDS, war, ethnic cleansing, terrorism. “Three billion are desperately poor,” he continues, “1 billion are hungry, millions are trafficked in human slavery, 10 million children die needlessly each year. And in the midst of this stands the church in America, with resources, knowledge, and tools unequaled in the history of Christendom.”

In The Hole in Our Gospel (Thomas Nelson), Stearns offers an unflinching critique of American Christianity and the growing divide between “rich Christians” and the world’s poor. For Stearns, the burning question for the church, and the subtitle of his book, is this: What does God expect of us? If we answer that question prayerfully and honestly, Stearns believes it could change our lives — and the world. I recently chatted with him about the alleged hole in our faith, the work of World Vision, and (of course) jazz.

Read more here.

Reactions welcomed!


Saturday, May 02, 2009

More on Torture: Interesting interview on PBS

My good friend, Shaun Casey, professor of religion at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC, participated in a conversation on PBS earlier this week. The lively conversation can be found here.

Torture and Faith: Go Figure

So, now come the results of the new Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life poll about the relationship between faith/faith practice and one's attitude toward torture.

Facts about the research:

  • 742 American adults surveyed on use of torture against suspected terrorists

  • 54 percent of those who go to religious services at least weekly say it's often or sometimes acceptable

  • People unaffiliated with any religious group were least likely to back torture
    • The report:

      The more often Americans go to church, the more likely they are to support the torture of suspected terrorists, according to a new survey.

      More than half of people who attend services at least once a week -- 54 percent -- said the use of torture against suspected terrorists is "often" or "sometimes" justified. Only 42 percent of people who "seldom or never" go to services agreed, according to the analysis released Wednesday by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

      White evangelical Protestants were the religious group most likely to say torture is often or sometimes justified -- more than six in 10 supported it. People unaffiliated with any religious organization were least likely to back it. Only four in 10 of them did.

      Reminds me of the attitudes and reactions I grew up hearing in my home church in regard to issues related to civil rights, racial prejudice, war and other opportunities for hate-speech and hatred.

      Read full article »

      Lots to think about here. Like to hear your reaction.


      Friday, May 01, 2009

      Speak Now for Kids


      The debate on health care reform is moving quickly in Washington. We have an enormous opportunity to raise the voice of children in this debate.

      Children’s Medical Center, the National Association of Children’s Hospitals, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Children’s Defense Fund and the March of Dimes invite your organization to be listed as a supporter of the based campaign which runs May 1-10.

      Copy the contents of this post and fill in the blanks!


      Please list my organization as an official supporter of the Speak Now for Kids in Health Reform campaign.

      Organization name:
      Contact person:

      Website address:


      • Sending a blast email on May 1st to your organization’s contacts asking them to visit materials will be sent to you)
      • Posting the campaign’s sticker on your homepage or facebook page.
      • Promoting the campaign in your blogs or twitters.

      To sign up, just complete this form and email it to Gina at

      Ffor more information contact:, or

      Speak up for the children!