Sunday, July 31, 2011

Thoughts offered in our time of war. . .

Somehow we find it far too easy to forget that our nation remains involved in a horrific war on the other side of the globe. 

I often wonder how long the conflict would last if the nation instituted a universal draft that touched us all more directly than our current recruiting process for an all-volunteer military. 

Then, there is the cost associated with our long-term conflict.  To be sure, the cost affects the well-being of the poor in the U. S. and around the world. 

Possibly most important, there is the spiritual side, that dimension that leads us to decide for hate or love. 

Consider these words from one of our nation's "soul leaders."

I mourn the loss of thousands of lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy.  Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.  Darkness cannot drive out darkness:  only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate:  only love can do that.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr

Saturday, July 30, 2011

It's just complicated, it's not easy

Just back from a whirlwind drive from Cleveland to Cincinnati to Detroit and back to Cleveland. 

We flew to Cleveland to begin another "baseball trek," this time throughout and across the state of Ohio, with a day in Detroit and a night just across the Ohio River in Kentucky. 

The reason for the journey:  baseball.  More specifically, working off my "bucket list" notation that reads, "Visit every major league ballpark."  For the record I've made it to 20 so far. 

I love baseball, even in the midst of a heat wave that included even the Midwest! 

But, these trips always end up being about a lot more than baseball. 

Each trip has turned into a tour of American urban centers. 

Each city is unique. 

For example, the people in Cleveland appear visibly depressed, as compared to the folks in Detroit.  Just an impression, a gut tug.  I could be wrong, but Detroit with all its problems felt more upbeat, optimistic and focused.  Could be their 2 game lead in the American Central! 

Cincinnati felt like a big, southern city.  The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center is a real treasure, and should be required on every U. S. resident's "bucket list." 

The combination of my visit to this museum with my visit to Cleveland's showcase Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum left me thanking heaven for the presence of African Americans, gospel singers, poor white folks and the blues!  Wow!  Are we all singing the same songs!  Maybe we ought to consider an annual national reunion based on the tributaries that inform, shape and create our music! 

In each city I saw poverty.  Crushing poverty. 

In each city I saw homeless brothers and sisters.  Some were elderly.  Some were children.  Some were veterans. 

I know that had I had longer, I could have "unpacked" the stories.

The conclusions would have been the same. 

Poverty of this magnitude is complicated.  It's not easy to understand, to comprehend , and harder to address.  U. S. poverty is rooted in a history.  The causal forces numerous.  It must be understood both individual by individual and from a community, systemic perspective. 

But, unfortunately, we're in the throes of a cultural shift in this nation. 

We frame everything in terms of the individual in the present moment.  This narrow view gives us the permission we need to blame, find fault and judge the poorest, weakest and most vulnerable among us without needing to know the stories behind the faces or the background music for what we observe. 

We aren't as good as we used to be in this nation. 

We think nothing really of the little girl I saw in Cleveland Friday morning following along behind her homeless mother, dragging her pillow and clutching a stuffed animal. 

We shout angrily at each other about politics, taxes and economic theory while a pervasive materialism threatens to destroy our culture because control overrides compassion, greed trumps the hopes of a truly beloved community and worship is more important for people of faith than justice. 

Poverty is complicated.  

There are no easy answers.

But the wrong turn leads down a road where the poor are simply no longer noticed, and we are there today.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Colin Powell on leadership

Lesson 5:  "Never neglect details.  When everyone's mind is dulled or distracted, the leader must be doubly vigilant."

Strategy equals execution.  All the great ideas and visions in the world are worthless if they can't
be implemented rapidly and efficiently.  Good leaders delegate and empower others liberally, but they pay attention to details, every day.  (Think about supreme athletic coaches like Jimmy Johnson, Pat Riley and Tony La Russa).  Bad ones, even those who fancy themselves as progressive "visionaries," think they're somehow "above" operational details.  Paradoxically, good leaders understand something else:  an obsessive routine in carrying out the details begets conformity and complacency, which in turn dulls everyone's mind.  That is why even as they pay attention to details, they continually encourage people to challenge the process.  They implicitly understand the sentiment of CEO leaders like Quad Graphics's Harry Quadracchi, Oticon's Lars Koline and the late Bill McGowan of MCI, who all independently asserted that the job of a leader is not to be the chief organizer, but the chief dis-organizer. 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Colin Powell on leadership

Lesson 4:  "Don't be afraid to challenge the pros, even in their own backyard." 

Learn from the pros, observe them, seek them out as mentors and partners.  But remember that even the pros may have leveled out in terms of their learning and skills.  Sometimes even the pros can become complacent and lazy.  Leadership does not emerge from blind obedience to anyone.  Xerox's Barry Rand was right on target when he warned his people that if you have a yes-man working for you, one of you is redundant. Good leadership encourages everyone's evolution.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Colin Powell on leadership

Lesson 3:  "Don't be buffaloed by experts and elites.  Experts often possess more data than judgment.  Elites can become so inbred that they produce hemophiliacs who bleed to death as soon as they are nicked by the real world."

Small companies and start-ups don't have the time for analytically detached experts.  They don't have the money to subsidize lofty elites, either.  The president answers the phone and drives the truck when necessary; everyone on the payroll visibly produces and contributes to bottom-line results or they're history.  But as companies get bigger, they often forget who "brought them to the dance":  things like all-hands involvement, egalitarianism, informality, market intimacy, daring, risk, speed, agility.  Policies that emanate from ivory towers often have an adverse impact on the people out in the field who are fighting the wars or bringing in the revenues.  Real leaders are vigilant, and combative, in the face of these trends.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Colin Powell on leadership

Lesson 2:  "The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them.  They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care.  Either case is a failure of leadership."

If this were a litmus test, the majority of CEOs would fail.  One, they build so many barriers to upward communication that the very idea of someone lower in the hierarchy looking up to the leader for help is ludicrous.  Two, the corporate culture they foster often defines asking for help as weakness or failure, so people cover up their gaps, and the organization suffers accordingly.  Real leaders make themselves accessible and available.  They show concern for the efforts and challenges faced by underlings, even as they demand high standards.  Accordingly, they are more likely to create an environment where problem analysis replaces blame.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Colin Powell on leadership

Lesson 1:  "Being responsible sometimes means making people mad."

Good leadership involves responsibility to the welfare of the group, which means that some people will get angry at your actions and decisions.  It's inevitable, if you're honorable.  Trying to get everyone to like you is a sign of mediocrity:  you'll avoid the tough decisions, you'll avoid confronting the people who need to be confronted, and you'll avoid offering differential rewards based on differential performance because some people might get upset.  Ironically, by procrastinating on the difficult choices, by trying not to get anyone mad, and by treating everyone equally "nicely" regardless of their contributions, you'll simply ensure that the only people you'll wind up angering are the most creative and productive people in the organization.

General Colin Powell, Chairman (Ret.) Joint Chiefs of Staff

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Bible's limitations

"Don't the Bible say we must love everybody?"

"O, the Bible!  To be sure, it says a great many things; but, then, nobody ever thinks of doing them." 

Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Education gap. . .corporate response

Trisha Cunningham of Texas Instruments presented what follows at the Dallas Social Venture Partners' latest "Big Bang" conference here in Dallas.

Interesting in view of current challenges across the nation.

Trisha Cunningham, Texas Instruments from DallasSVP on Vimeo.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Radical embrace of the old

"The great Christian revolutions come not by the discovery of something that was not known before.  They happen when somebody takes radically something that was always there."

H. Richard Niebuhr

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Heaven standing at the gate of Hell

I saw it again yesterday.

Across the years I've seen it time after time, appearing in different forms and shapes.

Heaven standing at the gate of hell.

The context for my latest experience was routine enough, at least for a sweltering hot July afternoon in Dallas.  I dropped in on one of the delivery sites for our mobile summer lunch delivery program.  The innovative effort teams CitySquare (through our AmeriCorps members and our Nurture, Knowledge and Nutrition initiative) with PepsiCo.  Over the past two summers, thanks to this unique partnership, we've doubled the number of children served these important meals during the months when school is not in session.  Those are the details, the set up, if you will.

As I watched our AmeriCorps leaders playing with a good sized group of precious children, I somehow stepped across a line.  Somewhere between vision and overwhelming realization, I looked into hell itself from the edge of heaven. 

The children were beautiful and playful, in spite of the terribly oppressive heat.  By the time I left the site my clothing was soaked.  They all seemed unaffected!

The meals were served as usual.  Everyone sat down on the ground and ate picnic style under the only shade I could see in the aging, multi-family apartment complex. Living conditions were crowded here.  The people felt packed into a very limited and limiting space.  I met one mother who shared that two families lived in her rather small apartment, extended family members sharing a home.

In spite of all the negatives and the discomfort, the children smiled, expressed gratitude and genuinely enjoyed being together and interacting with those of us who showed up on their turf. 

I stood in heaven with these sweet kids, but I also had a front row seat at the edge of an advancing hell. 

I thought of what would happen with these children over the coming 5 to 10 years.  I wondered about their education, their health, their employment options, their success or failure and what that would mean for the kind of future they would experience.  I wondered how long the sweetness could endure the poverty and the obvious struggle I could see reflected in the eyes of their parents. 

Among those wonderful little ones, children just like my grand kids, I realized as never before what a challenge we face in the cities of this nation.  Dread rolled over me like a summer storm.  So much work to do.  So little national understanding of what's up among the urban poor and their children.  So few leaders from any sector who really "get it."

Yesterday I experienced the horrible "thinness" hanging between heaven and hell. 

In the heat with the children and our partners I had to wonder if we're up to the challenge of the present and coming battle.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Payday lenders strike back

The following news story in the aftermath of CitySquare's success in advocating for substantive changes in city ordinances regulating payday lending among poor, laboring communities. 

The fight has just begun, or so it would appear!

Lawsuit Filed Over Dallas Payday, Title Loan Rules
By Ken Kalthoff
Friday, Jul 15, 2011

A trade group representing payday and car title loan stores filed a lawsuit Friday to block regulations approved by the city of Dallas in June.

The Consumer Service Alliance of Texas claims the city rules violate state law and improperly restrict loan choices that should remain available to customers.

"We have no other option but to sue the city of Dallas to protect the interests of North Texas consumers who are best served when they are given a variety of realistic credit options and trusted to make financial decisions based on what's best for them and their families," CSAT President Alex Vaughn said in a press release.

The Dallas City Council approved the rules June 22 after the Texas Legislature decided against statewide restrictions on the high interest and fees the stores charge.  "They chose to take a very limited action, and we chose to do the most we can at our city level," Councilman Jerry Allen said when the city rules were

Allen, a former banker, testified in favor of stronger payday loan regulations at hearings on the proposed state law in Austin this year.  When drafting the Dallas ordinance, city lawyers decided restrictions on the
amount of interest rates and fees could only be determined by the state.

But Dallas did require lenders to set up payment plans that actually reduce the principal amount of the loan and not just roll over fees.
And the city rules also require registration and record-keeping on borrowers and lenders, which is similar to rules state lawmakers chose to impose statewide.

"This new, egregious Dallas ordinance conflicts with current law because it duplicates financial data collection requirements, limits access to credit for Dallas customers and restricts the terms under which loans may be
repaid," Vaughn said.

City officials could not be reached for comment late Friday, but Allen said in June that he expected a legal challenge and that the city's measure would survive.

"This is as strong a teeth that we can put into this, and it sends a message that we will not tolerate our citizens being taken advantage of," he said.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

"Poor folk" don't mind paying

A standard operating procedure and possibly a little known fact:  CitySquare asks "customers," those who come to us seeking relief and assistance, to make a financial investment in the services and processes that contribute to their own life-improvement. 

For example, our health services division requires a modest co-pay/application fee to receive medical and pharmacy services.  Our public interest law firm asks for an application fee and a modest client fee when cases are accepted.  In our resource center, social work services asks for a very small application fee as well, in this case just $5.  The same policy is now extending across the organization. 

Our neighbors have been making significant contributions to our overall work for years.  And, it is important to note just here, our low-income friends are almost universally eager to do their part to support our work because of its proven benefit in the community.

For us, it is a matter of principle. 

We believe that charity limits people. 

Community involvement and investment is the beginning of liberation and an important aspect in the realization of personal empowerment.  Expectations that lead us to shared resources can transform communities. 

Here's an interesting statistic:  for several years now low-income neighbors have contributed twice as much to our work as have churches from their operating budgets!  Don't look down on "the poor," as if they are doing nothing to change their circumstances!  Poor folks don't mind paying for value added to life. 

People who bad mouth the poor, claiming they live life with a sense of selfish entitlement, don't have an accurate understanding of just how much those at the bottom of our national economy actually do in an effort to improve their own lives. 

So, why do we charge these fees? 

We do it because we need help from those closest to us to continue our mission.

We ask for an investment because the "buy in" from the poor makes all of our efforts and services more effective.  It is a fact:  "skin in the game" produces much better outcomes.  Investors feel free to comment, critique and lend a helping hand to us to see our performance improve. 
We engage our neighbors by asking them to contribute something to support our work because we know that such investments transforms them from "charity cases" into customers with all the rights and duties inherent in such a reciprocal relationship.  I often tell our staff that if folks don't feel as if they can complain about our services and performance, then something is wrong. 

We are in the city for good.  And we are asking our neighbors to invest in their own future and that of the entire community.  Change costs us all.  We make no apologies for believing that the poorest among us have something to offer and invest, including their money.

Monday, July 18, 2011

CitySquare Online Store Opens!

At long last! 

The CitySquare Online Store is officially open for business!

Visit us here!

Share this good news with your network!

Join the fight against urban poverty in Dallas and beyond! 

Sunday, July 17, 2011


The following proverb intends to offer up praise for "charity."  In fact, for those of us who spend our days in the center of the city, it points up charity's most obvious limitation:

Charity sees the need, not the cause. 
German Proverb

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Employment and low-skilled fathers

A major and growing priority here at CitySquare involves the provision of hard and soft workforce skills for our unemployed and underemployed neighbors.  Anything that relates to job readiness and job creation attracts our attention.  The following brief focuses on increasing employment options for fathers who attempt to negotiate our economy without the necessary skills to earn a living wage. 

Pathways to Employment

Finding a good job that pays a living wage and offers opportunity for advancement is a value embedded in the American Dream. Despite this promise, many Americans are unable to receive the education and training they need to obtain stable employment with good wages, or end up in low-paying jobs that provide inadequate benefits and little opportunity for advancement. Numerous community colleges, community-based organizations and government entities have developed programs that create a pathway to employment focusing on areas such as job training, job readiness, placement, retention and advancement, and workforce supports.

For a list of key research that summarizes efforts to create a pathway to employment for low-income families click here.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Banking and the poor

The Underrated Role of Financial Services in Reducing Poverty

Ethan Geiling and Genevieve Melford, Corporation for Enterprise Development - Posted July 11, 2011

Something as simple as a checking account can be the first step in saving, planning for the future, building credit, and climbing the economic ladder. Unfortunately, basic financial services like checking accounts are out of reach for many low-income American families.

If we’re going to help connect these people to genuine opportunity, now is the time to take some simple but important steps to provide better financial products for low-income Americans.

According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), approximately 8 percent of all American households are unbanked, with neither a checking nor a savings account. Another 18 percent are underbanked, meaning they may have an account but they also rely on non-bank financial services like check cashing and high-interest payday loans.

This financially underserved population of over 30 million households is disproportionally low-income and minority. Forty-three percent of households with a yearly income below $30,000 are either unbanked or underbanked. Nationally, 54 percent of black households and 43 percent of Hispanic households are unbanked or underbanked, compared to only 18 percent of white households.

These households spend an enormous amount of money on financial services for which most Americans pay little to nothing. The average full-time worker without a bank account spends $40,000 over the course of his or her lifetime to turn income into cash.

To read this entire, very challenging report click here.

Ethan Geiling is a policy and research associate at the Corporation for Enterprise Development. Genevieve Melford is director of research at the Corporation for Enterprise Development.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Fall AmeriCorps positions open!

Important Announcement from CitySquare!

Summer is almost over and we’re gearing up for our fall program! We are currently recruiting for 80 AmeriCorps positions whose work begins on September 1st.

These new members will be placed with one of our partner agencies to provide after-school programming to youth in low income areas of Dallas.

Minimum Requirements:

· 17 years or older
· HS Diploma or Equivalent
· No criminal background
· Ability to serve M-F 1pm-6:30pm between 9/1/11-6/1/12
· Commitment to community service and development
· Interest in education and working with kids

Member Benefits: (see application for details)

· Biweekly living allowance
· End of Term education award
· Loan forbearance

More information is available online at or

Spread the word!

Help us spread the word about this opportunity by forwarding this email to friends, colleagues, family, and any other email listserv you have access to!  Or, use Facebook, Twitter and/or other social media to direct anyone interested to CitySquare's AmeriCorps team!

In service,

Jennifer A. Rajkumar
Program Manager
N2 Texas Corps

Monday, July 11, 2011

Why is health care so expensive in the US?

The good folks at created an infographic laying out many of the exact reasons why costs are so insane in the American medical industry.

To view their work cleck here.

As always, reactions welcomed.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Jeter. . .3,000!

Report from BECK community service with CitySquare

We received the following report from our good friends at BECK after a great group of their interns joined CitySquare's WorkPaths' participants in framing houses contracted for construction with Dallas Area Habitat for Humanity.  What a great partnership all around! 

Thank you, BECK

If you’re a fan of community service, affordable housing projects, nonprofit work or just sweating profusely while you dream of an air conditioned office, then I suggest you look into working with organizations like CitySquare and Dallas Area Habitat for Humanity.

This is exactly what BECK’s interns did the June 22, 23 and 24th as part of an intern service project which took place in at 2717 and 2711 Silkwood Drive in South Dallas. It was the result of a group from CitySquare’s WorkPaths department, who teamed up with the BECK interns to frame two houses for Dallas Area Habitat for Humanity in three days.

WorkPaths is a department at CitySquare, a local nonprofit and provides tools and resources to adults who, for various reasons, lack necessary job training and education. WorkPaths partners with Dallas Area Habitat for Humanity on projects allowing them to provide further training and implement construction skills they learned in WorkPaths’ construction training program, Build4Success. As for the interns here at BECK, it was not only a chance to get to know one another, but also an opportunity to work with an impressive organization filled with dedicated individuals who are making a positive impact.

The group included Lynsee Turner, Greg O’Bryan, Molly Lyons, Caleb Pritle, Jake Maxton, Trevor Brown, Dane Soren and Dylan Dorsey. It would not have been possible without the contribution of a few notable BECK employees - Greg Powell, Holly Crowder, Jim Gettman, Gillette Berger, Tim Kuykendall, Rachel Baumann, and Beth Butler. The willingness of the people at BECK to engage in a project such as this reflects the values of this company and is a credit to its already admirable standing within the local community.

David Claros, in reference to the workers from CitySquare, noted, “To see people like that trying to get their life back together was very humbling and made me appreciate the opportunities I have been given… It really put in perspective what I have been blessed with.”

Lynnsee Turner felt that “being a part of the summer 2011 CitySquare / Dallas Area Habitat for Humanity Intern Event was an awesome experience! Not only did we get to use the knowledge that we have learned the past few years in different classes, but we were also able to give back to a community in need, while having fun.”

Lacey Helm was fortunate to observe “the effects of hard labor on the body, but also the satisfaction from seeing with your eyes the production you have physically done.”

The opportunity to work with the people from CitySquare, although difficult, was incredibly rewarding.

Participating Interns included Lynnsee Turner, Greg O’Bryan, Molly Lyons, Caleb Pritle, Jake Maxton, Trevor Brown, Dane Soren, Dylan Dorsey, David Claros, Lacey Helm, Nick Jencopale, Javier Altamirano, Andrew Winchell, Sam Gunderson, Abigail Steck, Ricky del Monte, Billy del Monte, and Sean Luke. The majority of these interns will most likely never make their living in the labor side of construction.  However, an appreciation and respect for those who do will prove to be invaluable. Apparently, scorching heat and difficult labor are ideal conditions under which to form friendships. While the purpose of the internship is to provide a glimpse into potential careers, it is also necessary to provide a sense of social responsibility. Thankfully, this responsibility is standard procedure here at BECK.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Employment training opportunities at CitySquare

The following notice came out earlier this week from Andrea Bills, WorkPaths' Director, about CitySquare's employment readiness training programs.  I thought this information was worth sharing here.  If you live in Dallas, help us spread the word!

Path2Success Orientations are currently being held at WorkPaths (see location below). The next orientation will be Wednesday, July 13th at 10am at the RTLC. All information regarding information is the same as below. If you have questions about Path2Success, please email Dana Morrison, Path2Success Program Manager, at and she can also get you flyers.


WorkPaths is happy to announce an expanded FALL session of Build4Success. Applications will be accepted beginning 2pm July 12th thru 3pm August 4th, 2011. The first orientation for Build4Success will be held Tuesday, July 12th at 1:30pm at WorkPaths:

Ransom Technology Learning Center
1824 Hall Street (corner of Hall and Munger)
Dallas, Tx 75204
Call 214-823-4409 x 300 to RSVP or x 301 for directions
Center Hours for Information: Monday – Thursday 10am – 4pm

No information will be given over the phone; all interested candidates must attend an orientation. Interested parties can call x 300 to reserve a place at upcoming orientations; there will be an additional orientation on Wednesday, July 13th at 1:30pm. More orientation times and locations will be upcoming.

The application process for this program must be completed by 3:00 pm on August 4th. If you have people who are interested in the program, encourage them to get started at once. The application process takes several steps, the first being orientation. There are limited training slots and referring partners are encouraged and welcome to attend the orientation too!

Please email Tennille Robertson, Build4Success Program Manager, if you have questions: – or you can email me at

All applications must be completed and submitted by August 4, 2011 at 3:00pm! This includes testing, documentation and paperwork.

DO NOT have candidates contact individual staff members but rather please ask them to call 214-823-4409 x 300 (also listed above) to RSVP or for information regarding orientation times and locations and we will call them back.

Everything has to be done in 4 weeks!

Thank you!

Andrea Bills
WorkPaths Director

Friday, July 08, 2011

Systems vs. Community

Working among and with low-income people over the past two decades has taught me a lot about the importance of terminology, assumptions and how we understand what it is that we are about.  I noticed early on that a very common way of managing the challenges of poverty involves systematizing responses and work product so that poverty is somehow "professionalized."  In such systems poverty can be subjected to various processes and responses to it can be bench marked against agreed upon methods, best practices and predetermined protocols. 

At the same time, and very early on, I noted the amazing impact of genuine community to transform people, environments and collective self-understandings far beyond the reach of professional approaches or standard processes. 

In looking through some old files I found this passage from Mary O'Connell's The Gift of Hospitality.  Clearly, she understands the distinction that I've noticed across the years.

In a social service system people are known by what's wrong:  by their condition or label
In a community people are known as individuals

In a system people are incomplete and need to be changed or "fixed"
In a community people are as they are, with opportunities to follow their dreams

In a system relationships are unequal; service workers do things "for" clients and don't look for any contribution in return
In a community relationships are reciprocal, give and take; and the diverse gifts of many people are recognized

In a system people are broken into parts and separated into groups
In a community people have a chance to be accepted as whole persons, and viewed as part of the whole society

In a system problems are solved by consulting authorities, policies, procedures
In a community people seek answers from their own experience and the wisdom of others

In a system there is no room to acknowledge mistakes and uncertainty; information is communicated in professional jargon that distances individuals from others
In a community people can make honest efforts and acknowledge honest mistakes and fears

In a system all problems have rational solutions
In a community there is room for confusion, and mystery, and a recognition that some things are beyond human control

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Detroit Renewal: Good jobs linked to education

Recently, The New York Times ran a great story about the renewal of downtown Detroit, Michigan. 

You can read it here.

Very encouraging stuff.

However, the poor will be left out and behind again unless access to training and motivation to engage such opportunties are found and found fast. 

Not different from Dallas in that regard, but the landscape change in Detroit is amazing!

Now, back to public education in the inner city. . . .

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

"Not in my back yard". . .and it is a large yard we have!

Dallas housing developer and urban planner, Bob Voelker presents valuable information on a consistent basis from his blog, Fair Housing for DevelopersVoelker pays attention to trends and market realities. 

Recently, he has noted the difficulty experienced by affordable housing developers from all across the country with NIMBYism ("not in my back yard") among neighbors and neighborhood groups who oppose placement of various kinds of affordable housing in proximity to them and/or their property. 

Fact:  no matter how much preparation, advance notice or participation that developers invite, almost every development anywhere near market rate housing or properties faces neighborhood opposition.  That certainly has been true here in Dallas, Texas.

In view of these stories, and many more just like them, from across the U. S., in may be time to modify the Fair Housing Act and other state statutes to define the availability of decent housing as a basic human right. At the end of the day our current experiences as a nation beg the question, "Where are poor people to live?"

Take a look at this limited litany of discrimination and opposition to low-income persons and families.  Many more examples could be produced, but these provide  real insights into the problem. 

Medford, Oregon

Highland Park--Minneapolis, Minnesota area

St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana (racial slurs painted on buildings)

Schereville, Indiana

Durham, North Carolina

Montclair, New Jersey (housing for people with mental health issues)

Clovis, New Mexico

Westchester County, New York

San Francisco, California

Thanks, Bob for the enlightening, but disturbing reports.  Keep up your good work.

Monday, July 04, 2011

July 4 reading

Worth reading again today. . .

The Declaration of Independence: A Transcription

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

To read the entire document click here. 

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Men and birds

Earlier this week I captured these images with my cell phone. 

One is of a homeless campground adjacent to the back side of our new property where we plan to build the "Opportunity Center."  Men bed down here along this fence row every night.  During the day, they stow their belongings almost out of sight from the street. 

Sad sight. 

I never get accustomed to seeing places like this.  The fact is this is "home" to several of my fellow citizens of Dallas, Texas. 

As I was thinking about the harsh reality of living outside through the brutal Dallas summer, something else caught my eye.  I attempted to capture what I saw in the second frame, but the distance and the limitations of my camera prevented as clear a view as I hoped for. 

What's there in the middle of photo number 2 is a small band of birds eating together on the street. 

Their meal? 

Bread crusts willingly shared by the inhabitants of the campground.

If the first image causes me to worry about the condition of these neighbors who'd scattered into the hot Dallas day, the second reminded me that they and I share the very same precious humanity. 

Men and birds. 

Not an image that I'll soon, if ever, forget.

Friday, July 01, 2011

CityWalk@Akard--a real winner!

Central Dallas Community Development Corporation's
City Walk @ Akard Development Wins National Award

City Walk @ Akard (City Walk), a fifteen-story Dallas landmark that has been transformed from a neglected and abandoned office building into a thriving mixed-use development, was recognized at the NALHFA (National Association of Local Housing Finance Agencies) 2011 Educational Conference in San Francisco with the Award for Redevelopment Excellence.

The award was particularly meaningful since the title of this year's NALHFA Conference was Transformative Change in Affordable Housing. John Greenan, Executive Director of Central Dallas Community Development Corporation (Central Dallas CDC), whose vision and unflagging efforts made City Walk possible, accepted the award.

City Walk was thoughtfully restored by Central Dallas CDC into a green-minded, mixed-use, mixed-income development, including ground floor retail, two floors of office space, eleven floors of apartment homes containing two hundred affordable apartments, fifty of which are reserved for the formerly homeless, and one floor comprised of six for-sale condominiums. 7-Eleven chose City Walk as a location for one of their new urban-styled stores. The physical address for City Walk is 511 N. Akard, located in the heart of the Downtown Business District, and within an easy walk to public transportation as well as the Dallas Arts District and the emerging system of downtown green-spaces.

The Central Dallas Community Development Corporation, a sister 501 c 3 non-profit corporation, was created in 2002 by CitySquare (formerly and at that time Central Dallas Ministries) to engage in housing development for low-income residents of Dallas.  CitySquare provides community life services at CityWalk as well as funding for the leadership staff of the Central Dallas CDC. 

Karen Schaffner, Manager of the Dallas Housing Finance Corporation nominated City Walk @ Akard for the prestigious award. The City Walk development had the support of the Dallas City Council and The Mayor of Dallas from its inception. Central Dallas CDC worked very closely with public officials in designing the project and creating public opportunities for community input. Additionally, The City of Dallas participated in the financing of the project by providing Homeless Bond Funds in the amount of $1,500,000 and Community Development Block Grant Funds in the amount of $750,000.

This is not the first time that City Walk has been honored. The development won Dallas Business Journal's 2009 award for Best Commercial Rehab or Reuse, and Preservation Dallas' 2010 Achievement Award for Commercial Rehab or Reuse.

For more information about Central Dallas CDC, its mission, and its developments, contact Lori Beth Lemmon at, or visit

For information about CitySquare, its mission and opportunities for community involvement, contact Shawn Wills at or visit