By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
"It has definitely opened our eyes. We realize the [racial and economic] mix is part of the reason why we live here, but we need to talk to each other," says Adams, who adds that the historic district's efforts to involve tenants in their meetings about Albertson's are still on rocky terrain. "It's still not going well. At [a recent] meeting, renters were invited, and we didn't have anybody show up."
But Adams says there may be a silver lining to the cloud hanging over East Dallas. As the controversy over the store intensifies, a growing number of new people are stepping forward and taking an active role in uniting the interests of tenants and homeowners alike.
Among them is Marcia Martinez, a pediatrician who moved to Swiss Avenue two years ago and recently took a job with Dallas County so she could serve the indigent residents who live in East Dallas. Martinez found herself in the middle of the Albertson's debate after she attended a series of community meetings on the project and wound up translating for the Spanish-speaking people in attendance.
"I'm not a political person. I went to those meetings one after another after another, and I just became more involved because I realized how uninformed the people who live in this neighborhood are," Martinez says. "They don't have a say-so, not really. They rent; they don't own any of this property. They're going to be pushed out without fighting because they don't feel they can fight."
A native of Colombia who moved to the United States when she was 15, Martinez says she's dismayed by how a company like Albertson's would go so far as to promote, or at least tolerate, the use of race politics to disrupt a community in the name of serving it.
"They keep claiming it's the community we have in mind. It's the community we want to do the best for," Martinez says. "I just don't believe that is their ultimate, No. 1 goal, or they would have gone around the community and seen what the community really needed."
With the Dallas Plan Commission set to vote on Albertson's zoning change request in mid-December, one thing in this controversy has become clear: Albertson's fully intends to serve the East Dallas community, and it's not about to let future customers get in its way.
Bob Rissing, for one, isn't particularly bothered by the chance that his opponents could ultimately stop the corporation from rolling into East Dallas. A loss at the plan commission and even the city council, he says, is something he could live with.
"I guess what I can't live with would be losing [the store] with the knowledge that I didn't do everything in my power to try to make what I think is a good project happen," Rissing says. "That would bother me."
And if there is the appearance that Albertson's is willing to let people like Joe May and Jake Fuller play race politics on Albertson's behalf, well, that's something Rissing can live with too.
"The human mind blocks out as quickly as possible all the distasteful aspects of a prior project," Rissing says. "You remember things like ribbon cutting. You remember getting that last needed piece of the puzzle."
And what happens in the end, once the low-income tenants move out, the new East Dallas store is built, and new revenues are flowing in?
"It," Rissing says of the store, "becomes a dot on the map.