By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
For two years, Amelia Core Jenkins, proprietor of a bed-and-breakfast at the corner of Young and St. Paul streets downtown, dutifully paid her dues to the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau. The money earned her inn, in a converted abandoned warehouse, the right to be listed in bureau publications that recommend lodging to tourists.
This year, the CVB returned Jenkins' $365 check with a "thanks, but no thanks." Amelia's Place, A Downtown Bed & Breakfast is in a neighborhood filled with too many undesirables to be a fit place for visitors, according to one bureau official.
Amelia's Place is one block east of City Hall.
Oops. Wrong undesirables.
The problem, according to a letter Jenkins received from the CVB's Carol Green last week, along with the returned check, is the number of homeless people who congregate near Jenkins' inn. (There's a bus stop on the corner.)
"The questionable safety of your bed & breakfast location has been brought to my attention on more than one occasion...The homeless people who are seen on you corner daily are an understandable deterrent to visitors who are seeking out your property from our publications...The perception that your establishment is unsafe is a judgment made by visitors who are simply driving past your location," Green wrote. "Please know that I look forward to learning about any changes in the existing conditions."
Street people in downtown Dallas. Imagine that. The tourists from Topeka must be shocked -- as shocked as Jenkins was by what certainly sounds like high-handed class snobbery.
Amelia's Place is one block west of the Stew Pot, a downtown mission that feeds the homeless. One block from a mission, one block from City Hall -- call it stuck between a rock and a hard place. You decide which is worse, though Buzz notes that when we give money to a street person, they at least say "God bless you."
Greg Elam, vice president of communications for the CVB, says citing homeless people in the letter was a mistake, but he stands by the decision to return Jenkins' check.
"The only thing that I regret is reference to homeless in the neighborhood," says Elam, who claims the bureau has received "three complaints a month for several months" from tourists about Amelia's -- some from guests, others from those who merely drove by. Elam says the bureau heard from one group who complained that Jenkins had a cot for a homeless man who lived at the property.
The complaints are news to Jenkins, a wiry, talkative Louisiana woman who could pass for your grandmother, if your grandmother was sort of cool -- an unabashed, left-leaning feminist who likes Scrabble and isn't averse to saying "fuck" now and then. (We asked Jenkins if she worked on rehabbing the building herself. She flexed a bicep.)
Jenkins told Buzz that other than one or two car burglaries, none of her guests has had problems with crime, and offered up a guest book filled with favorable comments. Wes Berggren, the late guitarist for Tripping Daisy, had his wedding at Amelia's, she says. The Web site for her six-room inn -- whose clean, colorful, brightly lit rooms are named for famous Dallas women of color -- announces that all races and sexual orientations are welcome, but no bigots, snobs, kids, or pets. She did have a homeless man working at the inn temporarily when she was fixing up the place, she admits. She fed him and gave him a place to sleep. He was black. Some visiting Christian booksellers, who weren't black, complained about that, she says. They must not have seen the no-bigots warning.
When Jenkins called us last week, she was a bit puzzled over what, exactly, she might do to improve the "existing conditions" in her neighborhood. She naïvely thought that was the city's job.
"I guess I could take an Uzi [she pronounced 'ootzi'] and shoot them [the homeless]," she said, but that would probably be against the law.
No, Amelia, don't do that. We need all the blessings we can get, and Dallas needs all the open-minded people downtown it can get. And whatever you do, don't point your ootzi to the west.
The city manager's office has provided the city council with at least two special memos in recent weeks responding to the Dallas Observer's coverage of the Trinity River project. That's a positive indication not only that someone on the council reads us but, more important, that the council is at long last beginning to ask a few questions of its own about this $2 billion boondoggle.
Since we get copies of these memos, of course, from a friend whose identity we must not reveal but whose initials are not L.M., we know that the city manager is not quite ponying up the full story in these private rebuttals. One of them tried to persuade council members that a gigantic inflation of flood data by the U.S. Corps of Engineers had taken place gradually over 20 years, when the real time-frame was more like eight or nine. It's probably too hard to explain anyway -- something the city staff counts on. But the exciting thing is that somebody on the council must have asked the staff for answers. Maybe in the not too distant future the council will even figure out that the staff works for them, not vice versa. Can the revolution be far behind?
-- Compiled from staff reports by Patrick Williams