Moral Minority

The wages of sin are a big fat bankroll for Trammell Crow, thanks to city council

I couldn't believe it. Moral standards? In Dallas? I looked to see if the security guards were fidgeting with their weapons.

But Rasansky went boldly on. "I said earlier that being on the city council for six years, there's two cases that I'm sorry the way I voted, and this is one of them.

"You know, North Dallas is not exactly known as a haven for green and natural forest. You're trying to take up 1,700 feet of creek and almost 11,000 caliper inches of trees. I figured out if it's eight or 10 inches each tree, that's about 1,100 trees you're removing.

Mitchell Rasansky used the "M" word several times in a recent city council meeting, as in "morality." Is that legal?
Mitchell Rasansky used the "M" word several times in a recent city council meeting, as in "morality." Is that legal?

"This is a site that cannot be reproduced in the city of Dallas. It's just absolutely unbelievable."

Then Rasansky moved on to the more human element in the whole situation—the destruction of a stable community of modest-income citizens of the city. He took on the Lake Highlands homeowner-types who had spoken to the council, defending the whole project as a civic improvement.

"The people from Lake Highlands, the gentleman up there and the lady, I concur with them on some items, but of all the apartments there, and checking with our police department, this is the cleanest of them all. It's not wonderful, but it's the cleanest of all."

And then—and I admit it, music to my ears—Rasansky, an apartment developer himself, plowed right into Trammell Crow Co. on the moral question of making money this way in the first place:

"As I said, you have a right to do this. But you aren't being morally right to do this to 2,000 people. That's my opinion.

"Not only are you destroying a natural beauty in North Dallas...these people are going to be put out to look for other homes without enough time.

"I was swayed the first time in supporting this. This is an item that I am very sorry how I voted. Believe me, there are nights that I haven't slept on account of this.

"I think you are doing wrong, Trammell Crow Company...The stigma of Trammell Crow is going to live for a long time for what you are doing today to these people. I'm really sorry for Trammell Crow Company to stoop this low."

Rasansky was not totally alone on this. Council member Angela Hunt also said she regretted having voted for the zoning change a year ago:

"To me, regret is the worst emotion you can have," Hunt said, "and I agree with my colleague Mr. Rasansky. I regret having supported the zoning change on this property.

"And here's why: I think over the last year it has become so apparent to me that affordable housing has become critical in our city."

Another good point. In its long-range development plan ("forwardDallas!"), the city bloviates about the importance of "workforce" housing. But real-life cases on the ground put the lie to all of that. I attended a plan commission meeting last week with another case just like this one moving on up through the pipeline, this time nuking a trailer park that has been a peaceful home to 150 mainly Hispanic families for decades.

What Dallas is really doing is slitting its eyes and balling its fists and sitting back to watch while "the process" ethnically cleanses the city of the non-rich. Who really believes the Lake Highlands area was lusting for another hideous big-box store on a gigantic concrete slab in an area already chock-a-block with boxes on slabs?

No, that's not it. The real deal up there is that people in that part of town are willing to annihilate the natural beauty of the land and uproot thousands of hard-working, law-abiding, tax-paying residents in order to create a suburban-style economically stratified empire—a virtual gated community on a grand scale.

Mayor Miller wasn't at the council meeting last week. When the council voted, only Hunt and Rasansky voted against the fill permit.

Council member Ron Natinsky offered what was probably a pretty good point: Once the Trammell Crow Company had won its zoning and had been deemed to have met all the criteria for a fill permit, the city would have put itself in a difficult legal position by denying the permit.

I get that. Life is complicated. Seldom are things black and white. But I do believe that Rasansky and Hunt illuminated all of that complexity in a very valuable way by allowing a moral light to fall on it.

And you do have to be careful. You allow a lot of loose talk about morality, and people are going to start using words like virtue, honor and civic responsibility. Oh, I hope the children aren't listening.

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