By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
There goes the neighborhood: When Inclusive Communities Project Inc.'s lawsuit against the town of Flower Mound crossed Buzz's desk last week, we had one of those "gambling in Casablanca" moments. ICP, a nonprofit that helps poor families use federal public housing vouchers to rent homes in non-minority neighborhoods, is accusing the town of using zoning ordinances to ban low-income housing within its borders. Since the folks who need the vouchers are disproportionately black or Latino, Flower Mound's rules discriminate against non-whites, ICP claims. The lawsuit essentially wants to require Flower Mound to develop some low-income housing. We imagined the headline: "White Bread Suburb Accused of Being White Bread Suburb."
(A similar lawsuit ICP filed against McKinney last week was much kinder to that city. McKinney, that suit claims, will let poor people move in, but only if they live on the city's east side.)
Flower Mound officialdom didn't have much to say about the lawsuit, but they did send us a press release. "The town has not been approached by any developer or property owner who wants to build low-income multi-family housing in Flower Mound," Town Manager Harlan Jefferson stated. "The town does not discriminate and never has discriminated against anyone because of race in any of its policies and practices."
Well, maybe no one has approached the town about developing low-income apartments because they know the answer would begin "not only no..." followed by the sound of a shotgun being racked. Still, someone has to stand up for suburbia, so Buzz called Michael M. Daniel, one of ICP's lawyers, and argued with him a bit. Maybe Flower Mound isn't discriminating against non-white people, we suggested. Maybe they just don't like poor people. They're not bigots. They're snobs. That's OK, isn't it?
There was a long pause as Daniel examined his phone to see if he could reach through the line to give Buzz a smack. He then said a lot we don't have space for, so we'll paraphrase: Who the hell do you think you're kidding? Not only is it dubious morally for a town to use its zoning authority to exclude poor people, Daniel said, the plain fact is that Flower Mound's policies are keeping the town and its schools mostly white. He's not buying any suggestion that whiteness is just a side result of the town's desire to keep its property values up.
But never fear, Flower Moundians. Buzz has your back. "But maybe they're not racists," we tried again. "Maybe they're...um...classists."
Daniel snorted. "Have you been to Flower Mound lately? Maybe you should say income instead of class."