By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
The 19th item was a duplicate. So this guy is a scofflaw? It's his fault that a beloved Dallas police officer was shot on his property?
Stolarski showed me pages and pages of e-mails he has exchanged with Dallas police officials over the years. Most of them involve his attempts to keep the department abreast of problems at his own building.
In an e-mail last year to the Deputy Chief Sherryl L. Scott over the South Central Patrol Division, Stolarski said, "Just to thank you for the additional police presence, but even with your effort we had two car break-ins and some shooting this weekend at Oakwood. I am attaching a notice from a good tenant who left us due to the ongoing problems.
"What we are afraid of is to fall into the vicious cycle in which good tenants leave and we only keep the bad ones..."
So, hang on for a second. I ask: Does that sound like a cruel, rapacious slumlord son-of-a-bitch who goes around getting cops shot? And, if not, who would say such a thing about him?
The Morning News editorial page sort of threw in his face that Stolarski "seemed to have no problem making $5,000" political contributions to Elba Garcia, who appointed him to the city's Commission on Productivity and Innovation.
Yeah? You know why he had no problem? Because it's legal. In fact, in some circles, supporting council members would be considered a sign of civic involvement.
As for Garcia's appointment of him to the productivity committee? I have sat in on sessions of that body. It's a brainiac think-tank of volunteers from the business and professional community, who come up with ideas to help City Hall get smarter—lots of luck.
Stolarski and I spoke by phone last week. He was in California. He sounds like an interesting guy. He's 62 years old.
"I was born and raised in Mexico City," he said. "Went to school in Mexico City, then college. I graduated from the University of California-Berkeley. I have an engineering degree, where I understand the nuts and bolts of properties. That's why we're able to rehab them the way we do. Then I got an MBA there also."
He says his years at Berkeley were formative. "I got there in '68. I was in the middle of the Free Speech Movement and all of that, so I have a social conscience."
I asked Stolarski a stupid question. "Why did you buy a low-end apartment building in a tough neighborhood instead of a high-end building in a nice neighborhood?"
He gave me a brilliant answer. "I didn't have enough money for a high-end building."
Aha! I think I'm drilling down here. I asked him if he makes a ton of money off Oakwood Place. He said no. "No one has yet to make a profit from it."
His company, which owns other properties, does take 8 percent of the revenues as a management fee. And if the neighborhood ever goes up instead of inexorably down, he and his partners hope they will one day sell the property at a profit.
I walked the Oakwood property with an executive of his company, looking in and out of units. It was tidy and quiet. I saw lots of fresh paint and new carpet in empty units waiting to be re-rented.
But lots of empty units. The manager told me the place hovers around 70 percent occupancy.
In addition to the lady who toured me around, Stolarski's company keeps an on-site manager at the place and an on-site maintenance crew of four people.
A one-bedroom rents for $400 a month. A three-bedroom rents for $600 a month. So tell me something. Do you see anybody carting off unconscionable truckloads of profit from this operation?
I have another question. Do non-affluent people have a right to rent from private-sector providers? Or do they all have to live in government housing and take parenting classes three times a week? I hope you won't opt for everybody living in public housing, because we won't have anywhere near enough to go around.
Plus, it's America. It's still a free country, right? Even if you're not rich.
My point is this: The only way working people and poor people can live in market housing is if somebody can make a profit providing them with it. So we want Mr. Stolarski to make some profit, do we not?
But this is the larger point: The political pressure to blame landlords for crime is an expression of profound cultural and moral corruption. It is scapegoating.
Scapegoating is always vicious and corrupt. It lets people off the hook for their own culpability. It enables broad social and personal moral irresponsibility. And when you start thinking in terms of abandoned babies and dead cops, moral irresponsibility is just another term for evil, isn't it?
Stolarski is an honest businessman. Don't take it from me. Talk to people who know him. Over the years his company has received written commendations and endorsements from District 104 State Representative Domingo Garcia, District 109 State Representative Helen Giddings, former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk and former City of Dallas Housing Department Director Mary K. Vaughn.