By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
With help from Michael Morris, transportation director of the North Central Texas Council of Governments, The Dallas Morning News has been painting the developer of the city's inland port shipping and warehousing center as a racist.
In a story in the paper on April 12, Morris was quoted as saying he had tried unsuccessfully to help Richard Allen, chief executive officer of the Allen Group, get over his problem of racial insensitivity:
"I said, 'Be sensitive to minority contracting.' They seemed very naïve about it, to my surprise," Morris said. "I think they had no sensitivity to this subject.
"I don't think to this day he [Allen] understands why minority firms should be used."
The reporters who wrote the story, Gromer Jeffers Jr. and Kevin Krause, stated as undisputed fact that, "Allen, who is white, appeared blind to the county's complicated racial politics."
In an editorial April 16, the Morning News said a lesson must be learned from Allen's involvement in southern Dallas: "Going forward, white-dominated companies must keep foremost in mind the unique history of southern Dallas. It is not simply a great business opportunity to be exploited for maximum profit."
Buried in the story by Krause and Jeffers was the fact that state Senator Royce West, who represents the district where the inland port is being built, had attempted to become a consultant to Allen in a deal that would have paid out $1.5 million and 15 percent equity in Allen's company.
The fact is this: Richard Allen has a far better record on minority participation in his project than local Dallas companies and even local units of government. On projects such as the Wintergreen Road Bridge in Hutchins two years ago, Allen's minority participation was 55 percent, versus the county's contractor, a prominent local firm whose minority participation on the project was 4.9 percent.
Morris' North Central Texas Council of Governments tries to hit a goal of 13 percent minority participation. Allen does four times better than that on some projects.
Allen's family has been in business in California, Ohio and elsewhere for decades. In the fall of 2006, Allen provided West, Morris and Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price with a long list of references including several members of Congress, judges and community leaders in California and Ohio. Allen promised not to call any of them in advance and then asked the three men to check with these references, seeking any evidence, hint or whisper that Allen has been racially insensitive.
Does that sound like a guy with a racist past to hide? No one has ever produced a shred of evidence from his past to indicate he is.
The second big reality to confront in the Morning News editorial is the finger-wagging warning that Allen must not come into southern Dallas and expect to carry off unconscionable wealth.
What unconscionable wealth? Southern Dallas has been a bitterly benighted wasteland since Reconstruction, plagued by sky-high unemployment, poverty and lack of education. Where's the diamond mine?
Allen has said publicly that he has sold off most of his holdings in California and reinvested the lion's share of his family's wealth in southern Dallas and Dallas County in order to create one of the nation's biggest rail, truck and warehousing hubs. For all the pompous Lady Bountiful posturing on the Morning News editorial page about helping southern Dallas become less poor by picking up litter, the fact is that no local investor has ever shown the faith in southern Dallas that Allen has.
His project, according to city of Dallas estimates, promises 60,000 new jobs and billions of dollars in tax base in a venue that white Dallas has given nothing but the back of the hand for a century and a half. It's outrageous, obscene, upside-down—some kind of crazy—for the Morning News to call Allen a racist.
Most of the Morning News story, reported over two months by a two-man team, went back over ground that the Observer has been reporting since last year. They disparaged our coverage. That's OK. I disparage them a little sometimes too.
Jeffers and Krause did bring new facts to the table, for which they deserve credit. But because I have worked on this story a lot myself, I couldn't help being struck by the things they carefully walked around and did not touch.
Foremost of these is the open derision that Price has expressed in letters, on radio shows and in interviews with me for the new jobs promised by Allen's project.
In a letter to Allen dated March 29, 2006, Price virtually spat on Allen's promise of 60,000 well-paid jobs with benefits, telling him, "During slavery everybody had a job."
I have argued with Price over this point in some detail, as I did for a column published last December 10. I told him I thought it was wrong, historically and morally, to conflate honest, paid labor by which a poor man may pull himself up in the world with forced labor under African slavery.
"Slavery, Jim," he said, "that's an institution. And the effort of the institution was working. And working traditionally is a job.
"I am going to tell you," he said, "the nickname that most African-Americans have for a job. It's called a slave."