By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Price has made similar remarks in public. You can go to our news blog online, Unfair Park, and search for the word "negroes" (Price's derisive term for black people who work at jobs). You will hear audio of him espousing the view that work is shameful.
Nobody ever accused Allen of racism—in fact it was all open arms, welcome to town, and hugs and kisses—until December 2005 when Allen turned down a proposal from three black businessmen seeking to become his political consultants. The three were Pettis Norman, a former Dallas Cowboys football player and businessman; Jon Edmonds, a businessman associated with former Trammell Crow Co. chairman J. McDonald Williams; and Willis Johnson, a radio personality with lucrative contracts at DART, the city of Dallas and Dallas schools, who also happens to be Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert's lead political consultant for black Dallas.
Calling themselves the SALT Group, these three asked Allen for $1.5 million and a 15 percent cut of his company in exchange for helping him with local politics and for other considerations to be negotiated. Allen said no.
The Krause/Jeffers story reported it was Royce West who sent Pettis Norman to Allen in the first place. The News reported that, "West had recommended Norman to Allen." They also said in their story, "When West asked to join SALT, Norman said he wanted to avoid any appearance of a conflict and convinced the senator that it wouldn't be a good idea."
That's dropped into their story without further elaboration, as if not important. But think about it. This is 2005. The state senator in the district where Allen is trying to develop his deal wants in on a $1.5 million cash payment for political expertise.
In Allen's version, Willis Johnson in an early meeting simply told Allen there was an undisclosed partner in the SALT Group and that it was West. Allen told me he immediately told all three men—Norman, Johnson and Edmonds—that West, a sitting state senator with key voting power over issues critical to his project, could not be on his payroll.
He said Johnson told him, "'It's already been cleared with the ethics commission in Austin.'
"I said, 'Well, I don't care if it's been cleared or not. It makes absolutely no sense. He needs to be able to represent his constituents.'"
Allen told me that the SALT Group called him back, still pressing him to put West on his payroll. "There were at least two sets of phone calls where the SALT team was trying to understand my objections," he said. "And one of those was a speaker call. It was Willis, Pettis and Jon Edmonds.
"They were in a panic to get hold of me. And they were on speakerphone. They didn't tell me at the time that Royce was there, but I suspected that he was, just because they're asking me the same questions all over again, [as in], 'Now help me understand why.'"
Allen told me Norman later conceded that West had been on the other end of the speakerphone that day. I have attempted to get comment from West through his assistant, Kelvin Bass, and from Johnson, but neither man responded.
I did discuss it with Norman, who called Allen's version "a bald-faced lie." But Norman would not tell me what did happen.
Look, one of the happy things I have learned in writing about this is that southern Dallas and Dallas County are full of black people who see this for exactly what it is. Especially in the upwardly mobile southern suburbs like Lancaster and Wilmer, there are tons of black people who do not need and do not want a Royce West or a John Wiley Price getting between them and opportunity.
The inland port, meanwhile, seems to be brilliantly positioned for success and is doing well even now, in spite of the economy and in spite of a campaign of racial hectoring.
West is a guy who pulled down $3.9 million in legal fees in a six-year period from our city's struggling public school system. He's easy to understand. He's about money.
Price is only barely more complicated. Black upward mobility threatens to leave him behind, marooned in a sea of irrelevance. He has to convince his constituents that he alone, not jobs, will set them free.
But how do you explain The Dallas Morning News? Allen's company has brought Dallas an economic golden goose other cities could only dream of. But the Morning News sides against him, calling him a racist because he wouldn't put a politician on his payroll.
You know who would meet the News' smell test, according to this reasoning? I'm thinking of a guy who came from California, did good projects, got along with everybody, did business the Dallas way. His name is Brian Potashnik, and now he and his family are ruined, under federal indictment for participating in a City Hall bribery scheme.
What's truly racist is the belief that sleaziness arises in isolation on one side of the river or the other. The lesson here is that it takes two to tango.