Golf Course Plan Needs a Strong Long Game

Here's hoping golfers take their eyes off the ball and see southern Dallas' desperation.

"If you put a major employment center in that area, many of them would not apply," Britt said, "because they don't believe they would be hired, and they just don't see themselves as included in that kind of enterprise."

In casting around, I came across a fascinating graduate school study of the car wash at Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Interstate 45, a place I know well because of the city's unremitting efforts to shut it down as a neighborhood nuisance. The author of the paper described it instead as a kind of street bazaar where people outside the labor force nevertheless are able to earn a subsistence living by buying and selling everything from wigs to barbecue.

At the end of last week I drove to Bibleway Bible Church about two miles due west of the golf course site to talk to the Reverend Eddie Lane, an emeritus member of the faculty at Dallas Theological Seminary and for 47 years a pastor in this very tough part of town. Lane was frank about the people in the area who are not in the labor force because they dwell in a criminal underworld, in and out of prison from a very early age.

"A lot of young people are in trouble, on drugs and alcohol," he said. "Their parents had jobs and worked. But these young people are the ones who are functionally illiterate. They cannot read or write."

Lane described a quick path to prison for many children growing up in the area. He said they often come back from prison determined never to return. "But there is no opportunity for them, whatsoever."

The same things that sent them to prison in the first place offer the only chance they see to earn money. In not too long, they are back behind bars.

I asked Lane, of the thousands of young people he had dealt with in his 47 years, how many have managed to turn it around and make a decent life for themselves. He paused for a long while. "Very, very few," he said.

But here was the big surprise for me. Lane is a supporter of the golf course idea. "Not if all they do is build a golf course," he said. His dream is of a full-service rehabilitation center for young people getting out of prison, where people they trust from their own community can teach them to read and write and teach them how to have a life.

But Lane believes with Atkins that creating a golf course to draw wealthy powerful people into the area will help, first by making the place no longer invisible to them, then by opening their eyes to the mere possibility of value. He believes land value itself "is in the eyes of the leaders."

"Wherever those values are projected," he said, "that's where business goes."

While I was doing this reporting, I heard Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings interviewed on NPR about a finding by the Brookings Institution that Dallas is one of only three American cities to have officially escaped from the national economic recession. Rawlings was buoyant and convincing in describing Dallas as the biggest, best, job-creating, people-hiring, opportunity-offering market in the nation.

Of course I couldn't help being struck by the bitter contrast between this news and the numbers I was looking at in southern Dallas. How can that be? If this is the best place in America right now to get a job, how can more than half the people living in a broad swath of the city be "outside the labor force"?

It seemed to me that maybe somewhere between Gerald Britt and the graduate school paper and the Reverend Lane — maybe I should include Tennell Atkins — there was a larger picture I was missing in my focus on the golf course. I keep thinking, "Golf courses don't create jobs."

But the problem here may not be jobs. Not yet. Not exactly. The real problem, the force pushing up that plaintive note in Atkins' plea, is the utter separation of this whole part of the city from the rest of Dallas, from the rest of modern American society.

Sure, they need jobs. But they need to be brought back into the fold of mainstream life first. And for that to happen, someone has to see them. Someone has to know they are there. If that's what this golf course is going to do, more power to it. But it would be nice if somewhere in the process the City Council at least considered the depth and breadth of the real problem.

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8 comments
texaspainter
texaspainter

Atkins is such a hustler for this project and most everything else. He is in the same mold of JWP without the anger, but instead with that shit eating grin, and really stupid grammar every time he opens his mouth. How he hustled SMU for that degree is admirable. Atkins wouldn't have a damn dime in his pocket were it not for the $3 million lawsuit he filed against the City of Dallas in 2003. He even named Dwaine as one of his enemies in the lawsuit, now they all seem to be for this crazy project. There's a lot more to this, A LOT more.

curry.robert04
curry.robert04

Hard to believe that JS wrote this because it is so supportive and reasonable :)  Thanks, you have shed light on aspects of this issue that I had not seen reported elsewhere.

stevenr11
stevenr11

All they're going to do is displace those people "outside the labor force". They'll go somewhere else. Sort of like when they addressed the homeless problem by outlawing panhandling, hoping they'd go someplace else to do it.

marianagriggs
marianagriggs

We could have the holes in people's yards down there and then you could "enjoy the neighborhood". Each hole could have cafe seating and a tiny cafe/bar or shop. We could get some bikes lanes in it too, and maybe a dog park. That sound more like a golfers entertainment district.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

Word's out that a giant Wal Mart is planned for that area.

mcdallas
mcdallas topcommenter

@marianagriggs But will there be solar-powered water taxis, or will we just power them with natural gas as it boils to the surface?

 
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