Dallas City Hall versus The Car Wash

Mayor Rawlings calls this South Dallas business a blight. People earning a living there call it family.

Dallas City Hall versus The Car Wash
Mark Graham

UPDATED JUNE 9 2014: Cops Barricade South Dallas Car Wash, Threaten Arrest If You Ask Too Many Questions ORIGINAL POST

In the evening after sundown, the neighborhood behind Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in old South Dallas is a scene from Detroit — vacant lots, boarded-up houses, crackheads and drunks shuffling in the alleys. But in the distance Jim's Car Wash appears out of the gloom like a little circus, brightly lighted and busy-busy, music jangling, shouts and laughter, the occasional rumpus.

Jim's Car Wash at the corner of Myrtle Street and MLK is a place where men and women gather to make money detailing cars — washing them meticulously by hand, vacuuming and scrubbing the interiors, buffing the chrome, Windexing the glass. Sometimes a city-crusty car can leave the car wash looking almost brand-new and bright again, all for a fee of a third to a fourth what people charge for the same service in a better neighborhood.

Dale Davenport's (left) car wash on MLK Boulevard isn't "wholesome" enough for City Council.
Mark Graham
Dale Davenport's (left) car wash on MLK Boulevard isn't "wholesome" enough for City Council.
"I can make anywhere from upward to $80 to $150 a day, and that's in a six- to seven-hour job. On a Saturday I can make $150 a day easy." -- James Black
Mark Graham
"I can make anywhere from upward to $80 to $150 a day, and that's in a six- to seven-hour job. On a Saturday I can make $150 a day easy." -- James Black

To some people, Jim's Car Wash is not merely the best thing happening on that part of MLK. It's the only thing. MLK is supposed to be the area's major commercial artery, but many lots are empty and storefronts shuttered. Other people look at the car wash and see only a canker in the mouth of the whole neighborhood, the one thing that has to go before anything else can get better.

In fact, Jim's Car Wash over the years has become a central bone of contention in South Dallas. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings clearly believes it is a center of criminal activity. When I met with him late last year, he told me of occasions when he had reconnoitered the car wash from his black police-driven SUV and observed what looked to him like drug activity.

I have visited the car wash on and off over the years and always felt safe there, but in deference to the mayor's opinion I did some checking after I met with him. Compared with the area around it, the car wash turns out to have an amazingly low level of crime. Between 2008 and 2013, there were only seven offense reports made at the car wash, including four robberies of an individual and three aggravated assaults.

The surrounding police beat, an area of about 45 city blocks, produced 11 crime reports for the month of last December and the same number in December 2012. So the car wash had fewer crimes in six years than the neighborhood has per month.

A bit more perspective: The police beat that includes the tony NorthPark Center shopping mall at Northwest Highway and Central Expressway produced four times the number of crime reports both last December and also in December of 2012 as the South Dallas police beat around the car wash. How can that be? I'm not sure. NorthPark Center says it draws 26 million visitors annually. Even though the raw number of offense reports there is higher, the rate per person is bound to be much lower. But the fact is that the area around Jim's Car Wash reports 110 times more crime per year than the car wash does, and NorthPark and its immediate environs report three and a half times more crime than the South Dallas area near the car wash.


And then there is the history. Jim's Car Wash was at the epicenter of a long investigation and lengthy hearings eight years ago by a joint committee of the Texas Legislature. It was one of dozens of Dallas businesses that complained to lawmakers in Austin about what they said was scheme of extortion by Dallas City Hall.

In its final report, the investigative committee sided with the businesses, especially the car wash. The report painted Dallas City Hall as reeking with "ward-based politics run amok as the selective enforcement of nuisance laws protect politically connected insiders and punish their competitors."

The report said car wash owners Freddy and Dale Davenport had been preyed upon by bribe-gouging Dallas City Council members. It said they were victims of a concerted campaign of official oppression by the Dallas Police Department and the Dallas City Attorney's Office.

The report described the police and city attorney's departments as operating a citywide protection racket harvesting $20 million a year in top-dollar pay for off-duty cops hired as private security. Merchants and property owners who failed to hire Dallas cops off-duty were subjected to punitive kangaroo court proceedings, fined and even threatened with eminent domain seizures of their property.

The legislators on the joint committee were angered and shocked by the depth and breadth of testimony they heard from the Dallas business and property owners. In their report they denounced Dallas for what they said were gross violations of basic law and civil rights.

Mayor Rawlings, a businessman, was involved in city politics at the time of the report as a volunteer on appointive boards, but he was not elected mayor until 2011. There are reasons why he, like many Dallas residents, may not have been aware of the legislative hearings at the time. Dallas TV stations did not staff the hearings. The city's only daily newspaper, The Dallas Morning News, gave the story only perfunctory coverage. The Dallas Observer covered the hell out of it, but there you have it.

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16 comments
elmore_leonard
elmore_leonard

"south Dallas is a scene from Detroit"? or is it a scene from South Dallas. Detroit doesn't have a monopoly on dilapidation you silly cunt. 

J_A_
J_A_

The city is not making any money off this operation. And that is their biggest crime.

Subnx
Subnx

The name Diane Ragsdale explains it all. Rawlings needs to go and be replaced by someone who will clean up the ward politics that we have thanks to Jerry Buchmeyer.

Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

It would seem the reason for the "blight" in the area is NOT the car wash, but rather Ragsdale and the city holding title to a bunch of land they're letting sit idle. Are taxes being paid? My guess is the city doesn't pay itself, but I'm sure it pays somebody plenty to "manage" these holdings.


But I'm sure we'll see a big announcement soon that Stanley Korshak will be opening a new store next to the South Dallas Ritz Carlton Hotel and Towers.


gordonhilgers
gordonhilgers

Why is it I am left unsurprised over yet another teapot tempest over a freaking car wash?  Perhaps the uber-uppity Dallas Citizens Council should merely get down to the basics and move in about 39 white elephants, and then parade around the fact they're giving "the Black" an opportunity to wash elephants.  Why should I pull punches here?  While I have nary a single thing against Mayor Mike Rawlings seriously now, his "suspicions" have not been confirmed regarding some kind of "secret Marxist, Kenyan, Sou' Dal', Ragsdale revolution a.k.a. black markets and radical means of making money outside established systems controlled by you-know who". 

Washing white cars or whitewashing white elephants: what's the difference? 

Were "The Rawling" to know any little bit about how black market activity tends to rise out of the realms of Nowheresville in terms of poor neighborhoods that have been left to just plain rot because "it's not profitable" to build commercial infrastructure like grocery stores, drug stores, clothing stores, even as the gentrification goobermenches continue to crowd-out poor people who apparently have the "gall" to live close enough to the center of downtown business activity that they can walk there, maybe he might want to take a second look at what happens when alternatives to Scary Rick Perry's Medicaid nullification traveling medicine show don't seem to be appearing, and when all the privatization prattle is never backed up by honest, straightforward action. 

No alternatives?  Sell drugs!  If the so-called "Establishment" or "the System" wants to sit on you like a 350-pound, platinum blonde dominatrix named Big Momma, mouths off a lot about "violence in the inner city" and then goes off the rails when anybody at all even dares to think about something as simple as a "weapons registry" (is gun control really about weapons or not?), then as far as I'm concerned the Kings in the Klown Kar can kick it. 

You think good people sitting on car seats on their porches is "stupid"?  Better think again, Dallas puppet-masters.  Pulling the furniture out of the machine is what it's all about. 

Now, DCC, you are free to go buy some more "detailing material" for your vehicles the rest of us usually call "our wives and girlfriends".  Should I suggest Loreal?  We can smell your feet from miles away, even if The Dallas Morning News and the local television and radio stations want to put the clampdown in place so the "groundlings" can continue to live in ignorant bliss. 

roo_ster
roo_ster

Blight, blight, blight, my backside.  Sound like folks who are trying to make some honest money.  And a damn sight less blighty than most the lots along that stretch of MLK.

And, yes, that neighborhood is rough.  Volunteered my meager carpentry skills a few times when House of Hope was up a street on Grand.  A job well done(1) is its own reward, but I also got a 3-hour spirit-filled service and some terrific chow as reward.

So, yeah, there are criminals, addicts, and all that sort down there.  But, there are also decent folks working and working to improve the neighborhood.  It would be a shame if the city stepped in and crushed that.

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(1) Or in this case, "well enough," since I am no Norm Abrams.  It is one of those things: no matter how poor or lacking you are, someone else is likely to be poorer and grateful for even inexpert constructive help.

junegenis
junegenis

Clearly Dallas City Hall would prefer that these hard workers join the dole and become dependent on government handouts to survive rather than become self-supporting. This business probably does more to truly help those who have gone trough hard times than any welfare program the city has come up with.

debraclakin
debraclakin

Sounds like a place for a great car wash service.

manpanties
manpanties

does the northpark beat include vickery meadow?  

gordonhilgers
gordonhilgers

Oh.  And happy "Thor's Day".  It's also called "Thursday" because people of good sense decided to change the "O" to a "U", and when the little birdie flew out of the egg....

...we shot that little buzzard down easier than shootin' skeet. 

VernBytes
VernBytes

@bvckvs i.e. Carolyn Davis. The true blight of the neighborhood and Dallas City Council.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@timdickey @gordonhilgers 

This is a standard response Gordon sends to all items in which I use the terms "car wash" and "detail."

 
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