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Dallas' Old Guard Comes Around on Building a Better City. Nice. Now They Should Go Away.

Band plays on as Dallas Citizens Council surrenders to hipster army.
Band plays on as Dallas Citizens Council surrenders to hipster army.
Library of Congress

It's really sort of embarrassing -- all this gushing from The Dallas Morning News and the mayor, not to mention Wick Allison at D Magazine, going on about their conversion therapy and how they now believe in the new walkable city. Especially when they've put hearts on their sleeves this way, it seems churlish to say the obvious thing.

Now please go away.

But it really is like conversion therapy, isn't it? Why settle for somebody who merely converted, if you can find one who was born that way? The last thing this city needs is the generation of yesteryear, the people who weren't embarrassed about calling themselves The Dallas Citizens Council, now all of a sudden slapping stingy-brim fedoras on their heads and trying to nail it as hipsters.

All of this is on our minds because Dallas just hosted dueling conventions, one for urbanologists and the other for mayors. In the weeks preceding the arrival of the hipster urbanologists, several of the city's veteran road hucksters burst out of phone booths in brand-new tights and capes as champions of walkability and sworn enemies of the urban freeway foe. And that's all to the good. Converted is better than not.

But now go away.

What worries me especially about all the mayoral hagiography going on at the city's only daily newspaper is the conjunction with talk about a second term for Mayor Mike Rawlings. Poorly disguised as reporting, the talk sounds hortatory, as if somebody is afraid he won't. But is a 59-year-old former Pizza Hut CEO, no matter how amiable, exactly the right man to move Dallas into the 21st century?

Nothing against Rawlings, really, but this city now has young vibrant eyes-on-the-prize talent lined up down the block and around the corner, ready to jump on the bike at City Hall and get things going in the right direction. At this moment we should view continuity as two flat tires.

I look at current and former City Council ranks and see a handful of people who could take us there. Scott Griggs is the embodiment of the new pragmatically entrepreneurial, environmentally low-impact and socially porous neighborhood. Philip Kingston has the right kind of intelligent toughness to defend the new city from its inevitable nemeses, bad development and social separatism.

And then there is Angela Hunt. Her record is unblemished for just being right -- not a bad start. But then she gets more points for being tough enough. Tough enough for what? Tough enough to take it when the old guard pulls out the me-first knives, as we know they always will at some point.

Back away from City Hall and even more faces pop into view. State Representative Raphael Anchia has ducked multiple attempts to get him to run for mayor, but that could change if the right set of conditions came into being. Paul Quinn College President Michael Sorrell would bring both wisdom and panache. Hell, Jason Roberts, the Oak Cliff bike-o, thought up and was already doing all of this better-block new-city stuff before half of those urbanologists ever heard of it. He'd be a groundbreaking mayoral candidate with enough intellectual pedal-power to keep City Hall plugging along very aerobically for a decade.

And I know I must be leaving out dozens of intriguing people. Guess I'd better look at 2014 Dallas Observer People Issue and check, speaking of plug, plug, plug.

Yes. Dallas is on a temporal knife-edge. We all do sense truly momentous change just around the corner. Sure. It's a good sign that the old guard is starting to get it. But, no. We don't want them to do it. Why would we want that?

The moment approaches when a whole new generation of leadership must step forward and ease the old ones from their chairs as humanely as possible. The song for this moment is not "Auld Lang Syne." It's "The Word Turned Upside Down," the tavern ditty that the British band played on October 19, 1781, as their army surrendered to George Washington at Yorktown.

Part of it went: "The wine pot shall clinke, we will feast and drinke, and then strange motions will abound. Yet let's be content and the times lament, you see the world turn'd upside down."

Now there's an anthem for the times.


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