As of late last week, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro was scheduled to visit Dallas City Hall tomorrow, Tuesday, September 29. But late last week neither HUD nor the Dallas mayor’s office would confirm or deny the visit.
If the visit is still on, HUD will announce it sometime today, and when they do they will state some purpose for the visit that has nothing to do with the Lockey and MacKenzie HUD/Dallas fair housing litigation.
And I do realize I have posed you a couple of hurdles to jump just in what I have said already, like how in the hell do I know he’s coming if nobody will confirm it, and how would I know when they’re going to announce anything and what they’re going to say before they say it? I have answers. I will get to them. But first please allow me to set the scene.
When I mention the names Lockey and MacKenzie to anybody in City Hall, they often say, “Oh, yeah, those guys that only you care about and only you write about.”
The degree to which mainstream media in Dallas have ignored the Lockey and MacKenzie litigation over a five-year period — while I have written countless stories — is an object lesson in how this town works. I first wrote about them in May 2010. They were getting ready to file a complaint with HUD saying Dallas had pulled the pins from beneath their downtown tower redevelopment deal and cost Lockey and his investors many millions of dollars. They accused Dallas of killing their deal because the office building they planned to reopen as an apartment building would be racially integrated.
The counter-attack mounted by City Hall was vintage, old-guard Dallas, the way things always have been done, and so was the response of The Dallas Morning News and most other local media. Lockey and MacKenze were outsiders, city officials said over and over again. They were disgruntled interlopers who didn’t understand the Dallas way of doing things. It was exactly the argument I heard used against Richard Allen, whose Inland Port project, sabotaged by the Dallas elite, is now an element in a major federal public corruption prosecution.
In a curious twist, it’s a rationale I heard used by the elite to defend the late Al Lipscomb, a City Council member convicted of 65 counts of bribery in 1999 (later overturned). The argument was that then U.S. Attorney Paul Coggins, a Democrat who was prosecuting Lipscomb, didn’t understand that Al had been serving the interests of the elite when he took those bribes and therefore no foul had occurred.
It’s old-fashioned, small-city, social and business logic, in which the local universe is divided into an elect, the good people or white hats, and then there is everybody else, the black hats — outsiders and bad sorts. All you have to know about a person is his hat.
City Hall, in defending itself, never really goes hard against the facts alleged by Lockey and MacKenzie. The city says HUD screwed up its investigation all over the place, and there is truth in that contention. And then the city says Lockey and MacKenzie are disgruntled developers, which is not only true but a major understatement.
But what about the racial segregation? What about the use of policy and millions of dollars in federal slush fund money to push defenseless people back across an official racial border dividing southern and northern Dallas? I never hear much about that from the city, as if the city’s response to that one is a silent shrug.
Curtis Lockey and Craig MacKenzie were partners on the redevelopment of LTV Tower at 1600 Pacific Avenue downtown but are not partners in other ventures. Together and separately they have brought an administrative complaint and multiple lawsuits against the city, some of which have been dismissed, some refiled. It’s complicated.
But the lawsuit that’s on deck this week, as Castro either does or does not make his under-the-radar visit to City Hall, is one brought by MacKenzie asking a federal judge to set aside a settlement negotiated a year ago by Castro and Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings. By Wednesday of this week, HUD is required to produce the first installment of what is called “discovery” in that suit — documents and answers to questions put to them by MacKenzie.
Those questions, I believe, will have a lot to do with the way the settlement was reached, especially a communication I told you about last week in which HUD Deputy Assistant Secretary Sara Pratt, the top fair housing enforcement official, sent Lockey's and MacKenzie’s lawyer a back-channel warning that a political deal was about to go down letting Dallas off the hook. By the way, my story about that warning was published two days before people here learned Castro was coming to City Hall, not that there’s a connection.
HUD doesn’t want to pony up the discovery materials. Last week the Justice Department sent MacKenzie an email telling him they were going to ask the judge to push back HUD’s deadline for producing discovery materials by 60 days, because the father of a senior HUD attorney had died. When it appeared in the court file at the end of the week, the motion revealed that the HUD lawyer's father died a month before the motion was filed. It's not easy to comment on the loss of a parent, except, perhaps, to suggest that after a month in the ground the decent thing might be to let the poor man rest in peace,
MacKenzie will soon file a response objecting, and in it he will provide details of what he is asking HUD to produce, entering those details into the public record for the first time. And of course I will be all eyes and ears and let you know what I find out.
Oh, the hurdles. How did I know Castro was coming? City staff told multiple people in the community, and they told me. Why couldn’t I get it confirmed? The mayor’s office just told me to call HUD. I did. Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Jereon M. Brown wrote back: “Jim, we normally do not release the Secretary’s long-term schedule for security reasons. We will announce all public events he’s participating in. Normally that takes place 24 hours prior to the event.”
Small surprise if I, a local hack, am unfamiliar with normal protocol and procedure for the movements and travel of White House cabinet members. I do notice, however, that when Secretary Castro visited New Orleans last month for the 10-year Katrina anniversary (pictured above), the trip was announced at least a week in advance. But that’s neither here nor there: by the deputy assistant secretary’s timing, we should find out some time today if Castro is coming.
I believe I said up top that if he does come and they do announce it, they will announce some purpose for his visit other than a last-minute desperate attempt to hammer out a new deal with Mayor Rawlings on the segregation charges so HUD won’t have to cough up MacKenzie’s discovery. How do I know that? Oh. You know. I don’t.
But let me ask you. How likely do you think it is HUD will say the secretary is visiting Dallas because everything that ink-stained wretch at the weekly has been telling you for five years is true? And then there is the other possibility if he comes: It genuinely has nothing at all to do with any of this, and I really am an ink-stained wretch cobbling together a self-important fantasy in which my utterly irrelevant natterings are at the center of the universe. Fine. I tell myself the same thing every morning when I look in the mirror.
But what is the underlying reality in this entire matter? Apart from all of the who-shot-John between politicians, journalists and litigants, what in all this is really important to the lives and destinies of the human beings who live and work in Dallas?
In preparing their original complaint to HUD, Lockey and MacKenzie hired consultant Andrew Beveridge, an academic and social scientist with a 19-page single-spaced resume documenting his acknowledged status as an international expert on the measurement of racial and ethnic segregation. Beveridge looked first at the annual declarations Dallas was supposed to send HUD to prove the city was obeying the law and using HUD money to decrease segregation by furthering fair housing. Then he looked at segregation in Dallas.
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What he found was that Dallas was using HUD and other public money in the placement of subsidized housing in ways that increased, rather than decreased segregation. Beveridge used a combination of statistical concepts to measure overall segregation, but two in particular struck me as chilling.
The first was this: In order for black people in this city to be not segregated — for them to escape segregation — three-quarters of the city’s black citizens would have to move away from where they currently live. Seventy-one percent of Hispanics would have to move to be not segregated. We are an overwhelmingly segregated city.
The second was this: Our segregation is not, as is often claimed, a manifestation of simple economic difference. What Beveridge found, in fact, was the opposite. The more affluent blacks become within the city, the more segregated they are from whites, especially from whites of their own income level.
At the bottom of the page, Beveridge’s work poses the only truly important question for Dallas and for HUD. How does Dallas feel, how does HUD feel about the high level of racial segregation here? What does the city and what does HUD intend to do to reduce the level of segregation here? How did the deal struck last year by Castro and the mayor help?