Muni Courts Battle Isn't About Race, Except Maybe in a Good Way
The big City Hall racial blow-up over a reform of our very screwed up municipal court system -- subject of a sort of weird editorial in The Dallas Morning News this morning -- is probably a harbinger of worse things to come. Which is probably good.
In all its attempts over the years to paint over and camouflage the city's brutal race border between northern and southhern Dallas, the method of choice has always been a combination of charity and sinecures -- the corporate hand-out to "benefit" some school or program (benefit how?) and the little dealy-do by which somebody gets a safe job or a set-up.
As opposed to what? Well, for one thing, as opposed to the Inland Port development, the one truly significant shot at meaningful economic self-determination southern Dallas has ever seen, a chance based on enterprise, not crumbs from the back porch. Both the old white establishment and the old black establishment in Dallas joined hands to shoot that one down, because it didn't fit into the plantation culture with which both sides have grown so comfortable over all these years.
The muni courts thing has been hard to figure from the beginning, especially because early on the champions of a reform based the bulk of their argument on a report that criticized city courts for not collecting enough fine money.
I got confused myself at the outset by what looked to me like an assault on judicial independence and integrity, fueled by a bunch of city prosecutors and enforcement officers who write bad tickets in the first place and can't make good ones stick anyway.
But then I had to do a little personal recall. Several years ago a member of my family who was still subject to the city curfew somehow accidentally innocently by mistake unintentionally violated the curfew and got a ticket. I believe that person may have been somewhat accidentally quite fortunate just to get a curfew ticket instead of one involving the large quantity of beer the officer found in a box that somehow accidentally got into the back seat of the vehicle in which my family member was an innocent accidental mistaken passenger.
And remember: I am not naming this person. So, you know, it could be my wife. Theoretically.
Anyway. College application time. We hired a lawyer. Yeah, I know. It sounds like the kind of thing Tim Rogers would do. I heap ashes upon myself. There you have it.
The lawyer basically told us to go to court and assume there would be no cop, so the ticket would be dismissed. Worked like a Swiss watch. On the way out of court that day I delivered a stern lecture about how this did not diminish the gravity of the offense. The unnamed person kept humming some stupid tune. Finally I said, "What is that stupid tune you keep humming?"
The person said, "It's called, 'Beat It.'"
Oh, yeah. Lesson learned!
The city courts are a joke. And when I started paying more attention to what City Council member Angela Hunt was saying about the reform process, I realized this had been a serious responsible attempt to fix what was wrong with the courts, including an important effort to get rid of incompetent judges and administrators.
The blow-back on the council from the African-American members was framed almost entirely in racial terms. The black council members painted the reform as an assault on black judges.
Problem. The reforms would have maintained exactly the same racial/ethnic balance on the bench. A majority of the judges slated for firing were white.
So it was not about race. It was about individuals who happened to be black who also happened to be closely connected to black City Council members.
But, wait. In the very strange alternative universe of Dallas City Hall, that is race. Race is jobs or special arrangements for individuals of a certain race. It is what black Dallas has traded for true equality and truly equal economic opportunity.
All of the black council members who attacked the court reform, with the possible exception of Carolyn Davis, have been either willing participants or silent onlookers in the sabotaging of the Inland Port.
A job for my buddy, yes. A better destiny for my people? Who cares?
This disease runs deep and broad in Dallas City Hall. It's in everything. It affects top-level policy, like the protection of neighborhoods from corrosive development. It goes to the very smallest details. It is why, for example, nobody can ever fix the Dallas Farmers Market.
It's why people give up. Who wants to fight for a better farmers market if the only way to get it is to submit to being slimed as a racist? They've got great farmers markets in the suburbs. Just go there. Just move there.
Is this any more difficult a problem for a libtard like me than for a conservative? Is it any harder for white people than for smart progressive upwardly mobile black people, who all know better? I really doubt it. I think it's a really tough problem for all of us.
In the end I only know one thing about it for sure. We fix it. Or it fixes us.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Observer's biggest stories.
- Dallas Mayor Discovers S&M for First Time, Very Turned Off, For Now
Sat., Feb. 13, 9:00pm
University of North Texas Mean Green Mens Basketball vs. Florida International University Golden PanthersThu., Feb. 18, 7:00pm
Fri., Feb. 19, 7:00pm
Fri., Feb. 19, 7:00pm
- Real Estate Investment Firm Sues Dallas Police and Fire Pension System
- DART Cop Arrests Barking Dog Avi Adelman for Taking Photos at Rosa Parks Plaza