The Dallas Morning News editorial page this morning takes another swipe at The Allen Group, the warehousing and logistics company trying to turn Dallas into a continental shipping hub. As usual, today's offering is an exercise in convoluted insider speak that, if to be understood, requires the translation talents of a brave, experienced, handsome and highly skilled cipherologist. Luckily for us all, I am here.
The purported point of the editorial is that it's really important to impose a new "master planning" process on Dallas's "inland port" -- a huge agglomeration of high-tech rail yards, warehouses and trucking centers in which The Allen Group is the lead developer. I'm not sure the average reader would pick up on it, but there is a certain sniffy-whiny tone to this essay having to do with recent decisions by several units of local government to back off from the whole master plan idea.
The News is pissed, in other words. It says people like themselves, "obviously not in tune with the peculiar politics of southern Dallas, probably did not anticipate being accused of trying to stifle development or even 'shake down' property owners by suggesting a master plan study, as today's conspiracy theories do." That would be a reference to the many pieces I have written in recent months dealing with the shakedown accusations surrounding this planning effort.
The shakedown is this: All of the planning The News is calling for has already been done. The Allen Group says launching a new planning effort right now, just as they are ready to open their doors and begin selling property, will screw them. They will have to tell potential buyers that they can't really say what the rules will be for property in the port area until the new planning process is completed a year and a half or more from now.
Also -- and this The News does not mention - a move to stymie the Allen Group project right now will deliver a major competitive advantage to a similar development at Alliance Airport in Tarrant County owned by the locally well-connected Perot family.
The News also does not mention in its editorial that the term "shakedown," does not come from me or the Observer but from Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, dean of Dallas African-American office-holders and one of a the most powerful people in America on transportation infrastructure issues.
The News also takes no account of an issue treated in the business section of today's New York Times: the fact that an expansion of the Panama Canal is about to create major new competitive pressure for all shipping hubs in the American West, very much including Dallas. In other words, The News' editorial writers don't even try to put this local controversy in context with global realities, an exercise that would have illuminated the extreme folly of doing anything to weaken Dallas's inland port project at this moment.
The editorial also takes no notice of a story that did appear in The News' business section today announcing that the Allen Group is moving its corporate headquarters to Dallas from San Diego. Of course, talking about that in the editorial might have required The News to acknowledge Allen Group's deep commitment to its Dallas project.
But these omissions pale, in my view, before the big one -- the fact that this company, The Allen Group, trying to bring a project here that promises 60,000 new jobs for southern Dallas, was approached at the very beginning of the development process by a group asking for half a million dollars a year and a 15 percent equity in the company. For what?
Well, the money was to be paid in order to make sure Allen Group would not be perceived by Southern Dallas officials "as an 'out of town developer' who only wants to take opportunities and resources out of the community." What? Allen Group is trying to bring an employment center to Southern Dallas that will be the equivalent of several automobile factories. It's trying to bring resources in, not take them out. Why would they have a problem with the community?
But they do. As I have pointed out in columns. Southern Dallas county commissioner John Wiley Price is openly derisive of the promise of jobs, saying, "in slavery everybody had a job." He insists instead on "equity." Meaning what? Oh, about half a million bucks a year and 15 percent of the company.
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The News editorial today makes no mention of any of that. Take a gander here, at the Unfair Park item posted just before the holidays, in which the preposterous "equity" proposal was posted in full. It was after The Allen Group declined to accept this offer that Commissioner Price began sand-bagging Allen Group's project on key infrastructure decisions and investments.
Here is what The News's editorial page would ask itself, if it were honest: Why on earth would Dallas ever allow an investor of this size and quality, bringing this much promise to a benighted sector of the city, to get the impression that he was up against a good-old-boy cabal of rich white guys and their operatives in the black community? I can tell you why they don't want to raise that question. Because they know the answer. It ain't an impression.
I have heard again and again in recent weeks that local business leaders have criticized Allen Group for not paying off. Their line, I am told, is that, "That's how we do it here. It's not worth the trouble to resist." I spoke to a former elected city official yesterday who said, "We here in Dallas better hope that The Allen Group keeps right on not listening to that line."
But, when The Dallas Morning News editorial is fully deciphered and decoded, that is precisely the paper's line today. Glad to be of service.--Jim Schutze