New Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings is in for the first serious grassroots challenge to his leadership -- a march on City Hall announced today by a broad-based coalition of young Southern Dallas leaders, Latino groups and the Dallas County Democratic Party. It's that trash thing, back again to bite him.
At the end of September, Rawlings -- batting down a request from students at Paul Quinn College for a delay and study -- rammed through a new ordinance re-directing vast volumes of commercial waste to a landfill near Paul Quinn College in far Southern Dallas. Citing his own campaign promises and the extra fees the city-owned dump will collect from truckers, Rawlings called the move "a business revenue issue."
But it was bad business, as far as the Paul Quinn students were concerned. And now they've got serious allies.
In a press release announcing a November 5 march on City Hall to protest the decision, Paul Quinn student organizer Dexter Evans says, "The leadership that produced this horrendous decision is out of touch with the emerging voices of the city. Marching north, across the Trinity River and towards downtown Dallas is our way of expressing that this generation is no longer willing to adhere to the geographic, economic and mental boundaries of our elders."
Evans, a junior and the student leader of the march, says: "Since few in Dallas are apparently willing to say these things, we felt that it was time for Paul Quinn College and our friends to make our voices heard."
The press release singles out the new trash plan's supporters on the city council: Rawlings, Mayor Pro Tem Pauline Medrano, Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Tennell Atkins, Dwaine Caraway, Angela Hunt, Jerry Allen, Carolyn Davis and Linda Koop.
It also says pointedly: "Community-wise, the Dallas Black Chamber of Commerce, Rev. Stephen Nash and former Justice of the Peace Charles Rose all lent their support to re-routing all of the city's trash to this neighborhood without any prior study or evaluation of the impact of this decision."
That makes this protest a direct challenge to the time-honored paradigm of partnership between the old downtown business leadership group associated with the private Dallas Citizens Council, of which Rawlings is a member, and many of the senior black pastors and some business leaders in African-American Southern Dallas.
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Like most Citizens Council mayors, Rawlings ran on a promise to unite the city's white and black hemispheres. That makes some of the sponsorship and promised participation in the upcoming march the more surprising. A press release from a group calling itself "We Are Not Trash," with contact information at Paul Quinn College, says participants will include, "Bishop Gregory G. M. Ingram, presiding prelate of 10th District of the AME Church; Dr. Frederick D. Haynes, III, senior pastor of Friendship-West Baptist Church; Reverend Bryan Carter, senior pastor of Concord Church of Dallas; Domingo Garcia, LULAC; Dr. Jerry L. Christian, senior pastor of Kirkwood Temple CME; Rev. Tyrone D. Gordon, senior pastor of St. Luke's "Community" United Methodist Church; Rev. Van Carl Williams, senior pastor of Cedar Crest Cathedral CME; the Dallas County Democratic Party and J.D. Mitchell, president of the Paul Quinn College National Alumni Association."
Some of these names and groups - the Dallas County Democratic Party, Freddie Haynes, Domingo Garcia, LULAC, Jerry Christian, Tyrone Gordon - will be major news if they show up on march day. Certainly Rawlings, a Democrat, will work hard to keep them at home between now and the day.
The release includes a strong statement of support from Paul Quinn president Michael J. Sorrell, an influential young leader in the city: "Frederick Douglass told us that 'power concedes nothing without demand," Sorrell is quoted as saying. "It never did and it never will. We are done waiting on the promise of tomorrow. We are tired of being ignored and insulted. We want a real grocery store today. We want a pharmacy today. We want officials who care more about their constituents and the future of this city than themselves."
The release says the march will take place at 10 a.m. Saturday, November 5, from Oak Cliff Founders Park to Ferris Plaza in downtown. Ferris Plaza is a small park in front of The Dallas Morning News.