What's a Neighborhood Plus, Anyway?

Stray dogs in southern Dallas.
Stray dogs in southern Dallas.
Wayne Kirkwood

If you had just read this week's Dallas City Council agenda, you might have thought the meeting was a good opportunity to get informed about Neighborhood Plus, the program developed by the city in response to accusations that it illegally concentrated low-income housing in the southern part of town. You would have learned better if you bothered to listen to gobbledygook that was presented as an explanation of what's become of the program.

"What I learned today is that optically from the 30,000-foot level we need a game changer to move the needle in terms of boots on the ground and synergies with the low-hanging fruit of quick wins and broken silos for collective impact," council member Philip Kingston said, mocking the jargon used by city staff in describing the program. "I'm excited about this program, but it's mired in syntax and jargon, and I'm starting to wonder what we're going to do for specific neighborhoods."

As described by staff, Neighborhood Plus is a "foundation for collaboration" and a "comprehensive approach to neighborhood revitalization organized around 6 strategic goals and 23 concepts for policies." It doesn't, staff said Wednesday, "rely on city services to address deeply rooted problems of disinvestment and decline in neighborhoods." If it works, Neighborhood Plus will develop strategies specific to Dallas neighborhoods that will help those neighborhoods thrive.

Kingston just wants Dallas residents to be able to expect a minimum standard of living in their neighborhoods.

"We have multiple neighborhoods in the southern sector of this city, the western sector and a few in the northwestern sector that don't have street lights, sidewalks, storm drains, adequate police or code attention. Those are just five that I came up with," Kingston said. "What about having a floor. What if we said, at least for a starting point for Neighborhood Plus, we addressed neighborhoods so that nobody lived below the floor."

The level of substance to words in the current plan is too low, Kingston said.

One thing staff did identify definitively was a group of three neighborhoods that would be the "real world laboratories" for whatever concrete strategies and programs are eventually developed. All three are in southern Dallas: Parkdale/Urbandale, the Lancaster Road corridor and the neighborhood surrounding the University of North Texas.

Despite the concerns of Kingston and others on the council about the lack of specifics in the Neighborhood Plus update, the council voted to move forward with the program. Alan Sims, Cedar Hill's former city manager, will take over as chief of Neighborhood Plus.


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