The other day, I was talking here and Rudy Bush was talking in The Dallas Morning News and Scott Griggs and Philip Kingston were talking on the city council about the $810,000 the city had to pay back to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). I just want to point out before the moment passes that the $810,000 pay-back story is not jack. It is a joke, in fact, next to the real story.
The real story about Dallas and HUD, the real drama, is the "voluntary compliance agreement" that Dallas is negotiating with HUD right now behind closed doors. That may be hundreds of millions of dollars but, worse than the money, a deal with HUD may require Dallas to concede it has been practicing deliberate racial segregation as a secret City Hall policy for more than a decade.
You think Ferguson, Missouri looks bad? What about an official policy of racial segregation in one of the nation's largest cities? Try that hat on for size in the 21st century.
City Hall, by the way, has been totally stonewalling attempts by me and by some elected officials to get a copy of the final HUD document laying out what HUD wants the city to do to settle the matter. The document has been at City Hall for at least two weeks and should be public, but city officials refuse even to acknowledge that they have received my repeated requests for it.
A lot of the weird language tossed around at the last city council meeting about the $810,000 payback probably had to do with this issue, not so much the $810,000. For example, council member Vonciel Hill told the council she didn't think they should vote to make the city manager release information about HUD to the council -- to themselves -- because of the "collateral consequences" such a requirement might have.
"I do not believe that this council at this moment is fully informed enough of the collateral consequences of this proposed language to take a vote on this issue."
Huh? What bad collateral consequences could there be from requiring the city manager to tell the council about money that was already paid back to HUD months ago? None, as far as the pay-back are concerned, but maybe major-major if the same language could force the city to show its hand on the big story.
The big story was birthed in December of last year, when HUD announced that a four-year federal probe had found Dallas guilty of a set of charges brought against the city by a downtown development partnership. The partnership, headed by Curtis Lockey, told HUD that Dallas pulled the rug from under their HUD-backed downtown tower re-do when they tried to obey federal law and include the required number of low-income units.
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Lockey told HUD he had stumbled unawares into a conspiracy by Dallas to take hundreds of millions in federal money dedicated to de-segregation and spend it instead on re-segregation over a 10-year span.
No other city the size of Dallas has been accused of deliberate racial segregation on this scale since Orville Faubus stood in the schoolhouse door in Little Rock 57 years ago. But HUD has been ratcheting up the pain for suburban Westchester County in New York, cutting off more and more federal funding after Westchester was found guilty of the same thing HUD says Dallas did: deliberate racial segregation.
The issues Dallas must be negotiating with HUD now were laid out in HUD's latest memo to the city, a set of findings to which city officials more or less acceded informally, as we reported here. A huge part of any settlement will involve an agreement by Dallas to put all future HUD-subsidized housing outside of South Dallas. No, it's not going into Preston Hollow or the Park Cities (Put the pitchforks down now!), but it will go out into peripheral areas where land is reasonably priced, and not in South Dallas.
That's what's going on right now behind closed doors. This crap about $810,000 is the little bird egg. The big dinosaur egg is still to be laid.