Real Estate

Over Dinner at a Fort Worth Olive Garden, Michelle Obama Heard All About Oak Cliff

Maybe you saw KXAS-Channel 5 last night -- why, yes, that was Jason Roberts and wife Andrea seated next to First Lady Michelle Obama at a Fort Worth Olive Garden last night. But, but ... how'd the would-be congressional candidate and the missus land the seats? And what did they talk about? Besides hats.

Roberts says this morning that Obama -- in town on a health-and-fitness "Let's Move!" anniversary tour that'll include a drop-by with some DISD kiddos, Dallas Cowboys and Top Chefs today -- found out about the Oak Cliff-dwellers through former Dallas Morning News photographer Sonya Hebert, who went to work at the White House last month -- spending half her time covering the First Lady.

"The White House is looking for families in the area promoting healthy lifestyles for kids," says Roberts. "So Sonya called and said, 'Would you be interested in going to dinner with the First Lady?' And I was like, 'Yeah, ya know, let me check our agenda.'" He laughs. "Absolutely. Without a doubt."

The couple was seated with a few other local families, and among the topics of conversation: the Robertses' efforts to get kids bicycling to school (so retro it's revolutionary!) and, of course, Jason's ongoing Better Block-ing efforts around town. Jason figures they spent 10, 15 minutes on those two things as they went 'round the table gobbling up ideas. The obvious question is: Will they make it past the dinner table at the Olive Garden?

"We were the third city she'd been in that day, and I am sure she hears stories, incredible stories, from a lot of people on a daily basis, and I'm not sure how much of that gets filtered out later: 'Can we promote this on a bigger scale?'" Roberts says. "But we talked about the incentive program for kids, giving them punch cards for riding their bikes to school, and about how with Better Block we're creating walkable and bikable neighborhoods. We talked about how Oil and Cotton" -- which sprang up during the very first Better Block event -- "is now permanent, so there this kids' arts studio they can walk to, ride their bikes to. It was fun to talk about our community. It was a chance to brag about Oak Cliff.

"And we talked about how, in this city, fruit stands are not something we allow in our right of way, and it's something we can do easily. Why can't a kid can get a peach on a corner? It seems so simple, but it's a revelation when we're in New York and a guy's selling fruit on the street -- and you give him 35 cents and it's no big deal. Here, it is. Simple things like that. If we can find a way to incentive the right things, not only would be it be healthier, but we could grow local businesses."

Incidentally, Jason and Andrea were the first to arrive last night; that's when they took the photo you see above.

"I have to say, it was pretty awesome, as you can imagine. It took 30 minutes for it to get out of your mind: 'This is the First Lady of the United States,'" Jason says. "And she said, 'I was normal at one point. I used to have to go to the grocery store. What hardships do you have when trying to get stuff done for your kids?' And it's a shame it had to end, because at the end it was getting pretty interesting, pretty loose -- well, as loose as you can get without wine."