A "poor people's march" at Dallas City Halll at noon tomorrow will kick off a campaign of protests aimed primarily at Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert. Veteran community activists blame Leppert's political ambitions for what they insist is a one-sided assault on city programs for the poor.
"When you make a trade-off like, 'Hey, we just don't have any general fund money for community dental care, but we are going to bend over backward and find money for the Calatrava bridge even if we have to go to Italy for it,' then you are making a statement there," said longtime community organizer and activist John Fullinwider, a former member of the Dallas Mayor's Special Commission for the Homeless.
Organizers of tomorrow's march said Monday that Dallas City Hall is using an anticipated budget shortfall of $131.1 million as a pretext for slashing programs for the poor. Neighborhoods, many of which will again go without swimming pools and librarians and rec centers and park upkeep, will also take it in the shorts.
Perry Forshee, chief organizer of the march, said: "What we'd like to accomplish is: One, educate people down here on the budget issue so they can see how it is affecting them. And two, send a message to the mayor and the city council that we are not happy with this decision. We understand cuts need to be made, but closing pools and closing libraries for the kids is not an acceptable way to go about that."
Fullinwider added: "We are targeting the mayor on this. Here is a man who has tried to build his mayorship out of this concern for people and how much he comes out south of downtown and stuff. Once he decides to go into more overtly partisan politics, then he's going to let this conservative religion of 'no taxes' trump everything."
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Organizers are hoping for a good turnout but said they will not be daunted if the crowd is on the meager side. "Well," said Forshee, "that means that we will have more work to do. We will be door-to-door. We will have town hall meetings educating people. We are going to bring it to them. We are going to show people where this is going to affect their children."