About 75 people gathered outside Dallas City Hall today -- accompanied by a 20-foot banner that said, "To Redeem the Soul of America" -- and accused city leaders of waging ideological war on the poor. The Poor People's March on City Hall Plaza didn't march anywhere but did aim a fusillade of sharp verbal barbs at elected officials. Two of them even joined them.
John Fullinwider, longtime community organizer and former member of the Mayor's Special Commission for the Homeless, took aim at the city budget that council members six floors above him were hammering out at that very moment.
"Ladies and gentlemen," he told the modest crowd gathered beneath shade trees, "when you read a city budget you're reading a lot of numbers. But when you read between the lines of the budget you can see the meaning of the budget."
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Citing drastic swimming pool closings and 50-percent cuts to cultural centers, even though the total budget shortfall predicted for next year is only 12.5 percent, Fullinwider said the budget being planned by the city council carries a consistent theme: "In order to hold down taxes for the wealthy, the mayor and the manager are willing to tear down programs for the poor."
Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway left his post at the budget briefing to come down and speak briefly to the rally. Calling for a tax increase to stave off cutbacks to vital programs, Caraway told the crowd the only resistance is from white neighborhoods:
"The only folks who don't support a tax increase are the people up in the north," Caraway said. Council member Carolyn Davis echoed the theme. "I support a one percent tax increase," Davis said.
The Rev. Derrick Bowman, president of the Dallas chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and former Dallas city council member Diane Ragsdale railed against plans to close city recreation centers. A crowd of young children stood and sat cross-legged nearby, some holding placards that said, "Save Our Rec Center."