Black not like them: As the Dallas City Council's redistricting panel wraps up months of mind-numbing labor, some residents in East Oak Cliff's black middle-class neighborhood of Cedar Crest are aghast at their neighborhood's late entry into redistricting politics. They fear the hardscrabble neighborhood of black South Dallas is attempting to absorb them politically.

"We don't have much in common," says Burl Ridge, president of the Cedar Crest neighborhood association, which opposes a political union between Cedar Crest and South Dallas. "The only thing I see we have in common is race."

This fissure in the African-American community was laid bare a week ago as a redistricting plan dubbed the "modified joint proposal" steamed toward approval by the city panel. Backed by at least seven redistricting commissioners--mostly from south of the Trinity--the plan to reshape council districts in line with the 2000 census would create four majority-black districts, three majority-Hispanic districts and one swing district with a diverse makeup of blacks, Hispanics and whites.

A similar plan may yet pass, but for now the "modified" coalition's momentum has sputtered. Last Thursday, redistricting commissars were surprised to learn that city Councilman Leo Chaney's appointed commissioner, the Reverend Donald Parish, broke off his endorsement of the plan in favor of a new "coalition for consensus" proposal backed by four commissioners from mostly white districts. It turns out that the North Dallas coalition offered Chaney something his southern-sector peers didn't: an opportunity to shore up his African-American political base by annexing nearby black neighborhoods, including the 10th Street Historic District and a big chunk of Cedar Crest.

Parish says Chaney might switch ties again if the "modified" backers amend their maps to his liking. He says some residents support the change, but last Thursday a contingent of Cedar Crest residents spoke in protest of it. "I don't think I'm better than anybody," Ridge says, but he thinks black professionals in Cedar Crest worried about sanitation, code enforcement and stray dogs have different concerns than lower-income South Dallas residents who deal with evictions, utility shutoffs and crime. "I really doubt a council person would give me consideration if I called," Ridge says.

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Patrick Williams is editor-in-chief of the Dallas Observer.
Contact: Patrick Williams