City's Plan for Boosting Southern Dallas? Horses, Golf and Completely Screwing Over a Latino Small Businessman

Scott K. Parks has a pretty good OK story in The Dallas Morning News today. It's the good-enough-for-Belo version of a story we brought you two weeks ago about the city's use of eminent domain to seize a privately owned parcel of land near the Trinity River, sandwiched between the equestrian park and exclusive private golf course the city is developing in the heart of a poor neighborhood in southern Dallas.

Pretty good. It's a step ahead for our city's only daily newspaper even to acknowledge that this controversy exists. After our piece was published, the story was covered by TV and probably was getting sort of hard to ignore. But let's give credit where credit is due. The piece in today's Morning News does tell people that the city is in court suing to seize private property even though the current use of the property poses zero environmental threat and actually conforms to the recreational uses the city has in mind for the area all around it.

The story stops short, of course, of telling anybody what it's really all about. I say of course, because that's the way it is with the city's only daily. The last thing they ever want to do is connect the dots. But that's OK. That's why we are here.

Instead, Parks sums up the situation this way: "The condemnation suit sets up the latest chapter of a familiar, recurring story surrounding the city's decades-long attempt to stimulate development along the Trinity -- the small businessman who finds himself in the path of a seemingly unstoppable economic freight train."

Eh. I have to say not really. I don't actually remember a decades-long saga of small businessmen standing in the path of freight trains here. If anything, this particular situation is quite unique, and that, Dear Reader, is more or less the whole point.

The city says it must seize a 23-acre commercial athletic club owned by Rhadames Solano "to control this flood plain and protect the area," as Assistant City Manager Jill Jordan reiterated to Parks.

That statement falls neatly within the category of information that we here in the alternative press describe as "utter and complete fork-tongued bullshit" or UCFTBS. How do we know it is UCFTBS? This actually is not rocket science. First, we take a gander at the floodplain in question, described on the city's own floodplain maps as the Trinity River Five Mile Creek watershed.

Next step is a second gander at other large parcels in the same area which we find conveniently laid out on the property map provided by our county tax appraisal district. We don't have to be Sherlock Holmes here. Right away presto: Here are all sorts of large property owners who seem not to be under threat of eminent domain, whose property the city apparently does not need to control or protect. I checked recent City Council resolutions concerning eminent domain in this area and found only Solano and the owner next to him, who also is sandwiched by the horse and golf people.

I don't want to call out anybody in a way that will make them a target or anything, but I see any number of owners here whose names are not Rhadames Solano, many of whose properties look like they sit closer to creeks and the river than Solano. They include owners with names like Dallas Demolition, Go Crete, Hope Agri Products Inc. and so on.

So what are the notable differences between these owners and their properties and Solano and his property? For one, they sound less like small businesses, more like big businesses. Secondly, even though some of their properties would seem to have closer impact on the floodplain than his, they are not sandwiched between the equestrian center and private golf course that the city seeks to develop.

Those are the dots. The connection between them is painfully obvious. The city won't say it on the record for a number of reasons. Seizing private property and shutting down a going concern flies in the face of the UCFTBS reasons the city has been handing out to justify the equestrian center and golf course. The city says bringing a bunch of horse and golf people into the area will help the people who are already there get jobs and develop businesses.

Solano is already there. He already has a business. He set it up himself. He didn't need horse-riders or golfers to tell him how to do it. Now the city wants to quash his business so that he can ... what? Get a job as a caddie?

But the other connection between the dots is even worse. The reason the city wants Solano's land and not the land owned by Go Crete or Dallas Demolition has everything to do with the horse park and golf course. Please. We're not all just blind idiots out here. We can look at the map. We can connect the dots. They want to use eminent domain to take Solano's property from him so they can give it to the horsey golf people somehow or at least protect them from being exposed to other people nearby who are not of their same ilk.

The city can't go into court and say that, because one of the allowable uses of government eminent domain under the law is not taking property away from little guys to give it to big guys. So instead in today's Morning News story, Jordan tells Parks, "We want to control that land to preserve it and protect it from illegal activity and to provide public open space."

Illegal activities? Is that the UCFTBS code term for non-rich persons of Latino descent supporting a viable commercial enterprise owned by one of their own by going there on weekends and evenings to play soccer with their families?

There's your dots. There's your connection. Glad to be of service.

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Jim Schutze has been the city columnist for the Dallas Observer since 1998. He has been a recipient of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ national award for best commentary and Lincoln University’s national Unity Award for writing on civil rights and racial issues. In 2011 he was admitted to the Texas Institute of Letters.
Contact: Jim Schutze