Dallas Officials Deny They Threatened Car Wash Owner. What Do You Think?

Hey, I have a reader challenge for you. I need your take on something. A week ago I told you the city sent a letter to the owner of a car wash on MLK telling him it was planning a project and his property "will be needed for the project."

I said it was an "eminent domain" letter officially notifying him that a process was under way by which he might wind up being forced to sell whether he wanted to or not. Eminent domain is the power of a government to buy your property even if you don't want to sell. It's also called "condemnation."

I don't know how much of the aftermath you followed. Some of it was pretty hilarious, as long as you weren't Freddy or Dale Davenport, the father and son who own the car wash. The mayor and the City Council person for that district and the city manager and just about everybody else at City Hall pointed fingers at each other and said somebody else sent the letter. Nobody could even say what the so-called project was.

So I made an accusation. I said the letter was a bogus severed horse-head under the sheets kind of a mafia threat to scare the Davenports into selling, maybe to some private party with a cheap price in mind. And I issued a challenge. If that was not the case, then somebody at City Hall just say who green-lighted it. Tell us who was behind it. At least name the project. Clear the air.

That was a few days ago. Since then, I have picked up some pretty good straws in the wind telling me how City Hall hopes to spin this. Somebody is already telling people, in fact, that there was no eminent domain letter at all. Schutze made all that up. All there was was a letter asking the guy in a perfectly friendly manner if the city could do a special appraisal of his property just to see if maybe the city might want to offer him a price for it someday later on.

They will say there was no mention of eminent domain. It was an innocent inquiry. Schutze made all that stuff up to get a headline.

Reminds me of a scene in an old W.C. Fields movie where a lady bats the comedian with her umbrella after he touches her inappropriately. He mumbles, "I was just tryin' to guess yer weight."

Anyway, once I figured out this would be City Hall's line on the deal, I asked Dale Davenport to give me the full mailing the city sent him. He did. I am presenting all of it here, everything he found in the envelope. I am asking you to look at it.

And I want you to tell me: If you were the property owner here, and if you received this mailing, would you take it as a friendly request and nothing you had to worry about or even answer if you didn't feel like it? Or would you be concerned that it might be the beginning of an eminent domain process?

Please bear this in mind. The letter is signed by Lou Jones, a city real estate manager. The day after Dale Davenport got it, he went to Lou Jones' office with the letter in hand and asked her if this was a process that could end in eminent domain. He says she said yes.

I also called Lou Jones myself and asked her the same thing. She gave me the same answer.

So please scan this stuff and then you tell me: does this look to you like a holiday greeting card?

Freddy Davenport Letter from city of Dallas regarding property acquisition at 2702 Martin Luther King, Jr.... by Schutze

KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
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