Further Proof, As Though It Were Needed, That the Cliff Manor Issue Is Still Roiling Along

Apparently my column in this week's print edition has sparked some controversy (I just hate that, shy fellow that I am), especially a quote from developer David Spence to the effect that he thinks a recent wild and woolly town hall meeting over housing for the homeless in North Oak Cliff was embarrassing.

Spence is quoted in my piece as follows:"There are a number of us who are pretty un-proud of our neighborhood." He called the meeting, "a new low point for Oak Cliff.

"You know," he said, "I try not to put my Christian hat on too often, because it's not a real practical thing to do. But you do have to wonder how Christ would have reacted if he had been standing in the back of the room."

I stopped myself from asking the natural follow-up: "You seem to be saying your are a Christian. And yet you admit you are a developer."

Little joke. Very little.

But I knew he was going to be in for it. Really, here was a guy who needed no piece of this but was speaking up anyway to express an honest opinion. You have to respect that for courage alone.

So today in my personal e-mail, I receive a copy of the following missive that was also sent to many, many others:

From: Wynne Wood

Sorry but I am livid. Seems the rich Bishop Arts developer David Spence is saying he is ashamed of the people of Oak Cliff.

He is quoted in an article in this week's Dallas Observer saying that all of us Oak Cliff residents who attended the Cliff Manor meeting at Methodist weren't being as Christian as he thinks we should be about the move of homeless into our neighborhood.

Here are the exact words from the article:

Spence was not there, but he said everybody he knows has been talking about it, and he has found a consensus among "everyone who was not one of those who were at the microphone in the meeting.

"There are a number of us who are pretty un-proud of our neighborhood." He called the meeting, "a new low point for Oak Cliff. "You know," he said, "I try not to put my Christian hat on too often, because it's not a real practical thing to do. But you do have to wonder how Christ would have reacted if he had been standing in the back of the room."

Who the hell is David Spence to tell us he's more Christian than the rest of us? How does a rich developer who loves to make money off of us in Oak Cliff have the gall to say he's ashamed of us for just wanting to get information?

I was one of those at the microphone, and I am hurt and furious that my doing my parental responsibility to ensure my kids are protected is described in the media as something Christ would find offensive. I'm not against the homeless, I just wanted some information that's all. So did people like Scot Griggs of FW Avenue, and the reverend who spoke (guess he isn't Christian enough for David Spence either) and lots of other neighborhood leaders who were there.

I for one am VERY proud of Oak Cliff for showing its democratic right to get information about something so important. I will not be spending another dime of my hardearned money in Bishop Arts since David Spence is so ASHAMED of our behavior.

Want to tell this rich guy how unproud Oak Cliff is of him?

Then the e-mailer, using the moniker "Wynne Wood," gives all of Spences's business phone numbers and emails, along with his home phone number, which is listed under his wife's name. There are kids in that house. We know what this means. "Wynne Wood" wants a bunch of people to make hang-up, threatening and obscene calls to Spence's home.

I wrote Wynne Wood back as follows:

I think it's important, if you're going to take a swing at somebody, to hike up your drawers and name yourself. How about it? Who are you? Can we talk?

It seems to me that using the Internet to launch a campaign against somebody while hiding behind a wall of anonymity is not un-akin to night-riders waging terror from beneath the anonymity of white hoods and cloaks.

Four hours later, "Mr. Wood" responded:

Mr. Schutz

In the article, several people took a swing at me and my neighbors anonymously on the grounds they didn't want to alienate the city councilman. I reserve the same right, so as not to alienate what my friends call the Bishop Arts Mafia, who have scared off more than one Hispanic business and have intimidated a couple of friends who were not in perfect lockstep with them on the Davis plan.

If it's OK for them to do it, it's OK for me. I got a kid to think about.

I wrote back:

Well, I do understand, but while you are worrying about your kid, you might have shown the same concern for Spence's kid, who lives at the home phone number you provided in your anonymous email.

Spence, by the way, has sent out the following email to interested parties:

I wanted to clarify what I said to Jim Schutze when he interviewed me for his Observer column on the DHA debacle (http://www.dallasobserver.com/2010-08-26/news/stirred-up-by-political-opportunism-a-progressive-oak-cliff-neighborhood-tries-to-keep-out-the-homeless/). Quite apart from an anonymous email circulating today, I wanted to make sure that you, as a friend, and others, whose efforts to redevelop Ft. Worth Ave. I very much admire, understand what I have to say publicly about the issue.

First, I told Jim in two phone calls that I had been out of town during most of the summer's controversy, and that I hadn't particularly followed this story. I suggested Jim's primary sources of information be you and Joel Pulis of The Well Community. When I repeated others' description of the public meeting as being a "low point," that referred to the tenor of discourse and the quality of information exchange, not to anyone's particular position on the issue. I told Jim that I personally am conflicted about the development: I have no illusions about the cynicism of DHA or the deleterious effect that an uncontrolled, concentrated homeless population could have on this part of Oak Cliff, but I do feel the Christian injunction for compassion. Jim didn't misquote me; the Christ-is-watching remark just made a better quotation, I guess.

The way you ran yesterday's chamber-of-commerce program about illegal group homes is the kind of intelligent, civil treatment of difficult issues that I can reliably expect from you and, by extension, from the Fort Worth Avenue Development Group. I hope I won't be misinterpreted as characterizing your programs as callous or exclusionary.

This email is for consumption by whomever you might want share it with.

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