Schutze

Jilted

Page 2 of 3

A whaaaat? A nature trail? For what? Ants?

Now, when I spoke to the park department, they backed off on the nature trail designation. It's just a trail trail. And the cost will be only $16,000 to $30,000 of the total. But, yeah, a trail. And none of the money will go to streets, curbs or sidewalks. The balance will go for lighting and other enhancements to Owenwood Park.

Let me hasten to say something else as well: I spoke to intelligent, reasonable officials in charge of the program under which this money is being made available, called Neighborhoods in Bloom, modeled on a successful program in Richmond, Virginia. They explained to me the difference between census tracts, council districts, focus areas and target areas. I think I get it. It's all very reasonable and logical and rooted in sound urban theory. I don't know what the formal name would be for the overall theory. Just as a personal shorthand, I call it the "ha-ha on you, you big fat dumbbell suckers" theory.

You can't have no stinking street repairs, you fools! What part of "your target area is not in the focus area that is in the census tract that was identified as one of five special-needs areas in certain city council districts right after council redistricting" do you not understand?

Man, I lose my patience with these people trying to act like City Hall works for them. How about you?

Now, I want to add another thing here. Nobody's lying about anything. I spoke with the city councilman for that district, John Loza, who told me very candidly that it was his decision the money should go to the parks. "I just felt that it would benefit the entire neighborhood more if it were put into those parks rather than put into one specific sidewalk," he said.

And he's the council-dude. The park department people I spoke with gave me all this stuff about public input and how they had so many meetings and handed out so many pieces of paper and so on. But when I said, "Wasn't the actual decision made by the councilman?" they both shrugged and said, "Yeah."

Someday, somehow, someone has got to explain to City Hall that it's not "public input" if you know in advance you're going to get the political fix on things from inside City Hall and then flush all the input down the toilet. Instead, that's: "You big fat dumbbell suckers, go home and stop making asses of yourselves by believing we're listening to you."

A nature trail! I think I'm going to wait until they build the Fandango bridge and then just hurl myself off.

Owenwood Park, like a lot of inner-city neighborhoods with some battles under the belt, is fairly savvy about the process. They figured out that the 120 grand was not coming from the Neighborhoods in Bloom (Big Fat Suckers in Bloom) program, which has no money, but from federal funds, called Community Development Block Grant funds, which have to be handed out according to certain rules. They went to the board that oversees those funds and made their case. The Community Development Commission agreed with them! It said the money should be spent on what the neighborhood said it wanted--curbs and sidewalks.

Two weeks ago by unanimous vote, your city council and your mayor voted to overturn the Community Development Commission and force the neighborhood instead to spend the money on the micro-nature trail, basketball court removal and other swift ideas. That means your mayor and your council member voted not to allow these people to spend the money getting their curbs and sidewalks fixed.

There was a fascinating little side moment during that council debate. Council member Veletta Lill riffed on a whole series of clever tricks and strategies she knew of for funneling money into getting curbs and sidewalks fixed--things like finding that schoolchildren might trip and hurt themselves, so that you qualify for some kind of knee scrape-prevention program.

I go back to my original wonderment here, which is about the mayor and the bridge. OK, John Loza has his reasons for not wanting to go along with the Community Development Commission. The other council members have their little gang mentality of not contravening a member on a deal that's totally within his own turf.

But what about the mayor? Didn't she originally run for office on this stuff? Isn't she the one who said we had to eat our vegetables before we can have dessert? "First we fix our schools and roads," she said when she announced for mayor the first time. "Then we do our signature bridges."

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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

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