It looks like all the hubbub the Jubilee Park residents and and business owners have raised in recent weeks concerning their on-going fight to keep the Dallas Independent School District from seizing their land under eminent domain may be starting to pay off.
We finally heard back from DISD spokesperson Jon Dahlander with a confirmation that the district will host a town hall meeting on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. to discuss the "Past, Present and Future of O.M. Roberts Elementary." It'll take place at the century-old O.M. Roberts Elementary School building. And the district is inviting "all parents and community members," as well as state Senator Royce West, DISD trustees and other community leaders.
In case you need a refresher, DISD's on the path to condemn these Jubilee Park properties to make way for a new O.M. Roberts building. And when last we checked in with the Jubilee Parkers, they had just wrapped up an emergency sit-down with District 9 school board trustee Bernadette Nutall and other top DISD staff (including Arnold Viramontes, superintendent Michael Hinojosa's chief of staff; Rawly Sanchez, the deputy chief of staff; and Jack Elrod, DISD's general counsel).
It was a meeting that only happened after Mayor Tom Leppert heard of their plight and made a call to Nutall on behalf of the residents. In the emergency meeting, the staff listened to all the questions, comments and pleas from more than a dozen residents and two employees of Vickery Wholesale Greenhouse, the lone business affected by the land grab.
And, now, two weeks later, DISD's offering the residents and community a chance to get together at something other than an impromptu 9 a.m. meeting. But some residents fear it's nothing more than a media stunt.
"We're sending out notices throughout the community so we can get people together and talk about what to do," Nutall tells Unfair Park. DISD will provide a translator for those who only speak Spanish, she said.
But just because those opposed to the district's plans managed to raised enough of a stink to garner a town hall meeting doesn't mean the Jubilee Park residents are celebrating. They remain cautiously optimistic. At best.
"This meeting could just be a media stunt to make it look like they care what we have to say," says Norma Hernandez. "But we're really hoping that they're starting to listen to us, and that we can get a lot of people to turnout who are opposed their plans."
Vickery Wholesale Greenhouse owner Pat Berry is equally wary. "Well, I do feel it's an encouraging step," he says. "But we're grasping at anything that even remotely looks encouraging."
After all, Berry says, DISD attorneys are still maintaining that they "need the property."
Berry says he's hoping that at the town hall meeting, the district will talk about their search for possible alternate sites for the new school -- because officials said they would be looking at alternate sites. And he's also wanting to hear if the district has thought about spending the $22.4 million allocated for a new O.M. Roberts building to remodel and update the original building.
But, with the meeting still a week a way, and not wanting to lose the momentum they've gained, the Jubilee Parkers say they plan to protest outside of DISD's Ross Avenue HQ before tomorrow's board briefing at 11:30 a.m.