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Sorry, Dallas City Hall, But Oak Cliff Doesn't Need Your Permission to Get Stuff Done

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Can't let this pass without pointing something out. Two stunning stories that have come down the pike in the past 24 hours -- the awarding of a major federal grant for trolley in Oak Cliff and the success of preservationists in forcing DISD to back down, at least temporarily, from demolishing an historic Oak Cliff church - are illustrations of a phenomenon I was talking about late last month in a column I wrote about community gardens. In both instances -- the trolley and the church -- a new younger element in Oak Cliff has demonstrated a truly phenomenal capacity for stepping right around the Moribundo Tribe at City Hall to get things done.

I laughed out loud when I saw Tom ("The Riddler") Leppert, our mayor, trying to get out front of yesterday's announcement of a $23 million federal grant for trolley in downtown and Oak Cliff. Puhleeez! Leppert and the Moribundos were proceeding full steam ahead for a separate grant application for trolley money without even mentioning Oak Cliff. Oak Cliff didn't even occur to them!

So the Oak Cliff people just stepped around them. They put together their own grant application calling for trolley in their part of town. When City Hall figured out that the Oak Cliff application had a much better chance of success than did their own, City Hall snouted its way in and sort of took over the Oak Cliff application, forcing a lot of the money back into downtown.

But that's O.K. Here's the point. Four months ago, Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce President Bob Stimson was on the phone with me spitting-mad furious that City Hall was unveiling a trolley plan that made no mention of Oak Cliff. Now the bikos in Oak Cliff have turned the tables on City Hall.

There will be no trolley in Dallas unless it connects to Oak Cliff. That's a sea change. A sea change. And it's a great example of what I was saying about Oak Cliff in the community gardens piece, especially the new under-40 element. They just go get it done.

Call it a sense of entitlement if you like. If that's entitlement, I love it. And that's not something I dreamed up for myself. I have been working on a feature story about Oak Cliff for the last month. It runs next week. In it, a lot of the older leadership in Oak Cliff make this very point.

They say the day for whining and feeling left out and put-upon is over. Bring on some good healthy sense of entitlement -- like entitlement to the things they've been paying taxes for all these years.

The second thing is the news that the Old Oak Cliff Preservation League has succeeded in court in forcing the Dallas Independent School District to back down for six months from plans to raze the former Oak Cliff Christian Church at 300 E. 10th Street. Amazing.

The school district's approach to this whole matter -- abandoning rather than preserving Adamson High School and tearing down this church -- has been redolent of the old Citizens Council Approach to aging Dallas neighborhoods. Dominated by good-old-boy new-school construction hustlers from the Park Cities, DISD's attitude toward Oak Cliff has been: You're a slum. We're going to knock down your crappy old stuff and give you something new. Be grateful.

In both cases, trolley and school, Oak Cliff has said, Be grateful? How about we just be way smarter than you and then kick your ass?

So do I love this stuff? What's your guess? Wow. It's all so great for the city.

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