Southern Dallas Gets the Shaft in Bond Proposal While City Hall Waits to Reward Carpetbaggers

The lead editorial on The Dallas Morning News editorial page today is standard fare from the powers-that-be reminding all of us little people to vote in favor of the city's $642 million bond program on the ballot November 6. The editorial ticks off all the stuff in the bond proposal that will be good for us -- street repairs, flood safety, so on.

But sometimes it's more interesting to look at what's not in these bond proposals. The city giveth, the city taketh, and sometimes the city keepeth its hands in its pocketth.

A few weeks ago the Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce sent up a howl -- maybe more of a plaintive wail -- over the strange and confusing two-facedness of the city over development plans around the new University of North Texas campus in Southern Dallas. In their public protestations, City Hall and the Morning News insist the big agenda for that area is full-speed ahead and get the dirt flyin'.

But the Oak Cliff Chamber said in its statement: "...since December 2009 there has been no appreciable progress by the City on implementation plan and, further, the City Manager's recommendation for the upcoming bond program does not adequately address the needs for this area in terms of infrastructure improvements..."

More to the point, the city apparently is deliberately holding off investing in certain infrastructure and carrying out necessary zoning changes around the campus until the land can be wrested from its current owners and awarded instead to a "master developer" of the city's own choosing, possibly with the use of eminent domain.

In an August 8 memorandum, chief assistant city manager Ryan Evans told the City Council that putting in new sewer and other services and doing the new zoning now "will inhibit development by fueling speculation and raising land costs."

Yeah. Putting in new sewer and water will make the land worth more. But I have been talking to people who have held land in that area for decades who say that is exactly what they have been waiting for all this time.

They held on and paid their taxes. They got none of the services people in the rest of the city take for granted. Now finally the city is ready to make the investments that will make their land worth what it would have been all along with normal services.

But the city is deliberately holding things out of the bond program and making not so subtle threats of eminent domain later on to force sales and deliver the land into somebody else's hands before any profits are to be taken. And they pretty much admit that's what they're up to.

You know, if you've been holding a large amount of land in southern Dallas all this time -- not an easy place to hold land -- and you hear all this City Hall/Morning News talk about bringing economic opportunity, you have to ask yourself, "Whose opportunity?"

If I were in southern Dallas, I wouldn't vote for a damn thing.

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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