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That Zoning Fight Over Simon David Has Moved From the Neighborhood to City Hall

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[Editor's note at 4:27 p.m.: Jim has opted to turn this item into a live blog concerning the afternoon's doings at Dallas City Hall. The Simon David debate has wrapped with a vote in favor of the store's expansion, so the council has moved on to the University of North Texas Dallas campus plan, which, Jim writes in the comments below, "has to do with County Commissioner John Wiley Price and his manipulation of water supply in that part of the county." Enjoy. Also on the agenda: the Oak Cliff Gateway.]

Like Robert said, the Simon David zoning case is before the Dallas City Council now, and the Sarah Dodd issue has been outed after brewing behind the scenes for the last two years. She's the police chief's wife. She does zoning work for commercial clients. The speaker who just left the podium complained that Dodd's work represents an abuse of her relationship with the chief of police.

As you're no doubt well aware by now, Randalls wants to bust an existing planned development district to build a bigger Tom Thumby store on Inwood Road between Greenway Parks, a white neighborhood, and North Park Love Field, a black neighborhood. Randall's wants to demolish two homes in the black neighborhood and re-route a street.

Randall's lost at the City Plan Commission, because a majority of ballots returned from surrounding property owners were opposed to the zoning change. But since then, Dodd has been working the neighborhood. Now, apparently, the ballots are three-to-one in favor.

A speaker who was not asked to identify herself by the city secretary (normally they are) told the council that elderly citizens in the neighborhood had been told that, "Sarah Dodd and Safeway Stores Simon David misrepresented them." She said she had affidavits from some who had signed favorable ballots saying they are now opposed.

The speaker described Dodd as, "Someone who is willing to abuse his [Chief Kunkle's] power as his wife."

Only problem: I never heard any description of how she had abused his power. Dodd is a well-known former television journalist with her own name in the market. All I know is, if I told my wife she couldn't do her job because it might reflect on me, I think I know what she would decide to cut.

Dallas Jackson, a powerful zoning consultant, just had everybody in favor stand up. All white. This is after a big group of people opposed, almost all black, showed themselves to the council. That's certainly too bad. I was told last week by Randalls that they were going to have strong support from the black folks. Guess that didn't work.

NO, no, wait. Dallas is now playing a very slick video for the council showing black people in the neighborhood who are in favor of the store. I didn't know you could do it this way. I thought citizens had to be here to appear.

Hey. WAIT!!!!! I think I recognize that one guy from a scene in The Good Wife. Could it be? Nah. I'll have to ask my son if he heard anything about auditions for this. He's an actor.

Ah, zoning. Always a tangled web and tale of two cities. At least two.

Willie Cothrum, the city's pre-eminent zoning lobbyist, is at bat, speaking to the council. In his inimitable voice -somewhere between a sigh and the word from Mount Sinai -- he tells the council, "What we simply want to do is take a store that has been there for many years. It doesn't work any more. We want to build a brand new state-of-the-art store at this location. It's wanted by the neighborhood, that's proved by the numbers, which are overwhelmingly in favor."

I see Sarah over there in a plum dress. Her smile is somewhere between frozen and pissed. Oh, I see what's she's doing. She's wrangling the speakers in order, like a second-grade teacher taking the kids to the water fountain. Man. You can sure tell where the money is in this deal. Not saying that makes anybody right or wrong. But I do yearn for the day when citizens just came down here and spoke their piece.

Maybe nobody's got a piece any more. Everybody needs a consultant.

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