The White Rock Lake Boathouse is Just the Latest Attack on Inner-City Dallas

The lesson of the Highland Park Party Barge is the lesson of Winfrey Point is the lesson of 30 years of history in East Dallas. At key rubber-meets-the-road moments, City Hall becomes the single worst enemy that inner city neighborhoods can confront.

Forgive the Parkies, for they know not how goofy they are. Of course they want a botanical garden modeled on Disney World, and of course they want a boathouse the size of that cruise ship the ship-abandoning Italian guy tipped over onto an island. For them, life is a reality TV show -- Donald Trump meets Jersey Shore. It's wrong to despise people for acting out their nature.

One of the staunch defenders of White Rock Lake told me last week he was really glad the Park Department tried to peddle green space near the lake for a parking structure and then played footsy with the Parkies on the Love Boat deal. He said it takes this kind of stuff to make new generations of inner city dwellers aware of the problem.

If you're new to it, the old soldiers who have fought the good fight all these years for neighborhood renaissance could tell you some Homeric tales. If it had been left up to City Hall, Central Expressway would be double-decked, The M Streets would be a slum, all of East Dallas would look like Harry Hines' hind end, North Oak Cliff would be the auto salvage capital of North Texas and Uptown would be What Town.

And maybe we even have to forgive City Hall for acting out its nature. Then again, maybe I'm suffering from advanced dementia for even suggesting such forgiveness. But, shit. It is what it is.

We have a professional city manager system that ultimately is always going to put its own preservation first. They're going to keep themselves afloat by always listening to that ancient hoary secret society, the Dallas Citizens Council, in rubber-on-the-road moments. And the Citizens Council, a private bastion of the Old Guard, is always going to look at inner city neighborhoods and tell City Hall to do the same thing: Sell it.

Sell the green space around the lake. Sell the damn lake, if somebody's willing to buy. Sell anything you can, because it's all crap anyway.

This recent crisis over White Rock Lake is a Paul Revere "British are coming" moment, not just for East Dallas but for all of inner city Dallas. What we're up against is the monetization movement. Good story on it in yesterday's New York Times business section.

There's nothing wrong with turning some functions over to private companies that can provide better service more cheaply, but eventually the ideological monetizers would privatize every single public possession until public space no longer exists and every city is a bubble realm of exclusion and separation.

In the immediate case, there has got to be a way to protect White Rock before Paul Dyer and the Dallas Park Department sell the whole thing to Harold Simmons. Somewhere in all of that alphabet soup gobbledygook of entities, zones and districts -- Planned Development, Public Improvement, Tax Increment Finance, Enterprise - there has got be a glass slipper to fit White Rock's delicate foot.

White Rock Lake needs its own coherent legitimate stable governance to protect it from City Hall. I'm not smart enough to say what kind exactly, but the lake has a whole lot of friends who do know this stuff like the backs of their hands, and they need to step up. Otherwise ... well, some of those old battle-scarred, crutch-wielding, East Dallas activists can tell you what happens when neighborhoods fail to defend themselves. It's death by a thousand pecks, with City Hall the main pecker.

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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