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Ed Spence, a lawyer who owns buildings in the neighborhood, says he was responsible as Miller's appointee to the board of adjustment for initiating the action that resulted in the city moving to close Lucano.

He says the matter is not a battle of upper-income Anglos versus blue-collar Hispanics carried out on the Davis Street fault line. Instead he calls it "a clash of American notions of city planning, which is not the sole dominion of white people, and the laissez-faire world of Mexican business. In Mexico, these buses discharge their riders at the market, at street corners. There is no terminal."

In late 1998, two years after Vazquez began operating his business legally, Dallas passed an ordinance prohibiting bus depots from settling within 500 feet of residential areas. The change was made in an attempt to regulate the explosion of buses and vans making direct Dallas-to-Mexico runs. Oak Cliff was being overrun with "renegade" bus operators, some with a bus or two and no terminal at all, operating out of houses and apartment buildings. Residents complained of 40-foot buses parking on the streets overnight.

Because Fermin Vazquez's depot was in place before the new ordinance passed, he was affected only if his business was found to be a nuisance. Last fall, Spence initiated that nuisance complaint, he says.

Rather than fight it, Vazquez gave in and agreed in late February to close the terminal by August 1. "He surrendered," Spence says.

According to Mike Coker, a zoning consultant who represented Vazquez, he cut the deal directly with Miller to give Vazquez five months to move.

Two days before Vazquez was found dead, Gilberto Cortez, publisher of the Spanish-language weekly La Prensa, says he had a long talk with him about his business troubles. Vazquez, whose death the Dallas Medical Examiner's Office is calling a suicide and the Dallas Police Department is still investigating, talked about being hit from two sides. "His revenue was way down because so many others have gotten into the business," Cortez says. At the same time, some of his competitors had been able to avoid regulation while he was being subjected to the city's powers in the most direct way.

"He said he had found a new property, but he thought his location [on Davis] was so important, he wasn't happy to move," Cortez says.

If that's true, then maybe visions of tidy Ann Taylor shops and park spaces had something to do with the death of Fermin Vazquez, as his widow believes.

Last week, Alma Vazquez was busy looking for a new location and was fairly certain she had found one in an industrial section near Interstate 30. Once she's gone, she says she'd like to turn the little gas station at 937 West Davis into a soup kitchen, teeming with homeless men and addicts sleeping in the street. It would stand as a little "thank-you" gift for all the compassion her neighbors have shown.

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Thomas Korosec
Contact: Thomas Korosec