We Are the World: If We Want Dallas to Be "Truly Great," We Must Begin at the Bottom

Categories: Get Off My Lawn

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Isn't it interesting? The one question that seems to bubble back to the top time and time again in the ongoing mayor's race is the world-class city thing.

Why?

Maybe it's just semantics. Maybe what we really mean, when we use that embarrassingly pretentious, transparently insecure term, is that we just want to make Dallas a better city. What's wrong with that?

Ron Natinsky, the only sitting city council member in the race, always says we're already the best. So he's proud of us. No sin there.

Mike Rawlings, the ad man, says we haven't set our goals high enough. That's OK. It's standard salesmanship motivational stuff -- dream big, fly with eagles and so on. Maybe it sounds corny, but people I know who sell for a living tell me it works. I wouldn't know. I've always been on the buying end.

The one with the world-class city response that has the most credibility for me personally is David Kunkle, the ex-police chief. But I wonder if anybody knows what he means.

Kunkle always says the way to make Dallas world class is by building neighborhoods, enriching our sense of shared space, making Dallas a place where more people know each other and care about community.

So what the hell is that? And why does a cop say it? Why doesn't a cop tell us we need to get out there and crack more heads?

I have heard Kunkle talk about being a cop. In fact, years ago I told him I thought my son was interested (turns out, maybe not). He said something that stuck. He said the best cops for these times are young people motivated by a desire to help and protect others. Yeah, they also want to see some kick-ass action. Adrenaline is a part of the picture. But he said a bigger better part is a sense of shared responsibility for community.

My two-bit take on it comes from living in East Dallas. When we moved into our area, it was still so rough that visitors from other parts of town would always ask, "Why do you live here?" As in, "Have you got a mental problem or what?"

Now it's so materially changed for the better that visitors tell us they'd love to live nearby but can't afford the house prices.

None of that was top-down. Oh, man, the stories I could tell. We fought to build this part of the city in spite of City Hall and often against the active interference and even opposition of City Hall.

It's not that City Hall is a satanic cult or anything. Well, it's not totally satanic. There definitely are non-satanic elements. But, look. Anywhere, in any city, in any country, the lesson of the last century in the whole wide world is that community is the bedrock, and community is never top-down.

People do it themselves. It's not just a city block at a time. From what I've seen, it's more like a half-block at a time. At our end of our own block, we like and admire those people down at the other end of the block who look just like us. We just feel that they have a slightly different culture.

I have seen Kunkle out at endless late-evening community meetings over the years, so I know that he has looked neighborhoods in the eyeballs, listened to them and tried to help fix what they say they need fixed. I know he gets it.

That is where we really can make a better city -- by making this a place people like to live, fixing the curbs, getting the stop signs right, picking up the trash, busting the drug dealers, repairing the potholes and, yes, supporting the neighborhood schools.

Schools don't get better because of headquarters. They get better one parent at a time. One parent has faith. She talks another one into it. They roll up their sleeves and go do it.
This should be simple. If the answer were big picture, rousing anthems and central planning, the Soviet Union would still be with us.

Unfortunately, community is not a simple thing to get across in a sound bite. It doesn't sound rousing. It's like clutching your hands at your chest and singing, "Climb every molehill!" But it's the only thing that really works. To become a world-class city, we need world-class molehills.



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41 comments
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Citizenforfairmedia
Citizenforfairmedia

Still leaving Edward Okpa out, I see... Shameful.

wascallywabbit
wascallywabbit

Hey, he's my favorite one out of the bunch. Now, which one is he again?

GreenBee
GreenBee

Spot on my dear man. Grassroots is not easy sometimes, but it is the answer. Working from 1982 to 2007 in baby steps on eco education with the PATH and the DFW Green Alliance (30 collaborating groups) proved that Dallas can get green and involve everyone in the community doing it. And when we take responsibility, accountability and ownership of a city develops and crime decreases. Amen to "Climb every molehill!"

Bigjondaniel
Bigjondaniel

Dallas is better than the shitty places, and worse than the expensive places. It will never attract and retail "world class" people, so it will never be a "world class city"

wascallywabbit
wascallywabbit

Maybe, we could be a "world full of asses city". I see potential everyday out on the streets.

Grumpy Demo
Grumpy Demo

"That is where we really can make a better city -- by making this a place people like to live, fixing the curbs, getting the stop signs right, picking up the trash, busting the drug dealers, repairing the potholes and, yes, supporting the neighborhood schools."

Maybe if someone would hire Calatrava to add signature elements to the curbs, stop signs, and schools the City would spend money on them?

scottindallas
scottindallas

Isn't "tagging" the same thing as adding a "signature element?"

Montemalone
Montemalone

It would be kinda hard to drive over potholes if they all have miniature suspension bridges.

wascallywabbit
wascallywabbit

I think we all should get together and do a ,video and song , just like "We Are the World". Man, that would be sweet! We could get Robert, Jim, Sam, Tim Rogers, and even ol' Wick all together with the faithful viewers/commenters. Get some of the local music talent and record! Whata ya say, dudes? We could call it "Hands Across the Metroplex".

farvres_photogenic_phallus
farvres_photogenic_phallus

Jim is spot on. I have lived in my East Dallas Neighborhood since the late 80's. Since we had bad schools and bad crime we formed an unspoken partnership to get things done. I knew everybody on my block. Now my block is filled with Mcmansions and people who make no effort at all at being part of a community. And as could be expected, crime in my hood is on the rise.

scottindallas
scottindallas

The problem with the East Dallas analogy is that few other areas of the city are blessed with the great architecture of East Dallas. Few neighborhoods are so unaffected by the sprawl and bulldozer if they have any heritage at all. Your comment about the McMansions perhaps affirms this point. As the unique aspect of the city is diminished, perhaps the neighborhood is so diminished.

Tim Dickey
Tim Dickey

Booster- Roman roads? Please come to Northwest Dallas, MAPSCO Page 23P, drive any road in Bradford Estates. I recommend the 3100, 3200 and 3300 blocks of Darvany, for starters.

Borborygmus
Borborygmus

I recommend you drive the city of Cincinnatti, where 9 out of 10 streets are like Bradford Estates.

cantgetfooledagain
cantgetfooledagain

Is it my imagination or is David Kunkle literally melting away. Each debate he gets quieter and smaller and melts more into his chair. Is he being too programmed or is he just been outshone by the other candidates? Is he a willing candidate or being pushed by others (his wife) to run for Mayor?

Personally, I find Mike Rawlings inspiring. I think he will inspire individual greatness, which will add up to neighborhood by neighborhood greatness, and a great city. I love that he's going to make City Hall work for business, rather than the other way. I am excited that he is determined that Dallas' schools are going to improve because they must, because Dallas will be the kind of city that won't let its kids go to failing schools. Setting the bar higher, demanding excellence, being bluntly honest about our finances. Like Gates, Buffett and others, bringing creative zest to the City. It will be a great few years.

And, a little off topic, but am I the only one who can't get over Kunkles 5 marriages and the circumstances behind the last one. http://www.dmagazine.com/Home/...

elbueno
elbueno

Kunkle isn't fading, he's just having his whole platform stolen by his competitors.

Rawlings is a corporate cyborg. Everything out of his mouth sounds like it was programmed. He isn't inspiring, he is full of shit.

Kunkle remains the most genuine out of the bunch. I was infinitely more inspired by his closing remarks last night than by Rawlings.

The only thing Rawlings wants is for the rich to get richer.

Hasanmary
Hasanmary

You must live on fantasy island.

scottindallas
scottindallas

Begging to be fooled again, you should read Tolstoy's "Letter to a Liberals" http://www.lewrockwell.com/sny...

One part of that letter is that Tolstoy points out that an honest, and modest politician can't compete with vain charlatans that will say anything to get elected. Gov't is difficult work, is isn't like running a 3rd rate corporate pizza joint. The quality of that commercial pizza is among the lowest in the market, and not particularly competitive price wise. Seems like we have those characters and characteristics in spades.

Gov't is a different enterprise. Pandering to the base elements in people creates problems with budgets, and lack of focus. Even well intentioned people may want to bring some "entrepreneurial" gumption--giving us what? Publicly funded hotels, excessive bridges, entering into unconventional roles for gov't while the core functions are neglected.

Your title is funny, and perhaps I'm missing some irony you intended, but you seem like a mark, begging to get taken again.

Hasanmary
Hasanmary

I agree with you. Kunkle is fading away. The Observer tries to lift him up but they are unable to do the debates. During the debate tonight, it appears that he couldn't even remember the questions. He is definitely no Laura Miller. Like her or not, she could talk and was a great manipulator. Laura, you should have got Sarah Kunkle instead. I wouldn't have voted for her but she would have held her own with the big boys.

Eam0061
Eam0061

I am a resident of East Dallas and feel safer there than I do at my parents home in Carrollton. When I told my grandma where I was moving you would have thought I had said East LA.

Who Ray
Who Ray

So, becoming "world class" is more of an organic thing that starts in the very soul of a city? You mean building convention center hotels, Calatrava bridges, and toll roads within the Trinitry Levees won't get us there? This is blasphemy!

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

Schools don't get better because of headquarters. They get better one parent at a time. One parent has faith. She talks another one into it. They roll up their sleeves and go do it.

Jim I don't have the time to work on changing things and fight the entrenched leadership at Ross Ave .

That is something any one who deals with the District knows or will find out .

I have seen an idea or two flame out if for no other reason than ...Because .And those folks have bushel baskets of them.

Edgar A. Guest
Edgar A. Guest

There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done, there are thousands to prophesy failure;There are thousands to point out to you one by one, the dangers that wait to assail you.

But just buckle in with a bit of a grin, just take off your coat and go to it;Just start in to sing as you tackle the thing that "cannot be done" and you'll do it.

"The Path to Home", 1919

Jim is spot on how this is done. And it has nothing to do with the "district" or "leadership at Ross Ave.". It's happening now, all over the district.

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done, there are thousands to prophesy failure;There are thousands to point out to you one by one, the dangers that wait to assail you.But just buckle in with a bit of a grin, just take off your coat and go to it;Just start in to sing as you tackle the thing that "cannot be done" and you'll do it.

"The Path to Home", 1919

If it was that easy....The poem is a bit over dramatic.And has little to do with my take on the subject .

We aren't talking the prophesy of Failure .Talking Failure would mean the idea was taken up and a debate of its merits was held What I am talking about aborting ideas as ideas.

"Jim is spot on how this is done. And it has nothing to do with the "district" or "leadership at Ross Ave.". It's happening now, all over the district.

That statement is laughable .

I would have to guess you might be a finished product kind of person.No insult there .But a lot goes into even the slightest thing when you deal with the schools I just don't think you have been close enough to see something from start to finish.You would be singing a different tune.

.

Mr. Guest to you.
Mr. Guest to you.

I'm going on my 14th year with DISD, maybe your "world view" is the one that is limited. And it started exactly as Jim said, one parent - already with kids in DISD, got more to join and we saw the teachers, the other parents, and we stayed.

Poetry, my friend is more elevated than your drivel above, which hardly makes sense. Maybe you're more of a raw product kind of person. No insult there.

Booster
Booster

Agreed. The pull-up-your-bootstraps mentality is more of a fantasy than a practical solution.

Ben
Ben

It's all right to tell a man to lift himself by his own bootstraps, but it is a cruel jest to say to a bootless man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps. -Martin Luther King, Jr

Booster
Booster

Oh man, debates like this are entertaining to no end.

See, the problem with making Dallas a world-class city by picking up trash or repairing the potholes is ... how do I say this? Dallas is one of the cleanest cities in the world, probably at least the cleanest in the Western Hemisphere, and the city does roads right. Its roads are positively Roman. You've got that.

It's the wrong approach. Now don't get me wrong, Dallas is a nice place to live. It's really comfortable. But focusing on what you're doing right isn't going to correct for the stuff you're doing wrong -- the stuff that's preventing your city from being truly world-class.

You need more cultural institutions and international influence. Where are the big international institutions, media, film/music festivals, art scenes? You need that stuff too. (The stuff you can't buy.) As it is, Dallas people are shopping in great big malls buying fashion designed in New York City, going to the best theaters to see films made in California, reading the Wall Street Journal or the Financial Times for their business news, sending their kids to universities in other states for their education, and flying to Austin and D.C. to lobby their government.

It isn't "big picture, rousing anthems and central planning" ala Soviet Union that's your problem, it's the opposite. It's the ultra-capitalist model, which cares little for these things, more about making a profit and being concerned with your own comfort. That's fine too, but a sense of satisfaction isn't included in the package.

Scorn
Scorn

Booster,

Regarding your comment that we need "More cultural institutions and international influence" -- are you aware that the Arts District is the largest contiguous area of museums and performance spaces anywhere in the country? It is a sign of the very insecurity Jim mentioned above that leads us to spend so much precious coin importing other cities' culture in order to become 'world class' ourselves.

A world-class city is one with the confidence to support and raise up it's own artists, architects, and performers. We don't need more museums or Broadway touring houses, we need more artist residencies, local galleries, and a culture of citizens who are engaged and *gasp* are actually proud of the city's arts and artists.

JimS
JimS

Booster: something tells me you don't get out much.

Jim Bob Guthrie
Jim Bob Guthrie

I think that is a good point. Dallas is practically sparkling compared to other cities of comparable size. What we lack is a real art scene. Our educational opportunities are also limited in a city this big. We should be home to a major research university.

Booster
Booster

Schutze's column last month on Austin was brilliant, BTW:

http://blogs.dallasobserver.co...

"South by Southwest now draws the kind of running team coverage from major media that one associates with events like the Davos World Economic Summit, the runway season in Paris, or ... the Super Bowl? Nah. We just had a Super Bowl here. It got nowhere near the attention SXSW did -- not even close! ... Be honest. Dallas would give it's eye teeth and also run over its mom with a tractor for one day --- one day! - of the kind of attention Austin just got for an entire week."

And Austin does it ever year. Boy, that's got to sting. And now Austin's going to get Formula 1. The Super Bowl is just so ... provincial, compared to that.

So Dallas has built all of this, pulled itself up by its big ol' bootstraps, and gets consistently out-played by a town a fifth of the size, with bad roads, a limp skyline and no-growth policies. Austin is also swarming with hobos, potheads and anti-war rallies. The horror!

Enrique De La Fuente
Enrique De La Fuente

JS is absolutely right that schools start from the parents. But that requires hard work. People rather move to another school district, and hope the school district babysits well.

md
md

People who move to other school districts are usually very involved with their children and their schoolwork. They move to get away from the masses who aren't.

Enrique De La Fuente
Enrique De La Fuente

Yes and no. I knew plenty of students at my suburban high school that every afternoon was just pot and N64.

wascallywabbit
wascallywabbit

I missed so much school just blazing up and playing SuperMario World....oh yeah, almost forgot....wait, where was I going with this?

Jay Hawk
Jay Hawk

Interesting that most of the candidates have grand "corporate" plans for schools, but none of them encourage doing want Jim suggests. There's plenty of evidence that it works. An excellent example is Bonham Elementary on Henderson Avenue, which received exemplary status when its numbers of low-income, high-risk students would suggest otherwise. And the folks on Ross Ave. have nothing to do with it. Leadership from the principal, staff, teachers, parents, community and alumni got the job done.

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