Look Now, Morning News, Dallas's Problems Aren't Detroit's. Get It?

Categories: Get Off My Lawn

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Colleen McCain Nelson debuts a new political column today on the op-ed page of The Dallas Morning News in which she holds up my former hometown, Detroit, as the arch example of what Dallas needs not to be. She's writing about Mayor Dave Bing's initiative to withdraw scarce city services from some abandoned neighborhoods in order to concentrate the city's efforts in parts of town that still have a chance at survival.

Nelson, who has been the main author of The News's Pulitzer prize-winning editorials on beleaguered southern Dallas neighborhoods, writes: "Dallas still has a chance to revive its teetering neighborhoods. The objectives are two-fold: Improve the quality of life for residents still there, and attract new people to these parts of town.

"To accomplish that, our city leaders should study the Detroit model -- and do the opposite."

You expect me to disagree violently with her on this, right? And then go stand outside The News and shout names at her? Eh. I don't know. I might get around to that later in the day, depending on the heat.

But for now, let me borrow a line from an editorial also in today's News (about how people ought to be nicer, of course) and say, "I hear what you're saying, but here's where we differ."

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Colleen McCain Nelson
Detroit had a war. The term "race riot" applied to what happened there in '67 is basically what you get when history is written by the defeated. What happened in Detroit was an uprising. White people were driven off their turf, forced suddenly and violently to flee the city.

The bitterness left behind by those events is probably difficult for a lot of people here even to imagine. I lived downtown in the '70s. My parents were out in a white-flight mecca called Rochester, sort of the Plano of Detroit. Whenever I went out there to visit, white friends of my parents would verbally assault me, excoriating me for living downtown with "them."

The N-word was used loudly, angrily and with an edge of violent aggression I have never heard in Dallas. White people out in those flight areas talked about Detroit the way Cuban refugees in Miami talk about Castro. You tried not to let the topic even come up, especially after people had consumed a few beers.

Meanwhile, black people in the city viewed white flight with something just short of glee. The most common expression of sentiment was don't let the door hit you in the ass. There was a sense of building a new kind of city, a black city where whites would be the minority for a change, and frankly a lot of black people loved it.

But the white people took the money with them. The withdrawal of investment in Detroit was even faster than the withdrawal of people. Detroit became a siege city. Until fairly recently when people stopped buying SUVs, the area all around Detroit was booming and prosperous.

That prosperity will come back as the domestic auto industry recovers, but Detroit proper was left to starve behind its own medieval wall of undying enmity.

What happened there was a war. Both sides engaged in evil in the course of the war and both were to blame for the outcome.

Dallas has never suffered that kind of damage. Nelson is right. We have much more to build on here.

What is so troubling to me, however, about the mentality of Nelson in particular and The News in general is the idea that the solution to the problem of inequality between our own city's northern and southern hemispheres will be driven by City Hall.

How did this happen? How did I, a total libtard, wind up on the side that believes in private-sector solutions, and The News, which was always the voice of mossback conservatism, become a propaganda machine for government intervention? I really ... I'm sorry. I really can't figure it out.

Nelson's writings on this topic, even the stuff that won the Pulitzer, seem to be based on a notion that southern Dallas will get better when it's tidier. All the city needs to do is get in there and enforce code requirements better, improve the curbs and gutters, get things dressed up to look more like middle-class parts of town, and the people who live there will be magically transformed into members of the middle class.

I wish it worked that way. It would be so easy. But meanwhile, we're in the midst of a major FBI political corruption investigation that is pointing us toward the real answer: Southern Dallas will get better when the old white power structure of the city, very much including the editorial page of The Dallas Morning News, stops conspiring with corrupt self-dealing political hacks in southern Dallas to run off outside investment.

I refer, of course, to the Inland Port scandal in which Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price, with support from The News, sabotaged a California investor in ways that severely damaged southern Dallas but may have aided major money interests in North Dallas.

Look, if Nelson wants to make this a less unequal city, there's only one way to do it and really make a difference: Go straight at the corrupt partnership between old white and old black Dallas leadership. Hit them head-on. Take a damn shovel to their heads.

But we're not going to see that at The News any time soon, are we? Instead we're going to get this Florence Nightingale stuff, paint-up fix-up -- feel-good without risk.
By the way, don't write off Detroit. Fascinating things are happening there, especially the number of artists flocking to the city, drawn by the wonderful and perplexing Heidelberg Project -- an exploration and celebration of decay and rebirth. Remember that Detroit occupies a beautiful corner of the planet, nestled between the Great Lakes. Detroit will not go unoccupied. People there are plumbing new depths of meaning in concepts of self-reliance, rebirth and community.

We are a very different place. We are lucky. We do have major advantages. But it's seriously bad karma to gloat over another city's wounds. Maybe that's not what Nelson meant. Maybe I'll give her the benefit of the doubt on that. I am trying.

Nelson recites some campaign promises by our new mayor, Mike Rawlings, who said he was going to fix southern Dallas. She concludes: "I will hold him and the City Council to these promises."

Sheesh. That does stick a bit, Colleen. Tad self-important. But I'm trying to do this benefit-of-the-doubt thing for you. Perhaps it's only a matter of tone.

Look: Forget about damn Detroit. Don't look anywhere else. Look in the mirror for a change. Ask yourself if you're aiming at the heart of the matter or off to the right and high a notch. Think about the FBI investigation. Start telling me about the role of Hillwood and the Dallas Citizens Council. Remember that Rawlings was elected by the very same machinery that the FBI is going after now.

Do that and you're in the hunt. I won't hold my breath. In fact, I give up on the benefit-of-the-doubt thing. I'm headed downtown to stand outside the News and shout some crazy shit. We all have to live out our natures, I guess.



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34 comments
Grumpy Demo
Grumpy Demo

Good stuff, good history on Detroit. It reminded me of Haiti's history, as the first black/slave state to revolt against Europe, it was economically boycotted/abused for Centuries by European powers for daring to throw off their colonial rule.

Also, there's a certain irony in that in the same paper you have James Ragland bragging about how great it is that his North Dallas Neighborhood has to pay extra to get adequate police protection (pay wall warning):

http://www.dallasnews.com/news...

"Our neighborhood, for example, typically spends $180,000 a year on its crime-watch or ENP program. The money is derived from $350 annual — or $95 quarterly — dues that residents voluntarily pay."

He's bragging about a situation that exists in a Third World country, adequate city services for only those that can pay for them.

Talk about normalizing dysfunction, he finds it perfectly normal and commendable for the city to not provide minimum services. Bizarro world at The DMN.

Silly me I live in Richardson, only a few miles away, where I don't pay extra for police, trash pick up and other services.

(FYI, that doesn't appear to be a single comment posted, wonder I anyone reads his column?)

scottindallas
scottindallas

"The N-word was used loudly, angrily and with an edge of violent aggression I have never heard in Dallas....Dallas has never suffered that kind of damage. Nelson is right. We have much more to build on here."

I don't know that these are logically consistent.  The first sentence is true, only because our "people of colour" never had shit, never challenged the whites for power, influence or control.  Does that mean we have more to build on, or more to work on?  I dare say the JWP episode says more about how blacks are kept in the back of the bus and sold out by their charlatan leaders who appear to take to the man, while furtively doing their bidding.  I dare say, we have more work to do.  Then again, thanks to the Mexican, maybe we can just totally ignore the Blacks.  But, I think Domingo Garcia is just a fairer (lighter, not better) JWP.

BCulbreath
BCulbreath

Dallas City Hall is part of the reason Southern Dallas does not have infrastructure for development, requiring developers to pay, for it,while North Dallas has infrastructure and no developers.South Dallas still has area with out sewer and running water,streets not paved  as Jim stated Black elected Officials who don't give a dam.City of Dallas built new South Central Police sub station in Southern Dallas, paved 1/2 of street along side station, not enough parking for staff ,now staff ,parks on both side of street  making it difficult for large vehicles to deliver travel  to new private Senior development being built.No street lights on new street,developer had to donate land and pay to pave remainder of street.Crouch Rd. in front of new development is 1 1/2 of  lane of old black top no curb,drainage,side walk nothing ,and at the end of street is Singing Hill recreation center.This developer built in spite of what City of Dallas has never done in Southern sector since White flight and 14-1 has still not moved projects up the needs list. Councilman Atkins works hard over there he has only one vote.DMN should stop writing that bull shit Dallas war is being fought with money and neglect and greed,Detroit was fought with blood sweat and tears.

Feel free to edit if I missed my forgot my english leason.

Fromadistance
Fromadistance

A simpler solution is to look at all the mistakes Dallas has made the past several decades--and do the opposite.

Nailemup
Nailemup

What is so depressing is that either people like her don't get it or they do get it but won't acknowledge it. This is what makes the situation seem hopeless.

Paul
Paul

I'll bet that she actually lives in the Park Cities ...

All seriousness aside what really amazes me is not that we have this unique solution for preventing racially based destruction in Dallas, but that we have done it so cheaply for so many years ....

What did Al Lipscomb sell out for on the yellow cab thingie ... a few thousand dollars?

Terri Hodge got what ... a free apartment?

EBJ ... a few scholarships from the CBC and she got to skip ...

Elsie Faye Higgins got to rant and rave at the horseshoe (and I'm not talking about the casino)

Diane Ragsdale got a council seat ...

I could go on and on but frankly this gal comes across as a Junior Leaguer clucking her tongue and going "Those poor people would be better off if they would just decorate their dilapidated shack."  How about some real economic activity instead so that the per capita income in South Dallas gets north of the poverty level?

The buy off of the AA politicians may have worked in the 50's and into the 60's when Stemmons, Thornton and Miller were doing their best to develop Dallas, but somehow that economic model just doesn't work anymore.

OK ... off of my soapbox

TrueTV
TrueTV

Great shit Schutze, once again. I am starting to smell the beginning of the end for the Dallas (White) Citizens Council, which includes the DMN, the old guard, the old system of black preachers and their flock. The other interesting thought, does that include MIke Rawlings as Mayor??? I hope so!!! 

Fred Allison
Fred Allison

Dallas and Detroit are my two favorite cities.  I left Dallas for Detroit at the height of the "black plate" invasion from Michigan to Dallas in the mid eighties.  Spent five wonderful years there.  I miss the people and, in this span of hundred plus days, I miss the weather.  One of the things I like about the place I work is that Dan Gilbert owns the place.  He's a big Detroit booster and is putting his money where his mouth is and investing in the city.  

rubbercow
rubbercow

I know it won't fix the problems with the "Southern Sector", but I sure would not object to stringent code enforcement and maybe even stringent law enforcement.

Observist
Observist

What all cities should do to NOT be like Detroit:- Don't be the birthplace of new techology or manufacturing techniques- Don't attract workers to the largest concentration of manufacturing in the world- Don't give good-paying jobs to black people or immigrants- Don't manufacture military equipment or hire workers during a world war- Don't allow technology to make manufacturing less labor-intensive- Prevent companies from getting too large or too profitable, lest they get complacent- Don't allow people to have prejudices against people of different races and ethnicities - Don't let people move to the suburbs- Prevent other countries from industrializing

Juan Valdez
Juan Valdez

What we lack is VISION of our full potential as a city. With so many great companies/institutions that have achieved so much such as Nortel, TI, Baylor, UT Southwestern, UTD, SMU, etc..we end up with an ex CEO from Pizza Hut. Really Pizza Hut??!! Wasnt the CEO from Taco Cabana available?

alfredo
alfredo

First the DMN hasn't been  the mossback of conservatism for at least a decade, but it has remained a cheerleader for the Dallas Establishment.  Second, the auto industry has changed for good and even a rebound of the auto industry isn't going to help the Metro Detroit area.  Just as the steel industry left Pittsburgh, the auto industry is gone from Detroit.  Maybe  Detroit being just semi-urban farms isn't just a dumb idea.

Dressing up the southern sector won't help, but it should be noted that their are areas in the southern sector that look just fine.  However as to breaking the link between the old white leadership and black leadership, I see no break in the future, as the black electorate will continue to elect the same people.  I was actually shocked that Terri Hodge wan't reelected

What we really should be focused on is helping the DISD in their 3 year quest to figure out how to evaluate teachers 

Dallas Diner
Dallas Diner

Ah, the DMN makes another drop in the bucket.  

TimCov
TimCov

"How did this happen? How did I, a total libtard, wind up on the side that believes in private-sector solutions, and The News, which was always the voice of mossback conservatism, become a propaganda machine for government intervention? I really ... I'm sorry. I really can't figure it out."

Jim, you grew up and realized that government is always the solution, nor is it always the problem.Personally, I would love to be able to go up to Detroit and buy one of the abandoned blocks. I would fix up the best house on the block and turn the rest into a farm. But, my wife hates the snow, so it won't be happening.

As to Dallas' problems, you hit the nail on the head. We have a problem with people not wanting to change the status quo. Let's face it, if jobs good for the people who live in South Dallas moved there, it would change the South Dallas power structure. And, neither the current South Dallas leadership nor the Old Dallas money want that to happen.

Bill Holston
Bill Holston

That's a very thought provoking column Jim. I'm still thinking about it. I think you might paint too stark of a dichotomy between no private versus public. "All the city needs to do is get in there and enforce code requirements better, improve the curbs and gutters, get things dressed up to look more like middle-class parts of town, and the people who live there will be magically transformed into members of the middle class."Well, I hope that's what they do in Casa View. They can clean up grafitti, cite abandoned buildings, and fix the streets. I don't see why that's not also true in Southern Dallas. Don't homeowners there deserve to have the city code's enforced?

Now, on the other hand, it seems the city just gets in the way enforcing rules re: food trucks, and community gardens, organic things that can be squashed with too much regulation.

thanks for stimulating some thought. I'll have to catch colleen's column in the paper version.

Alexander
Alexander

As I am married to a Detroit girl (OK, Oakland County really) and visit often, I can boldly declare that Dallas and Detroit have no similar problems.

First and foremost the city of Dallas attracts tons of immigrants, Detroit does not. Dallas has more in common with the other major urban immigrant meccas-- Houston, LA, Chicago, Seattle, Miami, and NYC than it does with the small, black-run cities that don't attract immigrants like Memphis, New Orleans, St Louis, and the aforementioned Detroit.

In my opinion, any attempt by a "civic leader" to compare the city to Detroit is just code for "the problems with black people". They probably haven't looked at the Census (or asked Hollis Brasher) but the black people are moving to Lancaster and Cedar Hill. They leave behind momentarily empty streets (sure, like Detroit), but then the immigrants swoop in and settle and start businesses and pay taxes and do all the healthy economic things that a city needs.

Replay
Replay

I have no doubts that what you are saying is true. However, do you think Hunt, or Allen, or Kadane, or any of the other City Council people from North Dallas would allow these types of things to happen in their districts. I sincerely doubt it, because, if nothing else, their constituents would be all over them like a new suit. It is outrageous and sad that Southern Sector elected representatives allow City Hall to do the things that you have described.

Chris Danger
Chris Danger

Betty: Blame your leaders, as they really dont care about you or their district.Right now you have a group of self-serving AA leaders who are out for their own piece of the pie and dont care how many broken backs they have to walk on to achieve their goals to line their pockets..Heres how you solve that: Elect people who give a damn, people who have a more progressive thought process, who want to clean up the streets, make sure construction is completed and want to boost the economic character of the area. Until then, you'll get the same old garbage from another slick hustler in a church suit..

scottindallas
scottindallas

Colleen reminds me of Mare Winningham's character in St. Elmo's Fire.  She looks to me like she's the result of in-breeding (though truth be told many White people look like that to me.)  The most pernicious result of that White in-breeding seems to be an obsequious sycophancy that is destroying our country, politics and businesses.  An earnest skeptic is resented, feared and confusing to the in-bred who run this country.  They brook no doubts, no questions, no independent thought. 

scottindallas
scottindallas

that results in a regressive police state.  That becomes a powerful source of oppression.  It expands fees and fines which are a regressive form of taxation.  Our unwillingness to tax fairly forces us to suck blood from the poorest, weakest turnips, while the rich and fortunate get yet another break.  Did you notice the stories about how Walmart's sales are down, but luxury goods are flying off the shelves, and are even marked up.  We'd be better served by enacting luxury taxes.  The rich would love it.  They like buying things that are cost prohibitive, it's how they show off.  Raise the taxes on those goods, you raise the cache for our ubermenchen

scottindallas
scottindallas

Adam Smith's invisible hand might suggest that no vision is needed, necessary, nor even relevant.  These things happen and take shape, vision or no.  A vision (whatever that means) can shape or influence events, but really drives far less than we might imagine.

scottindallas
scottindallas

"First the DMN hasn't been  the mossback of conservatism for at least a decade, but it has remained a cheerleader for the Dallas Establishment."

I think your sentence is self-contradictory.  Mossback conservatism is nothing but the guardian of the establishment.  "conservatism" is (or has come be only) reactionary

Guest
Guest

I don't think the problem is code enforcement in and of itself but this idea that increased code enforcement is the major thing that will turn that area of Dallas around.

Dallas Diner
Dallas Diner

Please, don't ever let Taco Bell replace Tacos El Si Hay.

BCulbreath
BCulbreath

I do blame them that is what I mean by City Hall,Leadership down there I know it was Fantroy who refused to put larger water and sewer line in for UNT while street was already torn up for total reconstruction.I know its our people but we can not get enough people to understand the issues.People out here work hard and leave the governance to the elected Officials, many think the way it is out here is how it is in all parts of City so they ask for nothing and get nothing.

Betty Culbreath and AssociatesP.O.Box 764588Dallas,Texas 75376-4588214-502-6009 or 214-372-7350Fax 214372-7350

Urbandweller
Urbandweller

People who give a damn with a vision, don't want the drama. Too many implanted JWP soldiers within every part of Dallas government and the Southern Sector.

Paul
Paul

Perhaps she is testament to the requirement that you have to be wealthy in order to afford to be liberal ... but instead of giving away my money I will give away somebody else's ...

Why is that we have this theory that the AA politicians will get South Dallas their due from the rich white north yet after 50+ years of this south Dallas is still an economic wasteland ....

To paraphrase former President Truman, it seem that the buck stopped with the AA politicians ...

rubbercow
rubbercow

Good points all and thank you for them.  I would like to hear what you think about how it is not regressive for the city to allow entire areas to revert - indeed regress - into swaths of lawlessness.  Code enforcement generally improves the quality of life for all residents of a neighborhood when those codes are not overly onerous.  I don't think that requiring people to keep dangerous materials out of the front yards is oppressive; I don't think asking people to stop parking cars wherever they would like to is oppressive; I don't think that asking people to treat animals humanely is oppressive; I don't think that asking people to obey laws that are in place for the safety of general pubic oppressive and I don't think that laws that are in place in order to allow people to live in relative peace and quiet are oppressive.

Taxes are one thing, living is another.

Juan Valdez
Juan Valdez

Im sure vision (whatever that means <insert sarcasm="">) is not important. Im sure the vision that Baron George-Eugene Haussmann had during the Haussmann Plan for Paris, had no influence on how this city is nowadays.The city just sprung organically <insert sarcasm=""></insert></insert>

Grumpy Demo
Grumpy Demo

Adam's Smith invisible hand also created slavery, child labor, unsafe working conditions and pollution. Some day you'll wake up and realize that it's not 1890.

alfredo
alfredo

No you need to read the editorial page more.  On many social issues they try to tow the lib line on national and state issues, the death penalty is just one example.  But when it comes to local issues they support the old guard.

scottindallas
scottindallas

You need to read Adam Smith.  He's no apologists for the GOP's version of economics.  He would've supported control of utilities, and policies to clip the wings of those who manipulate the system for personal gain. 

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