Mayor Mike Rawlings Last Night: "Everything I Look At, I Ask, 'Is It Right for Southern Dallas?'"

Categories: City Hall

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Photo by Anna Merlan
Rawlings, Atkins and Caraway last night
Last night, Mayor Mike Rawlings hosted a community forum at Cedar Crest Golf Course, billed in the invitation as an "update on the City of Dallas." Backed by council members Dwaine Caraway and Tennell Atkins and a large supporting cast of other city officials, he tried to reassure the crowd: City Hall hasn't forgotten about the southern sector. But the audience pressed him on many issues -- flow control and access to groceries stores, among them -- that seem to suggest otherwise.

"There's no agenda," Rawlings told a predominantly black audience of around 100. "We're not voting on anything. We're just talking." But everyone who stood up to ask the mayor a question had to follow one ground rule: "Start with what you appreciate about Dallas," the mayor said. "There's got to be something."

Rawlings himself was pretty bullish on the state of the city, telling the crowd, "You're very blessed to live in Dallas." He referenced the recent presentation by the GOP's favorite pollster Frank Luntz, saying, "In Dallas, 65 percent of people believe the best days are ahead of us. ... And the minority community are more optimistic than the Anglo community."

Rawlings talked a lot about new development coming to the city that he feels should reinforce that optimism: the recently opened Omni Hotel, the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge opening in March that will connect west Dallas to downtown, a new performing arts center and improvements to the parks system.

"I'm from the advertising business," Rawlings said, where, he added, he learned that people seem to like the phrase "new and improved." "Dallas is even more new and improved. ... Our places, things and objects, we seem to be doing OK there. The things are there, but we've got to have the people." And people, he said, are attracted to a city "by economic development. ... That's where I'm going to be spending a lot of my time."

And he promised that a lot of that development will be in the southern part of town. "When people ask me 'Why did you decide to become mayor?'" Rawlings said, "I say, because South Dallas has so much opportunity. Everything I look at, I ask, 'Is it right for southern Dallas?'"

Rawlings acknowledged some of the most pressing issues quickly, saying "we've got to get" grocery stores in the south and demolish some of the "trashy houses" there. Caraway and Atkins praised him for his concern for the southern part of the city. "We didn't have to push the mayor to call this meeting," Caraway said.

The first questions Rawlings dealt with from the audience -- reading from green comment cards people had filled out ahead of time -- were all about blight, as people wondered how they could get substandard houses in their neighborhoods torn down. Assistant City Manager Joey Zapata, in charge of code compliance, urged them to call 311 to get inspectors to come out, something Caraway echoed. "What we have to do is pick up the phone," he said. "If we continue to be complacent and allow that raggedy house to stay on our street, then that concentration will go somewhere else." (Though, as Colleen McCain Nelson proved only last week, not even the mayor can get City Hall to clean up southern Dallas's trash with a phone call.)

Atkins added that too often residents "talk to your neighbor and your friends, but we don't get the message." Rawlings went a step further, saying southern sector residents should "call 311, call your city council person, and call the mayor's office. Let's get this on." He is, he said, "so proud of Paul Quinn students, who stood up and said, 'We feel this way about something.'" (Throughout the night, a large contingent of Paul Quinn students, many wearing matching yellow T-shirts, looked less than impressed. After the meeting, they declined to comment.)

On the grocery store issue, director of Economic Development Karl Zavitkovsky acknowledged, "We've had some success, but it's limited." He promised that the city has had "a lot of dialogue" with major grocers; he promised at least one new Wal-Mart -- you know the one, near IH-35 and Ledbetter -- soon, and said the city is negotiating with a "neighborhood grocer" as well.

"I think there's a perception by the investors that you can't make money in southern Dallas," Rawlings said. "It's not true. ... There's a lot of mythology we need to bust."

But Rawlings wasn't shy about saying that "urban development" might require the city to take advantage of eminent domain. "I am by nature someone who if a person doesn't want to step up and do what's right for the neighborhood, I become an enemy of that person," he said. "That's just me personally. That's not the attorneys talking. Frankly, I think at times we're a little too shy on that issue."

When flow control came up next, Rawlings defended that decision too. He called McCommas Bluff "the best landfill in the state of Texas," adding, "It's world-class. It's a beautiful place." And he wants it to make as much money for the city as possible, he said. "I'm a Dallas person. I don't like somebody making money off of us. I've been accused of caring too much about money, but I want that money for Dallas." He promised too that flow control would act as a "checkbook" for economic development in the south, including those grocery stores. "We need money to spur that economic growth," he said. Plus, he added, "They're turning trash into energy. This could be the greatest green project the city of Dallas has."

Sanitation manager Mary Nix promised that there is "no expansion of the landfill planned. That's a piece of disinformation that's gotten out there." And Atkins and Caraway defended flow control as something that benefits city revenues without harming residents.

"Safety first," Caraway said. "If this were something that was going to kill us, that's another thing."

In addition to garbage, residents made it clear they feel burdened by the city's group homes, which many said are disproportionately located in the south. Again, Zapata and Caraway urged residents to call 311 to report the bad homes. "We do our best to try and track them," Zapata said, adding that it's difficult because they can "spring up overnight," and disappear just as fast. Rawlings too said the city council is "frustrated" by the number of bad homes, and trying to address the issue.

Overall, City Hall representatives tried to cram a lot of reassurance into one night. Rawlings closed by urging south Dallas residents to "get involved."

"Make the phone calls and vote," he said. "The things that breaks my heart is how few people vote. ... This is our future, and we've got to make sure we have great people like this leading."

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42 comments
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trudat
trudat

We forget so quickly!  What the mayor is doing is speaking in "Orwellianese" as he was taught to do by that great student of Orwellian doublespeak - Frank Luntz.  When he speaks of "business opportunity", the important question is business by who and for who...And something tells me he's not talking about increasing the opportunities for the folks that already live in most of the "glorious" neighborhoods of Sunny South Dallas. I suspect that the old familiar smell that floats in the air is not (this time) the polluted Trinity.  It's the first stages of gentrification or "urban removal" for the "have nots" in the area.  It's an old and expected occurence in the growth process of urban areas.  The mayor and the council are playing the role that most politicians usually play in this process.  They're trying to sell the idea to the people. The people will be damned and sold out for money unless they fight back at every step of the process.

And for those of you who condemn "community politics" and the politicians who are elected based on their image as representatives of the community (like the much hated and loved JWP); If you don't like these politicians, I suggest you go to work to remove the perceptions that made people elect them in the first place.  I realize that's too much to ask from folk who would rather talk trash than do something...but anyway....Let the games begin...

Throughthewormhole
Throughthewormhole

Soon, those who eat at Boss's Burgers will be eating at McDonald's.

Soon, those who eat at McDonald's will be eating at In-N-Out.

Soon, those who eat at In-N-Out will be eating at Meddlesome Moth.

Soon, those who eat at Meddlesome Moth will be eating at Boss's Burgers.

Onward and upward Dallas.

Guest
Guest

Mayor Mike Rawlings Last Night: "Everything I Look At, I Ask, 'Is It Right for Southern Dallas?'"And then when the answer is "no", then I know that's what I'm going to do.

cp
cp

The first thing that needs to happen in South Dallas is we need to spot electing idiots like Dwiayne Caraway, Carolyn Davis and Tennell Atkins. Until the people in Southern Dallas learn to help themselves, nothing will work. Businesses operate on something called a pro forma. The reason they stay away from South Dallas is a) crime; b) poor people. The end. 

Paul
Paul

You left out consulting fees ...

Mayormike
Mayormike

Rawlings and the Southern Dallas council members who supported flow control are clearly trying to undue the severe damage it has caused to their reputations. As more information comes out on the way flow control was "sold" to the council Rawlings and those who supported flow control will recognize they were duped by a city staff desperate to balance the next budget.  They need to recognize that the city staff has its own agenda. Staff is using its personal time with the Mayor and council members to pump a great deal of sunshine. Rawlings is a smart guy and hopefully he will figure this out before it is too late.    

abby
abby

Can't you come up with a better name?  Something you don't need to hide behind?  I didn't think so because your comments are very transparent.  Flow control will be a rallying cry for all of us who believe we can find a way to utilize that trash as opposed to simply burying it in a hole owned by a client of the NSWMA.  If you compare the 2 landfills, one city owned and one privately owned, it's simply a money issue.  But the control of that waste is the key and that's what misinformed like you don't get and probably can't.  Dallas is run by extremely competent professionals.  You don't see it because you're still in hiding.  Look around!  There are great things happening in Dallas.  Flow Control is going to be one of the most pragmatic.  Ask the other 188 haulers who are not against it!

Guest
Guest

No they are trying to console them, now that they cannot give them anymore federal dollars! The black southern leaders should be able to figure out on their own - the gig is up. Now, they are left with noway of collecting any money from City Hall while havin been discriminated aganst and segregated for the last 100 years!

Guest
Guest

The southern dallas people need to rise up against all the evil doers and demand change, not only from the rich white oligarchs that your black leaders have partnered with, but also City Hall!! Now, that is something to march about! The same things MLK marched for, just a different form in Dallas!!!

Texaspainter
Texaspainter

I would rather have Mayor Suhm conduct this meeting and allow the residents to chew on her for a while. Mike is just the straw man.

Cujo
Cujo

I missed the part about the Inland Port and the great strides the FBI is making <cough> JWP <cough></cough></cough>

whodunnit
whodunnit

Spin, baby, spin. Mayor Mike, it's time to face the music!

Dallas Diner
Dallas Diner

I guess that the Mayor's "always thinking of south Dallas" explains his non-public back room meetings to redraw the south of the Trinity council districts; a map that makes Gerrymandering look sane. 

trudat
trudat

I wonder how much of this talk by these politicians is just talk (or should I say Orwellian double speak) or will the words actually mean something that folk can see and touch.  Sellout politicians who tend to favor the  1% do have a reputation for promising the world to voters while  ripping off the 99%.

Spareme
Spareme

The Mayor has clearly drunk the Mary Nix Kool Aid.  She must have given him that special tour of the landfill where you don't see any garbage. I would give a months pay to be in the room when the Mayor finds out that his sanitation director is full of it. Perhaps the Mayor should spend some time watching Brett Shipps original reporting on the issue, read the excellent columns in the Observer or look at last Saturday's Wall Street Journal. No one will take the chance on investing in South Dallas or anywhere else when you have a mayor who is against companies making money on their investments. What if he decides to take over their business next?   

Texaspainter
Texaspainter

Mike does exactly what Mayor Suhm allows him to do.

Urbandweller203
Urbandweller203

This is the problem I have with Dallas current politics   "billed in the invitation"...."black audience of around 100". I know that area must have more than 100 black concern residence they could have sent "invitation" to. This is another tactic  the leadership use to control the voice of the southern sectors. The Golf course is connected to one of the most stable areas in Dallas with doctors, lawyers, politician, etc. They have lived in that area for decades and nothing has never been done. Why wait for the Mayor to decide its time to do something. Unbelievable! This is typical of most prominent black neighborhood in Dallas. Bishop Art, didn't wait. Some developer realized the potential and the residents (whites, hispanics & blacks) followed and became active in rebuilding the area. But he is right on one thing, get off you butts and do something. "I am by nature someone who if a person doesn't want to step up and do what's right for the neighborhood, I become an enemy of that person,"  Now, this is the type of leadership I want to see more of.

cp
cp

The Cedar Crest are is pretty nice. Why doesn't the Mayor go speak at someplace along say, Bruton and Prairie Creek? Or, let's say Lamar and Hatcher? Oak Cliff and West Dallas are only little parts of the whole "southern sector." And there are large parts of West Dallas and Oak Cliff that are way out of my price range. 

Guest
Guest

The mayor is going to have the nation as his enemy if he supports corruption, fraud and backroom deals.

Paul
Paul

Hmmmmm .... Where were JWP and that "go to guy" at Wai-Wize?

From my perspective the biggest impediment to development in South Dallas are the South Dallas leaders.

True Code Compliance needs to get after the noncompliant structures, but when they do Mr. Carraway and others will be all over Ms. Suhm and the Mayor about how the City is picking on "po' black folks".

14-1:  The worst of ward politics with none of the benefits.

a dude
a dude

Southern Dallas ≠ the leaders of Southern Dallas...

mynameisURL
mynameisURL

"When people ask me 'Why did you decide to become mayor?'" Rawlings said, "I say, because South Dallas has so much opportunity. Everything I look at, I ask, 'Is it right for southern Dallas?'"

~Mayor Mike~

*gag*

Guest
Guest

What a suck up, kiss ass Pizza Mike is! Just because he bought his Mayorship from south Dallas, he has to kiss their ass. Pathetic!!!

Joe
Joe

Or, maybe he was simply saying what he believes. You sound pretty bitter and unhappy.

Guest
Guest

Extremely happy, just calling it what it is! Nice try though!

alf.kertmann
alf.kertmann

I am glad someone is looking forward to transform southern part of Dallas! I wish quality urban  developments come to even far South Dallas and develop the way some north areas do. South need more attention, it deserves it plus very close to downtown... A lot of people and businesses are so stereotypical of South part... Go Far South Dallas!

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

What's most right for south Dallas is if the residents stop tolerating corruption from their elected officials and give them the boot.

Urbandweller203
Urbandweller203

First, they need to start voting in the southern sector... You can't change a situation if you don't vote. No leaders in Southern Dallas really wants change and new development in Southern Dallas;  it brings in a new demographic...typically people who vote.

Wes Scott
Wes Scott

I agree! Start with JWP, the most corrupt city or county official in Dallas' history. Al Lipscomb, Don Hicks, Eddie Bernice Johnson ... the list goes on and on. South Dallas has traditionally elected leaders that pretended to be all "pro black" while actually doing whatever personally benefitted themselves the most, even if it hurt their communities.

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

It would be interesting if the Paul Quinn students started broadening their political activism.... taking upon themselves to educate South Dallas constituents about a broad variety of important issues and encouraging them to vote and complain to their council members and other elected officials.

Chris Danger
Chris Danger

The main problem that impeads south dallas neighborhoods, such as joppa, is the elected leadership doesnt actually care about their assigned neighborhoods or even understand the concepts of how modern urban government or planning works, in essence the people of these districts elect whom they deserve.

What needs to happen is the council/mayor/city manager system of government needs to be abolished in dallas and strong mayor needs to become the norm. Once thats done, Dallas will finally realize its true potential.

Guest
Guest

Hey Mayor - why didn't you talk about the claims of massive fraud based on race that Schutze recently reported on?

Ttuffysauto
Ttuffysauto

Because if Schutze reported it, we know the facts are straight, not crooked and cooked, and it's all true.  Ever notice how he does hit and run stories? He rarely revisits them, unless it's just to make fun of the person or people involved in some puerile, scatalogical way. Wonder why?

 I swear, the mayor (any mayor, no matter his/her political party) could do everything you wanted he or she to do, and it wouldn't satisfy the vast majority of people that comment on this site and/or write for this publication.  So many whining, miserable people.

Guest
Guest

That's so true about Jim. Remember when he did that one story about the toll road and the levees and JWP and the Perots and the Inland Port, etc., and then we never saw him write another thing about it.

cp
cp

You're a moron. Mayor and city council are non-partisan. Do you even live and vote in Dallas? Idiot. 

Fletch
Fletch

By contrast, the "whining, miserable people" you referred to could argue that there are far, far too many that are willing to just go along with the whims of those officials with questionable judgment and motives.  I take it you're part of that group.  I guess ignorance truly is bliss.

lorlee
lorlee

All your problems will be solved if you just Call 311 -- bull puckey.  First they have cut the number of 311 operators so you probably give up after you've been on hold for more than 5 minutes  And they should be proactive, not reactive.  I shouldn't have to be code enforcement for the City.  -- But even when I do call, the record of enforcement-- particularly for the violations that really hurt neighborhoods, like illegal building without permits, coversion of single family homes to duplexes and zoning violations-- is abysmal.  I happened to be throwing out stuff and came on a letter from the City from 1988 with responses to my neighborhood's complaints.  I laughed, so I wouldn't cry, to realize that most of them are still there. 

South Fair Park Resident
South Fair Park Resident

I agree lorlee, we as the citizens of Dallas should not have to be the code enforcement for the city, but until we can make the changes we would like to see please keep calling 311. While your at it call your council person, mayor's office, police department and news agencies when applicable.

I've noticed that after calling 311 to report code issues in District 7 (South Dallas/Fair Park) citizens have to call back when issues are seeming ignored or sometimes closed without correction. Somebody thinks that we are: too busy to notice, too lazy to care, or a bunch of punks. That doesn't deter me, it just makes me want to make more complaints to different people.

Let's make our voices heard, when a complaint goes unresolved in a timely manner go to the next higher level. Please remember, as long as code officials are city employee's the work for the tax paying citizens of the city a.k.a. YOU AND ME! If these people are going to collect a check at our expense, lets make them work for it. ;)

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

Do you live in my neighborhood ?

The reverse of that is the once a year WEEDS violation notice we get from the code enforcement.

Every thing else is as you say ....."like illegal building without permits, conversion of single family homes to duplexes and zoning violations--"

I haven't had weeds grass on the ally side of my fence  for five years . Name brand grass and weed killers have made quick work of that.As usual This time I was zapped again  ....Which puts me on the violation clock until next year.

I didn't feel singled out because Everyone on our street got a notice for one thing or another.

Somehow the NOT ON TAX ROLLS TWO STORY UNPAINTED EXPOSED PLUMING BROKEN WINDOWED  WOODEN STRUCTURE .( Not the Main house) THAT BACKS RIGHT UP TO THE ALLY HASN'T BE TOUCHED IN YEARS STILL REMAINS .UNTOUCHED.Along with the weeds in the ally behind continue  in their natural state as well. at about 3 1/2  to 4 feet.tall.We joke that it is part of the when humans are gone TV show.

When code inspectors ( we've had many ) can miss something eight or nine years that if cited there certainly has been no follow up  and nothing is being done by the owner there must be a reason .Who needs to go down that road ?

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