Mayor Mike Rawlings Seeks Investors for Southern Dallas. Why Is That His Job?
Let me role-play this thing. I'm Daddy Jimbucks, sitting on a pile of dough. Maybe I'm looking for an investment. Maybe not. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings is in my office pitching a major initiative to create prosperity in southern Dallas on terrain that has been racially segregated, bitterly poor and without benefit of typical American urban infrastructure since the Civil War. Ready? Go.
Why are you in my office?
Oh, you have a story to tell me! Surprise, surprise. Here I am sitting on a mountain of dough, and a guy has a story to tell me.
Well, OK, Mike, I like you, and I know you mean well, so you may begin your story. The first line only, please.
You are a salesman by nature and experience, and you have appointed yourself the official No. 1 Super Salesman for southern Dallas, which you think is a business opportunity and not a charity case, and you believe ...
Mike. Mike. Stop. I want to save us a little time. I have a question. Why are you here?
No, I get all that about the super salesman and the charity and the opportunity. I speak English, Mike. That's not my question. My question is: Why are you here telling me about southern Dallas? Where are the southern Dallas guys?
Photo by Anna Merlan
You're a rich white guy, Mike. The southern Dallas guys are black and Hispanic, and I believe they are not rich.
Before I put my money in southern Dallas, Mike, I want to see those guys out front selling their deal to me. For one thing, I have some questions for them.
Sure, I'll tell you my questions. You want me to invest my money in southern Dallas, but the way this works, you have to invest your money as a city too. I want to see some skin in the game, and I also just need great big fat water pipes and sewer pipes. I need roads and bridges, Mike. Roads and bridges. Those suckers don't grow on trees.
What? You're going to do all that for me? You are? Roads and bridges? You? Mike, wait. Did you see that high school kid out front when you came in? She's my granddaughter. She's a student at Woodrow. Thank you.
That's supposed to be her summer job, sitting out there. She spends most of her time on her telephone "tweedling" or some shit I don't even want to know about.
Before you came in, I asked her if she might have time in her busy day of tweedling to Google something for me. I asked her to Google "southern Dallas roads and bridges." You know what came up? The fourth item down on Google, Mike.
Mike, I know who John Wiley Price is. He's the longest-standing, most powerful elected official in southern Dallas. As Dallas County commissioner for that district, he has more power and purse strings over roads, bridges and water pipes for southern Dallas than any other living human being.
He is also the target of a major federal corruption probe that seems to be focused on alleged shakedowns of potential investors. That's what I am -- a potential investor. So I have a personal interest.
I like you, Mike. I trust you. I know you were going to get to that. I cut you off. It's my fault. But here's the deal.
I don't want you here, Mike. This isn't about you being a good guy. This is about my dearly beloved mountain of dough, which, by the way, I did not amass by flipping coins.
I want the southern Dallas guys here. Royce. John. Tennell. The lot of them. Know why? Because I think they control he infrastructure down there. Not you.
Much as you may want to heap the blame on yourself and other rich white folks for the lack of infrastructure down there, and true as that story may have been 30 years ago, I don't buy it today. It just doesn't ring true any more.
Look, Mike, I assure you I don't believe a word I read in that damned weekly rag, the Dallas Deserver or whatever it's called. But I read it, you know, well, just for entertainment purposes. They've had a lot of stuff about Price and shakedowns in their newspaper and on their blog.
You say you're going to put in infrastructure around that new UNT Southern Dallas campus. But why isn't it there already, Mike? Houston School Road was widened and paved at millions of dollars of state expense recently, and no water pipe was installed when it was torn open.
Price is all about water pipes. Price wanted to hold up the Inland Port project -- which is the focus of that FBI probe -- just so he could do more water planning. Did he just forget to put a water pipe under Houston School Road when it would have been cheap to do?
I don't think he forgot. I think there's some kind of crap going on, and I bet it has to do with land acquisition -- somebody wanting to get in on the land while the dirt is still cheap before the pipe goes in. I don't know that. I could be wrong. But like I say, I've been around the block a couple times, and I try not to step in a manhole every little chance I get. I have a pretty good sniffer. I don't like what I smell.
Here's what I want to do, Mike. I want to watch that FBI deal, see how that unfolds and see what comes out of it. Maybe Price is innocent as the day is long and just got unfairly slimed by the Preserver, whatever it's called.
One way or the other, eventually I need to see some southern Dallas guys here. Not you. Much as I love seeing you. I want to see the guys I'll be doing the real deal with.
I want them to explain to me why my sniffer's wrong, why the FBI's wrong, why it's safe now to invest large sums of money in their community. Then I can talk money. With them. Not you.
Dinner with Decherd next week, right? See you then. And thanks for stopping by. You're good people, Mike Rawlings.