Mayor Mike Rawlings: "South Dallas Is Not a Charity Case. It's A Business Opportunity."

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Photos by Anna Merlan
For months, Mayor Mike Rawlings has made it clear that he's got his eye on Southern Dallas. This afternoon, as promised, was the first of three public presentations he'll give on his Southern Dallas Economic Growth Plan, which played to a packed house of bigwigs at the South Side Studios on Lamar. As he's done before, the mayor started by praising that part of town, which he called "the single greatest opportunity for growth in North Texas," and what he claimed is the potential for an increase of $8 billion in revenue for the city.

"It's real money," he told the crowd, adding later, to applause, "Southern Dallas is not a charity case. It's a business opportunity."

But the mayor also presented what he called a "top 10 list for leveraging this opportunity." He ran through a laundry list of to-dos, ranging from the civic equivalent of cheerleading to the very, very specific. It was an almost startlingly business-minded list, one that frequently sounded like a proposal to bolster up a flagging company. At one point, the mayor even referred to himself as "the city's top salesperson."

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1. "Strengthen and engage neighborhood groups."

Rawlings wants to "create ownership of the community," including making "walkable" neighborhoods and areas with a "live, learn, work focus." The goal, he said, is to add 30 new neighborhood associations over the next 12 months and "activate" the current ones.

He also said he wants to grow what he termed "mixed-income" neighborhoods. "We have too many low-income affordable housing projects in southern Dallas." Although he's a proponent of affordable housing, he said, "we've got to balance this out." He wants to lobby for a change in state law that requires affordable housing projects to make a 40-year commitment in order to be eligible for any tax credits. "That creates the slums of the future, because the useful life [of the housing project] ends at year 15," he said.

2. "Create a culture of clean."

Rawlings called on the city to "get this area market-ready" by creating the "mindset and ethos that cleanliness is next to godliness." That means cleaning up litter and graffiti, he said, as well as "cracking down on code enforcement and holding negligent property managers accountable." He said council member Dwaine Caraway will spearhead an effort to demolish 250 blighted properties each year for the next three years.

"I've also asked outdoor ad companies to clean up their billboards," he said. "Some of them look like they've been there since the '60s. Clear Channel is in already."

3. "Strengthen schools."

The mayor said the focus will be on four specific schools: Zumwalt and Atwell middle schools and Lincoln and Adamson high schools.

"Todays middle and high school students are tomorrow's consumers," Rawlings said.

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4. "Debunk myths."

"For too long, we've viewed southern Dallas as an obligation rather than an asset," the mayor said. He accused The Dallas Morning News of turning "the problems of South Dallas into a cottage industry," one that's won them numerous awards for what he termed "relentless editorializing" on income inequality.

"As the city's top salesperson, I will personally oversee a plan" to re-educate the city about the southern sector, Rawlings said. He promised to create a "dedicated brand manager" position, a city employee that will report to City Manager Mary Suhm and work at City Hall. They'll also be soliciting the pro bono services of local ad companies and create what he called "gateway signage" in southern Dallas neighborhoods.

"We need to push the reset button and retrain our audiences on how they should view southern Dallas," the mayor said.

5. "Create a private investment fund for southern Dallas."

The mayor said he's seeking to create a $20 million investment fund, drawing cash from dozens of investors. Every project, he said, "will be evaluated on a double bottom line:" whether it has a "good return of investment," and whether it's "good for the community."

6. Continue the revitalization of downtown and surrounding communities.

That includes continue to try to draw business to DART's green line, the mayor said.

7. "Implement the West Dallas design plan."

"Let's get this done," the mayor said bluntly. Especially that bridge part. He presented a video clip from Randall White, the West Dallas Chamber of Commerce vice chair, who called the Margaret Hunt Hill bridge both "an icon" and "a bridge to the future, a bridge of opportunity."

The mayor also touted the "creation of a new food and retail district" at the foot of the bridge -- Trinity Groves, of course -- which he said will create "1,000 new jobs and an impact of $100 million annually." Combined with a new pedestrian and cycling bridge on Continental Ave., leading to a planned park, Rawlings added, "we can safely say ... it could contribute $200 million in new economic impact for our city."

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8. "Build out Lancaster corridor."

The mayor returned several times to the area around the VA hospital, which he said draws "30,000 visitors a day" to the area.

9. "Make Jefferson Boulevard a Main Street for southern Dallas."

"Unfortunately," Rawlings said, Jefferson is currently "a Main Street with pawn shops and a payday loan here and there." He called on the audience to help "return it to better days" and "create a gathering place."

10. "Infrastructure for the education corridor."

Rawlings said he wants to make the area around UNT Dallas and Paul Quinn "a University Park for southern Dallas," with "retail, grocery stores, gas stations" and other "everyday quality of life" features. He wants to help UNT Dallas get the funding it needs to expand their campus and build a planned two additional buildings.

The mayor said he'll need the help of "business owners, investors, and neighbors" to make the top 10 list happen. City staffers sat beneath boards at one side of the room that represented each of the 10 different items. "Go over there and sign up," Rawlings said. "We're gonna ask you to help us."

"I think one of the reasons I decided to give back for the next four years of my life is because I believe southern Dallas is something no other city in the country has," Rawlings told the crowd as he wrapped up. "Right in front of us is the biggest growth opportunity for the next two decades. All we have to do is buckle down and get it done. I know we can."

And, remember: You still have two chances to see the live show.


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31 comments
Dallas Resident
Dallas Resident

How about this news story as a topic: South Dallas residents fed up with train noisehttp://www.wfaa.com/news/local...

The final paragraph states "In the meantime, there are plans to eliminate the rail crossings on two of the three affected streets, which should help reduce the overall noise level. That, however, won't happen until next year."

It has been almost a year since this article was published.  Where is the follow up? What has the city done to correct this issue?

The city of Dallas is holding "2012 Capital Bond Program Town Hall Meetings" in the near future.  Here's an idea, take $3,000 and correct this annoyance as a "capital project".  

Mayor Mike wants to make the Southern Sector better, well if the city is willing to take funds to help create the Bexar Street Corridor have some foresight and stop trains horns from blaring in the neighborhood. If you were a first time home buyer looking to buy a home, would you choose an area where you hear a train honking after midnight?

S Aten
S Aten

What happened to the Southern Dallas Development Corp.?  Why create yet another place for ex-city bureaucrats to spend tax money on money losing ventures?

Urbandweller203
Urbandweller203

At least he has a progressive plan. If he can get the private investors, his plan is workable. I really like creating a culture of clean and I think Carraway can do it because he has proven his ability in this area. What concerns me is the corruption that has plagued Dallas over the decades. But I think its a move in the right direction. It's going to be a wait and see deal on the FBI probe. In addition he will have to address the race baiter/haters and not cut a deal with them.....he will have to prevent a Don Hill repeat on the city funded projects/development...He has his hand full, but at least has a workable plan.

dirtyrapscallion
dirtyrapscallion

Mayor Mike and South Dallas sittin' in a tree...K-I-SS-I-N-Gfirst comes love then comes marriagethen comes a big brown money filled bagfor JWP and the other robber barons!

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...     

Adam from East Dallas
Adam from East Dallas

10 South Dallas "Myths"…

1.  Where businesses must pay to play.2.  Where equity is not a four letter word... it's six.3.  Where copper is not stolen, it's recycled.4.  Where 2 out of every 4 politicians are under FBI investigation.

5.  Where business developers’ artist renderings go to die.6.  Where it’s not a bribe, it’s a tithe.

7.  Where Korean immigrants are not welcome and don't even think about opening a 7-11.

8.  Forget Jefferson Boulevard, local residents are crying out for a $25million equestrian center doggonnit.9.  Keep South Dallas green and I mean really gr$$n (a.k.a. Our consultants will work for you, but not for free).

10.  Keep North Dallas tourists out of the Bishop Arts District! Require resident parking permits.

lorlee
lorlee

As someone who lives in this area -- albeit the very first street south of I-30 --  unless and until the City gets serious about code enforcement, they will be building on sand.  And the code enforcement needs to be proactive, not rely only on complaints.  And we need simple Rental Registration with inspections like the rest of the civilized world.  With respect to neighborhood organizations --attending meetings without being able to get results from the  the City gets really old.  I can point to violations I turned in 32 years ago when I moved in that are still there.  The improvements we have accomplished in my neighborhood have been in spite of the City not because of it. 

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

Good business opportunities fund themselves because investors are begging to be a part of it. 

Charity cases beg and bribe investors to come to them not expecting much return.

Still reads like a charity case to me. Improve the schools, make the residents feel safe, and jettison the corrupt officials out the nearest airlock and you'll get your growth.

Check out Kickstarter, Mayor Mike. You'll see the good ideas get funded. Hell, put South Dallas on Kickstarter. I'm betting it'd come up short.

mark zero (Jason)
mark zero (Jason)

City leaders thinking of DISD kids as future consumers explains a lot.

Also, what's with presentation slides that read like private speech notes?

Chris Danger
Chris Danger

I have to agree w/ Mayor Mike, to improve South Dallas, smart thinking and smart financing needs to take precedent over "community" politics. We can talk big game ideas, but we need real action to not only perform those tasks, but to also get rid of the bad players as well..

In particular, folks like JWP need to be pulled from office, heres hoping the ongoing FBI investigation turns out some indictments and finally shows this guy and his cronies for being the crooked thug they are....

WatchingSouth Detroit
WatchingSouth Detroit

I noticed Rawlings doesn't mention the south Dallas corruption, the shakedowns, and the "white tax" that south Dallas "leaders" demand.  Until the likes of John Wiley Price and his kind are gone, who would want to put their money into a situation where kickbacks and payoffs are demanded at every opportunity?

Vivexin
Vivexin

Nancy Dye, a trustee on the village board's finance committee, now says the policy of allowing mayors to use their official credit cards and reimburse the funds will come to an end. 

the south will rise again
the south will rise again

Doesn't the City already have several marketing options? They've got a convention center and tourism branch. They've got a Chamber, albeit one that sends out AT&T phones, but a Chamber nontheless, and didn't Caraway have some special mktg. initiative? What ever happened to the Think Big, Live Large people? We've had all these initiatives and S. Dallas still sits there undeveloped.

The south will rise again
The south will rise again

Jim, you ought to be ashamed of yourself!!!  How many plans does it take before S.Dallas is developed?  How many funds need to be set up and friends appointed to run them? How many times is the City going to do the same thing and expect different results?

The City doesn't own the responsibility for the majority of the items on this list and can only minimally influence them.  (What City mechanism empowers it to set up neighborhood associations and where's that priority in the city's list of things to do?!?)   The item that should be number one and that never gets done is Item 10 - funding infrastructure for development - (and not infrastructure or water deals for somebody's friend!).  You can build all the neighborhood associations you want and make them as clean as new, but if there aren't good roads to them with clean water, you can forget development...  Shame on you! Shame, shame, shame!!!!

Rangers100
Rangers100

I like the Jefferson Avenue idea although I'm not sure how dismissing its several good restaurants and theater as nothing but pawn shops fits with that whole myth debunking thing.

Lakewoodhobo
Lakewoodhobo

I wonder if Jake:Ferguson will be doing all this pro bono PR for South Dallas.

RTGolden
RTGolden

And there you have hit on the key to the whole thing: Until the people who live and work there care enough to make changes, nothing is going to happen.  Not just a few sprinkled throughout south Dallas, not just in a pocket neighborhood here and there, you need a dedicated majority of the residents of the southern sector to take control of their neighborhoods and demand change.

Of course none of that is going to happen as long as people continue to listen to the local 'leaders' who have been steering that part of the city in the wrong direction ever since it was annexed by Dallas.

Guest
Guest

Scruffygeist - You are right on. This is the indisputable aftereffect of decades of segregation. Mike has hit a wall by using the "Southern" tools to win his election and not being able to deliver on his promises. Segregation and federal law violations have really made it an impossible environment for Mike to deliver because they cannot funnel federal dollars south, and now private investment is all he can rely on for South Dallas, not likely given the decades of neglect of the area. Politico's dug this grave,  now they must lie in it! 

Heywood U Buzzoff
Heywood U Buzzoff

 Smart thinking? Smart financing? Ask why are start up companies, entrepreneurs going to seemingly higher cost venues than South Dallas.  Yup, office space is more expensive but insurance is lower.  Roads are more congested but it is not like driving through Beirut circa 20 years ago.  At lunch, you want to go to a local restaurant or bistro not the Quickemart where panhandlers and the NAACP are both protesting. 

Dallas would do better to get South Dallas to break away, form its own city, and let JWP rule the way he has always wanted.

OCHomeowner
OCHomeowner

I am pretty sure that if you talk to most of the of small business owners in Oak Cliff, they will tell you that they are not paying a "white tax."

Downtown_worker
Downtown_worker

Bishop Ave, from Colorado to Jefferson, will finish a $3.2 million street improvement in April that "will result in bike lanes, fewer lanes for cars, better sidewalks, more lighting, tree plantings and benches." (Per a story in the Oak Cliff Advocate)

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

South Dallas actually has lots of great roads with plenty of excess capacity.

Branden Helms
Branden Helms

Jim?

Anna wrote the piece. Mike made the presentation.

elbueno
elbueno

Agreed. Jefferson will grow organically. You can't force these things. The city can just ensure the infrastructure is good and clean (which it mostly is).

Move along, Mike.

Downtown_worker
Downtown_worker

I was thinking the same thing? Parts of Jefferson are already hip, vibrant and benefiting from Bishop Arts spillover. We don't need another study or master plan to tell us that.

Mm
Mm

He's working on Mitt's campaign in Boston...

Chris Danger
Chris Danger

I agree with you, the main issue w/ South Dallas is image. There's some amazing neighborhoods in the area, especially Bishop Arts, but South Dallas gets a kick in the teeth because of older neighborhoods that are literally falling to the ground like shantytowns in a 3rd world country, that should be an embarrassment to all involved. Like I said concerning Fair Park, which can apply to ALL of South Dallas, we need an East Austin approach, which is to say knock over the houses that are falling apart and restoring older homes that can be saved, as well as bring in reputable developers whom refuse to play the shakedown game to build decent housing and smaller retail/restaurant commercial where currently are filled with buildings that are falling down or have been a vacant lot for years. 

TraneM
TraneM

Only if you go away with it

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

 9. "Make Jefferson Boulevard a Main Street for southern Dallas."

"Unfortunately," Rawlings said, Jefferson is currently "a Main Street with pawn shops and a payday loan here and there." He called on the audience to help "return it to better days" and "create a gathering place."

Maybe not the kind of Ethnic Group Mike sees as Humans or wants in his world  but It is crowded with shoppers and people gathering every week end ! And very few empty storefronts..

SPANISH SIR NAMED AMERICANS  ARE PEOPLE TOO !

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

Meaning Out the the Spanish Speakers and in  with the English speakers  ?

Jefferson Is A BLVD with almost every Store front full .

A few Pawn Shops and A few Payday loans are not the reason that area survives .

 

Chris Danger
Chris Danger

When it comes to Jefferson Ave, I'm in agreement, pawn shops and payday loan stores don't make a great neighborhood, they're nothing but trolling bottom feeders in our modern society. I don't mind if the shops are ran by folks with black and white stripes or purple polka dots, its the quality of the neighborhood that I take issue with. I would rather see a mix of great restaurants and shops there that cater to any and everyone. 

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