It Takes a lot of Nerve to Talk about the Real Causes of Blight. The News Doesn't Have It.

Categories: Schutze

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Hey, if you drop by here every once in a while and read this crap, then you may wonder, "What on earth is wrong with this guy?" I just want you to know, I have the same question. Today I finished reading the big editorial in our city's only daily newspaper -- all about "the high cost of blight" -- and I wondered, "What is my problem?"

I should love it. I'm a libtard. I'm against blight. I'm against everything in the world that's evil and awful down to and including Nantucket red pants. So I should love the 4-year-old editorial campaign against blight in The Dallas Morning News. But I hate it.

So what is wrong with me? What is my problem? OK, I'll tell you what my problem is. I think campaigns against blight are stupid, because they miss the whole point of everything.

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The editorial in the News today is based on a report that Eric Nicholson told you about here on Unfair Park a week ago -- a new blight study at the University of North Texas. The editorial writers at the News love this study, which they call "an academically rigorous examination of blight." Totally by coincidence, the researchers at UNT who did the report love the Morning News editorial writers, whose work they call "very useful." So it's just pretty much smoochy-times all around between the blight writers at the News and the blight researchers at UNT.

See also:
- A New Map of Blight in Dallas Highlights the Depth of City's North-South Divide
- Southern Dallas' Uncounted Workers

The UNT report mimics the Morning News editorial page series. It catalogs instances of blight, especially in the form of neglected real estate, and then it posits a causal relationship with crime, high school drop-out rates, bad health and all that stuff.

The UNT researchers who wrote the report outdo the News in the temerity department, however, by offering a list of cures for blight at the end of their report, mainly in the form of government- and charity-supported fix-up programs. For example, they tout Community Housing Development Organizations or CHDOs, a federal arrangement by which churches and other nonprofit groups can get grant money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

For a look at the role CHDOs have played in southern Dallas in the recent past, I suggest you revisit the federal indictment of former Dallas City Council member Don Hill, now serving a very long sentence in the Big House on multiple bribery convictions. Look especially for "CHDO A" and "CHDO B," which were channels for bribe money from a private developer who needed Hill's vote for tax-subsidized housing projects that increased racial segregation and ... oh, yes ... blight. Yeah, to the extent that more segregated subsidized housing works directly against the interests of stable single-family home ownership, we'd have to say CHDOs have been a powerful engine of blight, not to mention getting elected officials sent to the Big House.

In fact, let's go back to that segregation thing for a second. In terms of the historical process that produced it, segregation was a direct consequence and legacy of slavery. Slavery continues to haunt our moral and political culture, sometimes in very complicated ways.

Two years ago when Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price was working to sabotage the "Inland Port" warehousing and shipping development in his own part of town -- a project that offered his constituents 65,000 new jobs -- he told me that jobs have a bad name in southern Dallas because they are associated with slavery.

"During slavery, everybody had a job," he said.

In other words, screw jobs. What Price wanted instead was for a private family-owned development company to hand over partial ownership of itself to a group of "consultants" who would pay for their share by giving the company advice on how to avoid trouble with Price. He called this arrangement "equity" -- an unintentional pun.

I have written about specific census tracts in southern Dallas where more than 60 percent of residents are classified by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as "not in the labor force," meaning they have no jobs, have not had jobs in the past and are not looking for jobs.

I think not ever having a job is a major cause of blight. But I'm not smart enough to know what the solution is. People who want jobs badly enough tend to get up on their own initiative, get out and move to places where they can find jobs. Offering a job on a silver platter to someone who is not really looking for a job may not offer a happy outcome to any involved party.

But if I were really going to talk about blight, that's the kind of stuff I would want to talk about. In fact, if we really give a shit about this, I don't see how we can avoid talking about the moral and cultural legacies of slavery and segregation for people at all points of the social compass. That means racism and deliberate disinvestment on the part of the white guys. But it also involves ingrained oppositional culture and an alienated withdrawal from the mainstream economy and culture on the part of the people who occupy blighted areas.

It takes two to tango.

I'm not saying you can't talk about trashy front yards and boarded-up gas stations. But I am saying you can't talk about real estate as if it were the cause of deeply personal moral and cultural issues, especially if you are not going to talk about the those issues.

Whether we are editorial writers or university researchers, dwelling on shabby real estate while not talking about real root causes just makes us seem silly. It also makes us seem chicken-shit, as if we are afraid to talk about the real causes.

But it's not them. It's me. I know it is. It's all me. I am hideous. You know what? I'm just going to go ahead, get on-line and order me some of those red pants. Might as well go all in. How do I Google it? I'll try "stupid pants."

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65 comments
YaValioCacaWates
YaValioCacaWates

A man walking around with writing on a piece of card board stating "I work, thanks for asking" is unusual to me.  The last sign I saw someone displaying in Farmers Branch was "I won't lie, I need some beer money".  At least he was honest?

PerryMoore
PerryMoore

I was looking for your take on the Detroit bankruptcy, and I found this gem. When you get a chance, give us your perspective on that situation.

MikeWestEast
MikeWestEast

Fixing blight does not solve problems.  Moving in jobs and better housing does.  It takes capital to have jobs and better housing.  People with capital, all things being equal, do not put capital in places that indicate no one cares about them unless the opportunity is to dig an oil well.  The anti-blight campaign makes an effort to remove some of those negative indicators.  That's all it is.

Americano
Americano

Guess what?  Conservatives are "against blight" too.  We also like clean water and air.  Being against something requires more than pithy comments.  The people who propagate blight are black liberals.  Keeps them in the poverty pimp business.

barronstalls
barronstalls

Why are so many comments being removed (censored)? DO, please do not become the Dallas Morning News!!! With these types of actions, your heading there. 

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

It's funny that the author AVOIDS  talking about the cure for blight by complaining that OTHER authors aren't talking about it.

It's like watching the folks at Fox News complain that news agencies aren't reliable anymore.

gm0622
gm0622

Interesting article, maybe y'all should come up here to Bremerton. City clowncil puts money downtown, the 2 major commercial corridors are dying.

Nero just plays the fiddle.

Tom434
Tom434

Another worthless study.

Ask anybody who lives in an Historic District how hard it is to maintain their 50-100 year old home and how much it costs.  Now move three blocks out of the Historic District and ask the same question to a retiree on a fixed income.  The costs are still going to be there but the person on the fixed income is going to have problems making those repairs. 

Throw in low income rentals that aren't maintained and add a touch of middle class flight to the burbs, a crime problem,  mentally ill homeless people, crack heads, more payday loan offices and he have blight.  At least the payday loan office is better than a vacant building

bmarvel
bmarvel topcommenter

A little silly, Jim, criticising a narrowly-focused academic study for not being a broad moral and philosophical condemnation. (The DMN series is a different matter.) University researchers dwell on what they dwell on. If the UNT team didn't dwell on the moral heritage of slavery, there are plenty of other university studies that do. In the meantime, an academic study of blight is not unuseful; just limited.


rzimmerman1
rzimmerman1

So if I understand this, all we need to do to reduce urban blight is to solve the problems of poverty, hunger, lack of education, crime,the rising cost of healthcare, unemployment, irresponsibility, drug abuse, alcoholism, mental illness, homelessness and the destruction of the family unit? Okay let's get after it...

rubbercow
rubbercow

I assume this issue will see the same "real" discussion about it that the discussion about race is going.

Problems are never going to get solved because there are deeply entrenched interests on all sides who have a lot to lose if anything changes.

It is repulsive.

whocareswhatithink
whocareswhatithink

You know how they have fixed blighted areas in other parts of the country......built a baseball stadium. San Fran, San Diego, I believe Orlando are looking at it for a minor league team, and Biloxi are getting a new baseball stadium.

Have not run the numbers to really see if it fixes the problem or not or it just moves, but what can I say...you don't see it anymore

casiepierce
casiepierce

Let's look at the correlation between the 60% of people who never had or don't want work, and what JWP said about Allen's Inland Port project. He's been voted into office for what, three decades by these very people. Working is not a requirement for voting.

Tim.Covington
Tim.Covington

Mr. Schutze, you make a very good point. Blight and the culture of the community in blighted areas feed off of each other. Owners usually abandon real estate because they can't/won't repair and upkeep it, and they can't find a buyer for it. People who live in blighted areas live there because the rents/prices are cheap. Since these people can't afford to maintain their property, conditions deteriorate. This causes more blighted properties in the area. And, businesses generally prefer to be close to their employees and/or customers. So they either move out or close down, further worsening the cycle.

Now, I have to say that big box retailers like Walmart do not help matters, As an example, I'll use the abandoned Walmart at Garland Road and 635. Rather than renovate and expand the store that was there, they built a new location near Centerville and Garland Road. This has resulted in the old Walmart sitting abandoned for a long time, which has not helped the neighborhood. 

barronstalls
barronstalls

The Dallas Morning News is just trying to position themselves for what is coming. The fact is, they DMN (Belo) had executives that sat on City of Dallas (related entities) Boards that have furthered the segregation, which has added to the blight in the concentration camp we call "Southern Dallas"!!! 


joe.tone
joe.tone moderator

@barronstalls Are they your comments? We remove very few, to be honest, so I wonder if it's a tech glitch.

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

@barronstalls 

As always, it's because a bunch of racist Republicans tried to disrupt the conversation.

It's gotten so bad over the years that Fox news doesn't even have a comments section anymore.

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

@gm0622 Nobody can come into your community and fix it for you.  You have to clean up your own messes.

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

@holmantx The opening pages of the report explain, in painful detail, how they define blight.

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

@Tom434 

It's wildly ironic to see an aging racist refer to a piece of paper as "worthless".

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@bmarvel 

OK, but they'e the ones who say they know how to cure blight. They also cite a journalistic exercise (The News editorial series) as one of their authorities. So how narrowly drawn is that? I don't think they get to stick their snouts out quite that far into the garden and then yank themselves back into the academic tortoise shell the first time somebody hisses at them.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@rzimmerman1 

Or not. Maybe I should start my own series, "10 Holes in the Shirt," about people who wear torn or shabby clothing and the close correlation with poor nutrition. One trip to North Park could turn their lives around, what? You know, if it's so hard to talk about root causes, why not just approach everything back-asswards?

whocareswhatithink
whocareswhatithink

@rubbercow I'm so over talking about the 17% who commit 50% of the murder rate and 60% of the violent crime....I cant help but not be sympathetic until they clean up their own issues a little (not a lot, but lets bring the murder and crime rate down 10% for a start)....at some point, it has got to start from the inside. If the inside wont fix itself, no matter how much you dress it up from the outside, the inside will still be broken

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

@casiepierce It's absolutely HILARIOUS to see a racist try to express her racism - without using racist language.

CornyDoggy
CornyDoggy

@casiepierce 

I seriously doubt that the people who don't care to look for work take the time to vote in local elections

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@Tim.Covington 

WalMart sold that building about 2 years ago. An investor owns it.

casiepierce
casiepierce

@Tim.Covington I think your city councilman is supposed to be fixing that particular piece of blight... 


mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@barronstalls 

"concentration camp"?

is it possible to reach a higher level of hyperbole? nope.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@barronstalls 

Conspiratorial or not, there is an awful lot of stuff happening at high levels in the city right now which amounts to saying that the way to redevelop Southern Dallas is to deliver ownership of it into the hands of North Dallas.   

ryan762
ryan762

@whocareswhatithink @rubbercow Nationwide, the murder rate has dropped by half or more since the late 1980s/early 1990s. Even Chicago, which gets painted as a daily bloodbath, is seeing at least 40% fewer homicides than in the early 1990s.

So does that mean you're ready to start being sympathetic and working toward some solutions?

wilme2
wilme2

@bvckvs Dude, who else are you going to call a racist?  That seems to be all you are contributing to the conversation.  Please try to produce some original thought.

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

@mavdog @barronstalls 
It's an White Supremacist thing.  Calling a Jew a Jew is too respectful, so they come up with these insulting little names.

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

@JimSX @barronstalls At least if they own it, they will have a reason to maintain and improve it.  What we have instead is a tragedy of the commons, where not only are people able to suck subsidies out of the area without improving it, they actually have the perverse incentive to make it worse so they can get even more subsidies the next time around.

Meanwhile, the people living there are stuck in the New Plantation, where they are farming votes instead of cotton and beans.

allanenglish
allanenglish

Well,has the S.Dallas crowd done much about the blight?

whocareswhatithink
whocareswhatithink

@ryan762

@whocareswhatithink

 @rubbercow

In 2010 there were 12996 murders in the US. Blacks were 50.4% of that number. Of the 50.4%, 93% were killed by another black person. Crime rate as a whole may have dipped slightly since the 90's but how anyone thinks these numbers are respectable is beyond me. We are talking about 17% of the population responsible for HALF the murders in the US. If you keep ignoring it and thinking it will go away and pander to it, the problem will keep increasing.

The US overall murder rate is now 4.7% of 100,000 instead of 10% per 100,000 in the 80's.....kudos America.....Asking people to start to take some responsibility for themselves is not a bad thing. Blacks were approx 47% of the murders over a span of 20years...they are now 50%...that number is going UP not down...despite murder numbers dropping, they are taking on more of them. For a 17% race of the US - how is this acceptable by their or anyone else's standards

 http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2010/crime-in-the-u.s.-2010/offenses-known-to-law-enforcement/expanded/expandhomicidemain#disablemo

bilehttp://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/htus8008.pdf

CornyDoggy
CornyDoggy

@casiepierce

My entire life.  But seriously...

The 7% subset of the population who choose to turnout in Dallas County elections obviously view their civic duty much more importantly than the rest of the population.

I highly doubt there is much overlap between that subset and the subset that isn't in the workforce.  I'm not really going out on a limb with that hypothesis.

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@barronstalls

interesting that you believe that by self proclaiming victory you've achieved it.

my use of the word "blind" is very much on target.

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

lots of multiple posting today.

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@barronstalls @mavdog @JimSX 

the blind cannot see that people who desire to change their situation can do so simply by deciding it is up to them to take the first step and not accepting the staus quo.

there are no "fences and walls around South Dallas" which cannot be breached if one desires to do so.

that's why your wording was absurd hyperbole.

barronstalls
barronstalls

@mavdog @JimSX @barronstalls The less astute cant see the fences and walls around south Dallas, which applies to you. Try living in their shoes, you will have a different perspective, Mavdog! 

barronstalls
barronstalls

@mavdog @JimSX @barronstalls The less astute cant see the fences and walls around south Dallas, which applies to you. Try living in their shoes, you will have a different perspective, Mavdog! 

barronstalls
barronstalls

@mavdog @JimSX @barronstalls The less astute cant see the fences and walls around south Dallas, which applies to you. Try living in their shoes, you will have a different perspective, Mavdog! 

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@barronstalls

been there. I can guarantee you that unlike a "concentration camp" people have the freedom to come and go, there are no boxcars full of people who are close to death from being denied food and water, there aren't guard towers with soldiers shooting anyone trying to flee and there are no death chambers.

so yes, absurd hyperbole. an insult to the survivors of the real thing.

barronstalls
barronstalls

@allanenglish With what resources, Sir? The federal government provides resources to combat such things. How have those resources been spent by City Leaders to achieve that end??? Will let them weigh in on that??? I bet we hear crickets! 

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