South Dallas Car Wash Owners Targeted for City Hall Harassment Are White. Is That a Coincidence?

Categories: Schutze

target.jpg
Wikipedia Commons
If the city ever puts up an official notice on the Davenports property, it should look like this.
This week I have a story in the actual newspaper about Jim's Car Wash at the corner of MLK Boulevard and Myrtle Street in South Dallas -- the business that is the object of an eight-year running battle at City Hall. One important point in that story may get short shrift. I don't want to look like I'm hiding the ball, so I'll deal with it here.

See also: Dallas City Hall versus The Car Wash

For eight years, southern Dallas elected officials have been trying to run Freddy Davenport and his son Dale out of business at the car wash. As I think you will see if you take a look at my story, the Davenports enjoy heartfelt support from the people who work detailing cars at their car wash -- understandable since the car wash is the only source of income many people in this very poor African-American part of the city can find. So why, if so many people depend on the car wash for a living, have elected South Dallas officials spent the last eight years trying to shut the place down?

As I suggest in the piece, City Hall officials from the mayor on down have dreams for this stretch of MLK -- dreams that probably involve a nonprofit entity run by former City Council member Diane Ragsdale. It already owns 80 parcels of residential land near and around the block the car wash is on. The mayor would like to see her nonprofit move on out to MLK and establish a commercial foothold.

Two lots right next to the car wash are already in city possession. Dale Davenport has inquired about bidding for those properties. He says city officials told him he could not bid on them and that the lots could be sold only to a purchaser approved by the City Council member for that district, Carolyn Davis. If anybody really said that, they got their story a little bit wrong.

From what I have been told, the lots can only be put up for bid if the council member says they can. But once they are up for bid, Davenport's money should be as good as anybody's.

Nevertheless, it is my very strong impression based on conversations with people at City Hall and with property-owners along MLK that the Davenports are not going to be allowed to buy that property, in spite of the fact that they have good credit, in spite of the fact that they have community support, in spite of the fact that they have the business experience and acumen to develop it. I believe that those two lots, along with the property the Davenports now own, have been politically bequeathed to Ragsdale.

The Davenports are the soft spot. Their property is the path that City Hall can use to bring Ragsdale out onto MLK without ruffling feathers elsewhere up and down the street. And why is that? OK, here is the tough part, and please listen carefully so you can hear what I am saying and what I am not saying.

The Davenports are two white guys from East Texas. Did I just say City Hall is targeting because they are white? Not exactly. The entire block east of them is owned by a white family, but it happens to be a very old white family with deep roots and strong ties to South Dallas and to City Hall. What I am saying is that the Davenports, because they are white and because they are from out of town, lack those roots and those ties that might otherwise protect them from this kind of incursion. They are a path of least resistance.

As I report in the story, the mayor has already declared the city's intention to use zoning law to shut down the car wash. It sounds draconian, but the fact is that current law and current zoning on that site will allow the city to do it. The city must declare the car wash a nuisance first, which is going to seem pretty rotten to the people I profile in my piece in the paper this week who depend on it for a living. They talk about it like it's a cross between a church picnic and the public square.

But nuisance laws and zoning are used in my part of East Dallas and all over town to effect the will of neighborhoods trying to better themselves. And I don't know what the mayor and Ragsdale have in mind for MLK. Maybe it's magnificent.

This fact remains: Not everybody up and down MLK has to pay the price for this magnificent adventure, whatever it is. Not everybody gets his business shut. Not everybody must spend hundreds of thousands of dollars defending his business from an eight-year onslaught of transparently trumped up City Hall harassment.

The Davenports do. They are the target. They are two white guys from East Texas. And none of that is coincidental.


In response to commenters below, here is most recent 990 I could find for Diane Ragsdale's community development corp. My only comment: I see about $41,000 a year in salary and benefits for Ragsdale, but then the form shows another $91,000 in additional salary and wages, and I can't tell who gets that. Anyway, here 'tis, and have at it:

S Dallas Fair Pk 990 2011 by Schutze

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32 comments
RichGans
RichGans

what's the point of posting their 990 forms?


we get it. You don't like Caroyln Davis or Diane Ragsdale, neither do most of your readers.  Congrats.  None of the readers have ever been over there. Sure you can get a car washed or waxed but you can also get whatever drugs you need around the back. 


You talk about black white issues so much, but when is the last time your own paper ever had a black writer? Even the morning news has had a few over the years and still does. I'll wait for that answer.

casiepierce
casiepierce

Davis has never been anything more than a proxy for Ragsdale


When I ran against them in 2011 my campaign mailers suddenly disappeared only to be sent out out after the election. Only Ragsdale could pull that off with her cronies at the main post office...

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

I have an idea that there are a few attorneys who would take the Davenports as clients on a pro-bono basis.

The tax return is some interesting reading. For instance..

$650K in revenue and $158K in salaries, about 25%.

A loss of $55K as expenses increased about 15% while revenue decreased 5%.

during this same period assets increased by $352K while liabilities increased by $408K.

not very well managed wouldn't you say?

land, buildings and equipment valued at $5.8Million, albeit with $4.8Million in debt.. This "non-profit" has successfully leveraged its cash flow (grants and donations) into some pretty good compensation for its operators and also a possible positive $1 Million net worth.

not a bad gig.

Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

Every time some preacher or politico starts bitchin' and moanin' about how nobody wants to invest in southern Dallas we need to pull out these examples and wave them around.

Just like the Korean convenience store owner that expected people to pay. Didn't he understand?



halldecker
halldecker

this is what was supposedly happening three years ago.  After a very hasty read:


$625k total revenue


5% of that,  $32k,  on accounting.


Interest,  why was money borrowed,  from whom,  what terms,  $62k,  10%.


Bad debt,  no details on from whom and why,  $39k,  about 7%.


"Occupancy"  $125k,  is that the organizations rent?  I'm lousy at math,  20%?

"Other"  $123k,  another 20%.

I calculate over 60% that's questionable.  Nickels and dimes elsewhere to quibble over,  these are the ones that jump out.


I've run non-profits,  you file your Returns on-time,  you make them (and everything else)  available anytime somebody wants to see them.  Anybody,  doesn't even have to be media.   Jim?

James_the_P3
James_the_P3

Am I the only one who is mildly surprised that Diane Ragsdale is still alive?  We haven't heard from her in so long, I'd just assumed that she'd passed.  And anyway, she's got to be getting up there in years.

EdD.
EdD.

Why is it that every single thing that ever happens in Dallas has a shady land deal at its base? This isn't new, either. Dallas was founded on shady land deals and that proud tradition carries on to the present day.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

Please see addition of South Dallas Fair Park Community Development Corp IRS 990 for 2011 above, in response to comments below.

gadfly
gadfly

Forget about it, Jake. It's Chinatown!

halldecker
halldecker

Somebody needs to find Diane and get her on-record that she has no interest in the land,  doesn't know what all this is about,   her good name is being sullied by evil-doers.


I'd like to know more about her non-profit,  where its money comes from,  what it pays Diane,  others,  what its goals are.  


Betcha there's a soft under-belly there.


Toned,  no doubt,  on a picnic table in Arlington.

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

Of course it isn't coincidence.


Also, is there any chance of getting video of Ragsdale eating cheese?

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

White, black, purple . . . no matter. They are in front of a machine that only sees one color: green.

Gee, I guess white and black people aren't so different, after all.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

Changing zoning to eject a property use is "inverse condemnation".  It is a de facto Public Taking. Law firms specialize in Inverse Condemnation cases. Worse, it appears to be malicious and politically motivated if it cannot be proven the property use is a nuisance or blighted.  And these two items are crucial since non-conforming uses are grandfathered under such a change.  

This is going to cost the taxpayer MILLIONS in punitive awards if the Davenports just don't lay down.  Their property is clean (no blight) and demonstrates community support (not a nuisance).

It appears the only nuisance the property exerts, is upon the City and local politicos. 

The City is going to keep fiddling around with this and not only is it going to get its clock cleaned in District Court civilly, they have been warned by the state they are in criminal country - official oppression (cops), public official bribes (tithing), and misuse of public office for personal gain.  That means the state AG can weigh in and even the Feds can and WILL do a dance on their head.  It's not like the JUstice Department won't grab the low-hanging fruit here in Dallas for these kinds of outrageous grabs.

You have flipped over a rock and and the bugs are going to hate all that sunshine.  Or more like catching crabs in the estuaries.  You you tie a chicken neck to a piece of string and dip it in the water, then slowly pull it up.  Why a crab just won't let it go has always mystified me.  But there he hangs by one claw, snapping at me with the other.  Just reach around and grab him in the back, and in the bucket he goes.  Repeat process.

It is the indecency of this that is so in our faces.

Anon
Anon

I am so glad we do not live in Dallas.

It doesn't matter what Diane wants to do along MLK at this point because this process is so utterly and completely corrupt. Giving Carolyn the power to bless this kind of activity should be (if it isn't already) a felony offense. And not just because it is Carolyn, although that is reason enough right there. Allowing any council member that power is just plain wrong. Letting her engage in this sort of back room political patronage - funneling city resources to her closest campaign advisor, it stinks to high heaven. It just stinks.

Jim, have you thought about a FOI request, specifically about the car wash? It would be very interesting to see what email traffic has passed though Council Member Davis's in and out boxes. If the Dallas IT archiving process is anything like that in other cities, that kind of information is backed up daily and archived and cannot be easily deleted - it isn't just stored on individual PC hard drives. You might give it a think.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

@halldecker 

Two things really stick out to me. 

1)  The Asst Treasurer makes about ~$200/hr (1 hr/week and $10,400 total paid)

2) The some $123k paid out for "other fees for services (non-employee)" which is about 78% of all of the "fees for services".

Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

@EdD. 

Ya see, shady land is much better in the hot ol' summertime.

halldecker
halldecker

@TheCredibleHulk  I only see one color,  green.


"Now,  when we go out to get on the bus,  I want the darker green to go sit in the back,  the lighter green up-front ..."

P1Gunter
P1Gunter

Damnit, now I want crab for dinner.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

If this winds up a straight lawsuit in state court, the case law indicates the city will win hands-down. By the way, under a rule instituted by Mary Suhm, City Hall emails and other communications are now destroyed on an accelerated schedule. The Davenports could sue the city in federal court on civil rights issues and maybe have a shot, but that endeavor would take years and cost them more than the value of their business and land. In real world terms, the only real shot they have is a very long shot -- that something happens politically to scare the council into reconsidering. Problems with that: Carolyn Davis will only dig in deeper. The real heart of the 14-1 single member council system is the informal but inflexible rule by which all council members always defer to a single member on zoning questions within that member's district. I predict this whole thing is a slow roll to the cliff for the Davenports. The only hope is that my predictions are so often wrong.

Anon
Anon

The crab isn't very smart. That's why.

casiepierce
casiepierce

@AnonYou're assuming that CM Davis knows how to operate the email machine.....

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@P1Gunter 

just throw the city staffers and the politicians back.

easy to catch but they aren't edible. 

Better yet, throw 'em way up on the bank so they can't get back in the water.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@JimSX 

A change in zoning may remove the use (see: iconic family Ross Ave car repair business), but it cannot force a sale of the property.  And it is also a candidate for an inverse condemnation lawsuit, and there is a lot of case law on that too.  In fact, if the zoning was only amended to prohibit car washes, that is being aimed at an individual property owner which is a big no-no.  The question is why, if the use does not meet the definition of blight or nuisance?

The City accelerated the email disposal process back when they finished up on the Omni takings and vote.  But this one won't need those emails.  The City must prove blight or nuisance, and that will not play well in front of a district court jury under inverse condemnation (which the property owner must bring).  In fact, it looks like the City went the zoning change route because the eminent domain avenue is now radioactive.  They can't demonstrate a compelling PUBLIC need FOR THAT PROPERTY based upon a developed public plan.  Put a another marker on the plaintiff's side.

The City's like the crab.  You can't reason or shame the crab into just letting go.  And and as kid, God knows I tried.

So in to the bucket he goes.

Anon
Anon

Not assuming anything, but point well taken. CD probably doesn't know how to run email, but you can bet her CM assigned babysitters do...

Anon
Anon

I'm sure the South Dallas Vote Delivery System is 100% legit.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

"You don't hurt 'em if you don't hit 'em." Lieutenant General Lewis B. Puller, USMC, Marine, 1962.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@JimSX taxes would drop to land value only, if the City denied the use, pulled the certificate of occupancy and left them land only.  And the property taxes on the land are nil.

But even the City would have to give them years to vacate, so they could continue to operate unless the City proves blight or nuisance.

But again, they cannot do that unless the Davenports let them.

sometimes you have to fight.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@JimSX 

The cash award will be huge.  Juries are hell on cities who pull stuff like this.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

Good points. I don't know if the Davenports can afford to hold on to the property if the city screws their business. Of course I wish they would, but would I pay the taxes? Uh, no.

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