Dallas' Old Guard Comes Around on Building a Better City. Nice. Now They Should Go Away.

Categories: Schutze

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Library of Congress
Band plays on as Dallas Citizens Council surrenders to hipster army.

It's really sort of embarrassing -- all this gushing from The Dallas Morning News and the mayor, not to mention Wick Allison at D Magazine, going on about their conversion therapy and how they now believe in the new walkable city. Especially when they've put hearts on their sleeves this way, it seems churlish to say the obvious thing.

Now please go away.

But it really is like conversion therapy, isn't it? Why settle for somebody who merely converted, if you can find one who was born that way? The last thing this city needs is the generation of yesteryear, the people who weren't embarrassed about calling themselves The Dallas Citizens Council, now all of a sudden slapping stingy-brim fedoras on their heads and trying to nail it as hipsters.

All of this is on our minds because Dallas just hosted dueling conventions, one for urbanologists and the other for mayors. In the weeks preceding the arrival of the hipster urbanologists, several of the city's veteran road hucksters burst out of phone booths in brand-new tights and capes as champions of walkability and sworn enemies of the urban freeway foe. And that's all to the good. Converted is better than not.

But now go away.

What worries me especially about all the mayoral hagiography going on at the city's only daily newspaper is the conjunction with talk about a second term for Mayor Mike Rawlings. Poorly disguised as reporting, the talk sounds hortatory, as if somebody is afraid he won't. But is a 59-year-old former Pizza Hut CEO, no matter how amiable, exactly the right man to move Dallas into the 21st century?

Nothing against Rawlings, really, but this city now has young vibrant eyes-on-the-prize talent lined up down the block and around the corner, ready to jump on the bike at City Hall and get things going in the right direction. At this moment we should view continuity as two flat tires.

I look at current and former City Council ranks and see a handful of people who could take us there. Scott Griggs is the embodiment of the new pragmatically entrepreneurial, environmentally low-impact and socially porous neighborhood. Philip Kingston has the right kind of intelligent toughness to defend the new city from its inevitable nemeses, bad development and social separatism.

And then there is Angela Hunt. Her record is unblemished for just being right -- not a bad start. But then she gets more points for being tough enough. Tough enough for what? Tough enough to take it when the old guard pulls out the me-first knives, as we know they always will at some point.

Back away from City Hall and even more faces pop into view. State Representative Raphael Anchia has ducked multiple attempts to get him to run for mayor, but that could change if the right set of conditions came into being. Paul Quinn College President Michael Sorrell would bring both wisdom and panache. Hell, Jason Roberts, the Oak Cliff bike-o, thought up and was already doing all of this better-block new-city stuff before half of those urbanologists ever heard of it. He'd be a groundbreaking mayoral candidate with enough intellectual pedal-power to keep City Hall plugging along very aerobically for a decade.

And I know I must be leaving out dozens of intriguing people. Guess I'd better look at 2014 Dallas Observer People Issue and check, speaking of plug, plug, plug.

Yes. Dallas is on a temporal knife-edge. We all do sense truly momentous change just around the corner. Sure. It's a good sign that the old guard is starting to get it. But, no. We don't want them to do it. Why would we want that?

The moment approaches when a whole new generation of leadership must step forward and ease the old ones from their chairs as humanely as possible. The song for this moment is not "Auld Lang Syne." It's "The Word Turned Upside Down," the tavern ditty that the British band played on October 19, 1781, as their army surrendered to George Washington at Yorktown.

Part of it went: "The wine pot shall clinke, we will feast and drinke, and then strange motions will abound. Yet let's be content and the times lament, you see the world turn'd upside down."

Now there's an anthem for the times.


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18 comments
schermbeck
schermbeck

If only there was a politically savvy and new-monied group of Dallas residents organized to pursue a more "livable Dallas" through aggressive campaign support for like-minded candidates and policies......

greenvillite
greenvillite

Well said!  A realistic evaluation of Mayor Mike is long overdue.  While a likeable guy, he is one of the worst fence warmers we've seen in a long time.  He lacks the vision and leadership to accomplish the type of material changes Dallas has on its horizon and needs to better reach its potential.  An in-depth analysis of what Rawling has (and has not accomplished) is overdue - your articles of this week are a good start. 

Coupled with that should be an analysis of Mary Suhm's "legacy" (grossly deferred maintenance on practically all of the city's infrastructure, a disaster of a city budget, mistrust between the city and its residents, a staff that doesn't think it has rules to follow, etc.) and what A.C. Gonzales is really up to.  The DMN's way of sucking up Mike & Mary (and now AC) is beyond suspect. 

Time for some real journalism.  That is not to say that a bashing is in order, because that is really no more unbiased than what the DMN is doing.  Something fair and fact based would be refreshing (sort of akin to Monday's article).  I'm sure you are just the guy for it Mr. Schutz. 

And, IMO, this article has some fine suggestions for the new guard for Dallas. 

JFPO
JFPO

"And then there is Angela Hunt. Her record is unblemished for just being right." She was right about the toll road, but she also had a Wal Mart in every neighborhood obsession that blemishes her record plenty.

blevy6
blevy6

Agreed! These folks are out of a Sinclair Lewis novel--Babbit, to be specific.  As you have said, our Mayor seems like a good guy, but he is a salesman, a "brander," etc. Nothing smacks of provincialism more than this insistence by elected officials and others about how World Class Dallas is.   I mean, come on, Dallas will NEVER be London, NY, Paris, Rome, Shanghai, Rio, San Francisco, etc.  It is a pleasant enough second tier city that has a lot going for it.  For one thing, it is set within a vibrant region. Dallas is really a modern version of an old "country town." Nothing wring with that. But if I hear one more thing about Trinity Groves and the Bridge I am going to vomit!

brock81
brock81

Agree completely about the "old guard" needing to go way for things to get much better. They have way too much baggage; its time for a new perspective. 

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

What do people think keeps the walkable districts we have in the city now humming?  It aint the paltry few who live there, there aren't enough people living within reasonable walking distance of Deep Ellum to keep the host of bars and restaurants operating at a profit.  No, it takes commuter consumers from the far flung reaches of the city and the burbs, driving in and parking, then walking to their favorite watering holes.

I happen to like the current iteration of DE.  I don't live there, but I frequently stroll through it.  I either drive in and park nearby or take DART in.  The atmosphere in DE is one of the reasons I'm against tearing out 345; move all that traffic down to the surface and the walkability in DE will vaporize.  You'll end up with Buckner RD or Lake June type business and traffic.  If you manage to keep the traffic out of DE, the businesses there will die out, there will be nothing to sustain them.  Not sure about Bishop Arts, I haven't spent much time there.

Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

I'm not so sure those folks you mentioned fully converted.

They want walkable freeways (er tollways). You see, when all that traffic is at a standstill, you can get out of your car and walk to wherever it is you're trying to get and it'd be faster.

becoolerifyoudid
becoolerifyoudid

Of course the old guard is for "urbanism" and "walkability" in some ways.  They are also probably for things like higher rents, gentrification displacing people of color to the suburbs, and cramming more units for sale onto a single acre, all of which can be done under the guise of new urbanism.  Even better, they can use the cat's paw (people for whom new urbanism is an ideology for which the ends justify any means necessary) to accomplish the task.


While you are correct about there being new leaders, the fact is I just want affordable rent and a job.  If there is cool stuff nearby even better.  I doubt I am the only one with pragmatic desires.  No need for us to be New York, I couldn't afford it there anyways.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

Underlying all of the above (which will have an impact through all of society) is the desire for what has been termed Walkable Urbanism. According to the Brookings Institute, “since the rise of cities 8,000 years ago, humans have only wanted to walk about 1,500 feet (approximately a quarter mile) until they begin looking for an alternative means of transport: a horse, a trolley, a bicycle, a car. This distance translates into about 160 acres – about the size of a super mall, including its parking lot. It is also about the size, +/ 25 percent, of Lower Manhattan, Downtown Dallas, Deep Ellum, the financial district of San Francisco, Town Center Atlanta, and most other major Town Centers in the country.”

But here’s the rub:  Most businesses cannot survive on walk-ups.  Like the rest of us, they require penetration.  Market penetration, that is.  That delivers patrons in numbers sufficient to cover the overhead.  The number of retailers, the rent they pay, the economies of scale they rely upon when buying at Sam’s Club (ha!), all rely upon something a little better than biped power to create revenue in the amounts necessary to hold costs down.  Profitability.  Hell, most are just breaking even as it is. 

Today Wal-Mart says there oughta be a Living wage, why?

It is a cold, hard calculation.  It will take out Main Street and the mom n’ pops.  They can’t pay a living wage because you won’t pay the freight on what they sell.  You perennially go all China on ‘em.  But fortunately, it’s a vicious circle.  You get to learn the hard way.  No small business, no jobs, no time to think about walklable neighborhoods.  Just a struggle for the legal tender.

But keep your car handy.  You’ll need it to get to Wal-Mart or Sam’s Club.  For you just cut out the little retailer middlemen, who used Sam’s to deliver to you on your street where you left him, face down in the middle of it.

ozonelarryb
ozonelarryb

Beware new, converted, mercurial friends.

lftay
lftay

Unless you replace the council/manager system of government and/or get rid of most of the old guard members of the city council, whoever becomes the mayor will make very little difference.  Replacing Rawlings is necessary, but hardly sufficient.

RobertStinson
RobertStinson

Has the Old Guard "come around" or do they now believe walkable cities will "keep the dirt flying?" I believe it is the latter.

dallasdrilling.wordpress.com
dallasdrilling.wordpress.com

And you heard that Scott Goldstein from DMN who wrote that love poem about Mike Rawlings has now left DMN to become the "Wilonsky" for Baylor Health Care System.  That's okay, Mike still has Sam Merten to do guest articles for DMN.

kduble
kduble

@RTGolden1  I-345 is a flyover ramp. Its motorists couldn't help Deep Ellum if they wanted to, as they can't exit the overpass to spend.

RobertStinson
RobertStinson

Replace 14-1 with what exactly? And how do we prevent the Dallas political machine from winning a strong mayor position and maintaining business as usual.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@kduble @RTGolden1 284B takes one to main or elm st's, flip a bitch and you're right in DE.  285 takes one down to Bryan and Texas st's, a back road into DE if you will.  Even if there were no exits to get you there, that wasn't my point.

People coming into or through downtown from the east, commonly take 345 to avoid the mixmaster.  I did when I was driving to and from work.  I found a way that avoids even the 345 hassles by following Malcolm X into DE, hooking left on Main or Elm to Good latimer and following it north to catch Maple and on in to work.  When 345 and 30 are running well, it works wonderfully, when they are backed up, my route becomes an escape valve and it is horrid.  If you take out 345, a good portion of that traffic will route through Deep Ellum on their daily journeys, and with that increased traffic will come businesses that feed on high volume vehicle traffic.  bye bye trendy little hipster neighborhood.

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