Who's to Blame for the Bexar Boondoggle? We Delve into History -- 2011 A.D.-- to Find Out.

Categories: Schutze

City of Dallas
A lovely picture, but would you pay $20 million for it?

Maybe I need to do a mid-course correction. Beginning last Sunday, Dallas Morning News City Hall reporter Steve Thompson had what anybody would consider a terrific series of stories in the paper about an ill-fated slum clearance and renovation project on Bexar Street in South Dallas in which the city appears to have blown between $20 and $25 million.

Rudy Bush of the paper's editorial board and I have been yip-yapping at each other on Twitter (twip-twapping?) because I wrote a piece here Tuesday disagreeing with an editorial in which the paper bought into a certain line about whose fault it was. So, before anything else, my mid-course correction: Thompson's stories so far have been wonderful, even brilliant. Think about it.

Twenty million dollars? And what we get is a bunch of empty retail and some supposedly sold townhouses (more on that in a moment)? Really the most astonishing thing to me is that before Thompson teased out the money figures, nobody at City Hall had ever added this up and nobody at City Hall had ever asked. This is the kind of reporting everybody says never gets done any more because of cutbacks in the daily newspaper business. These stories ought to be game-changers. But for that, people have to know what the game is.

Who did this? The editorial to which I objected puts the blame pretty squarely on the shoulders of retired city housing director Jerry Killingsworth, a banker who went to work for the city in 2002. And, indeed, as Bush pointed out in one of his tweeps at me, Killingsworth obligingly wrote an op-ed piece for the News this week in which he did kind of a mea culpa.

In my twap back at Bush, I objected that the Jerry-did-it narrative ignores the whole history of the Bexar Street project. That deal came out of South Dallas leadership beginning the better part of 20 years, pushed by one influential family at first, then piled on by council members and community leaders. They are the ones who demanded not only that City Hall do it but that City Hall do it their way, without the safeguards Killingsworth, the former banker, was pushing for.

Rudy twaddled at me: "Tell you what, you do the distant past and we'll do the news." I said, "Deal!" So here goes.

Had the News editorial board merely done a search of its own previously published articles, it would have stumbled upon an especially illuminative op-ed piece published in 2011 by Gerald Britt, vice president of public policy at City Square, a nonprofit devoted to affordable housing. In that piece Britt describes how he and a person from another advocacy group flew to Baltimore to derail funding from a group there for a lease-purchase arrangement for townhomes on Bexar, an idea pushed at the time by City Hall.

Britt and the other advocate regarded lease-purchase, with City Hall holding the leases as a way to watch over its investment, as a betrayal of the long-range goal of private home ownership. That goal had been sought for two decades by members of the Mixon family, who, through the Ideal Neighborhood Association, were the originators of the entire Bexar Street effort. Together, the Mixons and their allies succeeded in forcing city officials to abandon the lease-purchase idea and instead provide half a million dollars in "mortgage subsidies."

Gerald Britt, whose civic involvement has earned him a reputation for integrity, intelligence and commitment, has argued in the past that these subsidies were not grants but "soft second mortgages" designed to reduce interest costs for first-time home-buyers. I have a feeling that point probably is over my head.

The bigger point in the immediate context, however, is that the $20 million Bexar Street imbroglio didn't just leap full-grown out of the forehead of a just-hired City Hall bureaucrat in 2002. Instead it was an organic movement that originated in the very heart and core of the community. (For a different take one who gets credit for Bexar Street -- back before credit became blame -- check out our report from 2011: City Officials Celebrate As Bexar Street Revitalization Project Begins to Take Shape.)

It also was an expression of a deeply held belief in both black and with leaderships in Dallas that the way to cure poverty and foment affluence is to build affluent-looking buildings. I happen to think that's what cultural anthropologists would call a "cargo cult," but I've already stated my lack of academic credentials.

I have no idea why Killingsworth is so eager to take the blame. He's an honest man. If he really believes he made all of this happen, then all I can think of for him is counseling.

I have no idea why city officials in recent talks with me have been almost casual about blaming Killingsworth, since he has a history of suing people who cross him. It seems awfully convenient for this apparently willing scapegoat to offer himself up only days or perhaps hours before the U.S. Department of Housing is expected to hit City Hall with a tough list of edicts based on HUD's finding that housing policy here has been screwed up as a junk pile.

I do suspect City Hall of a self-serving agenda, but I do not suspect the Morning News editorial board of conspiratorial complicity in that agenda. What I suspect the editorial board of is an all too predictable superficiality born of a deep-seated disinclination to plunge the scalpel deep.

The Bexar Street story, brilliantly reported by Thompson, should make us all ask ourselves some very deep questions. Do we know what causes poverty? Can poor people who are also victims of racism ever lift themselves up to a better life through blame and reparations alone? I'm not against blame, by the way. I just wonder if it's a real job.

If we were to look these questions hard in the eye, then we would have to take up a lot of other very painful issues on all sides of the ethnic/racial divide. When do we get down to normal relations between human beings and that thing they call, "Real Life?" These are the questions the editorial board fears ever to touch the knife to, and that's why they have bought off on the absurd "Jerry did it" story.

Got to go now. All this talk about blame has caused me to remember I still seem to be in hot water for allowing the back yard mosquito mister to freeze last winter, ruining its pump. Thinking out loud: I wonder if I should call Jerry.

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ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

Dallas City Hall is sounding more and more as it has become the modern day version of Tammany Hall and Boss Tweed.


Just another systemic failure. This one intended to supplement millions of dollars in expenditures at Buckeye Trails for the City's sister in crime, Dallas Housing Authority.


That part of town is a shit hole. Drive down Malcolm X and one would think it was Africa.  No shit.  The City could have used that money to build town homes near the East Side of Meadow and 75.  


@GAA1 You do realize that *that* part of town is also a shithole and has way to many apartments as it is (Vickery Meadow).

James080 topcommenter


No. I blame the suburbs. The northern, all white suburbs. 


I'm not real sure what you argument is here, Jim. 

1) the city has spent way more in other areas that did not "deserve" its help.

2) What are you trying to say about what Britt learned, and the Mixon's already knew? Economics 101 says retail follows rooftops. They have been in the trenches, the Mixon's have lived there for generations and are active in he community.

3) I know how you like to drive down to the car wash at MLK and chat with the "local natives". But you don't live here, and casual chats for a story don't make you a part of the community. There were TONS of meetings for many years about all this. Where were you then? Where was "City Hall" then? Where was the DMn then? (you said it's been 20 years coming so why not link some of those articles from 1994?) 

4) the local community lost control as soon as the city got involved. Gee, I don't know *HOW* that could ever happen in this fine burg! Asking for the city's help should not amount to ceding complete control. Ideal wanted/wants more homeowners and decent enough retail so they can go buy decent food for decent prices not at the crappy beer store.

5) Image: drive down Bexar on a Saturday afternoon. You'll see black people (gasp!) sitting in lawn chairs under shade trees playing dominoes and cooking barbecue. OH NOES! It's blight! But..... that's not what the oligarchs want their patrons to see when they cruise  down the street to get to (nervously) park their cars at the end to tour the Buckeyes and the Trinity River. 

6) Of COURSE "Buckeye Commons" is filling with people, they tore down Turner Courts. 

7) Jobs, jobs, jobs. A commenter posted earlier this week on another post that if you want job ready people, the furthest you can possibly get from transit/transportation with work ready people is here. 



All good points.

The bottom line is, redevelopment in a place like this is one of the hardest areas of municipal public policy.

The city already has a medium sized fortune invested in this, and I believe it could succeed. Maybe. Depending on how the city structures the deal going forward. It would take a fair amount of smart policy coupled with luck and a lot of faith.

If I thought that city staff could withstand the political pressure, and that the council leadership for that area could actually be trusted, then I would suggest that the city lease the retail and guarantee the owner of the development (no matter who that might be) a very low lease rate on those square feet. Then the city should market those spaces to appropriate tenants based on real market data, with the goal of at least recouping that amount. Any extra over and above that "floor" should be shared between the city and the owner at a rate defined by a predetermined matrix.

What are your ideas about how to help this much needed project succeed? I assume you would suggest that an ice cream shop would be just the thing...


@Anon. Yes. MOAR ice cream shops! That's the KEY to turning downtrodden South Dallas around! Smh @ the people who keep magically getting elected by east Dallas stooges to represent this area. I would say redistricting *might* help, but wait, we already went through that ridiculous charade. As long as the fine citizens in Claremont get a new library, the hell with Ideal Neighborhood!

Montemalone topcommenter

"The Projects", public housing, subsidized housing, whatever you call it, all start out shiny and new. The residents destroy them.

Some people are born trash and stay that way,

Just the other day I'm walking down Sheridan (Chicago, not Dallas) and some guy is standing in front of a dollar store, removing the plastic from a package of t-shirts, tossing the scraps in the street. I see this behavior all too often.

The reason south Dallas is a shithole is the people living there made it a shithole.

Dumping millions of dollars into connected contractors' hands isn't gonna change behavior.

And this is not a black thing, or a white thing, or a brown thing, There's just something about some people that they just don't care. 

Why waste the resources? There have been slums since there have been cities for a reason. Trash has to go somewhere. Let it and forget about it.

Better to spend $20mil on replacing non-functioning traffic lights in parts of the city where people pick up after themselves and don't destroy their own homes.



City Hall should pay special attention to this attitude from Montemalone. 

City Hall: This is a perfect example of what you look like when you discriminate against your own citizens. Do you really want to be just like Montemalone? 

No city that treats its citizens like this and has attitudes like Montemalone will ever be a true "World Class City."

Thanks Montemalone for showing everyone what we don't want to be!  

Montemalone topcommenter

@longball18 @Montemalone The citizens being discriminated against are the ones dealing with sorry streets, non-functioning infrastructure, and curtailed services. Spending $millions on what should be private development at the expense of public services is the disgrace. World Class Cities make sure the street lights work and the streets are passable and there are sidewalks and maybe even have public libraries and pools and playgrounds that are open all day every day and maintained. 

Now there's a bunch of new buildings. What now? There's no Neimans there, better subsidize one. Can't have the neighborhood feel slighted that they can't pick up a pair of Louboutins and their way to Whole Foods. Oh wait, better build one of those too. Hell, why doesn't Park Place have a Bentley dealer over there? Are these poor discriminated against people supposed to drive hoopties?

I tried the invest in the hood to make it better thing, with my own time, sweat and money. Have you? You know what my reward was? While I was at work, somebody kicked in the new door and stole tools, electronics, luggage, even the key from an antique armoire. Go ahead, go buy some property with your money. Go move in. Make the place all special. Enjoy!

It's not other peoples' money that's gonna cause change to happen for the better. It's that thing all the denizens of these neighborhoods bitch about not getting: respect. Respect for the public good and other peoples' property. And self-respect. 

Montemalone topcommenter

@longball18 and the funny thing is, there's landowners in another part of southern Dallas that would like to develop their property, but the city won't install the sewers that were approved. Problem is these landowners are the wrong ones. They're just people that have been there a looong time. I think ya'll call'em stakeholders. I'm guessing $20 mil would lay a fair bit of pipe. And this neighborhood has a university in it.


@Montemalone @longball18 Agreed on that whole fucked up Patriot's Crossing thing, and Jim's been sharing a fair amount of ink over it recently while the DMN rah-rahs about it.

But there's something you are missing in all this: what do ALL poor neighborhoods with high crime have in common? A severe lack of jobs and a way to get to those jobs. Over here, where do you think teenagers are going to work? You know the area, so, where's the nearest McDonald's? When I ran a summer program that employed poor inner-city kids, I had eight openings every year and hundreds of applicants. The people who live in these areas want to work, they just have no place to go and no way to to get there. Hum, I bet that inland port thingie would have been a great opportunity and I even bet DART would re-routed a couple buses to serve the area too..... 

Montemalone topcommenter

@casiepierce @Montemalone @longball18 Jobs in the area? I believe Mr. S has been covering that topic in re a certain car wash. People taking the initiative to go sell their services detailing autos, and for their efforts the city sends in the PoPo to shoo them away. And there's fast food, drug stores, and other businesses in the area around Fair Park, and some empty stores where enterprising souls could open their own businesses to provide the services that everybody thinks are missing. DART runs busses and there's a couple rail stations too. Do we have to have door to door DART?

I had an after school job. I had to ride my bike, until it was stolen from school (my parents wouldn't buy me another one) so I had to walk a few miles, sometimes in the rain, sometimes in the cold, sometimes in the heat. I get that there's more kids than easily accessible jobs. That doesn't justify these kinds of ridiculous projects. How many jobs are there now?

The city could have spent the $25mil hiring people from the neighborhood (or any other Dallas neighborhood) and put them to work paving streets and picking up trash and landscaping and whatever else needs to be done., That would put money in the pockets of people that would turn around and spend it as well as improve the quality of life for all citizens of the city. That's what the city is supposed to do. 

But we all know the real goal isn't to help the people, it's to help "the people" that are connected.


@Montemalone @casiepierce @longball18 Blah blah, I had a job when I was kid, blah blah, to get there I walked in the snow, barefoot, uphill! 

Kids here don't have bikes because their parents can't afford them and they get stolen. Believe it or not, most of the parents don't want their kids walking around unsupervised in a dangerous neighborhood. I have worked IN this very area. The TR Hoover Center is a place for kids to go, and then over on Dixon there's the Larry Johnson Rec Center. We've built trails out here, by the very kids who live here, we planted tress along Bexar, and I have worked with the staff at these centers and the pastors at the churches, I've spent many hours in community planning meetings at both these centers, and after dark! The people used to wave at me when they saw my old car, and I just live a mile down the road, so I kinda sorta have a clue, probably at least a better inkling than you. 

It seems like you're mostly just pissed because you tried to make a go of some investment properties somewhere in South Dallas, got your shit broken into, and then gave up. Boo. Hoo. You can't very well lecture about economics and then cry when you didn't weigh your own risk in business. Or, maybe you're just mad because they didn't invest in one of YOUR properties and instead let this idiot Halielu or whatever his name is run it into the ground. 

But back to jobs: Did you know that the Furr's over on I-20 is closing and the community is highly upset over it? Because about 100 little service jobs will be lost. They're mad at losing a hundred low-wage jobs!!! THAT is how badly jobs are needed in South Dallas. They weren't asking for hand-outs. They just want to work, and close to where they live, and after all isn't THAT part-and-parcel into making a "world class city", live-work-play areas?  


@casiepierce @Montemalone @longball18 

"But back to jobs: Did you know that the Furr's over on I-20 is closing and the community is highly upset over it? Because about 100 little service jobs will be lost. They're mad at losing a hundred low-wage jobs!!! THAT is how badly jobs are needed in South Dallas. They weren't asking for hand-outs. They just want to work, and close to where they live, and after all isn't THAT part-and-parcel into making a "world class city", live-work-play areas? ? 

Herein lies the problem, which is a creation by Dallas City Hall and DHA. The chickens are coming home to roost. 

HUD gives billions of dollars and ask that each recipient not worsen the problem by using their money to further the segregation and put even more people into these terrible conditions! The recipient agrees and signs certifications promising so, as Dallas did. But Dallas lied for the past decade(s)...............which just worsened the conditions in South Dallas........

Now, after realizing what they created, City Hall scrambles to deal with this deplorable situation.............  

Back to the story: This problem was worsened by Killingsworth, Suhm, Gonzalez and many others..


Interesting to see how DMN continues to tote water for Mary, even when they could have easily done the research as you did and written a more balanced piece. I guess that they figure no one is going to be smart enough to research it out to call them out.Would love to see that email or hear the phone call to Editorial telling DMN what they need to write in order to protect "the pant suit".

For Jerry to fall on his sword like the others at City Hall is just down right creepy.


@JimSX @raymondmcrawford The poor guy really needs his pension and he's around 75, so can you blame him for falling on his sword? He loses nothing given nobody hires people that old ( I hope I live that long..) and everything to lose by telling the truth. 

If he falls on his sword he goes to the mailbox every month like clock work and then strolls on down the bank!!

A beautiful arrangement for City Hall, after all, its taxpayers money, not AC's or Suhm's...... 


@JimSX It reminds of when Griggs and Hunt did the dramatic reveal where they showed that Mary got all down low with her dealings with Trinity East Energy. Watching the other council members who rushed to her defense with indignation that one should even consider her actions questionable at best was pop corn chewable too. Does this mean that those who defend her have such a stink on them that it would cause legal problems for them down the road? Or is a check in the mail the next day? It's not like they can be fired, but even in retirement, I suppose Jerry is afraid to awaken with a horse head in his bed.


@casiepierce @longball18 @JimSX @raymondmcrawford

Oh please. Guess a retired banker can have debts exceeding assets/income. Or couldnt have been caught up in investments that didnt work out. 

Go take a business class and get some real world experience then come back and comment.


@casiepierce @JimSX @raymondmcrawford

Looking at the state of COD Housing Department after his leadership, he's obviously not the sharpest  knife in the drawer.

As stated by Schutze, he had plenty of help with this, he was not acting alone.  

ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@longball18 @casiepierce @JimSX @raymondmcrawford How do you know sooooo much about his personal finances longball?


Killingworth told to resign May 7, 2013 during lunch hour with Ryan Evans, Suhm. Around130 in rage he started sending emails announcing retirement. He was expendable when his arrogance,incompetence finally got HUD's attention, including IG. Project Reconnect 2 indictments and hundreds of thousands ordered repaid so far. All programs all years being examined.

JK, Zavitkowsky, Evans, Suhm smug, over-confident, and got where they are by being smart enough and willing to do, say anything. Orgs and corps missing JK and worried about possible KarlZ, Evans departure are those enriched by the current no bid, no rfp, no competitive application system.


Im thinking Killingsworth and others keeping this quiet are worried about the HUD/IG investigation going criminal, which is why such great lenghts are being taken.


Jerry didnt do shit without approval and oversight from AC and Suhm. Nuff said.

Dallas Morning News is so in bed with City Hall its sickening and I dont trust a thing they print when it comes to City Hall or politicians. Maybe when they report a new hamburger joint opening, I drive over to eat, sight unseen.  

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