Unify South Dallas had its first of seven community information sessions this past Saturday. I don't know how to classify it other than an unqualified success! There were over 50 people representing almost 10 community organizations present.
The first session was intended to introduce the effort, sponsored by a number of community non-profits, and organizations, including Central Dallas Ministries, Mill City Renessaince and the African American Museum, but provided significant leadership by IKOJA and Hip Hop Government. The latter two organizations are primarily grassroots, headed by young professionals who are serious about encouraging young people in South Dallas to be serious about civic engagement and community revitalization.
We looked at a number of strategic plans, some several years old and some of which have produced results, but some of which are obsolete, given the opportunities and new realities of today. More importantly, there are a number of elements of these plans which have been implemented, without having come back to the community to explain how they relate to which previous plans, the benefits or how they are prioritized or reprioritized with other elements of what plan. And, yes, there are some plans that are in someone's drawer somewhere.
In most instances there is no communication about the cost of the project, what kind of civic support is needed or how a given project may translate into entreprenuerial opportunities or jobs, or may serve to mitigate certain other neighborhood problems.
Don't get me wrong, there are times when the city and other agencies do hold the obligatory community meetings to serve notice or get feedback (that's how many of these plans evolve). But there are any number of cases when notices are given in ineffectively: notices in the newspaper; inserts in water bills, etc. So in many communities it takes a much more intentional effort.
However, it has to be noted, that these calls for accountability are not one sided. Unify South Dallas is calling on neighborhood associations, non-profits, churches and other groups to be more proactive and more aware - to exercise a much more advanced citizenship and to get more substantively involved. Unify South Dallas is calling on citizens in South Dallas to engage in advanced citizenship.
The schedule is as follows:
September 19. Presenters include: Dallas Area Rapid Transit; Developers, McCormack, Baron, Salazar; Inner City Development Corporation; Frazier Revitalization, Inc.; the Real Estate Council Foundation
September 26. South Dallas Hope Initiative/South Dallas Action Plan; City of Dallas Economic Development Department; Mill City Renaissance
October 3. State Fair of Texas, Fair Park Museums, City of Dallas Parks and Recreation
October 24. Reaching project consensus with groups that have been in attendance.
November 5. Meeting with elected officials and presentation of community agenda.