Wednesday, September 30, 2009

We Can All Take the Credit or Accept the Blame

There's been a little angst regarding The Dallas Morning News' editorial board's 'Bridging the Gap' project.

For two years now, there has been a special initiative to focus on the disparity between North and South Dallas. It's important since South (or southern) Dallas represents some 80% of the city land mass, but is woefully underdeveloped representing less than 20% of Dallas' tax base. Most of the city's poorest neighborhoods are found in southern Dallas - more particularly the South Dallas/Fair Park area and West Dallas. It is amazing, that the attitude of many who respond to issues raised about this disparity have a 'damn 'em all to hell', 'serves 'em right' attitude towards the poor in this region of our city. When investment in southern Dallas is brought up, some northern residents complain about the amount of tax money that must be spent on people who 'don't deserve it'. It is amazing that they have a difficult time seeing that economic development in the southern sector expands the tax base and lessens the tax burden on everyone. Of course that's simply the economic rationale.

And its not the only angst being expressed.

There are some in southern Dallas who are somewhat troubled by DMN's 'sudden' interest in the area. Much more to the point, they feel the paper is taking undue credit for some of the progress that has been made in the area. Take, for example, yesterday's op-ed by southern Dallas City Councilman Tennell Atkins. His is pretty much an example of the sentiment that has been expressed by some leaders and residents.

While I can understand it, I don't quite agree.

There are a number of leaders who have worked tirelessly on issues of poverty, education, violence, housing and economic development in South/southern Dallas for literally decades. They have done so without much fanfare and, with all due respect to Councilman Atkins, without much support from the city council or the Dallas Morning News. They've worked hard in to organize their neighbors, agitate their church members, chastise their neighbors children. They have reported crime, blight, nuisances and lack of services. These are residents who have volunteered countless hours in area schools and churches. And for a long time, they have done so without notice.

But I don't see DMN's focus as stealing their thunder. Indeed, I see it as affirmation of the work and advocacy that I and others have done. The writers for the paper see nothing more and nothing less than what many southern Dallas residents have had to live with for decades. As a matter of fact, it could be argued if the larger Dallas community had listened and taken what we've all tried to say seriously enough early enough, things wouldn't be as bad as they are now.

For instance, the South Dallas Hope Initiative pointed out the need to do something about the metal recyclers on Lamar Street. They, along with the heavy commercial truck traffic, and the declining tax base due to the loss of homes and business and the S.M. Wright Freeway that runs parallel to Lamar make this area an 'environmental justice community'. This means that it is an area in which any federal dollars spent on massive transportation projects must be preceded with plans for mitigation to avoid reducing the environmental impact on the area in an effort to avoid causing further damage.

Tod Robberson, a writer for the Morning News, has mentioned this in a couple of blog posts this week. For him to do so, doesn't in anyway take away from SDHI's findings. It validates them and presents those findings to the larger Dallas community. Nor does it eliminate the need for further advocacy or action on the part of the residents in that area of south Dallas. It means that residents now know that 'the newspaper of record' for the city, has a point of reference for an issue that can be a serious impediment to the redevelopment of this area. It also means that neither City Hall, the North Texas Tollway Authority (NTTA), or the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), can ignore the claims of SDHI or the neighborhood, because the newspaper's research and reporting reveals virtually the same thing.

As for taking credit in their two year retrospective, I view it somewhat akin to several people calling 911 to report an accident. If ten people see the same accident and all ten call 911 when the emergency crews arrive at the scene who takes credit for getting them there? At the end of the day, everyone who called goes home knowing that they did something to render aid.

And most importantly those involved in the accident get the attention they need.

Let's not spend so much energy on determining whose getting credit. Let's keep calling for help!

The more time we spend complaining about who's getting credit, the more blame there is to go around.


Shawn Williams said...

I'm with you as usual. I'm not sure why everyone wants to do victory laps all of a sudden. There's just too far to go to start looking for who gets credit.

Anonymous said...

Motivation must come from within.

Gerald Britt said...

Anonymous 7:08 - Cryptic but 'OK'...