Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Inarguable...or at Least I Thought So


There are facts and truths which are sometimes so obvious it is amazing that people would try and argue against it. Those facts and truths seem 'inarguable'. But the longer I live, the more I am becoming aware that people will argue...anything.

Take, for instance, the issue of scrap metal recycling yards.

A legitimate business. A necessary business. A business that contributes to the 'greening' of our culture and is an economic positive, all things being equal.

The problem is, in Dallas all things aren't equal.

Ask yourself a question - would you want to live near one?

Would you want the noise, the pollution, the traffic? The businesses that are attracted to such an area the types of businesses that you would want next to your home? Bars, liquor stores, other heavy industrial types of businesses?

Then ask yourself another question: if you live on a fixed income; if you are poor or disabled, or young - if you've lived in the area and haven't had effective political representation that aggressively seeks to repeal the zoning that erroneously, if not malevolently allowed the businesses to move into the area mean that you 'deserve' to live there?

Or another question: you live in an area of town in which you pay significant property taxes. In fact you live in the 20% of the city in which property taxes are high because 80% of the city is underdeveloped or poorly developed - i.e. improper zoning which depresses property values of the surrounding neighborhood. Potential residents who could afford to more expensive homes have gone to the suburbs. The schools are better. The neighborhoods are better. No scrap metal recycling yards. No package stores that sell liquor. No bars or clubs.

Wouldn't you want to see the area redeveloped? Better housing, equals more property taxes, equals better schools, equals more economic development, equals more sales taxes. You get the drift.

The city could be creative and allow businesses - wholesome, productive business to stay; it could get creative and allow existing homeowners to stay - but the overall net effect would be the city would benefit from redevelopment and revitalization of any and every portion of the city that is underdeveloped or poorly developed.

Doesn't that make some sense at least?

So, why is it that the Dallas Morning News' editorial stance on moving scrap metal recyclers out of residential neighborhoods is so fraught with controversy?!

I write a column for the Morning News, but I don't shill for them. Anyone on the editorial board will tell you that I have no problem at all telling them - or writing - when I think they are wrong.
And there are times when they have been wrong.

But not this time.

Why is it that championing the interests of people who don't make a $75,000 a year a bad thing?
Why is it conspiratorial to say that people who have invested money in their homes, churches and businesses shouldn't have to live with these urban nuisances simply because the owners are making millions of dollars. Or because representatives of these areas don't have the fortitude to fight granting special use permits for businesses which saturate the area?

When the residents cry out against these nuisances they are lazy n'er-do-wells; when clergy cry out against them, they are imposing their religious views on everyone; when the newspaper cries out against them its because billionaire interests secretly covet land that no one else has professed to want. When politicians do cry out, they must be up to something shady.

What constitutes a legitimate voice on this issue qualified to say 'no' to business interests that are not so quietly killing these low income neighborhoods?

I understand that some people need to sell papers.

I understand that some people have a different point of view and have something to say.

But I also understand that some people just have to say something - whether they actually have something to say or not.

Why is it so hard to see that even low income people don't want to live with traffic noise, air pollution, visible blight - even by legitimate businesses? Just because you don't make as much money as someone else means that you don't deserve healthy living environments?

Elected and public officials at Dallas' City Hall have to face a truth: you cannot claim to want to redevelop and revitalize poorer sections of our city and protect the interests of incompatible business uses which prevent the redevelopment and revitalization of those same sections of the city. You cannot have it both ways.

It's...well inarguable.


randye said...

Also inarguable-as soon as the DMN and this city get the businesses gone, those residents are next.

Michael Davis-Dallas Progress said...

Rev. Britt,

Thank you for writing this post. As you know, residents have been complaining about these businesses for decades, and now we have some politicians that are listening to their constituents and trying to address the situation.

One look at the surrounding one-mile radius will show exactly the scenario you have illustrated in this post.