Wednesday, October 27, 2010

An Imperfect Important Victory

The issue of incompatible presence, of heavy industrial businesses located in Dallas' low income communities may well be on its way to being addressed. Seriously. To the benefit of those communities.

According to a Dallas Morning News editorial

"A backroom agreement between Oak Cliff Metals and Dallas City Hall appears to herald a welcome end to unlawful activities by the southern Dallas scrap yard. The deal, finalized Oct. 13, gives the company an ironclad, 270-day deadline to cease metal salvage and storage operations and bring the Cadillac Heights property into compliance with all city, state and federal environmental laws. The city will fence and lock it if conditions aren't met by the July deadline."

"Relief is finally in sight for neighboring residents and business owners forced to tolerate this junkyard's presence for years. The agreement also marks an important step in city efforts to change the unworkable residential-industrial zoning mix that has dragged down numerous southern Dallas neighborhoods. Heavy industry has its place in the Dallas economy, but not next to parks and homes..."

"City Attorney Tom Perkins says the agreement allows the company to operate temporarily without required zoning and permits; the city will look the other way. In exchange, the company agreed to shut down, rather than fight this matter in court – which likely would have prompted years of delays and high legal bills."

"Perkins says he will not tolerate apparent violations of other city laws and codes, which include such longstanding company practices as exceeding height restrictions on junk metal and using a city street as a private parking lot."

A perfect deal? Hardly. But, then, what deals are? I'm not a fan of incrementalism when it comes to justice, but sometimes it might be the best you can get. This vote does, however, set a positive precedent that says that homeowners - even low income, elderly homeowners - have a right to live without the intrusion of industrial blight.

It amazes me that there is not more city uproar about this. But comments in both DMN's online publication, this blog and other publications tend to suggest that if you don't have much money, it ought not matter whether the area in which you live is environmentally unhealthy, unsafe, or if businesses that come into your community are undesirable. In other words, lack of income is a justifiable reason to disregard your humanity. I don't know if unconscionable attitudes like that will ever change. But I do know that public action - in spite of those attitudes - has to be taken on behalf of people who don't have attorneys or lobbyists to speak up on behalf of their interests.

Say, what you will about Dallas' City Council - this time, they took important steps toward doing the right thing.

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