Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Dangerous Oxymoron: Stagnant Growth

My column in last week's Dallas Morning News dealt with the decline in our city's population and urges our new mayor and council (to be elected May 14) to adopt a pro-growth strategy for the southern portion of our city.

Apparently, I'm not alone in noticing that Dallas' failure to grow over the past 10 years, is not a good omen for our city's future. More specifically failure to do everything possible to keep and attract a growing middle class of minorities - who, in many ways do represent a 'rising tide' which can lift the fortune of some of our poorest communities - is being capitalized on by surrounding suburbs, especially to the South.

DMN editorial writer Rodger Jones provides access to even more data that proves this point, in his blog post on yesterday, entitled 'Could Dallas become another Detroit?' These population statistics on the North Texas Council of Government website show both Dallas' paltry growth over the past decade and the explosive growth of surrounding cities. For the record middle class African-Americans move to the cities of Lancaster, DeSoto, Cedar Hill, Ovilla, Red Oak and Waxahachie. The also move to Mesquite and Garland to the east, and Grand Prairie and Arlington to the west. Check out the growth of those cities. Upper middle class blacks move to cities like Midlothian.

This Diaspora of middle class blacks (and whites), cannot possibly be the sole explanation for the explosive growth of these cities. We cannot overlook the hard work of these municipalities to attract people and businesses to achieve growth and health. Nor should those who leave Dallas be blamed for wanting greater housing options, schools and amenities for themselves and their families.

My point is Dallas has not tried hard enough. And in the meantime, instead of placing emphasis on restoring health to economically challenged areas through focused development through business, housing and education. The failure to 'desegregate' our thinking about two-thirds of the city, and begin to envision mixed income development that strengthens the tax base of neighborhoods and investing in the infrastructure, public safety and city services that can make these neighborhoods desirable again is a failure to think progressively about Dallas and its future. Purely project based, one-off programmatic initiatives, designed to simply address the needs of the poor without substantially improving the quality of life in these communities is a proven recipe for failure.

Does it take growth figures in the negative to call our attention to the crisis?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Dueling Columns?

My column in last week's Thursday addition of the Dallas Morning News dealt with the need for the Mayor and council to be elected in the city's upcoming May 14th election to adopt a new, aggressive pro-growth agenda for the southern sector. 

Here's an excerpt...

'According to the 2010 census, Dallas grew by only 0.08 percent, a fact that should be on every voter’s mind as the May 14 city elections approach. The growth figures of some of our sister cities should also be etched in our minds: San Antonio grew by 16 percent, Austin by more than 20 percent, Fort Worth by 38 percent, El Paso by 15 percent, Arlington by nearly 10 percent and Plano by 17 percent. Even Houston grew by 7.5 percent. Dallas grew by less than 1 percent. The new mayor and City Council can reverse this trend with an unapologetic commitment to a significant and strategic pro-growth agenda for southern Dallas. Efforts to attract major businesses to our city’s core, increase downtown housing and add to cultural and entertainment opportunities will fall short if the southern Dallas piece isn’t the centerpiece.'

'The lack of a pro-growth attitude and agenda toward the southern half of our city has led to disparities spoken of far too seldom: Much of Dallas south of Interstate 30 is woefully underdeveloped and contributes only 16 percent to the city’s tax base. In the South DallasFair Park area alone, nearly 200 vacant lots and a plethora of abandoned vacant structures amass uncollected property taxes and liens because of our city’s “can’t do” attitude toward these communities.'

Dallas' efforts to redevelopment in South Dallas in general and the southern sector in particular led to a project based, inchoate, haphazard approach that produces minimal results and often fails to take advantage of large scale projects that present significant opportunity. Dallas remains a 'can't-do' city when it comes to redevelopment south of Interstate 30. The results is Dallas' population north carries more than 80% of the tax burden for the entire city. In the meantime, the southern part remains underdeveloped. Currently an emphasis has been on redeveloping downtown. But an arts district, entertainment venues and a deck park can only promote so much growth. You can't have nearly two-thirds of the city's land lying fallow and claim to want to turn around dismal prospects for the future, such as less than 1% population growth. 

The illustration of what the result of the neglect of southern Dallas is the Diaspora of African-American middle class which have fled Dallas. Where have they gone? Lancaster, DeSoto, Duncanville, Grand Prairie, Cedar Hill, Red Oak, Ovilla, WAXAHACHIE!  All the while, city officials give every excuse in the book for why more robust growth can't happen. 

What we have been doing, has not been working. We shouldn't need growth figures in the negatives to tell us that. We will need creative, meaningful, transformational strategies in which business, government and non-profit organizations partner to bring health, growth and redevelopment to this area. 

Jim Schutze, columnist for the Dallas Observer seems to think this can't happen. He rebuts my column in his own saying...
'For perfectly understandable reasons, he [me] interprets this as a bad thing. He's like any guy writing about his own town and his own neighbors and friends. Nobody likes to see everybody leaving.'
'But then he comes to this awful conclusion -- a sadly common theme from black southern Dallas leadership. He says the trend should be reversed -- a terrible idea -- and that it's the job of the "business community" (read, the money) to do something about it.'
'"The new mayor and City Council can reverse this trend," Britt writes, "with an unapologetic commitment to a significant and strategic pro-growth agenda for southern Dallas. Efforts to attract major businesses to our city's core, increase downtown housing and add to cultural and entertainment opportunities will fall short if the southern Dallas piece isn't the centerpiece."'
'The outflow of black families from southern Dallas is all about upward mobility -- a marvelous thing for those families and a wonderful fruition of the Great American Promise. Nothing has endorsed the truth of American democracy more than the dramatic success of black people since the lifting of the barriers of segregation.'
'But why on earth would successful black families want to keep their kids around the dysfunctional morass of South Dallas?'
But Jim doesn't understand. It's not that I hate to see my friends leaving. And I'm not decrying what some have called the 'unintended consequences of the Civil Rights Movement'. As a matter of fact, that argument actually supports what I call for in my column: if Dallas does not commit itself to the economic, social and civic health of every sector of this city, the city itself will die. The 'dysfunctional morass of South Dallas' is just that, because the city has allowed it to become scarred with highways, polluted with unhealthy economic development, proliferate with alcohol related business, other healthy businesses to decline or leave, land to become cheap, housing stock to deteriorate, irresponsible landlords and speculators to gobble up land and remain invisible and unaccountable and the middle class to migrate further and further south until they have left the city. 
I hate to see our city not put up a fight to attract and retain the hope for viable communities. Nearly every pathology you can associate with concentrated poverty can be traced to the fact that we've allowed our urban areas, by design and default to become places where the middle class don't want to live. It's not a story unique to Dallas, but it is one for which Dallas officials make excuses when confronted with those facts. 
We need economic development that will bring jobs, new housing, a stronger tax base that can be the beginning of better schools and to change areas of concentrated poverty which do indeed result in troubled schools and troubled neighborhoods. Philanthropy and charity can address some of these, but serious redevelopment cannot rely on philanthropy. Government cannot fool itself or the populace by allowing the perception to be that churches and non-profits are not doing their jobs and that's the reason why poverty persists in those areas. 
Dallas is failing to grow. Mine is not a sentimental concern for the community my family's lived in for generations. I'm concerned because our city is in decline. And its in decline because we are not serious about poverty, we're not serious about economic justice and because our interim, piece-meal attempts to stave of failure are just plain silly. 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sunday Morning Blessing

Every now and then (okay - more often than not!), I prefer the classic hymns and gospel sung in church to much of the contemporary songs sung in worship today. They simply express where I am on this journey better than most of what we hear currently in worship.

Here's a case in point...

For everyone acutely aware of your need of Him to continue in service for Him, this is for you! 

Friday, March 25, 2011

CitySquare Invites You to The 'Cover Texas Now' Advocacy Day at the Capitol


MARCH 30, 2011

Join advocates from around the state as we focus lawmakers’ attention on health insurance.
·         Meet at the Capitol at 10am (buses will be available from Dallas)
·         Hear up-to-the-minute information from legislators and issue experts and share breakfast with health advocates from across the state
·         Gather on the Capitol Steps for a press conference on the importance of health care in this legislative session
·         Participate in scheduled meetings with legislators and their staffs
·         Lobby Day events will end at 5pm

Texas has had the highest uninsured rate in the nation for two decades, and it’s time to get covered!
·         Texans have new opportunities to get quality, affordable insurance and our state can benefit from new federal resources—legislators need to make health care reform work in Texas.
·         We can’t balance the budget on the backs of sick people. Lawmakers are proposing cuts up to 30% for health insurance and health care services—this will take our state farther backward instead of helping get Texans covered!

Join us if any of the following issues are important to you:
·     Protecting CHIP and Medicaid health coverage for 3 million Texas children and nearly 1 million adults including expectant momsseniors and those with disabilities.
·     Ensuring that hospitals stay open for everyone.  Cutting resources to hospitals reduces availability and puts everyone at-risk during a medical emergency.
·     Ensuring seniors and the disabled are able to continue receiving care in nursing homes and in their communities
·     Ensuring access to all the benefits Texans should get from national health reform and preparing for full reform implementation in 2014.

Register NOW! Cover Texas Now Lobby Day is free, and registering early helps us make your day as worthwhile as possible.
Visit www.covertexasnow.org to register for Lobby Day and check bus pick-up location and times. 
Participants should wear a bright green t-shirt to the event!
Dallas Bus and Travel Info

Changing Lives

Among the programs at CitySquare of which I am most proud, is WorkPaths.

WorkPaths is a jobs driven, living wage employment strategy that focuses on working with our neighbors to providing the training for employment with a future. There are three areas of training: Build4Success, a 12 week commercial construction training program; a Paths2Success, a 10 week technology based soft-skills training program and Career Paths, which works with people by providing them with coaching and mentoring that makes them more attractive job candidates.

WorkPaths is a retooled model of job training that evolved from a less efficient model that we used when I came to CitySquare. It has grown from a $80,000 dollar a year program, as recently as 5 years ago, to a nationally recognized program with a budget of nearly $500,000. WorkPaths Build 4Success program has won the Construction Users Round Table Award and has also received recognition and WorkPaths itself has won a Community Partners award from WorkSource Dallas.

WorkPaths in 2009, Build4Success had am 89% graduation rate and from all programs 81% went on to find employment, or enrolled in community college or apprenticeships.

There are some great stories of men and women who have turned their lives around and who have climbed out of poverty through employment. Our Larry James, our CEO/President profiles on of those stories, still in the making today in his blog. It's the story of Sam.

" Sam has struggled with a number of issues since completing the Build4Success program in 2009. When he originally enrolled in B4S, he had been out of prison on parole only a few months after having served 17 years of a 45 year sentence for armed robbery. He got his driver’s license and then landed a job with Ed Bell Construction; after he went to work he was doing well. He saved enough to buy a truck (a deal through Ed Bell, they arranged for him to purchase one of the trucks their company was selling and he got a great deal from them). After working at Ed Bell for about 9 months, he was offered a better position with Azteca-Omega. The job at Azteca-Omega would provide him with benefits and training. He left his job at Ed Bell on the Friday before last Easter and was to start with Azteca-Omega on Monday following Easter (2010) when he was shot early Easter morning in the eye, it was a case of mistaken identity. I think most of us are somewhat familiar with Sam’s story surrounding the shooting but to refresh – Sam lost his eye..."

Sounds horrible doesn't it?! It is. But there's more to it. The great thing is Sam is making remarkable recovery and will soon be a part of a new WorkPaths venture: A partnership between CitySquare/WorkPaths and Habitat for Humanity in a transitional jobs program in residential construction. WorkPaths trainees will assist in building at least 50 homes over the next two years with some of our neighbors and people from the southern Dallas neighborhoods where the homes will be built. One of the first employees in the transitional jobs program? Sam!

Read the rest of Sam's story here. Read more about WorkPaths here. And remember, if you aren't supporting our work at CitySquare, remember, you're missing an opportunity to invest in people like Sam!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

No Uncle Toms Here

The ESPN documentary, Michigan University's 'The Fab Five', is an interesting look at one of the most accomplished basketball teams in NCAA history.

But, it's become more than that.

These comments have become fodder in the media and around social media. They took on added significance when the Phoenix Sun's Grant Hill and son of former Dallas Cowboy Calvin Hill responded in New York Times op-ed piece...

"In his garbled but sweeping comment that Duke recruits only “black players that were ‘Uncle Toms,’ ” Jalen seems to change the usual meaning of those very vitriolic words into his own meaning, i.e., blacks from two-parent, middle-class families. He leaves us all guessing exactly what he believes today."
"I am beyond fortunate to have two parents who are still working well into their 60s. They received great educations and use them every day. My parents taught me a personal ethic I try to live by and pass on to my children."
"I come from a strong legacy of black Americans. My namesake, Henry Hill, my father’s father, was a day laborer in Baltimore. He could not read or write until he was taught to do so by my grandmother. His first present to my dad was a set of encyclopedias, which I now have. He wanted his only child, my father, to have a good education, so he made numerous sacrifices to see that he got an education, including attending Yale."
"This is part of our great tradition as black Americans. We aspire for the best or better for our children and work hard to make that happen for them. Jalen’s mother is part of our great black tradition and made the same sacrifices for him."
Athletic rivalries, whether they high school, college or pro, can be huge. And for some players they become intensely  personal. The higher the stakes, the greater the level of personal investment in the outcome, the more rivalry involves reflects personal resentments. I can get all of that. I also understand what Rose was saying a little more, now that I see the clip. I definitely understand Grant Hill's personal umbrage at being portrayed as an 'Uncle Tom' and that there was anything less than admirable about his parents or the upbringing they provided him. 
But as sports columnist Michale Wilbon says, there is probably the basis for something of a larger conversation to be had here. 
What Jalen Rose believed two decades ago, has been expressed in the black community for decades: life in which 'the rules' are followed and traditional paths to success are traveled (i.e. traditional family make-up, good grades, college, successful career) makes one 'less black' than those who have to navigate more troubled waters (i.e. poverty, single parent homes, challenged in school, etc.). It is mostly survival. The 'heroism', if you will, of survival has to be romanticized and those who haven't faced the same obstacles have to be considered 'soft'. It is glorified in media. It is, in many ways trans-cultural. But its impact on the black community introduces an intramural conflict that can be unhealthy. 
Calvin and Grant Hill
Grant Hill's 'exceptional' upbringing didn't come without cost. Those of us who remember Calvin Hill's playing days remember that his being a first round draft choice by the Dallas Cowboys was questioned 1) because he was from Yale 2) because he was black and from Yale. Media didn't quite know what to do with him. That was a time when pro football players didn't make millions of dollars. Nearly all of the Dallas Cowboys had off season jobs. The media considered Hill an oddity, because in the off season he took courses at SMU's Perkins Theological Seminary. 
Housing was a problem. It wasn't until 5-10 years later that black players weren't steered toward housing that was in 'the black part of town' - 20 to 30 miles from the Cowboys practice facility. They were almost no endorsement opportunities. But Hill was a role model because of his reckless running style but because he was successful on the field (he was the Cowboys first 1000 yard rusher, when 1000 yards rushing actually meant something). And he showed off the field that athletic success and academic achievement didn't have to be mutual exclusives. 
Hill parted ways with the Cowboys for a time to play in Hawaii, for the new World Football League (for the same reason other NFL stars defected - money) then after another brief stint with the Cowboys played for the Cleveland Browns and Washington Redskins. The point is: to say that Hill didn't work hard or suffer discrimination because he was a pro player with an Ivy League education is totally untrue. 
Jalen's upbringing was different - but the same - in the sense that a hardworking mother provided him the upbringing that created an opportunity to develop his talents in spite of the obstacles that she face. Decidedly different obstacles, but obstacles nonetheless. 
I think we should be careful about being too hard on Rose because of how he felt when he was a teen-ager (its a little more disturbing that he has a hard time distancing himself from those attitudes as an adult). He now is a wealthy man trying to provide kids who grew up in circumstances similar to his, the opportunity to get the education he knows is necessary to escape poverty. In the process, he's trying to instill in these young people the same qualities he indicates he despised in Grant Hill. 
Interestingly enough, the same entertainers that extol the virtues of the type of survival upbringing that Rose says made him feel rejected, achieve success in the same way Calvin and Janet Hill did - hard work, devotion to their craft, taking advantage of opportunities and maximizing the returns on their rewards. A number of us don't like what they do, but, again ironically, not one of them passes up the opportunity to become 'mainstream'. They, like Rose, like the Hills, find out the obstacles you face are not nearly as important as your determination to overcome them. 
That makes none of them 'Uncle Toms'. That makes none of them sellouts. It makes those who grow in maturity role models. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Remembering 'Laugh-In'

What do Richard Nixon, John Wayne, Billy Graham, William F. Buckley and Rod Serling all have in common? They all had guest cameo appearances on the '60s television show 'Laugh-In'.

While there are many readers who may not be familiar with the series, Laugh-In was the precursor to a number of culturally topical  variety/comedy shows with which nearly all of us are familiar: 'In Living Color and 'Saturday Night Live' for instance.

Laugh-In's genius was a fast paced slap-stick type of topical comedy that ranged from politically relevant sarcasm to the sublimely ridiculous. What made it really acceptable was the broad range of guests who appeared - across a broad spectrum of political ideology and generational appeal (there was no other show where you could see Kate Smith and Tiny Tim in the same episode!).

Here's a sampling, but it hardly does justice to the type of entertainment Laugh-In provided. If you still don't get it, well...you probably had to be there...

Monday, March 21, 2011

Do the Interests of Commerce Trump the Interests of Consumers?

Elizabeth Warren, by acclamation from consumer protection advocates from across the country, was touted as a favorite and excellent choice to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. While she comes in as an advisor to lay the foundation for this department, she also comes in attempting to make some basic efforts to level set some of the issues that caused our country's financial meltdown in the first place.

It's interesting to me that a country begging for action by the government in the throes of the crisis, now as amnesiacs have determined that government must not stand in progress by imposing regulations that would prevent this crash from happening again. In the process, as New York Times columnist and Nobel prize winner, Paul Krugman has said, this hero was, in an congressional oversight hearing, was made to become a villain...

"In a sane world, Warren — who warned about consumer debt before it was fashionable, and in particular warned about the abusive lending practices that played a significant role in the buildup of that debt — would be an icon of reform. But to listen to the GOP, she’s a power-mad usurper of individual rights, a threat to the solvency of our financial system."

In an account of that hearing by Joe Nocera, also of the New York Times...

"The Wednesday morning hearing was titled “Oversight of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.” The only witness was the piñata, otherwise known as Elizabeth Warren, theHarvard law professor hired last year by President Obama to get the new bureau — the only new agency created by the Dodd-Frank financial reform law — up and running. She may or may not be nominated by the president to serve as its first director when it goes live in July, but in the here and now she’s clearly running the joint."
"And thus the real purpose of the hearing: to allow the Republicans who now run the House to box Ms. Warren about the ears. The big banks loathe Ms. Warren, who has made a career out of pointing out all the ways they gouge financial consumers — and whose primary goal is to make such gouging more difficult. So, naturally, the Republicans loathe her too. That she might someday run this bureau terrifies the banks. So, naturally, it terrifies the Republicans..."

"To listen to the House Republicans, you’d think the financial crisis of 2008 was like that infamous season of the long-running soap opera “Dallas,” the one that turned out to be a season-long dream. Subprime mortgages? Too-big-to-fail banks? Unregulated derivatives? No problem! With the exception of their bête noire, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the Republicans act as if nothing needs to be done to prevent another crisis. Indeed, they act as if the crisis never happened."

"It’s not just the House Republicans either. Already the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has reverted to form, becoming once again a captive of the banks it is supposed to regulate. (It has strenuously opposed the efforts of the A.G.’s to penalize the banks and reform the mortgage modification process, for instance.) The banks themselves act as if they have a God-given right to the profit they made precrisis, and owe the country nothing for the trouble they’ve put us all through. The Justice Department has essentially given up trying to make anyone accountable for the crisis."

"Thank goodness, then, for the attorneys general — and for Ms. Warren. On Main Street, where the attorneys general operate, it is pretty obvious that problems persist. During the subprime boom, many states tried to stop the worst lending abuses, only to be blocked by federal banking regulators. Now that the country is dealing with the aftermath of those abuses — the rising tide of defaults and foreclosures — it is the attorneys general who are, once again, put in the position of trying to stamp out abuses, this time of the foreclosure process itself."

More of CTW's wonkish readers can watch the full 2 1/2 hour video above. Dr. Warren even alludes to the need for consumer protection from the predatory loan industry. But here's the question: isn't it becoming painfully clear that political will is in short supply when it comes to making certain that the interests of individuals isn't trumped by the interests of commerce? Even when we've seen what's happened when we've allowed commerce to run amok?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Florida Church Spontaneously Gives $5.6 million to Help the Homeless in their Area

There are times when I'm critical of the church's response to the tremendous need that we are seeing across our country. My criticism is often tempered because I know that there are countless churches in our nation - and beyond - that are making heroic efforts to fight poverty.

"Responding to the homeless from "a stirring" deep in their hearts, the congregation of First Baptist Church in Orlando raised $5.6 million in donations and pledges for the needy of Central Florida with an impromptu offering March 12-13."

"“We’ve had a stirring in our heartand spirit that God placed the church here for this time because of foreclosures, because of this new homelessness,” Senior Pastor David Uth said. “We believe we were put here by divine choice and we have got to make a difference.”"

"And make a difference is what the people of First Baptist Orlando did."

"Danny de Armas, senior associate pastor said he was surprised by the unprecedented response.
“I am completely overwhelmed by what our people have done,” de Armas said.“I never expected this kind of number.”"

"The outpouring of love and generosity was a result of a March 6 story on the CBS news program 60 Minuteswhich Liz Butler, the marketing/communications manager at the church, described as a "new" kind of homelessness in Central Florida."

"Families are living in motels because they lost their jobs, their homes to foreclosure, Butler said.
The news report was seen by millions of viewers across the country."

"One of the viewers was Christian author and teacher Bruce Wilkinson who was already scheduled to speak at First Baptist Orlando during the March 12-13 weekend."

"“He saw the story while he was working on his message,” Butler said. “When he saw the interview, he said, ‘Wow. We have to do something.’ He called Pastor Uth and said, ‘Your people are going to bring in $1 million to help these needy families.’”"

"First Baptist Orlando has had a history of raising large sums of money following national and international disasters. The church raised hundreds of thousands of dollars following Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the Haiti earthquake of 2010. But even Pastor Uth was skeptical about raising $1 million in just one weekend.
Uth told Wilkinson, “I don’t know if we can raise that much,” adding he would be the first to admit that he happily underestimated the giving spirit of the church."

"Wilkinson laid out the dire need of the people of Central Florida and urged the congregation to contribute whatever they could. The results were individual contributions ranging from one dollar to thousands of dollars and one as a high as $1 million."

For those who may not have seen the 60 Minutes segment, you can view it here

Kudos to this church for not trying to 'figure out' the many ways that homelessness was the fault of the homeless in their community!

Congratulations to this church owning their responsibility for an effective response to a situation once they became aware of its existence!

God Bless this church for not asking, 'What can we do?' and then talking the options to death!

Amen! To the members of the church who didn't think $1 was to small or $1 million was too much!

Hallelujah for the pastor who had the courage to address the need in spite of the fact that the church has operational needs of it's own (every church does!)...

Praise God for a church that decides to pray AND act AND give!

Thanks be to God for EVERY church that realizes that they don't have to make a choice between deploying their financial resources or their human resources - the poverty we see in this country demands that Christians do both!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

For Those Who Would Change the Wind

Leonardo da Vinci

Inventor, Painter, Scientist

"I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do."

Friday, March 18, 2011

There are Evangelicals Who Actually Do Get It

Not all evangelicals are bent on a contorted theology equating untrammeled capitalism with Kingdom virtues. Rod Sider, a progressive evangelical whom I've admired for a long time and with whom I've had the opportunity to spend quite a bit of time when I was a pastor, makes salient points that Christians need to remember...
"Balancing the federal budget at the expense of the poor would be un-Christian, evangelical leaders warned Congress on Thursday (March 3) as they work to reject proposed spending cuts to domestic and foreign aid."
""The Bible says that God has a special concern for the poor," said Ron Sider, president of the group Evangelicals for Social Action. "This is one of the central biblical teachings.""
"The evangelical leaders, convened by the left-leaning group Faith in Public Life, face an uphill challenge in trying to win over fellow evangelicals: a recent poll found that evangelicals are more likely than Americans overall to support cutting foreign aid while also supporting increased military spending."
"While increasing numbers of evangelicals consider the budget deficit to be a moral problem -- citing biblical injunctions against debt -- Christians should consider raising taxes and cutting military spending before sacrificing aid to the poor, Sider said."
Ministers like Sider, Brian MacClaren, Jim Wallis, Dean Trulear, are among so many who may not the household names of some others who seem to sanction equating materialism and personal comfort with spiritual blessing. But as prophets who unfailingly call our attention to the scriptural demand to make social justice and care for the poor both individual and national priorities, they are of inestimable value. I thank God for them. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Don't Look Now, But Apathy May Have Won the Day!

I think I've said before that I don't like unopposed elections. I like the contests to be credible, to offer a choice. But to me that's just the point - we voters deserve a choice. There is alternative thinking - real thinking, going on about issues that effect our community, our country. I have meaningful relationships with some politicians, but no matter the relationship and no matter how much I might like him or her, no politician earns the luxury of thinking they have a 'right' to their office. 

So imagine my surprise when I find out that in the upcoming May 14 Dallas Independent School Board election there are NO CHALLENGERS TO ANY SCHOOL BOARD SEAT!  

As a matter of fact, Colleen McCain Nelson of the Dallas Morning News writes...

"In the Dallas school district, not a single race will be contested. In fact, DISD may go ahead and cancel the May election..."

"Three seats on the DISD board of trustees were supposed to be on the ballot. But as it turns out, incumbents Adam Medrano and Carla Ranger drew no opposition. Trustee Jack Lowe isn't seeking re-election, but even his open seat compelled only one brave soul, Mike Morath, to take the plunge and run."

"This decided lack of interest in the school board -- and perhaps, by extension, the school district -- comes at a time when DISD is staring down crippling state-imposed budget cuts. Teachers will be laid off. Class sizes will grow. Schools will suffer as a result. The trustees will be forced to make tough but important decisions as they consider how to do more with less. And no one is willing to step up to the plate and seek this job?"

"Parents are staging rallies, pushing back against the district's proposed cuts. Yet no one would get involved and run for these posts? Admittedly, serving as a DISD trustee is a daunting and probably pretty thankless task. But it's disheartening to see elections canceled for lack of candidates at a time when the district urgently needs strong leadership."

Public education is facing its most significant challenge, both in terms of it's effectiveness and funding...not to mention teachers, facilities, curriculum, charter schools, school closings...and NO ONE has a better idea? 


If we want to know just how disengaged we have become, this may be what people call 'the canary in the coal mine'. 

Be afraid...be very afraid. Or ashamed...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Dallas' City Council Urged to Take Further Action on Payday Lenders

City Square and the other organizations in Dallas working on the regulation of the pay day loan industry (including the United Way of Greater Dallas, Jewish Community Relations Council, AARP, the Urban League, among many others), are proud to have the support of Dallas City Council representative from District 10, Jerry Allen. Councilman Allen spearheaded the effort to get unanimous approval of council resolution to the Texas State Legislature to pass legislation that will close the loophole allowing these businesses to operate as credit service organizations (CSO's).

He also joined Pastor Frederick Haynes in Austin, Texas to testify in Senate hearings to the importance of this regulation to protect the economic viability of families who, while needing short term help, find themselves trapped in a cycle of long term debt because of these businesses.

Allen's Budget, Finance and Audit committee, however, balked on recommending a zoning ordinance to the full city council for their consideration until after the state legislature decides to take action (or not). We are hoping to show Councilman Allen the urgency of the city of Dallas taking this critical action and do so now!

State Representative Eric Johnson and Senator Royce West (seen in the video) also are urging the council to take further action. 

If you agree, we encourage you to contact Councilman Allen and let him know of your support for this effort.

It's time to stop allowing exploitation to masquerade as business!


By the way - this is CTW's 1000th post! Thanks to everyone who reads, replies, follows and refers this blog! It's been a pleasure. Now...on to 2000!

Monday, March 14, 2011

CitySquare Featured in Huffington Post!

CitySquare is proud to be featured in Huffington Post's Giving Back post on how the religious community is making a difference in the lives of strugging families...

"HuffPost Religion is proud to feature the work of CitySquare (Formerly Central Dallas Ministries) as part of the launch of Huffington Post Media Group. Driven by its commitment to the Christian Gospel of good news for the poor, CitySquare serves struggling families. CitySquare exists to fight the root causes of poverty by partnering with those in need. Working together as a community, they feed the hungry, heal the sick, house the homeless and renew hope in the heart of Dallas. CitySquare is a community of neighbors, investing in each other and developing meaningful relationships that value each individual. CitySquare's work flows out of their faith, and that faith is inclusive and ecumenical. CitySquare stands for justice and demand equity for all its neighbors. CitySquare's resources belong to the community and as stewards of those resources they act with integrity, demonstrate accountability and operate efficiently and effectively."

"In its effort to help struggling families, last year CitySquare administered $1,000,000 of American Recovery funds to help keep families housed. The efforts of CitySquare reached over 70,000 people through 16 social service programs including providing food to more than 35,000 families; providing medical care to more than 2,000 uninsured neighbors and providing permanent homes to more than 350 neighbors each year."

A Reason to Celebrate & The Inspiration to Continue

We were really excited about the response to our Annual Prayer Breakfast.

It was a wonderful time to share the spiritual motivation for our work, recommit to our mission to address root causes of poverty in our community and celebrate the successes we see on more occasions than we can count.

A highlight of the morning was the premier of a new video which shows what happens when the our programs work in synergy to make a dramatic impact on the lives of our neighbors. Sometimes our team get so 'lost in the weeds', so to speak, even we aren't aware of the difference we are making. But when we get a chance to see it, we are not only thrilled for those whose lives are made better, we are inspired to work even harder.

Here's the video. We hope you feel the same way and hope you see that investing in CitySquare is well worth any sacrifice you make to further our mission!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

For Those Who Would Change the Wind

William Wilberforce

British Politician, Philanthropist, Christian Scholar, Abolitionist

"You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know." 

Friday, March 11, 2011

It's Raining, It's Pouring!

Bill McKenzie, editorial columnist for the Dallas Morning News, makes an astute and very important observation in his Opinion Blog post this past week...

"Rick Perry was up here in Dallas yesterday [Tuesday] telling a group that legislators shouldn't touch the Rainy Day Fund. It sounded like he thought lawmakers instead should use this opportunity to rearrange government."

"I don't know if the governor has been paying attention or not, but the headlines are daily reporting how legislators are trying to reshape things without hurting the state. So, no one is talking about expanding government.
They are, though, talking about using the Rainy Day Fund to spare people at the margins, keep schools from shortchanging kids and allow the state to keep growing. And those are Republicans saying that, including the heads of the top budget-writing committees."

"If Gov. Perry has a way to do all that without using the Rainy Day Fund, I'm sure those Republicans would like to hear his solutions..."

Evidence of what Bill was talking about is seen the testimony of the Texas State Comptroller's Susan Combs testimony earlier this month, the Republican State Comptroller as she appears before the House Appropriations Committee, chaired by Republican Representative from Waxahachie...
"The Texas comptroller told the House Appropriations Committee on Thursday that she can't imagine solving the current budget crisis through cuts alone."
"Susan Combs spoke at a hearing designed to be a reality check for conservatives who think the budget can be balanced by slashing state services. The current two-year budget cycle is $4.3 billion short and, under the Texas Constitution, that deficit must be made up by Aug. 31."
"The state is also facing another projected $27 billion shortfall in the next two-year budget, but that was not the subject of Thursday's hearing."
"Committee Chairman Jim Pitts, a Waxahachie Republican, asked Combs to testify after he introduced a bill to spend $4.3 billion from the state's Rainy Day Fund to cover the deficit. In opening Thursday's hearing, he tried to communicate the gravity of the problem, which left lawmakers silent and stone-faced."
"The budget adopted by the Legislature last session, and signed by the governor, exceeded the comptroller's measure of available revenue," Pitts said. "This committee, and this Legislature, has very limited options: the use of the Rainy Day Fund, further reductions ... or deferring payments into the next biennium."
"While Combs never called on the committee to dip into the Rainy Day Fund, she presented a detailed history of how it had been used in the past and how spending it would not hurt the state's credit rating. She also examined the other options."
""I don't know how you can get to $4.3 billion in cuts," Combs said. She warned that even if the recession ends, that doesn't mean revenues will return to levels seen in 2005, when the Texas economy was booming."
"When some lawmakers tried to compare the situation to 2003, the last time they tapped the Rainy Day Fund, the Democratic vice chair chastened them."
""I wish this was 2003. But if anyone tries to compare 2003 to what we are going through now, and saying they are similar, you are not facing reality," said state Rep. Sylvester, D-Houston. "This situation is far worse.""
There are other, sensible, long term solutions to Texas' budget woes - but in the short term, will someone please tell our Governor 'it's raining!'!