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?

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