Thursday, July 14, 2011

On the Road to Pitiful

In a cash strapped environment you have to look wherever you can to find new sources of revenue - right?

Dallas' City Manager's Office is proposing that the new couch in which we search for significant spare change is in McCommas Bluff (for those of you to whom that sounds picturesque, that's the city landfill).


I have a serious problem with the idea that South/southern Dallas is the place where the only possible economic development possible are the industry that no other portion of the city possibly wants. That might be simply a philosophical area of dialogue, if it weren't based on the fact that this is just a few miles from - you guessed it - low income residential areas! Yep! Poor people once again are being told to take heart, you get the jobs associated with trash!

Wait, it gets better...

This is about two miles east of Paul Quinn College and about four miles east of the Dallas' University of North Texas campus. In the surrounding area, nearly 4500 homes - not all of them low income. In that same area ONE grocery store! 

Now get this:

Every student at Paul Quinn and UNT, every church in the area, every house in the area, every apartment complex...EVERY ONE, buy clothes, eat, nearly every person associated with a house, church or school drive cars. But when the city proposes revenue generating development, it proposes not one grocery store, not one Home Depot or Lowe's, not one department store, not an office park, or a an office supply store, not one proposes the expansion of the city dump!

Wait, it gets even better...

Paul Quinn, under the leadership of its president Michael Sorrell, is undertaking an innovative approach in his efforts to restore the school's viability. He has plowed up the football field and started a urban farm. Why is that important? First it addresses the need for fresh fruits and vegetables in minority communities. Secondly, it has huge instructional benefit for students at PQ. Not only do they learn something about agriculture and science associated with a living project, but they also have a business model associated with learning how to sell the produce to grocery stores, restaurants and as well as the surrounding community. 

So...the city can't propose another farmers market where these, along with other vegetables and fruits can be sold? No, two miles expansion of the city's landfill. 

Sorrell has it right, “For more than 20 years, the people of this community have trusted the city of Dallas to show them the same respect and care that the city shows their brethren in other areas of the city,” President Sorrell said.  “Yet time and time again we have been disappointed and disrespected. I don’t remember seeing a garbage dump down the street from SMU or the folks in Uptown being asked to survive without grocery stores. Enough is enough. The days of mistreating this community are over.”

City council representatives offering caution (not protestations, but caution), would likely have more credibility if they had not promoted the interests of pollution producing scrap metal yards in close proximity to residential areas in their own districts! I share Dallas Morning News editorial writer's Tod Robberson's dismay: "One problem I have is with the protests of City Council members Tennell Atkins, Vonciel Jones Hill and Carolyn Davis, among others. Their basic argument is: Southern Dallas should not be the dumping ground for northern Dallas' trash. It would be a more sustainable argument if these southern Dallas politicians also weren't at the forefront of efforts to keep metal junkyards growing and thriving in southern Dallas. Metal scrapyard companies are the single biggest source of campaign funds for Carolyn Davis. She even recorded a promotional video for Gold Metal Recyclers, expounding on all of the wonderful benefits of having a junkyard in your neighborhood. Among those benefits she cited were the jobs that junkyards create. (You won't find that video on the Gold Metal website anymore. I wonder why. Did city ethics rules get in the way?) Ironically, the jobs argument is now being used by the city to promote its flow-control rule. How enticing to a young job seeker: a future in garbage."

Vonciel Hill complained last week about sending more of the north's garbage to McCommas Bluffs, which is in her district, as she almost simultaneously championed the move of Oak Cliff Metals -- a junkyard with an egregious legal history of operating within smelling distance of the city sewage plant near Cadillac Heights -- into her district. Tennel Atkins, another outspoken critic of "flow control," stood right behind then-Mayor Tom Leppert at a big ceremony last November praising Gold Metal Recyclers for their big "Lamar-be-cue" party to launch their plan for transforming South Lamar into a combination park, living area, retail area and metal scrapyard. Because the record is clear about how well all of those elements work together. (Gold Metal launched that big campaign right around the time they found out that their junkyard sits atop a toxic waste site that has permanently contaminated the ground water.)"

These are virtually the same city officials which remained lukewarm about providing necessary infrastructure improvements for the inland port (itself less than 10 miles away from the landfill), because of the need for some kind of 'master plan' design.

Not for nuthin' but the inland port's projection has been for some 60,000 jobs - not hundreds.

I have said in the past that the problem with City Hall is an appalling lack of imagination. I was wrong. They're just determined to find as many ways possible to miss every conceivable opportunity. But worse than this is political representation that does not stand up for the community or against the interests of those who see the people they represent as worthy of nothing more than trash, trash and more trash.

When I was a pastor, I used to tell my congregation, 'It's a short trip from 'isn't that something' to 'now THAT'S pitiful'!

 I think we're nearing our destination...

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