Thursday, January 19, 2012

Is Frisco More Concerned with It's Citizens Than Dallas is Theirs?

Watch this...


Good for Frisco. Good for its city council and good for its citizens! The citizens stood up for themselves and the council put the welfare and the well being of its citizens above the interests of business. Maybe it doesn't happen every time in Frisco...but it happened this time. 

I wonder if Dallas is paying attention?

What am I getting at? Here's what I'm getting at...

The Frisco City Council, in effect, told a battery recycler that it's presence was no longer compatible with the surrounding neighborhood. It represented a health hazard. It was close to schools, residences and was, in general, prohibited the property value and growth of the surrounding area. Granted, the battery recycler was there first and granted the neighborhood had grown up around the area. But, residents decided that this was no longer a hazard they wanted to risk; no longer an eyesore they wanted to see daily. 

And Frisco's city council responded. 

No cries of being ant-business. No cries of bullying. No one telling Frisco neighbors to just go somewhere else. No one called them whiners or called them ungrateful. No one questioned their morality. 

My mind raced back to June of last year, at Dallas' City Hall. 

I and a few supporters of a zoning ordinance to regulate the operation of payday lenders, were exulting in another victory. The zoning ordinance, the second in as many months, passed unanimously. 

But I also noticed, had spoken to, the owners of Gold Metals, a scrap metal recycler in South Dallas. This heavy industrial business is located across the street from a residential neighborhood. The neighborhood is one of concentrated poverty and majority black. Abutting the homes in the area are clubs (dives really), some open late for 'business', others abandoned. Gold Metals shares it's side of the street with other metal recyclers, concrete recyclers and liquor stores. 

In one of the most amazing turn around of civic concern, the council voted to allow Gold Metals to EXPAND its business! 

There are eerily predictable similarities between the Frisco city council meeting and the one in Dallas last summer: Gold Metals had its supporters there. There were employees who talked about their jobs; there were supporters to testify as to their corporate neighborliness; they talked about their long presence in the area (35 years). 

Unlike Frisco, there weren't very many there in opposition. I hadn't signed up to speak on the issue because I didn't know the issue was on the agenda. The council representative for the area had 'hidden' the item on the agenda and had assured the residents of the area that there was no need to show up, because she would take care of the meeting she made the motion to give the recycler the additional land they needed to operate. 

There is another difference between the Frisco/Dallas council meetings - the residents were in this area first! It's an area in which I spent me early childhood. I first went to the drive-in movie on the spot were the recyclers are.

Suffice it to say that was more than 35 years ago...

I've written before about CitySquare's partnership with Unify South Dallas and our efforts to get the recycling operations moved. While we've not given up, we've seen the power of organized money trump the welfare of organized citizens - especially when those citizens are poor and black. 

I can't be envious of the citizens of Frisco. They acted as citizens and they did what they were supposed to do. I can't be angry at the batter recycle plant owners, or their supporters. They too acted as citizens and did what they were supposed to do. Both in the court of public opinion and by participating in the political process they achieved an outcome that favored the residents. That is the way it's supposed to work. The interests of residents should come first. 

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”

By the same token, what took place at Dallas' City Hall, the interests of business trumped the interests of residents who want to see their neighborhood redeveloped. They want a place where families will repopulate the area - some of the same families who fled to nicer parts of Dallas when highways cut the community in two and heavy industry drove down property values. It can't be done when your neighbor across the street is a scrap yard, contaminating the very ground upon which it sets - and, arguably your property across the street!

In Frisco, the rights of residents trumped the rights of business owners. In Dallas last year, just the opposite happened. Frisco trumped Dallas in the concern it showed for its citizens. 

Come to think of it, maybe I am a little envious...and ashamed. 

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