Thursday, February 16, 2012

Southern Dallas Redevelopment: "...Not a Charity Case...a Business Opportunity"

Don't get me wrong, I have not drunk the Kool-Aid...

But I am enthralled by the prospects and the actual presentation of Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings' plans for the redevelopment of southern Dallas.

Years ago, as a pastor in south Dallas and a leader in Dallas Area Interfaith, I was a part of a meeting with a Dallas civic leader - a very prominent one - who was related with the Dallas Citizen's Council. I asked directly and pointedly: 'So what is the master plan for south Dallas?' He looked at me and said in as matter of fact tone as I have ever heard, 'There is no master plan for south Dallas.'

Now, of course there are those who have never believed his reply then, and others who probably don't believe it now. I have worked in and around south Dallas and lived in southern Dallas for almost 40 years. For the nearly 40 years I have been here, there has always been the suspicion that 'they' are coming to 'take over'. Of course, 'they' have never come. And when I received that answer from the highly placed civic leader, I frankly didn't know whether I believed him. I said afterwards, 'I don't know whether to be elated or depressed. On the one hand, I could be elated because it means that we can create our future; on the other hand, this means that no one is thinking about the future of south Dallas.

Rawlings, in one of a series of meeting he will be holding throughout southern Dallas, has not only been thinking about south Dallas - he's been thinking about the southern portion of our city.

Now, don't get me wrong, the part of me committed to community organizing, wants an organic 'conversation to action' process. The facts are, however, we've had the conversations. We've had the small meetings and focus groups. I've talked with politicians, business leaders, civic leaders and activists. We all know what's needed. As I heard one person say, 'There's no secret sauce...'

I've made some of the proposals the Mayor makes in columns I have written. But it's not genius on my part. It's the fact that Dallas has majored in making excuses for not doing the things everyone knows needed to be done.

Rawlings has presented a market based redevelopment approach, with short and long range goals. It includes - indeed requires - civic engagement on the part of residents. It recognizes the importance of schools and neighborhood associations. It recognizes the importance of reshaping the image - actually marketing southern Dallas.

It is not what we usually hear from our politicians - council members and mayors - a one off, project based approach, that, in the end, pits neighborhoods against one another by forcing them to compete for resources.

Only this type of approach, focused on over time - decades -  that changes neighborhoods, and restores them to health.

It is the unapologetic commitment to southern Dallas that I've been looking for.

Here's a look at Mayor Mike Rawlings' proposal...


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