One Man's Effort
10/4/7 DA Watkins plays
the race card. Imagine that!
When bad stuff gets done and bad guys get caught, you
would assume the County's Prosecutor would be glad and supportive of the FBI's
efforts to clean up corruption at Dallas City Hall. That would normally be
the case except when you have an Bail Bondsman as your District Attorney.
(CBS 11 News) (AP) DALLAS A sweeping City Hall corruption probe that has produced federal charges against a dozen black civic and political leaders is renewing suspicions of racism in a city with a long history of combative minority relations.
"It makes Dallas looks bad," said Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins, who is black, "because people just have the general sense of the city being unfair to people of color."
Sixteen people -- 12 of them black -- were named in corruption indictments unsealed this week. Most of them were charged in what the FBI said was a kickback and bribery scheme involving the awarding of contracts to white developers to build affordable housing, mostly in black neighborhoods.
The two-year investigation -- and the spectacle of some of Dallas' most influential black leaders arriving at the federal courthouse to face charges -- dealt a blow to a minority community still struggling to find its political footing.
Some blacks said they suspect the case is an attempt to dismantle Dallas' black political leadership.
... The ethnic makeup of those indicted has not gone unnoticed in Dallas, a city of 1.2 million that is nearly 25 percent black and has been beset by racial tensions over the years.
... The scandal threatens to reopen old racial wounds in a city less than 20 years removed from a federal civil rights lawsuit that forced it to revamp its government structure. Before the change, minorities had complained it was too difficult to win seats on the City Council. Four blacks now serve on the 15-member council.
... Watkins said that the perception of racial bias in Dallas is warranted given the history of its criminal justice system. Watkins said those guilty of the crimes should be punished. "
... Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price, who is black, said the fact that three-fourths of those indicted are black doesn't give him reason for pause. "Unfortunately, all the actors who were in a position to make a decision ... were black," he said...
Nothing that happened the past
few days was unexpected - except for the timing. After the Al Lipscomb
getting off on a technicality, there was no way the FBI would go for indictments
without having all their "t's crossed" and their "i's dotted".
This whole business of trying to make the indictments about race is disgusting.
Almost as disgusting as having a bail bondsman for our District Attorney.
Talk about the fox guarding the hen house.
Two years have passed since Jesse Diaz issued this press release.
Hill and Lee Must Resign
When Mr. Diaz issued this press release many of Dallas' Hispanic
community leaders and even some local LULAC leaders rushed to Dallas
City Hall to denounce Mr. Diaz and to do everything possible to negate
Mr. Diaz's call for both Hill and Lee to resign. Well, what a difference
does two years make, right? Think any of those
who tripped over themselves to reach the podium at City Hall to rip Mr.
Diaz would now rush to the same podium to do likewise? Just a question
If this sordid situation is about race, it goes all the way back to King/Judge
Jerry Buchmeyer's decision to overturn the results of a city election where we
voted to change our structure of government from 8-2-1 to 10-4-1. We had 8
single-member districts, The mayor and 2 council members were elected at
large. Under 10-4-1, we would have had 10 single-member districts, 4 super
districts and only the mayor elected citywide. The liberals wanted all
single-member districts, and Jerry Buchmeyer gave them what they wanted.
So much for democracy.
Former Dallas Morning News
Asst. Editor, Hank Tatum, has a commentary on Dallas Blog that absolutely lays
Federal Courts Left Dallas Vulnerable to Scandal
by Henry Tatum
Oct. 3, 2007
We were right. The federal courts were wrong. And Dallas is paying a terrible price today for the difference.
When U.S. District Judge Jerry Buchmeyer ruled the only way to bring fair minority representation to the Dallas City Council was through our present election system, he left the door open for backroom deals, tradeoffs and scandal.
Judge Buchmeyer determined that no plan could offset years of discrimination against minority City Council candidates except one that sliced Dallas up into 14 jigsaw puzzle districts with only the mayor elected citywide.
His zeal in correcting past wrongs was sincere. But the judge?s tunnel vision in declining to consider any other alternatives cost Dallas the balance it needed to have an effective system for electing the council.
Dallas city officials had a plan that would have brought proper minority representation to the City Council without creating the fiefdoms that make council members so powerful in determining what will or will not be approved in their districts.
In 1989, voters approved a Dallas City Council election system that created 10 individual council districts, but added four ?regional? quadrants where voters could elect a second representative for their areas.
It would have eliminated the ability of one council member to have so much control over any zoning case, business development, funding project or tax credit request in his or her district.
Unfortunately, Judge Buchmeyer rejected what Dallas voters wanted and set up the 14-1 City Council election plan in 1991 that exists today.
Dallas long enjoyed a reputation as having one of the cleanest and most effectively run municipal governments in the nation. Scandal and graft were two unknown commodities at city hall.
But in the 16 years since the federal courts ruled that there was only one way to elect a properly balanced council, one Dallas City Council member has gone to prison for extortion, another received a conviction for bribery that later was overturned and now two former council members have been indicted in the most far reaching City Hall scandal yet.
Does anyone see a pattern here?
Former Mayor Pro Tem Don Hill is accused of being involved in a complex plan that funneled money to him and associates from a developer looking for tax credits for his low income housing projects. Former City Council member James Fantroy has been indicted on charges of embezzling thousands of dollars from the Paul Quinn College community development fund. Hill?s appointee to the City Plan Commission, D?Angelo Lee, is under indictment and is accused of serving as a kind of ?bag man? for the former mayor pro tem.
The validity of these charges will be decided in a courtroom. But the jury already is in on the election system that has left City Hall so vulnerable.
There?s a popular Mexican restaurant in Dallas with a sign on the wall that says, ?If Mama?s not happy, nobody?s happy.? You can apply the same phrase to the 14-1 single member districts plan. If the council member in your district isn?t happy with your request, you aren?t going to get what you want.
Council members, trying to figuring out how to get the eight votes they need for their proposals to be approved, have created a kind of tradeoff plan. ?I?ll vote for what you want in your district if you?ll vote for what I want in mine.?
The system can work if everyone is honest and only doing what they think is best for Dallas. But that is a lot to ask when there is constant lobbying of council members that now may include bribery money as well as favors.
I wish Dallas didn?t have to say to the federal courts that we told you so. But there?s too much evidence out there for us to say anything else.
Henry Tatum is a former assistant editor of The Dallas Morning News editorial page.
The crazy shaped council
districts we have today continue on the Buchmeyer curse. Neighborhoods are
split. Communities of interest are divided. Areas that are neither
geographically or economically adjacent are lumped in the same council district.
District 6 goes all the way from Royal Lane in NW Dallas, down to Ft. Worth
Avenue. It was drawn by Joe May and Mad Max Aaronson to create an Hispanic
majority district. The people in Arcadia Park have nothing in common with
the Northwest Dallas neighborhoods in District 6.
When we had 8-2-1, we had two at large council members who we could go to if we
were not part of the single member district council member's clique. We
could also lobby for their vote when we did have our council member's support.
That's not to say there wasn't corruption or certain council members getting
assistance from various members of the ODB under 8-2-1. We even had Mayor
Strauss giving "loans" to former Councilman Al Lipscomb. Mayor Strauss and
former Councilwoman Lordi Palmer weren't content to reverse a city election,
they went together to testify that the city should be punished as well as the
Dallas Housing Authority for alleged discrimination in public housing
(projects). We are still paying for their interference in both matters.
There are things that can be done right now to reduce the opportunity for
corruption and collusion with developers or shakedown of developers. If
you think developers go looking for crooked politicians to bribe, then you are
only half right. There are probably developers who do that, but it usually
works the other way with crooked politicians looking for opportunities to
shakedown a developer. When a developer has to get past the Plan
Commission before their project even gets to the city council, you have another
layer of shakedown .
In full disclosure, I serve on one of the three 5-member panels of the Board of
Adjustment. We are a quasi-judicial board, which means no one can lobby us
or discuss any case we are to hear with us, including no council member.
We are individually appointed by each council member and the Mayor. The
Mayor appoints the Chair over all three panels, who serves as the Chair of one
panel and appoints the vice chairs, two of which serve as Chair of the other two
panels. Each panel meets once a month. We are briefed in the morning
on our agenda cases. In the afternoon, we hear the cases and make our
decisions. If you don't like our ruling, you have to file a lawsuit in
District Court. The council can't overrule us.
The Plan Commission must be reigned in by the city council. New rules of
conduct must be enacted. The Plan Commission meets every week, a full day.
They also have subcommittees, like ZOAC, that require extra meetings. Very
difficult for working people to serve on the Plan Commission, so it is dominated
by real estate interests. When I served on the P&Z, we had 8 single member
appointees, two appointed by the at large council members and one appointed by
the mayor. We were constantly meeting with developers and homeowner
groups. Council members would be at these meetings. The only reason
there weren't more problems was because the at large members balanced out the
If the council were to split up the P&Z like the the Board of Adjustment into 3
panels of 5 members to each hear cases on sequential Thursdays, there would be
less opportunity for corruption. The cases would be assigned at random,
and no Plan Commissioner could determine every case in his district. There
would be another advantage to that arrangement. It would not be such a
hardship on regular citizens to serve on the Plan Commission. Getting off
a day from work a month would be easier to do than having to be at City Hall 4
days a month.
The council also needs to change the rules so that Plan Commissioners cannot
meet privately with any developer or opposition group. Often a Plan
Commissioner is negotiating zoning cases and has already made his decision
before there is ever a public hearing. Although they go through a sham
hearing, almost every case is pre-determined before it ever gets to a Plan
Commission hearing. The city council almost never overturns a Plan
We can never forget what almost happened to Jack Pierce who owns Hollywood
Overhead Doors. In that case, the Plan Commissioner for District 10
refused to do Councilman Bill Blaydes bidding to call a hearing to rezone Mr.
Pierce's land. That was the exception. It was also why Blaydes had
to get Ed Oakley, Linda Koop, et al to sign his resolution to get the rezoning
on the council's agenda. Mayor Miller came to Mr. Pierce's defense and
exposed what Blaydes was trying to do. Otherwise, that poor man would have
lost his business and his employees would have lost their jobs. We will
never know what Blaydes expected to reap from that move. Thank goodness!
When you decide to do something
illegal or questionable, it's not likely you are going to share your plans with
strangers. Shady characters seem to recognize themselves in others.
They know who to avoid and who to hook up with. They don't think they are
defective. They think more scrupulous people are just stupid. Of
course, Don Hill would have kept his scheme among his close associates.
If you are truly intelligent, you recognize intelligence in others. You
can be very intelligent and still too vain to know others are just as clever.
The vain smart ones are who frequently get into trouble. They always have
an abundance of arrogance that makes them think others won't pay attention to
The people in the middle of the latest Dallas scandal are the vain smart types.
D'Angelo Lee is slick and sophisticated and arrogant, but clumsy -- like
everyone else involved in this scandal.
Rather than playing the race card, DA Watkins should be expressing outrage that
any Black leaders would behave so shamefully. DA Watkins doesn't think
Black leaders should be expected to behave with honor. DA Watkins is a
The local media is digging as hard as they can to find outrage in the Black
community over the indictments, but the silence is deafening. It seems the
Black community of Dallas is fed up with being exploited by their own elected
Jim Schutze has a piece this week that will break your heart. As a
life-long bleeding heart, this mess is really hard for him. He once told
me "I'm so liberal, I won't even take my own side." Take a few minutes and
Story, White guys
bribing black guys at Dallas City Hall.
Patrick Williams also has some
Home to Roost
The Morning News
added its two
bits to that discussion with a story headlined "A
cloud over Dallas' black politics."
But we wonder: What cloud? Let's say for the sake
of argument that the three politicians
indicted?Hill, Fantroy and state Representative
Terri Hodge?are guilty. Wouldn't the U.S. attorney's
case be removing a cloud from black politics?
What sort of perverse state have we reached here in
which a handful of black pols and fixers are accused
of crimes and their behavior is a greater reflection
on the entire black political community than the
many black public servants who do their jobs without
being indicted? Do Hill and Fantroy represent their
race? More likely they represent a certain type of
politician, one who puts his own interests above his
community's. But, hey, cheer up, black people. We
have lots of those people playing on the white team
too. Sometimes, they even get indicted. The notion
that every black politician somehow is a
representative of his entire race is a sucker's
game that plays into the hands of racists.
It is racist to assume the
Black community is tainted because some elected officials may have
crossed the line of honor. The indicted are individuals. They are
not the community.
As another White person, I was not tainted by what Bill Blaydes tried to do to
Jack Pierce. It was something Bill Blaydes did to help some developers.
If what he tried to do wasn't criminal, it was certainly evil. It was his
wrong doing, and not mine.
I have to add one more thing about James Fantroy. He may have taken those
funds from Paul Quinn College, and that would be a very bad thing. Unlike
Old Al who had those Fred Sandford-like collapses during his federal trial, Mr.
Fantroy truly is a very sick man, physically. Nothing can be done at this
point to save him. He was very ill in 2005 when he fought back Al
Lipscomb's efforts to get back on the city council. It would have been
easier for him to withdraw from politics at that point and let Old Al start
again "Selling the black community down
the river", as Jim
Schutze writes in
Old Al didn't just sell
"the black community down the river", he sold women, he sold drugs, he sold out.
It may be a complete cop out on my part, but surely Mr. Fantroy gets some points
for sparing this city from suffering under Al Lipscomb again in public office.
The problem is no one remembers anything anymore. We don't have Hank
Tatum's long memory of what has really happened in this town. He grew up
here and came from a family with old roots in Dallas. We got into this
14-1 mess because a bunch of people from other places wanted things to be like
they were in the places they chose to leave. We have this current scandal
partially because no one heeded the warnings about what would happen to Dallas
under the ward politics that would absolutely come from 14-1.
More, we have this current scandal because some individuals were greedy and
dishonest and used a defective system to sell out their constituents by changing
the zoning on single-family land to multi-family. The last thing the
Southern Sector needed or needs is more apartments. Whether he got
kickbacks or bribes or whatever, what Don Hill did by pushing through that
multi-family zoning was evil and wrong. Since that part of the city is
predominantly African-American, it was the Black community who was the most
damaged by what Don Hill did as a city councilman.
As someone wrote on one of the blogs, this is not a sad day for Dallas. It
is a day of cleansing and hope. It is a day that should serve as a warning
to all public officials that corruption will not be tolerated and there will be
serious consequences for violating your fiduciary responsibilities.
Dallas County Commissioner
John Wiley Price, who is black, said the fact that three-fourths of those
indicted are black doesn't give him reason for pause. "Unfortunately, all the
actors who were in a position to make a decision ... were black," he said...