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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. 


Race Issues Resurface In Dallas City Hall Probe

 (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.      Gherig Saldana:
Two years have passed since Jesse Diaz issued this press release.
LULAC: Hill and Lee Must Resign 2005-08-23 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 Hi-Spanics 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 here.  

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.

Dallas Morning News Asst. Editor, Hank Tatum, has a commentary on Dallas Blog that absolutely lays it out. 

GUEST VIEWPOINT<br/>by Henry Tatum

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 ward politics.

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 Commission decision.

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 their shenanigans.

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 reverse racist. 

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 officials. 

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 read
Same Sick Story, White guys bribing black guys at Dallas City Hall.

Patrick Williams also has some heady insight:

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. ...  10/4/7

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 Same Sick Story.   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...







  Ward politics is the Devil's key to the soul of the city council.  It is how some council members got themselves in trouble in the past.  It is the bait that will get others in trouble in the future. 4/6/8