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09/29/03  It's Not Getting Better . . .

Much of my adult life post-college was spent living in Oak Lawn.  I worked Downtown.  My world didn't go much North of Inwood (except for trips to Lewisville) or South of the Convention Center.  I considered Downtown the center of our municipal universe.

I was a real City Hall insider and spoke before the Council and DART frequently regarding zoning cases, rail alignment - exciting stuff.  City Hall was very familiar to me, Downtown was like my hometown.  My Dad was a DPD cop assigned to the beat of St. Paul & Main (Neiman's, Titche's), and my Mother was a Mercantile Bank teller.  Every school holiday, I got to go to work with my parents and spend the day just hanging out Downtown -- even after we built a home in Lewisville.  

When I started my business, most of my clients were in the Downtown/Oak Lawn area.  Then a couple moved North, and my client base was Preston at Northwest Highway with only a couple left Downtown.  I had run for council and lost (twice), so City Hall was no longer a regular stop for me.  When I resigned from my last Downtown client, there was even less reason to head South.  Since most of my clients were North of NW Hwy, I started thinking of leaving Oak Lawn.

As soon as the Mayor won her race, I began looking for a house I could afford in the part of town where I worked.  I considered Farmers Branch, but found my great little house and left Oak Lawn/Downtown to become a North Dallas person. W. K. Gordon, III:
  North Dallas and City Hall have come to resemble a marriage where the partners cohabitate, but don't talk any more than necessary."  Pretty good analogy. 
   Sometimes marital partners grow in ways that render them incompatible, and perhaps the same is true of communities.  
   There is an enticing solution.  And to an increasing number of North Dallasites D-I-V-O-R-C-E (deannexation) is a tantalizing fantasy.  
   Just imagine Northwest Highway as "Borderline Road"...

Rena Pedersen has an incredible article in DMN's Sunday Reader (9/28/03):

What's bugging North Dallas?Bridging differences with City Hall critical to success
12:01 AM CDT on Sunday, September 28, 2003
By RENA PEDERSON / The Dallas Morning News
   It's one of the toughest questions in town: Can Dallas be as great as it can be without more positive leadership from North Dallas, the epicenter of city affluence?
   Over the years, North Dallas has developed the reputation as the "ground zero for naysayers," balking at tax increases and pro-growth proposals, retreating from direct involvement in city affairs. That means if the city wants to shore up the tax base for the future, it will have to shore up civic support in the north, which often delivers 70 percent of the vote in city elections.
. . .  North Dallas increasingly became known for the cranky habit of voting against ambitious city proposals ? against new arts facilities, against mass transit, against improvements to the Trinity River. Political consultants began joking, "People in North Dallas drive by the neighborhood school every day just to see if there's an election to vote against."
. . .  For starters, it would be helpful to examine whether the perception is accurate that North Dallas residents vote against everything.
   The honest answer is "no." North Dallas voters have fairly consistently supported bond votes for the school and city bond packages that stuck to basic nuts-and-bolts improvements.

Even before becoming an official North Dallas resident, I must have already morphed into one, considering I am probably the ultimate Dallas "naysayer".   It's not just about saying "No", but saying "No" to stuff we don't need when City Hall cannot provide basic necessities for Dallas taxpayers.

Council passes laws we have no manpower to enforce.  We have city personnel who do not enforce basic code enforcement, and at least one Code Enforcement guy who uses his position to retaliate against a citizen/taxpayer who reported him sleeping out in the alley during the day in a city car.

. . . "They don't have the same patriotic feeling for the city anymore," said former Mayor Pro Tem Adlene Harrison. "They have become more skeptical about the way the city is run and the way the council votes to grant tax exemptions for things."

Knowing our money is being wasted and our needs are not being met does not make us unpatriotic.  It makes us realistic.   And, it makes us mad. 

. . . "North Dallas voters just don't like to be hoodwinked and given a sort of 'trust me' mandate," observed longtime civic supporter Walt Humann.  . . .  "They also want to know who's going to benefit? If they feel somebody is getting a sweetheart deal, that will turn off voters in general, but especially in North Dallas. In the case of the arena, a high percentage felt it was not a fair deal for taxpayers. 
. . . Former council member Max Wells,  . . . "But a real change came with the arena deal," he said. "It brought a bitterness and a meanness to the debate that I had not seen before. It brought out the strongest and loudest voices I had ever seen at town hall meetings. There was this perception that 'I don't want to give the rich guys the money.'

Our Downtown Betters (the ODB)  may have won the arena battle, but they are just now realizing they lost the war.  No one will ever trust them again.

We heard their lies -- some bought their lies -- we have their number.  We know how they pulled off that election.  One good thing that came out of last year's legislative session are the tighter rules on vote harvesting.  Doesn't mean the bad guys can't steal another election or that Kathy Nealy and her gang won't play some of her cheating games, but they will have to work a little harder.  Guess Grandpa Jones is going to have to pay her better than Ross and Tommy compensated her.

. . .  Mr. Garcia, who ran for mayor against Ms. Miller in 2002, said, "One of the other reasons Laura Miller got elected is that she had John Wiley Price picketing her house because of things she wrote about him and she stood up to Al Lipscomb when he was a council member. She was seen as a white person standing up, and Ms. Miller exploited that. It's ironic, that she came out of Oak Cliff (in the southern sector), but she knew how to play the game (in northern Dallas)."

Domingo Garcia is a lot of things.  I have frequently described him as smart, but not recently.  His behavior in the mayoral race was absolutely nutty.  Him thinking "she knew how to play the game" speaks volumes about his attitude toward voters.  Laura Miller did not "play the game".  She was the best candidate of the slate we were offered in 2002 and in 2003.  For some people, politics and government is a game.  Unfortunately, those kinds of people frequently get elected.  

That's not to say Laura Miller is not talented and smart, but she has been blessed with wonderfully terrible opponents in every race she has run to date.  Luis Sepulveda?  Tom Dunning and Domingo Garcia were both living in the 80's, and neither realized how the city has changed.  District 6 is so gerrymandered it is easy to control the vote outcome.  You cannot play those cards on a citywide basis.  

Laura Miller was what the voters wanted, and both of her mayoral races were foregone conclusions.  I coordinated the volunteer phone-banking in her win over Dunning.  Her numbers were incredible from all parts of the city.

. . . When Ron Kirk was elected the city's first African-American mayor in 1995, he won with a strong minority vote in the southern sector and captured only about 42 percent of the Anglo vote in the city. After making concerted efforts to bridge divisions between the northern and southern sections of the city, he handily won re-election with 70 percent of the vote in North Dallas. But North Dallas was a tough sell, he acknowledges. . . .  "It was clear that North Dallas was obsessed about 'order' at City Hall." . . .  Mr. Kirk says today, is that he still gets grousing about the arena vote from North Dallas residents, even though most of the season ticket holders for the basketball and hockey games at the arena are from ... North Dallas.
. . .  Council member Sandy Greyson, who represents Far North Dallas, said that even though the arena passed in her district, many voters are still complaining to her about it. "They think it is a wonderful arena, they are glad the teams are winning, but they felt it was not a necessary expenditure of public dollars. When they believe something is worthwhile , they will vote yes, but they don't want someone to say, 'trust me, it's going to be good.' They tell me all the time, 'you make my neighborhood look nice and give me the quality of life I need to have, then I'll invest in the city.' "

Here's the deal, Ron.  Most people who go to hockey and/or basketball games don't vote!  No one said Ross and Tommy should be denied a new arena if they wanted one.  We just didn't think Dallas taxpayers should have to pay for it, or let them have it tax free.  Taxpayers did not pay for Texas Stadium.  Had Ron Kirk and John Ware not sold us out to Ross and Tommy, we could have done a bond deal for them like Irving did for Clint Murchison.  

Whether you like sports or not, this was a lousy deal for something Joe Taxpayer did not need.  

The arena sales tax has been a disaster for our convention business and has resulted in lost sales tax revenue, which has been a primary reason for our budget shortfalls since Kirk bailed.  

We have a new arena, but our city civilian personnel have gone without a raise for 3 years and our cops and firefighters are paid less than they could make in Grand Prairie.

. . .  Mr. Allyn cautioned that North Dallas voters should not be mischaracterized as being selfish curmudgeons. As he put it, "They are simply more interested in value and care intensely about city services. When you ask them what their highest priorities are, 39 percent will say fixing potholes, but many more ? 50 percent ? are concerned about cleaning up ethical problems at City Hall and 65 percent want to reduce wasteful spending, bad business deals, catering to special interests."  

Rob Allyn worked for the arena people and is assisting Grandpa Jones in his effort to shaft Dallas County voters rather than spend some of his own millions to make a lot of money for himself.  But, Allyn is right on this.  

Many people in North Dallas don't want special stuff, we want honest government.  

We don't mind money being spent for infrastructure improvements in South Dallas.  We do mind hearing that public monies are being wasted on pet projects  so certain council members can reward their political cronies.  We do mind spending almost a million every year to have a pay window at MLK Rec Center where people can pay their utilities rather than mailing them like the rest of us -- or even paying them at the the grocery store.  We want our city money spent on basic city services.

. . . "The fact that Ron Kirk was behind so many of the previous projects made some people suspicious," observed former North Dallas council member Donna Blumer. "They always felt he was working with people who were out to do things for their own advantage. That factor helped Laura Miller because she was so often at odds with Kirk. I was not her supporter for her re-election, but I do feel people believe their money will be watched over better and not benefit any fat cats."
. . .  conservative Republicans in North Dallas preferred her to Democrat Tom Dunning, primarily because Mr. Dunning was supporting former Mayor Ron Kirk's bid for the U.S. Senate. They adamantly did not want the more liberal Mr. Kirk to get the Senate seat instead of Republican John Cornyn. So Ms. Miller ? the enemy of their enemy ? was more palatable.
. . . "The perception was that Mary would go along with City Hall to get along, and we had done that before," said longtime Republican worker Kay Copeland. ". . .  Mary was too close to Ron Kirk."

Rena Pedersen finally gets it in print that Ron Kirk is not our town's favorite son.  

I don't agree with many decisions that Laura Miller has made as Mayor, but I don't think she has made those decisions for self-gain.  

Never smoked in my life, but the no smoking ordinance was untimely and not enforceable.  Now, it turns out people are smoking in Dallas restaurants, and there's no one around to put a stop to it.  When you have laws on the books, you need to have the personnel to enforce those laws.  When a law is not enforced, respect for government is diminished.

With Kirk, you knew every deal he promoted had something in it for him, like his stock option kickback from Tom Hicks.

The "No Jones Tax" camp must feel like Br'er Rabbit -- 
Oh, No, Commissioners, please don't put Ron Kirk on your team.  Please don't give us an opportunity to remind voters of the lies he told in the arena and Trinity campaigns, etc. 
. . . "We'd like Dallas to prosper," Mr. Leedom said, "but what is Dallas? It's never going to be a tourist center or have anything like the Alamo, and I don't think the Trinity will turn into anything like Lake Travis. But so what? It's still the finest place to do business and raise children in the nation. We need to keep the focus on fire stations, good roads and an honest police force."

Why is it not enough for Dallas to be a good place to do business and raise a family?  

Look at Ft. Worth.  They have a Downtown that's alive at night, all sorts of cultural opportunities and a zoo that generates revenue.   They have not had budget woes like we have experienced, like Arlington is experiencing.  Ft. Worth citizens are aware and involved and just blocked the council from building a city-owned convention hotel.  They have a sales tax that goes directly to their police department.  They don't have a basketball arena. 

. . . Mr. Rasanksy jokes that when he first took his seat at the horseshoe-shaped council desk, he noticed that the word "no" had been worn off the District 13 button by Ms. Blumer. 

Donna Blumer didn't say NO just to be a contrarian, she understood what the council is actually supposed to do for us.  They are not there for social engineering or jumping on every liberal cause or trying to interfere with national matters.  The council is supposed to set policy that will direct the City Manager to run our city in a way to keep our streets smooth, our parks green and we and our property safe.   Pretty simple.

If wanting the council to focus on the basics is exclusive to North Dallas residents, then it was fate for me to have found my home among clear thinkers.  







  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