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05/10/02 Dallas "Peon" learns a Hard Lesson in Politics

    Today, a neighborhood activist was born, and I have none other to thank than my district's loyal and hardworking councilwoman, Maxine Thornton-Reese.

    When our neighborhood found out that DART was considering running their light rail expansion along the railroad tracks behind our homes, and that DART had failed to inform us that we might lose our homes, we appealed to Ms.Thornton-Reese to help us out; to at least come to one of our meetings   ?  ?  ?   she never came.

     When a little girl passed out in one of our elementary schools because the heating system wouldn't cut off (even though it was in the 80's outside), we organized a meeting to push for much-needed repairs in that school immediately.  Once again, we contacted Ms.Thornton-Reese, and once again  ?  ?  ?   she never came.

     When a full-fledged sweep of our neighborhood by Code Compliance began on Monday with plenty of cameras and photo-opportunities   ?  ?  ?   guess who came?   Ms.Thornton-Reese looks much different in person.

     As Code Enforcement and Animal Control officers were peeking over our back fences and filling out their citations for the cameras, I sat inside and watched the various news coverage of the event, trying my damndest to fight off the ever-growing urge to vomit.  There was our district's councilwoman, walking alongside Laura Miller, concentrating on the single worst house on our street, and shaking their heads in saccharine disgust.  

   The whole thing couldn't have been more fake if you'd dipped it in Velveeta.

    Don't get me wrong.  I've called code compliance for years, complaining about specific houses, loose dogs breaking in my windows and tearing up my yard.  All to no avail.  So I was thrilled when I heard we were finally going to get some results.  But somehow it all took a different turn for me when I'm laying comfortably on my couch in my Hanes Her Ways and  Beavis and Butthead T-shirt only to turn my head and find two code compliance officers standing in my private driveway towards the back of my house, only inches from my window and just a few feet from viewing my day's fashion choice.  

    Though I applaud the initial idea, I have to say that my sense of privacy and security felt violated by the way this neighborhood sweep was carried out, so this low-income neighborhood gal felt compelled to get online and do some research  ?  ?  ?   ahhhhhhh, the wonders of the internet.

     If the wealth of information I found is correct and I understand it as much as any second-class citizen is capable of understanding, it appears that each Council member was asked to select one neighborhood in their district to be the subject of this combination clean up sweep/media event.  

     Now, our neighborhood has its share of violations.  It also has its share of people with "interesting" tastes -- from those who think sticking plastic flowers in the ground creates both year round beauty and the envy of everyone including Martha Stewart, to those who feel broken washing machines and refrigerators make great lawn ornaments. True, we're not Highland Park or the M street area, but in the nine years I've lived here, I've seen this neighborhood continually improve, and the number of eyesores decrease with each year.  Yet among all the improvements I've seen in my time here.  I find it absolutely amazing that Ms. Thornton-Reese and her video-toting entourage managed to find one of the only houses in our neighborhood that gives those who see it the feeling that some genetically deficient man child with a banjo is about to step on the porch at any moment for the daily "duel".

   Yup, our neighborhood has its problems.  But, in my years of driving around this district, I've seen much worse in other areas.   

      The next thing I did was pull up a map of our district so I'd know exactly what streets Ms. Reese had to choose from when deciding which neighborhood got to play "let's pick on the poor".  With map in hand, the  husband and I were off on one hell of a sightseeing jaunt.  Amongst the many tourist sights we saw in areas of  District four included houses with no windows, yards with grass so high it could lead a failing NBA team to the playoffs,  bulk trash I'm convinced Jimmy Hoffa and Amelia Earhardt are hidden in, and houses that looked like a sudden shift in the wind would merit a call to Dr. Kevorkian.  

     On our little trip, I saw un-cited yards and houses not fit for rats to live in, yet on our street, a neighbor was cited  because a strip of vinyl siding was missing from the side of his house, and a section of his eave had peeling paint on it.  In the other areas of district four, I saw mange-covered dogs wobbling along potholed streets when another of my neighbors was cited because her dog's rabies vaccination was two months overdue.  All of this increasingly perked my curiosity as to why our neighborhood was selected when so many other neighborhoods in this district needed equal, if not more focused, attention, so I decided to see what more I could find out about our concerned councilwoman.

      I went to three different online search engines and typed in Ms. Thornton Reese's name, expecting to see mostly pro, mixed with a handful of con links to read.  Instead I got link after link to news articles that made my jaw drop.  I really must have been living in a cave all these years, because I had no idea that I had unknowingly supported, and that this district was represented by a woman who is happy to go before cameras and chastise taxpayers in her district when it appears she herself has been behind in the past when it comes to paying her own personal property taxes.  I was also shocked to see that it was somehow excusable for her to violate ethics codes by appointing family members on boards and  that somehow she feels the parking laws at Fair Park that apply to the average peon don't count when she's concerned.  I wonder how distressed she'd have been if one of our neighborhood's residents cars had been towed for parking in a restricted Fair Park area?

       Yes, I'm a sadder but wiser citizen now.  I've learned that a person can urge voters to elect "the person who looks like you" and still win.  I've learned that anyone who uncovers and exposes corruption at the city council level better watch out for Ms. Thornton Reese, who'll immediately call for their resignation, and I've learned that if you want any semblance of caring from our current councilwoman, you'd better have a live-video feed going or you're out of luck.  

        So, in closing, I'd like to thank Ms. Thornton Reese for choosing our little neighborhood to pore through with a fine tooth comb.  Thanks for the eye-opening experience and valuable lesson in politics I've been forced to learn, and thanks for the undeniable feeling I now have that code enforcement will be back in ten days, hands full of new citation forms ready to hand out to the house that has a tear in the screen or a peeling section of paint on the garage  while other areas of this district remain rotting and unchanged.  Thanks for making sure I now have to keep my curtains closed for fear of accidentally showing city employees the detailed contours of my thighs.  Thanks for finally letting me see what you look like in person, and perhaps I'll see you again. I can dream, can't I?  I'm sure one of these days another swarm of cameras will pop up in our "dilapidated"   neighborhood.

Sincerely,

An Urbandale Serf

                                        

    





                            

 

  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