Archive for March, 2010

Realities and Misconceptions about Lowest Greenville

March 27, 2010
(UPDATE: It’s obvious that a lot of feathers were ruffled by this blog post. Some of them are cowards that run to other blog’s comment sections to make up lies that can’t remotely be substantiated.  They are likely backed by some of the same bloggers that called us all “gangbangers” in the first place.  They know I can be found at City Hall at every City Plan Commission meeting if they would like to have a thoughtful discussion about this issue.  
I didn’t mention names of people in this article because it’s not about who it is, it’s about the issue.
Some of them are writers for other publications that live in $350,000 houses in affluent neighborhoods but act like only their neighborhoods can be cleaned up.  They run IP addresses of people that comment on their site that they don’t like.  They don’t like the fact that we are not ignorant enough to lump people in one basket when it comes to clubs and places that people don’t look like them tend to go.  They resent the fact that we are educated about the process of improving our neighborhoods, which we have done. From cleaning up motels and other nuisances, the Deep Ellum zoning club process and other accomplishments, my track record speaks for itself.
They use their paper for undercover political motives as well.  They soft-shoe pieces on their buddies, while other people’s every step is reported ad nauseum. I wonder if we put a dent in their escort service ad business when we shut down the motels, and they want payback.  It’s something to think about.
Read my entire blog post, not excerpts written by someone with an agenda, and make up your own mind).
Recently, there has been a lot of talk about Lower and Lowest Greenville.  Many different people seem to hold to the belief that all the bars in Lowest Greenville are “thug bars” and need to be closed.

The picture in this post is from a recent party attended by me and many friends in Lowest Greenville.  You see me, Pikahsso (a well-known Dallas rapper and one of my best friends in Dallas), and others.  None of us are “gangbangers,” which is a term used by some elected officials and residents to describe the people the club in this area.  (I will keep putting that word in quotes because I don’t know anyone not named Bill O’Reilly that uses that word in normal conversation ).

I don’t go to “thug bars,” and I don’t hang out with thugs either.  I hang out with professionals, people involved in the art and music scene, and other working people. We like to go out just like everyone else. We don’t drink to the point of intoxication.  The reason that our generation doesn’t have the legendary places that evoke memories years down the line is that people throw all of the spots into one basket and everything gets closed.
I think the viewpoint that’s missing from a lot of the articles written and opinions given are that very few of them are from people that actually go out on a regular basis.  Even the club owners will tell you about the other bad actors, because they want them closed as well.  Is the answer to shut down the whole strip and sanitize the nightlife scene in that part of town? No.
Being the Vice Chair of the City Plan Commission (CPC), if there is an attempt to enact zoning regarding that area I will be a part of it.  I think we as an appointed body do a pretty good job of keeping suspect clubs on a short leash, and rewarding good operators for a job well done and a club well-run.  From the beginning of my tenure on the CPC, I was the first to push to have crime stats as part of the public record when it comes to clubs and bars, and questioned when that did not occur. I did it on every case, regardless of district. Such records are now part of every applicable case.
As I have done in the past I hope to provide a bit of balance to the conversation and what appears to be pending zoning discussions about the area.
I speak as someone that has attended clubs and parties on Lower and Lowest Greenville since I moved to Dallas eight years ago.  I was first brought to the area by a peer from my old job.  I would estimate that his yearly income was at least $250,000.  Now you wouldn’t think that someone like that would hang out in the “dangerous and wild” Lowest Greenville “gangbanger” club district, but it’s true.  I also don’t remember him checking on his 401(k) one minute and tying on his bandanna the next.
In this city, we constantly talk about vibrancy.    In other cities that are perceived as vibrant, people from clubs park everywhere.  We already have the Resident Parking Only (RPO) process, which helps those streets that want to get relief from weekend parking issues.
I respect the efforts of any neighborhood to clean up its problem spots.  There are a couple of places that seem to breed most of the problems; they should be closed.  If there is a move to close all of the bars and clubs because they’re all thrown into the same boat, that is something with which I will have a problem.
I have been part of such a movement before, when dealing with the Deep Ellum and Expo Park neighborhoods.    In the end, we voted to keep some places open and we closed down the bad guys (Club Uropa, for example).  Contrary to the opinions of some writers and blog commenters, Deep Ellum is far from dead.  Multiple new clubs, bars, and restaurants have opened are more are on the way.  Also, service-oriented businesses like barbershops have opened along with mainstays that never closed (Rudolph’s Meat Market, Mozzarella Company). In that case, I felt it was necessary.  I feel the problem in Deep Ellum was way worse than what’s going on in Lowest Greenville.
Some of the people that claim that every club on Lowest Greenville is filled with “gangbangers” act as if crime doesn’t occur unless a bar is open.  We know that’s not true.

NEWSFLASH: the people that hang out on Lowest Greenville also had birthday dinners and functions at the beloved Terilli’s, Mick’s, and Blue Goose in Lower Greenville.  Does some magical transformation from professional to “gangbanger” happen once we have dinner and drive below Belmont Avenue? I don’t think so.
The times that I have hung out on Lowest Greenville, which are many, only on a couple of occasions have I seen some sort of mayhem or been told about such instances.  I’m not discounting what others have seen, but I do speak from the standpoint of someone that is actually in some of these establishments.  I rarely use parking lots because I still don’t trust most of the operators with respect to booting and towing. I loathe valets.  I’m old school; in most places I park on a street and I walk 2-3 blocks to wherever I’m going.  The times that I’ve been down there, most of the police do a great job dispersing club goers once the night is over and the patrons do a great job of being good citizens.
To me, it’s an issue of balance. If there are problem places, the city should do something about it.  Such actions help everyone from residents to party goers to business owners.  Back home, the city padlocks the problem places and asks questions later.  Here, something strange happens where officials and club owners do a weird dance which results in nothing being done.
Closing everything is a bad idea.  You can look across the street at the retail space in Vue  Greenville (located at the NW corner of Greenville & Lewis, shown below) and see that the retail market is struggling – that building is struggling because of the strong restrictions which don’t allow decent restaurant hours, not because of the bars. That building was built long after clubs had set up shop. It’s just like when Good Records set up a free outdoor show last year and it was shut down due to various unknown forces.  Is that the kind of image we want to project as a city?

View Larger Map

One thing that is bad around Lowest Greenville is the street lighting.  Dark streets breed problems.
After leaving a club at 2am on the night which the picture of me and my friends was taken, I walked some female friends to their cars on the east side of Greenville on Richmond Avenue, then walked through the club crowd by myself to get back to my car on the west side of Greenville near the Newflower Market.  I saw a couple of people being arrested and no major fights.  This is typical of any club area – you mean you never see the cops arrest anyone at a Cowboys or Stars game for being out of hand? 
Everybody has a right to their opinion.  There are neighborhood issues that can be addressed, but in my opinion this area is a city asset and should be treated as such.  If it gets to this point of zoning and planning, I will make sure everyone has a say in what happens to the area.

Community Gardens – Just a Thought

March 26, 2010
There are a lot of different articles and blog posts out right now with respect to community gardens.

I saw a comment on one post suggesting the city sell some of its vacant land to various neighborhood groups, and those groups could use it as a garden. Then the parcel would be considered private land. I’m sure Dallas is spending a fortune on mowing city-owned land parcels, so maybe this would help.

Thoughts?

DMN Editorial: HUD props up an apartment complex failing its tenants

March 17, 2010
The following editorial follows up on an article written by the Dallas Morning News on Sunday.  I also wrote about the same article. This is such an important issue, I am going to print the entire editorial in its entirety. 
The one thing I question is if any landlord has ever “walked away” from a building because of the pressure from HUD or any other public entity. I am very curious to know the answer.
Next, the editorial.
Editorial: HUD props up an apartment complex failing its tenants
  Dallas Morning News 06:24 PM CDT on Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Harvard-educated Rene Campos Jr. made a fortune by buying, rehabilitating and reselling distressed private apartment properties. Today, at 46, he lives in a million-dollar University Park home, owns a $4 million vacation property in Hawaii, plays polo, rides a custom motorcycle and drives a Land Rover.
Nothing wrong with being wealthy.

The problem is whether Campos and his investment company, Eureka Holdings, are living up to his self-described “mantra”: “We provide clean, safe, affordable housing for people.”

Eureka’s tenants at the Ridgecrest Terrace apartments in west Oak Cliff might beg to differ. Despite a constant stream of federal rent subsidies to the complex – including $1.5 million from the latest stimulus package – they describe a hellish swirl of drug activity, mold and mildew simply painted over, carpet so filthy it causes blackened feet and rashes, water-leak stains on walls.

Our issue isn’t just with Campos, a guy apparently more concerned with maximizing income by holding down expenses than with fulfilling housing commitments. It’s also with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which lets him get away with it.

Campos’ stimulus windfall was part of a $2 billion HUD effort to ensure that HUD-contracted landlords received a full year of rent subsidy payments. Ridgecrest Terrace was one of 14 Dallas County properties – nine in southern Dallas – to benefit. This, despite a record of failed HUD property inspections (later overturned on appeal), a city lawsuit to force repairs of substandard conditions (later settled) and the property’s failure to file audited financial statements on time (leading to a $3,000 fine).

If Campos is a slumlord, he’s giving other slumlords a bad name. HUD’s inability to separate worthy property owners from the chaff confirms criticisms of the $787 billion stimulus as larded with fraud and waste.

HUD’s response to this newspaper’s Steve McGonigle, whose research and reporting produced the Ridgecrest Terrace revelations, was dispiriting. A spokesman in Washington tried to explain the “delicate balance” between holding landlords accountable and making sure even the poor had decent housing. HUD supervisors locally and in Washington chose to not respond.

Campos tried to explain his side by blaming city vendettas for many of his problems at Ridgecrest Terrace.

Caught in the middle, of course, are the tenants, who just want that “clean, safe, affordable housing.” Landlords have the ultimate hammer, which is walking away if HUD leans on them too hard. With so much of southern Dallas’ housing stock tied up in complexes like Ridgecrest Terrace, tossing families into the street is a black eye HUD and the city don’t need.

Neither is looking away while people with few other options live in squalor.

If You Don’t Give Eric Johnson a Chance, I have No Words for You

March 16, 2010
Anyone with a pulse can read this interview with incoming District 100 State Representative Eric Johnson and see that he has something special going for him. 
I guess where I differ than some is that I feel Eric would’ve won regardless of any indictment looming over the incumbent. I believe he would’ve won anyway.  
Eric was willing to work for your vote.  He and his wife were everywhere…from the MLK DART station, to East and Southeast Dallas, to West Dallas and beyond.  It will be good to see if he actually owns any clothing other than suits or campaign shirts, since that’s what it seems like he’s been wearing for the last nine months.
Equally important, when he spoke or wrote, he had ideas. He didn’t hide when questioned about his campaign, he admitted mistakes, and he kept working.  The voters of his district took notice; and that’s why he won.
This race speaks to one of the core issues in Dallas, and probably in other impoverished neighborhoods nationwide.  To me, there is a general lack of political mentorship in southern Dallas, of which the end result is incumbents who win time and again based on the fact that “they’re there” so to speak.  
What also results is entire neighborhoods that exist in a virtual tailspin of mediocrity, hamstrung by the lack of original ideas and political will to change things.  It’s almost like some entrenched politicians avoid new ideas as if it’s an indictment of their leadership.  It’s not.  That’s the equivalent of sticking with Windows Me when Vista has been around for years and Windows 7 has been released.
There are some exceptions, but for the most part I am correct. There are some political leaders that will shrug off what I wrote, and that’s fine.  There are exceptions in Dallas to what I’ve written in this piece. However, if it makes you upset, take someone under your wing and prove me wrong. We need positive, encouraging guidance to continue improving our communities in the future.  
Go forth Eric, do your best to bring your ideas to fruition and uplift District 100.

Owner of Oak Cliff Apartment Complex Sees Nothing Wrong with Mold, Drug Baggies, and Unhealthy Apartments

March 14, 2010
This article is in today’s Dallas Morning News. Read for yourself.
The blog Katy’s Exposure also says what I already know, having lived in an apartment with mold.

And regarding the skin rashes from the carpet, that is from the mold coming from the vents.

The reasoning that such conditions are OK just because it’s Section 8 housing has nothing to do with the interior quality in the apartments. Nobody is asking the owner to put a fountain or media room in the middle of the complex. You take the government money to provide safe housing for lower-income people.  That means the outside environment should be safe as well as the inside.  In addition to mold, I have lived places with termites, roaches pouring out of crevices, rats, mice, and other issues.  I was blessed to be able to move; everyone is not. 
This article disgusts me. Poor people deserve to live without mold, drug baggies all over, and leaking walls. This owner should be ashamed of himself, but obviously he is not.

This is a front page article in the Sunday edition of the Dallas Morning News; it doesn’t get much bigger than that. Hopefully some elected official reads this article and does something about it. It’s obvious that the owner could care less.

The Six Finalists for the Next Dallas Chief of Police

March 8, 2010
H/t to Rudy Bush from the DMN on this one:
The finalists for chief are:
Art Acevedo, Austin chief of police
David O. Brown, Dallas first assistant chief
Robert L. Davis, San Jose, CA chief of police
Daniel V. Garcia, Dallas assistant chief
Floyd D. Simpson, Dallas assistant chief
Robert Crump White, Louisville, KY police chief