Archive for the ‘County’ Category

Let Oak Cliff Development Move Forward

August 9, 2009

After years of dealing with an overabundance of car lots, motels, and boarded up buildings, the Fort Worth Corridor is in a stage of redevelopment and revitalization. The Belmont Hotel, as well as the Cliff Cafe (currently under renovation and rebranding) and the Salón Las Américas center have sparked the rebirth of this once-forgotten area.

Project Luke is the name for a highly-anticipated mixed-use development which will stretch from I-30 to Fort Worth Avenue along Sylvan. It has the makings of the type of development the city had in mind when we got our Form-Based Zoning framework approved; moving buildings farther out towards the street and parking behind the buildings vs. having a sea of parking along the street. The most important piece of this development is the plan for a 30,000 SF +/- site at the I-30 frontage road & Sylvan. Such a footprint would accommodate a mid-size grocery store or an organic grocery like Newflower or Whole Foods. Plans also include loft/studio spaces.

Unfortunately, the entire development is now at risk. There is a major roadblock which is impeding the continued revitalization of this corridor. The issue at hand is the county-owned land that is needed for this development, located at the corner of Sylvan & Fort Worth Avenues (map). Here is a recent picture of county auto shop from DCAD:

According to the news article, a land swap was proposed because State law doesn’t allow the county to sell directly to a private party. For now, the county commissioners are balking at the proposed swap and instead vote to have an appraisal completed at a maximum cost of $12,300 to determine the land value.

All of the commissioners quoted seem to be focusing on the value of the land. The underground fuel tanks were also mentioned; I’m sure the developer realizes that tanks will have to be addressed.

Curiously, there is no quote from County Commissioner Ken Mayfield, who represents the area in which the auto shop is located.

While the county does have a responsibility to make a good deal for the taxpayer, it is not a good idea to risk major developments whose benefits far outweigh the amount of additional upfront value that the county can receive form the developer. The increased tax dollars generated (from its current level of zero) base would also be a benefit.

There are plenty of other places to locate this shop. As noted by Shannon Brown, the assistant Commissioners Court administrator, many auto dealerships are closing. There is also no shortage of service station/repair shops that are closed on which such a county facility could be located.
I’m also not sure if the shop must be located in Oak Cliff.

To me, this land arrangement should not be viewed as a cash cow for the county. It should be treated as an opportunity to bring needed retail and services to this part of Dallas, and one that should be welcomed with opened arms.

Craig Watkins on The View

April 29, 2009

My barber gave me the heads up that Dallas DA (and fellow customer) Craig Watkins was going to be on “The View” sometime soon. Thanks to Jennifer Emily of the DMN, I found out it was tomorrow.

We were talking about what’s next for Craig. The only show left is Oprah.

There’s always good info in the barbershop – some things never change.

The barbershop:



Cutting the DA’s Budget is a Big Mistake

February 24, 2009

This article, which talks about the Dallas County Commissioners pushing Craig Watkins to cut money and staffing in his office, is quite troubling.

When crime goes up and families can’t get closure because violent offenders can’t get prosecuted, most of the commissioners will be AWOL and silent. They will let Craig take any heat for having to release violent offenders. Craig is doing work that is nationally recognized; why stop the progress?

Cutting back on essential needs like felony prosecutors is the wrong move. In the article Craig suggested cutting car allowances for himself and others; but will Commissioners cut their car allowances? No. Commissioners recently increased their salaries and car allowances. That’s the first thing that should be cut; they already make more than $120,000 per year. In contrast, the Mayor and City Council get zero money for car allowances.

There are so many quotable items in the article, but a couple really stand out:

The cuts, Watkins said, “would decimate us to the point where we would have to ask: ‘Which criminals do you want us to prosecute?’ ”

and this one:

County Commissioner Mike Cantrell suggested that Watkins begin his cost cutting by eliminating one of the three prosecutors from each of the felony courts. Those who remain, he said, can manage the jail population “the same as we’re doing right now.”

The 51 prosecutors assigned to the 17 felony courts each handle more than 300 cases a year, the district attorney’s office said. Other cases are handled in those courts by units that focus on crimes like child abuse, gangs, organized crime and family violence.

First Assistant District Attorney Terri Moore said in the article that prosecutors already work hours of overtime for free because the office is understaffed. “This place is a legal sweatshop,” she said. “How dare they talk about making it worse?”

Commissioners are always crowing about having the lowest taxes in the state; but at what cost to crime victims and the general public is this so-called accomplishment achieved? If you do that, you also should brag about the backed up courts, the lack of staffing, and the long length of time that it takes for a crime victim to get justice through the system. Doesn’t make much sense, now does it?

In my opinion, the District Attorney’s office and prosecutors are also a public safety component just like police and fire departments.

When talking about the potential deficit that the City faces, Mayor Tom Leppert and other city council members have said that they won’t support any cuts in police and public safety. It’s time for the County Commissioner’s court to do the same.

The One Article You Must Read this Month

February 19, 2009

District Attorney Craig Watkins is on the cover of D Magazine’s March Issue. I’ve known he was going to be on the cover for a while, but I figured I’d keep it under wraps as long as I could. No more.

In writing a feature article about Craig, Zac Crain did one of the best pieces I have read in some time. Articles like this are why D Magazine remains relevant; they look at all angles of the issue when writing feature pieces. They’re willing to travel any and everywhere for a story (I remember when we had Rod Davis deep in the hood for his pit bull story), and not just write hit jobs from the comfort of their laptop like some writers in this town.

Zac wrote this piece over the course of six months. Instead of writing an article that is mostly based on personal opinions of other writers and anecdotes cobbled from other magazines, Zac wrote something that is awardworthy in my opinion.

The article includes great photography from Elizabeth Lavin, including the cover shot and another with Craig’s barber and mine (the best in the city), Troy King of Testosterone Barbershop on Murray Street in Deep Ellum (it’s true, you can get a good fade in Dallas without driving to Far North Dallas or Desoto).

Enough said. Buy the mag, read the article, and let me know what you think.

The Accident

January 30, 2009

I was less than a mile behind this accident today on I-35 north, just south of Illinois in Oak Cliff. It happened around 2 PM. I drove by the scene, and couldn’t believe what I saw.

The rear right wheels of the rock hauler were laying on the car’s windshield (which was caved in) and part of the hood. The entire cabin was crushed. The EMTs and Dallas Fire-Rescue were trying to extract the driver. The truck was also hanging over the HOV barrier.

I assumed everyone inside the car was dead. Be glad you didn’t see it up close. Notice that the truck trailer wasn’t covered, which is required.

I bet you the truck was speeding. Reports say the truck just switched lanes and dragged the car for about 50 feet. That makes perfect sense.

On I-35 and US-67 (Marvin D Love), you are risking your life every time you drive. These rock haulers and concrete trucks are always speeding to get to and from the concrete companies in Ellis County. They usually switch lanes and slide the trailer in front of you. If you don’t get crushed like these poor teenagers today you better be ready to duck the debris that comes off the back of these uncovered trucks.

If the Sheriffs and Constables want to do something significant on the highways, they should go after these trucks. There should be a crackdown squad just like in Houston, where the laws against trucks are actually enforced. What disgusted me as much as the accident were the people running out of there houses to look at it. What do you want to see, someone dead? I have; you’re not missing anything.

It can all be taken away from you in an instant.

$100K for Jail TV Sets?

December 2, 2008

Kevin Krause of the DMN writes on the crime blog that the County is about to spend $1,200 per set for flat-screen TVs for inmates at the Dallas County Jail.

83 TVs x $1,200 per = $99,600. One word: Amazon. This model cost $700.

They’re also going to spend $30 per basketball and $125 per net.

Two words: Academy Sports.

Here is a perfectly good $13 basketball and $40 basketball goal. Nets cost $7.

These are consumer prices; how much could be saved by buying in bulk? Sure this is a low-six figure contract but does this also happen with large contracts? And how many more items at the county are bought in this fashion? It makes you wonder.

Dallas County Commissioners See through the Smokescreen

October 22, 2008

Yesterday at Dallas County Commissioner’s Court, the commissioners voted 3-2 to not fund their portion of the Inland Port Plan.

While I agree that there should be some sort of plan in place, I disagree that the county should have majority control in creating and enforcing it.

It’s not about being against plans for a given area; I do support proper area planning. On the City Plan Commission I chair a committee whose main function is to facilitate the planning process for more than 20 neighborhoods associated with the Trinity River Project. I also chaired the CPC’s ad hoc committee for the City’s Form-Based Zoning Plan, which is now the subject of much debate. But this “planning” effort coming from the County, and Price in particular, smelled like something totally different.

The whole thing smelled like a power grab from the beginning, under the guise of efficiently planning the area. According to the article, The Allen Group has already spent more than $6 million in infrastructure, engineering , and other studies. They also are a proven entity, having done this type of development in California with a high degree of success.

The neighboring cities, Wilmer and Hutchins, didn’t want the county running the plan. I’m not the biggest fan of the Allen Group either, so I’m really trying to look at this issue in an objective manner.

Why do I call it a power grab? Because it was reported in a news story in June that the City of Hutchins actually applied for and received the $290,000 in question via a grant from NCTCOG. The article says it was diverted to the county. Price retorts in that article that Hutchins would only have to pay $1,000 for their portion of the new plan, but doesn’t address what happened to the grant.

This issue is very similar to what has Price has tried to do over the years in southern Dallas. If history is any predictor of future behavior, the smaller surrounding cities would have zero input on this plan.

The grab is strikingly similar to the construction of a bridge that Price tried to block in Hutchins. Trains would block ambulances from servicing the residents at times of emergency, but fortunately Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson made sure that it was built.

The piece of big news that is somewhat lost in this issue is Judge Jim Foster actually stepped up and voted against Price. To which Foster received a threat from Price that there would be a new county judge within two years. REALLY? Really? No duh. Getting a new county judge has nothing to do with Price – there was going to be a new judge anyway. A lot of capable people will be running.

So now that the county is not part of the plan, will Hutchins actually get their $290,000? Only time will tell.

Last Day to Register to Vote

October 6, 2008

Today is the last day to register to vote in next month’s election.

Here’s all the info you need to vote in Dallas:

*You can always find a ballot at the library or the Post Office.

*Check on your registration – You can view your ballot ahead of time (link)

* General Election Info (link)

*When and where to early vote (link)

*Demonstration of Touch Screen Voting Machine (Flash player required) (link)

*Services Available to Voters with Special Needs in Texas (link)

*League of Women Voters’ Online Voters Guide – available October 10th (link)

There is No Profit in Getting Along…for some

August 2, 2008

For some, there is no profit in getting along. For some, the fact that the Mayor has a great relationship with Dwaine is eating them alive. Some blogs and “news” outlets have a major problem with people getting along and our neighborhoods cleaning up and creating opportunities. They can’t profit when we are getting along.

A paper like the Dallas Observer serves this function. They can’t stand that the Mayor gets along with Dwaine and the majority of the council. They loved it when Laura Miller and Maxine Reese were clawing at each other up at the horseshoe. They didn’t care that the hood got worse and worse because nothing could get done at City Council. They still won’t let Lynn and Rufus rest in peace.

I remember when Observer called me for the Royce West cover story that came out last year, looking for dirt. I guess my quote was too positive, because it was never printed.

I remember when they called me 2-3 times about the story about Pastor Freddie Haynes a couple of months ago. There’s no need for me to call back, because I already know the play. I know people in the community that did return the Observer’s calls and talked at length about the Pastor Haynes story, and I told them that their comments would never make print. I was right.

It was just like when the Observer went out of their way to praise Guardian Management about how great they were, and how they were good Samaritans for using millions in tax credits to buy apartment complexes in Pleasant Grove. This is the company that owns Grove Village Apartments (just east of Loop 12 and Jim Miller) and Pleasant Village Apartments (just north of Loop 12 on Jim Miller). They also tried to say I was wrong when I called them out about the story. I’ve walked the streets of the Grove, and knocked on doors in that area. Everybody who knows anything about those two places knows that they don’t care one lick about their tenants. Every summer they’re on TV because their tenants haven’t had A/C for weeks. Both complexes cater to thugs which hold good tenants hostage, and do nothing about it. You see, that’s what happens when you drop in to do a quick story and don’t return. When you don’t know about the hood and don’t really want to be there to find out what’s happening, you write half-baked stories about it. And it shows.

I personally was glad for Dwaine to get the Observer cover story out of the way in March. I tried to be me, and have a good attitude about it, but I knew what the end result would be. Almost every positive thing written was tainted with skepticism or a “what’s in it for him” tone.

No one at the Observer, Jim Schutze in particular, can just believe that the Mayor and Dwaine don’t want to clean up the hood because it’s the right thing to do. They don’t believe that a southern Dallas councilperson can have an opinion about a major city project, especially one located downtown, without it having to be someone following what the business establishment or some powerful group wants to do. Maybe they just have the same opinion about things…imagine that. No, that would make too much sense. You need the manufactured conspiracy, supported by people’s ideals about what went on in Dallas way back in the day. In the Observer’s eyes, a southern Dallas councilperson can’t think for themselves. Notice I said southern Dallas councilpeople, not African-American. Our councilpeople south of I-30 include many races, and the Observer approaches them all in the same fashion (unless they support their side of an issue).

And that’s the rub. There’s no story in that; there’s no profit in people getting along and working together for the improvement of the community. Councilpeople and Mayors all over the country work together for that specific cause.

Just like the haters in the black community, which profited from the hood being in despair so they could get contracts and campaign for “a brighter day” that never came, they hate the way things are going right now. There’s nothing wrong with trying to get a contract to grow your business. But don’t hide under the guise of community service to get one and then let the community service disappear. Most of the attacks they made are baseless, because they aren’t even in the mix to know what’s going on.

But just like TMZ, there’s plenty of profit in manufacturing nonsense and keeping people at odds.

A sidenote: some of the haters have suggested that my enmity is because I wasn’t selected to work on a particular campaign. That’s pure foolishness. First, I’ve known the candidate involved for years, long before that person decided to run. He’s a great guy. Second, when it comes to campaigns I have a short memory. Third, I think my track record on campaigns is pretty good the past few years…basically everybody I helped in the last 2-3 years vs. the haters are in office except for one person. For them? Not so much. Most campaigns I work on I volunteer, so we can get good people in office. As a prominent Dallas leader told me a few months back, “we don’t need any more political consultants, we need leaders.”

I look at how many positive articles or blurbs have been written in the Observer recently about people that are trying to make a difference in southern Dallas, elected and unelected. There aren’t many.

It’s not about being sensitive to criticism or anything like that; it goes with the territory. I have been around politics all of my life, whether living in Dallas or somewhere else. But I can tell the difference between those that want to have an educated discourse or disagreement about real issues and those that simply want to stir up drama to keep us fighting with each other.

And there are people in the Black community that like to stir up nonsense as well. They have their own reasons, I guess, but most of it is because the hood is improving and they aren’t part of it. As I have written before, some people like to profit from pain.

It’s not an age thing either. I have plenty of people in the community to whom I listen that are 60, 70, 80-plus years old; it’s just not them. I know the difference between a hater and a mentor. A lot of the haters don’t have many young people around them. They avoided their chance to mentor the next generation so they could hold on to whatever power they had.

Notice when finding someone to talk bad about Dwaine, the Observer can never find a District Four resident to do it. That’s because the residents love what we’re doing. Come to our town hall meetings. You’ll see a few agitators, and we still work with them to get them help if we can. But most of the people are happy and are excited about the progress being made. Ask any of the major non-profits if they like what we’re doing in District Four. Ask residents if they get code and police response like never before. Or, put on your tin-foil hat and let the Observer keep you confused and running in circles.

The Observer never asks the haters, “what’s in it for them?” As one famous person once said, “we don’t believe you – you need more people.” I’ll take the community over a couple of rock throwers any day of the week.

The funny thing is that most of the big groups in north Dallas have volunteers that come to our communities and help clean up, and donate their time to worthy causes. We have people from all over DFW, that see us in action and know what we’re about. So they laugh when they see these stories, because they’re in our neighborhoods and see the improvement for themselves.

The haters find safe haven when talking to the Observer, but ask those haters when was the last time they were even in District Four doing anything of note. In the last year, have they ever knocked on the door of a drug house? Have they ever talked to the thugs on the corner and try to encourage them to start a new life? Have they taken bus loads of kids out of the hood to expose them to positive things? Have they been to one funeral of a kid claimed by teen violence, to try to promote peace? The answer is: NO.

If you watch the movie Street Fight which talked about Cory Booker going up against the “establishment” in Newark you’ll draw a lot of parallels to Dwaine’s fight to get in office. Just like Cory, Dwaine broke through after some defeats and things are looking up.

Maybe I’m helping the Observer and the haters, because then they’ll link to this story and probably publish an article about it. Whatever.

But I want people that don’t come to the hood and think that they are getting an accurate picture of what’s going on to know what’s really happening. There’s a difference between being anti-establishment and trying to stir up a bunch of drama and hate to keep us running in circles. The Observer is mostly about the latter.

The haters? They hate everything we are trying to do. If they hate everything we do, do they like motels, crack houses, and crime? Do they hate seniors being able to sit on the front porch without getting hit in the head? Do they hate the fact that the motels are being torn down across from the VA Hospital with job training centers being built where the motels once stood, and that the VA may expand with positive residential development?

I guess you can’t please everyone, but all this does is take the focus off of what’s important. This is like the John McCain/Britney Spears ad; with all of the real issues going on THIS is what we’re talking about? This is what happens when we start focusing inward instead of thinking about how the community can improve, even if we’re not part of everything that goes down.

Click on the any of the tags that you see below this post, you’ll see what’s happening in District Four.

Bottom line: we have love where it counts…on the streets and at polls. The haters can’t do anything about it.

Hate that.

Wrongful Convictions and DNA Exonerations Panel

July 15, 2008

This just in from Congresswoman Johnson’s office..the event is free and open to the public.

Washington, D.C. – (July 15, 2008) Congressmoman Eddie Bernice Johnson will hold panel discussions on wrongful convictions and DNA exonerations this Saturday, July 19. The event will consist of two discussion panels, one featuring three Texas exonerees and one featuring Michigan Congressman John Conyers, state Senator Rodney Ellis, District Attorney Craig Watkins and Jeff Blackburn of the Innocence Project of Texas. The discussions will be moderated by Judge John Creuzot.

Texas has more wrongful convictions proven by DNA evidence than any other state in the country, and of the 32 in the state, 19 were overturned in Dallas County.

A press conference will immediately precede the first discussion.

What: Panel Discussion: Wrongful Convictions and DNA Exonerations

Date: Saturday, July 19

Time: 4:00 – 4:15 PM – Press Conference

4:15 – 5:00 PM – Panel One – Discussion featuring three Dallas exonerees

      5:00 – 6:00 PM – Panel Two – Discussion featuring Michigan Congressman John Conyers, state Senator Rodney Ellis, District Attorney Craig Watkins and Jeff Blackburn of the Innocence Project of Texas

Location: Cedar Valley College Performance Hall, 3030 North Dallas Ave., Lancaster, TX 75134

NOTE: The press conference will be held in the adjacent gallery space.