Archive for the ‘Major Issues’ Category

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.
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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.

Bishop Larry McGriff – Funeral Information

February 23, 2010

RIP Bishop Larry D. McGriff

February 18, 2010

For those that have not heard, Bishop Larry McGriff had a brain aneurysm and stroke overnight and passed away this morning. He was recently married to Dr. Karen Hollie, the pastor of Lifeway Church and a columnist at the Elite News.

I still can’t believe Bishop McGriff is gone. He was a great pastor and love to sing with the choir, but he truly loved doing God’s work “outside the walls.”
From toy giveaways to helping people get jobs, he did so much that people will never know. He was a driving force in rallying the community to help us close multiple hot-sheet hotels, and he brought teens to City Hall to participate in Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway’s Teen Summits.
If you rode anywhere with him and he hopped out of his car, especially at a store or somewhere like that, people would run up to the car to say hello or ask for some help. It didn’t matter if you were homeless, formerly incarcerated, or just down on your luck, you had a friend in Bishop McGriff.
I always jokingly called him my “surrogate uncle” because he treated me so well and I looked up to him a lot. He never asked me for anything, other than to keep him abreast of what we were trying to clean up in the community.
When you drive down Lancaster and look across from the VA Hospital, you can see Bishop’s work. Those motels are dust! Ironically, today, I saw the 3-D model for the development that will go on the land where the Sunset Motel and Southern Comfort Motel once stood and plagued the community.
Notice that the news heading in one of the videos below says “into the sunset.” How appropriate.
For the most part no more stories will be done on this blog for a while. I can’t imagine anything meaning more than this right now.
RIP Bishop McGriff. Thank you for everything. I would not be where I am without him. To a pastor that had the guts to step out on behalf of the community, you are already missed.
I’m glad I got to say goodbye. I found a few videos of him and I wanted to share them with you. Please pray for him and his family.

If you ever went to Church of the Living God, you heard this song:

Sunset Motel will be Closed – May 2007 (closed and demolished)

Southern Comfort Motel is on Notice – July 2007 (closed and demolished)

NBA All-Star Weekend had Dallas Rocking

February 15, 2010

The headline to this post says it all.  More than 108,000 people attended the game.  Even more importantly,  the game brought approximately $150 million into the area.

Arlington may have hosted the game, but Dallas owned the weekend.  Despite the weather, the crowds hit the streets of Downtown and other areas.

On Saturday night, the city center was jam packed from 8pm on.  Downtown Dallas was rocking.

Even farther north there were many events filled to capacity.  Kenichi, Trece, Go Fish, and Hibashi had daytime events and a couple were closed off by the fire marshal because they were so packed. You heard right, daytime parties.  They started at 12, ended around 6pm.

The Erykah Badu/Jamie Foxx concert at the Palladium on Saturday? Filled to capacity.

Northpark was packed like it was Christmas Eve for four days straight. Ditto Galleria.

There was some traffic-related frustration, and yes a couple of Dallas’ finest could’ve been more polite with their requests to our visitors but overall they did a great job. Dallas has never hosted an event like this. Texas-OU and other major events don’t compare to All-Star weekend.

By 4am, the streets were clear except for a traffic accident near the Farmers’ Market on Saturday.

Everybody was spending money. This is what All-Star Weekend was about. And all of those who predicted Armageddon because it was an urban event, I am more that happy to say you’ve been disappointed.

I just hope we don’t have to wait 24 years to host our next All-Star game.

DART Plans and Security Plans for All-Star Weekend

February 12, 2010
I hope everyone has a great time in Dallas for NBA All-Star weekend and our city shines like we know it can.  I wanted to pass along some items which may be of interest regarding street operations downtown and DART Rail service.
Street Restrictions and Operations
All parking meters on Main Street will be hooded and no meter parking will be allowed through Sunday.
On Friday night from 6pm-3am, access to Main Street will be restricted to residents needing access to their homes, limos, and taxi drivers. Drivers may be asked to show IDs or resident parking passes.
There will be no parking allowed on Main St. Please use Elm or Commerce.
DPD is prepared to shut down Main Street as needed over the weekend. It is recommended that you avoid Main Street if at all possible.
DART and All-Star Weekend Train Service
(link to DART’s All-Star Weekend info)

I’m sure I wasn’t the only person working on this issue, but from the media exposure, concerned council people and others DART will be run trains from downtown until 3am-325am depending on the line. A week ago they were going to stop at 12:30am, which would have caused headaches for Downtown Dallas.
A lot of progress was made and now we have a more reasonable service plan for this weekend.
A special shout goes to Councilwoman Linda Koop, the head of the City Council’s Transportation Committee for her assistance, as well as various officials at DART.
As I mentioned to fellow city officials and other interested parties, we also need things to run smoothly for reasons larger than this event. As Dallas is trying to attract larger events, good PR from our train service would go a long way. Conversely, no one wants the opposite to happen. The eyes of the tourism and business worlds will all be on Dallas for a weekend, and we all want to see the city shine like we know it can and will with everyone’s help.

Absentee Experts on the Inner Workings of City Hall

August 25, 2009

It seems like city officials are always under fire for various things at City Hall. It comes with the territory, but it would be nice if writers dug a little deeper when working on complex and important stories.

If a so-called City Hall expert claims in an article that “people can’t go down there and get a fair hearing without paying off everybody in the world,” surely that person should have some evidence to back up such a claim. Surely you’ve been to a City Plan Commission or City Hall hearing in the last 2-3 years. Right?

Here’s my point: I’ve been reading some of the blog posts and newspaper articles in recent weeks, and been left in amazement. Some of the articles use quotes from people that I’ve never seen at one of our City Plan Commission Meetings or City Council Meetings, that never put public comments on the record about cases in their neighborhoods, but yet claim the fix is in on every case.

I wonder if these same people will support the consultant registration idea now that Mayor
Leppert’s plan has come to light. I know the answer to that one.

She must not have been down there two weeks ago, when Jim Dodd came to City Hall and singlehandedly fought a platting case against real estate giant Ridge Property Trust.

With his personally prepared handwritten packages and freehand maps, Mr. Dodd explained to us why he would be flooded out of his home if the plat was approved. Of course, if you just listen to some of the people quoted in these articles, you would think that we were playing Uno at the horseshoe until Mr. Dodd finished his presentation. On the contrary, what resulted is one of the longest discussions we have ever had about a platting case and the case was denied. Mr. Dodd, of humble beginnings and background, beat the well-financed developer. In fact, the story was covered here (before the vote) and here (after the vote). That’s just one example.

A lot has been made about the need for registration, and now it’s here as evidenced in the article cited above. Well hey, these quoted “experts” didn’t know everything. Now they know.

Just like the electronic campaign filing process that is now being used, more things are coming down the pike. Such news runs counter to articles and blog posts doubting that anything would be done regarding consultant registration or any related issue.

Contrary to what’s written in the paper, nobody on our commission is too naive to know what’s going on. Knowing how much a person gets paid for their work is their business. Whether they volunteer or bill by the hour at a high rate is not my concern. It’s our job as city plan commissioners to ignore all of the noise, campaigning, and random conjecture and look at the merits of the case. Such merits don’t change whether it’s a citizen like Mr. Dodd or a well-financed company looking to win a case. It makes for a boring backstory, but if you come to our meetings that’s what you’ll see.

Convention Center Hotel Debt is Cheaper than Projected

August 18, 2009

Today, the agreement was signed to set the average interest rate at 4.69% for bonds to build the Dallas Convention Center Hotel. This is significantly lower than the 5.5% rate cap that was set by the Dallas City Council, and will save the city millions of dollars. There are investment commitments for the entire $480 million in bonds.

According to this article, the lower interest rate translates to a savings of $149 million of the life of the bin

This runs contrary to those that doubted that the Convention Center Hotel bonds would be sold. Construction should begin in about three weeks.

Venue Change for Dallas Dialogue On Proposed Health Care Reform

August 15, 2009

The venue for the previously mentioned health care dialogue has changed. The event will now occur at the following location:

Cityplace Conference Center
2711 N. Haskell Ave. #100
Dallas, TX 75204

It’s still on the same date and time:
Monday, August 17th; 7:30 – 11:00am

Dallas Dialogue On Proposed Health Care Reform

August 7, 2009

This just in from Congresswoman Johnson’s office:

Join us for an important dialogue on proposed health care reform with Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) & Congressman Pete Sessions (R-TX).

Monday, August 17th
7:30 – 11:00 a.m.
Southern Methodist University
Umphrey Lee Ballroom
Umphrey Lee Center
3300 Dyer St., Dallas, TX 75205 (map)

To register, click this link and complete the form.

Here is the planned schedule for the event:
7:30 – 8:30 a.m. Registration, Networking and Continental Breakfast
8:30 – 9:30 a.m. Congressional Dialogue and Discussion
9:30 – 10:30 a.m. Community Perspectives Panel
10:30 – 11:00 a.m. Closing and Networking

Notice the word dialogue. Dialogues usually consist of respectful question and answer and not the kind of idiocy seen in Florida yesterday where anti-health care reform people were threatening and assaulting people on the other side of the issue.

My friend and fellow blogger Shawn Williams of Dallas South Blog/News said it best:

Advance registration is required and space and parking are limited. If you want to get in on the debate, you must register early to reserve your seat or risk letting other voices lead the discussion. It’s imperative that residents of Southern Dallas are present at this discussion, so register as soon as possible.

It’s good that in Dallas, the Congresspeople are willing to join forces in a bipartisan fashion and bring forth information.