I don’t think the mayor lives in ‘our’ Dallas

Mayor Vision, during his State of the City speech, told the audience that Dallas was doing “very well, bordering on superb.” It’s easy to read that comment, shake our heads, and chalk it up to politicians being politicians. After all, it’s not like we expect much in the way of truth from them these days.

This time, though, that’s letting Rawlings off much too easily. It’s as if he hasn’t been paying attention to what has been going on here over the past five years — as if he was living in some sort of bubble that didn’t let the rest of us in. Where was he when the property tax rate increased 6.6 percent while the budget remained flat and city services were slashed? Where was he when we stopped filling potholes and buying books for the libraries, and closed rec centers? Where was he when neighborhood retail vacancy rates, as measured by Marcus & Millchap Retail Investment Services, reached 14.3 percent?

More importantly — and more tellingly — where was the mayor when 911 budget cuts cost an Oak Cliff family its home this summer? And cost a south Dallas woman her life after it took the cops two days to respond to her 911 call? We were assured, when these budget cuts took place four years ago, that some things were sacrosanct, 911 and public safety among them. And those of us who questioned the cuts and who read the budget and saw what was actually disappearing and aren’t surprised to find out that the city bosses cut 14 percent of the 911 jobs to make ends meet, were told that we didn’t know what we were talking about.

Guess we’re not as stupid as the people Downtown think we are.

In this, it’s becoming increasingly clear that there are two Dallases, but not the Dallases of tradition, divided by race or the Trinity River. Instead, we’re becoming the Dallas of those of us who live and work here, who pay our taxes and get so little in return, and the Dallas of those who run the city and don’t necessarily live here and don’t really care about libraries and parks.

Case in point was Rawlings’ enthusiasm for giving multi-national cosmetics giant L’Oreal, which had $2 billion in profits in 2011, almost $5 million in cash, tax abatements and other perks to open a distribution center in southern Dallas County. We’re getting 75 or so minimum wage jobs for our investment, which of course will have to come out of the budget somewhere (though probably not 911 this time around).

This is not the place to discuss whether these deals are good for cities; we give them out regardless. What’s important is that Rawlings said that luring L’Oreal and its 75 jobs was “tremendously important” to Dallas. And we all know which Dallas he meant when he said that, don’t we?

I’ve always wondered, and particularly after the 911 debacle that led to Deana Cook’s death, if the elite who run the city have any empathy for what happens to the rest of us who live here. Or if, like so many elites, the only thing they notice is what happens to them.

Now I have my answer. Anyone who has lived here for the past five years, who has tried to make a living, who has seen homes sit empty and friends lose jobs, who heard Cook’s horrific 911 call, knows things are not superb. Where was the mayor when the city actually admitted it was at fault in the Cook incident and beefed up 911 staffing in response?

I’m supposed to be the cynic, but I know damn well that I’d have trouble sleeping at night if what happened to Cook happened while I was in charge. Mayor Vision’s response? We’re bordering on superb. That takes cynicism to a level I can’t even begin to imagine.


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