Before and after photo by Ben Sandifer
Ben Sandifer had a couple hours to kill Sunday, so he went traipsing around down in the McCommas Bluff Nature Preserve. He found some tracks of heavy vehicles and followed them to the disturbing scene you see above. The “before” photo was taken in April 2014. The “after” picture was taken February 8. This place has been destroyed. It’s a county preserve. Ben has called around to all the various agencies — Trinity Watershed, Water Utilities, he even called John Wiley Price — but he hasn’t gotten an answer yet as to who did this and why. Read Sandifer’s blog to learn more about the sensitive area and what’s at stake (such as one of about 100 known trout lily colonies in the State of Texas).
Remember last year when Trinity Watershed Management officials apologized for their incompetence and invited a bunch of folks out to see their horrible stewardship of the land and promised it wouldn’t happen again? Yeah, well. So much for that.
“A half acre here, an acre there disappears,” Sandifer says. “Suddenly you don’t have anything left.”
Yesterday, Judge Renée Harris Toliver denied the county commissioner’s request to have court-appointed counsel represent him on public corruption charges. But why did he request such a thing in the first place? He’s been represented by Billy Ravkind forever. Can Price really not afford him now? Or is this a gambit to start laying the groundwork for a future appeal and/or forcing the government to pay for his defense? Or some other thing I’m just not smart enough to see? I’ll hang up and take your answers in the comments.
A JWP-heavy edition of the SAGA Pod. We talk to Dallas Observer columnist Jim Schutze about the biggest news story in Dallas in 2014: the indictment of County Commissioner John Wiley Price. Jim, who has covered JWP for three decades, talks about how JWP went from being a “ray of sunshine,” and “a very brave guy” — someone who “taught courage” to southern Dallas — to a county official under indictment. Jim tells great stories, from covering Price in the ’80s (the one about how Price would intentionally sweat on editors at the Dallas Times Herald is gold). He discusses how the money for votes has always traveled form north to south, and how Price wanted his cut from the minster networks. Jim tells about the time Price told him the reason “Our Man Downtown” always aligned with downtown interests vs. progressive, East Dallas interests. (“Because you’re a bunch of hippies.”)
LONG DIGRESSION ALERT:
At one point, you’ll hear me consider talking about how the DMN covered the inland port stuff. Look, I’m just too tired to go back over this. Here’s all you need to know: Jim Schutze broke the stories about the inland port and how the architect of it, Richard Allen, got screwed by JWP, Tom Leppert, and others who were ALLEGEDLY carrying water for Ross Perot Jr. (Because the inland port was a threat to Perot Jr.’s logistics operation at Alliance Airport, which RPjr is on record as admitting.) The DMN backed Price’s stalling tactics and basically made fun of Schutze (and cattily derided the inland port developer, or at least his understanding of “Dallas’ complicated racial politics”) until the paper caught up to the reporting in 2009. You can read Tod Robberson’s attempt at rewriting history here, but make sure you see the comments of Wylie H, who all but blows Robberson’s assertion out of the water. (Wylie H doesn’t even mention George Rodrigue’s snarky, dismissive column in late April 2009 mentioned here in a Robert Wilonsky column — Rodrigue’s column is no longer online.) To see just how damaging the backing of JWP and Leppert were to the inland port’s development in late 2008/early 2009, have a read of this, and scroll down to where inland port head Richard Allen talks about trying to finalize his deal with Target, and how that can’t happen unless Dallas stops advocating for Price’s delaying tactics. (In the podcast, Schutze mentions Walmart, but I think he meant Target.) The bottom line: the DMN needs to own up, say they were late to this story, and acknowledge the paper as a whole caused real harm to the inland port’s development. Once the inland port operator declared bankruptcy, then, sure, everyone realized what a huge screw-up this was for North Texas in general, and Dallas leadership in particular, and from then on got on the appropriate trolley.
Oh, yeah, we also talk DISD, and I scream the eff word, because Jim wound me up, and I’m easily enraged. We look at just how stupid the effort to fire Mike Miles was, and look with hope toward the reform efforts targeted for this year.
You can listen above. Or listen here. The RSS feed is here. You can subscribe on iTunes here.
As always, thanks for downloading, and listen with your ears.
Brace yourself for the deluge of John Wiley Price articles in the coming weeks and months. The weekend has already seen a load of them.
Part of the unpacking of the Price case will entail putting Southern Dallas politics on the therapist’s couch, so to speak. We’ve already seen some of that. Gromer Jeffers tackles the question of race head on in his column over the weekend, and the most important point he raises is the curious omission of the companies that allegedly paid Price and his compatriots for political favors from the indictment. Where are the charges against (white) big wigs like Ross Perot Jr.’s Hillwood? After all, when the last political corruption trial went down, Don Hill was convicted along with Brian Potashnik, the white developer who paid for favors (and eventually testified against Hill). Maybe charges will be brought against Hillwood eventually, but regardless, the timing sets up the narrative — already being fielded by the codefendant’s lawyers — that there are racial motivations at play.
That’s the card we all knew the defendants would play, but more interesting to me is the particular social dynamic that has kept someone like John Wiley Price in power for so long. After all, as Rudy Bush pointed out in his column, reading Friday’s indictment evoked little sense of surprise. Didn’t we already know this is how Price operated? Haven’t we been reading about it since, oh, at least 1991?
James Ragland’s piece over the weekend begins to dig into the particular mentality that has helped entrench Price. Reporting on constituent reactions to Price’s indictment, one source in particular stuck out to me, K.D. Price (unrelated to John Wiley), who expressed a peculiar and particular blend of disgust and acceptance over the allegations of corruption.
“It’s about time,” said K.D. Price, 61 … “You can only go so long. All that money came from somewhere.”
But even though he and others were suspicious of the commissioner’s lifestyle, K.D. Price said, he still voted for him.
“What’s the difference between him and the next guy?” he said. “That’s the way I see it. That’s why I vote for him.
“He was our man downtown for a long time.”
As it all unfolds, John Wiley Price’s saga will continue describe this particular disposition, a resignation rooted in a complex and multi-faceted experience of historical ostracization.
Photo by Jeanne Prejean
Update, 1:27 p.m.: From Pete: “As expected, all four defendants entered not guilty pleas and were released today with travel restricted to Texas.”
Update, 12:05 p.m.: From our Peter Simek, who was at the press conference:
Spent most of the time outlining what’s in the indictment, namely a conspiracy to commit bribery stretching back 10 and a half years, plus tax evasion counts related to efforts to cover up transfer of funds from Neely to Price in exchange for favors.
Multiple accounts and witnesses made for a massive paper trail that took investigators two years to comb through. Also looks like there is overlap of the charges and time of investigation, suggesting JWP continued to run business as usual even while under investigation. Could face a max of 140 years plus fines and penalties.
JWP arrested this morning at [Harry Hines and Record Crossing] in the Medical District on way to work. He’s under custody here at the court house and will appear before the judge at 1 p.m. Judge Linn has been assigned to the case.
Pete also sent over a fun flow chart, which outlines some of the scheme I detailed earlier:
Update, 11:51 a.m.: And here’s the Van Zandt County property, out near Canton:
Four acres, one small commercial building. In the words of Liz Johnstone, “Why would anyone want to own that in Van Zandt County?” I imagine we’ll all find that out in, eh, a year to 18 months once everyone starts taking the stand. Here’s the tax record. Plot is valued at $73,000.
Update, 11:23 a.m.: From a statement by U.S. Attorney Sarah Saldaña:
“The indictment unsealed today alleges that for more than a decade, in a shocking betrayal of public trust, Commissioner Price sold his office on the Dallas County Commissioners Court in exchange for a steady stream of bribes. While the vast majority of public officials are honest and maintain high ethical standards, it is unfortunate that some, as alleged in this indictment, choose to serve themselves,” Saldaña said. “I thank the hardworking men and women of the FBI and IRS Criminal Investigation who have spent countless hours, indeed years, investigating this case, dissecting his and others’ alleged schemes. Abuse of the public trust cannot and will not be tolerated.”
Update, 11:05 a.m.: Rough sketch of how things would typically shake out, bribery-wise. This is what happened in a 2001 incident, according to the indictment:
- Christian Campbell was employed by a business as an account manager, assigned to handle Dallas County matters.
- After submitting a bid, that company hired Kathy Nealy “for her access and influence with Price,” in an attempt to persuade him to sponsor the business in the bid selection process.
- Price made several motions in commissioners court to advance the business through the selection process, leading to its eventual selection. The contract ran from 2001 to 2004, during which time the business earned $40 million.
Nealy was initially paid $60,000 by the business, in eight $7,500 installments. After the business advanced in the selection process, it hired Nealy again, paying her $5,000 per month, plus a “success” fee if Dallas County awarded it the contract. (This was for an IT outsourcing contract.) All told, Nealy earned $258,000 from the business. During this time period, Price allegedly leaked internal contract documents to Nealy, in an effort to inform the business of the city’s negotiations and dealings. Price also signed a recommendation letter for the business when it was seeking contracts in Florida.
Update, 10:15 a.m.: This is a rough screengrab of the three Dallas properties in question:
The plots are 2402, 2408, and 2410 S. Lancaster Road, near Cedar Crest Golf Course. One, as you can see, is developed with a small office building, while the other two sit vacant. All of the plots are registered, according to the Dallas Central Appraisal District, not by some acronym-heavy suspicion deflecting LLC, but by Kathy Nealy herself.
Update, 10 a.m.: The breakdown of that $950,000:
- $447,217: checks, cash, and transfers from Nealy’s bank accounts to Price’s bank accounts.
- $191,130: “Nealy also provided to Price the full use of a new Chevrolet Avalanche approximately every four years and a BMW 645Ci convertible, which Nealy titles and insured in her name and on which she made monthly car payments and insurance premium payments.”
- $198, 284: “Nealy secretly funneled [the money] to Price through four purchases of real property for Price, with Nealy serving as a straw purchaser. Nealy paid for the properties’ purchase, monthly mortgage payments, property taxes, insurance, and repairs.” One of the properties was in Van Zandt County, while three others sit adjacent on South Lancaster Road in Dallas.
- $113,600: “Nealy provided Price rental payments totaling approximately $113,600 from a tenant occupying a building at one of the Lancaster Road properties and operating as Business T (a business known to the Grand Jury).”
I’ll break this down a little more throughly later, I hope.
Update: 9:35 a.m.: Here’s the indictment. We’re splitting it up here at the office, and should have more to come:
John Wiley Price Indictment
Update, 9:20 a.m.: John Wiley Price, Kathy Nealy, Dapheny Fain, and Christian Campbell were all arrested. Price allegedly took $950,000 in financial benefits from businesses with action before county commissioners.
Original post: Three years after the FBI raided his home and seized $200,000, Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price was arrested and taken into custody this morning:
ARRESTED: After a multi-year investigation, the FBI has arrested Dallas Co. Commissioner John Wiley Price. #jwparrest— Jason Whitely (@JasonWhitely) July 25, 2014
WFAA has a lot of the details here. There’s supposed to be a press conference later on today, so we’ll update this if/when anything goes down. Mooney also lives right around the corner from JWP, so maybe we’ll send him over his fence or something.
We’ve written about John Wiley Price in some capacity 258 times since 1978. The first story? Titled “How to Steal an Election.”
Illustration by Matthew Woodson
With indications that the federal case against Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price may finally be moving forward—nearly three years after the FBI’s investigation of Price went public—it seems a fitting time to revisit D Magazine‘s 1991 profile of him. It’s one of our 40 greatest stories.
The piece, written by someone named Laura Miller, gets into some of the same sort of questionable financial transactions that have caught the government’s attention and could reportedly result in indictments any time now. But the most disturbing allegations come from several women who talk of having been sexually assaulted by the powerful politician. Price denies to Miller all of these claims.
After reading this article, it seems remarkable that 23 years later Price still sits on the commissioners’ court—still doing things like telling white people to go to hell. It’s hard to read about Price without being reminded of the immortal words of State Sen. Clay Davis: “Sheeeeeet.”
Crenshaw in 2008
As I said in my earlier post today, I called Sandra Crenshaw to ask her about the Morning News endorsement for House District 110 and the court documents that say she is “mentally ill.” Far as I know, the cell number I have for her is current. But I haven’t talked to Crenshaw in years. So it is certainly possible that she has changed her number. In any case, she sent an email to several media types and elected officials at 4:30 today saying that she had not been contacted. She offered the following very personal note in which she says she does suffer from mental illness but is not “mentally incompetent”:
For the record, I have not been declared mentally incompetent to serve in office nor have I been convicted of a felony. i meet the residency requirements and therefore I am eligible to seek office. There is a joke among genealogists that the easiest way to get research for your family tree is to run for office. I believe and know now that the greatest way to bring exposure of the plight and discrimination against the mentally ill is for the mentally ill to run for office.
The Dallas Morning News speaks of my courage to speak out against elected officials for their corrupt ways but DMN failed to mention my advocacy for the mentally ill. I believe that the best person to advocate for our most vulnerable citizen is a person who suffers from mental illness and this midterm election will be my coming out party.
Our Dallas Democratic county, legislative and congressional delegation are fully aware of me and my family’s mental illness but addressing mental illness is not their priority. Although, Toni Rose reports that she is a mental health profession, she refuses to describe her skills or training in mental health and she spent more time with Corrections than mental health or addressing the causes of our problems. While Rose may plan to disseminate this article or my public mug shot, I have a security video of her walking into my business partner’s office and bullying her because we are standing up to her father, former Justice of the Peace Charles Rose and other southern sector leaders against their corruption.
Ms. Rose didn’t help the mentally ill like she campaigned. She serves on the North Texas Council of Governments and has contributed nothing to our causes. She serves on the Dallas Can Development Board to raise funds for a charter school for last chance students while she conspired with DISD to take Dallas elementary school children out of their neighborhood elementary school building and sent them across I-20 South and pack them into the Wilmer Hutchins elementary schools with a 21 to1 student –teacher ratio. Rose then advocates that Dallas Can bring in 360 young adults into the neighborhood school building instead of letting the babies stay in their neighborhood school.. When the neighborhood complained , Rose redistricted the neighborhood precinct chair out of District 110 and relocated them to a DeSoto based district. We’re not waiting for her to get twenty years to abuse us and cripple our children any further. We cannot create any more monsters like John Wiley Price who removes Democratic precinct Chairs from their election Judge appointments if they publically endorse candidates that he opposes.
I have worked closely with Disability Texas, Texas Department of Mental Health, APS.CPS, and advocacy groups across the nation. I work with Representative Garnett Coleman from Houston. who is highly recognized among the State mental health advocates.
It was through my family tree research, that I discovered that mental illness runs on my maternal side of my family and that I have a different father from my four siblings who are or have been functional alcoholic and drug addicts. We were raised by a physically, mentally and verbally abusive mother and my siblings have been accused by the state of abusing their children. This discovery was devastating. My maternal grandfather died in a mental institution in South Texas. My mother died in 2009 of cirrhosis of liver after drinking to self medicate.
In 2008, after the horrible public humiliation that my family and I suffered from the coverage from this publication and your posters about the Texas Two Step, my nieces and nephews were teased and harassed, not by their friends but by the adult staff at Singing Hills Recreation Center. The City took action against the staff but I realized then extent of the toil that my activism had taken on my family who predisposed to mental illness. They did not choose to have their lives disrupted by my public life. As I began to see manifestations of personality disorders from their life experiences, I found myself at my most vulnerable moments. I could not protest their plight away. I couldn’t litigate it, I could not get petitions to help them. I voluntarily submitted myself for help in order to help them and fight against the bullies who take advantage of the poor. Generations will continue to suffer if politicians and the media do not stop stigmtizing mental illness. No one will get help if they have to humilated as I have here by the DA and the Frontburner.
When the City issued a warrant for my arrest at a client’s home in Mesquite, harassed my ill sister, and coerced my challenged nephew to say things that he did not say, engaged civil staff at the Public library in criminal matters ,staged a media event for 45 minutes while my blood pressure went into stroke status, disrupted emergency services at Baylor hospital, I decided to fight back.
You are correct that you heard nothing about the disposal of this case, although the arrest was highly publicized. That is why I choose this election as a public forum. After the police offered to dismiss the case, I choose instead to ask for my day in court. But the course that the DA choose to pursue was done without my knowledge. I learned of the indictment from the media. I am learning today in the media about the DA’s reason for the dismissal. I did not assert mental illness as a defense especially since I presented the grand jury with bank statements as evidence that Budget had deducted payments for the reservation extensions from my bank. My public defender private attorney was made knowledgeable of my opposition to the DA’s plea bargain and mental illness jail diversion. My defense attorney agreed to this dismissal without my consent and I am very disappointed by this revelation. This defense attorney , a former candidate for Democratic Judge can submit his defense to the State Bar. tommorrow. I wanted to go to court to see how the DA could convict me of Theft 31.04. and how a rental car company can use the state for repos. I still do not know what all the DA did but —–the public is gonna ask in November.
I promise you a much bigger story than Bridge Gate about how my legal and judicial adversaries abuse legal and government processes against political dissidents.
I am saving my defense and claims against the Dallas County Democrats: including but not limited to the DA Civil and Criminal offices, Dallas County County and District Clerks, Dallas County Probate Courts, the Dallas County Jail Diversion, Family Violence Justice of the Peace Jones and former JP Luis Sepulveda, until the Fall Elections in a national forum, not as a state representative-elect but as a competent, intelligent, articulate, God fearing and courageous person who suffers from an illness that can be overcome.
As for the Frontburner, that statue of limitations for slander and libel statements that your posters have made get renewed with this new publication. The mean and nasty statements are evidence of the attitudes towards the mentally ill. Wendy Davis, who heads the Democratic ticket for Governor filibustered for a cause that does not help the plight of the minorities who loyally vote for Democrats. Wendy Davis talks about her life CHOICES, Sandra Crenshaw wants to talk about overcoming the stigmas of mental illness that I inherited and not of my CHOOSING.
To the Dallas Morning News: Since you have not noticed cognitive behavioral therapy has helped me to slow down but my focus is never more clear. I just need my friends to stand by me. Help! Send Money– $25.00 a bill board or a book of stamps. 2018 Lanark Dallas, Texas 75241.
I’m sure Victor Medina is a nice fellow. But when it comes to making lists of the most powerful people in Dallas, he leaves room for improvement. He publishes this list every year for Yahoo! News. Here’s the 2013 edition. Larry Hagman’s appearance at the No. 10 spot probably should disqualify the list from even half-serious analysis, but I can’t help myself. Ross Perot? If you’re going to include a Perot, Junior is the obvious choice. Mike Miles? Please. Powerful men don’t shuttle their wives and children off to the hinterlands to avoid media scrutiny. Jason Villalba? Dude’s just a freshman rep.
Ray Hunt, John Wiley Price (still), Tim Headington. Those are three overlooked names that spring to mind. I’m sure you FrontBurnervians have some of your own to add.
Ongoing Happenings, Santa Sightings, and Lights
Christmas Tour of Lights. Nov 28-Dec 30. Farmers Branch Historical Park, 2540 Farmers Branch Ln, Farmers Branch. 972-406-0184. www.fbhistoricalpark.com.
Dallas Children’s Parade. Now in its 27th year, this festive parade snakes its way through Downtown, ending between City Hall and the Convention Center. Otherwise known as “Miracle on Commerce Street,” the event has come to signify the unofficial beginning of the holiday season.
Gift of Lights at Texas Motor Speedway, Nov 26-Jan 1. Drive through for more than 600 colorful LED displays. Bring an unwrapped toy to donate to Toys for Tots, and you’ll save five bucks. Texas Motor Speedway, 3545 Lone Star Circle, Fort Worth. 80-276-6344. tsmgiftoflights.com.
Vitruvian Lights, Nov 28-Jan 1. This Dallas lights favorite is back with Christmas characters, food trucks, photos with Santa, retail booths, ticket giveaways, and more—all in the midst of millions of twinkling LED lights. Take a walk through the 12-acres of winter wonderland enjoy the many nightly events, plus free concerts scattered throughout the month. Vitruvian Park, 3850 Vitruvian Way, Addison. 866 298-3282. vitruvianlights.com.
Adventure to Santa, Nov 11-Dec 23. This interactive journey takes the traditional mall Santa visits to a new level. Let DreamWorks’ Shrek and friends guide you through the North Pole to the 2,000 square-foot holiday cottage where Santa awaits. If you’re worried about long lines, log in beforehand on their app and skip the wait. The Parks at Arlington, 3811 South Cooper St, Arlington.
Lights in Highland Park. Start at Preston Road and Armstrong Parkway and work your way around to Lomo Alto and Rheims Place. If you’re feeling especially fabulous, carriage rides through the area are available for a fee.
Downtown Grapevine. Okay, so technically it’s not an event so much as a city, but if there’s any place in Dallas that knows how to celebrate the holidays, it’s the Christmas capital of Texas. The lights along Main Street alone are worth the drive, and nearby, the Gaylord Texan has loads of holiday family fun.
Lights on Swiss Avenue, East Dallas. This Dallas spot is a longtime favorite. Park and walk for the best views of these beautiful, historic homes.
Lights in Kessler Park, Oak Cliff. There’s a display at West Colorado and Lausanne, but all around houses are aglow.
Lights in Deerfield, Plano. The main entrance is off Legacy on Colonade and Archgate, but Ohio or Preston Meadow may be less crowded. Runs 7-11 p.m. throughout December. deerfieldplano.org.
12 Days of Christmas at the Arboretum. This year, the Dallas Arboretum’s new holiday exhibit is open for visits day and night. A dozen towering gazebos will be adorned in the theme of the classic carol with the very “99 bottles of beer”-like lyrics you’ve been trying to get out of your head since you were a child. Of course, carolers will be on hand to make sure you never do. For an extra special visit, try the Holiday Tea at the historic DeGolyer Estate, or just drop in to check out the Victorian-inspired Carolers Collection inside. Nov 16-Jan 4. Dallas Arboretum, 8525 Garland Rd., 214-515-6615. www.dallasarboretum.org.
Candlelight at Dallas Heritage Village. Ever wondered what Christmas was like before the days of glittering LED lights and over-the-top animated displays peppering every shop window? At Heritage Village’s 43rd Annual Candlelight, take a step back in time and enjoy strolling carolers, local dancers, carriage rides, and more, all along a traditional candlelit path. Grab tickets at the gate or log onto their website for discounted prices. Dec 13-14. Dallas Heritage Village, 1515 S Harwood St. 214-421-5141. dallasheritagevillage.org.
Galleria Dallas. For tradition’s sake, skate a few laps around the Galleria’s colossal Christmas tree, then top it off by checking out an event or two. Visit the mall for Showtime Saturday and watch Santa’s number one elf, Elfish Presley, perform holiday ukulele tunes, or stop by the Chanukah Menorah celebration & lighting.
Lone Star Christmas at the Gaylord Texan. If 1.5 million lights sounds like a lot, that’s because it is. The Gaylord Texan proves that when we say everything is bigger in Texas, Christmas is no exception. If you grab tickets for ICE! featuring Frosty the Snowman, don’t miss the ice slides and ice bar along your journey through the hand-carved frozen display. Nov 13-Jan 3. Gaylord Texan, 1501 Gaylord Trail, Grapevine.
All Creatures Great and Small: Christmas at the White House 2002. Nov 22-Jan 13. George W. Bush Presidential Center. 2943 SMU Blvd. 214-346-1650. bushcenter.org.
NorthPark. It’s hard to visit NorthPark in December without stumbling onto a holiday event. There’s something for everyone, with everything from Menorah lightings to Christmas treat samplings to SPCA’s “Home for the Holidays” Custom Dog House display. As always, don’t miss the trains or your annual visit to Mr. Claus. 8687 N Central Expressway. 214-363-7441. northparkcenter.com.
Beautiful Baby of Dallas Christmas Pageant. Dec 20, 2:00-6:00 p.m. African American Museum, 3536 Grande Ave. 214-565-9026. www.aamdallas.org.
KwanzaaFest, Dec 13-14. Join over 50,000 people for the two-day event hosted by Dallas County Commissioner’s Court member John Wiley Price. Local singers, dancers, and steppers will showcase their talent, and free health screenings will be available for attendees. Talk about a little bit of everything. Fair Park’s Automobile Building, 1010 1st Ave. 214- 426-3400, johnwileyprice.com.
Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant, Dec 12, 7:30 p.m. Multi-platinum selling artists, longtime friends, Grammy-winning music stars, some of the biggest gospel artists in the country- there’s a lot of things we could call Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant. Bottom line, it’s a rare duo performance that you won’t want to miss. American Airlines Center, 2500 Victory Ave. 214-222-3867. americanairlinescenter.com.
Trans Siberian Orchestra: The Christmas Attic, Dec 21, 3:00 p.m. & 7:30 p.m. Follow a young girl’s magical and mischievous Christmas Eve adventure in this rock opera favorite. If you’re a big fan of the band’s, brace yourself: some songs from the album will be played live for the first time on this tour. American Airlines Center, 2500 Victory Ave. 214-222-3867. americanairlinescenter.com.
“Oh, Christmas Trees” Feat. DJ Roy Roc, Dec 19. In addition to the Official Chive DJ headlining, be on the lookout for the announcement of other surprise DJs. In true Christmas spirit, a portion of the proceeds will go to the Shriners Children’s Hospital. Trees. 2709 Elm St. 214-741-1122. treesdallas.com.
Celebrate The HoliDAZE! Dec 13, 7:00 p.m. Expect a new spin on your old holiday favorites at this musical performance by the Women’s Chorus of Dallas. Be sure to get there early for a special prelude concert in the lobby. Dallas City Performance Hall, 2520 Flora St., 214-671-1450, dallasculture.org.
Turtle Creek Chorale Presents “Jangled.” Show-stopping talent aside, there’s something especially merry about 150 handsome men in their holiday best- fuzzy Santa hats and all- filling the stage. Also, did we mention the Christmas cocktails at intermission? Dec 18-21, Dallas City Performance Hall, 2520 Flora St., 214-671-1450, dallasculture.org
DSO Christmas Pops. The Dallas Symphony’s beloved tradition returns with a mixture of your holiday favorites as well as some unexpected tunes. With such triumphant, spirited, renditions, it’s sometimes hard not to sing along. Luckily, chiming in is encouraged. Dec 5-21, Meyerson Symphony Center, 2301 Flora St., 214-692-0203, mydso.com.
The Nutcracker Performance by Allen Civic Ballet. Dec 20-21. Allen High School Performing Arts Center, 300 Rivercrest Blvd, Allen. 972-727-0400. allencivicballet.org.
The Nutcracker by Texas Ballet Theater. If you’re looking for a traditional holiday show, it doesn’t get much more familiar than The Nutcracker. Still, the Texas Ballet Theater manages to keep it fresh with flying carpets, sensational costumes, and mega-talented dancers. No doubt that this sugary sweet journey through Clara’s dreams will be as enchanting as ever. Nov 28- Dec 7, AT&T Performing Arts Center, 2403 Flora St. 214-880-0202. attpac.org; Dec 12-27, Bass Performance Hall, 525 Commerce St., Fort Worth. 817-665-6000. basshall.com.
The Nutcracker by Tuzer Ballet. Dec 20-21. Eisemann Center. 2351 Performance Drive, Richardson. 972-744-4650. eisemanncenter.com.
The Beulaville Baptist Book Club Presents: A Bur-less-Q Nutcracker. Nov 28-Dec 28. Stone Cottage Theatre. 15650 Addison Road, Addison. 214-477-4942. burlesquenutcracker.com.
The Nutty Nutcracker, Dec 19, 8:00 p.m. If the traditional Nutcracker isn’t quite your thing, there’s a good chance that it’s PG-13 cousin is. The one-night only performance is a laugh-packed performance, and every year features spinoffs from the year’s most memorable pop-culture moments. Texas Ballet Theater – Bass Performance Hall. 525 Commerce St, Fort Worth. 817-212-4280. basshall.com.
The Nutcracker by Collin County Ballet Theatre. Dec 22-23. Eisemann Center. 2351 Performance Drive, Richardson. 972-744-4650. eisemanncenter.com.
The Nutcracker by Art Ballet Academy. Dec. 20, 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. Mansfield ISD Center for the Performing Arts. 1110 W Debbie Ln, Mansfield. 817-299-1230.
The Nutcracker by Festival Ballet of North Central Texas. Dec 13-14. Margo Jones Performance Hall, TWU. 1322 Oakland St, Denton. festivalballet.net.
Plays and Dances
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, The Musical. Dec 16-21. Majestic Theatre. 1925 Elm St. 214-670-3687. dallasculture.org.
A Christmas Carol by Dallas Theater Center. Masterful special effects, a toe-tapping musical score, and masses of ghosts and performers alike surround the audience in this dazzlingly reimagined Dickens classic. Bonus: you’ll leave with snow flurries in your hair, something the real Texas Christmas forecast can’t always guarantee. Save yourself a “Bah, Humbug” and grab tickets early, because this show is quick to sell out every year. Nov 25-Dec 27. Wyly Theater, 2400 Flora St. 214-880-0202. dallastheatercenter.org.
A Christmas Story: The Musical. Dallas Summer Musicals brings the beloved Ralphie and gang to life with this straight-from-Broadway hit. The show’s nostalgic, hilarious quest for a Red Ryder BB gun finds a personality of its one while staying close to the beloved original storyline. Freezing flagpoles will be licked, kooky leg lamps will be glorified, and pink bunny onesies will be worn. Dec 2-14. Music Hall at Fair Park, 909 1st Ave. 214-691-7200. liveatthemusichall.com.
The Grapevine Opry “Christmas Spectacular.” Each weekend, talented Texas singers, comedians, dancers, and musicians will join the cast of Grapevine Opry entertainers for a toe-tapping good time in the Christmas capital of Texas. The Christmas Spectacular is a truly Texas-sized show, busting with enough holiday song and dance to leave you jingling all the way to next Christmas. Nov 22-Dec 20. Palace Theater, 300 S. Main St., Grapevine. 817-481-8733. thegrapevineopryshow.com.
Ebenezer Scrooge. This beloved version of A Christmas Carol has been a favorite at the Pocket Sandwich for over 30 years, and this year is sure to be no different. No humbugs allowed. Nov 28-Dec 23. Pocket Sandwich Theater. 5400 E Mockingbird Ln. 214-821-1860. pocketsandwich.com.
The Great American Trailer Park Christmas Musical. A companion production to the 2005 Off-Broadway hit “The Great American Trailer Park Musical,” this fast-favorite puts a tinseled twist on some familiar holiday tropes with everything from an amnesia-stricken trailer park Scrooge to healthy helpings of Keg Nog. Dark, dysfunctional, and downright hilarious, this not-so-kid-friendly Christmas show will make your holiday headaches look like a walk in the trailer park. Dec 5-Jan 4. WaterTower Theatre, 15650 Addison Road, Addison. 972-450-6232. Watertowertheatre.org.
Here Comes Santa Claus. Nov 28-Dec 23, Casa Mañana Theatre, 3101 W Lancaster Ave., Fort Worth, 817-332-2272, casamanana.org
The John Wiley Price indictment is a big story, and I’m sure many journalists in town scurried to the courthouse, drooling over the drama that would unfold in the months to come. I did. But I also thought about Jim Schutze, because Schutze knows this story better than anyone in this town, and I was excited to see what he would do with it. In short, Schutze is delivering. Here’s his latest piece, a comprehensive overview of the real scandal, not the bribery, but the way Dallas leaders sold out Dallas and lost the opportunity to develop an Inland Port in South Dallas that would have completely transformed the city’s economic base while bringing tens of thousands of jobs to South Dallas. Here’s the money quote:
I’ve known Price for a long time. I look at him sometimes, and I don’t see a black guy anyway. I see a Dallas guy. He’s a typical Dallas guy who worships money. He loves the thrill of the deal. He thinks of hardworking pluggers as just shy of losers and worse. In 2008, when I asked him how he could oppose something that promised so many jobs in southern Dallas, he told me sneeringly he associated labor with slavery.
In fact he put that thought in a letter to Allen. “During slavery,” he wrote, “everybody had a job.”
Put it in writing. That proud of it. That may be a cynicism so profound that it transcends race, or descends it. I wonder sometimes. If all anybody really believes in is the big money and the fast deal, is there no one left out there to believe in the city?
Our March 1991 cover
As we await the feds’ 11 o’clock press conference to talk about the arrest and indictment of John Wiley Price, you’ve got time to reread Laura Miller’s 1991 cover story about the man. The subhead ran: “Everyone’s heard the rumors about the money, the shady deals, the violence, the women. Sadly, the facts are even harder to comprehend.”
I attended a Joyce Foreman spiritual revival last night that was quite enlightening. (It was billed as a DISD board meeting, but that didn’t break out until much later.) But once District 6 folks completed their hourlong touchdown celebration, some important board work took place: naming a new board president, giving teachers a 3 percent raise, 2014-15 budget approval, and issuing a guiding set of principals for the home-rule commission, which will hold its first meeting in mid-July. To the bullet points!
• The evening began with Carla Ranger stepping down and Joyce Foreman being sworn in as trustee. The auditorium at 3700 Ross was packed, and many of those in attendance were friends and family and well-wishers from southern Dallas. John Wiley Price was there to address the crowd and did not disappoint, equating a vote for Foreman as a “celebration and understanding” of Freedom Summer, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this month. As if that were not lofty enough, Foreman — after promising to be “direct, firm, and fair” — said that there has been “a song in her heart” since the election. “God has spoken,” she said, drawing smiles and a loud simultaneous speak-along from the audience. “Let the church say amen!” Just so we’re clear: Foreman is an instrument of divine providence.
• That said, I completely understand the dynamic on display. You’ve got a longtime community activist who can best rally her supporters by saying that her well-funded opponent was a tool of billionaire overlords intent on a hostile takeover of the school system. If you think that fantasy plays well in the Crazytown world of union-driven talking points and made-up bogeymen, it plays spectacularly in poor black neighborhoods where such a narrative mirrors real injustices they’ve experienced for decades.
• But where it breaks down for me is how her supporters continue to look at this as a referendum on the question, “Are you black enough?” Three trustees did not offer public praise to Foreman: Morath, Bingham, and Blackburn. When it became clear those three would not follow the procession of congratulations from the horseshoe, the audience murmuring against Blackburn reached very high levels. (No one seemed to care or be surprised that Morath or Bingham were silent.) One man near me yelled out, “Give that man a bandana!” A reference, of course, to the term “bandana head,” which is another way to say “Uncle Tom.” Just so we’re clear: If you don’t kneel before the instrument of divine providence, you ain’t black enough. Which, again so we’re clear, is a hateful, disgusting, bullying way to frame disagreement among black officials. Unfortunately, it’s pretty damn effective as a tool to mute that disagreement.
• Eric Cowan, citing work/family ball-juggling (note to self: find better term), stepped down as board president. Miguel Solis was voted new president; Lew Blackburn stays as 1st VP, and Elizabeth Jones is 2nd VP. I’ll have more thoughts on this next week, but if you listened to the podcast I recorded recently with Solis, you’ll hear Solis’ thoughts on how he thinks the board should practice governance. It has to do with setting priorites and hiring people to put systems in place that address those priorities — and supporting those efforts except when they’re out of bounds. (Hugely paraphrasing; you should have a listen.) I would argue his efforts to do this will be at best problematic based on …
• The budget discussion last night. I’m going to spend a lot of next week breaking down the wrongheaded way the board treats its mission, especially financial oversight, as well as district employees. And I’ll use examples from this meeting. For now, I’ll go ahead and point out two examples from the hours of line-item questions board members threw out last night. First, a lot of time was spent asking CFO Jim Terry and his associates why this employee bonus was $3k vs $4k, or why teacher bonuses couldn’t be be $500 more, etc. The rationale was always, well, we need to prioritize teachers, or this helps children, or some other nondescript, inarguable Mrs. Lovejoy stance. Elizabeth Jones, for example, took many valuable minutes off my life in the 10 p.m. hour asking specific, often circular questions of CFO Terry, who would answer them, and then she’d ask again, and then she’d go off on a rant about the way the board made its decision on Mata months earlier, and then remind everyone that she’s a finance person and that this is her role. It was excruciating for me. I can’t imagine the serenity-now exercises Terry and his team must go through to endure it.
• Both Morath and Bingham called out trustees for doing just this, and both were promptly told by Jones and Foreman, HEY, this is what we do. They basically said, sorry, we ask tough, detailed questions because this is our job as trustees. Okay, let’s assume that’s true. (It’s not, at least not in this fashion, in this instance.) Then is it too much to ask that they ask questions that are consistent with what they’ve said are their priorities as governance officials? Example: In her speech to the audience, Joyce Foreman said that one of her top priorities was rewarding and retaining experienced teachers. Fine. Now let’s assume there is a huge body of scholarship that says teacher experience correlates to excellent student outcomes. (Spoiler alert: there is not.) That means you should be asking Mike Miles and Jim Terry, hey, how do these salary and other teacher programs we’re funding identify, incentivize, monitor, and report on our efforts to keep experienced teachers? And if they say, they don’t, you say, not good enough, find a way to make that happen, we need such data to make strategy decisions. That is proper board governance. But there was not one such question asked. There was instead a lot of trying to find $1k bucks here, $500 there for groups of employees that were in no way broken down by experience. Remember: These trustees are trying to move handfuls of dollars around on the day they’re supposed to approve a $1.3 billion budget. It boggles.
• Also, it’s mostly political theater. The board has to approve the budget, by law. It’s largely a way to placate various interest groups, at the expense of cordial relations with administrators (Jones and Nutall are especially rude and condescending, but Blackburn edges that way with his eyebrows-held-high snarkiness). Jones has a point that the budget process is a little too rushed, but that’s a system problem that Miles is working on. It’s just low priority because, you know, eliminating cradle-to-prison pipelines take priority.
• After midnight, the board also approved a set of operating guidelines — suggestions, really — for the home rule commission. This was done at the request of commission members, who said they would appreciate a starting point for home rule discussion (even though they aren’t required to follow said guidelines). Thankfully, they then went away for two weeks. Hallelujah.
As Cristina mentioned in Leading Off, on Sunday the Morning News published a lengthy story about the FBI’s investigation of John Wiley Price. I can’t figure it out. Because almost none of it is new. After the FBI raids in the summer of 2011, the paper did a great job piecing together what the feds were looking for and all the curious financial matters concerning price: the land deals, the bankruptcy, the expensive cars, the cash in the safe. The story we got Sunday is just a rehash of all that, with one small addition:
A recent flurry of new subpoenas in the case makes some attorneys anticipate indictments.
“I haven’t known of this amount of activity since right after the search warrants were issued,” said Tom Mills, a Dallas defense attorney who represents Dapheny Fain, Price’s longtime executive assistant.
Fain is among those accused of participating in a criminal conspiracy with Price.
Mills said that several of Fain’s relatives were interviewed by the FBI and testified before a grand jury in late March. Mills said that he’s been told that other people have also been subpoenaed, but he doesn’t know who.
“Basically, what it means is that they’re going to take some action soon,” Mills said, referring to federal prosecutors. “But if pressed, I couldn’t say what soon is.”
That’s it. Just 125 words of new material in a 2,270-word story. Some people have recently been subpoenaed. One attorney says something might happen soon. Or soonish. Now that is interesting news. But is it worth a front-page Sunday story of that length? No, it’s not.
I heard not long ago from someone in a position to gossip about such matters that this case was about to get moving again in a public way. The only thing I can figure is that folks at the paper are hearing the same thing, and this is how they decided to respond. I don’t know, though. Why publish early, ahead of the news? If you thought something was about to happen, why not get this background material ready and then just put your go bag by the back door? Like I say, I can’t figure it out.
Jason mentioned yesterday the Forbes story about the Perots. (Great cover image, by the way. The look on Sr.’s face is charming. And the larger son next to the smaller father says volumes.) What you really don’t want to miss, though, is the sidebar to the Perot story, titled “The Mystery of Ross Perot’s Vanquished Dallas Competitor.” Remember Richard Allen and his Dallas Logistics Hub? Remember how John Wiley Price and his buddies wanted equity in the project in exchange for — well, it wasn’t clear what Allen was going to get in exchange for giving Price that equity. Yeah, well, Forbes dredges it all back up in that sidebar. Here’s what the story says about the failure of the Dallas Logistics Hub, which would have competed with the Perots’ AllianceTexas:
Numerous people pointed fingers at Perot Jr., perceiving that his Hillwood Development had a role in the political foot-dragging. They have some evidence to back up the theory. According to an FBI investigation, powerful, corrupt Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price — who represented depressed south Dallas and should have been unconditionally in favor of the Hub project — was allegedly a key reason the project stalled. The FBI seized over $200,000 in cash they found searching Price’s home. An FBI affidavit states that much of that cash was funneled to Price by powerful Dallas political consultant Kathy Nealy, who was on retainer with Hillwood.
I could be wrong about this. But is that the first time anyone has ever just come out called John Wiley Price corrupt in print?
Last week I debated the relative merits of Dallas and Houston with the editorial director of Houstonia Magazine. Our exchange took place on the airwaves of Houston’s public radio station, KUHF. A fine human by the name of Chris Kratovil wrote in with his own theory about the two cities: they are too similar to get along. With his permission:
My compliments on your efforts to defend the honor of Dallas against the attacks emanating from the Bayou City. You performed well on KUHF, and our mutual teachers at Cistercian and Notre Dame would doubtless be proud of your rhetorical skills.
The only weak part of your performance was your relative lack of familiarity with Houston which is, of course, entirely understandable if you’ve only been there a handful of times. I’ve lived and worked in both cities as an adult and a professional. Surprisingly few Dallasites seem to have done this. Based on my experiences as an ex-Houstonian and current North Texan, I’d like to share a handful of observations regarding the two cities.
The Dallas-Houston rivalry has always struck me as a classic case of familiarity breeding contempt. Most aspects of Dallas life have a direct, clear analog in Houston. When I first moved to Houston in 2000, I was fond of describing the place as “Bizarro World Dallas” where every facet of Dallas had a slightly warped but still recognizable clone. Let me give you a some specific examples:
1. Ritzy old money neighborhood close to downtown marked by leafy streets and intense policing: River Oaks (Houston) and Highland Park (Dallas).
2. Small, expensive private university in the heart of town: Rice (Houston) and SMU (Dallas).
3. Upscale neighborhood immediately adjacent to the small, expensive private university in the heart of town: West University (Houston) and University Park (Dallas).
4. Historic, classy open-air shopping center frequented by the well-to-do: Rice Village (Houston) and Highland Park Village (Dallas).
5. Proud nearby town that is great to take out-of-town guests to, but that has its own identity and deeply resents being lumped in or confused with its younger, larger neighbor: Galveston (Houston) and Fort Worth (Dallas).
6. Fast-growing mixed-use neighborhood established in the last 15 years that caters to single young professionals and is just across the freeway from downtown: Midtown (Houston) and Uptown (Dallas).
7. Charming, close-in neighborhood of historic but small 1920’s and 30’s homes that caters to young professionals after they pair off and leave their apartments in Midtown/Uptown: The Heights (Houston) and The M-Streets (Dallas).
8. Master planned and fast growing outlying suburb of McManasions that caters to married professionals when they have kids and flee their starter homes in The Heights/M-Streets in order to avoid HISD/DISD: The Woodlands (Houston) and Frisco (Dallas).
9. Recently remodeled in-town airport dominated by Southwest Airlines: Hobby (Houston) and Love Field (Dallas).
10. Big international airport outside of town that is dominated by a single carrier for long-haul flights: Bush Intercontinental and United/Continental Airlines (Houston) and DFW Airport and American Airlines (Dallas).
11. Decrepit but historic stadium that is barely used anymore but that no one knows what to do with: Astrodome (Houston) and Cotton Bowl (Dallas).
12. Large, wildly popular Texas-themed carnival featuring an abundance of fried food, farm animals and thrill rides: Rodeo Houston (Houston) and the State Fair of Texas (Dallas).
13. Arts-themed multi-block “district” in downtown that the city has recently invested enormous resources in and is rightfully proud of: Theatre District (Houston) and Arts District (Dallas).
14. Never-quite-worked-as-advertised downtown restaurant and retail development: Bayou Place (Houston) and West End Market (Dallas).
15. Large all-male Catholic high school: Strake Jesuit (Houston) and Jesuit (Dallas).
16. Fancy all-female Catholic high school: Duchesne Academy (Houston) and Ursuline Academy (Dallas).
17. Elite, expensive prep school with an Episcopalian heritage but few remaining traces of its religious origins other than its name: St John’s (Houston) and St. Mark’s School of Texas (Dallas).
18. Popular jogging/biking trail near downtown: Memorial Park (Houston) and Katy Trial (Dallas).
19. Suburban outlet mall featuring Neiman Marcus Last Call and Saks’ Off 5th: Katy Mills (Houston) and Grapevine Mills (Dallas).
20. “Galleria” retail and office complex constructed in the early 80’s: Houston Galleria (Houston) and Dallas Galleria (Dallas).
21. Congested freeway loop around the city: 610 (Houston) and 635 (Dallas).
I could go on and on. Indeed, I’ve even omitted some of the more obvious parallels (e.g., Toyota Center/AAC or John Wiley Price/Quanell X). But I think you see my point; Dallas and Houston don’t get along because in so many ways they are so damn similar.
A JWP-heavy edition of the SAGA Pod. First, we talk to Dallas Observer columnist Jim Schutze about the biggest news story in Dallas in 2014: the indictment of County Commissioner John Wiley Price. Jim, who has covered JWP for three decades, talks about how JWP went from being a “ray of sunshine,” and “a very brave guy” — someone who “taught courage” to southern Dallas — to a county official under indictment. Jim tells great stories, from covering Price in the ’80s (the one about how Price would intentionally sweat on editors at the Dallas Times Herald is gold). He discusses how the money for votes has always traveled form north to south, and how Price wanted his cut from the minster networks. Jim tells about the time Price told him the reason “Our Man Downtown” always aligned with downtown interests vs. progressive, East Dallas interests. (“Because you’re a bunch of hippies.”)
For the last half of the show, we discuss all things DISD from this summer: We look at just how stupid the effort to fire Mike Miles was, talk about the cottage industry of anti-Miles folks, and look with hope toward the reform efforts targeted for this year in DISD. Also, I scream the eff word, because Jim wound me up, and I’m easily enraged.
You can listen above. Or listen here. The RSS feed is here. You can subscribe on iTunes here.
As always, thanks for downloading, and listen with your ears.
He Schutze. He scores!
It is time to give Jim Schutze (aka Charles Schultz) his propers. In Sunday’s DMN, Steve Thompson wrote a story about the John Wiley Price indictment and the story it tells about the commissioner’s meddling with the inland port. Schutze wrote that story in 2008. Oh, maybe not that exact story. Though Schutze did mention the Perot family and how they might benefit from a stalled inland port, he didn’t ever use the word “Hillwood.” But, really, he had it. He said Price was running a shakedown, and he said it with the help of Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson. She deserves credit, too. “I see all of these different deals that he’s trying to do over the years, shaking people down and all that kind of stuff,” she told Schutze. Go back and read it. It’s worth your time.
Something else interesting about that Schutze story: he mentions that State Senator Royce West played a role in Price’s scheme. Why is that interesting? Because it is. Just something to think about.
Illustration by Steve Brodner
In 2011, we commissioned Steve Brodner to create this illustration of John Wiley Price’s mind and what was going on inside it. Zac and I collaborated on the individual thoughts, which we sent to Brodner. Here’s the rough version I drew, before Brodner made it pretty. Looking back, and flipping through today’s indictment, I think we pretty much nailed it. Except for EdgeFest and philately. Still combing the indictment, but I don’t see either of those mentioned.
We first took note of Brett Shipp’s penchant for reporting from behind his sunglasses in 2011, when we saw the delightful video of John Wiley Price shoving the Channel 8 newsman. We’ve brought up his eyewear a few times since. Last night he was at it again, this time wearing his Oakleys while knocking on someone’s door who didn’t want to talk to him. I am posting this screen grab because the Oakleys situation is important, and you need to be aware of it.
I-45 running through the Spence neighborhood in South Dallas
In the discussion about possibly tearing down I-345, the Dallas Morning News editorial board and its partner, Michael Morris of the North Central Texas Council of Governments, have come to the defense of the working poor in South Dallas. At the paper, Rodger Jones writes about “economic justice,” and Tod Robberson tells us that lowering I-345 would throw the lives of South Dallas commuters into “upheaval.” Morris says only rich white people are interested in tearing down the elevated freeway. Let’s see about that.
First, a bit of a history lesson. Back in 1970, when Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard was still Forest Avenue, a little neighborhood called Spence (named after the five-block-long Spence Street) caught wind of the Texas Highway Commission’s plan to build an elevated highway through its patch of sunny South Dallas. That highway is called I-45, and it becomes I-345 just south of downtown, after it intersects with I-30. The Spence residents didn’t much care for the idea of an elevated highway, especially since it wouldn’t have any on- or off-ramps in their neighborhood. So they organized and made themselves heard. Black physicians sympathetic to the cause paid for vans so that the group could drive to Austin and tell the highway planners not to destroy their neighborhood.
On September 26, 1970, Stewart Davis published a column in the Morning News about this effort to keep the highway planners in check. The column was headlined “Road Protests Stun Engineers.” Here’s a taste:
Texas Highway Engineer J.C. Dingwall and his chief aides appeared rather stunned by the display of opposition September 15 to a proposed elevated freeway through the Spence Street neighborhood of South Dallas.
The highway engineers weren’t taken so much by the opposition itself, for they are accustomed to running into that. It was the militancy of the delegation of about 50 black and white neighborhood leaders which startled the highway men. …
Ironically, the highway engineers have brought it on themselves, because the same insulation from politics which they cherish and which makes Texas highways among the most efficient in the world also insulates the highway builders from the political pressures which tend to add human values to our roads.
And human values were the things the road men were accused of leaving out of the Spence Street project.
The demonstration of a united community front against the Spence Street project was surprising because Dallas people previously have shown themselves to be the staunchest supporters of good roads.
Yet, the opposition came from various segments of Dallas political life, ranging from the entire 15-member House delegation from Dallas County to City Hall, from civic groups to black militants. …
The day evidently has come when people actually may prefer to do without a new freeway than suffer the social and human costs.
Forty-four years later, that column echoes eerily in Dallas. I’ve read a bunch of other stories published around that same time and leading up till the final pieces of I-45 and I-345 were completed, in 1976. At no point did anyone in South Dallas say, “Thank you! Finally! We’ve been waiting for someone to build a highway through here so that we can get to North Dallas and find some economic justice.”
I shouldn’t be so snarky. My apologies. That’s my immaturity showing. You know someone who is more mature than I am? Rev. Peter Johnson. Johnson is a civil rights leader who marched with Martin Luther King Jr. He was also one of those “black militants” who stunned Dingwall in Austin in 1970.
Peter Johnson (courtesy icie.us/web)
Monday I went to see Johnson in his office in the Bank of America building off South Zang Boulevard. The place is decorated with a framed, signed picture of John F. Kennedy and clips from Johnson’s recent civil rights work. Leaning against one wall was a framed page from the Morning News, a 1988 “High Profile” of Johnson written by Steve Blow. As we talked, Johnson’s cellphone interrupted us pretty much nonstop with its John Coltrane ring tone. The man himself was wearing a white ballcap signed in 1998 by his friend Marques Haynes.
Johnson said they got details of the I-45 plan from elected officials. “We had some friends in the Texas Legislature, Barbara Jordan and two really, really cool white boys, Mike McKool and Oscar Mauzy. We learned that the damn highway was going to be built on top of South Dallas, with no way for blacks in South Dallas to get on the highway. Not to mention the fact that it was going to split the Spence community up, divide that community. People were very angry once they understood what was going on. These were just hardworking, everyday people living in little shotgun, wood-framed houses. But they were homes to these people. They raised their children in these homes. They took care of their homes. They planted gardens in their backyards.”
Johnson said that black physicians rented vans on several occasions so that people from Spence, many of them senior citizens, could go to Austin. I asked him how his group was received. “We were received by the Texas Rangers,” he shot back. “I’m not kidding. It was a very hostile situation. We had to train people about non-violence before we took them into a situation like that, so we didn’t get somebody bloodied or killed. We didn’t take people with us who weren’t committed to non-violence. Because it wasn’t a picnic. It was confrontational.”
Johnson and his group attended hearings, but they also just showed up at senators’ and representatives’ and highway planners’ offices. “They were accustomed to walking over people. When we got involved, it was the first time they got literally stopped in their tracks. They had a very arrogant, hostile, racist attitude. Just: ‘Screw these people. Ain’t nothin’ but a bunch of little niggers.’ That’s the kind of language they used.”
At the time, Johnson was working for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He said his immediate superior was “a big-foot country boy from North Carolina named Jesse Jackson.” The SCLC got involved on a national level with the fight against I-45, and Jackson came to Dallas and preached at Warren United Methodist Church (the one that now stands on Malcolm X Boulevard is a new structure, the old one having burned down). “I remember his sermon that night at Warren,” Johnson said. “One of the things he talked about was the environmental impact. He said they would send speeding cars over the heads of people in South Dallas. Those cars would cough and puff out pollution into the lungs of people in South Dallas. That’s what Jesse preached about. And he got our national leaders involved in the fight.”
Johnson said it wasn’t just black folks, though. Herbert Howard and Rabbi Levi Olan supported his cause. “They befriended me because of my commitment to non-violence. They knew that if I put 1,000 people in the streets, there would be no bloodshed.”
The compromise they eventually reached is the highway you see today. “It split the community up. It created an unnatural barrier from the east side to the west side,” Johnson said.
He doesn’t much buy the tack being taken today by the Morning News. “I’m sure the Morning News is deeply concerned about the employment of poor people in South Dallas,” he said, sarcasm oozing between each word. “They don’t have a clue, hear?” Johnson said he has an upcoming meeting with the mayor. “My message to him is the same: hey, man, in terms of economic development for low-income people in the southern sector, y’all ain’t got a clue. As evidence of that, they are going to build a fancy country club golf course down here and a place for horses. They don’t have the faintest idea what they’re talking about. The editorial board of the Morning News — these are people who have good hearts. They want to do what’s right. But they’re going to build us a golf course so we can be caddies.
“The solution to unemployment and underemployment in the black community is not jobs in Frisco, hear? If you really want to address that problem, build a TI over here that employs people. People driving 60 miles to work and making $30,000 a year? That’s stupid. Why do we have so many people in the black community going to Plano and Frisco at 5 and 6 o’clock in the morning? Because there are no jobs in our community. If you have jobs in our community, with people making a living wage, economic development is going to happen around those jobs.”
Johnson didn’t have kind words for the city’s efforts to this point. “To show you how stupid the city of Dallas is, they gave a black man who fries chicken over here $200,000. Rudy’s Chicken. [Ed: it was actually $890,000.] I’m not mad at Rudy. But the black community is not suffering from a lack of fried-chicken places. You know? For the city to think that that’s economic development, they ain’t got a clue.”
He went on to make some pronouncements about John Wiley Price and a few other elected officials that were highly entertaining but which, in the interest of time and space, we will have to save for another time. I steered Johnson back to the topic of I-345 and what its future ought to be. “What Patrick Kennedy and them is talking about in that area, they are absolutely right. Those highways have destroyed communities,” he said, thumping his conference table for emphasis. “They inhibit the economic growth of those communities.”
So does he think people from South Dallas will support tearing down I-345? His answer surprised me. “This is Dallas,” he said. “The people who don’t want that road torn down, they’ll go to the black leaders, the black preachers, and they’ll go with money. That’s the history of this city. The black church leaders have always been for sale, unlike in any other part of the country I’ve worked in. That’s just the way this part of the country operates. That’s the Dallas way.”
Peter Johnson’s is just one voice. Even he would be quick to point out that he doesn’t speak for everyone in South Dallas. But the guy has seen more than most. So until someone can convince me otherwise, this white guy is going with Johnson’s assessment of the situation. Hear?
The cover story of the new Forbes is about how Ross Perot Jr. made another billion-dollar fortune for his family with the Alliance development north of Fort Worth. Writer Christopher Helman discusses that, as well as the relative disappointment of the Victory development in downtown Dallas and the influence Perot’s Hillwood company may have wielded to stifle that rival “inland port” project south of Dallas. (You’ll recall that county commissioner John Wiley Price is the subject of an FBI investigation for his role in those dealings.)
Helman notes that much of Alliance’s success comes thanks to free trade policies with Mexico, something that Ross Perot Sr. was wary of (referring to the loss of American jobs due to free trade as a “giant sucking sound”) as a presidential candidate in the 1990s:
Hillwood’s first big deal with Brookfield was the $900 million buyout of Verde, a warehouse developer with broad holdings that straddle the U.S.-Mexico border–perfectly positioned to benefit from the growing trade with Mexico and to deliver more cargo, more traffic, more growth to AllianceTexas. “We’re building spec warehouses, which is risky,” says Perot, who cites the same warehouse-upgrade dynamic as at AllianceCalifornia.
Thus has the Perot family come full circle. At the end of the day Perot Jr. isn’t scared of free trade, or of the U.S. losing jobs or opportunity to the rest of the world. “The U.S. has the most competitive spirit on the planet, and the economy is stronger than what people say it is,” says Perot Jr. “We complain about it, but America is still lean and efficient compared to the rest of the world.”
What does “Pop” think? The most famous protectionist of the past quarter-century is simply proud that his family is poised to prosper as long as free trade washes over America’s borders. “Alliance showed a lot of creativity and imagination, and it worked,” says Perot Sr.
The article also outlines how often Perot Jr. has turned to local governments for help in indirectly financing his efforts. Take Alliance:
Throughout the process Perot made sure various governments helped subsidize the growth. When he decided that he needed a new highway cutting through his land to make it easier for trucks to get from I-35 to DFW airport, Hillwood spent some $10 million on the engineering and proposed handing over 281 acres of his land for the road. That convinced the Texas Department of Transportation to build it at a cost of $42 million in taxpayer dollars. Hillwood also helped set in motion the far more costly ongoing expansions of I-35 between Alliance and Fort Worth and of I-820 between Alliance and DFW airport.
“He’s the ultimate welfare baby. He doesn’t do anything without subsidies or tax rebates,” says Sharon Boyd, who campaigned unsuccessfully against public financing of Perot projects in downtown Dallas. “He has a mentality that views the public sector as a fat pig that’s going to be slaughtered anyway, so it might as well be by us.”
Of course, it can be argued that these deals are a win for the local governments too:
Perot’s developments have added more than $1 billion to tax rolls and generate some $120 million a year in taxes for the city and surrounding towns. “AllianceTexas is a cash machine for our public partners,” says Perot.
So, JWP and I finally agree on something. He railed against the expenditure at a meeting yesterday — calling it a “McDonald’s arch” and a “junior Calatrava bridge” — saying that it was wrong for the hospital to spend that kind of money on a vanity project when there are cheaper options.
“This is about public funds, No. 1, even if they’re donated,” he said. “This is about Parkland’s mission.”
The best part, clearly, was this, when Price was trying to get to the bottom of where, exactly, the arch idea came from:
“We were not guided to draw an arch option,” architect Albert Ray said. “The arch just happened to be one of those.”
“You could have drawn a dragon?” Price asked.
“You try to stretch your imagination,” Ray said.
“I appreciate your imagination,” Price said, “but there’s a problem called a budget.”
I guess my only critique is he could have continued with that line of questioning. What about a griffin — could you have drawn that? How about the mural from the opening credits of Good Times? A juggling bear cub? Dirk shooting the one-foot fallaway? The cover of Midnight Marauders? A cage fight between a unicorn and a band of gypsies? And so on.