Jim Schutze’s Class Envy Gets the Best of Him

I’ve been waiting to comment on this post by Jim Schutze about the problem at Museum Tower. Before I said anything, I wanted our story to publish so that you, dear reader, would understand what’s happening to the Nasher — and so that you could fully appreciate Schutze’s spectacular failure to grasp an important issue. After the Morning News broke the story about the light and heat reflecting off Museum Tower and onto the Nasher, he called the matter “a rich kids art fight.” As in:

On this day when the national economy is still on life support, Texas schools are sinking into Dickensian poverty and the city can’t afford sewers, our city’s one and only, sole and lonely daily newspaper, The Dallas Morning News, gifts us with a big front-page story about a battle between a sculpture garden and a shiny new office-tower over … glare. …

In The New York Times today there’s a story about how teachers in Texas are working 12 extra hours a week unpaid and having to do janitorial duties because of the education funding cuts forced through the last session of the Legislature by Governor Rick Parry and the Texas Tealiban.

Lots of people who aren’t even in education are putting up with the same kind of crap in life. The rich get richer and the rest of us get hosed. So what else is new? At least we’ve got an art fight going.

Why do rich people care so much about art? These are mostly money wonks who have devoted their lives to things like debentures. They’ve got about as much art in them as they have gills.

It’s something about buying class. People in America can’t just get rich and let it go at that. As soon as they get their hands on some loot, they have to start trying to convince the rest of us that they’re British aristocrats. Who has time to wonder why? It’s how it is.

If I understand him, Schutze is saying, first, that the Morning News shouldn’t cover this story because there are more serious issues, such as education funding, that need to be addressed. To which I would say: then the Morning News shouldn’t cover education funding as long as Omar al Bashir is running an ethnic cleansing campaign in Sudan.

Second, Schutze believes the problems between Museum Tower and the Nasher are only the concern of rich philistines. Excuse me. To Schutze’s mind, that’s redundant. All rich people are philistines. The problems between Museum Tower and the Nasher are only the concern of rich jerks. I suppose the rich jerks here are John Sughrue on the Museum Tower side and, on the Nasher side — um, the ghost of Ray Nasher? His daughter Nancy and her husband David Haemisegger? This part isn’t clear to me. Schutze never names the “rich kid” on the Nasher side of the fight.

Listen, this problem doesn’t involve (only) rich people. It involves us. As Renzo Piano put it to me, “You cannot put in danger a jewel like this. I’m not talking about a jewel in terms of architecture. I’m talking about an institution, a jewel in terms of community life, in terms of quality of life in the town. This is not a private matter. This is the public interest.” As Fred Kent said, “When you look at it in the public realm, the capital spent by a city around places that are important, that’s a sacred value. To go against that is a crime.”

I’m not even going to bother pointing out that Schutze doesn’t understand how a public pension fund works. He wrote, “Am I feeling all mushy-face sorry for the pension fund here? Nah. If the cops and the firemen in this city are so slack and so dumb they can’t control their own pension fund, if their unions are that piss-poor at looking out for them, then to hell with them. They deserve whatever.” Except that we, the taxpayers, contribute $108 million annually to that fund. And if it can’t meet its obligations, guess who has to step up? That would be the city of Dallas. Us.

Okay, I bothered to point it out. Couldn’t help myself.

“A rich kids art fight.” Do you know why I think Schutze missed on this one so badly? I think it’s because Schutze desperately, truly, really wishes he had some money. He wishes he’d studied at St. Mark’s and SMU. He wishes he’d gone into real estate or finance. That’s why his vision is so clouded. If you read him with any regularity, you’ll notice this. All rich people suck — because he is not one of them. Somewhere, deep down, Jim Schutze wishes he could buy a condo at Museum Tower.

It’s the only explanation that makes sense.

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