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The DISD’s Eastern Gateway is not only a bad idea, it might be illegal, too.

The DISD, having done so well at the job of educating children, has decided to extend its talents to the business world. Supt. Nolan Estes wants to build a $113-million office complex which would include a major hotel and a DISD administration building. The hotel would be 25 stories high with 512 rooms. The office building would be 51 stories high. The whole thing would be called Eastern Gateway. According to James Bond, president of the Foundation for Quality Education, it would guarantee $1.5 to $2 million in revenue for the DISD every year. That was the word Bond used: guarantee.

The foundation is the instrument the DISD would use in this enterprise to prevent its officers from being tossed in jail. State law forbids any governmental body to engage in any commercial enterprise which might compete with the private sector. The foundation, according to Estes and Bond, is independent of the DISD. It is building Eastern Gateway for the DISD as a sort of favor.

The logic here is slightly askew. The foundation is funded almost entirely by the DISD: In this fiscal year, it will receive about $115,000 in public tax funds. The foundation is also staffed almost entirely by DISD employees. Even the foundation’s ideas come from the DISD: Nolan Estes proposed Eastern Gateway back in 1971. How, then, is the foundation independent of the DISD? It is independent, according to Bond, because the school board passed a resolution saying that it is independent.

The foundation would build the complex at no cost to the taxpayers by getting donations and by securing independent financing. It would lease the office building: Bond says he has talked with American Airlines (one wonders if he had to stand in line). According to Bond, “The DISD will be under no obligation or liability for any part of the complex.” The foundation would assume the liability. At present the foundation has assets totaling $480,000, so its ambition in announcing a hundred-million dollar project is to be admired. The foundation knows how to stretch a dollar.

The foundation could put that knowledge to good use, since it has very few dollars to stretch. As we reported in our last issue, the foundation in its first year was supposed to have raised $2 million (if you listened to Bond) or $4 million (if you listened to Estes). But it is now in its second year and has yet to raise its first million.

This might lead one to conclude that the notion of building hotels and things is a bit premature. Or that it might be illegal. Or that it might just be dumb. But one should never underestimate the power of a bad idea. Nolan Estes has put over a lot of ideas in his decade as superintendent. By announcing Eastern Gateway only a few months before his retirement, he has given us something to remember him by. In just the way he ought to be remembered.



Pets Left Behind

A red blur caught the corner of my eye. I was driving down McKinney approaching Cole Park on a Saturday afternoon. A man in a red shirt ran from the park a half block ahead of me to a car waiting with its engine running and a door open. He jumped in, slammed the door, and the car sped off. By this time I was attentive, playing junior detective. (The last time I had seen a running man jump into a car and speed off, it turned out he had stolen a pistol from a pawn shop.)

Still a half block behind I watched a small black dog chasing after the car. The little dog was running in and out of the street as the car took off, and I had to swerve to miss it. I was directly behind the car now, as we both slowed for the intersection at Fitzhugh. At the stop light I started to think about how the little dog was going to survive, especially about how it would keep from getting run over. This started to make me a little angry at the three people in the car in front of me. I took their license number. By the time the light had changed, I’d decided to circle back to the park to check on the dog.

It was panicked, yelping and jumping and racing around in crazy circles. An old man walked up with a dog on a leash. He asked if the black dog was mine, and I said no and told him what had happened. He squatted and whistled to the little dog and held out his hand, and it went to him, scared and shivering. Now he and I talked over the matter, making each other really angry at the people who had abandoned this dog in the park. When we saw a little bowl of water that had apparently been left to sustain the dog, the old man was so mad he kicked it over. He said he and his wife had nine cats at home because so many people moved out of their apartments and left their cats behind. He had spent eight dollars that morning on cat food. He said he wanted to take the dog home, but that his wife wouldn’t be too pleased, considering the nine cats and his own dog. I said take it home and call the animal shelter. After I put the little dog in the car and climbed in behind the wheel, the old man hesitated, then started toward my car, but changed his mind and waved and walked away.

When I got to the house, I called animal control and asked if there was a law against abandoning pets. The guy who answered said no. He said he could send a truck by to pick up the dog but I knew what that meant and declined. Later we placed the dog in a friendly home.

The fellow who answered the phone at animal control that Saturday afternoon was wrong. There is a law against abandoning animals. It’s understandable, though, that he didn’t know about it. Although, according to the city staff, thousands of pets are abandoned in Dallas every year, the record shows only two formal complaints. One of those involved a stolen car. The second is mine. Animal control investigators have turned over their case against the people in the car to the district attorney.

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