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POWER IN DALLAS: ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE

By Angela Enright |

We’ll admit that we expected our October story, “The Power Players,” to generate some talk. In feet, we hoped it would, because the feedback is nearly always more interesting than the story itself.

But a couple of our most loyal readers say we really missed the boat by either not recognizing some powerful people and organizations or by recognizing some who are no longer in power. Now, mind you, we didn’t succumb to every cry of “Foul!,” but we did think that some of the points our readers made were legitimate enough to warrant consideration in a follow-up story.

Embarrassing Omission No. 1: We inadvertently forgot to include the Central Business District Association (CBDA). Our hats are off to this group of downtown business people, who’ve done a lot to give the CBD a stronger identity.

During the past several years, under the leadership of president Jim Cloar, the CBDA has made the annual Cityfest and International Bazaar celebrations something to look forward to; its affiliate, Dallas CBD Enterprises, purchased 5-plus acres in the Arts District to help reserve land for future public development; it has shown particular concern for making the downtown area a more hospitable environment through its joint effort with Treescape Dallas; and it has taken a strong stand in favor of coordinating DART rail lines in the downtown area.

Dallas Downtown News editor Kit Bauman says that we might have been right to leave the CBDA out of a “powerful people” story three years ago, but there’s no reason to now. He credits Cloar with turning the organization around and with helping to fill the power vacuum that existed when the Dallas Chamber of Commerce seemed be floundering.

“There’s no question that the CBDA is one of the most effective business/political lobbying groups in Dallas,” Bauman says. “Cloar has great credibility with the city.”

Embarrassing Omission No. 2: There’s really no excuse for not including some assessment of who’s got the power in Dallas County government- or is there? Our sources tell us that county Judge Frank Crowley is still the man who the other county commissioners look to for guidance, although no one really knows why. Observers say that there’s a lack of “cohesiveness” under Crowley. For example, as of early November, no one had been named to head the campaign to get the county bond program passed; it comes before voters in April. By contrast, the Dallas Independent School District has been working on its school bond campaign (which comes before the voters in February) for more than a year.

Food for Thought No. 1: Michael Gonzales, an activist and businessman in the Hispanic community, says that it’s just not accurate to say that the Hispanic community’s interests are skewed. “Our interests are no more factionalized than the blacks’ or the majority community’s are.” He points to issues such as police brutality and the controversy over Central Expressway as examples of factionalism in the black and majority communities, respectively. Hispanics are torn on the same issues, but, he says, “It’s important to remember that we should all be members of the same team.”

Gonzales, who is the nephew of Old-Guard Hispanic activist Adelfa B. Callejo, says he thinks that local Hispanic business leaders such as Gilbert Cuellar of the El Chico Corp. and Charles Barajas of Southland Corp. will help give a more cohesive image to the Hispanic community. But Meg Read, who is in charge of governmental affairs for the Dallas Chamber of Commerce, says that Gonzales’ name should be included in the group, too. “He’s a key link between the Old-Guard Hispanics and the New Guard,” she says. “He truly believes in a tri-ethnic community Food for Thought No. 2: A veteran City Hall reporter who chooses to remain anonymous contends that no matter what D or anybody else says, he believes that five men still hold the power and set the agenda for what goes on in this city. He says we’re dreaming if we think that the power structure in Dallas is any more diversified than it’s ever been. The names he ticked off-Bob Folsom, Jack Evans, Pete Schenkel and Starke Taylor-were all included in our October power story. But one man the reporter says we left out is Folsom’s attorney, Joe Geary.