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How Dallas Can Become a World-Class City

The five secrets to transforming our urban living.

Dallas is constantly talking about how to make itself “world class.” How this bridge or that building or project or new hire will finally make the long-held dream become a reality. Then it inevitably doesn’t happen, and everyone moves on to touting this hospital or that development or fast-food chain or whatever, the world-class carrot always just out of reach.

I’ve often said there are only two areas in which you can start out average and—through practice, patience, and sheer force of will—transform yourself into a world-class specimen. One is, obviously, krav maga, the self-defense system created by the Israeli military. The other? Scrapbooking. As tantalizing as the possibilities regarding both may be, a city can’t really do either one of those. So I’ve always been in the camp that says it’s simply not possible.

But maybe I’ve been wrong all this time. Because, after careful consideration, I think Dallas can actually transform itself into a world-class city. It’s not one thing that will do it, though. We need these five things. 

1. A Muckraking, Trouble-stirring, Proudly Inappropriate Daily Tabloid Newspaper. Not long ago, in recognition of International Condom Day, Councilman Dwaine Caraway accepted a donation of 1 million condoms at City Hall. During the event, Caraway was photographed holding up two fistfuls of condoms. All of this went generally unremarked upon by the media, and that’s fine, I guess. 

But if this were New York, the cover of the next day’s Post would feature that photo of Caraway and the condoms accompanied by a screaming headline, like “I’LL SEE YOU IN MY CHAMBERS” or something tawdry like that. “RUBBER MAN”? I don’t know. Maybe it would tie back in to his anti-sagging-pants campaign. Anyway, you get my point. And the same thing would happen in London and Toronto and elsewhere. Because they get it

2. A Sanitation Strike. Downtown Dallas has been around in some recognizable form since at least 1909, when the 15-story Praetorian Building—the first high-rise west of the Mississippi—was built. But in some ways, it still feels like one of those faux-historic, David Schwarz–designed developments, like Southlake Town Square. It’s too clean. It doesn’t stink. Reclusive billionaire Tim Headington can buy all the property he wants, and it won’t fix that. You know what can? Trash, and lots of it. We need a sanitation strike.

To get that bone-deep, lived-in stench, I figure we probably need at least a three-month strike, one of those months occurring in the face-punch heat of summer when the smell can really bake in. 

3. Rats. Listen, I don’t like rats either. For me, they’re up there with garbage disposals and public speaking in terms of things that wake me up at night screaming. But city-wise, you’re nothing until you have a rat problem. Plus, the Dallas Bugle (or whatever we end up calling it) needs options for slow news days. Nothing is better than a photo of a beaver-size rat scurrying around a DART train bannered with an “OH, RATS!” headline.

4. Someone to Handle the Rats. Okay, okay—we need rats but not too many. There is a big difference between world-class and third-world, so there will have to be a safeguard to keep the rat infestation at a manageable level, where the rats add character to our city instead of defining it. So we’re going to have to hire someone with the equipment and skill set to take care of this with a minimal amount of fuss. Someone tall and thin, with sharp blue eyes, each like a pin, and light, loose hair yet swarthy skin.

We’re going to have to hire a pied piper. (Dallas Bugle headline: “LEADER OF THE RAT PACK.”) 

But—and I need everyone to pay attention here—we absolutely need to make sure we pay this guy. You may think you can scam a pied piper, pay him half up front and then skip out on the rest when the job is done. You can’t. You’ve probably read the fairy-tale version of the Pied Piper of Hamelin. Let me tell you right now: that business was real, and it was super dark. And it wasn’t an isolated incident. Pied pipers are great, generally quick with a joke or a song, but don’t ever think you can get away with crossing them. They will always have their revenge.

5. Better Streets.


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