I am a city resident, a Dallas business owner, a native Dallasite, and a SMU Cox School of Business MBA, so I think it is safe to say that I have a vested interest in seeing my city do better.
If our city, not the DFW REGION, were a sports team, we would be a team on the decline heading to the bottom of our division without any hopes of rebuilding soon. It appears our leadership is in disbelief of our current standing, or perhaps they really don’t care, but either way, I think they need a WAKE UP CALL!
Leadership in Dallas has always been super deft at advancing the image of Dallas and not all that deft at tackling fundamental issues like equitable economic development, a slow and bureaucratic City Hall, middle class flight, housing segregation, and poverty. Dallas continues to focus on the image of the city without really tackling the fundamental problems facing the city and its citizenry.
In 2015, Dallas has dubiously topped national lists for income inequality, and childhood poverty. We have lost a lawsuit by the Federal Government for perpetuating housing segregation. The City is also being sued for making it difficult for minority vendors to win prime contracts.
We have also lost out on business opportunities while our healthier suburbs keep on winning. Even our rival Fort Worth is doing better in terms of population growth rate, and the aesthetics and vibrancy of its downtown area.
So here is what I would like to share with the Mayor, the Citizens Council, City Council, and our many Billionaires and Millionaires who make decisions for our city:
- Dallas needs more higher-ed and 21st century tech-ed in the core of the city and close to public transit. There is ample opportunity for Dallas to invite a Design school like SCAD to launch a new branch in the core of the city. Or even a state of the art Design/Maker Space! As Design and Design thinking become critical in almost every facet of business and tech. Dallas has NO design school and no Maker Spaces open to every day citizens.
- Is there any reason why the city cannot partner with AT&T, or Google even, to build out the digital infrastructure in the Southern sector of the city with super-fast internet and more free Wi-Fi spots in Southern Dallas? If that were to become a reality, imagine the types of companies who would want to take advantage of being close to super-fast internet in Southern Dallas. Examples of where this is working: Austin has Google Fiber as does Kansas City. In the home of AT&T what does Dallas have?
- Stop thinking Black and Hispanic people are inconsequential. Opportunities for more minority contracting is a MUST. For far too long minority contractors have gotten minuscule crumbs, or none, in contracting opportunities. We must do better. When it comes to the Southern (minority) sector of Dallas there is contentment with the notion of creating $10/hour jobs, when the goal should be helping to create a whole new class of sharp business owners?
- More capital access south of the Trinity River and outside of North Oak Cliff. Redlining is still happening. Banks need to re-think capital access and business stimulus in South Dallas and there should be a governmental push for this through government and private partnerships; as well as governmental incentives.
- We need more open government! Code for America has never done a project for the City of Dallas. Why is that? Almost every major city has opened up their data sets to developers to create apps that empower the citizenry and apps that facilitate easier interaction with city services. This should be a priority!
- Form a credible, diverse Think Tank on how Dallas can foster and draw more middle class, creative class, and younger people in town with the charge of enacting action plans based on the work of the Think Tank.
- Revamp Fair Park, don’t patch it up. There is no other city that would tolerate an underutilized and declining piece of City owned real estate like Fair Park. With over 200 acres of concrete, and empty Historic buildings for most of the year, Fair Park has become a sad ghost town of a place. Sundance Square in Fort Worth is a beautiful public sphere, and Dallas is sitting on something that could be 100 times better than Sundance Square! Fair Park should be the catalyst for a much improved Dallas and South Dallas.
Kevin Walker is a Cultural Strategist and student of the new economy who is the Managing Partner and Co-Founder of CultureLab consultancy. CultureLab produced content and managed social media for the Reimagine Fair Park campaign for the Foundation for Community Empowerment.