Monday, August 17, 2009

Caraway urges residents to reclaim their neighborhoods

Dallas City Manager Mary Suhm and Mayor Pro Temp Dwaine Caraway
at the latter's Budget Town Hall Meeting Monday night at South Oak Cliff High School
City Manager Mary Suhm has a heart-to-heart conversation with a laid-off city employee
following Dwaine Caraway's Budget Townhall meeting Monday night
Dallas Mayor Pro Temp Dwaine Caraway didn't say this in so many words, but this was what was between the lines in what he said to his District 4 constituents: "Quit yapping so much about the city's failure to clean up the mess dumped in your neighborhoods and do a better job of taking care of it yourselves."

Caraway's message during his Budget Town Hall meeting Monday night at South Oak Cliff High School came after City Manager Mary Suhm sped through presentation of her proposed budget, figuring, I guess "If I talk really fast, the folks won't realize how bad this is." And when they did realize how bad it was, either Caraway, in effect, told them "You don't realize how good you've got it" or, in the case of one disgruntled city employee who was among those who received a pink slip last week and claimed the city was "putting a higher priority on things than on people," Ms. Suhm simply sat down with him face-to-face after the meeting for a heart-to-heart talk.

Now don't get me wrong. Caraway didn't condescend or make excuses. He made some valid points and observations. For instance, on the subject of economic development he said "I'm not going to try to get a Starbucks located in my district. A Starbucks would probably only hire one person from the district and besides, we can make our own coffee." About the illegal dumping a lot of folks complained about -- especially Code Compliance's seeming inability to stop it -- Caraway said: "People aren't driving here from North Dallas to dump their trash here. This is being dumped by people right here in our own district. You see it being dumped every day. I'm telling you to get the license plate numbers of the people that are doing that or at least the color and perhaps the make and model of the vehicle they are driving. Then report that."

He also said he was going to make an effort to crack down on "slum landlords" by forcing anyone who rents property -- even if it's just one house -- to declare himself a business and register with the city. "Then, if we have a code problem with a rental property we will know who to go to," Caraway said. And Ms. Suhm told all the homeowners in the audience to make sure they made out and filed away a valid will to help rectify property ownership questions.

I have been to three town hall meetings so far this budget season and all have been in the southern sector of the city. I will go to my first one in a northern area tomorrow night. Last week I attended two hosted by District 8's Tennell Atkins. The one common concern I have witnessed in all three is definitely not going to one-day-a-week garbage collection (there has not been the slightest peep about that, possibly because it means a reduction in the sanitation fee), but the cutbacks in recreation center hours. The residents of South Dallas are passionate about their rec centers, seeing them more as overall community centers. I will be interested to see if this concern is mirrored in the town hall meetings I attend in the areas north of downtown. I have a sneaking suspicion it won't be. And, if these suspicions are correct, than I have an idea, borrowed as it is from the so-called Robin Hood school funding theory. Take some more hours from the rec centers in the northern areas and give them to the folks in the south.

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