By Robert PitreFighting the monster called disenfranchisement has been on the agenda of African Americans since post slavery days. With every new step we take for equality and justice we are often slapped in the face with a social, moral or even blatant disregard to the simple fact that we are all equal and deserve the same rights as our White counterparts. Unfortunately, yet again, the City of Dallas seems to think that we do not matter as they are seeking to gain community support and votes for the 2012 Capital Bond Program. They allege this will preserve and restore streets and other related assets, protect lives and property from flooding and promote economic development to continue and grow the tax base. The bond amount Dallas is seeking is $600 million.
That’s right, Dallas is seeking $600 million dollars that will be shared throughout virtually all districts in Dallas. This is their effort to correct issues developers and Dallas officials ignored when land was purchased from African Americans in and around the State Thomas area. They refused to create infrastructure – plumbing and sewage drainage – to the area, which grossly decreased the land value and forced African American home and landowners to sell their land and property for little or nothing. When they started to build on the land purchased for pennies on a dollar they did not make the necessary infrastructure needs and now Dallas is seeking to use the bond money to repair or correct those issues.
The problem that I am having with the bond program is that African American home- and landowners in the area around the newly built University of North Texas (UNT) campus, which is located on Houston School Road now University Hill Road, are being excluded from the program. It seems like Dallas is seeking to have a repeat of the State Thomas area. They will not allow us to receive basic infrastructure and they are attempting to corner us and tell us who and what can be built on our property. Dallas has an opportunity to develop 600 plus acres of land around the UNT campus area, of which the majority of landowners are African American.
This is blatant disenfranchisement. Our Dallas City Councilman Tennell Atkins, who is chair of the Mayor’s Task Force on Southern Dallas Economic Opportunities and vice-chair of the Economic Development Committee, has already said to landowners that his interest is not to help us. He said that he can create his legacy in District 8 from the developers and not from the existing landowners. This is the man we elected to represent us and yet he is turning his back on the landowners. The home- and business owner associations voiced our complaints about not receiving adequate funding for infrastructure. However, Atkins has shown that his alliance is with developers. The money the City of Dallas is seeking to put into the bond election for improving our infrastructure needs is approximately $5 million for basic infrastructure around the UNT campus area.
They want to keep our property values extremely low so they can come back in and buy our land for little or nothing. They did it in the State Thomas area and the areas around the Fair Park. Dallas is one of the only cities in the United States that has a large percentage of African American landowners with hundreds of acres of land within the city limits. But they want to deny us loans and the opportunity to build on our own properties. We already had water and gas but when they built the six lane road in front of UNT they did not include the necessary waste water system or sewer lines because they wanted to limit the ability for landowners to develop their properties.
The African American community in Dallas has continually been redlined. They make it difficult for us to get loans to create African American owned businesses, to support our community and to thrive. This despite their indications they want us to thrive, meanwhile our district suffers from a high unemployment rate. If the $5 million for basic infrastructure is increased to $10 million to develop the 600 plus acres of land, then we would be able to create thousands of jobs, housing, commercial and other needed opportunities in the area. The City of Dallas’ and Atkins’ plan is to keep our property value down. African Americans own three-fourths of the land in front of the UNT campus from Camp Wisdom up University Hill (formerly Houston School Road) to West Wheatland Road.
The City of Dallas is trying to keep our property values low so they can use part of the $40 million dollars in the bond for acquisition of land around UNT. The same $10 million we need would also benefit 400 plus acres of land in the City of Lancaster. We would have over 1,000 plus acres of land that will benefit the UNT area. Dallas Authority Rapid Transit (DART) is planning to start its Blue Line construction from the Ledbetter station to UNT Park and Ride station in 2013 with a targeted completion of 2015. This is a $250 million project and the $10 million basic infrastructure would benefit this project as well.
I encourage everyone in Dallas but particularly in District 8 to go to find out more information on this new bond program. You can visit the Capital Bond website at http://2012bondprogram.dallascityhall.com/ for more information on the bond program.
Mr. Robert Pitre is a businessman and concerned citizen in Dallas’ District 8.
Editor’s note: Councilman Tennell Adkins was contacted but could not provide a response to the Mr. Pitre’s concerns prior to our print time due to final council session before the July break.