A plan unveiled at Dallas City Hall Wednesday calls for a major transformation of city government operations and spending in an effort to reverse the impact of racial bias in many neighborhoods.
Casey Thomas, city council member and a former Dallas NAACP President, was an original supporter of the plan.
“We know where we are today. But the key question is: 'How did we get where we are today? How were the communities intentionally?' That’s the keyword: intentionally, underdeveloped and underinvested by the people who sit where we sit right today,” Thomas said. “Because of the racial bias, we are faced with dealing with challenges that should have been addressed decades ago. We have to be the council with the courage to address these challenges or we will be kicking the same can down the road.”
Jaynie Schultz, Dallas city council member, now leads a committee that has refined the plan.
“I hope as we look at this and study it and hopefully adopt it in the weeks to come, it will be a moment that we all mark as a highlight in our lives,” Schultz said.
The plan includes goals in five areas: workforce and community development, environmental justice, housing, infrastructure and public safety and wellness.
Currently, unless someone has been shot or violent crime is underway, it is hard to get fast police response from the understaffed Dallas Police Department anywhere in the city.
The latest news from around North Texas.
Camile White, Dallas ISD Trustee, spoke to the council Wednesday about the day later response she received to fireworks in her Pleasant Grove neighborhood.
“This has been happening for years and years and there seems to be no effort to correct the activity,” White said.
Extra public safety attention and community collaboration in underserved neighborhoods is one target action in the plan.
“Equality does not do the people who’ve already been forgotten about any justice because they’re starting on a playing field that is not level. So I am extremely happy with the work that you all have done. I’m extremely happy with the direction our city is heading in,” Adam Bazaldua, District 7 councilman, said about the plan.
Better air monitoring and other efforts are suggested to improve public health in neighborhoods like West Dallas where the industry is right beside homes.
“Where we intentionally put harmful polluting industries and consequently, the rest of the region has grown on that. And it’s time to clean it up,” Council Member Paula Blackmon said. “We know that when air quality improves the outcomes across the board go up.”
In the past, Anglo city council members from North Dallas fought for equal spending. Now, members of that background on the Dallas City Council now are generally on board with the shift to equity.
But Council Member Cara Mendelsohn pointed out the city is now less than a quarter Anglo. She said all of Dallas has problems with the delivery of city services and neighborhoods with poverty.
Mendelsohn called for changes and a delay in approving the plan.
“As we start talking about why we need to do this for our communities of color, that's pretty much our whole city,” Mendelsohn said. “Our resources shouldn’t be put into this plan. The resources should be going to the departments that are doing the work. The communities wouldn’t feel unsafe if we were doing a better job of keeping people safe.”
Dallas Councilman Tennell Atkins said the money will be a challenge in implementing the plan with citizens demanding other budget measures, as well.
“We’re trying to lower the tax rate. We’re trying to fix streets. We’ve got a homeless crisis,” Atkins said. “I still don’t have the trash picked up. I still don’t have enough police officers.”
Most council members on Wednesday said they expect equity to be the new test for public safety and everything else for what gets the money.
The plan was scheduled for a final City Council vote on Aug. 24, with accountability and progress measurements to be posted afterward.
A new Dallas budget for the 2022-2023 fiscal year that starts in Oc. is due to be released Friday by City Manager T.C. Broadnax, who said the equity policy is used as a guide.