Even with it’s challenges and embarrassments, Dallas is not short on do-gooding and do-gooders. More than a handful of initiatives around the city of Dallas are focusing on interventions that impact what are know as adverse childhood experiences, or A.C.E.s. Supportive educational environments and wrap around community services that seek to interrupt childhood hunger, poverty, trauma, family violence among other barriers to personal and academic success. There are passionate residents and compassionate professionals engaged in any number of volunteer initiatives to improve their city. Even some of the longest ravaged areas of the city in South Dallas & Fair Park are now the focus, following impactful models implemented in Jubilee Park and West Dallas where these social ails seemed immoveable for decades.
Citizens are leading investment and creating change. Jubilee and West Dallas, were jump started some time ago, however Sunny South Dallas remained wilted and increasingly deserted by potential volunteers and investors. In recent years, with the success of other collective impact and neighborhood reinvestment initiatives from neighboring communities, South Dallas/Fair Park neighborhoods are, via groups like Revitalize South Dallas and Frazier Revitalization, Inc. along with help from the strategic mechanisms of WINS (Working in Neighborhoods Strategically) and the Mayor’s Grow South Initiative, at the threshold of a renaissance in collective impact that’s improving the quality of life for families and it’s youngest citizens. There’s truly the opportunity for South Dallas area neighborhoods to experience revitalization rather than gentrification, for the neighbors and citizens of South Dallas to lead change, rather than beg for it.
Citizens are also putting their money to work. Dallas is ranked number nine in the nation of most generous cities, and is top within the state of Texas, which after the last round of census data collection reported 10.7 Billion in charitable donations. This is acknowledged as a significantly low number due to underreporting of planned giving; yet, the state also scored well on contributions a typical household made as a percentage of discretionary income: 5.1 percent. So the citizens of Dallas are generous; they putting their money where their mouth is and aren’t waiting on their tax dollars to, or elected officials, to dictate their priorities.
Citizens are caring for citizens. Citizens are caring for the city…and the city is watching, reporting, debating. The city is waiting to come along side the work of citizens. The city is stalled and still, and the citizens are carrying the load. Somehow that order is out of sorts. Citizens are being leaders; while (en)titled leaders are being spectators. I’m all in favor of self-determination; however when the city and it’s leaders ignore or refuse to prioritize what the citizens of Dallas model for them we've got to ask if the reasoning is sinister or stupidity. The citizens are putting their two most precious resources, time and money, to worthwhile use. The city is spinning it’s wheels waiting for a proverbial GPS to recalibrate. Leaving #Mayhem in it's wake.
At minimum, the city can stick to the basics. Streets aren't about morality. Sidewalks aren’t about human rights. Water, waste and flood management aren’t holy sacraments. Animal control isn’t an ethical issue of pay equity or health care parity. Dallas citizens are obviously willing and generous when it comes to philanthropy, and aren't short on opinions regarding morality. The city must step up and at LEAST provide infrastructure for citizens to keep doing the work of humanity. There are potholes with social media accounts. There are citizens calling local organizations and gathering donations to feed empty lots full of stray dogs. There are citizens doing everything from planning neighborhood cleanups to calling 3-1-1, every single day for weeks, to get legally placed bulk trash picked up after two bulk trash cycles have left it sitting there; even after regular weekly trash pick up workers have obviously seen it sitting there for more than six weeks.
Cities are home to their citizens. Citizens are those people who are entitled to enjoy all the legal rights and privileges granted by a municipality to the people comprising its constituency. A citizen is obligated to obey its laws and to fulfill his or duties as called upon. As far as homes go, cities offer their citizens infrastructure, water, streets, safety, at minimum, and since citizens still have to pay for these things they should at least be a minimum quality. Parents are held to a minimum quality of care and provision, or they are held criminally negligent. Yet cities are not. My apologies, Dallas, is not upholding it’s obligation. Instead, Dallas citizens, the very folks Dallas was built to provide for, the very folks that pay Dallas employees and elected officials via taxes AND also gives more of their money and time, and legacies, shoulder the work AND the bill. So when do the citizens get their leader? The one with a platform and a track record that obviously matches the very clear priorities that their calendars and checking accounts reflect.