Can you guess when each story ran in Dallas’ Only Daily Newspaper?
• Flanked by council members and police commanders, the mayor heralded the initiatives as a strong offensive to cut the city’s crime rate by focusing on problem apartment complexes.
• Surrounded by a phalanx of cops, the mayor underscored what he said will be a bolstered effort to harass, cajole and adjudicate problem property owners.
The first ran in March 2004, as part of then-Mayor Laura Miller’s campaign to rid the city of high-crime apartment buildings. The second ran Saturday, as part of Mayor Park Cities’ campaign to rid the city of high-crime rental houses and apartment buildings. And people wonder why I am so cynical.
I wrote, in April 2004: "This is political grandstanding of the highest order by a mayor who long ago discovered the value of style over substance and that hardly anyone pays attention to yesterday’s news." Deja vu all over again, huh?
This is not to belittle what is a serious problem in Dallas — both here and in other parts of town. Each of us sees these kinds of places every day. Rather, it is to remind the bosses downtown that jawboning the problem in front of TV cameras will not make it go away. It requires money — to pay for code enforcement inspectors, to pay for the time that city attorneys must spend to shepherd these cases through an incredibly complex and byzantine legal process, and to pay to enforce judgments against these landlords and property owners, many of whom always seem to be one step ahead of the city. This is Texas, where property is sacrosanct, and depriving someone of their property — even if it’s used as a crack house — can take years.
But no one downtown seems to have the political will to find the money to spend the time necessary to get the job done. The News story reported that the city couldn’t immediately specify the additional resources it will use to pay for Leppert’s initiative.
I’m going to try to get a list of the so-called problem properties, and compare the 2004 and 2007 addresses. Think we’ll see many of the same places? This is one time I really hope I’m wrong.