Lake Highlands Councilman Jerry Allen is spending quite a bit of political capital these days on people who, in all likelihood, have never voted for him, and probably won’t in the future. Not because they take issue with his stances, but because chances are good they have never made it to the polls.
No matter, says Allen, now in his third Dallas city council term.
“At the end of the day, the reality hits you that you represent all people,” Allen says. “The people who live in my multifamily communities, I represent them. They don’t vote, but I represent them.”
It explains his recent mission to curb the impact of payday and car title loan businesses in Dallas. Sure, as he noted, a clustering of such stores may “make you think you’re neighborhood’s going downhill.” But that seems to be a side benefit rather than the main crux of his efforts.
“This started basically with the recession,” Allen says of his focus on the neighborhood’s lower income residents. “We didn’t have any money to do any development, so I’m doing other things. It drove me into running into people who do socially responsible apartments and providing after school programs for the kids.” He’s referring to complexes such as Indigo and The Madeline at Forest-Audelia.
“The perception is that poor people are in South Dallas,” Allen continues. “We’ve never done anything for our people in the northern sector.”
Tearing down apartments isn’t the answer, Allen says, for reasons he states in the September Advocate story about the challenges facing neighborhood retail development. Lake Highlands has 24,000 multifamily homes — “half a billion dollars worth of apartments,” he says, and “the best you can hope for is tearing down maybe 3,000 units per economic cycle — every four to five years. That’s if you’re lucky.”
“If that’s the case, and I’ve got 24,000, it seems to me it’s going to take a while to redevelop them, so it seems to me I better come up with something better and smarter than ‘we need to tear them down.’ ”
Lest anyone accuse him for going after payday and car title loan establishments to benefit his own banking job, Allen makes clear that while he is a former senior vice president of Colonial Bank, he is no longer part of the banking industry. If that were the case, he says, it would allow payday loan companies to ” tie it into me being a special interest — I’m a banker and I’m going after them.”
That’s not the case, he insists. He believes that apartment complexes such as Indigo and The Madeline are examples of “capitalism at its finest,” in the sense that they add value to people and give them the best bang for their bucks. But even though his political efforts have everything to do with money, at the end of the day, it’s completely beside the point.
The best part about a program like Bank On Dallas, Allen says, is that “when [parents] come in the door, lo and behold, their kids come in the door, instead of being used to thinking a payday lender is where you go” for your banking.
“Are we going to save all the whales out there in the ocean” Allen asks. No, he answers himself. “But the individuals that raise their hand, we’re going to do something about that.”
Already on Back Talk Lake Highlands: Councilman Jerry Allen attempts to fight payday loan and car title businesses with city ordinances; his efforts to provide alternatives to payday lenders; and the way other cities’ are following Dallas’ lead.