Are you a “hater?”
But for the last few weeks, I’ve been mulling over the concept of “haters” — specifically civic haters — ever since I found myself on a short list of people categorized as such by a certain Dallas City Councilmember.
Last month, it was discovered that Lee Kleinman, who represents parts of northern Dallas, had created a list called “Haters” on the social media platform Twitter, ostensibly for those that he had weighed in the balance and found, well, hating.
Among others, the list includes councilmembers Philip Kingston and Scott Griggs, City Hall watchdog and anonymous internet commenter “Wylie H.,” Dallas Observer columnist Jim Schutze, and D Magazine publisher Wick Allison. (The respective publications of the last two are likewise included on the “Haters” list, apparently tainted by Schutze’s and Allison’s extreme animus.)
I am going to make a giant assumption here and presume that this list represents people who — according to a certain worldview — “hate” our city. These are people who are happier criticizing Dallas than celebrating it, who would rather tear down our city than acknowledge its greatness. These are people who do not, who cannot, truly love Dallas.
Only, that’s not what I see when I look at this list. Now, since I myself have been condemned (or honored) as a “hater,” some might dismiss my perspective as biased — “haters gonna hate,” as it were. But hear me out.
Among those who have been maligned as “haters,” I see two incredibly smart and relentlessly hardworking councilmembers who fight for neighborhoods, urbanism and common sense. I see a prolific and insightful online commenter who regularly brings to light complex municipal problems. I see a city columnist who’s spent the last 30 years uncovering and interrogating the deep racial divide in our city, and a publisher who has used his glossy magazine to focus on critical 21st century issues like transportation and the environment.
One thing you can’t say about any of them is that they hate Dallas. Quite the opposite. It’s their passion for our city that pushes them to critique and analyze and speak out and try to make Dallas a much better city tomorrow than it is today.
Despite its fundamental flaws, this “Haters” list provides great insight into a very particular way of thinking about our city, a way of differentiating Dallas’ tribes — the old guard and the new. It gives us a glimpse into two distinctly different, fundamental philosophies about civic leadership.
On the one hand is the group that has been identified as haters, sometimes known as aginners, almost always considered impolite in polite Dallas society. The people on this so-called “Haters” list don’t see eye-to-eye on every issue, but here’s what they have in common: They are typically fiscal watchdogs who are skeptical of big-ticket projects as a panacea for all that ails our city. They don’t like government waste and cronyism and aren’t afraid to call it like they see it. They believe in transparent, democratic government. They think that “world class” ought to be a descriptor used exclusively for dog shows and pro-wrestling.
The other group includes those who believe that one must be a relentless cheerleader in order to truly love our city. That our city must kowtow to the business elite because they know best. That Dallas must stick to the old ways of doing things, however outdated and antiquated, because that’s how things have always been done.
But why on earth would we want cheerleaders running our city? Aren’t they the ones who stand on the sidelines while the game is played and jump for joy, even when their team is losing?
No, we don’t want cheerleaders. We want city leaders who are dedicated to finding fault in our city government, who will uncover corruption and ineptitude and work to right the ship. Because the first step in fixing a problem is acknowledging you’ve got one.
Editor’s Note: This column is included in the July Advocate and has been published online early due to recent discussion on this topic.