Monday, February 28, 2011

Monday Morning Letters to the Editor

YouPlusMedia has put together a video about the tunnel system in downtown Dallas. They want to start generating a dialog on a variety of issues regarding downtown and do so through the use of visual media. I was asked for input on the tunnels and I will post my response shortly. But first, watch the video and be sure to pay attention to how we so wholeheartedly believed [insert architect/urban planner's name here] Vincent Ponte. You can even get a copy of his brilliantly titled report at Amazon, "Ultramodern underground Dallas: Vincent Ponte's pedestrian-way as systematic solution to the declining downtown."

This precedes my forthcoming report, Dallas: Super Happy Fun Time Town! Let this be a lesson next time we buy everything some urban planner/architect (of which I am one) says. Usually, they have no bloody clue either and are really just pushing some subjective fantasy as alternative reality onto others. They're expert salesmen. Only now are we beginning to cobble together objective measures for what makes for great, vibrant, livable places

Now for the video:
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The following are two emails I received over the weekend that I thought I might share. The opinions are the authors and some of the noticeable editing is mine to conceal any identities:

Dear Mr Kennedy,

I lived in Dallas after graduating from Southwestern Medical School in [date redacted]. Six years ago I moved to Chicago. Chicago is a bustling, beautiful city. I felt immediately at home there. In Dallas I always longed for something but could never put my finger on it. In your article you beautifully said what I felt all along (I'm not sure which article he's referring to here).

I believe, however, that there are forces arrayed against Dallas following your call to action. [The powers that be] are too satisfied [with the status quo]. Change frightens them. They are too pleased with the way things are to be troubled by the inherent, albeit temporary, discomfort of change.

I enjoyed your piece. If you really want to live in a city like you describe you best pack up and follow me.

Cheers

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Critics suggest that Dallas's larger-than-life image may be shrinking for another reason. They say that officials' lack of investment in public schools, streets, parks and pools -- the real-world priorities outside the city's highbrow Arts District, with its cultural monuments designed by the hottest "starchitects" (Norman Foster, Rem Koolhaas, I. M. Pei, Renzo Piano) and soon-to-be sky-high Santiago Calatrava "signature" bridges -- is sending white families and middle-class minorities moving to the suburbs.

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And lastly, an email about the WalMart and Fort Worth Avenue development group (which I haven't yet weighed in on, but will). Once again, these opinions are not my own, but the dialog is one worth having:

What should outrage us is not so much Wal-Mart’s apparent disregard for what Jason calls “a pedestrian form,” but instead the Fort Worth Avenue Development Group’s blatant disregard for the residents of the Colorado Place apartments. When the apartments were torn down (at the urging of the Fort Worth Avenue Development Group), Scott Griggs (of the Fort Worth Avenue Development Group) declared that it marked a “great opportunity to bring something new.” Many people would like to think that the “something new” only involves walkability, organic grocery stores, and coffee shops, but in fact the “something new” unfortunately also involves the replacement of working class black and brown people with affluent white people who “read the New York Times.”

We should be less interested in an appeal to what Jason calls the “thousands of years” of history that have supposedly “proven” the “pedestrian model” than in an appeal to the twentieth-century history of Fort Worth Avenue. The cheap motels and apartments on Fort Worth Avenue (like Colorado Place) may be what some call “eyesores,” and they may not make us feel like we’re living in Portland, but they have also made possible the social and economic mobility of immigrants and working class people in Dallas. Or at least they have functioned as affordable places for people to live.

Dallas has a long history of so-called urban development that involves displacing working class people of color to make room for playgrounds for people who “read the New York Times” (for example, the West Village). If this is the same vision of the Fort Worth Avenue Development Group–and it is–they should start being honest about it, and stop pretending that it’s somehow part of a progressive community politics, which it just isn’t. (Remember their opposition last year to the Cliff Manor zoning issue.) A progressive community politics would be less interested in what Jason calls the “right” to “walk” to coffee shops, and more interested in people’s right to live where they currently live and have equal access city services which are rightfully theirs (such as pools, policing, and public transportation).