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Dallas Neighborhood Threatening to Secede

November 7, 1990

DALLAS (AP) _ Complaining of unfinished parks and libraries and just plain second-class treatment, a section of Dallas comprising one-third of the city’s population is threatening to dissolve an 87-year-old bond and secede.

Oak Cliff would become Texas’ seventh-largest city and reduce Dallas in area by half if allowed to become independent, as it was until 1903.

A referendum to decide the issue could be on the ballot by 1992, and the new city could be in operation by 1993, the secessionists say.

″If Dallas doesn’t change its way of doing business, it will lose Oak Cliff,″ said Bob McElearney, president of the Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce.

The community on Dallas’s south side has 310,000 people, evenly divided among blacks, whites and Hispanics. It has pockets of affluence but is largely in decline. The north side of Dallas is more prosperous.

″We don’t want to de-annex; we want to improve the quality of life in the southern half of Dallas,″ said City Councilman Charles Tandy of Oak Cliff. ″That includes direct city services like trash pickup, code enforcement, street repairs, things like that.

″We have libraries that were promised eight to 10 years ago that were never built and parks that were initially approved 15 years ago that were never completed.″

City officials have said budgetary constraints have stopped projects all over Dallas, not just in Oak Cliff. In addition, they say, Oak Cliff depends more on libraries and recreation programs than the north side, where people can afford travel and other diversions.

Political underrepresentation has been blamed in part for Oak Cliff’s problems. The community has a third of the population but only one member on the 12-person City Council. A referendum in December would reorganize the City Council to address the disparity.

The roots of the Dallas-Oak Cliff split are deep. Oak Cliff joined Dallas by a margin of 18 votes and a decade later secession already was being discussed.

On June 1, the secession movement created 19 committees with 130 people to study the possibility of a breakup and its effects. Three city accountants have been working full-time to analyze projections on revenue and expenses.

At a meeting last month where Oak Cliff residents voted overwhelmingly to proceed with a referendum on secession, Mayor Annette Strauss was shouted down by a crowd of almost 2,000.

″We are one family,″ she pleaded. ″That’s the way it’s been, and that’s the way it’s got to continue to be.″

Oak Cliff is home to some of Dallas’ largest hotels and warehouses. But 80 percent of city bond money is spent outside Oak Cliff, said Tandy.

And Louis Salcedo, an Oak Cliff engineers, said city contracts have traditionally gone to businesses on the north side. ″It is easy to drive around Oak Cliff and see areas that have been neglected,″ he said.

West Jefferson Boulevard was the former city’s downtown section. But some businesses have closed in the last decade and thrift shops are now numerous.

″I grew up in Oak Cliff and I have seen its condition grow worse for many years now,″ said Theresa Floyd, who runs a clothing shop. ″It used to be pretty nice, but now it’s going straight downhill.″

Other residents aren’t sure secession is the right course. ″There are just as many greedy people in Oak Cliff as in Dallas. I can see taxes going up in Oak Cliff if it becomes a city,″ said Ed Johnson Crna, an anesthesiologist.

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