Sunday, November 19, 2017

Forget the "blue-haired" stereotype of preservationists! Members of today's breed are younger, more diverse, and have a much broader, more important mission.

A sea of young, diverse faces, all eager to take new ideas back to their communities, was present in this breakout seminar on underrepresented groups.

It's about more than blue-haireds and bulldozer-defiers.

Or the stereotypical docent selling tickets in a museum gift shop.

Anyone who buys into this "yesterday" image of preservationists hasn't stepped into the annual conference of the National Trust for Historic Preservation in recent years.

At the meeting of the nation's premier organization for saving places this past week, I looked out on a sea of youthful, bright millennial faces that couldn't wait to race back home to share new ideas with their constituencies. The more than 1,500 attendees at this year's conference in Chicago reflected all age groups, races, genders, and economic levels.

People who managed historic sites were present, for sure. But so were architects, city officials, planners, nonprofit leaders, historians, educators, attorneys, political activists, volunteers, and grad students.

And despite what one might suppose, studying how to attract tourists to a historic site in one's community was far, far down the "takeaway" goals for these conferees.

They were there to study:

• the role of "place" on one's well-being. New neuroscience research has begun to explain the importance of one's environment on a person's mental and physical health. A seminar, "This Is Your Brain on Preservation", studied the way old places give people a sense of continuity, belonging, identity, and memory—all benefits to psychological well-being. People's brain activity has been examined when they are around "the places that make us", said one presenter. A video contrasting those who remained in familiar settings at Chernobyl after the nuclear disaster and those who were relocated to unfamiliar settings showed that those who stayed behind actually fared better mentally and physically than those who left—living an average of almost a decade longer despite exposure to the high doses of radiation.

These are some of the cutting-edge studies examining, from a wide range of sciences, the emotional processing that places activates in us.
• preservation and social justice/activism. Nonwhite groups were urged to help communities rethink the way they interpret historic sites in their communities to "tell the whole story", even the difficult parts of their history that might have been glossed over before.

• the use of new technology, such as Instagram, Snapchat, and Boomerang, in engaging audiences around preservation.

• an emphasis on "People Saving Places for People". "Old places create a sense of unity in a nation more divided than ever," said National Trust President Stephanie Meeks in the opening plenary session.

• strategic development of underrepresented sites—an aggressive campaign to find nonwhite sites to add to the nation's historic inventory. African-American, Latino-American, Asian-American, Native American, female, and even LGBTQ groups were charged with returning to their communities to see what minority sites have been left out of the mix and to cultivate them.

Nowhere was this more apparent than during the major announcement that the National Trust is establishing a $25-million fund called the African-American Cultural Action Fund, where grant money will be made available for potential, overlooked sites that qualify.

Driving this year's theme was the ugly public debate and protests occurring all across the country over the more than 700 Confederate statutes in some 36 states and the stark reality that more than 92 percent of all monuments, statues, historical markers, and historic places honor white (Anglo), mostly male Americans. The remaining eight percent (up from seven percent a year ago) honor the histories of Native Americans, African-Americans, Latino/Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, Jewish-Americans, women, and LGBTQ-Americans. (The eye-popping change of adding women to the minority mix was what pushed the percentage up from seven to eight percent this year! That increase wasn't nearly what some of us had expected or had hoped.)

While the National Trust takes the position of weeding out all Confederate statues installed specifically as a symbolic means of suppressing African-Americans and others during Jim Crow days and studying the validity of the others, the organization's primary focus is on finding ways of honoring nonwhite and other minority populations, including women, to tell the "underappreciated stories from our past," according to President Meeks.

In some cases, the solution is as simple as adding a reinterpretation of a site.

An example is the until-recently buried history of and tribute to Sally Hemings, the enslaved woman who bore some of former President Thomas Jefferson's children. This is addressed by an augmented telling of the Jefferson story at Monticello, outside Charlottesville, VA.

I personally hammered away during the meeting for more focus on accurate Native American historic sites and supported the push for African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans and others to have their stories told more fully and completely. With the announcement that San Antonio, TX, will celebrate its 300th birthday in 2018, one speaker said, "There was a San Antonio before there was a Washington, DC." The Rio Vista Farm National Treasure being developed in South Texas was a startling realization that the U.S. government once sought Mexican day laborers (braceros) and actually encouraged them to come here—a far cry from the unfair stereotype today of undocumented workers stealing jobs belonging to U.S. citizens.

I was privileged for the second year in a row to be selected to participate in the organization's Diversity Scholar program. I was the lone Native American in the group of 25. I was by far the oldest in the group, with the average age being in their early 30s. Most were younger than my two adult children; the youthful scholars treated me with the utmost respect.

Asian and Pacific Islander Americans in Preservation meeting
Michelle Tagalong and Ari Scott, presenters
Preservationists today focus their attention on saving places for adaptive reuse as practical, educational, and inspirational sites. During the conference we saw incredibly beautiful ways that preservationists have utilized adaptive reuse of structures that looked for all the world like lost causes. I was envious of the ways cities such as Pittsburgh, Savannah, and Seattle go about their extensive work of preservation, restoration and adaptive reuse.

Not a single time in the conference did I hear someone advocate saving a building simply because it's old. 

What I did hear promoted was a thoughtful survey of each endangered building, carefully studying its best potential use. No one mentioned bulldozers, except when they had been slipped in during the night or unexpectedly before a thorough, fair, and public study of a building and all its possibilities had been completed.

Closer to home, immediately before the Chicago meeting Kay and I scheduled knowledge-share sessions in our home with key players in Garland's African-American and Hispanic-American communities so we could be better briefed to present local examples of needs of those two communities specifically.

Garland desperately needs to find ways to honor and commemorate the contributions of its African-American, Hispanic-American, Asian-American, women, and other minority communities. For instance, while we have fought bitter battles over two of the city's most historic homes—the Tinsley-Lyles House and the Pace House, each with white histories—the city has yet to commemorate the African-Americans who first lived in The Flats on the land where our city hall and new apartments now stand. It would have been great if The Flats could have been cited in the recent re-dedication of those city facilities.

And the city has worked systematically to eradicate the African-American homes in the Coopers Additions, where Texas Highway 66 divides in the couplet formed by Avenues B and D—with no seeming plan in mind to revitalize that abandoned area of serious historical importance to the city's African-American community.

The home of the city's first Hispanic family—the Manuel and Marie Valle family—at West Avenue C and Santa Fe, was bulldozed as land was cleared in that area for what was once planned as the next expansion of Garland's First Baptist Church. That site, notable by Mrs. Valle's cactus still growing at the southwest corner of the intersection, could now become just another church parking lot.

Kay and I came away from the Chicago gathering with a deeper commitment to work to see that oversights in our hometown are made right, that minimizations of the past are corrected, and that all of Garland's citizens receive the equal respect and honor they deserve.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Want to see a broader pool of qualified people run for political office in Garland? Get rid of these seemingly innocent six little words in the city charter.

The city's charter, Article 3, Section 11, says appointees to boards and commissions must resign if they intend to run for public office. It makes no such requirement of council members or mayor. All nine incumbents may benefit throughout their political careers because of this paragraph, which biases city elections in favor of incumbents and needs to be eliminated.
On Thursday night of this week, a vast array of Garland's current Boards and Commissions members will be honored at a glittering dinner at the Hyatt Place hotel.

In that audience will be a wide cross-section of Garlandites—people from all ethnic groups, ages, educational backgrounds, and socio-economic levels.

Some of these board and commission members have begun to stick their big toes into the wider pond of civic involvement. As City Council appointees, they have begun to learn the ropes of how the city operates. They have become some of the people most familiar with the city—and therefore, among the most interested and most passionate. Often some decide they might like to deepen their commitment by running for public office in a future race. They want to be good stewards of what they have learned and want to utilize that in a greater capacity to further help Garland.

But if any single one of those appointees—be they members of the Citizens Environmental and Neighborhood Advisory Committee, the Community Multicultural Commission, the Plan Commission, or any other group—should publicly state, "I am running for mayor (or city council from District ___"), that person immediately must resign his or her place on the board or commission where the individual is serving. That person would be jettisoned; another immediately could be appointed in his or her place.

Any platform that person might have, any exposure, any information source would be lost with that resignation. He or she would become a "former". And, if that person happened not to win the city race for which he or she resigned, there's no guarantee that the "former" appointee would regain his or her valued appointment to that board or commission soon, or ever.

Why do Garland's local elections get canceled so often? Why so often does a sitting council member run opposed? Why is it tough to find additional qualified people to run for local elections? Why is voter apathy in Garland so high?

All that has been described above can easily result from six little words in the city's charter—six little words that are described as having been deliberately inserted to favor the incumbent.

Over the past 12 years Kay and I have enjoyed attending the annual Boards and Commissions dinner and observing who the city's rising stars are. But despite their service, these individuals are hamstrung if they have political aspirations because of six little words in the city's charter. 

It's but one more example of my contention, mentioned in earlier blogs, that citizens sometimes don't seem to count for much in Garland. The city gives the appearance of seeking citizen input and appoints citizens for boards and commissions, but it then hamstrings them if they aspire to be good stewards of their knowledge and seek higher office.

Meanwhile, the same restriction does NOT apply—because of those six little words—to current sitting City Council members or to the mayor. If a council member or a mayor, simultaneously, announces, "I will seek re-election to my seat", that official may remain exactly where he or she is—in the current post he or she occupies.

Current councilmembers may grab as much air time as much as desired on city TV during council sessions, especially when running for re-election or for mayor. They continue to be able to maintain high visibility and access to city information, with the city's imprimatur behind them, while the former appointee is way-diminished from any influence or whatever small amount of public exposure that person might have had.

The political opponents are the only ones that get penalized, not the sitting councilmembers.

This is not to say that worthy incumbents should not be returned to office. If they've performed well, their record certainly will reflect that, and their constituents will be aware and reward them with a fresh term.

Elections provide an excellent opportunity for issues to be aired publicly and for the voters to understand more clearly the vision of the person they elect to represent them in city business.

If council members and the mayor have done a good job and desire to be re-elected, why then do they continue to support a blockade against others' running for their seats against them? Widening the tent to include all citizens simply does not occur here.

 What are those six little words? 

They are contained in Article 3, Section 11, of the portion, "Resign for candidacy", of the city charter. It says:

"If, at any time, any member of the Council, or any officer, boardmember or commissioner appointed by the Council, files to become a candidate (as defined by State law) in any general, special or primary election for any office of profit or trust under the laws of this State or the United States other than the office then held, such candidacy shall constitute an automatic resignation of the office then held, and the vacancy thereby created shall be filled pursuant to this Charter in the same manner as other vacancies for such office are filled."

Article 3, Section 11 looks so innocent, but the six little words ". . .  other than the office then held . . ." stuck in the middle of the article have much potential to do serious damage to Garland's electoral process. And those words do impact the city negatively! The city attorney's office defines "files to become a candidate" (as defined by State law) as the minute a candidate publicly states he or she definitely will run for specific seat on council or for mayor.

Those six little words in the charter show that the city is set up to be extremely biased in favor of incumbents or their surrogates in elections. It works to block and handicap potential challengers to the incumbent mayor or incumbent city councilmembers or their surrogates.

It was inserted in the charter deliberately to allow incumbents to keep their jobs, a long-time local political insider who had been on a previous charter committee told me a few years ago. Although councilmembers ostensibly are elected for two-year terms, they're really considered to be elected for six years (with the every-two-year election as merely a referendum if they haven't performed well), the insider told me.

That, to me, seems more like a "rigged" election. That's not the way our government is supposed to work. In fact, great turbulence is occurring today nationally over the issue of "rigged" elections and "rigged" party nominations. Those six little words make Garland seem guilty of the very thing that may have occurred nationally—the very thing that people everywhere are rising up against.

This article in the city's charter goes near the top of my list of the many laws, procedures, and practices that show that things are broken in Garland—they must be fixed for our city to achieve its maximum potential.

Fortunately, City Council recently approved a new Charter Review Committee, which is operational now. Whether the members appointed to the Charter Review Committee, which includes several repeats from years past including its chair, will be brave enough to act this time to remove this barrier remains to be seen.

Because of the political hurricane swirling in Garland these days and the approval over the mayor's objections of the short-term Charter Review Committee, I've been re-reading the city's charter. I'm amazed at some of the things I'm seeing that I've not discovered before. This is just one of them!

The deck is stacked against ordinary citizens. Unless a councilmember or mayor are lame ducks (have served their maximum number of terms), re-election is expected automatically.

However, lame-duck councilmembers, while they are still in office, hold some sway where elections of their successors are concerned. Lame-duck councilmembers sometimes anoint a potential successor and then use their TV time to overtly praise those they favor to succeed them in order to keep their power base as long as possible. Potential opponents to those blessed by the incumbent could face a virtual shutout. That setup is far different than an actual endorsement during a real campaign. One leans toward a "rigged" election where the lame-duck incumbent exercises unfair control and advantage; the latter is open and fair in the world of transparent, open politics.

This is the kind of electoral manipulation that honorable Republicans and Democrats in Washington, D.C., and Austin are fighting against—the power of the incumbency. Once elected, a person still needs to be accountable to his or her constituents. The incumbent should not be allowed to manipulate the outcome of future elections.

Unfortunately, that's not how it works in Garland. This needs to change!

The clause opens the city and its voters to all kinds of fraudulent activity, such as behind-the-scenes manipulation to try and keep someone from running for office. That's one of the reasons the rumor mill—a.k.a. the slander mill—works so effectively here. Potential candidates get scared off when they discover the mayor or a city councilperson is spreading false or half-true information about them and they have little way to fight back. I've seen it happen over and over to qualified potential  candidates here, who have quietly faded into oblivion. Some may prefer to call this practice "blackmail". I call it sleazy politics. Garland citizens deserve better than this.

It also may explain why the City Council has had so few nonwhite members over the years. District 4 City Councilman B.J. Williams is only the third African-American city councilmember EVER. District 6 City Councilman Robert Vera is only the second Hispanic EVER in the history of Garland. Former Mayor Ron Jones, a popular and respected city employee, was the only African-American to hold the office of mayor; he did so without being a councilmember first. No Asian-Americans. No Native Americans. No Jewish-Americans. Anglos (whites), who now are not the majority in the city, are the predominant officeholders.

Garland politicos desperately need to mentor Hispanics, African-Americans, and Asian-Americans as well as other non-Anglo groups—who together compose the majority of our citizenry—to run for public office and move into the seats of political power here. The boards and commissions are attracting more non-Anglo members, which is excellent. But these new faces in the political arena must come to grips with the same hurdle: challenge an incumbent, and one is immediately weakened by the unbalanced and unfair system.

The Charter Review Committee, consisting of people appointed by the same City Council members who benefit from this quirky provision in the charter, must get rid of this impediment to freer elections. However, even if the committee recommends it, City Council still gets the final say on what goes on the ballot to change the charter.

Remember, people in power seldom yield that power to citizens gracefully! I'm hoping our city council, despite its current state of disarray, will decide to do that which is right and remove the entire Section 11 of Article 3 from the charter.  

Then, in their final vote, let the people decide.

Garland's Hyatt Place, setting for this Thursday's annual Boards and Commissions dinner. Volunteer appointees will gather for this always-lovely event, but if they decide to serve in a higher capacity and run for office, they have to resign their appointment while the competing incumbent in that race gets to stay on.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Could it ever be said again of Central Park, "If you grew up in Garland, you pretty much lived there"?

"Going to carnivals on Daddy's arm"—pen-and-ink drawing by A. Doerner for K. Moore

On the wall of our home is a piece of commissioned art with Garland's Central Park as one of its themes. Today, as Central Park has risen to the forefront of local concerns, I'm especially proud that my wife, Kay, and I own this piece of artwork.

It's a pen-and-ink drawing of a little girl holding her dad's hand, with a ferris wheel in the background and balloons to the side. Missing her dad, after his passing, my wife hired an artist to produce this line art that depicted the two of them together during her childhood.

The scene with Kay's dad symbolizes their annual trip to Garland's Jaycee Jubilee in Central Park. That was their dad-and-daughter "thing" to do together—the now-defunct Labor Day extravaganza, always the day before Garland schools started in September. Because she grew up on nearby 11th Street, the park was but a brief walk for them. She and her mom had dress-shopping and story league and a thousand other gal things to do together, but Central Park represented dad-and-daughter time that could be counted on.

But the much-ballyhooed Jubilee was far from her only memory tied to the park. When we purchased our own house on 11th Street, just down from where Kay grew up, I was excited that I'd gotten a peach of a deal in a VA foreclosure. Kay was excited that she would live in the one-time home of the person who taught her to do a swan dive off the awesome high board at the Central Park pool.

Before taking lessons from Martha Walker, my wife had shuddered to get near the pool, which now has been filled in, its former placement covered with sand for a volleyball court. Kay says she developed a brave streak after those private lessons in the ole swimmin' hole. She tells our grandboys, "Close your eyes tight and you can still hear the squeals of kids trying the high dive." In their innocence, they squeeze tight and agree that yup, they for sure can hear something.

Kids in the kiddie pool area of the Central Park pool in the 1960s. Photo from "You know your from Garland TX if . . . ." (The Facebook page deliberately spells the third word "your".)

Kay isn't the only one who goes off on nostalgia binges about Central Park. Facebook pages such as "You know your from Garland TX If . . . ." and "Pioneers of Dallas County" share long streams of conversations about Central Park, back in the day. The place meant a lot to many people. Reading the convo streams, I'd say it was a sense of continuity and dependability and home as much as it was bricks and mortar. 

"If you grew up in Garland, you pretty much lived there," wrote one Facebooker recently.

Some Baby Boomers go back further and remember when the old swim steps and hand rails still existed above Duck Creek—a reminder of when the creek was dammed up starting in 1926 and people swam and even fished there—in what was known as Lake Garland in Williams Park, which became Central Park. The "ghost" rails still remained long after the new pool was opened in 1952, after the city acquired the property in 1948. In Kay's growing-up day, closing your eyes and hearing the splashes of kids swimming in the actual creek was the challenge throw down to youngsters. Once again, simple to do! 

When a $7-million improvement was announced for the park's aging Granger Center, it set the Facebook nostalgia streams off again.  Boomers recalled how the then state-of-the-art rec center once had seemed like a dream come true after the creepy two-story army surplus barracks that had sat on the same site and was the scene for sock hops and school Halloween carnivals. 

Kay remembered the then-slick new Granger for a different reason. Deathly ill from walking pneumonia, she presided over the early spring "Popularity Ball", at which Garland High School favorites were announced by the yearbook staff. The week before, with work in high gear, she was felled with a ghastly bug and ran fever as she sat under the hair dryer for her up-do. She showed up at the ball against doctor's orders. I've seen photos of her in semi-formal attire after she pulled herself together enough to make the show go on. She's as white as the trellis behind her. The Granger represents some kind of "against-all-odds" moral victory to her. 

The nearby Granger annex is where she survived a trial of another kind: downing stinky limburger cheese in a middle-school band initiation. Are such things even allowed today? Regardless, the Annex to Kay stands for fortitude and true grit. (Should it be saved from the bulldozer just because of that? I'm not making that statement. Many factors, including the ongoing suitability and repurpose-ability of a building, influence that decision, not just a building's age. But does it hold memories for lots? Certainly.)

Not all Central Park memories are ones to be proud of. It is said that a town's segregation history is never more apparent than in the story of its swimming pools. In Kay's growing-up days, the pool was clearly whites-only. She remembers when one 1950s afternoon, a swimmer with an especially dark tan was having a splashing good time in the Central Park pool. Suddenly authorities, alerted that she might have broken a racial barrier, pulled her out and checked her ethnicity. Anglo, but what humiliation to the young woman and what a sad commentary on our society then! Whites only! Still makes my Civil Rights Baby-Boomer mindset burn with furor! 

Wouldn't a reset on that venerable old pool be a terrific, healing thing for Garland? 

I've often suggested that the city might study re-creating the original Lake Garland as both a tourist attraction and locus of redevelopment along Garland Avenue. Wouldn't it be great to have our own city lake featuring high-quality swimming for people of all ethnicities—intentionally symbolizing racial reconciliation, recognizing the history that has gone before on that site, and making giant steps toward the future?

Yes, I'm a dreamer with lots and lots of ideas. I've been accused of seeing things others can't see about the potential in a situation. Just like John F. Kennedy, I plead guilty to the charge.

Actually, on this particular idea, I'm borrowing from a former president of Baylor University in Waco. When I was sophomore at Baylor, I heard Baylor President Abner V. McCall talk about his vision of damming up Waco Creek and creating Lake Brazos. He talked about sailboats, party boats, and all sorts of water sports in an area of Waco that then was nothing but embarrassing slums. I leaned over to the person sitting next to me and whispered, "What has that old man been smoking?" Most people found Dr. McCall's vision difficult to even comprehend.

If you know anything about Waco today, you may recognize that 50 years later the shoreline of Lake Brazos is one of the hottest developments in all of Texas. Even Chip and Joanna's Magnolia Market isn't far from that marvelous waterfront property.  

When I have suggested rebuilding Lake Garland, I'm always met with the legalistic answer, "We don't own the water rights."

Lake Garland, a private lake created by D. Cecil Williams in 1926. Photo from the Garland Landmark Society. Long after the dam over Duck Creek was removed and Lake Garland ceased to exist, ladders and landings could still be observed on the creek.
That's the same answer most people gave about all the creeks and rivers in south central Oklahoma when my Chickasaw ancestors tried to talk about the potential of those waterways. That is, until the U.S. Supreme Court made it clear who really does own the land and mineral rights under and the water passing through those waterways—the tribe!

At the same time, for nearly two decades I've lived a very bad memory of Central Park—the exact opposite of my wife's fond recall—and have been screaming my lungs out ever since about the Park's questionable overall security—an issue that must be addressed regardless of which side wins in the current battle about the property on the eastern edge of the park along Glenbrook.

After we moved to downtown nearly two decades ago, I went running in Central Park (on the side closest to Garland Avenue) early almost every morning—just like I used to do in nearby parks where we lived in Houston, Franklin, TN, and Richmond, VA.  

On one particular morning about sunrise I realized I was alone in the park except for a carload of young men who clearly had been out all night drinking and had decided to follow me very closely. Thanks to my nearly lifelong running skills, I was able to outmaneuver and outrun them and their car. I still dread to think of what might have happened had I not reacted quickly both mentally and physically. Once out of the park that morning, I never returned for my morning runs there.

Again and again since this matter first materialized, I've stated that one of my main concerns about Central Park hasn't been addressed.

About two months ago Kay and I took our two grandboys for a picnic at noon on a Saturday in the park. The only people in the park were us and a growing group of young men guzzling beer several picnic tables away. As their numbers grew and the amount of beer consumed increased, our wariness escalated, so we yielded the park to them.

When I later told a city official about it, the response was, "Drinking is not legal in our parks."

Did that fact seem to stop the party I just witnessed?

Once it was Grandma's sneakered feet that clambered over Central Park's natural draws. Now, we enjoy bringing grandboys to the same treasured setting. Our dream is that this beautiful old park can achieve its best!

To us, it's great that this dear-to-the-heart park now may have a chance to go back on the city's high priority list. We'd like to see it be elevated to the best park ever with whatever is the best solution for its beautiful acreage.

I wish the political battle lines in our city were not so deeply drawn over three elements in the park (the planned demolition of the armory's largest building, the proposed dog park, and the proposed skate park) on a few acres in the 50-acre park that no way seems to exist for the city to back up and look at the park from the bigger, global perspective.  

As I've often said, I prefer the big picture first and then the details. Some seem to prefer the details first from which they then form the bigger picture.

I would prefer for a well-vetted, blue-ribbon panel of citizens with a heart for the park to first develop a master plan that is neighborhood- and town-friendly for everything that runs from Garland Avenue to Glenbrook, from Avenue G to the apartments and cemeteries to the south—but given the political dynamics now at play over that small corner of the park along Glenbrook, sadly I don't see that happening.

As I have said, I dream big—not in small increments or building by building!

Maybe some day when the current political hurricane passes and some of the hurt feelings fade, we can get back to looking at the big picture of what is best overall for Garland's beloved Central Park. There's so much more to the park than just a few acres along Glenbrook—and all of it needs the city's tender-loving attention.

How great if it could again be said of Central Park in the current day: "If you're from Garland, you pretty much lived there."

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

PART 3: WHITHER GARLAND?: Do citizens really count here? I've long had my doubts.

With a securely cordoned-off skate park right behind them, these youngsters gear up for a picnic. A small road in this well-designed parks complex separates the skate park from a dog park in the vicinity. The municipality's government office building and a police sub-station are part of the complex, enhancing security.

(Third of three in Whither Garland? series)

My wife and I may be among the few Garlandites that have experienced a perfectly designed dog park/skate park plan up close and personal—and working splendidly.

In the Arizona community where we own investment properties, a top-notch dog park and skate park have been meticulously designed and built as part of a master plan for the community. They draw hundreds of visitors each day.

Our grandchildren, who visit, love to stand outside the fence surrounding each. They like to see the puppies arrive for their outings. They like to see the kids on skateboards. We all enjoy watching the great fellowship of the owners while the dogs are at play. It's a fun place for observers and skateboarders as well as for the canine population.

In this same recreation complex also are a walking trail, bike trail, kids' playground and splash pad, soccer fields, and a small cafe and picnic areas as well as many other attractions—all intertwined in a marvelous architecturally pleasing way. The dog park and skate park are separated from each other by a small road. We always feel perfectly safe and feel confident about our grandbabies' safety when we visit.

A nearby small cafe that serves ice cream is an allure for onlookers. Kiddos carry their ice cream over to watch the puppies and the skaters. The complex is close enough to attract nearby residents but far away enough not to be an impairment.
It is situated close enough to be effective for nearby residential subdivisions but far enough away to not be a nuisance. Our properties are just the right distance from the park. From our street one can easily see the park lights at night, but they are far enough away not to bother us or our snowbird tenants in the over-55 community.

One of the reasons we like the dog park/skate park is because the overall park includes a city government complex and a police substation. These entities maintain careful watch and aren't about to let anything happen that poses danger to visitors to the surrounding park features.

Considering myself having had firsthand experience with a successful dog park/skate park combo, ever since the issue of a dog park and skate park arose in Garland almost a year ago I have volunteered in various city circles to sit down and offer my lay expertise, provide contact information in that particular community, and put my suggestions in the mix. We even would have hosted appropriate city authorities to go and stay in one of our properties to see first hand how a dog park and skate park work successfully in tandem.
The dog park, surrounded by high fences, is positioned well behind the children's playground. Those who live in the area appreciate that the parks complex is a high traffic area because it gives the feeling of added security, especially with the police station a part of the mix. Surrounding neighborhoods are close but not too close.

I mentioned it to a current parks-department official, whose employment history has even included tenure in another Arizona municipality.

"Blink blink" has been the only reply. Those to whom I offered my suggestions blinked at me politely but never followed through on information that I believe would have been helpful to Garland—and might even could have saved the current dilemma.

This situation as well as many others make me wonder: Do citizens really matter in Garland?

Some years back, Mayor Athas decided to appoint then-private citizen David Gibbons (now council member and mayor pro tem) as chair of another of his "secret" task forces, this one assigned to work on a plan for the so-called Bankhead Triangle (where State Highway 66 divides into East Avenues B and D). He appointed a group of citizens and developers to figure out how to make that portion from the beginning of the triangle to First Street blossom. 

Gibbons wisely included District 2 Councilmember Anita Goebel on the secret committee. Her name appears in the minutes of that group. All was rolling along quite nicely when something went dreadfully wrong. Goebel decided the "secret" committee was holding "secret" meetings with the mayor at the Main Street Cafe downtown without her.

At the end of a televised Council meeting two weeks before Gibbons took office, Goebel publicly confronted the mayor and Gibbons, who was sitting in the audience, about the "secret" meeting. The meeting was soon ruled adjourned and the city's communications staff worked swiftly to shut off the TV cameras, but not before the TV audience caught a glimpse of the dramatic confrontation.

That task force never met again and soon was disbanded. Valuable citizen input was dropped.

So much for another great project! I and many others would have loved to see this idea and area developed to completion. An out-of-state developer was visiting the other day, so I drove him by the "Bankhead Triangle". We both saw such great potential there but felt sad that the disregarded citizen input lost over a council fight over secrecy had destroyed a great opportunity for our city—at least for now.

The old and abandoned Eastern Hills Country Club presented another opportunity for citizen input—and not just from the angry citizens living in that area.

Repeatedly I told elected and other city officials about a retired citizen who moved to Garland after spending his life building world-class golf courses all over the world, including Europe, China, and the Middle East. He has friends worldwide who are still in that business, including some who have transitioned into the specialty field of either restoring or re-purposing golf courses that have closed down.

It seemed normal to me that city leaders would want to meet and hear this citizen's insights regarding Eastern Hills Country Club.

While the fight flared between a representative of the Henry S. Miller Co., who proposed cramming 500-plus homes onto the old golf course, and Eastern Hills residents who opposed the Miller plan and struggled to find their own solution, my friend easily could have provided the contacts necessary to perhaps solve the problem.

He was never consulted.

About 10 months ago, my friend contacted someone in his field who has an interest in finding a solution for the Eastern Hills Golf Course. The three of us, along with an Eastern Hills resident, toured the golf course and talked about ideas. A few weeks later, we all four went to one of the citizens' meetings just to listen.

My friend's friend is also talking with investors about his idea. Will his plan work? I don’t know. My purpose here isn’t to tout one developer’s ideas. I’m more concerned that our citizens are not consulted, especially when they have more expertise in a field than the consultants with high price tags the city hires.

In this day of instant Internet access and public TV airing of important city business, where do citizens fit into the mix in this city? Do city bureaucrats believe that only they and their consultants deserve the right to have input taken seriously? Why are citizens minimized again and again and again?

As we worked on redeveloping our 11th Street in downtown Garland, I came across in a university library in West Texas a 1985 Garland citizens study of the future of downtown Garland. It contained absolutely fabulous ideas, including a proposed National Register historic district for our Travis College Hill neighborhood (only larger because it included houses that have since been torn down) and Downtown Garland around the Square.

When I finally located a now-retired city official who remembered the study, he shrugged it off as just another citizens committee that came up with a bunch of ideas that were never implemented. In the list of that committee’s members were names of people who still live in Garland and have lost their appetites for the “latest, greatest idea” for downtown Garland—because they and others were not taken seriously more than 40 years ago. One of those was the owner of the building on the north side of the Square that so many complain about because it sits empty. Had the committee he served on been taken seriously instead of just kissed off, think where we might be today with that empty building on the Square!

A recent public citizens' task force on streets, which recommended a slight tax increase to improve our wretched potholes, got treated about the same way as that 1985 committee.

Our neighborhood has just completed the first successful historic tax credit application in Garland. I have guided the application through the state bureaucracy and received 25-percent tax credit for an improvement on Garland's Historic Pace House, an investment property.

"It's too complicated," protest other citizens who have been reluctant to apply for their own downtown projects. I found it to be just the opposite, with a bevy of employees at the Texas Historical Commission and in the Texas Comptroller’s Office eager to help me. Significant amounts of additional outside funds could be pumped into Garland redevelopment, at no cost to the city. I have tons of tips at my disposal. To get the city's attention, I have had to work about as hard as I did to complete the tax-credit project. And the city reception has lacked enthusiasm.

To me, this should be information that the city is eagerly, aggressively seeking out. I wonder why I had to approach the city about this matter instead of the city approaching me? Because it's coming from a private citizen, and not a consultant under contract, is it given less value?

Do citizens really matter here? Or only city employees, their consultants, and elected officials?

Now enter the third of the known Athas task forces—the makerspace task force aka the makerspace ad hoc committee.

Apparently, unlike the other two I've mentioned in this series, Councilmember Goebel was not included in this group's meetings. Neither was I nor Councilmember Gibbons.

Though the group says on its website that other city councilmembers besides the mayor were involved with it, none of the current councilmembers claims foreknowledge. And the makerspace advocates have not publicly identified any sitting councilmembers as involved with their effort. They do, however, work closely with former city council member Randal Dunning.

So, here we are today in the middle of a great big political mess. The current crisis was created when the makerspace task force, with Athas' blessings, asked for the old National Guard Armory as its place of operation—setting it on a collision course with the Parks Department's efforts to follow council's direction a few weeks earlier and locate the new dog and skate parks at Central Park on the same property being eyed by the makerspace task force.
 A collision was inevitable and thus it happened. The fallout is sickening us all!

And all of this because yet another of the mayor's "secret" task forces had been at work—secretly. The makerspace ad hoc committee needed to be out on the table from the very beginning, with council and others aware of its existence early on. This is a microcosm of how secrecy on the part of elected officials and staff gets the City of Garland into so much difficulty.

So, how could this mess have been avoided?

Very simply: The mayor could have publicly acknowledged each of his special task forces, brought council in on what he was doing, and refused to call them "secret". He could have been more open with his council members about his actions. In fact, he could have encouraged some of them to set up their own private task forces to look into issues in their particular districts.

I also would have preferred this: During many of its reviews of its policies during the Athas years, council could have set guidelines on these mayoral task forces, kitchen cabinets, citizen committees, etc. Council could have requested—or demanded—that this mayor and any succeeding mayors simply make the groups he created known to council with or without an authorization vote and agreed to guidelines that the mayor was to follow about routine reports from his special task forces.

These seem like very natural and workable solutions to the problem.

Unfortunately, none of that has happened. Few in this culture seem to know or understand the principle, "Who else needs to know?" Secrecy just doesn't work!

So where are Garland's citizens in all of this? Too often left out "in the cold". Expertise from the public—beyond just reports from paid consultants—gets little regard. Those who seriously could lend a strong hand to helping solve city dilemmas are shunned.

The system is broken. It must be fixed, before Garland—a city with huge potential—becomes the laughingstock of all.

The city must find a way to include its citizens, who pay the bills for all the city does, to feel empowered and not minimized by their community's bureaucracy and elected officials.

Great ideas for the city's East End, hatched up by a citizens' committee, lie fallow while the area remains undeveloped. Does citizen input, because it's not the work of a high-priced consultant, make any difference? Are the only ideas that are taken seriously those that cost taxpayers money?


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Part 2: WHITHER GARLAND?: Best to always ask, "Who else needs to know?"

             One tiny word—secrecy—but it represents a dynamic that causes stalemates and boondoggles where numerous Garland projects can't get accomplished.

"Who else needs to know?"

My wife's manager during the last job she held in the corporate world was almost a broken record with this question he posed to her constantly. When her editing team was about to roll out a new book or initiative or make some revolutionary change in the way things were done, he would query her endlessly about whether all the bases had been touched, commucations-wise.

This is the same message we both experienced while working in the corporate culture of the Houston Chronicle: run everything by the proper people. No surprises. Don't keep someone crucial out of the loop, so no opposition arises over procedural matters.

At the heart of the current political crisis facing Garland lies the mayor's penchant for secrecy and the council's curious hesitation to take on the issue more aggressively by the horns.

Let me say that again: "Who else needs to know?"

That practice of analyzing "Who else needs to know?" doesn't seem to be at the forefront of the mayor's modus operandi and that of some of our other Garland leaders.

It should be no surprise that the current issue between the mayor and council involves his secrecy tendencies, particularly his penchant for forming secret task forces to address issues. The matter involving the task force (aka ad hoc committee) on makerspaces and the old National Guard Armory buildings on the edge of Central Park is just the latest example of Athas' working in the shadows.

In this case, even the city’s Parks Department failed to follow the maxim when it abruptly started planning to tear down the South Garland Little League field as part of a bigger plan to tear down the armory and build dog and skate parks on the east side of Central Park along Glenbrook.
This framed artwork in our home reminds us of a question Kay's boss asked again and again when her team was rolling out this series of products: "Who else needs to know?", making sure all corporate bases were covered with proper communication.

Some neighbors in the nearby Embree neighborhood surrounding the controversial sites first complained about the possibility of a makerspace in the old armory, then later others complained about the last-minute notice regarding the dog and skate parks and the proposed demolition of the main armory building—that they had not had adequate awareness and input on any of the issues.

I’m sure these neighbors in Embree must feel whipsawed by all the communications blunders that have occurred on the Central Park side of their neighborhood.

Athas' tenure as mayor is littered with similar examples.

Councilmembers are wary of Athas’ tendency to secrecy, but I'm sometimes surprised that they have never brought this matter to the table to be addressed comprehensively and publicly. 

Individual council members have lashed out at the mayor on City TV over select issues related to secrecy, but it has never been addressed globally. Council could have called for a concerted study of the mayor's covert operations along this line, but never has. There certainly has been major concentrated effort to look into his expense report policies and his boards and commissions appointments.

Athas, one of Garland's most veteran politicians, is also quite skilled at envisioning ideas that are good for Garland. However, at the same time he seriously lacks some of the communications skills to pull these off. It's a regrettable combination.

I have firsthand knowledge of the inside of this situation. Shortly after his election as mayor, Doug Athas arrived at my home and then returned on several occasions to ask if I would chair his new Mayor's Task Force on Historical Preservation. I was honored and delighted; I accepted. He brought me books on historical preservation, gave me some great ideas, and in so many ways mentored me for my current interest in historical preservation in Garland.

Weeks after the task force began meeting, the mayor and I were in a public meeting with citizens. Athas told that group the task force was "a secret task force" and that they were not to leave the room and talk about anything he or I had said.

I thought he was joking and afterward asked him why he would make such an unusual comment. He was very clear he considered our task force to be "secret"—despite having just made this announcement to a well-networked group of people with many contacts throughout the city. How could it possibly be secret after this announcement? I wondered. I was very clear that I work in daylight, not darkness.

After that I tried to see that all councilmembers were informally briefed about the work of the task force—though I got my ears burned by several who were extremely bothered that the mayor was not keeping council as a group informed about our task force's activities.

I did what I believed was necessary; the mayor did what he believed was his right.

I also made certain that District 2 Councilmember Anita Goebel, in whose district much historical-preservation activity occurs, was invited to all meetings and encouraged to participate. Her name appears frequently in the minutes to the meetings.

The road on which that task force traveled was rocky at times. After Phase 1 of the work was finished (and successfully, I might add), I found myself mostly shut out of future mayoral task forces and totally minimized as a part of the city's next effort to add the Garland Downtown Historic District to the National Register of Historic Places—despite the fact that under Kay’s and my leadership our Travis College Hill Historic District became the first site ever in the history of Garland to be added to that prestigious federal registry. We did it at ZERO cost to the city, while the undisclosed city costs for the Square may have run into the multi thousands of dollars.

I was the guy with all the history and experience on this subject, but until I complained loud and long, I was not sought out in this next crucial process involving the Downtown district.

Experience didn't matter. Being unwilling to operate in the shadows and darkness did seem to be majorly important.

Now, don't get me wrong: I see no problem with a mayor having a "kitchen cabinet", a "citizens advisory council" on some matter, or even a "task force" to study a subject. Calling it secret, or allowing it to be discovered that the committee has been at work for a long time already without the rest of the council knowing, however, sets off dynamics with councilmembers and the public that are not good for anyone.

Then, the "secrecy" becomes the issue—not the merits of the subject studied.

The mayor's explanation for wanting the "secret" task forces was that the council members he disliked (or feared—I could never decide which) so intently would somehow work against the ultimate outcome of the task force.

I found exactly the opposite to be true. Councilmembers that the mayor identified as his enemies turned out to be key supporters of projects the "secret" task force I headed proposed. They seemed to appreciate my efforts to keep them informed and up-to-date on all we were doing.

We seem to be a city of secrets and that holds us back. I much prefer that we be a city of truth and light!

(Tomorrow: Do citizens really count?)

Monday, October 23, 2017

Part 1: WHITHER GARLAND? Fixing a Broken System Must Be Key Beyond Current Central Park Dilemma

Unbalanced tenant ratio in apartments at old bank site threatens downtown rebirth, which needs more nearby residents with money to spend.

"We have met the enemy and he is us," said the wise cartoon character, Pogo.

Too often Pogo's words apply to our hometown of Garland.

All too often, when yet another project either fails or gets badly mangled and bungled, I think of Pogo and his famous line.

Pogo's maxim has been on my mind these last few days in light of last Tuesday night's gut-wrenching, eye-popping City Council session, which culminated in Mayor Doug Athas announcing that he plans to resign.

The tensions on council have been steadily climbing for several years now, growing increasingly ugly during the past year with tempers flaring and incendiary remarks being made—forcing the city to look closely at the Open Meetings Act to determine what has to be by law aired in reruns and on public TV itself.

When you think things can't get any worse, they suddenly do. Now the whole DFW Metroplex and beyond knows Garland is in a state of political turmoil and facing a complex political dilemma that isn't going away any time soon.

Athas' plans to resign without a specific time-frame or date of departure and clear delineation for a path forward, along with his and his friends' public campaign against his six opponents on the City Council, leaves the city in a severe political crisis.

As it has escalated over the past year, the turmoil on council has resulted in numerous projects in the city being thrown into a state of confusion—sometimes into the trash can.

To name a few:

1. The Tinsley-Lyles House debacle (covered in a previous blog, "A Tale of Two Historic Garland Houses");

2. The Central Park makerspace/dog park/skate park/armory (and other related issues there) circus;

3. The so-called "Bankhead Triangle" (Highway 66 entrance into Garland where it divides into West Avenues B and D in the heart of one of Garland's remaining African-American communities) fiasco;

4. The Eastern Hills Country Club stalemate;

5. The potential powder keg looming on the horizon because 70 percent of the new apartments slowly being carved out of the old Bank of America site will very likely mostly be reserved for Section 8 (lower-income) tenants—in a location that desperately needs to draw inhabitants with extra money to spend in the developing cadre of restaurants and stores downtown.

When I focus on just those five (four of which are less than two miles of my home in District 2), I want to shake my head in disbelief. It is simply incredible that things have been allowed to get so out of hand. It's like a horror movie that runs nonstop.

Will Eastern Hills Country Club continue as another casualty of city government crisis?

Then when I think about the new city contract—two years in the making—to purchase the old Hypermart building site after the current owner tears the building down, I wonder whether it, too, will join the list of failed projects because it still has many roads to travel to redevelopment.

As I look around and see the huge economic and building boom occurring all over Dallas and most of the other DFW area cities, I cringe with fear that Garland—the second-largest city in Dallas County, the 12th-largest in Texas, and the 87th-largest in the U.S.—is going to once again miss out and lose the moment.

Instead it will be like the orchestra on the sinking Titanic insistently playing our city's old "Happy Days Are Here Again!" refrain about the good things happening along our northern rim surrounding the George Bush Freeway, in the old Raytheon site at Miller at Jupiter, and finally (after a 2.5-year wrangle with the city's red tape) what's going to happen on the former Wyrick Farm at Jupiter and Buckingham (which was not a city initiative but private enterprise at its best). While those developments are positive, they cannot cover up the difficulties that threaten our city at the moment.

No wonder no one, except in jest, mentions Garland as a potential site for Amazon's huge expansion that our sister cities in the area are busy trying to woo!

We need solutions to our issues, not political fights. We absolutely do not need a political civil war polarizing and destroying our city and turning citizens against one another—which is already happening.

Without fixing the broken system, however, the problems will perpetuate, only with new faces in the picture frames.

(Tomorrow I'll write more about the heart of the issue facing the city in its current crisis.)

The Tinsley-Lyles House debacle is one of five messes that needs to be fixed.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

"You're what? By how much?" Native American heritage spawns questions, myths, and identification with others who are oppressed

I'm very proud of The Great Seal of the Chickasaw Nation that is displayed in the living room of our home in Garland.

I was privileged to be born a Texan—and, of course, a U.S. citizen at the same time.

I also was privileged to be born with Native American ancestry on my father's side. His father—my grandfather—was fastidious despite prejudice all around him to make sure all proper paperwork was in order for himself and his family. Because of that, I am a full citizen and elder of "the unconquered and unconquerable" Chickasaw Nation.

The pain my grandfather and other Chickasaw ancestors went through helps me empathize with other nonwhite groups that have suffered greatly because of prejudicial acts.

Because those on my mother's side were Scotch-Irish, some people don't understand my full Native American citizenship and ask me, "What percentage Indian are you really? You can't be full-blood. You look like a lot less. How can you be a Chickasaw citizen?"

We recently received some correspondence from a friend that, lightheartedly, described me as "part Chickasaw". However, legally, you are or you aren't a Chickasaw citizen. There's no in-between category. "Part" has no place in our Chickasaw Nation's laws or vocabulary.

What most people don't understand is that the U.S. government used blood quantums as one of many cruel means to try and assimilate Native Americans into the white culture—as a tool to erase the "Indian" tribes from history.

Had our government used the same means to describe African-Americans, who in many instances also have "white" ancestors, the technique would have backfired, exposing an additional ugly and despicable underside of American slavery—the assault of many female slaves by their white masters.

As Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has found out during her career, the matter of Native American blood quantum is badly misunderstood and misused by the American public today.

I know several other Garlandites, including one prominent pastor and one formerly active politico, who are like Senator Warren—they know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they have Native American roots and can even identify the tribe, but they just can't prove or document it.

Sometimes various Garland residents have asked for my help in establishing their Native American roots. Unfortunately, the U.S. government has made it next to impossible for them to do that unless one of their lineal ancestors actually had the courage to register by signing up for the Dawes Rolls. (Dawes Rolls are the Congressional-mandated listing of all tribal members in the U.S. as of December 31, 1906).

And furthermore, they must go through much government red tape (a series of birth certificates, death certificates, and even notarized, sworn statements from older relatives attesting to their parentage).

Unfortunately for Senator Warren, who grew up in the same era on another side of Oklahoma City from me, her grandparents or great-grandparents must have been, for whatever reason, frightened of acknowledging their Cherokee heritage and decided against registering on the government's Dawes Rolls, even though they apparently talked about their Indian heritage privately and quietly at home—a not-uncommon practice in the late 1800s and early 1900s, when some groups treated Native Americans as badly as they did African-Americans.

My paternal grandfather, on the other hand, was straightforward and proud of his Chickasaw heritage—and probably a little bull-headed about it, too. He was willing to endure whatever discrimination might come his way to publicly align himself with his roots. His great-grandmother had been a substantial property-holder in Mississippi but was forced to leave her native land during the 1830s "Indian removal" because of her Chickasaw bloodline. In fact, the last Chickasaw group of 186 people (including my grandfather's grandfather and grandmother and his father) to leave their homeland in Mississippi is named in history books for her—Delilah Love Mitchell Moore.

Before Delilah was forced to depart with her whole household and extended family, she even deeded some of her land as a gift for what is now the town of Holly Springs, MS. This one-time prosperous Southern lady lost everything due to the persecution of Native Americans. Today she lies buried in an unmarked grave in Ft. Washita, OK.

Despite her means and because she was Chickasaw, Grandmother Delilah is buried in an unmarked Oklahoma grave.

My grandfather carried this tragic family story etched on his heart throughout his life, so not identifying as a Chickasaw went against every fiber of his being. He signed when asked.

Unfortunately, the senator has none of the official documentation that I have on file both at the Chickasaw capital in Ada, OK, and locked in my bank's safety deposit box in Garland.

By the way, my bloodline includes some Choctaws, too, but the predominant strain is Chickasaw. One is allowed by law to be a member of only one tribe, usually the dominant strain.

To fully understand the whole debate over blood quantum, one has to study Native American history and the U.S. government's massive efforts in the 1800s and early 1900s to amalgamate the Native peoples, especially the so-called Five Civilized Tribes (Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole), into the white culture.

The modern Chickasaw Nation was among the first tribes in the U.S. to outlaw "the white man's" blood quantum formulas. Most tribes today have followed suit and done away with it.

Before the U.S. government effort began in the early 1800s, Chickasaws and other tribes had their own way of identifying and accounting for their tribal members. One had to have a bloodline that included Chickasaws, a parent who was a member of the tribe, and also a desire to identify with the Chickasaw Nation.

Toward the end of the 1800s and into the early 1900s U.S. government agents often would try to get uneducated and abused Native Americans registering for the government's official Dawes Rolls to describe themselves as one-half, one-fourth, one-eighth, one-sixteenth et al. Chickasaw, Choctaw, Cherokee, and so forth in hopes that when the percentage down the line would eventually get so small, tribal members would begin thinking of themselves as all white—and the tribes would fade into history.

Many who gave out those percentages really didn't know enough about their own personal genealogy to provide accurate percentages, a fact the Chickasaw citizenship office in Ada often cites. That office scorns any written percentages in the historical records as pure fantasy.

The policy didn't work. By the 1960s, the tribes were reorganizing after being marginalized and almost destroyed between 1907 and the late 1960s. Today, Chickasaw citizens like me make sure that their children, grandchildren, and so forth, are officially registered and certified.

Ironically, blood quantums were not something the government ever tried to force on African-Americans, despite the fact that it was common knowledge that black slave women were often forcibly raped or used as sexual objects by their white masters—thus producing children of truly "mixed blood". President Thomas Jefferson and his black slave, Sally Hemings, are the most prominent examples. Only in recent decades has the Jefferson family been willing to admit publicly its ties to Sally and her descendants, who were looked down on by white society as only African-Americans.

In my college days when I was involved in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, one of my African-American friends said rather bluntly, "Look at my family and you'll see that all 10 of my brothers and sisters and I have slightly different skin tones, even though all 11 of us have the same mom and dad. That's because of what the white slave masters did to my female ancestors. They raped them. Or used them as sex objects. And they often got them pregnant. Out of their behavior came children of so-called mixed blood. And they refused to acknowledge them, too. My white ancestry shows up in these variations of skin tones."

My friend claimed that a great number of African-Americans have white ancestry in their heritage, too. That made me wonder why the public brands all African-Americans as "black" when many are indeed "part white".


Had the U.S. government tried its blood quantum technique on the African slaves, it would have had to admit that an incredible amount of unreported sexual assault occurred to black slave women by their "masters" or male members of their "master's" household during the days of slavery—something our political leaders until late were loathe to do. So the issue of "blood quantum" never arose in the African-American community. Ignoring the sexual abuse of female slaves was shameful on the part of our government!

For nearly 50 years now I have voted not only in local, state, and U.S. federal elections but also in tribal elections, too. I also regularly have participated in tribal meetings.

I'm proud of those facts. I'm also proud of my grandfather who laid the foundation so that I, my children, and my grandchildren have a very fine, provable Native American heritage!

The Chickasaw White House in Oklahoma is similar in architectural style and date to Garland's Historic Pace House.