Dallas is a prosperous community, and we are blessed with the continued prospect of sustained economic growth. Yet despite an optimistic outlook, large segments of our community are not thriving.
Too many of our residents are confronted every day by challenges to simply exist—homelessness, poverty, unemployment, underemployment, social and racial inequity, gun violence, food insecurity, access to quality education. This is Dallas’ true resilience challenge: overcoming the social and economic challenges that deny many of our residents’ social justice and economic well-being for themselves and their families.
This Strategy sets out a pioneering vision for addressing inequity as one of the major challenges of the 21st century. As cities across the country grapple with widening disparities between rich and poor, between those with opportunity and those without, Resilient Dallas helps advance an understanding that for a city to be resilient, these gaps must be addressed.
A Resilient Dallas is an equitable Dallas
The poverty rate in Dallas is outpacing its overall population growth. Unless we commit to understanding the root causes of disparity and the inequities it creates, we will be naive to the burdens imposed on our marginalized residents. More importantly, we must examine the governmental policies and programs that reinforce these disparities and trap Dallas residents in poverty.
Key actions for advancing equity in city government include:
- Build an equitable city administration and workplace culture
- Support and partner with anchor institutions and community-based efforts to advance equity initiatives across Dallas by recognizing and reconciling a history of inequity and fostering communication of social differences between diverse communities and individuals.
- Incorporate an Equity Lens into the citywide visioning process for Goals for Dallas 2030, creation of the City’s Strategic Plan, and development of the biennial budget.
- Commit to identifying and measuring inequity to drive collaborative action across sectors.
Dallas is welcoming when we embrace our diversity
Immigrants are a growing economic force in Dallas. From 2011 to 2016, immigrants accounted for more than 40% of Dallas’ total population growth, and they comprise almost 32% of the employed labor force. Their contribution to the Dallas economy is equally impressive: immigrant households earn more than $7.9 billion in total income and wield $5.4 billion in spending power.
Given the uncertainty of immigration reform at the federal level and the rancorous tenor of the national debate, it is incumbent upon local leadership to allay fears and promote the successful inclusion of immigrants in the social and economic fabric of our community.
Key actions to ensure Dallas is a welcoming city to immigrants and all residents:
- Partner with Welcoming America to become a Certified Welcoming City, a national best practices program
that assesses and scores a city’s strengths and achievements toward becoming an inclusive, welcoming place for immigrants.
- Develop a community leadership partnership strategy with a focus on immigration reception and increasing immigrant participation in civic life.
- Improve immigrant access to government, nonprofit, and educational services and resources to foster well-being and prosperity.
Dallas works when our people work
Since the Great Recession, the city of Dallas has consistently maintained an unemployment rate below the national average, and the robust regional economy continues to boom beyond all expectations. Last year, the DFW metropolitan area generated the highest job growth rate in the country, only 7,000 jobs shy of New York’s total, a metropolitan area with triple our population.
Numerous factors coalesce to explain this economic phenomenon―low cost of living, business-friendly regulatory environment, minimal tax burden, central location and temperate climate, a well-diversified economic base―all similarly impressive. But these superlative features belie an insidious poverty rate and the swelling ranks of the working poor.
This paradox of crushing poverty in the face of a consistently strong economy is due to a mix of national and global trends coupled with Dallas’ unique economic characteristics and circumstances. For the prosperity of our residents and our city, Dallas must expand economic mobility to move the working poor into the comfort and security of middle-income life.
Key actions for increasing economic mobility for Dallas’ vulnerable and marginalized residents:
- Prioritize workforce readiness and training, skills development, small business capacity-building, and access to wrap-around services to provide marginalized populations access to living wage jobs and career pathways.
- Collaborate with the Community Council of Greater Dallas to develop outreach strategies, programs, and workforce services for Dallas residents who experience.
- Champion community efforts that ensure a) all Dallas students have access to a quality education that provides the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in the 21stcentury workforce; and b) high school graduates are career- and/ or college-ready with access to post-secondary opportunities for education, certification, or employment.
- Partner with key community stakeholders, including the Dallas County Community College District, community-based organizations, and local foundations to explore successful financial empowerment center models that leverage municipal engagement or support.
Dallas moves when our people can move
21st-century urban mobility will be defined by accessibility, not lane miles designed and constructed for single-occupant vehicles. A superior mobility system will provide convenient, affordable access to all aspects of urban living―employment, education, health care, shopping and services, and recreation. While our current transportation systems and infrastructure were adequate for the past century, Dallas must embrace rapidly advancing technology to meet the mobility demands of this century and improve transportation equity for all Dallas residents.
This will necessitate changes in transportation priorities and investments, as well as a new approach to city building and urban design. Dallas has already begun the transformation to higher density with a mix of land uses. Our transportation planners have also acknowledged the need to reclaim portions of our expansive rights-of-way to accommodate the range of mode choices within the public realm. Streets must be physically redefined to safely accommodate pedestrians, cyclists, shared mobility vehicles, and public transit in addition to the private automobile. The gradual and successful transition of all these aspects will build not only a superior transportation system, but economic and social equity for transit-dependent people who today are denied opportunities available to their more mobile counterparts.
Key actions to ensure Dallas provides residents with reasonable, reliable, and equitable access:
- Ensure the Strategic Mobility Plan incorporates transportation equity into all elements of the plan, including the vision, goals, guiding principles, partnerships, resource allocation, and funding priorities.
- Regularly convene Dallas members of the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) Board to establish and formalize City goals and policy recommendations to guide decision making and align representation with Dallas’ priorities.
- Improve transportation access to employment, housing, education, health care, and other essential services for Dallas residents by addressing neighborhood infrastructure and system operational standards.
Dallas is healthy when our people are healthy
For the past 15 years, Children’s Health has produced a comprehensive report, Beyond ABC, that examines the quality of life of children in North Texas. Childhood well-being is measured not only by the physical, emotional, and mental health of an individual, but also by broader social and economic determinants that impact the lives of children.
Beyond ABC observes that despite recent improvement in many measures, significant disparity persists. Dallas has double the national average of uninsured. Nearly one-third of Dallas children live in poverty, and more than 160,000 lack sufficient nutrition to lead active, healthy lives.
Dallas was recently selected as only one of five cities to participate in a national collaborative with public health experts and researchers from the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. This program has enriched and deepened our understanding of the adversities facing Dallas’ children in their homes and neighborhoods. Moving forward, Dallas will partner with governmental agencies (city, county, and school district), health providers, and community-based partners to share data, align programs, develop strategies, and advocate for improved health outcomes for our youngest and most vulnerable residents.
Key actions to leverage partnerships to promote healthy communities:
- Develop new collaborative strategies and align resources to address health disparities for children and families living with the toxic stress generated by adverse economic, social, and environmental conditions of poverty and blight.
- Advance operational strategies and public education models that will effectively reduce non-emergency EMS calls and improve public health outcomes.
- Strengthen the Office of Emergency Management’s capacity to plan for, prevent, respond to, and ensure recovery from pandemic public health emergencies and events.
Dallas thrives when our neighborhoods thrive
As Dallas prepares to invest more than $1 billion dollars in bond money, we must recognize the disparity that exists in our neighborhoods of concentrated poverty. Resilient neighborhoods nurture relationships, foster social cohesiveness, and strengthen civic engagement. As Dallas prepares to spend more than $1 billion from the 2017 Bond Program, we must ensure public investment supports healthy and sustainable communities.
Key actions to invest in neighborhood infrastructure to revitalize historically undeserved neighborhoods:
- Recognize and institutionalize the need for a multi-pronged, coordinated, place-based approach and the long-term commitment necessary to achieve holistic revitalization in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods.
Key actions to promote environmental sustainability to improve public health and alleviate adverse environmental conditions:
- Support and leverage the leadership of academic institutions, nonprofit organizations, and philanthropic foundations working to fill science and data gaps to bring best practices to Dallas and North Texas.
- Promote partnership efforts to implement green infrastructure projects in neighborhoods disproportionately vulnerable to the impacts of the urban heat island effect, poor water quality, and poor air quality.