Dallas’ Suburbs Are All Very Lame. But Which Is The Lamest? We Ranked 11 Of Them Based On The Shitty Things Their Residents, Business Owners And Political Leaders Have Done.
America’s suburbs are tainted by segregation and white flight.
That’s not speculation, either. The explicitly racist lending and housing policies that were enforced by the federal government for decades in the 20th century very much created the culturally stifling and aesthetically numbing reality that are the suburbs.
But while the suburbs around Dallas are growing and transforming at a remarkable rate, their updates won’t erase their ugly origins or how their rise inflicted various cultural and socioeconomic traumas on communities of color. They also won’t change the fact that they filled up because of a focused, prejudice-guided leeching of people and resources from Dallas.
We can date all this back to 1934, when the federal government created the Federal Housing Administration, which prioritized the movement of white families into burgeoning white communities and flagged areas where black families lived as inherently risky and not deserving of financial support. That practice had consequences that are still readily visible in present day North Texas.
But as the years go by — and as the suburbs continue trying to hold onto their wealth — Dallas nearest neighbors also have an increased stake in the cultural and industrial future of the region at large.
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Yes, suburban living used to be mean a manicured lawn, a ranch-style house and sprawling strip malls. These days, it means big bucks. Plano in particular has been able to lure a number of major businesses to the area, its crown jewel being a deal to house the North American headquarters of Toyota. Frisco, meanwhile, proudly showcases its $5 Billion Mile — a dense, dazzling location that contains the Dallas Cowboys practice facility and corporate headquarters in addition to a collection of pricey office spaces, stores, and residences. Mixed-use spaces are also being developed to lure younger, hipper prospective residents to Irving and Allen, which are both working on their own formidable structures for future residents and businesses. Oh, and to be sure, if Amazon decides to bring its massive second headquarters to the area, there’s a very good chance it could pass Dallas and Fort Worth over for one of several area suburban locations.
So: Should Dallas worry about being out-shined by its glitzy suburban neighbors?
In a word, nah. While the suburbs may be raking in money and people, they’re still struggling to prevent the kind of blunders that leave them lagging behind the social zeitgeist. Every year the ‘burbs give us plenty to roll our eyes about, be they instances of racism, sexism, classicism — all the -isms, pretty much.
Is it all bad? No. Embarrassing as the suburbs may often be, it’s important to recognize that their future doesn’t have to be beholden to their history. An effort in McKinney to raise city council pay, and make the positions more accessible to people with lower incomes, for example, is one example of how communities can break away from stilted mindsets.
Still, with so many facepalm-worthy elements about them, there remains plenty of material through which we can rank Dallas’ 11 lamest suburbs from tamely lame to absolute lamest, just as we’ve done before.
11. Fort Worth (Honorable Mention).
Is Fort Worth a Dallas suburb? Fears about the city’s ability to attract major business players have created some alarm that it might become one. For what it’s worth, we in Dallas really like Fort Worth and believe that it has several vibrant neighborhoods. We also dig that it’s picked up its own versions of several popular Dallas venues recently. But, real talk, if Fort Worth keeps falling behind in business acquisitions, the concerns that Fort Worth might suffer a seriously lame downgrade are legitimate.
Did you know that work performed in a Garland lab led to the implementation of statewide changes in the field of forensic? It’s true- — but, uh, it’s for a bad reason. Garland-based lab analyst Chris Youngkin recently had to testify over a 2013 mix-up of two blood tubes and, while the error was recognized and the correct information eventually sent out to the proper parties, conflicting testimonies from Youngkin over the error created an inconsistency that put many of the drunk-driving cases he had worked on in jeopardy. In the wake of Youngkin’s error, he was transferred out of the Garland lab and the ensuing calamity has led to changes in how analysts and prosecutors communicate. Even though he may be gone, it’s still a bad look for a city that was already famously clowned on by Hollywood.
There’s no right way to give yourself a nickname, so the city of Arlington was doomed the moment they decided they were free to christen itself the American Dream City. However, it does have a way out of this lame predicament: Since independent wrestling star Cody “The American Nightmare” Rhodes — the son of wrestling legend “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes — claimed the Dallas/Arlington area as his home when we spoke to him last, his endorsement of the moniker would absolve it of the dorky baggage that comes with a self-nicknaming.
Lewisville’s Music City Mall (formerly Vista Ridge Mall) operates with the understanding that the shopping mall, as we have long known it, is on capitalism’s chopping block. While new owner John Bushman may not be able to save the mall as an institution, he has shown the public that there are a number of surprising ways for these centers to feel wildly out of touch. The mall has been given a number of gaudy new touches, including massive statue of the Ten Commandments. It’s essentially been remade to more closely resemble Odessa’s mall, which is also owned by Bushman, and also called Music City Mall. Copying a mall design from a smaller, more isolated town? L-A-M-E.
Allen restaurant Dodie’s Place Cajun Bar and Grill just wanted to show a touch of irreverence with their decorations, but things his the fan when the effort took the unfortunate form of a painfully transphobic jab at Caitlyn Jenner. It was a crude, pointless provocation that’s only considered “comedy” or “satire” by dolts with no comprehension of either term. Also, Allen’s documented thirst for growth has seen it resort to poaching tactics against other DFW suburbs and making a show of comparing itself favorably to nearby Plano in order to lure away NetScout Systems, Inc. to its climes. While not exactly inflammatory, low-balling a neighbor is an extremely not cool move.
6. Keller/North Richland Hills.
The Cleveland Indians have promised to phase out their Chief Wahoo mascot by 2019. But Keller High just keeps on keeping on with its continued use of the Indians mascot. And, even in the midst of Dallas schools taking steps to amend for their Confederacy-adoring pasts, Keller’s neighbors in North Richland Hills — much like South Garland High in the aforementioned northern Dallas suburb of Garland — keeps using the “Rebels” mascot for Richland High. Mascots are a pretty a lame hill to want to die on.
Denton has long been viewed as a lo-fi haven for college kids and creatives alike, but that image has been obscured by a number of recent, worrisome episodes.
For starters, the city has refused to let go of the Confederate statue blighting its otherwise charming town square, and they’re trying to skate by with a terrible compromise. The current plan involves the placing of a video and plaque by the statue to explain the troubled history behind the monument and essentially tell everyone why that stone chunk of propaganda should be reduced to rubble. Of course, the sincerity of that information will be somewhat undercut by the city’s refusing to actually go through with the removal of that goddamn statue.
Then there’s the measure of infamy the city gained after Denton ISD Assistant Principal Eric Hauser released a kids’ book featuring an unlicensed use of Pepe the Frog — an image that’s long been co-opted and prominently used by the alt-right. The extraordinary lapse in judgment and decency shown by Hauser reflected poorly on the school district and the city. But the educational embarrassments in Denton actually extend into the collegiate arena, too, as now-former UNT spokeswoman Nancy Koltsi was recently guilted into resigning after she delved into a migraine-inducing diatribe about “reverse racism” when responding to a student petition that sought to have the school’s new residence hall named after a person of color and/or a woman.
The issues with race that sprang up in Denton weren’t limited to those PR disasters, either. A series of threatening letters sent to an interracial couple who moved to Denton’s neighboring town of Providence Village were downright unsettling. The letters, sent to new residents Johnny and Saint James Limoges, were explicit, suggested violent intent and made it clear that the sender had eyes on the house. Their neighbors, thankfully, rallied around the couple and forcefully rejected the idea that they should feel unwelcome in their community. That final bit is undeniably cool, sure. But how lame is it that things even had to get to that point?
Plano City Councilman Tom Harrison isn’t the first Texas elected official to use social media to flaunt Islamophobic views, but his sharing of a video that endorsed a ban of Islam in public schools drew heavy attention and public censure. In the wake of that mishap, mayor Harry LaRosilliere called for Harrison’s resignation in a press conference, as Imam Omar Suleiman used his own social media following to call for Plano to oust Harrison with its votes. While the City of Plano has certainly seen its stock rise thanks to major business acquisitions in recent years, this incident with the somehow still-active (!) council member is a discomfiting reminder that attracting modern industry doesn’t automatically push out backwards values.
Can one person be odious enough to sour an entire town? Yes, if you consider Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton a person. Hey, there’s precedent for this: Paxton’s long-standing ties in Collin County, particularly in McKinney, were justification enough to move the ongoing court proceedings against him to a new location after prosecutors expressed concern about an effort by Paxton allies to warp the court of public opinion in Paxton’s favor. Paxton’s legal troubles — relating to possible violations of state security — have been going on for more than two years at this point.
But in addition to allegedly committing fraud, Paxton has generally been an aggressively regressive political force across Texas. He’s the sort of figure who undermines our reputation as a state. In 2016, the Texas Supreme Court rejected an effort from Paxton to void the marriage license of Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant — a marriage that took place before the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage but was given special approval due to Goodfriend’s dire medical issues. Paxton continued to fight for their marriage’s rejection even after our state’s prohibition of it was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015, in case you were unaware of how backwards this guy’s worldview is — along with those of the city he calls home.
2. Mesquite/Balch Springs.
The Mesquite/Balch Springs area played host to two galling 2017 incidents where unarmed civilians were shot by members of the local police forces.
In Mesquite, Lyndo Jones was non-fatally shot after officer Derick Wiley allegedly thought Jones was breaking into a pickup truck. More specifically, he thought Jones was breaking into a pickup truck that Jones turned out to own. Wiley was fired, and now faces charges over the incident. It’s also worth noting that the Mesquite PD held Jones at the hospital and shackled to a bed for six days after shooting him, all while hastily trying and failing to stick him with a charge for evading arrest before eventually letting him leave their custody — but not before he was fired for missing work during that stretch.
Balch Springs, meanwhile, drew the national spotlight after Mesquite teen Jordan Edwards was killed by police officer Roy Oliver, who now faces charges for Edwards’ murder. The already horrible event became even more upsetting after it was revealed that Oliver had been allowed to stay on active duty after a disturbing road rage incident, and that he raised his middle finger to the car that contained Edwards’ deceased body,
If people were familiar with Mesquite before these incidents came to light, it may have been thanks to the Mesquite Rodeo, which, in an extremely tasteless gesture for attention, brought in a rodeo clown meant to impersonate former president Barack Obama in 2013. The rodeo has a new owner now — one who hopefully won’t try to gin up publicity with this kind of lame, cheap stunt.
Richardson restaurant First Watch recently gained unwanted attention after asking a patron in a “Fuck Trump” T-shirt to leave the premises. The owner of the shirt, Andy Ternay, then made a Facebook post recounting the expulsion, which would go on to be shared more than 125,000 times. The restaurant said their only concern was over the word “fuck” – and not the political content of the shirt. Still, at some point during Ternay’s fateful visit, someone at the restaurant actually called the police over the provocative shirt, which is exactly the kind of priggish overreaction we’ve come to expect from the suburbs.
The kerfuffle over the “Fuck Trump” shirt attracted considerable attention, but a recent lawsuit filed against Richardson ISD is potentially more concerning. The suit claims that the at-large approach to school board elections has led to a de facto segregation of students, and an unfair concentration of resources in wealthier neighborhoods. Racial and income inequality are of course enduring stigmas of suburbs, so maybe none of this should be surprising.
Then again, on the lameness scale, is there a worse kind of lameness than the one that’s so boringly latent that it needs to be taken to court to even be recognized? We honestly can’t think of one.
Cover photo by Andreas Praefcke via WikiCommons.