Purely as a piece of political theater, yesterday’s Dallas City Council meeting had something for everyone. There were surprising plot twists, contentious debates, great dialogue, and even moments of hilarious buffoonery. What started as a presentation of the plan the mayor’s urban design “Dream Team” created for the Trinity River morphed into a workshopping of byzantine parliamentary procedure.Full Story
The open microphone sessions of a couple of recent Dallas City Council meetings have provided some unexpected fodder for debate. The first instance came when Assistant City Manager Jill Jordan and Council Member Sandy Greyson tangled over the specifics of the engineering plans for the road that are currently under federal review. The second came when Scott Griggs responded to Yolanda Williams, Rick Callahan’s appointee to the Dallas Parks Board, who spoke to the council during the open microphone session about her love of all things Trinity Toll Road. Griggs got a little, well, impassioned, and then Philip Kingston joined in, while Callahan played defense.
It was all popcorn-ready entertainment, but don’t look for it to happen again anytime soon. The mayor released a memo rebuking the council members for speaking in violation of the Texas Open Meetings Act. According to a reading of the act by City Attorney Warren Ellis, during open microphone sessions elected officials’ responses must be limited to “statements of specific factual information” and a “recital of existing city policy.”Full Story
What’s left to say?
As Tim pointed out yesterday, the mayor of Dallas unleashed a full-frontal attack on good sense and truthfulness over the weekend in the form of an op-ed on the Trinity Toll Road. Tim says someone with patience needs to break down the argument and feed the lies back to the mayor. I think Wylie H. – curiously anticipating the appearance of the op-ed in the DMN – already did that with his long post last week.
For my part, I’m baffled, but not by the mayor’s op-ed. It is largely what he has been saying throughout, simply regurgitating talking points that have long been presented by toll road backers as fact even if they have been systematically exposed as fiction on numerous occasions. He claims to have listened to everyone’s opinion on the topic and has come up with his own, yet he avoids defending any of his individual justifications for the road, merely trotting out the same disproved notions carte blanche. The tone of the op-ed attempts to preclude any further debate; it also suggests a cynical form of dismal, characterizing further disagreement as dissent. What confuses me is how the mayor can continue to be so persuaded by erroneous information and so dismissive of the many civic leaders who have flipped their position on the road.Full Story
Back in December, Mayor Rawlings met with the Dallas Morning News editorial board to make his case for the Trinity toll road. At the time, the story was reported by the DMN, with subsequent editorializing on FrontBurner by Jason Heid and Wick Allison. I was also tempted to write something about it at the time, but dropped the idea after the pieces by Jason and Wick appeared. Since then, however, I find myself going to back to re-listen to the audio recording over and over. It’s not that politicians don’t say crazy things at times. We all know they do. It’s the idea that someone, somewhere, thought the DMN editorial board would find this pitch persuasive.
What I’ve attempted to do below is step through the mayor’s case point by point.Full Story
Utah has found a simple formula to end chronic homelessness in the state. When you added up expenses like shelters, emergency room visits, jails, and other support services, the combined cost of caring for the chronically homeless can be anywhere from $30,000 to $50,000 per person per year. However, if you just give a chronically homeless person a place to live, the cost of caring for them drops to around $10,000 or $12,000 per year. So, after looking at that simple math and doing some trial runs, the state went all-in with its Housing First Program. The idea is so simple, but so anachronistic when compared to how we have traditionally treated homelessness, that it seems at first like it couldn’t work. But it has. Utah cut its chronically homeless population by 72 percent in the past nine years.Full Story
Here’s an interesting document that has turned up. Last November, Mario Sanchez, a historical architect with the environmental affairs division of the Texas Department of Transportation, wrote the Texas Historical Commission to lay out a preliminary design of the interchange between the proposed Trinity Toll Road and the Continental Street Viaduct. It offers a detailed account of just how the current design of the Trinity Toll Road – aka Alternative 3C, as it is called in official documents – will impact the Continental Street Viaduct, namely, by demolishing 195 feet of it.Full Story
Over on FrontRow today, I have a little ditty about the White Rock Water Theater (pictured), which the Cultural Affairs Commission voted last night to remove from White Rock Lake. I know some of you think the piece is an ugly piece of junk. It certainly was in need of some TLC (to the tune of $200,000, in fact, an amount equal to about half of all of what the city has to spend on public art). So, fair enough, get rid of it. Only what does it say about the city that we have a public art program that can’t be maintained, and how is that indicative of so much else that goes on in Dallas?
Peel away all of the rhetoric about Dallas’ supposed cultural ambition and desire to be considered a major art center, and the history of the Water Theater shows us that Dallas actually places very little value in nurturing and supporting art, artists, and artistic activity.
Here’s the full piece.Full Story
There’s an interesting tidbit on Unfair Park this morning about the possibility of a new, large-scale retailer coming to the ground floor of 1401 Elm, the largest vacant building in the Central Business District. The Observer’s Stephen Young makes a heads-up observation. Back in January 2014, the developer of 1401 Elm requested TIF funds from the city, and the request said the project would include 25,000 square feet of retail or restaurant space and 40,000 square feet of office. Now, the developer has come back to the city with a revised outlook: how about just 65,000 square feet of commercial space? That, according to city staff, would allow the developer more flexibility for things like bringing in an upscale grocer to take over the building’s 50,000 square feet of ground floor retail.
But wait. Young points to a Dallas Business Journal article from December in which Jack Gosnell, who is brokering the retail for the site, suggests that the same space might be good for a “big box retailer or a department store.”
Cue panic. Could Sam’s Club be invading downtown too?Full Story
Mayor Rawlings pinky swears he won’t touch money in his officerholder account that came in before he announced his re-election bid in December. He also said that he became aware of the loophole that allows incumbents to receive unlimited contributions back in 2011, and believes we “gotta change that,” but, you know, hasn’t gotten around to it. Now he will, at some point in the next six months, which sounds like after the election.
I don’t know about you, but I didn’t find that response terribly satisfying. Here’s a better idea.Full Story
This morning the Dallas Business Journal ran a commentary piece by Alice Murray, President of the Dallas Citizens Council, and I couldn’t help but wonder that if this had been 2006, the article would have appeared in the Dallas Morning News. Regardless, in the DBJ, Murray argues that we should build the Trinity Toll Road. Why? Well, because Dallas:
Quick: What do DFW Airport, DART, Victory Park and Klyde Warren Park have in common?
Answer: All began as major public improvement projects that Dallas leaders were wise enough to support, and all have paid off big time in providing massive economic, social and cultural benefits to Dallas and the surrounding region.
And here’s another thing that they all have in common: All had vocal opponents who predicted all sorts of doom and gloom if these projects went forward.
Okay, so, you get that? Here we go.Full Story
Last week I was invited by the Dallas Homeowners League to moderate a panel which included representatives from four central Dallas neighborhoods: The Farmers Market, Deep Ellum, The Cedars, and downtown. There was plenty to talk about, from connectivity, to public safety, to development, to schools, to highways, to greenspace, and on and on. We probably could have jabbered on for hours and hours, but the DHL folks run a tight ship and the pug was pulled promptly at 8 p.m.
The last topic we discussed was probably the one most residents in those four areas were most concerned about: homelessness.Full Story
If you’ve hung around Dallas music for any length of time, you know the name Kirby Warnock. Back in the day, he edited Buddy, one of first print mags to cover the Dallas music scene. Since then he has become a filmmaker, and his movie When Dallas Rocked showed at a film festival and on PBS (more on that here).
Warnock is also a staunch Oak Cliff-er; he’s been there long before it was the hip place to be. And he’s not happy about some of the attempts to rezone formerly single family lots on Hampton Road.Full Story
As Mike Rawlings told the Dallas Morning News editorial board recently, he’s “a numbers guy.” So anchoring all the puffery in his new mayor’s letter was one solid factoid: “According to a recent Forbes study, Dallas is now the fourth fastest-growing city in the country.” Wait, what? I mean, without even checking, I instinctively knew that wasn’t true, not by a long shot. What was this claim doing here? I had to get to the bottom of this.Full Story
In Vice, Aaron Lake Smith writes about the Huey P. Newton Gun Club, a newly formed collection of five black and brown paramilitary organizations that has been staging regular armed patrols of the Dixon Circle neighborhood of South Dallas. The patrols were organized in the aftermath of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, though the neighborhood is also where James Harper was shot in 2012, another unarmed African American youth killed by police. In fact, according to a report cited in the article, of the 185 people killed by Dallas police since 2002, 74 percent have been black or Hispanic.
Huey P. Newton Gun Club members see themselves as armed protectors of a community no one else will serve or fight for. In the piece, the writer chats with Jim Schutze and Peter Johnson about Dallas’ civil rights history (in short, there wasn’t much of one), and delves into the friction between open carry advocates and these semi-related Black Panther-inspired groups as well as the history of the Black Panthers. The article ends with a Kafka-esque scene of futile hope and stifling bureaucracy. It’s worth a read. Here’s a highlight:
But despite the New Black Panther Party’s dismal reputation, in Dallas its members are, at least, the most thoughtful and professional revolutionaries around. They have a platform, an ideology, work as barbers and electricians, and are serious about their politics and the importance of being armed. “What you see in the media relates to them on a national level, but their organization is a lot different here on a local level,” [club co-founder Charles] Goodson tells me.
A standing-room-only crowd of more than 500 people packed the auditorium at Rosemont Elementary in Oak Cliff yesterday evening for what was perhaps the most honest, open debate about the Trinity Toll Road ever to take place in this city.
The event, organized by State Representative Rafael Anchia, pitted the most outspoken representatives of the pro- and anti-toll road debate in a town hall-style discussion about the controversial plans to build a high-speed traffic artery through the Trinity River floodway. The crowd was overwhelmingly against the road and at times cheered for comments made by anti-road flag wavers Scott Griggs, Patrick Kennedy, and Bob Meckfessel and laughed –- and at one point hissed –- at remarks made by North Central Texas Council of Government transportation director Michael Morris. But the event was largely well-mannered, thanks in part to able moderating by the state rep, who reminded everyone at the outset that they were sitting in an elementary school.
“If we were parents, and children were acting up, we would frown on it,” Anchia said.Full Story