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What Do You Think of the New Plan for the Trinity River?

A few weeks ago, the mayor hosted an event that unveiled a new, $250 million vision for the Trinity River Project. Before offering some reservations, Mark Lamster practically swooned over the initial designs, which, on the surface, seem to internalize some of the criticisms of previous incarnations of the plan. Like Lamster, when I looked at the latest Trinity River Project watercolors, I recognized what looks like a gesture towards compromise. The floodplain is depicted as a more dynamic, natural setting, designed to participate in — and not resist — the regular flooding events that are the heartbeat of the ecology of the river.

Now a website has been set up by the two nonprofits that have long been pushing forward the Trinity River Project, The Trinity Trust and the Trinity Commons Foundation. Reading the brief description of the new park on that site, I found the kind of language that should surround any attempt at re-imagining the Trinity River. I also saw some questionable assertions.

First, here’s the good:

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Will Ousting of Dallas Summer Musicals Honcho Impact Fair Park’s Future?

Michael Jenkins’ name is synonymous with Dallas Summer Musicals. For 21 years, Jenkins has been president of the Fair Park-based arts organization that has been bringing touring Broadway shows to Dallas for 76 years. Jenkins’ career with DSM started as an usher when he was 14. At 17, he became assistant to the managing director. As an investor in Broadway productions, Jenkins has earned nearly two dozen Tony Awards. So it is a bit of a surprise to hear that he is leaving the organization not amidst the fanfare of a retirement farewell, but because, the Dallas Morning News reports, he was fired.

The story is a little fuzzy. In an interview he gave the DMN a week ago, Jenkins described his ousting as “a palace coup,” and said through tears that he felt unfairly dismissed because of his age and an unpaid loan the former DSM-chief made to the organization. In a statement from Dallas Summer Musicals published on the website Theater Jones, the DSM board says they are looking for a “new generation” of leadership, citing the desire to find a bridge builder who can create partnerships within Dallas’ arts community and maximize the use of the DSM’s home, the Music Hall at Fair Park.

From Jenkins’ loan to the DSM press release’s repeated references to squeezing more revenue out of the Music Hall at Fair Park, it is not too difficult to read between the lines in both of these statements.

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Why the Trinity River Project Remains Dallas’ Impossible Dream

If you haven’t been following the ongoing fiasco surrounding the Dallas Wave very closely, I don’t blame you. It has been particularly depressing and infuriating. Last week, the city council found out that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers threatened to shut off the city’s water supply if the city didn’t take immediate action to fix the white water feature that opened five years ago and was then swiftly closed because it was deemed too hazardous.

Today, Jim Schutze reports that some people inside city hall hoped to get Congress to exempt the river from a federal law regarding waterway navigation in order to get around the corps’ objections to the broken white water feature. You may remember that the city already managed to persuade Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson to slip a measure into a piece of federal legislation that exempts the stretch of the Trinity near downtown from all sorts of federal environmental oversight.

There are two pretty rich ironies floating around this latest scuttlebutt over the Dallas Wave.

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How We Can Still Save the Half-Built Trinity River Project

That photo above is a Google maps shot of a house that sits on the corner of Marlborough Ave. and Davis St. in Oak Cliff. It has more or less looked like that for the better part of five years. The house is the ultimate DIY project. As Rachel Stone reported in the Oak Cliff Advocate earlier this year, Ricardo Torres bought the house in 2008 and set about building his dream home. Torres is a crafty guy. He started from scratch with a plan for a two story home. Then he realized that if he added a third story, he could have a downtown view. You know what would also be cool? A game room. So he tacked on one of those, and the house grew like a drawing in a Dr. Seuss book.

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What Happened to Citizen Oversight of the Trinity River Project?

After reading late last week about Mayor Rawlings’ plan to make more plans for the city’s largest park (without the involvement of the Parks Department or the citizens of Dallas), I thought it was time to check in on the status of the Trinity Citizens’ Oversight Committee. As you may recall, the Trinity Dream Team’s leader, Larry Beasly, stated their proposal needed “public input and confirmation,” and that the design process “needs a conscience that is ‘of the people.'”

Their “suggestion (was) a carefully arranged monitoring of implementation, (then) and on an ongoing basis into the distant future, but an oversight panel of independent professional and citizen monitors who can make sure the concept does not get distorted through the detailed design process.” Peter Simek reported Beasly as stating that the multi-disciplinary team of experts should actually report to the citizens group. In that same piece, Council Member Lee Kleinman was quoted as stating his desire for more public input. The Dallas Chapter of the American Institute of Architects also publicly endorsed such an approach, stating they “strongly advocat(e) for an oversight body comprised of Dream Team members, local design organizations (including AIA Dallas) and private citizens to ensure that the vision of the Dream Team is faithfully reflected in the design and execution of a Great Trinity Park Parkway.”

So where do we stand on the formation of such an independent oversight body?

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Are There Any Good Reasons Left for Susan Hawk Not to Resign?

UPDATE: Clearly as a result of reading my post, Susan Hawk did the sensible thing a couple of hours later and released a statement clearing up the whole DA goes AWOL situation. She is taking a four week leave of absence to battle a “serious episode of depression.”

I’m going to piggy back on Jason’s poll today and extend the question about Susan Hawk with a request for feedback in the comments. I’m really curious to hear what you think about this. I’ve been following the Susan Hawk regime like everyone else, and at this point, I’m left wondering if she has any reasons left not to resign her post as Dallas County District Attorney. Here’s the situation as I see it.

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Bernie Sanders’ Warning for Billionaires: ‘Your Greed is Destroying America, and We Are Going to End Your Greed!’

They started letting people into the big Sheraton Dallas Hotel ballroom at 11:30 a.m. yesterday, 90 minutes before Bernie Sanders, the independent Vermont senator and Democratic presidential candidate, was scheduled to show up for a campaign rally. Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World” blared from the sound system as they poured in: a young white guy wearing an Obama t-shirt, a 50ish Hispanic woman in a pink cowboy hat, older Anglo men with long gray ponytails, a middle-aged black woman in a business suit. Among the early-arriving crowd near the makeshift stage was Denton-born Roy Holcomb, a 57-year-old real estate investor who’d come with his daughter Jessie Pike and her husband, David Pike, both 26-year-old Lewisville schoolteachers.

“I’ve been reading Bernie pretty hard for five years,” Holcomb said. “What got me stirred up was Citizens United. Money has just taken over, and he’s the only one calling out the banks, the Koch brothers, the corporations. The corporations do one thing: make money and eat everything in their wake. I’m the cowboy, and the Indians—the Republicans—are all around me, everywhere. My wife is a nut Fox News-hound, and I started watching Fox and thought, ‘This is propaganda.’ ” Holcomb, who said Sanders’ chief rival Hillary Clinton is “bought and paid for by the corporations—just like Jeb Bush,” added with a laugh that he had to talk his daughter and her husband into accompanying him today. Said David, choosing his words carefully: “We’re still trying to figure it out.”

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The Canaries are Yelling in the City Hall Coal Mine

Elizabeth Findell has a story in the Dallas Morning News that is ostensibly about council members yelling at city staff members and a general loss of decorum at Dallas City Hall. Throughout the piece, various subjects offer their thoughts on why things have gotten testy down at city hall. Council member Sandy Greyson blames it on social media. Council member Lee Kleinman says many elected officials don’t have much experience as managers. The article ends with the suggestion that what has happened is a generational culture shift.

But you have to read between the lines of the article to get at the real story, which is not so much about manners in governance as it is about a city government whose very structure creates a contentious relationship between elected officials and city staff.

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The Mysterious Plan for a Mayoral Compound

The Dallas Morning News’ Rudy Bush brought us surprising news yesterday that a new $180,000, by-invitation-only compound is being constructed for the Mayor and his staff. I use the word “surprising,” because I don’t recall the City Council ever having been briefed on this matter, much less approving the expenditure. Based on a review of the plan that Mr. Bush somehow dug up, it appears the Mayor Pro Tem, Deputy Mayor Pro Tem and their four assistants are being kicked out for parts unknown, their offices to be taken over by the Office of the Mayor.

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When Does Our Confederacy Conversation Target Street Names in Oak Cliff?

I don’t need to say it: in the wake of the Charleston shooting, there has been a lot of talk about the Civil War and what the various ways in which we remember, honor, or commemorate its history say about a legacy of racism in America. Alabama has removed a Confederate flag from a memorial at the state capitol. There are calls to take down a Jefferson Davis statue in Kentucky. Dallas’ Lee Park has come under scrutiny. I could go on.

At this point in the conversation, the momentum seems to point towards a gradual, though thorough washing-out of Confederate memorials throughout the nation. But how far will it go? How sublimated do references or symbols of the Confederacy have to be before they are deemed inappropriate? Statues and flags are one thing, but what about the more subtle reminders.

I found myself wondering this driving down oh-so-topical Davis St. in Oak Cliff.

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We Can’t Let Our Guard Down When it Comes to the Trinity Toll Road

Goodness, a bunch of dust has been kicked-up by a little bit of flooding. The past week’s rains have come just at the right time to spark a whole lot of silly talk about flooding and toll roads and Trinity River Project plans. Opponents of the road are circulating memes that use the floods as an excuse to dance on the road’s supposed watery grave — look, the floodway floods! Over at the Dallas Morning News, a couple of editorial writers try to throw water on the fires of panic and hyperbole. A couple of days ago, Rodger Jones made the somewhat obvious point that yes, we can build a road in a flood plain and make sure it doesn’t flood. Today, Rudy Bush chimes in, reiterating his support of the Beasley Plan and attempting to calm everyone down by saying that a road that occasionally floods isn’t the end of the world, let alone the end of plans for a road in the Trinity River watershed.

However, as I wrote earlier this week, I don’t think anyone believes that we can’t build a road that doesn’t flood. Surely the world has seen greater engineering marvels. The question is whether or not this particular road plan is a stupid idea.

Let’s leave that conversation for another day. Here’s the point I want to make: I’m a bit concerned by both Jones and Bush’s eagerness to call Alternative 3C – the engineering plans for a massive highway with high-five style exit ramps flying every which way – over and done.

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Will Mike Rawlings Protect the ‘Vision’ for the Trinity River Project?

After his sweeping victory to a second term in last Saturday’s mayoral election, Mayor Mike Rawlings declared that what residents voted for was a “vision for Dallas.”

In terms of the style and substance of Rawlings’ first term as mayor, it is difficult to argue with his assessment of his own appeal. More than anything, Rawlings is this city’s salesman-in-chief, and his first four years in office were spent mapping out visions of the future, from the promising—if still very inconclusive—Growth South campaign to the controversial re-vision of the Trinity Toll Road. Rawlings is bullish about his city’s future, and the part of his job he seems to enjoy the most is when he has the opportunity to spread the good news about this city’s growth and success.

The problem, however, is that Rawlings’ optimism and penchant for sales-pitching leads him to make sweeping proclamations and lean on ambiguities. And the difficulty with having a Mayor of Vision is that it has never been very clear what, outside of broad generalities, Mayor Mike Rawlings’ vision for the future of Dallas actually is.

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Why Voting This Saturday Is Not Enough

I received a mailer this week from the Trinity River Commons Foundation. It’s a four-panel fold-out brochure that is, for all intents and purposes, the real purpose and product of this entire Trinity River Parkway Dream Team design charrette garbage that we have been wading through for the past six months.

On the cover, there’s the now-familiar image of the revised “vision” for the Trinity River Project – the one with the parkway running through elevated berms as the sun sets against digital people who mill about under the shade of trees that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has already said cannot and will not be planted in the levee. Overlaid on the image in white italic font is a quote from Mayor Mike Rawlings in which he once again squawks the words “World Class” like some trained parrot sitting on Trinity Commons Foundation Executive Director Craig Holcombs’ shoulder.

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What Can We Learn About the Trinity River Project From Yesterday’s Dallas City Council Meeting?

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.

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Mayor Rawlings Reproaches Scott Griggs for Trinity Toll Road Tirade

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.”

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