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Making Dallas Even Better

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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City Convention Spending Hasn’t Boosted Dallas Hotel Business

Earlier this week, I wrote about the increasingly dismal state of financial affairs at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, and, as always, I enjoyed learning even more from the comments.

Mavdog suggested I needed to look beyond the center’s declining revenues and increasingly staggering losses and analyze hotel trends throughout the entire city of Dallas, under the theory that the Kay Bailey could be driving significant economic growth in the city’s overall hospitality industry that would more than offset its massive taxpayer subsidies. Amy S. also suggested a comparative analysis with other markets. Both comments were on point. What we needed to do was compare the growth of the hotel market in Dallas with the growth of the hotel market in the nation as a whole. Then, we could charitably attribute some or all of Dallas’ out-performance to a Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau strategy of using the convention center as an “economic engine,” following its DCVB-advocated $130 million expansion in 2003, which then triggered the need to construct a DCVB-advocated $500-million convention center hotel shortly thereafter.

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The Convention Center That Ate Dallas

A couple of weeks ago, after reading that the taxpayer-funded Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau apparently wanted to lend us the letter “D” from their “DALLAS” logo to replace the City of Dallas’ existing letter “D” logo, I got to thinking once again about the outsized influence the DCVB wields over municipal affairs.

Late last year, after Philip Jones, the DCVB’s president, tossed out a plan to have taxpayers pay for a $300 million addition to the convention center, I took a look into the finances and found that it lost $37 million per year before debt service and $54 million after interest expense — amounts that were virtually identical to its losses prior to the opening of the half-billion-dollar city-owned Omni Convention Center Hotel in 2010 (one of the primary justifications for building the hotel was that it would drive more business to the convention center and stop its losses). Some of the most interesting observations, however, came from reader comments to my post. Former city council member and the executive director of the Dallas Arts District, Veletta Lill, made the following observations:

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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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Why’s Dallas City Hall Sneaking Through a $450 Million Blank Check For TXU?

Wednesday, June 17, (the date of the next City Council meeting) is a special day. Why? Because it is the last meeting of the current council, and six of the 14 members are lame ducks, term-limited out. The Regular Agenda for the June 17 meeting, posted on June 5, was 1,071 pages long, and contained 101 items. But, as discussed previously, it is really the Addendum to the Agenda which contains most of the “fun” stuff.

Friday night I checked the Dallas City Hall website at 5:44 p.m., searching in vain for the Addendum (5 p.m. is the deadline for posting it). Oh, well, I had things to do and gave up. Finally, on Saturday afternoon (how many City Hall reporters work Saturdays?), I went searching again, and the 629-page document had finally posted, revealing 41 additional items. According to the time stamp, it had been received by the City Secretary at 4:26 p.m. Friday (June 12).

So,I started my treasure hunt. Most of the stuff was pretty typical, (e.g. $305,000 for veterinary services for police & fire dogs and horses), but then, WHOA… what the heck is this?

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Ladar Levison Weighs in on Barrett Brown Case

An interesting loop is nearing completion. I’ve profiled Barrett Brown and Ladar Levison. Barrett has written about me. Now Ladar is writing about Barrett. We only need Barrett to write about Ladar and Ladar to write about me. Come on, guys! We can do it.

Okay, Ladar has a piece in the Guardian today that you should read. As of 9:49 a.m. Central Standard, the piece appears to link to the same cache of hacked Stratfor information that Barrett got busted for linking to. (!) But that’s not really the most interesting part of Ladar’s story.

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D Magazine’s 40 Greatest Stories: Love and Loss in West, Texas

I doubt there are many — if any — of our regular FrontBurner readers who aren’t familiar with what occurred in West, Texas, in April 2013. The fire and subsequent explosion of West Fertilizer Co. left physical and emotional scars on the tiny community that most of us know only as a highway rest stop at which we pick up kolaches while driving between Dallas and Austin.

For our own Zac Crain, what happened there was far more personal because West is his hometown. In writing about the aftermath of the tragedy in the July 2013 issue of D Magazine — one of the 40 greatest stories we’ve ever published — Zac painted a portrait of a town that refused to dwell on its losses. I asked Zac for his take on what’s happened since his article was published:

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The Barrett Brown Review of Arts and Letters and Jail: A Visit to the Hole

I’m afraid I’m now being kept in the Seagoville federal prison Special Housing Unit, or SHU, known more informally as “segregation” and even more informally as “the hole.” Several of my fellow jail unit inmates and I were brought here in the wake of a June 17 incident that the Department of Justice is billing as a “semi-disturbance” for which we are to be investigated and perhaps punished — though not necessarily in that order. One awaits one’s disciplinary hearing in the hole, and if one if found guilty, one is sentenced to … the hole. More than a week after being confined, I’ve yet to even be charged with an infraction.

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Last Night, Sir Richard Branson Joined The Love Field Debate, Drank Tequila, and Talked to Us

On Monday night, Sir Richard Branson dropped into town to address the latest front on the airline war, Virgin America vs. EveryoneElseThatWantsThoseGatesAtLoveField. The airline hosted a party at The Rustic in Uptown Three of us—me, Cristina Daglas, and Glenn Hunter—attended. Each of our individual thoughts follow. One common thread between all of our thoughts: tequila. There was a lot of tequila.

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Former Dallas City Councilman Dave Neumann Did Not Get a Parking Ticket Today, and Likely Never Will

In May 2011, Scott Griggs unseated Dave Neumann for the District 3 slot on the Dallas City Council. Today, Dave Neumann left a downtown event, hopped into a car on Lamar Street, pulled a quick U-turn, and headed off.

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