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Who Is In Charge of the Trinity River Project?

Over the weekend, Mark Lamster filed an illuminating report from Houston, comparing that city’s successful clean-up of Buffalo Bayou with our own ill-fated attempts to reclaim the Trinity. The whole thing is worth reading, but towards the end, Lamster raises an important question:

Who, exactly, is in charge of the Trinity Corridor project? There is no ready answer.

Indeed, as I mention towards the end of this piece from last week, one of the frustrating aspects of the Trinity River Project is that the plan’s so-called advocates, like The Trinity Trust, are mum when it comes to things like the proposed Trinity Toll Road, which is poised to ruin some of the more positive, park-friendly amenities they have already brought to the Trinity greenbelt. Lamster attributes this to a general lack of accountability with regards to a civic project that has way too many agencies and organizations with their hands in the pie. And what are the results?

While the Trinity River Audubon Center is a civic jewel, this process has also produced a pedestrian bridge that leads to a no-man’s land on its downtown side; a whitewater rapids that doesn’t work properly; a horse park that provides no value to the vast majority of Dallasites; and plans for lakes and fields and trails that languish as the city mulls an ill-conceived toll road that would cut those amenities off from the very citizens they are intended to serve.

In Houston, they have a park.

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Schutze Was at a Very Different DISD Meeting Than Was the Morning News

Do you know why it’s unfortunate that print media revenue is falling and online media revenue is a pie split so many different ways as to make it difficult to fund any sizable news-gathering operation? Do you know why it’s a shame that we live in an age where most cities, including Dallas, have one only one daily newspaper?

If you don’t, then I point you to Jim Schutze’s take on the same Dallas ISD board meeting that I mentioned (linking to a Dallas Morning News story) in this morning’s “Leading Off.” The Unfair Park account of what occurred is so different from the perspective offered by DMN reporters Tawnell Hobbs and Matthew Haag that I might believe you if you told me they had been filed from parallel universes:

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Leading Off (2/27/15)

Winter Is (Still) Coming. The forecast calls for snow this morning, freezing rain tomorrow.

Trustees Interrogate Dallas ISD Staff on Hiring. For more than three hours the board put questions to administrators over whether they told the truth about the purpose of $6.4 million approved in October for the hiring of teachers. Some believed the superintendent’s explanation, some did not.

And the Hits Keep Coming For DISD. The Morning News reports that Texas Education Agency investigators found 60 district employees had not been fingerprinted and that an additional 120 had been fingerprinted but not in the correct way. Proper fingerprinting is necessary to conduct criminal background checks. Furthermore, according to the TEA report, Superintendent Mike Miles submitted a statement saying that DISD was in compliance with fingerprinting requirements even though an internal district audit had indicated otherwise.

Lancaster Police Release Report on Dez Bryant Incident. Rumors of an incriminating video featuring the Dallas Cowboys receiver led to media requests for information about what happened in that Walmart parking lot in 2011. According to the cops, there was no offense committed, and they have no video of what occurred. Could there be any less news in this news?

Mockingbird Pedestrian Bridge May Finally Get Built. The project, providing a path for pedestrians and cyclists over the six-lane street, is a key link in the plan to extend the Katy Trail. City officials have said construction should begin this fall.

Congressman Pushes For Chris Kyle to Get Medal of Honor. Republican Roger Williams of Cleburne introduced a bill Thursday proposing the late American Sniper receive the prestigious award for his Iraq War exploits. He’s probably got a better shot at this than he did the Best Picture Oscar, anyway.

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Jill Jordan Explains the Highway Spaghetti Planned for the Continental Pedestrian Bridge

This morning Rudy Bush tweeted that there was an interesting Trinity toll road conversation going on during the open microphone section of the Dallas City Council meeting, so I decided to head on over to the city’s handy online video section and check it out. A trio of speakers, including a property owner in the Design District, talked about the value of that neighborhood’s proximity to the Trinity River park and how the proposed toll road could negatively affect the potential for the Design District to become even more of a premier neighborhood and destination.

The highlight of the open microphone session came at the tail end. During his remarks, the property owner expressed concern about the contradictions apparent in multiple Trinity toll road renderings produced by different agencies, like the NTTA and TxDOT, which show exit ramps from the proposed road swamping the Continental Pedestrian Bridge and even depicting cars driving on the pedestrian bridge. The owner asked for some clarification, and when he was finished, council member Sandy Greyson called Assistant City Manager Jill Jordan to the microphone to sort out the confusion.

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Leading Off (2/20/15)

Killer Believed Chris Kyle Was a ‘Pig Assassin.’ A psychiatrist testifying for the defense said Eddie Ray Routh was schizophrenic and suffering delusions about man-pig hybrids taking over the world at the time he shot Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield.

Irving Strengthens Smoking Ordinance. But some restaurants are grandfathered out of the new restrictions.

911 Operator Helps Save Drowning Toddler. A Lewisville grandmother called after finding her 18-month-old granddaughter in the pool. The child is apparently doing well. Meanwhile another Lewisville family suffered a horrific loss after an unhinged door fell on a 2-year-old girl, killing her.

Woman Gets $109 Bill For Half-hour Trip to DFW. A Toll Tag glitch caused the mistake, which the airport initially refused to rectify with a refund, since it was reported to them more than 45 days after the incorrect charge was made.

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Where Is Mayor Rawlings’ Leadership on Legislative Effort To Gut Municipal Budgets?

Nothing reveals the inherent contradictions in the shriller corners of the far right political persuasion than a solid debate over taxes. On the one hand, we’re used to hearing the mantra repeated with regimental gusto that government is bad and that the best policy decisions are made at the local level. On the other hand, taxes equals bad.

So, it’s interesting when these two credos run up against each other as they did yesterday in Austin when mayors from Texas’ major cities gathered to voice their opposition to legislative efforts – endorsed by Governor Greg Abbott – to introduce “revenue caps” and “appraisal caps” to limit property tax growth. In this instance, taxes-equals-bad runs directly against local-knows-best. And because Texas’ urban mayors understand the needs of their constituents, what it takes to balance a municipal budget, and how the lack of a state income tax and the mercurial nature of other revenue sources make property tax absolutely vital to the provision of city services, they all oppose the legislature on this issue.

Well, I should say all of Texas’ urban mayors except one. This Dallas Morning News article about the meeting of the mayors is quick to point out that there was one big city that didn’t have a representative at the meeting: Dallas.

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Grocery or Big Box In Downtown Dallas? Or, Why Inequality Needs to be Part of Urbanism Conversation.

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?

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Leading Off (2/16/2015)

Fatal Shooting On Lower Greenville. Orlando Pulido, 26, was shot multiple times early Sunday morning in the parking lot behind OT Tavern. The suspect is still at large.

Dirk Dunks. During the All-Star Game. It is adorable.

So-Called “Evening Burglar” Caught. Remember that rash of burglaries, committed by a particularly speedy thief (or thieves) that spread from Plano to Allen to Dallas? Police caught two suspects in the act Friday, you guessed it, evening. Now that the important news has been dispensed with, I would like to point out that this criminal nickname lacks panache. That said, good inter-agency police work!

Dallas Stars’ Tyler Seguin Injured. The team’s leading scorer will be out three to six weeks after taking a hit to the knee during Friday’s game against Florida. This is not great news for the Stars’ playoff hopes. Meanwhile, two other players, Ales Hemsky and Patrick Eaves, were also injured. Eaves got hit in the cheek with a puck. Yee-ouch.

The News Creates Open Records Request Website. This is interesting. The DMN‘s latest project is aimed at helping the public make and track open records requests to state agencies subject to the Texas Public Information Act.

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How the Mayor Should Handle Ethics Complaints About His Well-Stocked ‘Officeholder Account’

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.

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Leading Off (2/13/15)

Guns to Fix What Ails Texas Education System. Apparently so, seeing as a Texas Senate committee voted Thursday to allow handguns to be carried on state university campuses, and Anna ISD is making plans to arm teachers at its high school.

Rats Broke Dallas Zoo Monorail. The train has been inoperative since last summer, the third time it’s been down for an extended period in as many years. The nonprofit that operates the zoo is planning a $3 million fix to the 25-year-old system, which has suffered repeated damage as rodents have chewed through the power cables.

Government Regulation Shutters Small Business. The organizer of the Eutopia swingers club — DFW’s newest Lifestyle Venue! —  says he’s decided to move his erotic parties out of Arlington rather than appeal the city’s order to cease operating out of a home there.

Video Shows Cop Car Driving Wrong Way. A woman captured cell phone footage of a Dallas Police cruiser reversing against the flow of traffic on the Central Expressway frontage road at Fitzhugh Avenue and posted it to the department’s Facebook page. The DPD asked for more details and has turned the matter over to a traffic supervisor.

New Revelations at Trial of Chris Kyle’s Killer. Michael J. Mooney, New York Times best-selling e-book author, will be along in a little while to weigh in on what we’ve learned so far.

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Dallas Police Water Rescue Caught on Body Camera

Last August, the Dallas Police Association pushed for the department and the district attorney’s office to provide all uniformed cops with body cameras. The DPD field-tested lapel cameras in 2014, with an original plan to equip up to 2,500 cops. These cameras have already proved useful in officer-involved shootings. But here we have something different.

According to the DPD blog, a man lost control of his car last Friday night near 5800 Military Parkway and plummeted 50 feet into a creek. As his vehicle flooded with water, officers from the department’s Southeast Crime Response Team (CRT) Unit were able to pull him out through the window. The body cam video was released as part to the DPD’s efforts to “enhance public safety and transparency.” Fortunately, the cops were nearby and able to respond when a witness called it in.

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Mike Rawlings’ Kangaroo COG: Who Deserves Blame for the Wasteful Toll Road Planning Charade?

From the beginning, we knew the entire thing was a set-up, orchestrated to produce precisely this conclusion. We wrote that it was all an attempt to allow Rawlings a way to distance himself politically from the Toll Road ahead of the May election (From Formby’s story: “I believe the leaders of the city will make that appropriate decision [to expand the road to six-lanes] at that point,” [Rawlings] said. “I will not be one of them.”) This wasn’t the “dream team.” It was the urban planning equivalent of a kangaroo court. The dream team was actually the Kangaroo COG.

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