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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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Quick Recap of Yesterday’s Council Meeting

You’re probably a very busy person doing very busy person things. You probably weren’t able to devote the time and attention to yesterday’s meeting regarding the Trinity parkway/toll road/albatross/never-ending story. Short version: the council is forming a committee to see if the city can maybe someday possibly at least a little bit incorporate at least some of what Scott Griggs has now named The Beasley Plan. That committee is stacked with toll road supporters and led by a toll road supporter.

Short version of that:

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Leading Off (4/17/15)

Trinity Wars, Episode VII: The Force Awakens, Is Quickly Sedated. Despite Tuesday’s declarations by consultants whom toll road proponents themselves commissioned  — namely that there’s no good reason for putting a highway through a potentially great park — support on the Dallas City Council for the federally-approved design known as Alternative 3C seems not to have softened. At a long work session on Thursday afternoon, toll road opponents moved to drop the massive project entirely and to seek federal approval instead for a low-speed, meandering road whose primary purpose would be to provide access to the adjacent park (just what Mayor Mike Rawlings’ dream team recommended.) But that proposal was roundly rejected, 10-4, and instead the same majority voted to proceed with planning for 3C. There was also an attempt by Councilman Philip Kingston to call a vote that would have forced each member to declare his or her support for (or opposition to) 3C. This irritated toll road proponents, who maneuvered around it with their own amendment to Kingston’s proposed amendment. Rawlings made another of his public pronouncements (about the Dream Team proposal) designed to sound like he’s keeping an open mind: “We have just met this beautiful, in my case, lady, and I’m not ready to get married today.” But he then seemed to show his cards when he put Vonciel Jones Hill — whose dedication to plopping a mega-highway next to the river is unwavering — in charge of seeking public input on the proposals under consideration. “It’s like putting the fox in charge of the hen house,” said former councilwoman Angela Hunt. Reminder: May 9 is Election Day.

 A Lot of Words About Dez Bryant. He recently fired one advisor, who had close ties to the Dallas Cowboys, and engaged the services of another management company. What does this mean for Bryant’s relationship with the team, which is still waiting for him to sign his contract for next season? Yeah, that’s the question.

Man Detained For Watauga Abduction Attempt. Police have found a person of interest in the failed kidnapping Mike mentioned in Wednesday’s “Leading Off.”

Sex Offender Escapes Fort Worth Halfway House. Charles Sprague is suspected in a kidnapping and robbery in North Richland Hills on Wednesday. He’s been added to the Texas 10 Most Wanted Sex Offenders list.

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Dear Dallas City Council: Please Learn from the Trinity Mistakes of the Past

Today at 1 p.m. the Dallas City Council will convene a special meeting to discuss the latest plans for the Trinity River Project. The plans were developed by the mayor’s so-called “Dream Team” task force, a group of some of the best urban thinkers in North America who revealed a vision Tuesday of a “gracious and harmonious parkway” for the Trinity.

On the agenda is a resolution that will create “a team, including regional and State agencies and professionals, from appropriate disciplines, to determine any actions that would be necessary to implement the findings of the Trinity Design Charrette.”

There is every reason to believe that that group will not be able to realize the Dream Team’s vision because of the reality of the funding, flood control, and environmental requirements already written into the DNA of the Trinity River Project as it is conceived today.

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A D Magazine Guess-tigation: Is Mayor Rawlings Actually a 12-Year-Old Trapped In An Older Man’s Body, Just Like In Big or Vice Versa or Like Father Like Son?

I posed the question in the headline this morning in Leading Off, but after doing so, I started to worry if I’d given enough supporting evidence for my hypothesis. Could I base my entire conclusion on one “holy smokes” quote? Well, sure. I could. But …

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Three Things That Must Happen if Mayor Rawlings Is Serious About His Dream Team’s Trinity Plan

I just got back from the Trinity Commons Foundation annual luncheon during which urban planner Larry Beasley revealed the details of the so-called urban design Dream Team’s plan for rethinking the controversial Trinity Toll Road. Details of the plans are now available online here. Tim will be along to fill in on some details of what went down at he luncheon, and I need a little time to digest it all.

But here’s a one line takeaway: What Beasley essentially presented was a reversion to — and, you could argue, improvement of — the Balanced Vision Plan. No highway. No trucks. No exit ramps flying in every direction. No ugly wall. Just a meandering parkway that provides access to the park and facilitates through-city traffic. Also, no details on how this vision will fit into any funding scheme, or how it meshes with the federal environmental review (Beasley claims it fits snugly, but I’m not immediately convinced), or how heartily Michael Morris chuckled with maniacal laughter when he saw such a quaint vision of a road paraded out in the place of massive highway he wants to fit into his massive regional highway system.

But leaving the luncheon, scratching my head a bit, and wondering with Tim if his initial assessment was correct, that there’s no way the mayor could have ever expected Beasley’s team to recommend Morris’ vision,  I couldn’t help but fixate on the fact that we’ve been here before.

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How City Staff and Toll Road-Backers Misled Mayor Mike Rawlings

As Tim pointed out in Leading Off, there is some tremendous reporting in the Dallas Morning News today from transportation writer Brandon Formby. In his article, Formby lays out the entire chronology of the efforts by former City Manager Mary Suhm and Trinity Commons Foundation Executive Director Craig Holcomb to save the Trinity Toll Road project in the face of mounting opposition. The report comes ahead of today’s private luncheon reveal of the so-called Dream Team’s reworked vision for the road.

The piece pulls back the curtain on just how power brokers have pressed their influence on the mayor, rallying financial support for the pro-road effort, editing his op-eds, counseling him with misinformation or half-truths about the essential features of the road, and coming up with the idea of the dream team and setting the parameters of that groups’ deliberations.

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Angela Hunt Explains When She’ll Run For Dallas Mayor

Former city councilwoman, and persistent fly in the Dallas Citizens Council’s ointment, Angela Hunt stopped by the Old Monk yesterday afternoon to chat with Tim and Zac on D Magazine’s EarBurner podcast about her future political prospects, recent setbacks for proponents of the Trinity toll road, the crane accident at the Dallas Museum of Art, and which television program most resembles her own law practice.

A few corrections and clarifications for listeners:

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Leading Off (4/10/15)

Jordan Spieth Blows 15th Hole at the Masters. He went with the hybrid instead of the 4-iron. Seriously? Sure, he finished 8-under par, one stroke shy of a tournament record, with a three-stroke lead after the first round at Augusta National, but the 21-year-old golfer from Dallas clearly still has a few things to learn. I mean, c’mon, dude’s lost two of his last three tournaments. How good can he be?

Rawlings Has Far More Money Than Ronquillo. Campaign finance reports for the first quarter of 2015 show that Mayor Mike Rawlings has raised $546,227 for his re-election effort while challenger Marcos Ronquillo has collected $101,957. All that cash to win a job that pays $80,000 a year.

Prosecutors Probing Jerry Jones’ World Trade Center Deal. The Dallas Cowboys owner’s company, Legends Hospitality, won the contract to operate the observation deck of One World Trade Center in 2013. That building is owned by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which is partly controlled by New Jersey Gov. (and Cowboys fan) Chris Christie. The Manhattan district attorney is investigating whether Jones’ and Christie’s friendship influenced the procurement process. As if we needed another reason to feel dirty when we see this.

Collin County DA Asks Texas Rangers to Investigate AG. Watch out, Ken Paxton. Walker may be coming for you.

Ellis County Fire Chiefs Arrested in Sex Assault Case. The two men were allegedly aware of the incident earlier this year that involved a volunteer firefighter violated by chorizo and a broom stick, and they worked to keep the matter quiet. They were suspended from duty on Thursday and face felony charges of tampering with a witness.

McKinney Teen Wasn’t Bullied. Fourteen-year-old Raymond Howell killed himself last week. Dozens of people rallied outside Boyd High School on Thursday to protest bullying, which some of the boy’s family members said contributed to his suicide. But police report they’ve found no evidence that Raymond was being harassed.

High Heels, Dog Urine Harming Downtown Parks. “It’s one of those only-in-Dallas things, I guess,” says Tara Green, president of Klyde Warren Park.

Opening Day at the Globe in Arlington. First pitch for Rangers vs. Astros is at 3:05 p.m. You’ll have to bring your own Blue Bell.

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Ask John Neely Bryan: Is Dallas About to Ruin Victory Park?

Question: I live in Victory Park at The House. The House as well as the other residential buildings that are on Victory Ave and N. Houston were built and designed for one-way streets. Our building is 75% full. Victory Park has come a long way as far as people moving in. Now the city and the developers think we need two way streets which we are not in favor of. Adam Medrano has been to meetings with us but we have not talked to anyone higher than Kieth Mannoy with the city of Dallas. Mayor Rawlins office will not even respond to an email. Help, before the city ruins Victory Park! — Dan H.

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Why the Morning News Should Regret the Al Petrasek Trinity Toll Road Column

As Tim has noted, having printed Al Petrasek’s absurd arguments for the Trinity toll road alone should be enough to embarrass Dallas’ daily. But online commenters to the column have pointed out an equally troubling matter. Namely, Petrasek is identified only as a “former president of the Trinity Commons Foundation” who’s now retired and lives in Arkansas.

What the newspaper didn’t tell its readers is that Petrasek is retired from having worked as a vice president at HDR Engineering, a firm that has been contracted by the North Texas Tollway Authority for design work on the Trinity project and which could reasonably expect to be involved further (and benefit financially) if the project comes to fruition. Here’s HDR touting its toll road services.

In the comments, Mike Drago of the Morning News responded to this oversight:

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Leading Off (4/6/2014)

Pedestrian Dies In Hit-and-Run Near Mockingbird Station. The victim, 20-year-old Paul Miltenberger, attempted to the cross Mockingbird Lane at a non-crosswalk area very early this morning and was hit by a black Dodge Charger. Miltenberger was a sophomore at the University of Missouri, and the campus newspaper reports that he is from Southlake. Let’s hope this pedestrian bridge happens.

Texas Health Resources Responds To Nina Pham’s Lawsuit. For starters, THR would like the whole thing dismissed. But the five-page response goes on to generally deny the allegations that the hospital’s lack of proper training and equipment caused her to contract the Ebola virus and that Pham’s privacy was violated. Pham’s attorney, Charla Aldous, says she is “disappointed but not surprised” by the hospital’s response.

Trinity Toll Road Faces Army Corps of Engineers. After the Federal Highway Administration approved the proposed six-lane Trinity toll road last Thursday, the final federal hurdle is the Army Corps of Engineers. Within weeks, they are expected to determine whether the road can be built without compromising the levees, as well as the overall impact of the project and whether or not federal funds should be used to pay for it.

A Bird-Napping In Oak Cliff Ruffles Feathers. Someone very nonchalantly snatched a wild male peacock from the Beckley Club Estates neighborhood, and the residents, who feed and care for the birds, are understandably upset. Considering that birds are really just tiny dinosaurs, you might wonder how this happened. “The bird wasn’t paying any attention. The male was, um, mating.” Anyway, just bring the peacock back, please.

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Leading Off (4/3/15)

Heated Debate Over Irving’s Anti-Islamic Stance. Speakers packed last night’s meeting of the Irving City Council — some decrying and some applauding the recently passed resolution in support of a bill introduced in the state legislature that would forbid judges from using foreign law in the their rulings. State Rep. Jeff Leach, a Plano Republican, has singled out a Muslim mediation panel as a reason the measure is necessary. “Our community has had to endure death threats, ethnic and religious slurs at the hands of your resolution,” said Alia Salem of the North Texas chapter of the Council for American-Islamic Relations. “Islam’s goal is to immigrate, assimilate and annihilate,” responded one woman who’d shown up to support what Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne terms “sticking up for our Constitution.”

Feds OK Trinity Toll Road. Mayor Mike Rawlings says the Federal Highway Administration has approved the placement of a 9-mile highway between the levees. It’s the first of two clearances by the national government necessary for the $1.5 billion project to move forward. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also has to sign off. Of course, there’s also the matter of determining funding, plus the chance that the outcome of the upcoming Dallas City Council election could bring these plans to a halt.

Balch Springs Family Tries to Raise the Dead. Police are investigating a tip that a child’s death on March 22 went unreported in a home that hosts the Congregacional Pueblo de Dios. The parents reportedly attempted a “rising ceremony” and then drove the child to Mexico for burial. “That scares me because all this time they’ve been claiming they’re Christians,” said neighbor Edward Guerra. “To find out that they’re doing this – I don’t know. I don’t know what to think about it.” Guess Ed never heard about what Jesus did to that Lazarus fellow.

Irving Gets Three Earthquakes in a Day. The first yesterday was a 2.7-magnitude just after 5:30 a.m., the second a 3.3 at about 5:36 p.m., and the last a 2.6 just after 10 p.m.

Texas Rangers Introduce New Ways to Clog Your Arteries. It’s likely to be a long, sub-.500 season in Arlington, so fans can comfort themselves with the help of chicken-fried bacon on a stick, grilled-cheese burgers, bacon cotton candy, and “Holland Hot Tot’chos.”

It’s Good Friday. And a good day for D Magazine’s offices to be closed. Enjoy the holiday weekend.

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Richardson Mayor to Quit After Taking Job With Developer Whose Plans She Championed

Eric Nicholson takes note of two ethics forms Richardson Mayor Laura Maczka filed with the city last month, related to her business relationship with a developer pushing a controversial mixed-use development along Central Expressway — a project that she supported over a multitude of neighborhood objections:

This is problematic for Maczka on several fronts that are probably obvious but which we’ll delve into anyways. Maczka is on the May city council ballot. True, she’s running unopposed, but landing a job with a favored developer — particularly one so thoroughly loathed by a vocal group of constituents — can’t help her chances. And the admission will fuel already simmering suspicion about when the relationship between Maczka and JP Realty became so close. Assuming she filed the conflict-of-interest form immediately upon being hired by JP Partners, she wouldn’t have been on the firm’s payroll when she was voting for its project and wouldn’t have been in violation of the city’s ethics code, which bars officials from accepting gifts from entities with business for the city. Otherwise…

We called and emailed Maczka this morning seeking comment. We haven’t heard back. She did, however, post on Facebook that she won’t serve as mayor for the 2015-17 term, even though she’s the only person on the ballot…

Hmm, wonder why people don’t like politicians.

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Ask John Neely Bryan: Why’s the Dallas City Manager Strong While the Mayor Is Weak?

Would you believe that I have, on a number of occasions, been mistaken for impoverished Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price? I attribute these errors mostly to the fact that none of you damned 21st-century folks read anymore, and so your short attention spans equate any similarly triple-christened gentleman with another.

There’s little else that should bind the two of us in the public’s imagination — besides our spectacularly-sized gonads, of course. No inadequately endowed fellow is capable of founding a great American city or dressing like this.

Question: Why does Dallas employ a city manager?  What’s this with a “weak mayor”? — George L.

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