Find a back issue

Making Dallas Even Better

Plano Just Showed Dallas How to Run a City

There is a battle raging in Plano, a healthy and necessary one, as the suburban city moves forward with its new comprehensive plan. The policy document was approved by Plano’s council yesterday, even though hundreds of residents showed up to oppose it. The contention is understandable. The new plan sets an ambitious course for a more urban future in the community that, through the 1980s and 1990s, served as DFW’s archetypal suburban community. The new land use proposals still call for reserving a little over 50 percent of Plano’s land for suburban neighborhoods. But the city that is running out of vacant land also hopes to add a lot of dense, mixed-use infill development.

Read More

Inequality and Texas Independent School Districts

Today Rudolph Bush responds to criticism he’s heard from some Park Cities residents since last week he argued the unfairness of the way schools are organized in Texas — via independent school districts. It’s this governmental structure, more than any other factor, that has turned Highland Park and University Park into island communities increasingly out of reach of any residents other than the uber-wealthy. The ISD creates a cycle in which the great public schools result in higher property values, which can then pour even more money into those great schools:

I can understand the sentiment of people in HPISD who have sent me notes over the past week. Their home is often their life’s major investment. And they made that investment in Highland Park precisely so they could send their children to school there. And any suggestion that the ISD system we have is not a good system feels like reaching into their pockets, or worse, chipping at an important foundation of their family life.

But they are benefiting from government no less than the welfare recipient. A structure was put in place that benefits them according to their means. And they are taking advantage of that structure in the same way the welfare recipient is.

Neither should be blamed for that. We accept what is given to our best advantage and to the advantage of those we love. That’s human nature.

But without casting stones at one another, we can step back and consider whether the system we have is the best system we could have.

Bush proposes a system wherein ISDs would have to accept a certain number of students from outside their geographic borders, chosen by lottery. I think we’d be better off blowing up ISDs entirely and administering schools at the county level, which is how it is done in many other states. That way tax revenue generated by homes on Beverly and Armstrong could find its way equally to South Dallas.

His idea is likelier to get off the ground. But, yes, we need a change.

Would a Downtown Dallas Rangers Stadium Just Be Another Boondoggle?

Here’s one thing we learned yesterday: mixing sports with urban planning sure gets people’s attention. There was a huge response to my post that argued that slagging attendance at Globe Life Park in Arlington should push Dallas city officials to woo the team to a new downtown Dallas. Why? Well, because that’s the way baseball go.

The conversation in the comments and on Facebook and Twitter brought up a number of interesting points and counterpoints, and I wanted to touch on a few of them.

Read More

Now Is the Time for Dallas to Pounce on a Rangers Relocation to Downtown

Tarrant County is getting nervous about losing the Texas Rangers.

Over the weekend, there was a story in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram about how the Rangers, who began the season in miserable shape, have turned in a remarkable second half of the season, running their way up the standings and currently sitting 1.5 games ahead of the Houston Astros in first place of the American League West. And yet despite the storybook season, the Rangers are pulling terrible attendance numbers. That doesn’t bode well for Arlington as the team mulls their options ahead of the expiration of their stadium lease in 2024:

Read More

Ask John Neely Bryan: Decluttering Mockingbird, the Ugliest Street in Dallas

Question: What the holy heck happened with those pendant lights on Mockingbird? A few years ago, Patrick Kennedy wrote about the eyesores. A few months later, most of the broken lights were fixed. But then they started going out again. And now most of the poles have been removed — but not all of them. So did the city just give up or what? — Joe C.

Whoa there, boy. I can read the barely disguised resentment hidden between the lines of your message. You’re right to feel angry, embarrassed, even a little ashamed, about how deeply hurt you were that last week I didn’t see fit to communicate with my public in this space as per usual.

Read More

Historic Buildings Are Now a Little Safer in Dallas (Sort of)

Dallas has a brand spanking new ordinance designed to help prevent the midnight demolition of the city’s historic buildings. The Dallas City Council passed a demolition delay ordinance which will force a mandatory review period after a developer files for a demolition permit that will allow the city to double check to make sure that the building is not, well, historic. Here’s how it will work, via the Dallas Wilonsky News report:

Read More

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?

Read More

Leading Off (9/11/15)

Hinojosa to Get Dallas ISD Super’s Job. To the surprise of no one, interim district superintendent Michael Hinojosa is likely to be named the lone finalist to keep the gig permanently. DISD board president Eric Cowan said last night that’s what he expects to happen at a meeting on Tuesday afternoon. Hinojosa, who was previously superintendent from 2005 to 2011 before jumping ship to take a job in Georgia, has been back in the saddle for the last two months following the resignation of Mike Miles.

Jerry Jones Gets Second Hip Replaced. Indications are the Dallas Cowboys owner is recovering well after surgery last Friday, about six weeks after having his other hip overhauled. There’s no indication that Arlington voters were required to kick in half the cost.

Hall Arts Brings New Light Show to Downtown. Add the Arts District building to the growing list of structures that are Las Vegas-fying the Dallas skyline.

WARNING: Mid-Life Crisis Man in Uptown. The neighborhood’s walkable live-work-play environment is attracting a “new generation of renters.” Twenty-somethings are advised to be on the look out for older fellows who dress and style their hair like John Tesh, boast about how many people they can crowd onto their apartment balconies, and are known to be afflicted by goose bumps whenever seeing all that’s on display at Whole Foods. While unconfirmed, the scent of patchouli and the frequent playing of the trendiest world music are other possible warning signs.

Read More

Developer Pays Steve Salazar, Gets Monica Alonzo Swing Vote on Braniff Deal

There are already a couple of stories coming out of today’s council meeting that are suggestive of how to get things done down at city hall. One involves the Dallas Convention Center, which got a sweet renewal of a commitment of hotel tax revenue for their marketing budget. Clearly the council hasn’t been reading its Wylie H., though they certainly saw former Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson sitting in the front row for the vote.

Then there’s the Braniff Airlines’ Operations and Maintenance Base redo. You may remember the council just voted to shelve a proposal to turn the facility into a car dealership because a) there was a lot of opposition from the nearby neighborhoods, and b) the proposal hadn’t gone through the usual public bidding process.

Well, two weeks later, the contract with Randall Reed was back on the agenda today and, low and behold, it passed. How did it happen?

Read More

In Search of Dallas’ Missing Alcohol Sales Tax Revenue

It’s been fun listening to the budget debates over the last couple of weeks: Mayor Rawlings, Lee Kleinman, Jennifer Staubach Gates, Scott Griggs, Rickey D. Callahan, and Philip Kingston politely asking for some minor (less than 1%) tweaks to the budget — and City Manager A.C. Gonzalez responding by threatening to burn the place to the ground.

One thing that never came up, however, was the city’s new mixed beverage sales tax. What’s that? You haven’t heard of it? Well, you’re not alone. I can find no mention of it in either the city’s 2014 audited financial statements or 2016 budget. I also can’t find any record of the City Council ever having been briefed on the matter, notwithstanding the fact the State of Texas is telling us they’ve sent us $8,410,145.63 as our cut, just in the first year-and-a-half. Going back through the financials, I did find something with a similar description, an “alcohol beverage tax.” And wow, look at that: up 52% since 2012!

Read More

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.

Read More

Ask John Neely Bryan: Finding Money to Fix Dallas Streets

Question: Firstly, thank you profusely for settling upon an inspired new logo for Dallas. You’ve saved the council hours of back-breaking sitting in chairs and taking turns talking in circles. Now, can you help with the city budget? Starting to think we’re in over our heads. — Mike R. et al

Sir, you know that I love this city with the sort of passion which men generally reserve for their wives and their Barcaloungers. It would be my pleasure — nay, it is my duty — to guide you through these troubled times. The very fact that the mayor of the world’s greatest city has been reduced to the indignity of hosting a Twitter town hall meeting on budget matters beginning this evening at 6 p.m. — how ghastly!

Read More

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:

Read More

Police and Fire Pension Board Stops Seeking Museum Tower Fix

News broke this morning that at its meeting yesterday the board of the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System voted to stop looking for a solution to the glare problem that has caused damage to the neighboring Nasher Sculpture Center:

“The DPFP Board has a fiduciary duty to act in the best interest of the members of the pension system and to provide long term benefits for the Police and Fire Fighters that have served the City of Dallas,” says Dallas City Council member Lee Kleinman via email Friday morning. Kleinman is one of four council members of the fund’s board, along with Kingston, Scott Griggs and newcomer Erik Wilson. “At yesterday’s Board meeting a motion was made to discontinue efforts to seek a resolution. Despite my advocacy to continue, other Board Members believe it is prudent to provide certainty. Except for my vote, the Board stood unanimous. While this outcome is personally disappointing, I must applaud the efforts and sincere dialogue of all stakeholders in this process.”

Griggs wasn’t at yesterday’s meeting, and Kingston, who worked behind the scenes to resolve the issue and come up with a fix, had to leave before the vote was taken due to a prior obligation. Wilson voted for the resolution to kill the deal with Hines.

Back in May, it looked like the building was closing in on a solution, but guess that didn’t work.

It doesn’t seem like Museum Tower is on the right side of this fight, so I can understand the disappointment of those seeking to protect the Nasher. However, just having read about this, I happened upon a post by Rudolph Bush on the DMN‘s editorial blog that put me in a Jim Schutze-ish frame of mind — that maybe this dispute is just a fight among the rich people over the protection of rich people’s things.

That’s probably an overreaction, but Bush does remind us there are far more important issues for our city to confront:

Read More