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Mayor Rawlings Implies Trinity Toll Road Opponents Don’t Respect Democracy

Tod Robberson just posted about a 90-minute meeting the Morning News editorial board had today with Mayor Mike Rawlings and city council members Vonciel Jones-Hill and Rick Callahan about the Trinity Parkway. Rawlings said he takes umbrage when people characterize his position on the road as unclear, so he wanted to leave no doubt where he stands: “The more I study it, the firmer my feet get in the concrete about this being an important thing for the city of Dallas.”

Rawlings repeated the oft-used argument of proponents that the votes of Dallas have twice approved this project, never minding the fact that many of those voters thought what they were going to get involved things like sailboats majestically traveling across picturesque lakes and other campaign images of the Trinity park project that will likely never be.

“What voters voted on has not changed. … The bigger question there is really respect for the rule of law and respect for democracy,” Rawlings said.

So toll road proponents are both anarchists and racists, apparently.

Meanwhile Robberson decries “scare tactics” on both sides of the debate. He buys the claims of Rawlings and other supporters that the road will yield positive economic benefits to the people of southern Dallas:

If Rawlings, Hill and other proponents stick to the basic arguments about economic impact and the positive impact on the lives of working people in southern Dallas, they will win the day. If they go that other route, this debate is going to get really nasty and threatens to widen this city’s already sizable racial gap. My advice: Just don’t go there.

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Potable Groundwater and the Excruciating Business of City Bureaucracy

This morning a St. Paul Place corner-office-dwelling FrontBurnervian passed along a public meeting notice he received at his Uptown condo. It concerns a request by a McKinney Avenue landowner to have the city officially prohibit the use of groundwater found below property between Leonard and Fairmount streets.

You see, about 28-30 feet down is a “perched shallow groundwater unit” that’s been affected by the chemical compound benzene at an unsafe level, so the water shouldn’t be considered potable. The contamination apparently was slowly released over time from the tank system of the Shell gas station right across Leonard.

Because this magazine-founding FrontBurnervian lives within a half-mile of the site, he had to be invited to a public hearing scheduled for December 29 at Reverchon Recreation Center. It amused him that such a formality was necessary since who in the neighborhood was going to argue that the water should be considered potable? Who’s going to want to drill a well in Uptown Dallas anyway?

I shared in his amusement, so I set about trying to determine what possible sense there could be in such municipal requirements.

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Why Dallas Is Allowed to Ruin a Park With a Highway

In an Unfair Park post this morning explaining why it’s difficult for him to trust Trinity toll road proponents because of all the lies that have been told about the proposed highway and the adjacent park, Schutze recounts how our elected officials (most prominently former Mayor Tom Leppert and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison) created a special exemption just to make the project possible:

In 2010 when Republicans were filibustering President Obama’s defense spending bills — when defense bills were hard-fought battles in the congress, in other words — Leppert persuaded Hutchison to do some last-minute legislative sleight-of-hand with a defense spending bill that was about to finally get passed. She stuck two “riders” on that bill, provisions of little interest to anybody outside of Dallas, which received scant news coverage even here except in this newspaper.

Those riders said the Trinity River in Dallas was exempt from Section 4(f) of the act. A current U.S. Department of Transportation online publication explains that the FHWA is required by Section 4(f) to put “a thumb on the scale” in favor of park land wherever a highway touches a park, either by running along its edge or by cutting through its middle. Proponents can’t merely argue that a route that harms park land is the cheapest alternative, and, in fact, the FHWA must seriously consider any alternative that would spare the park.

That is the law everywhere in America but in Dallas and along the Trinity River, thanks to Hutchison and Leppert. At the time, Dallas City Manager Mary Suhm said the exemption was only for impacts to historic sites (as if that were a good thing). But we quoted people saying her statement was untrue, that the effect of the riders was so broad that they denuded the toll road project of all of the protective requirements of Section 4(f).

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Marcos Ronquillo Ends Worst-Kept Secret, Will Announce Run for Mayor

Dallas lawyer Marcos Ronquillo will announce today the thing that everyone has known for months: that he plans to run for mayor. Ronquillo opposes the Trinity toll road project and will make that the centerpiece of his campaign. He will probably announce other stuff, but all anyone is going to talk about is that Rawlings=pro-toll road, Ronquillo=anti-toll road. Including me, apparently.

UPDATE: Rudy Bush on why it’s a good thing for Dallas that Ronquillo is running.

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Ask John Neely Bryan: Issuing a Challenge to the Dallas City Council

Friends, I must report that my editor and I nearly came to blows this week over the contents of today’s column, which I am officially filing under protest. I badly wished to give his proboscis a good wringing after he required that I supplant the golden prose I had spun for both your entertainment and edification with a tepid pool of my second-best work.

Granted, my second-best work is more satisfying to the mind and the soul than 99.9 percent of the pabulum churned out by other so-called “professional” scribes. That does not change the fact that I must live with the knowledge I have done you a disservice, dear readers. You’ll learn nothing of my extensive knowledge of weaponry or hand-to-hand combat, and all because some yellow-bellied stuffed-shirt down at the D Magazine offices is afraid the company might be charged with inciting a riot or threatening the lives of public officials if we’d run my original, superior text.

Oh, hang it all. Let’s get this nonsense disposed with.

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Trinity Commons Insists Smaller Toll Road Possible

Though it was reported last week that the federal government’s approval of the Trinity toll road project requires that it is built as a six-lane highway or not at all (without significant delays), the Trinity Commons Foundation is continuing to promote the idea that the design could still be reduced in scale.

Trinity Commons executive director Craig Holcomb repeated as much to the Morning News this afternoon:

“The environmental impact statement, because it is so expensive and takes so long — like, $30 million and 10 years — you ask for permission to do everything you want to do, but when it comes time you may say, ‘Well, I don’t have $1.5 billion, but I think I can pull together $700 million, and this is the part we’d like to do … It’s going to be a whole lot of work, but it will be worth it.”

City Councilman Philip Kingston, a toll road opponent, doesn’t like what he’s hearing from Holcomb:

“…that’s what he keeps saying. And it raises the specter that this is just an intentional deception.”

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Dallas Crime Down But Violent Assaults Up

The Dallas City Council’s Public Safety committee was presented with the latest crime statistics (through Nov. 11) for 2014 today. Overall, crime is down 12.7 percent as compared to 2013, and 45.38 percent from 10 years ago.

However, aggravated assaults are actually up 6.61 percent in the last year. (Though, it should be noted, that’s still down 56.85 percent from a decade back.)

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Laura Miller Opposes Trinity Toll Road

The ranks of former Trinity Parkway proponents who have turned against the project are growing. Former Dallas Mayor Laura Miller tells the Morning News that it shouldn’t be built:

In an email sent to to Dallas City Council member (and toll road opponent) Scott Griggs, and in a follow-up interview with The Dallas Morning News Friday morning, Miller says she wishes the city had built the low-speed, four-lane parkway envisioned by planners responsible for the Balanced Vision Plan adopted by the Dallas City Council in the fall of 2003. But that proposal has been parked by the city’s beloved Alternative 3C, a nearly nine-mile-long, six-lane-wide, $1.5-billion high-speed toll road along the east levee of the Trinity.

Says Miller in her letter to Griggs, “if the road cannot be built as originally envisioned by those of us who fought for a landscaped, low-impact, four-lane solution, the road should not be built at all. Over these past 11 years, the lakes have gotten much smaller, and the road has become much bigger. The result is not a good one.”

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Leading Off (12/5/14)

Protesters Can’t Get on Interstate 35. For the second straight week, following the second straight week in which the non-indictment of a white police officer for the death of a black man made national headlines, demonstrators took to the streets of downtown Dallas to voice their displeasure. Five people were arrested. The protesters were demanding justice for Eric Garner, who was choked to death by a cop in Staten Island, New York, last summer. Unlike last week, they were unsuccessful in making their way onto Interstate 35E to block traffic. They are reportedly planning another demonstration tonight at 8 p.m.

Cowboys Beat the Bears. Dallas topped Chicago 41-28 at Soldier Field. The win comes a year too late to spare downtown Dallas the sight (and sound) of Tim busking.

Baylor and TCU to Make Final Bids For Playoff Spot. The Horned Frogs have the better shot of finishing ranked among the top four teams in college football and therefore to make the playoffs. That’s because they’ve got a higher ranking than the Bears at this moment and are facing a weaker opponent for their final game of the season on Saturday. However, Baylor beat TCU in the team’s head-to-head matchup earlier this year, and both teams are likely to finish with identical records, which gives the Bears a decent counterargument to the Frogs’ overall stronger strength of schedule. FiveThirtyEight says TCU has a 96.3 percent playoff chance while Baylor’s odds are only 18.2 percent.

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Who’s Ready to Talk Some Trinity Toll Road?

What would we do in Dallas if we didn’t have the Trinity Toll Road to talk about? The “zombie road,” which is back from the dead and suddenly, once again, topic du jour in our fair burg will get a roll-em-out, sock-em, rock-em, run-em-dry, spitfire, conversational whooping this evening at the Charles Semos Campus of Rosemont Elementary in Oak Cliff. The public event in Scott Griggs’ council district promises to be the debate that the Stemmons Corridor Business Association luncheon wasn’t. In the pro-road corner: Michael Morris, director of transportation for the North Central Texas Council of Governments; Mary Suhm, former city manager of the city of Dallas; and Craig Holcomb, former city councilman and current executive director of the Trinity Commons Foundation. In the no-road corner, Griggs, urban planner and designer and StreetSmart‘s Patrick Kennedy, and architect and Trinity Trust member Bob Meckfessel. I’m hoping State Representative Rafael Anchia, who is hosting the event, wears a referee uniform. A drop down mic would be fun. Double Dare-style post-Q&A round would be ideal.

If you want to brush up on your Toll Road facts, check out Brendon Formby’s run down of the ten things to know about the zombie road. If you’re looking for some pregame analysis, check out Schutze’s thoughts on why this event is unlike anything that happened in the lead up to the 2007 referendum. Here’s some more info about tonight’s event.

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Dallas Named to 100 Resilient Cities List

It was announced today that Dallas is one of 35 new cities invited to join the Rockefeller Foundation’s Resilient Cities network. More than 350 municipalities worldwide applied to be part of the second group to join what will eventually be 100 Resilient Cities. The first group of 32 was chosen in December of last year. The stated mission of the organization is to help cities “become more resilient to the physical, social and economic challenges that are a growing part of the 21st century.”

Yeah, but what exactly does Dallas get out of it?

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Ask John Neely Bryan: Can You Park at Broken Meters?

I trust you are all sufficiently recovered from last week’s federally-mandated feasting to pay heed to what I am about to say because I am going to say this but once: D Magazine’s 10 Most Eligible Men in Dallas list is a joke. This ordinarily upstanding periodical purports to present a collection of gentlemen who exemplify the finest specimens of masculinity in our corner of northern Texas, and yet there’s not a single farmer or rancher among them? The only manual laborer in the bunch is a damn Canuck paid to play-act at some form of figure-skating combat. And what the hell is an “events and cultural coordinator?” I’ll bet not a one of these fellows has so much as wrestled a bear in his life. It’s no wonder no women have been willing to have any of this lot for husbands.

I’ve already volunteered to take charge of next year’s search, so as to spare the careless editors at D further opprobrium. I was known as quite the man’s man in my day.

Now, to address your needs, as filed at ask@dmagazine.com.

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Poll: Can Texas Cities Ban Fracking?

Denton’s ban on hydraulic fracturing, the first such measure in the state, goes into effect today. A legal battle challenging it is already under way, even as other Texas cities are looking to follow suit. It’s a fight over the rights of property and mineral rights owners vs. public health concerns about the potential environmental damage caused by natural gas drilling operations.

So whose rights matter more?

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Learning Curve’s 10 Suggestions for the Dallas ISD Home Rule Commission

Over on LC, I’ve put all 10 of my recommendations for the Home Rule Commission onto one post. I’ve also added a few additional links at the bottom of the post that I think are worth reading. And I’ve emailed it to the Home Rule commissioners, because I’m a full-service advocacy journo.

Oh, also, I’m about to send out my first Learning Curve newsletter, if I can ever figure out MailChimp. If you want to be added to the distribution list, send an email to eric.celeste@dmagazine.com with the words “SUREWHYNOT” in the subject line, and I will make it so.

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