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What a ‘Lost’ 1967 Film Can Teach Us About How To Build Dallas’ Future

Yesterday evening the Dallas Chapter of the American Institute of Architects screened a lost film about Dallas entitled “The Walls Are Rising.” Originally produced in 1967 by the AIA, the film attempts to diagnose the city’s urban ills and suggests solutions. At the time of its production, it was screened all over Dallas to community groups and other organizations, and covered extensively in the Dallas Morning News. Nearly 50 years later, interest in the unearthed film is still strong. The event drew a crowd that approached 200 people to the seventh floor of the Sixth Floor Museum, an oddly appropriate setting for a film intimately tied to the civic reaction to the aftermath of the JFK assassination.

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Friday Afternoon Time Kill: Interactive Urban Decay

If you’re looking for a way to squander the next couple hours or so of late Friday productivity, I have an idea for you. Head over to the University of Oklahoma’s Institute for Quality Communities’ blog where they have put together a tool to help visualize 60 years of urban decay in Texas and Oklahoma. An interactive image slider graphic, not unlike the one we use in our “Ghosts of Dallas” series, allows you to toggle back and forth between aerial photographs taken 60 or so years apart of the city centers of Houston, Fort Worth, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, Tulsa, and Oklahoma City. You can see in an instant how an era driven by new highways, new parking codes and lots, new building styles like the skyscraper, housing projects, and public facilities like convention centers dramatically — and rather quickly — transformed the American urban landscape. It’s interesting, but a bit depressing — another reason to look forward to happy hour.

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Leading Off (1/16/15)

South Dallas Residents Don’t Want New Toll Lanes. Wait, I thought opposing the construction of new pay-to-play roads was classist and racist and that folks south of Interstate 30 are clamoring for the opportunity to pay to drive their cars to points north? Then why were those who showed up to a Tuesday meeting at Methodist Dallas Medical Center to discuss the proposed Southern Gateway project — redoing Interstate 35E south of Colorado Boulevard — so upset about the idea to include managed toll lanes in the plans? Listen to this:

“We don’t want this. We don’t want these tollways here. Not in Oak Cliff,” said Juanita Lozano, drawing an “amen” and applause from the crowd.

And this:

“You’re creating a system where people with means can zip from one end of this area to the other while they wave at the rest of us on the sidelines,” said Michael Amonett.

And how about this?

“Where will you get the additional land you need?” asked Alicia Quintans, who lives near I-35E and observes its daily traffic flow.

“There’s maybe two hours of the day when traffic is jumbled up on I-35,” she said, “and I don’t understand why we’re building these toll lanes for two hours of the day.”

Oil Boom Headed For Bust? We’re all still enjoying the cheap gasoline, but as prices have dropped, drilling budgets have been slashed and industry layoffs have begun. Concern of a sustained downturn is growing.

Hipster Wedding Chapel Denied by City. The owners of the Bows and Arrows floral shop were fixing up an East Dallas mansion to host weddings, but their request to rezone the home for that purpose was denied last week by the Plan Commission.

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News Flash: There Is Too Much Parking in American Cities

Next time you hear someone complaining about trying to find parking in Bishop Arts, pass them this story. It is a report on a new report released yesterday that shows that cities in the United States greatly oversupply parking. How much? Well, in the 27 districts studied, researches found that:

The oversupply ranged from 6 percent up to 253 percent across the study areas (below, the highest over-suppliers). And in the nine areas that had believed parking to be scarce, the oversupply ranged from 6 percent to 82 percent.

The key here is in many of the oversupplied area, the general perception was that parking was scare. I think Eric Jaffe, who writes about the report for City Lab, nails it with his lead:

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Forget Highways. Here’s What Development in Southern Dallas Should Look Like

Late last week, Dallas Morning News editorial board member Rodger Jones penned a post about highways and development that I’ve been trying to ignore. After all, people like Wylie H. and Patrick Kennedy do a good job taking apart Jones’ argument in the comments. But the piece reminded me of a particular development not unrelated to a highway that I’ve been looking for an excuse to write about for some time. And so, I’ve founded my excuse.

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Ask John Neely Bryan: Let’s All Give Steve Blow a Wide Berth, Shall We?

Lee Kleinman is the most courageous member of the Dallas City Council. I am pleased to announce that he is the first — thus far the only — member of that quasi-august body to accept my challenge. He has agreed to face off against me, mano e mano, over heaping bowls of dal makhani at Mughlai. I’ve asked my people to reach out to his people to work out the details. I shall keep you informed as to the progress of this endeavor.

Now, to today’s business.

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Mayor Mike Rawlings Says It’s ‘Classist’ Not To Give Poor People the Option To Pay Tolls

We run a leadership program called D Academy that is designed to educate our employees (and anyone else who would like to apply) about all matters related to the functions of our city. Yesterday, in a City Hall auditorium, Mayor Mike Rawlings was kind enough to field questions for the current class of fellows, and he said some things about the Trinity toll road and Adrian Peterson that give me pause. Such as:

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The Problem With Love Field

By now, I suspect many of you have had a chance to see the result of the $500 million Love Field Modernization Program, which is a less irritating way to say it has been transformed into a [rhymes with “burled grass”] airport. The remodel was finished this fall, around the time the Wright Amendment went away and Southwest Airlines was finally able to fly nonstop to cities farther away than Lubbock. There is a new 20-gate terminal, new restaurants and shops, a new baggage claim area with new and more carousels, and a new passenger pickup area.

All of the upgrades inside the airport are pretty solid. I would say it seems like it takes longer to get bags off the plane and into the airport. But since I never check bags, I consider any wait at all to be interminable, so I’m probably a bad judge. On the plus side, having a place to grab a pre-flight drink that is not a terrible fake Irish pub called McJimmylegs or whatever automatically elevates any airport.

It is the part of the Love Field Modernization Program outside the airport — the new passenger pickup area — that is an absolute catastrophe.

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It’s a New Year, And We Still Don’t Know How to Pay for the Trinity Toll Road

If you have been a little tuned out over the last few weeks like we have, then what better way to kick-off the New Year than brushing up on some Trinity Toll Road news? Let’s start with Wick’s masterful take down of Mayor Mike Rawlings’ latest position on the road. Then brief yourself on the all star mega-meeting Sen. Royce West is hosting this week to try to hash out just where he stands on the road (attendees are slightly skewed pro-toll road by my reading of the list, but let’s hope our man Patrick Kennedy gets time to speak his mind).

Of course the elephant in the room—after we’ve yammered on and on about planning and cities and economics and transportation equality—is that we still don’t know how to fund the blasted road. Brandon Formby brings us up to date on that ever elusive question by peeking into Michael Morris’ magical cabinet of financial wonders to see how the COG man is fudging the numbers of late. In short, the plan is still essentially the same: find enough cash in the couch cushions to get cement in the floodway, then bully taxpayer-funded government agencies to scale it up later.

Happy New Year.

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Ask John Neely Bryan: Why Dallas Drivers Be Crazy?

I’ll be honest; I’m hosting a raging New Year’s shindig this eve, and thus I haven’t time to offer my usual dose of wit and wisdom atop this column. Instead, without further ado, another of your requests, submitted via ask@dmagazine.com.

Question: Why does it seem that all drivers in and around Dallas feel they can text and drive 80 miles an hour in the rain? Suzanne L.

I gather from the impertinent tone of your query that you don’t consider yourself a Dallasite, that you hold yourself both separate from and superior to the other people of this city. Whether that’s because you didn’t yourself have the privilege of originating from here or merely because you foster disdain for the town, I do not know. Nor do I care.

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Ask John Neely Bryan: Yes, Virginia, There Is a Zombie Toll Road

I take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below, sent to me via ask@dmagazine.com, expressing at the same time my great gratification that its author is numbered among the friends of FrontBurner:

 

Question: I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no way an eight-lane toll road can be built inside a levee flood zone. But the bullies say “sure it will fit, now shut up and don’t ask so many questions.”  Papa says, “If you see it in D Magazine, and it is written by the ghost of the long-dead city founder, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there going to be an eight-lane toll road inside the majestic Trinity? —Virginia

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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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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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A Toll Road To the Trinity Paved With Good Deceptions

So we have this little thing we make every month here at D Magazine that we refer to as the print edition, and we are currently in the midst of trying to put together February’s issue. As a result, I’m neck deep in a feature story about art, success, love, suffering, life, death, Dallas, Europe, markets, art worlds, champagne, smoked haddock, race cars, and superheroes. If I can pull it off, it might be a decent read. But you don’t care about that right now. What you care about — what everyone cares about, again — is the Trinity Bleeping Toll Road. But I mention this pesky little article because it has prevented me from giving you an adequate update on the road in the wake of last week’s remarkable revelation that those who are in support of the toll road are dirty, rotten liars. Well, they are not really liars. I’ll explain why.

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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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