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Here’s How Highland Park Responded To Having Its Suit Against Dallas Tossed

Fingers of Fury has (have?) the story about a Dallas County judge throwing out a suit filed by the town of Highland Park against the city of Dallas. The suit sought to nix a zoning change that will allow a mid-rise to be built in Dallas, on the Katy Trail. Upon learning of the news, the entire town of Highland Park thought: “Wait. What? A Dallas County court surely doesn’t have jurisdiction over Highland Park, right? A federal district court, maybe. The Supreme Court, almost certainly. But Dallas County?!”

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The General, The Cog, and That Other Zombie Toll Road

File this under “variations in the key of lying.” No one knows how the “Blacklands” toll road — you know, the road that was so hated by the burbs that residents flooded public meetings to shut it down — is still alive, not even TxDOT. Jim Schutze tries to peel the onion to figure how after much resistance and promises from officials that the road was dead, it suddenly ended up on the Texas Department of Transportation’s to-build list. It’s another journey though the deep machinations of the region’s municipal planning organization, the North Central Texas Council of Governments, affectionately known as “The Cog.”

Even without heading over to the Observer story, you know how it made it on that list. I’ll give you a hint: it rhymes with Bichael Boris. But here’s why you should click over to Schutze’s piece. When State Representative Cindy Burkett, a Sunnyvale Republican who very much doesn’t want that road on the to-build list, asked TxDOT Executive Director Lieutenant General Joe F. Weber how it got there, The General refused to put his answer in writing. Maybe The General’s keyboard is missing an “M,” I don’t know. You can read both Burkett’s letter and the General’s wiggly response here.

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Why Young People Like Denver More Than Dallas

Stumbled on this interesting report from a few of months ago that looks at what cities attract college graduates. According to data assembled by the think tank City Observatory, “The number of college-educated people age 25 to 34 living within three miles of city centers has surged, up 37 percent since 2000, even as the total population of these neighborhoods has slightly shrunk.” Why is this significant? Well, because the movement of young people and the places that attract them can help provide “a map of the cities that have a chance to be the economic powerhouses of the future,” the article asserts.

The economic effects reach beyond the work the young people do, according to Enrico Moretti, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, and author of “The New Geography of Jobs.” For every college graduate who takes a job in an innovation industry, he found, five additional jobs are eventually created in that city, such as for waiters, carpenters, doctors, architects and teachers.

“It’s a type of growth that feeds on itself — the more young workers you have, the more companies are interested in locating their operations in that area and the more young people are going to move there,” he said.

So what cities will be the economic powerhouses of the future?  Not Dallas, apparently.

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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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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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Trinity Toll Road Town Hall Backs Pro-Roaders Against the Ropes

A standing-room-only crowd of more than 500 people packed the auditorium at Rosemont Elementary in Oak Cliff yesterday evening for what was perhaps the most honest, open debate about the Trinity Toll Road ever to take place in this city.

The event, organized by State Representative Rafael Anchia, pitted the most outspoken representatives of the pro- and anti-toll road debate in a town hall-style discussion about the controversial plans to build a high-speed traffic artery through the Trinity River floodway. The crowd was overwhelmingly against the road and at times cheered for comments made by anti-road flag wavers Scott Griggs, Patrick Kennedy, and Bob Meckfessel and laughed –- and at one point hissed –- at remarks made by North Central Texas Council of Government transportation director Michael Morris. But the event was largely well-mannered, thanks in part to able moderating by the state rep, who reminded everyone at the outset that they were sitting in an elementary school.

“If we were parents, and children were acting up, we would frown on it,” Anchia said.

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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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So What’s the Mayor’s Trinity Toll Road Task Force Actually Going to Do?

After the mayor announced his Trinity Toll Road task force, I was left wondering about these smart urban guys he picked to rethink the design of the road. Sure, they’re all likely getting a nice pay check for their efforts, which may be motivation enough to stick their noses in this business. And they all have deep experience parachuting into controversy and knowing how to blast their way back out of town. But what are their marching orders? What – or how much – are they were expected to do in Dallas? Would they join a task force that was little more than a political charade or which couldn’t actually suggest any changes that were meaningful?

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Ron Kirk Joins Company That Wants to Bring High Speed Rail to Dallas

Former Dallas Mayor and former U.S. Trade Ambassador Ron Kirk is now a senior advisor to Texas Central Railway, the private company that hopes to bring high speed rail to Texas. The news comes via a statement Kirk posted on the company’s website:

I have seen just about all of the high-speed rail systems throughout Europe and Asia, and the competitive part of me feels that if the rest of the world can do this, why can’t we right here in the United States? This along with the practical attraction to having an alternative transportation mode between two of the fastest growing economic zones in the country sparked my interest and compelled me to join the Texas Central Railway team.

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How Government Subsidies Are Hiding the Omni Convention Center Hotel’s Losses

A couple of weeks ago, I took a look at the financials of the Dallas Convention Center, prompted by Philip Jones’ announcement that he planned to borrow a quarter billion dollars in public money to expand the facility. To summarize, I discovered:

  • The city of Dallas is currently subsidizing the facility to the tune of roughly $53 million per annum; and
  • Three years and $500 million later, the construction of the adjacent convention center hotel hasn’t had any discernable impact on the convention center’s bottom line.

Today, I’m taking a look at the financial performance of the convention center hotel itself.

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Ask John Neely Bryan: How the Yankees Conquered Dallas

I am truly humbled — (Ed.: You mean “honored” (I damn well know what I mean — JNB)) — to see the response elicited by my first foray into the dispensing of well-earned opinions, advisories, and judgments onto the World Wide Web. Most of you magnificently performed your duty of piling missives into the inbox at ask@dmagazine.com, and I shall endeavor to address your queries with all the timeliness of a bow-legged bobcat returning to its native soil during the first moon after the spring equinox to suffer the slow death it deserves for being such an abomination before God.

Some of you, I’m sorry to say, didn’t take my invitation seriously enough. “Boxers or briefs?” What sort of community icon, such that I am, would dare degrade himself by answering such impertinence? And what man in full possession of his faculties wears anything other than boxer-briefs these days?

Onward to more significant inquiries.

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City Lab Also Thinks Dallas Needs to Double Down on Better Bus Service

City Lab writer Eric Jaffe weighs in on the proposed high speed rail line to downtown Dallas and how a sudden influx of passengers may strain DART’s existing public transit capacity. If you’ve been following along with recent developments, there’s not too much new here, but it offers a nice sumation of where we stand. And Jaffe also agrees that the best way to deal with improving public transit in Dallas may be rethinking our bus system:

From the sound of it, Dallas could use a bus makeover similar to the one recently proposed for its high-speed rail partner, Houston. That plan would increase the frequency and reliability of buses for no new operating costs, with ridership coverage taking only a slight hit. The idea of running bus-rapid transit in dedicated lanes over long Texas corridors, rather than hyper-local, high-cost streetcars, could also boost the commuter experience.

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