Dallas’ Bond Passes!

Last Tuesday, the residents of Dallas overwhelmingly passed all 12 bond propositions, allowing the city to invest $1.35 billion over the next 4 1/2 years to improve our streets, parks, libraries, city police and fire facilities, and other city infrastructure. District 14 turned out the largest number of voters to support the bond.

As we move forward with the 2006 bond, I wanted to address some questions and concerns I’ve heard about city bonds, and also give you an update on the 2003 bond program.

People ask me all the time, “Why isn’t the city finished with the 2003 bond yet?” The 2003 bond was never intended to be completed until next year. The 2003 bond provided for a 4-year bond sale. For financial and practical reasons, we can’t sell all the bonds at once; the market wouldn’t bear it, and we couldn’t find enough contractors to build all of the projects at once. So about a quarter of the bonds are sold every year over four years. Each year, the city takes the money from that year’s bond sale and undertakes bond projects.

As of today, 90% of the 2003 bond projects for which bonds have been sold are either completed or on schedule. The 2006 bonds will be sold over 4 1/2 years, starting in May, then every November after that for four years.

Another concern I’ve heard is that “The city does whatever it wants with the bond money; what you’re voting for isn’t really what you get.”

I want to assure you that Dallas will get what it voted for, and that each and every dollar of the $1.35 bond package is allocated to a particular project. The projects are highly detailed. For example: Street Resurfacing: Abrams Rd. – Crestmont Dr. to Fisher Rd. $89,852. You can see all the projects at the city’s website at www.dallascityhall.com.

The city does have the ability to reallocate funds within a bond proposition. For example, funds from one library project could be reallocated to another library project. The city couldn’t spend the money on a different proposition, like parks or streets.

HOWEVER, the city rarely reallocates bond funds. Of the 1500 projects from the 2003 bond only THIRTEEN have been reallocated. That’s less than 1%. Why were these funds reallocated? Sometimes grant money, or state or federal funds, were secured to fund the project. Other times, a neighborhood decided against a specific project that they had petitioned for. So Dallas taxpayers can feel secure that they will get the projects they voted for.

City Open House: Dallas City Hall wants to hear from YOU!

Thursday, November 16, 2006
4:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Dallas Convention Center – Ballroom “C”

You’re invited to help chart the future of the City of Dallas. Please attend the open house for citizens and stakeholders to visit with city staff and help shape long-term goals and strategies for success. The format will be “open house,” with the program repeating every 20 minutes.

Map to Convention Center.
Free parking: Convention Center lot “C” located at Griffin & Lamar.
** Participants are encouraged to use DART**

Update on Lower Greenville

After four people were stabbed outside one of the bars on Lower Greenville about six months ago, I pulled together a cross-departmental taskforce to examine problems in the area. Here’s an update on what the taskforce has been doing:

There continues to be frustration among residents regarding noise coming from bars on Lower Greenville. The police and city attorneys are likewise frustrated because they feel that the fines associated with the city’s noise ordinance are not expensive enough to deter the bars from turning up the volume. There is a perception that, to the bars, the fines levied by the city are simply the cost of doing business.

Because the problems in Lower Greenville have been ongoing for so long, I have encouraged our police and other taskforce members to think creatively about ways to address Lower Greenville problems. I am pleased to report that our police have been working very diligently on the noise issue. One DPD officer noticed that section 101.62 of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (“TABC”) Code prohibits loud noise on the premises. The penalty can include a $750 fine and a suspension of the business’ liquor license.

The DPD has been working closely with the TABC on this issue, and is considering standardizing the process so that a bar would receive one warning, two citations, then the third citation/violation would be forwarded to TABC for an Administrative Case filing. The DPD and the TABC are coordinating to implementing this process now, and will be moving forward with administrative case filings against bars that violate this process. Special thanks to Deputy Chief Harvey, Sargeant Clifton, Lt. Keough, and TABC Sgt. Hamilton for helping to address this important issue for the neighborhood.

Special Permits for Bars
To operate as a bar in Dallas, businesses must obtain a special permit from the city. The permitting process requires a public hearing, where nearby residents and business owners have the opportunity to let the city know whether or not the business has been operating as a good neighbor should.

Unfortunately, in Lower Greenville and other areas of the city, bars like to masquerade as restaurants so they don’t have to go through the public permitting process. Bars are defined as those businesses that receive more than 75% of their gross revenue from liquor sales.

I have been working with our police department, the city attorney, and the city auditor to ensure that businesses comply with the rules and obtain a special permit if they’re bars.

The city auditor will be conducting audits of some bars in Lower Greenville and other areas of the city that are believed to be operating without the proper permit. This is a pilot program, and once the bugs are worked out, it will be expanded.

The city will be completing an analysis of Lower Greenville parking in the next two to three weeks. Parking in Lower Greenville is remarkably complex. The city requires a certain number of parking spaces for businesses in Dallas, depending on the square footage and type of business. On Lower Greenville, however, businesses get parking credits for non-existent parking spaces. Businesses also often use “parking agreements” with other businesses to fulfill their parking requirements. In other words, a business makes an agreement with another business to “rent” parking spaces from a nearby parking lot in order to fulfill their parking requirements. Such “parking agreements” further complicate the parking situation.

Businesses are also required to keep their parking lots in a certain state of repair, and must have them striped and lit to code. Because parking is such a problematic issue in Lower Greenville, it was important for the city to undertake a parking analysis to ensure that all of the businesses in the area are complying with all city rules and regulations regarding parking.

Infrastructure Improvements
The upcoming 2006 bond contains nearly $500k for street reconstruction of Greenville Avenue from Ross to Palo Pinto. In addition, I added over $800k to to the bond to improve the streetscape for pedestrians, to add lighting, and to make other safety improvements.

There are a number of other issues that the city’s taskforce is working on to improve Lower Greenville, and you’ll be hearing about those efforts in the coming weeks.

Allowing Pets on Restaurant Patios

A few months ago, a friend of mine called me, concerned because some of the restaurants and cafes in the West Village were receiving notices of violating the city’s health code because they were allowing dogs on outdoor patios. I couldn’t believe it: a ticket for pets on patios?

My husband and I ride our bikes on the Katy Trail most weekends, and often have lunch or dinner in Uptown or Middle Greenville, where we regularly see people dining outside with their pooches at their feet. It makes the atmosphere seem laid back, and is yet another amenity for customers. How could bonding with your dog over a bagel be illegal?

I did a little research and found out from our City Attorney that the prohibition is a state law, and if the City of Dallas wanted to allow pets on patios, we’d have to change state law or get an exemption for Dallas.

Our council district is the most urban in the city, with the most dense mixed-use areas in Dallas. Combined with eclectic Old East Dallas, changing the ban on pets on patios is particulalrly important for our council district.

I asked our City Attorney to help figure out a process for Dallas to allow dogs on patios. He’s now working with the State Health Department to create an ordinance for Dallas, and will be briefing the city council on the proposed law. Food establishments wishing to allow dogs on outdoor patios would have to get a special permit from the city, and comply with whatever health regulations may be required.

I’ve discussed the new ordinance with the Greater Dallas Restaurant Association, and they are very excited about the change. If you’ve got a pooch who loves to join you for brunch at the neighborhood restaurant, I’d love to hear your thoughts — shoot me an email at angela@angelahunt.com.