Council Delays Booting Ordinance

This morning, the Council unanimously voted to delay the booting ordinance until it can be considered by the Council’s Transportation Committee in August.

The delay was critical for those of us who want an ordinance with teeth that protects our restaurants and retailers that have lost customers due to unscrupulous booting.

Here’s what happened: The booting issue was presented to the Transportation Committee of which both Councilmember Medrano and I are members. We represent the two districts most impacted by the booting problem: Downtown and Deep Ellum. Continue reading

Council Authorizes Bond Sale for Convention Center Hotel

Last Friday, the Dallas City Council unanimously authorized the City Manager to move forward in selling the bonds to build the city-owned convention center hotel.

I did not, and do not, think that Dallas should wholly own a convention center hotel. After examining this issue very closely for more than a year, I still believe Dallas should have subsidized a privately-owned hotel, and that a private company should have borne the financial risk. As it stands, if the hotel fails, taxpayers would ultimately be responsible for the debt. I remain unconvinced that city consultant HVS’s overly optimistic financial projections will prove true.

However, Dallas voters assessed this risk when they voted on May 9. They (narrowly) approved city-ownership of the hotel. In the end, it is their money and their decision. So when it came time to authorize the bonds, I felt my obligation was to approve the authorization IF there were sufficient protections in place for taxpayers (my responsibility to the 49% who voted against city-ownership of the hotel).

I spent a great deal of time talking with city staff about the deal they have brokered for sale of the bonds, and what types of taxpayer protections were in place. Continue reading

Upcoming City Budget Meetings

Next year’s City budget (Oct. 2009 – Sept. 2010) is going to require serious budget cuts. I have opposed a tax increase because too many residents and families are struggling right now. So we’re going to have to make some tough choice.

I want your input on next year’s budget, and would like you to get involved in the process as soon as possible.

Because of the dire state of next year’s budget, the city is holding early meetings to give a budget overview:

Tuesday, June 9
6:30 – 8:00 p.m.
Goodwill Industries
3020 N. Westmoreland Rd.
Dallas, TX 75212

Monday, June 22
6:30 – 8:00 p.m.
Jewish Community Center
7900 Northaven Rd
Dallas, TX 75230

Thursday, June 25
6:30 – 8:00 p.m.
Winfrey Point at White Rock Lake
950 E. Lawther Dr.
Dallas, TX 75218

Take a look at the city’s budget presentation and the draft budget.

If there is a service that’s being cut that you would like to keep in the budget, please tell me how you propose to fund the service (is there something else you propose to cut?). I hope you will attend one of these meetings and let me know your thoughts.

Neighborhood leaders, please pass on this info to your neighborhood residents.

So NOW Can We Move Forward on Plan B?

On Monday, the Mayor held a press conference, flanked by Senator Hutchison and Congresswoman Johnson, to deftly spin the sorry state of our levees into a positive, uplifting tale called “The Path Forward.”

Here’s what happened: Dallas has got this man-made channel of greenspace called a “floodway” where all the run-off water in the city goes. If it goes down into a storm drain, it ends up in the Trinity Floodway. The floodway has these earthen mounds running along it — levees — that are intended to keep that water in the channel and prevent it from breaking through or topping over, resulting in injury to people and property.

Since Katrina, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — the arm of the federal government that inspects levees — has come up with new standards to try to avoid another Katrina-like catastrophe. As a result of their revised standards, the Corps recently gave Dallas’ levees an “unacceptable” rating. That’s a failing grade in Corps-ese. The consequence is that the city has to fix the levees to meet the Corps’ new standards. Continue reading

Great Primer on the Trinity River Project

Ian Dille of the Texas Observer wrote an excellent article on the Trinity River Corridor Project. Read it here.

One of the most interesting points is Dille’s discussion with Alex Krieger, one of the urban designers brought in to develop the Trinity’s “Balanced Vision Plan” for then-Mayor Laura Miller:

Krieger tells me, “If [the Trinity Parkway’s] a highway, there is no balanced vision. It will be tragic. This is where I felt I was being used. We always felt the highway guys were just playing along with us, hoping we would go away, then they would expand the road again.”

Krieger imagined a road that functioned within the context of the park first, and within the city’s transportation plan second, and recalls that at one point he told state Department of Transportation and toll authority engineers, “there are already 19 lanes of traffic through Dallas. If that’s not enough, 23 won’t solve your problem either.”

Tell the Feds What You Think About Trinity Toll Road

As part of the federal government’s evaluation of the Trinity Toll Road, they must take public comment. If you didn’t get a chance to attend the “public hearing” last month, you can still provide written comment (which will be included in the public record) through June 30. Here’s the NTTA press release: Continue reading