Deja Vu All Over Again: Toll Road Continues to Slow Down Critical Levee Improvements

Sunday’s Dallas Morning News featured an article by Michael Lindenberger titled “Analysis:  Dallas’ crucial levees only weakened amid debate on park, toll road.”

Well, no, actually the park debate (by which I assume the DMN means the referendum to remove the toll road from the floodway) did not slow, even by a day, improvements to our levee system or lack thereof.  But let’s set that aside for a bit.

Perhaps the more important question is:  Is the fact that critical levee improvements have been hijacked by the Trinity Toll Road actually news to anyone who’s been following this issue?

Let me take you back over a year ago, when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers informed the city that our levees were rated “unacceptable” under the new federal standards.   The day after that announcement, the council voted to fund a study to determine the extent of the failures and plan for remediation.  It was crystal clear then (and frankly, before then) that the city’s insistence on intertwining the levee improvements with the toll road had slowed flood control improvements for years.  Take a look at the council meeting beginning at 01:59 where I point out that the mayor and council’s fixation on placing the toll road within the floodway has hopelessly intertwined the toll road with the levee improvements, thus grinding critical flood control measures to a halt.  That were it not for the toll road’s interminable delays, we could move forward on much-needed levee improvements.

That’s not news over a year later.  What’s news is that the mayor, city council, and city manager still refuse to acknowledge this reality and sever the two projects.  We can move forward on our levee improvements if we have the political will to put the safety of our residents ahead of this toll road.

In his article, Lindenberger states without attribution or explanation, “[I]n 2007, council member Angela Hunt led a referendum aimed at preventing a toll road from being built within the levees, citing worries about costs and impact on the parks. Things came to a halt again.”

Absolutely not true.  Take a look at 02:27.  No one at the city, NTTA or Corps ever stated that the referendum was slowing down their “progress” (or lack thereof) on flood control matters.  To the contrary; city staff was adamant that the project was proceeding full-speed ahead, despite the referendum.

So I challenge Michael Lindenberger to back up his statement that the referendum delayed much-needed levee improvements by even one day.  What particular aspect of the levee project “came to a halt”?  At what point did flood control plans halt due to the referendum and later resume and who made those decisions?  What evidence exists to support this unsubstantiated claim?

Aside from this clearly erroneous assertion, there is no news in this article.  The city has known for decades that our levees are in critical condition.  The mayor, council, and city manager have known for years that by interlocking the toll road with levee improvements we are irresponsibly and interminably delaying flood control safety.

Recently, city staff estimated that bringing our levees up to federal standards will cost somewhere in the range of $50 to $150 million.  Right now, $46 million remains of the 1998 bond funds allocated to the toll road.

What will be news is when the mayor and council decide to actually put flood control safety first and not just talk about it — when the city finally decides to cut its losses on the failed, unfunded, and unapproved toll road and shift that $46 million to critically-needed levee improvements.  That will be news.

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Plans for St. Patrick’s Day on Greenville Avenue

Greenville Avenue will celebrate St. Patrick’s Day on Saturday, March 13, and I wanted to explain the initiatives the city is taking this year to limit the impact of the St. Patrick’s Day parade and party on our Lower Greenville neighborhoods.  (Sorry in advance for the incredibly long post.)

This is a joint effort of Deputy Police Chiefs Vincent Golbeck, Julian Bernal and Tom Lawrence, neighborhood residents, special events office, code enforcement, sanitation, parking enforcement, event sponsors, myself, and others. Note that these events are privately sponsored and are not endorsed by the City of Dallas. Check for updated info at www.dallascityhall.com.

Here is a link to a flyer that has all this info as well as a map of the Lower Greenville parking restrictions.

BULKY TRASH
In response to my request to ensure as much bulky trash as possible is picked up before the Lower Greenville festivities, I received this response from Mary Nix, Director of Sanitation at the City:

Although our brush/bulk crews are straining to get back on their regular schedule – as the snow storm debris collection is a massive undertaking – we recognize the need to address the Greeneville neighborhood’s immediate need.

We’ve sent several rotoboom trucks to collect storm debris (starting earlier this week) – and are making sure they’ll cover the area for several blocks to both the east and west of Greenville from Ross Avenue to Southwestern.  They’ll go additional blocks as time allows.  We’ll do our best not to inadvertently collect the temporary “No Parking” signs as we go!

Continue reading

Potholes on Lemmon Avenue

If you’ve driven on Lemmon Avenue recently, I hope your suspension has not been completely destroyed.

The worst area on Lemmon is between the toll road and Inwood, which has tons of terrible potholes, one after another, which have been exacerbated by recent weather. (It’s not that it’s smooth as silk elsewhere; it’s just particularly bad on this section.)

Crews are working on filling literally hundreds of potholes on Lemmon, and they anticipate it’ll take a week or longer to finish. I’ll be monitoring.

City Should Use Trinity Toll Road Money to Fund Levee Study

Today the city council decided to take $4.75 million from Trinity Park bond funds to pay for a federally-required levee study. I voted against this and instead proposed that we use Trinity Toll Road bond money to pay for the study.

The toll road isn’t going to happen. The NTTA has said they are more than a billion dollars short in funding for the road. There are no “buckets of money” to dip into that the mayor once proclaimed were lying around for the road. The NTTA has also said that due to its current project commitments, it wouldn’t even be able to consider any other projects for five years. So, realistically speaking, the toll road is dead.

So if the toll road is dead, and the park is still viable, why on earth would we divert funds from the park instead of the toll road? We must move forward on flood safety improvements, so there’s no question we need to fund the federal levee study, and quickly. But take the money from a project that is clearly stalled, and let us get going on some park improvements that we can enjoy now.

Here’s a wrap-up of some recent news articles about the Trinity Toll Road: Continue reading

Lower Greenville’s Future

Last night, I went to the Double Wide benefit concert for the businesses and employees who lost their jobs as a result of last week’s fire on Lower Greenville.  The Doublewide was great to host this, and Chelsea Callahan did an outstanding job organizing the five bands in such short order, helping raise funds for these newly-unemployed workers.

The neighborhood support for these restaurants and pubs — Terrilli’s, Mick’s, Greenville Ave., Hurricane — has been amazing.  Neighborhood associations are selling t-shirts to benefit the employees, a local bank and other business owners have set up a fund to provide financial support, and a facebook page has been created to highlight other job opportunities.

I’ve gotten so many emails from people — lawyers, planners, historic preservationists, architects — offering their services to the building owners free of charge, so the building can be rebuilt and the businesses (and their employees) can get back on their feet as soon as possible.  (I’m passing along this info to the owner, who pledged to keep the historic facade and rebuild quickly.)  A testament to the community support for these businesses can be seen in the many flowers now adorning the chain link fence surrounding the burned-out property — letting the owners and employees know that we are deeply saddened by their loss, that their departure has left a hole in our community, and that we wish them well.

This outpouring of support got me thinking:  Would we have seen the same response if a block of Lowest Greenville — say, south of Bell Avenue — had suffered a similar fate?

I don’t think so.

It’s not that the loss to the business owners or employees would have been any less traumatic or worthy of the neighborhood’s generosity.  But the businesses we lost last week were just the kind that we want on Greenville Avenue — restaurants and pubs that attract mostly neighborhood folks, that are family-friendly, and that have patrons visiting throughout the day not just late at night.

We see too few such businesses on Lowest Greenville — too few restaurants, neighborhood pubs, and retailers and too many bars.  Way too many bars.  All crammed into the middle of a residential area.  Continue reading

Lower Greenville Owner to Rebuild, Keep Facade

I just spoke with Jon duPerier, a general partner here in Dallas who owns the Lower Greenville block that burned.  He told me that he and his partners are history buffs who feel strongly that their building is one of the most historically significant on Greenville Avenue.  He acknowledged that while it would be cheaper to scrape and rebuild, they would rather make the investment and keep a part of Dallas’ history alive.  They are going to preserve the facade and rebuild in the same footprint asap.  The city will be expediting permits for the project, and I told Jon that I would work with him if any issues arose.

This is great news on so many levels.  Jon was very sensitive to the loss to the business owners and their families and wants to get them back in business as soon as possible.  The reconstruction also means that we won’t be looking at a burned out building for months, and will get to see a part of our history revived in short order.

It’s so great to know there are property owners who are invested in our community, not just their small piece of it.  Many thanks to Jon and his partners for their commitment to Lower Greenville and our businesses, residents, and history.

From the Lakewood Advocate Backtalk Blog, here’s a great picture of original plans for the building back in 1931 versus today (pre-fire).  The sketch appeared in the June 14, 1931 edition of  The Dallas Morning News along with the caption, “J. T. Piranio is erecting the modern store building at Greenville avenue and Goodwin street at a cost of $25,000. This will provide six large store-rooms, designed in the latest style.”

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Lower Greenville Fire – How You Can Help

[UPDATED MAR. 5 AT 6:18PM]

The Lower Greenville fire has resulted in a lot of folks losing their jobs overnight. There are several ways you can help:

New Info:  From the Lower Greenville Neighborhood Association:

LGNA volunteers will be selling St. Patrick’s t-shirts at the block party between Vanderbilt and Vickery on Saturday 3/13.  T-shirts will be sold for $10 each, and 100% of gross sales will be donated to restaurant employee assistance.  LGNA is donating the t-shirts that will be sold.

From the Lakewood Advocate Backtalk Blog:

Benefit for employees of Terilli’s, Mick’s, Hurricane Grill is Sunday
Five bands are playing a benefit concert Sunday at the Doublewide for employees of Lower Greenville restaurants that were destroyed in a fire this week.

The bands are Corey Howe, STEW, Manned Missiles, Cocky Americans and Slider Pines, plus sets from DJs Sista Whitenoise and Woodtronic.  The party starts at 8:30 p.m., and tickets are $7.

From the Taste of Lower Greenville Avenue website:

How to support the employees of Terilli’s, Greenville Avenue Bar & Grill, Mick’s and Hurricane Grill
Collection of information, job leads, etc – Help Lower Greenville Facebook page

Restaurant Employee Relief Fund Bank Account
A bank account has been opened to raise money for employees directly affected by the fire. Donations can be made at any local Branch Banking & Trust (BB&T) branch. The account name: Restaurant Employee Relief Fund, Account #8056613196.

The account is coordinated by the Greenville Avenue Restaurant Association, The Greenville Avenue Area Business Association, The Greenville Merchants Association, and the Historic Greenville Avenue Area Business Association. Funds will be dispersed by the owners of the businesses on a case-by-case basis in coordination with the Associations managing the account. Continue reading