Free DMA Admission + Klyde Warren Park = Beginning of a New Dallas

The Dallas Museum of Art just announced museum admission will be free, starting in January.

This is awesome. This is going to open up the museum to an entirely new group of people who’ve never set foot in a museum. For residents, it’ll become a new destination, and for conventioneers and visitors, a great introduction to Dallas.

This is yet another step towards a new, better, cooler, funner Dallas. Klyde Warren Park, to me, was step one: a fun park with lots of stuff to do, that’s free to the public. The combo of KWP and the DMA will be terrific. Play at the park, hit the museum, come back to the park for dinner. Very fun.

In a perfect world, here’s what else would be free: DART. The Nasher. The Zoo. The Arboretum. Neiman’s. (A girl can dream.) Add a robust system of bike lanes and I think Dallas can be the coolest city in the country. Yeah, I said it.

Rest in Peace, Dr. Bill Peterson

I am deeply saddened to report that Saturday night, Dr. Julian “Bill” Peterson, District 14’s City Plan Commissioner and dear friend, passed away peacefully in his sleep at his home, after a battle with cancer.

Bill’s death is a great loss for anyone who was privileged to know him. We’ve lost a terrific neighborhood advocate, a tireless community volunteer, and a good, kind man. He is survived by his wife, P. Jay, and children and grandkids.

I visited Bill a couple of weeks ago in his hospital room at Zale Lipshy. At the time, there was a glimmer of hope that the cancer might be slowed again with some aggressive chemotherapy. The prognosis was still dire, though, counting his remaining time in months not weeks. Despite this, Bill wanted to discuss several upcoming District 14 zoning cases and finding a replacement for him on the Plan Commission. I told Bill we didn’t need to worry about that, that he just needed to get better, but he insisted – it’s what he cared about and wanted to take care of even as he lay in a hospital bed tied to an IV.

That was Bill.

I got to know him when we worked together for months preparing for a citywide graffiti clean up in spring 2006. He was a community volunteer who had worked to clean up neighborhoods and coordinate crime watch programs.

What struck me most about Bill was how thorough he was in his preparation for the clean up. He was documenting locations for clean ups across the city, and to say he was organized and thorough is a gross understatement. He had digital photos. He had interactive maps. He had a complex Excel spreadsheet with matching paint colors, property addresses, square footage, property owner names and contact info….you get the picture. As someone who also suffers from anal retentiveness, I was in awe. His hard work helped make that event one of the most successful the city has done.

I later learned that Bill was a biochemistry professor at UT Southwestern Medical Center, and that he was a very thoughtful, logical thinker. Sometimes people that smart and logical can come across as condescending, but not Bill. He was such a pleasure to work with, always listening and really thinking through others’ points of view, justifying his own positions with reason, and unafraid to change his mind when the evidence persuaded him. And he had a wonderfully dry sense of humor.

His heart was dedicated to making Dallas better. Not long after the graffiti clean up, I appointed him to represent District 14 on the Senior Affairs Commission. He did a great job, and when we had an opening on the Plan Commission, Bill asked to be considered. It’s a coveted, powerful volunteer appointment that is also a big commitment. Since Bill hadn’t really been active on zoning cases up to that point, I needed some persuading. And persuade he did. After meeting with several candidates, it was clear Bill was totally committed to the job and prepared to learn what he didn’t know.

After his appointment, Bill devoured District 14’s many complex planned development district ordinances, as well as our many historic and conservation district requirements. He reached out to the Oak Lawn Committee, a community group that evaluates zoning cases in the Oak Lawn area; his attendance at and contributions to their monthly meetings won him the group’s respect and admiration. He met with city staff regularly to understand the reasoning behind their zoning recommendations. He developed good relationships with the other plan commissioners and worked well with them. When difficult zoning cases arose (as they always do in District 14), Bill brought developers together with neighborhood groups to try to find middle ground. He understood the power of compromise but was also unafraid to tell developers “no” when that was the right thing to do for the surrounding neighborhood.

Bill didn’t do any of this for accolades or pats on the back. He didn’t do it to see his name in the paper or get credit for his work. He just wanted to make Dallas better, and that’s exactly what he did.

When he was appointed to the Plan Commission in 2009, Bill told the Dallas Observer that he wasn’t interested in the spotlight and had no desire to be quoted. “If at the end of my term on the plan commission, people say, ‘Oh, Peterson was a good guy, did his job, did his work and helped make things happen,’ that wouldn’t make me unhappy at all.”

We say all that and much more, Bill. Thank you, for everything. We were so very fortunate to know you. We will miss you, my friend.

Join Me Saturday! Campaign Headquarters Open House

Be sure to drop by the grand opening of my campaign headquarters on Saturday, April 16 at at Knox Street! I’ll be there at 9 a.m. to welcome you with donuts, so come by and say hello! You can grab a yard sign, pick up an Angela Hunt t-shirt, and chat with me and other District 14 community leaders.

There will also be opportunities to walk door-to-door if you have some time to volunteer.

See you tomorrow!

On Big Ticket Projects and Being a World Class City

Today the Dallas City Council voted to spend over $10 million to redesign the IH-30 Calatrava bridge.  I was the sole “no” vote. (WFAA; Unfair Park; DMN City Hall Blog)

Transportation dollars are extraordinarily limited right now. In these challenging economic times, it doesn’t make sense for us to spend taxpayer dollars on elaborate architectural designs when we have real infrastructure needs. My fellow councilmembers argued that we must have a second Calatrava bridge “to keep up with the Joneses,” that we can’t be “short-sighted,” that the elaborate bridge is necessary to “create economic development,” and that we must “move forward” in order to be a “world-class city.”

So it got me thinking about what it says about Dallas that we constantly chase after the dream of being a “world-class city.” Continue reading

Check Out “The Big Uneasy” Documentary This Weekend

Last month, I drove up to Denton to watch a documentary about the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ culpability in the Katrina disaster.  Few things can entice me to drive that close to the Canadian border, but the trip was well worth it.  The movie will be screening tonight at 6pm through March 17 right here in Dallas at the Texas Theater and I strongly urge you to check it out.

About halfway through the film, the focus turns to New Orleans’ disasterous Mississippi River Gulf Outlet project, which was responsible for much of the destruction during Katrina.  There are unsettling parallels between the ill-fated “Mr. Go” project and our very own Trinity Toll Road debacle:  the primary purpose of the Corps’ Mr. Go project was not flood control and public safety, but transportation/economic development (sound familiar?).  Only in their case, instead of a massive toll road, they were creating a massive river channel.

Jim Schutze has two great articles on the documentary and its cautionary tale for Dallas:  Documentary About New Orleans’ Killer Floods Draws Uneasy Parallels to Dallas and If There’s One Film About the Corps of Engineers You See All Week …

I got to spend some time talking with the man behind the movie, Harry Shearer (who is not only an amazing comedian/actor, but an astute documentarian).  He was incredibly cool, and his passion for New Orleans and its people and history permeates the film.  I particularly loved his focus on the courageous whistle-blowers (engineers inside and outside the Corps) who risked their careers to do what was right.

This is a terrific film, and a timely one for our city.  Watch it.

Happy Veterans Day

This morning, the Dallas City Council joined service men and women to celebrate Veterans Day with a parade in Downtown.  We also got to enjoy fighter jet fly over in honor of our military personnel and their sacrifices.

My dad who passed away two years ago was a Marine during the Korean War, and he was famous for his “war stories” — some were funny, some were sad, but all of them revealed my dad’s love for his country and his brother Marines.  There was nothing he was more proud of than his service in the United States Marine Corps.

We lost my step-dad Leon earlier this year, and he was a veteran of WWII.  At barely seventeen, he lied about his age so he could join the Navy the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor.  He would tear up telling me about his battleship, the U.S.S. Henley, which sank after being attacked by Japanese bombers.  In the black of night, that young man tread water slicked with oil while several of his friends lost their lives around him.  I can’t imagine experiencing that, much less at such a young age.

We are indebted to these men and women who have put their lives at risk for our liberty.  Today, please let a veteran know how much you appreciate their service.

Join Me This Weekend: “Gasland” Movie and Rally to Restore Sanity

Friday, Oct. 29 – “Gasland” Screening
If you didn’t catch the award-winning documentary “Gasland” when it appeared on HBO, please join me tonight for a screening with filmmaker Josh Fox at Dallas’ Angelika Theater.

“Gasland” is a cautionary tale about gas drilling that is particularly relevant to Dallas citizens as Barnett Shale drilling moves east into our city.  I’ll be there to welcome Josh and discuss what our city should do to ensure gas drilling doesn’t endanger Dallas neighborhoods or the health of our citizens.  The film and a short Q&A with the filmmaker starts at 7pm and ends around 9:30pm.

Downwinders at Risk is hosting a post-screening reception for Josh from 9:30 to 11 pm where the audience can continue the conversation about the local impact of gas drilling.

Saturday, Oct. 30 – Rally to Restore Sanity, Dallas Edition
Tired of crazy political hyperbole, outlandish fear-mongering, and all the nutty rallies that drown out civil political discourse?  Then this rally is for you!

Join me at the Rally to Restore Sanity (Dallas Edition) tomorrow at 11am at Lee Harvey’s (1807 Gould St.) where they’ll be simulcasting the Washington, D.C. rally featuring Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert.  After the broadcast at 2pm, I’ll be joining Human Rights Initiative Award winner Bill Holston and intellectual satirist Rawlins Gilliland for a few words.  (And leave your crazy signs at home.  Unless they’re really crazy.  Then bring ’em.)