Neighborhood Listening Sessions – Results

In October and November of last year, I held a dozen “listening sessions” across District 14 to learn which issues our residents consider to be the most important for our city. Over 280 residents attended, representing a very diverse cross-section of Dallas. At the City Council retreat today, I presented the results of those meetings.

I asked residents for the primary issues they would like our city government to focus on. The figures below represent the percentage of attendees who believed a particular issue to be a top five priority:

1. 89% Crime Reduce crime; hire more police; put more officers in neighborhoods
2. 63% Economic Development Bring more businesses to Dallas; be more business-friendly; improve Downtown
3. 49% Code Enforcement Be more responsive; enforce codes; follow up
4. 41% Neighborhood Quality of Life Improve and expand park and recreation facilities, trails, and greenspace; create compatible residential development; encourage trees and pedestrian streetscapes; support libraries and arts facilities
5. 37% City Council, Get Along Cooperate more; don’t talk too much at meetings; get on the same page; don’t have “fiefdom” mentality
6. 32% Environment Improve air quality; encourage environmental construction; promote recycling and reuse
7. 31% Homeless Get homeless off streets; reduce panhandling
8. 23% Property Taxes Valuations are too high; reduce taxes
9. 22% Strategic Plan Create a long-term plan/vision for city
10. 21% Mass Transit Make more convenient; encourage use; create connections to major hubs of activity (libraries, cultural facilities, airport, sports venues)

While some of these results are not surprising (crime and code enforcement, for example), two stand out. First, 37% of residents believed that a top priority is for the “City Council to Get Along.” Residents expressed a real frustration with the City Council for (in their words) spending too much time fighting and not enough time working together to improve our city. Although I have learned that such infighting is not the reality at City Council, it is, sadly, the perception, and the Council must figure out ways to address this.

The second topic of particular interest is residents’ desire for the Council to have a long-term vision for our city in the form of a “Strategic Plan.” I am hopeful that the City Manager’s Action Plan and Budgeting for Outcomes approach will provide a good first step toward developing a larger vision for our city that our residents will embrace. In another blog, I will address how our strategic planning session went today.

Both of these priorities are significant because they can be addressed, in part, by the same solution: more frequent meetings among the Mayor, Councilmembers, and the Manager to discuss long-term issues. Our regular Council meetings and committee meetings do not offer us the time or forum to address more general concerns. While an annual retreat is a great opportunity to discuss long-range plans, more frequent meetings could ensure we stay “on the same page,” reduce the perception of infighting, and give us time to develop and monitor a strategic plan for our City.

I’ve also got each listening session’s top five priorities that I will post this weekend.

Oak Lawn Triangle

I met with members of the Oak Lawn Committee today to discuss the construction of the Oak Lawn Triangle. The OLC has raised over $200k in private funds to design and build an entry monument to Oak Lawn at the corner of Oak Lawn at Cedar Springs. The OLC held a design contest, and the winning entry combines architectural elements from Oak Lawn.

There are a number of City issues that need to be addressed to support the creation of the Triangle, so I’ll be working with the OLC to get this project completed. It’s going to be a great entryway to Oak Lawn.

Northern Hills Neighborhood Meeting

The Northern Hills neighborhood, just west of Central Expressway and south of Knox, held its annual meeting today. Often confused with Highland Park, Northern Hills is a lovely neighborhoods of about 65 homes that is currently pursuing Conservation District status. I spoke with the residents here a few years ago about historic preservation, and I’m so happy they’ve gathered neighborhood support for this effort.

At the meeting this afternoon, I and several other District 14 candidates spoke to Northern Hills residents about our stances on various issues. After the candidates spoke, I stayed after to listen to residents’ concerns about crime, recycling, and street maintenance.

Northern Hills has a Crime Watch and an Expanded Neighborhood Patrol paid for by residents. Unfortunately, only half the residents participate and pay for the additional off-duty police patrols. If more residents do not join the Crime Watch soon, the ENP will end this month. Northern Hills’ exceptionally low crime rate is due in large part to the ENP, and I am hopeful that more residents will participate.

Swiss Avenue Picnic

Swiss Avenue is celebrating its centennial this year, and the neighborhood put together an old-fashioned picnic.

Despite a few dark clouds, the weather held out. Folks enjoyed old-time banjo music, food from Whole Foods, and tasty gelato served by the Paciugos themselves.

The Dallas Police Department closed off the street in front of the house hosting the event, and kids of all ages enjoyed riding their bikes up and down the traffic-free street.

Glencoe Park Neighborhood Get-Together

Glencoe Park, the northern part of the M Streets, had a very nice neighborhood get-together today, and I was glad to be invited.

This neighborhood is a good example of a stable mix of different housing stock: apartments, single-family homes, and duplexes. The diverse mix of housing leads to a diverse mix of neighbors – one of the things I like best about district 14.

Hollywood-Santa Monica Reforestation Program

My husband and I helped HSMNA members plant pecan trees in Lindsley Park. The city’s reforestation program is a terrific, though underutilized, program.

My neighborhood, the M Streets, has participated in the program for the last three years, and has planted over 100 shade trees on neighborhood parkways.

Often, we overlook the good our city does for its residents — and this program definitely qualifies as a good one. The city provides young, healthy trees for free to neighborhoods for use in public spaces like parkways. The neighborhood must commit to watering and taking care of the trees for two years. That’s a small price to pay for all the benefits that shade trees bring to our community: cooler temperatures in the summer, cleaner air due to natural recycling of CO2, and a natural habitat for birds and squirrels. Trees on parkways even contribute to slower traffic on neighborhood streets!

Visit the City of Dallas’ website for more information on the City of Dallas Reforestation Program.