Trip to Portland and Seattle – Streetcars and Bicycle Infrastructure

Councilmember Koop and I traveled to Portland and Seattle last weekend to tour each city’s streetcar system and bicycle infrastructure. Assistant City Manager A.C. Gonzalez (who oversees economic development) and Jay Kline (DART’s streetcar coordinator) joined us.

STREETCARS
Both cities have used streetcars as economic catalysts, allowing considerable mixed-use development in depressed areas. The Pearl District in Portland is a great example. Only a few years ago, it was a run-down, crime-ridden warehouse district. Today, it’s a vibrant, clean, mixed-use community with businesses and residences. Continue reading

Vote YES on Prop 1 and NO on Prop 2

I’m voting YES on Proposition 1 because I am concerned with the risk to Dallas taxpayers. Proposition 1 will prohibit the city from owning a convention center hotel, as the Mayor has proposed.

In theory, the hotel would be able to pay for itself through its own revenue. But if the hotel doesn’t meet the Mayor’s rosy projections for occupancy, taxpayers get stuck with the bill. So I am voting YES on Proposition 1.

I am voting NO on Proposition 2, which will essentially call for a referendum whenever the city provides more than $1 million in financial incentives for a development.

There are areas of our city that need incentives to convince developers to build there, and developers won’t stick around for a public vote. They’ll simply go elsewhere — Las Colinas, Irving, McKinney — where they can get the same incentives without waiting months for a vote. Bottom line is, Prop 2 has the potential to make Dallas non-competitive and seriously damage our city’s ability to provide reasonable economic incentives to businesses.

UPDATED:
On another website, someone posted “So many things would have to go wrong for this hotel to use taxpayer funds.” Not really. Just missing a mortgage payment could force the city to dip into taxpayer debt.

While the hotel debt is initially secured by hotel revenue, it is also secured by taxpayer dollars. Apparently, the market didn’t feel comfortable betting solely on the hotel, so it required additional security — in the form of taxpayer funds. So here’s how it works:

The city’s going to borrow $550 million for the hotel: $500 million to build it and $50 million to set aside in a rainy day fund (the “reserve account”). The reserve account protects bondholders so they know they’ll get repaid — the city can dip into this reserve account if the revenues for the hotel aren’t enough to repay the debt.

If it ended there, I’d be supporting the city-owned hotel, but it doesn’t. The reserve account has to stay at $50 million to satisfy bondholders. Guess who has to keep the reserve account full? Well, if the hotel doesn’t have enough money to pay its mortgage, it surely won’t be able to refill the reserve account. So that will fall on taxpayers. It’s really not that complicated, or that unlikely.

This city-owned hotel is a gamble, and in this economy, it doesn’t make sense for the city to be putting taxpayers at risk.

Meeting on Proposed Restrictions on Car Booting

There have been a lot of problems lately with towing companies booting cars on private parking lots, especially in Deep Ellum. Since there are no laws on the books regulating booting, the city has responded by drafting restrictions to limit this activity.

Please help improve this ordinance by taking part in an upcoming public meeting:

April 20, 2009
3:00 pm to 5:00 pm
Dallas City Hall, 1500 Marilla, L1/F/North Auditorium

I don’t know why this was scheduled during the day (I hold most if not all public meetings at night to accommodate working people), but maybe a daytime meeting works alright for most people. If you attend the meeting, I welcome your input about whether it was productive.

Police Catch East Dallas Carjacker

Deputy Chief Vince Golbeck sent along the good news this morning:

Officers responded to a carjacking at 4117 Abrams Rd last night at 9:00 pm on service #103196-W. Anticipating this may be the same suspect in the string of recent robberies, other officers headed to points near the freeway that head South. An Officer was at Mockingbird/Central when he observed the suspect driving the victim’s stolen vehicle. He followed him until other squads arrived.

After a brief vehicle and foot pursuit the suspect was apprehended. He was transported to the Central Investigative Unit where he was interviewed and admitted to several of the previous carjacking offenses. So far the suspect is being connected to the following offenses: 74459w, 74831w, 79525w, 85654w, 09-001621 (Desoto PD), and 88266w. The suspect has not admitted to the offense on Martel involving the children or the offense on Matilda but we strongly feel he was involved in those as well.

WE ARE NOT RELEASING NAME/PHOTO UNTIL ALL THE VICTIMS CAN VIEW A LINE UP. This could jeopardize the remaining cases.

We will release his name once the Detectives tell us all victims have been shown the line up.

Corps Report Much More Damning Than City Admits

At yesterday’s briefing on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ report on Dallas’ levees, city staff and the mayor downplayed the gravity of the Corps’ findings that our levees have critical failures and have been cited as “unacceptable.” The consequences of this report are extremely serious, but you wouldn’t know that by listening to the city.

Michael Lindenberger at the DMN’s transportation blog has a great run-down of the Corps’ more serious findings and their repercussions moving forward. Continue reading

UPDATED: Corps’ Levee Report Reveals Multiple Failures

The Corps of Engineers just released their report analyzing the safety of Dallas’ levees. The news is not good. See Dallas Morning News Transportation Blog for details: DMN’s Corps to City: Trinity Levees failures are extreme, could prompt FEMA action

We must fix our levees immediately. We cannot let the toll road continue to delay our levee improvements.

UPDATE: Here is a link to part of the Corps’ report.

Visit to New Opera House and Theater

I’ll have pics up later today, but in the meantime:

The council got to tour the Winspear Opera House and Wyly Theater today. Amazing. After seeing the models, and watching the exterior construction, it was exciting to tour the interiors of these buildings.

The opera has a great deal of seating, but they’ve created a very intimate house, so that the audience is very close to the performance. The panels on the front of the balcony seating has a wavy design, which is less aesthetic and more acoustical, to reflect the sound in the best way possible. Continue reading