On November 7, Dallas residents will have the opportunity to vote on a $1.35 bond package. I encourage you to support all 12 bond propositions.
First, a little explanation about the bond. What is a city bond program, anyway? It’s a lot like a home improvement loan for a house. It lets the city undertake large-scale improvements to city streets, parks, libraries, buildings, and other infrastructure that the city wouldn’t be able to do with its annual budget.
Why do we need to do a bond?
The city has about $9.5 billion worth of improvements listed on its “needs inventory.” The inventory is a like if you were to make a list of all the things you need to do to fix your house: fix the crack in the ceiling in the kitchen, repair the faucet in the bathroom, lay new carpet in the living room. The city likewise keeps a running list of all the things it needs to fix or build new. The list is continually updated as new needs are identified, and each project is listed with its price tag. Take a look at Dallas’ needs inventory.
With $9.5 billion in needs, the city needs to undertake regular bond programs (every four years or so) to address these projects. Please take a look at the needs inventory to get an idea of how the city keeps track of its needs.
How was the bond program put together?
The City Manager and her staff put together a list of bond projects based on the needs inventory. The council and city staff then presented this bond proposal to city residents at more than 60 townhall meetings. The Council then added and deleted projects based on feedback from residents. For example, in District 14, I added about $3.2 million based on your feedback, and deleted about $325k. You can see each project added or deleted here.
The purpose of the bond is two-fold. First, protect and maintain what we’ve already built and invested in. Major maintenance, like replacing a roof or an HVAC system, can be done with the bond.
Second, invest in our future. Use some of the bond money to strategically invest in infrastructure in areas where we’re trying to encourage new business development. This will help increase and expand our tax base.
Is there anything bond money CAN’T be used for?
We can’t use bond money to pay for personnel salaries (that’s why we can’t use it to hire more police), or to fund items that won’t last the lifetime of the bond, generally 20 years. So we can’t buy police cars or library books.
What about the 2003 bond?
People ask me all the time about the 2003 bond. I’m pleased to report that we’re about 75% through with that bond program. Next year will be the final year of the 2003 bond projects and we’ll finish the other 25%. Of the bonds issued to date, 90% of the projects are either completed or on schedule.
For legal reasons, the bond program is divided up into 12 specific bond propositions. Here’s a breakdown:
PROP. 1: Streets and Transportation ($390M)
PROP. 2: Flood Protection and Storm Drainage ($334m)
PROP. 3: Park and Recreation Facilities ($343m)
PROP. 4: Library Facilities ($46M)
PROP. 5: Cultural Arts Facilities ($61M)
PROP. 6: City Hall, City Service and Maintenance Facilities ($35M)
PROP. 7: Land Acquisition under the Land Bank Program($1.5)
PROP. 8: Economic Development ($41M)
PROP. 9: Farmers Market ($6.6M)
PROP. 10: Land Acquisition in the Cadillac Heights Area for Future City Facilities ($23M)
PROP. 11: Court Facilities ($8M)
PROP. 12: Public Safety Facilities ($63M)
Each and every one of the projects within each proposition is listed in the bond project list (by proposition). You can also view the list by council district. If you’re looking at the list by council district, note that District 14 also has a lot of projects listed under “City Wide” or “CW,” which are those projects not attributed to a single council district, such as projects in Downtown Dallas.
There seems to be a general suspicion from some folks about the city undertaking a bond program — that there will be a bait-and-switch on the projects, and that the things you voted for won’t really happen, but instead, you’ll see another shiny Calatrava Bridge. I think there are a number of reasons for that suspicion, one of them being a general sense that the 1998 Trinity River bond program was supposed to be about the park, but was instead about a tollroad.
I don’t discount healthy suspicion about government. I carry around a lot of it myself. But I do think it’s important to look at the facts, and then make a decision. So I asked the city manager’s office how many projects from the 2003 bond had been changed from the list presented to residents before the vote. Without researching this extensively, the city manager’s office told me that changes or deletions of projects are very rare, and each and every change is approved by the city council.
One District 14 resident recently suggested that the council hold special council meetings to make project changes and hear public input, and I passed along this suggestion to the city manager’s office. This would certainly promote transparency, and hopefully engender more trust in the process.
As it stands, I’m very proud of this bond program. I think it’s a good “meat and potatoes” bond that will address important infrastructure needs of our city.
Please join me in voting for each bond proposition on November 7.