By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
I can predict the future. No, not of everything. I never said that. But of City Hall. I can tell you exactly pretty much partially what will be going on with Dallas City Hall five years from now. For example, I see in my crystal ball that the entire city council is gone except for Angela Hunt, who has just been elected mayor.
Sorry. I can't tell you what Laura Miller's doing. I've got a smudge on that spot. And don't ask me where the council went. Away. That's all I know. No, wait...I'm getting something on council member Linda Koop. She's in the Netherlands about to undergo an operation. Oh, my gosh. They can do IQ enlargements!
North Dallas council member Mitchell Rasansky has retired from politics. I see him riding around North Dallas in one of his antique automobiles, and people are running out on their lawns, falling on their knees and doing salaams as he drives by. They're really grateful to that guy up there for something.
But for that, I don't need a crystal ball. All I needed was to sit through three and a half hours of debate last week on something called the "Dallas Comprehensive Plan." Think of it this way: If you can imagine somebody taking your company's seminar on the new benefits plan and melding it together with your company's seminar on the new computer system and then melding all of that together with a really cheap comedy defensive driving school, you might understand my suffering.
The council yawned and talked on cell phones while influential community leaders urged them not to adopt the city staff's recommended plan. Author Virginia McAlester warned them the plan had "great potential to do harm, active harm to our city and our neighborhoods." Then the council voted 12-2 against the speakers and in favor of the plan.
Afterward, alone at one end of the big reception area outside the council chambers, back against the wall and gazing out at the downtown skyline, was Larry Duncan, a former member of the council, one of the key leaders of the 1980s neighborhood movement in Dallas that tossed out the oligarchs and helped create whatever is cool in Dallas today. Just leaning and gazing.
I raised my eyebrows in a question (that's how I do a lot of my interviewing now--saves the voice).
"This is all theory," he said. "Nobody will get it. There has to be blood on the ground. Unfortunately, some neighborhood has to get really screwed. That will happen, fairly soon. And then everything changes."
I agree. It will happen. And then everything does change. It's how Angela Hunt becomes the mayor and all of the various dildos and cone-heads on the council today become forgotten, except for Rasansky, who becomes Buddha. And Miller. We don't know about Miller.
What the city council did last week, by shooting down the community advocates and voting in favor of the planning staff, was open the crypt and resurrect an old and moldy vampire. It used to be called "The Thoroughfare Plan" back in the '80s when Duncan was bloodying his knuckles on it. Now it's called "The Comprehensive Plan." But it's always the same thing: top-down central planning designed to cut communities out of the process.
Allow me to toss in an observation here. If central planning worked, we'd all be Russkies by now. And the worst part is that this form of central planning, like all central planning, is a fraud even on itself. The minions at City Hall won't do any real planning, when the rubber meets the road. They'll do more of what this thing was last week: whored-out fake planning as camouflage for the same kind of slap-it-up-and-run developers who put this city in the tank in the 1980s.
Duncan's exactly right. A sacrifice in blood will redeem us all and produce a far better city five years from now. The key here will be a brutal assault on North Dallas. I predict we'll see that start within months.
Except for Rasansky, the North Dallas council members--Linda ("Flew The") Koop and Ron Natinsky--voted last week to screw their own constituents by covering North Dallas with vast new zoning rights, especially along Preston Road, Belt Line Road, Forest Lane and Northwest Highway, which are deemed "transit corridors" under the new plan and slated for high-rise and mid-rise development along a band a third to half a mile wide. On both sides of Preston Road north of Northwest Highway, for example, that would take in what are now expensive single-family residential streets from Douglas Avenue west of Preston almost to Tulane Boulevard on the east.
Koop made a speech that I believe was intended to allay the fears of residents of those areas, in which she seemed to say she was voting for these enormous new zoning densities because she was sure nothing would actually get built. Drawing on her experience as a former director of Dallas Area Rapid Transit, she told the audience about trips she had taken to look at systems elsewhere: