Gunfight at the Trinity

The biggest shoot-out in Dallas' political history

Harlan Crow, among other big-money Dallas types, hired professional "blockers" to stop Hunt's petition gatherers from getting the legally required number of signatures. They failed. Hunt and her group had finally won. It was a phenomenal accomplishment.

So right now I'm not sick of it at all. The Trinity River movement now is a much bigger and more inclusive ball of wax than it was before Hunt. It includes many young, energetic and idealistic people like Nathan Morey, who bring freshness and energy to the game.

Angela Hunt, Sandy Greyson, former city council members Donna Blumer and John Loza all occupy the center, bringing officeholder experience and an interesting blend of civic-minded conservatism, greenness and diversity.

Trinity Vote leader Angela Hunt couldn't put the brakes on curiosity.
BRANDON THIBODEAUX
Trinity Vote leader Angela Hunt couldn't put the brakes on curiosity.
One of the more incredible aspects of the Trinity toll road debate has been its abilityto stir the passions of people not ordinarily interested in civic issues.  It is, after all,just a toll road. Why would so many people care so passionately? But they do.This piece of art—deeply felt and painstakingly drawn—came to the Observer from Richard D. Townsend, Jr., who is incarcerated in a state jail. It is but one of countless expressions, pro and con, that have come our way from surprising sources.
One of the more incredible aspects of the Trinity toll road debate has been its abilityto stir the passions of people not ordinarily interested in civic issues. It is, after all,just a toll road. Why would so many people care so passionately? But they do.This piece of art—deeply felt and painstakingly drawn—came to the Observer from Richard D. Townsend, Jr., who is incarcerated in a state jail. It is but one of countless expressions, pro and con, that have come our way from surprising sources.

But I have to admit the ones I'm soft on are the old originals. Ten years ago former Mayor Ron Kirk insulted them as hippies and weirdos and predicted they would all blow away after their 1998 defeat at the polls. His arrogance was one reason they kept meeting through all those bleak years.

Now they're the battle-hardened pragmatists of the team, the ones who pushed Hunt into putting off the announcement until after the filing deadline had passed. They're the ones I was starting to have trouble facing a year ago when I was going through my General Custer's drummer boy phase.

Now, Hunt and her allies seem to be on a roll. At debates around the city, at forums in urban pioneer Oak Cliff and affluent Jewish North Dallas, audiences have laughed and clapped for Hunt's side, groaned and jeered at Mayor Tom Leppert and the pro-toll road team.

In the last few weeks, the city has admitted the road may also become a truck route. Not only were those plans kept secret for years, the city actively denied there would ever be trucks on the toll road through the river park. The Allen Group of California, which is developing an enormous new rail and trucking center in southern Dallas, has emerged as a major funder of the pro-toll road campaign.

A YES vote in the referendum will force the city to take the toll road out from between the flood control levees and out of the planned river park downtown. There will still be a low-speed "parkway" in the park, just not a multi-lane high-speed toll road. A NO vote leaves the toll road inside the levees and the park.

I have no idea how the election will come out. No idea. But here is what really amazes me. Twelve months ago the city's plans for the Trinity River project were rolling down the road without a bump in sight. Now the toll-road backers are looking at the cliff.

The November 6 referendum and the battle leading up to it have become the O.K. Corral and Alamo combined, the biggest shoot-out ever in Dallas local politics.

The immediate outcome will be one thing. Either we will have a highway in the park downtown or we will not. But this also is about much more than that. It's really a question of whose city it is. This is about much more than a fight over a road. This is a fight over destiny.

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