By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Months of debate. Endless hours of colorful accusation, innuendo, inference and implication. More hydrological data than a soul can handle. And what does it all come down to?
Yes, we have no bananas.
In next month's Trinity River toll road referendum, do you vote yes for no toll road? Or vote no for yes, a toll road?
Last week I taped a panel discussion of the toll road debate for Channel 8. It will air next week. Part of what we talked about was the confusing ballot language, but while we were explaining it we got it wrong.
You vote no in order to say yes you don't want the parkway you voted yes for before, because you haven't changed your mind. Yes?
Zowee. How could it be this bad? Why is the ballot language inside out and upside down?
YES. That's how you vote to stick with the original plan for a low-speed parkway inside the levees downtown and NOT the high-speed limited access expressway that the plan has morphed into. YES, for the original deal that passed in 1998, not the new thing nobody ever had a chance to vote on, which is a big toll road inside the levees and inside the park.
YES is no toll road. YES is yes, a low-speed parkway like the one the Texas Department of Transportation described before the election in 1998. YES is stay the course with what we already voted for.
NO is no, we don't want the parkway thing any more. We changed our minds. NO says, "OK, we know we didn't get to vote on this toll road before, but now we like it." NO is NO to the parkway and a little bit NO to the park, too.
For a punchy explanation of the VOTE NO! side, go to Dallasblog.com and read a column by Scott Bennett: "My side thinks the Trinity Park will be a very large homeless shelter without any shelter and the lakes are more likely to breed mosquitoes that sprout sails," Bennett writes.
His piece is refreshing because it declares right out loud the subliminal message that the Vote No! team has been afraid to whisper in public: Parks suck. For Bennett, the idea of a vast central park in the heart of the city is a Yankee carpetbagger anathema thought up by "Birkenstocker" refugees from Detroit like Jim Schutze.
"Full disclosure," he writes. "I grew up on a ranch north of Fort Worth so big cities still baffle me."
Bennett thinks the idea of a big park downtown is stupid and a waste of money. This is the Steve Blow point of view, too, over at The Dallas Morning News, when you get right down to it.
Parks suck. The only people who go to parks are homeless people, hippies and Birkenstocker Yankee carpetbaggers. Decent people stay in their own backyards and make smoke on the grill.
I think Bennett and Blow have given honest voice to a theme that has been embedded but unspoken in the Vote NO! message from the beginning. It's the late middle-age, little bit sedentary, living-in-Sunnyvale view of life:
"The truth," Blow has written, "is that a far greater number of people will enjoy the new Trinity parks through their windshields than in a kayak or on a jogging path. And that's OK. That's the way I most often enjoy White Rock Lake."
That's a real thing. No kayaks. Kayaks are for Eskimos. What is a kayak, anyway? Pretty much you need to stay in your car between work and home, pretty much stay indoors most of the year when it's hot, try not to sweat unless you are grilling or cutting the yard, pretty much look at life through your windshield: It's a lifestyle. Easy to make fun of, I guess, but that really is how a lot of people live.
The question November 6 will be whether these are the people who live in the city and vote. I am confident that Blow, who lives in Sunnyvale, will not try to vote in a Dallas election. Pretty much you need to not vote. Voting is some kind of Birkenstocker Detroit thing. Pretty much you need to not do that except this time when you need to vote NO! if you can to stop the Birkenstockers from making a park.
This isn't that hard. NO is NO to the original vision of a grand park downtown and yes to a great big multilane toll road instead. Got it? If you do like the toll road and you do not like the park, vote NO.
If you do like the park and you do not like the toll road, vote YES.
"Yes, we have no bananas" was a popular song in the 1920s. There's a whole history of why people thought it was really funny at the time. Do you mind just terribly if we skip over that? It's about...I don't know, a banana shortage and then later the Great Depression and I think also Irish independence. Do we not already have enough to break our heads on here without going into all that? I thought so. Thank you. Let's move on.