By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
After the mayor finished speaking last week, I walked across the crowded ceremonial "flag room" at City Hall and talked to city council member Scott Griggs. He's new, and he gets all of it, utterly and implicitly.
First, Griggs dismissed the mayor's call for "regionalism" as "anti-urbanism." But then he cut deeper, taking the mayor at his word that the most important thing is gridlock relief.
"There is an option that one-to-one addresses that problem," Griggs said. "Pegasus. Fix I-30, I-35, Woodall Rodgers. That's a billion dollars.
"The toll road alternative starts at $1.4 billion," he said. "That approach is fiscally irresponsible."
I think he's got the mayor right there. It's why the toll road would lose at the polls now. The proponents can't say, "We want $1.4 billion in tax money to turn our own crapped-out industrial district into the Hanging Gardens of Babylon so our heirs can collect pre-Columbian pots in Colombia for the next four generations."
They have to say it's for a public purpose: gridlock relief. And the opponents will be able to say there's a much cheaper and more effective way.
I also think that in these more straitened times, the proponents of the road won't have the same success mesmerizing Dallas with their misdirection play: the over-the-top fancy-schmancy visuals of sailboats, solar-powered water taxis and other offerings of bread and circuses. We've been through some stuff in recent years; we know a scam when we see one. If it's a park we want, how 'bout we start by just not paving the river?
"It's the traditional mentality," Griggs said. "Whenever a problem arises, you gravitate to the new, big, sexy solution, instead of getting down and fixing your problem and not just letting your problems fester."
And fester they shall if we do the toll road first. "This problem [on the old freeways] is going to continue to fester for the rest of Dallas," Griggs said, "who use the existing freeways."
He dismissed as absurd the mayor's assurances that the money for the toll road can be found. But he didn't dismiss it because it can't be found. He dismissed it because if it can be found, it obviously should be spent on Pegasus.
"We heard again the story that there are 'buckets of money' and if we don't do this the money won't show up," Griggs said. "Where is the money? If we can get the money, why wouldn't we go with Pegasus? It's cheaper."
Like I said, the old land-holding elites can come up with a billion or so in tax dollars for a favored public works project. They can because they control the regional planning agency that doles out that kind of money.
But in a straight-up OK Corral shootout, the toll road could never outgun Pegasus for that money. In a shootout, Pegasus has to win.
So where's the shootout? Nowhere. There is no shootout. This stuff gets done at obscure board meetings in Arlington that never even draw media coverage, let alone public attendance. The only way there's a shootout is if somehow the question finds its way back to the voting booth in a reprise of the 2007 referendum.
So is that going to happen? I doubt it. And that brings us to our third and last practicality.
Calling a referendum of this size costs half a million bucks. In a city this big, this sort of thing probably cannot be pulled off again as a volunteer children's crusade. Somebody has to come up with about half a million bucks to pay a commercial canvassing company to come in and gather enough signatures to get the thing on the ballot.
In 2007, it was a children's crusade. A six-years younger City Council member Angela Hunt and a band of dedicated insurgents did it by the skin of their teeth. That's not going to happen again. Hunt's got two children of her own this time around. Those in her merry band are older and wiser now.
Then again, they're older and wiser now. They've been this way before. They know the path. I think they would do it if they didn't have to raise the money themselves. Somebody else who could write a check or checks like that could change the history of the city forever. But that's quite a long shot, isn't it?
Short of that, I have to utter words I never thought would leave my lips. Now I think the damned thing will get built eventually after all. Damn.
Where is the NCTOG going to get money no one else has? They only distribute money that some one else has. The state is not going to give them money for it and neither are the Feds. Conceivably they could ask their jurisdictions to create bonds, but that is not happening. You will have to find another boogeyman.
That is the beauty of the current financial situation. So many good things get cut that no bureaucrat in her right mind would spend huge dollars on something that simply reeks. Those education cuts serve a great purpose that way.
Have you heard of the new bridge?
That bridge relied on a large donation from a wealthy person (whose name escapes me), given way back before the Great Recession. Even if they had money to burn it seems unlikely that anyone would want their name attached to some swampy toll road.
On May 16th at the City Council meeting, everyone is invited to attend and talk to Citizen/Mayor Mike about the shale gas drilling that is being proposed for the Trinity River floodplain and parkland. Mike and the council need to talk about it A LOT, drilling, parks/rec, and toll road? Which is it? What will be the legacy?
Last week those who stood with the Mayor for pictures, cast their legacy vote on the toll road.Next week, the process begins as to what they want to do about drilling in the floodplain, next to the toll road, and adjacent to your home. When the time comes to cast that legacy vote, we are going to make sure that it is cast in bronze and put up for the world to see, decades to come.
Then we will see if Dallas has truly lost it's soul.
It may be tilting at windmills at this point, but there is still time (until May 18) to send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org in support of Alternative 1, the No-Build Alternative, to be included in the public record that will be sent to the Federal Highway Administration.
Well, that seals it, Schutze, your grieving phase is complete.
Jim, "So where's the shootout? Nowhere. There is no shootout. This stuff gets done at obscure board meetings in Arlington that never even draw media coverage, let alone public attendance."
Same problem with all these issues, large/small. Bridges. Hotels. Parking at the Dallas Arboretum. Parking garages paid for with HUD housing dollars. Hundreds of million$ in highway, Parks, Housing, Economic Development, HUD, bond, water, TIF dollars spread all around council districts north/south, constituencies powerful/prominent, broke/obscure, businesses/charities. All about constiuent relations and palm greasing. Keeps required votes for Mary Suhm and her brokedown old band of cracker bankers, sexual harassers, flow controllers, and other losers employed.
Hold all city council, mayoral and city manager meetings at the toll road location for a year. Let Rawlings put his ass where his mouth is.