Dallas City Hall Fights to Keep its Trinity Secrets
Fishin' in the Trinity: OK, now we're really curious. We're talking to you, Dallas City Hall, about those Trinity River project emails and memos you're fighting to keep us from seeing. What, has someone been unduly candid in his or her assessment of the city's plans to put a toll road between the levees? Oh, come on. You can tell the ol' Buzzer. It'll be just between us.
No? Fine, City Hall, then just go ahead with that lawsuit you filed in Austin last week, the one seeking to overturn a Texas Attorney General's opinion that the Observer is entitled to see at least some city officials' communications regarding the project. We can wait a bit.
It was way back in February when reporter Sam Merten, who has since left the paper, filed a public information request seeking copies of every paid invoice related to bonds sold for the Trinity corridor project. Our curiosity was piqued by the fact that while City Hall has spent $250 million of the $420 million in bonds approved for the project, we've yet to see a lake or sailboat on the river near downtown. It sounds crazy, but we distinctly remember being promised sailboats and lakes when the project was pitched to voters. We also want to see all communications during December and January between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Kevin Craig, City Manager Mary Suhm, Assistant City Manager Jill Jordan, former Mayor Tom Leppert and council member Dave Neumann.
The city claimed that some messages from the Corps are safe from our grip because the U.S. Freedom of Information Act exempts them. The attorney general's office agreed, but said communications solely among city officials must be released, since federal law doesn't apply to them.
The city is trying to get that decision overturned, and we're wetting ourselves anticipating what might be coming our way. We don't usually get excited about public records requests, as we've found that most public officials don't put signed confessions, compromising videos or receipts for kickbacks in public records. Unless they're exceptionally dumb, that is, so in this case we're actually hopeful our fishing will reel in something tasty.
In the meantime, since the city's fighting so hard to keep its secrets, everyone should feel free to speculate wildly about what the secret messages might contain. We'll start: "Man, I can't believe voters bought the whole bridge and sailboat con. What a dumb bunch of motherREDACTED."
Did Leppert send that message? Could be. You may never know.
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