The Dallas Green Alliance, a New Political Group Dedicated to Sanity, Has Real Promise
George Battle III
All I could do,the composure I could muster, at yesterday's City Hall press conference announcing formation of an anti-Trinity toll road political action committee, was force myself to sit in my chair, take notes, act like a reporter and not jump up slapping my forehead and doing a wild Jake-legged foxtrot all over the room.
I never thought I would hear words like these spoken in the august "Flag Room" of City Hall, or, as I call it, the Chamber of Dishonor. For how many years have I sat in this boudoir and watched corporate brides feed wedding cake to one mouth-wiping mayor after another?
So, look, rather than give you my version of what was said at yesterday's shindig, why don't I just let you read what they said:
Lead speaker for the Dallas Green Alliance, the group behind the PAC, was George Battle III, an outreach officer with a Methodist community-building organization in South Dallas.
"Yes," Battle began, "we want safe and legal air to breathe, clean water to drink, but we also want neighborhoods where we can walk to fill our prescriptions, where we can eat, we can shop, where we can take our children to the park, and if we can't walk there we can at least ride our bikes without near-death experiences.
"We want neighborhoods that connect residents to the city around them, not merely warehousing them in their cars and overnight. We want safe neighborhoods that encourage awareness of our neighbors who live next door as well as down the street. We want new economic development, but we want it smarter, more local and more balanced than in the past.
"We want to give our own entrepreneurs the capital they need to thrive and to produce jobs, rather than always throwing tax money at the next big corporate relocation or clearing out small businesses for another chain store. We want the idea of progress to be permanently divorced from always meaning bigger and more expensive.
"We want to put the interests of Dallas residents first, instead of always being subservient to the regional goals that suck the vitality and tax base out of our own city.
"We want neighborhoods that acknowledge and value great spaces and trees and the small wild places where a child can discover a whole host of things. We want a city that is more pleasant, more satisfying, more fulfilling for us to live, recreate and work in, and it is our intent to elect City Council members who feel this same way."
Next up was Jose Barrientos, a community organizer and fundraiser with an organization in Oak Cliff that works with Mexican immigrants. Barrientos said, "We want to elect a City Council that works for the citizens instead of a few moneyed interests, many of whom don't even live in our city.
"There is no open debate on the merit of proposals. Deals are pronounced as done even before the residents have a chance to weigh the issues. Secret agreements are made. We get steamrolled and stonewalled.
"We see opportunities for progress passed over because they didn't line the pockets of the right handful of people ... While the fate of our city is being decided by the few over the interests of the many, the city as a whole is suffering. Our job base shrinks. Our tax base declines. Our neighborhoods deteriorate.
"The city's raw pursuit of headline grabbing projects has come at the expense of infrastructure needed for the entire city -- streets, libraries and parks.
"We want an ethical government and a good government, where transparency isn't just a talking point or punchline. It's time to take back the city of Dallas from the few and give it to the many, give it to us.
"This May's election is a great chance to break the power of the shadow city and restore credibility to this building [City Hall]. We intend to take advantage of it, and we ask you people to join us."
The wind-up was delivered by Catherine Garrison, a small business owner and environmental activist. "Our motto," she said, "is, 'Accountable leaders, sustainable city.'
"In 2014, members of the Dallas Green Alliance agree that there is no project more at odds with the goal of a sustainable city and no project more in need of public accountability than the Trinity toll road.
"The toll road is symptomatic of everything wrong with the old Dallas way of doing things, dividing neighborhoods with pavement and all the backroom deals and agenda.
"We are at a tipping point. The next council can kill the Trinity toll road once and for all, and that's why this May's elections are so very important.
"Allowing the toll road to continue would waste valuable time and money on a project that has lost every original justification that its proponents ever had. Allowing the toll road to proceed will allow the old Dallas way of doing things to continue. It will signal that the city is still beholden to the interests of a few. It will tell the world we're not sophisticated in how we use and protect our natural resources. It will telegraph to urban planners that we are not ready to give up 20th century solutions to 21st century problems.
"The toll road will divide the city and delay our ability to build the kind of city that we want ourselves and our children and grandchildren. Taking the toll road off the agenda begins to move the city in a new direction once and for all with no concrete albatross around the city's neck and allows us to go forward in our thinking and planning instead of backward. It begins a process of uniting the entire city around the Trinity River. It tells Shadow City Hall that they aren't calling the shots any more.
"We want this May's election to be the last and clearest referendum on the Trinity toll road. Whether you're a tree-hugging conservationist, a fiscal conservative or a young family, we have a mutual interest in seeing this toll road finally die.
"We ask all Dallas voters to join us in sending a loud and clear message to City Hall by voting only for those council candidates that don't hesitate or equivocate in their opposition to the Dallas toll road and the old Dallas way of doing things."
You can dismiss all this as a bunch of idealistic yodeling, but I looked around that room and saw some pretty damned sophisticated veterans of local and regional politics -- clean air activist Jim Schermbeck, for example, the Barker brothers, the anti-frackers and others who have won some significant battles in recent years. I also picked up gossip leading me to believe the Wick Allison/Patrick Kennedy PAC, also anti-toll road, will be manned by very experienced and sophisticated professionals.
This is all starting to be almost exciting? I couldn't keep my shoes from tappety-tap-tappin' as I walked out.