Together for One Night Only: Hunt, Watkins, West and Crawford on "Vibrancy and Excitement" in Downtown Dallas

From left: Royce West, John Crawford, Angela Hunt and Craig Watkins take questions last night.
From left: Royce West, John Crawford, Angela Hunt and Craig Watkins take questions last night.
Patrick Michels
Closing out a four-act revue of downtown's political keepers last night, ​DowntownDallas CEO John Crawford promised good news, a "unique experience" of a town hall meeting and a look at the latest "vibrancy and excitement" in the heart of Dallas.

That the big news included five new video boards, a dozen Supergraphics building wraps and "well-done and appropriate mid-level signage" is a fair barometer for the degree of excitement in the room.

But with lightning strikes lighting up Main Street Garden across the street, around 70 downtown residents braved the weather and slogged to Universities Center to hear from Crawford, state Sen. Royce West, council member Angela Hunt and Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins -- the first time, Crawford told us later, he'd heard of a joint town hall like this for downtown.

"The concept is to bring all the people together who have a hand in what happens downtown," Crawford said after the meeting.

West and Watkins came armed with PowerPoints, but Crawford was the most vivacious of the bunch, using next month's NBA All-Star Game as a hook for the state of downtown today. "Folks, that is a big screamin' deal," he said.
​Keeping things light in the midst of his crime talk, Watkins warmed up the crowd by asking them about his TV show. "You ever see Dallas DNA?" he asked, drawing two raised hands from the crowd (one of them West's). Allowing that the crowd has "probably seen ad nauseam the stories about our Conviction Integrity Unit," Watkins flipped through a PowerPoint of other programs the District Attorney's Office has started up, from the gang unit to a dedicated prosecutor for elder abuse.

All four touched on downtown crime, which Crawford addressed succinctly: "That's old news. Safety is not a problem downtown," he said, thanks to DowntownDallas's 50-member Safety Patrol and 82 safety cameras. Hunt said crime was down in every category except aggravated assault, which, she said, "is attributable entirely to homeless-on-homeless violence at The Bridge."   

Hunt asked for help documenting problems with booting downtown, now that "the vultures" that had been booting cars in Deep Ellum parking lots have migrated to downtown.

She brought up the new city bike plan she's supporting, and her push to create a free streetcar line connecting pockets of downtown development. "The future of our city hinges on quality transportation, and creating alternatives to using cars," Hunt said.

West spent his 20 minutes recounting his tales from the trenches in Austin, drawing a slow-building round of applause for the UNT Law School he'd pushed for in the state Senate, slated to open downtown next year.

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