Wow, Mayor Mike's Tap Shoes Are Crazy Good on That Trinity Toll Road Number, Eh?

Josephine Baker demonstrates Mike Rawlings' position on the toll road.
Josephine Baker demonstrates Mike Rawlings' position on the toll road.
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Shiggy bops drawbacks. I'm serious. I have been searching through basic literature on both vaudeville dance steps and the major propaganda techniques. I will explain.

I wanted to find a basic category of propaganda for the position taken by Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and the Dallas Citizens Council on the Trinity toll road in the upcoming City Hall elections.

They're not telling people they support the toll road -- not the one the Federal Highway Administration just approved, not the one the city has been trying for a decade to get the feds to approve. In fact, Rawlings and the Citizens Council won't touch that one with a 10-foot pole.

Stephen Young demonstrated in his piece here yesterday that the FHWA recently approved a design called "3-C," a six-lane (or more) limited access high speed toll road along the river. That is specifically what they approved. That is the only thing they approved. But Rawlings and the Citizens Council won't say they support 3-C.

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See also: Mike Rawlings, Philip Kingston and the Trinity Toll Road, Somebody's Either Wrong or Full of It

Rawlings and company say they support the "Balanced Vision Plan," a softer, smaller, more sinuous park-like design adopted by the City Council in 2003. The problem is, there is no Balanced Vision Plan. Not any more.

Dallas never told the FHWA or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or the Texas Department of Transportation that it wanted to build the "vision plan" road. In its applications to the feds, Dallas has said consistently that it wants to build 3-C.

3-C is nothing like the vision plan's road. In case anybody had any doubts about that, a committee of 10 past presidents of the American Institute of Architecture's Dallas branch did a side-by-side comparison of the plan's road with 3-C. Their study shows that it's like the difference between Turtle Creek Boulevard, a winding, leafy, park-like ride by the water, and Stemmons Freeway, a blaring, stinky blast-furnace expressway.

Here is the propaganda conundrum. Rawlings and the Citizens Council don't want the voters to elect candidates who will vote down the proposed toll road along the Trinity River downtown. Rawlings and the Citizens Council support the toll road. The only toll road anywhere on the horizon, the only one approved by the FHWA and under consideration by the corps, is 3-C.

But they don't want to have to say they support 3-C. Would you? Think about it. "People of Dallas, we urge you to support the blast-furnace, truck-exhaust option along the river, not the park we promised you when you voted for the bonds in 1998."

So they are saying three things instead: 1) We support the Balanced Vision Plan. 2) We don't know what 3-C looks like yet. 3) We haven't made up our minds yet.

The direct rebuttals, point by point, would be:

1) You can't support the Balanced Vision Plan, because it does not exist. You didn't submit it to the feds. You submitted 3-C. The only plan that exists in the real world is 3-C. Saying you are backing the plan is like saying you are backing John Wayne. John Wayne is dead. You can't support dead things or dead people. And, by the way, please have some respect.

2) No, no, not true: You do know what 3-C looks like. We all know what it looks like. The feds know. The parameters of 3-C have all been laid out in detailed federal documents, and, as Stephen showed you yesterday, we have pictures. We know exactly what 3-C looks like.

There's sort of a caveat here. You say you could build 3-C slowly. Do you mind if we skip over that one? Because, you know, you might as well promise to build it badly, so it will maybe fall apart soon, or leave out chunks of it so people will drive off the edge and not want to drive on it again. Again, please, let's be grown-ups.

3) You haven't made up your minds. OK. What is that supposed to mean for the rest of us? If you, Mike Rawlings and the Citizens Council, haven't made up your minds yet about the toll road, is it your sincere belief that the rest of us are compelled somehow to wait for you? Is it like, "On your marks, get set...?" No fair making up your mind before the pistol? We've been talking about it for almost 20 years.

And, look, please think about this from our point of view. You say you haven't made up your minds yet. You're all over town saying you haven't made up your minds. It's like billboards. Mayor Mike, waving down at us from above the freeway: "Nope! Still thinkin', guys." Why would you go to such elaborate lengths to tell us you haven't made up your minds yet, if you hadn't made up your minds yet?

The final shoe to drop, the findings of "the dream team," are supposed to be unveiled in the next week or so according to the mayor. The dream team is an assemblage of outside experts put together by the mayor and the Citizens Council in what was promised as a public process to see if 3-C could be fixed.

None of the promised public meetings took place. All of the proceedings of the dream team have been conducted with a secrecy worthy of the Masons. In fact, why didn't the mayor and the Citizens Council just ask the Masons? Their opinion on the toll road might have more credibility than the work of a bunch of fee-hungry consultants sitting around dreaming up sales pitches like a scene from Mad Men.

I have checked around. The dream team didn't even try to talk to Angela Hunt, for example. Former council member Hunt is both a subject matter expert and the city's most influential political leader on this question. Failing to consult her -- failing even to try -- strips the dream team of even the fig leaf of legitimacy it might have hoped for.

And this: Dream team so what? The only thing on the books is still 3-C. Is the dream team going to come up with some kind of ceremony that will make 3-C disappear? At least until after the election?

My original question: What category of propaganda is this? I sorted through 50 of them, and I couldn't find one that felt like the right fit, so I had to come up with my own. And, gosh, just think of it: Maybe 10 years from now political scientists will have to add a 51st category, just for Dallas.

I call the form of propaganda being practiced by the mayor and the Citizens Council on the Trinity toll road: shiggy bops drawbacks. Shiggy bops drawbacks is a conflation of two tap-dance steps that I have borrowed from vaudeville.

Us: "Mr. Mayor, you continue to say we don't know what the toll road will look like, but Stephen Young in the Observer published pictures the other day. What do you say to that?"

Long pause. Deer in headlights.

Mayor: "Hey, looka here!" And he's off: tappety-tap-tap, shiggy bops, all over the place, arms flying, incredible movement, now the drawbacks, toes like machine guns, one more shiggy bop and a final deep bow.

Mayor: "Whatta you think?"

Us: "Cool."

There's my concern: I think it may work.


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