At City Hall, It's Back to the Drawing Board On Community Garden, Downtown DART Plans

Well, soon as the Trash-Attack Code Compliance crew cleared out, this afternoon's party at City Hall sure died fast. Blame it on this bummer of a PowerPoint from DART, explaining the long-term impact of having flat sales tax revenues over the last 10 years, referred to simply as "The Lost Decade" in a presentation to the Transportation and Environment Committee.

Dallas County's been growing slower than expected, keeping sales tax revenues flat since 2000, DART President Gary Thomas explained. Without the growth they'd anticipated, DART's looking at getting $2.7 billion less than they'd been counting on over the next 20 years. Meaning: Much as we'd all like to see the Orange Line out to D/FW Airport, a new rail line through downtown and the Blue Line extension through South Oak Cliff, DART's got the money, maybe, for the airport line. That's about it.

As for the second line through downtown, well, even if DART is able to scare up the federal money to make it happen, as council member Linda Koop suggested today, the City shouldn't hold its breath to see trains take the expensive route alongside the new Convention Center Hotel, nice as that would be. At least, Koop said this afternoon, it's time to take "another fresh look at" the options.

"Your board has a lot of challenges," Koop told Thomas and the rest of the DART crew, closing the first agenda item and sending the suits on their way out of the briefing room. The "organic peanut gallery" was all that remained in the audience to hear the city's latest proposal for fitting the proverbial square-peg community gardens into the round hole of city government.

Assistant City Manager Jill Jordan ran through the latest option her office devised to turn vacant lots into officially designated community gardens. The committee hadn't been wild about options one through three, so here, at last, must be a compromise they could all get behind. Right?

"I would not be supporting this," councilwoman Carolyn Davis said, lighting up the briefing room. "This one is really mean. It's really too bad that this presentation is so awful."

"We started talking about community gardens two years ago," Davis went on. "To give them a ticket, to take them to jail. Why so harsh? Jill?"

"In other cities, community gardens have gotten out of hand and they have been unkempt," Jordan replied.

"Give me those cities. This is really harsh, Jill. It is really harsh."

"We were trying to make it not harsh."

"This one is just as harsh as having the SUP process. Jill, this is harsh. It is harsh. This is council member Davis talking. It is harsh."

The committee split 4-4 on a vote to kick Plan 4 up to the next approval it'd need, leaving city staff to bring, yes, a Plan 5 to a future committee briefing.

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