Believe It or Not, There Is One Upside to Hutchison's Trinity Toll Road Exemptions

The irony here is that true historic preservation activists in Dallas are going to welcome this latest bit of Trinity River toll road news. I began hearing from them long before the Corps went public with its efforts to get some kind of protective historic designation for the Trinity project in Dallas. The activists were hearing about it back-channel from the Texas Historical Commission.

The problem for the preservationists is that they know all too well how fragile and unpopular is their cause in down-and-dirty day-to-day political square-offs. Officeholders -- eager to please deep-pocketed developers and afraid of irritating voters -- find it all too easy to dismiss the preservationists as effete monkey-wrenchers. So the preservationists have learned to choose their battles carefully.

This ain't their battle.

Right now, for example, preservationists in Dallas are fighting a tough one against Mayor Tom Leppert, who is pushing a back-door strategy to strip downtown Dallas of all vestiges of historic protection. Leppert's efforts are part of the Belo-Morning News plan to revitalize downtown by rebuilding it in the image of a suburban VFW hall.

So the preservationists were the last ones to want this whole Trinity River Toll Road fight dumped on their plates. They saw through the Corps' efforts immediately: The Corps is crab-walking backwards as fast as it can from the toll road, because the Corps should never have endorsed it in the first place.

The preservationists think the Corps doesn't want to admit it made a horrible mistake by allowing this monster to get born. So it wants to use those elitist monkey-wrench-throwing history-sissies as its excuse. Then the Corps can say, "The road is still a great idea, but we can't do it because of those people over there with the bow-ties and the granny glasses." For all those reasons, I can tell you for a fact that the preservationists are heaving a sigh of relief over Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison's attempt to exempt the road from federal law. Me, not so much.

Look, this is only the first bite. If the toll road crazies get away with shooting down the historic designation laws for their road, they'll bring their pistols right back to the firing range for the rest of federal law where this incredibly bad project is concerned. How about exempting it from federal flood safety rules? Now there's a biggie.

Wilonsky and I disagree about Lindenberger's story in The News this morning. I think Lindenberger does a good job of exposing the manipulative hypocrisy in the positions taken on this by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and by Leppert and City Manager Mary Suhm, claiming that this move has something to do with flood safety. I don't know how you can read Lindenberger's piece and not see that they're lying about it.

And therein is the scary part. They will say anything. They will do anything. They are not truly concerned about the levees or flood safety, or they wouldn't risk lying about flood safety and the levees.
What they
 do care about is that road. It's what Leppert was hired to do in the first place -- get that road done. Nothing else counts.

Say anything, do anything, but build that damn road for us. That's what the mayor's handlers are saying with this move. I just hope they don't manage to get the Trinity River toll road exempted form the laws on murder. If they do, I want you to remember that Wilonsky was always the hot-head.

KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jim Schutze has been the city columnist for the Dallas Observer since 1998. He has been a recipient of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ national award for best commentary and Lincoln University’s national Unity Award for writing on civil rights and racial issues. In 2011 he was admitted to the Texas Institute of Letters.
Contact: Jim Schutze

Latest Stories