It was déjà vu at this morning's Trinity River Corridor Project Committee meeting as Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway preached about revitalizing the Cedar Crest Boulevard bridge and Carolyn Davis pressed city staff for transparency -- two themes from the last get-together nearly a month ago.
Although Davis has been impressive with her persistent questioning of late, she also made sure to provide us with a couple of the less-flattering moments that we've grown to love since she took office in 2007.
After committee chair Dave Neumann opened the meeting by noting the attendance of approximately 200 folks at the May 10 community meeting about plans to turn Riverfront Boulevard into a "complete street," Davis asked if she could comment on what happened. Neumann said she couldn't because it wasn't on the agenda. Davis laughed and said that was fine because she forgot what she had to say anyway.
The two guys in the audience loved that one.
And no Trinity meeting is complete without Davis stumbling on an acronym. She asked staff at one point to explain the DFE, which, of course, is the Dallas Floodway Extension.
At least she didn't ask what the TRCP was again.
Aside from Davis's brain farts, she was relentless when questioning Assistant City Manager Jill Jordan and Rebecca Rasor, managing director of the Trinity project, when presented with the current expenditure report for the project. Davis had Rasor and Jordan contradicting each other regarding the funding of the gateway projects, when Rasor indicated that they were fully funded, but Jordan explained that the "plans and dreams" for the gateways amount to more than what's funded.
Davis also exposed a significant flaw in the expenditure report because the gateway projects aren't individually listed -- they're grouped together under "Great Trinity Forest/Park." Several of the gateways, which are park entryways into the project with parking and other amenities, were mentioned, including the Moore Park Gateway, Martin Luther King, Jr. Gateway, Loop 12 at I-45 Gateway, Joppa Gateway and I-20 Southern Gateway, but others are part of the project as well.
Davis's question was simple: How much dough will it take to fully fund each one? Jordan said she'd get back to her with that info.
Her inquiry speaks to one of the continuing problems with the Trinity project: Because it has taken so long to get the project started, because there has been little transparency and because the city continues to design elements of the project beyond what has already been approved by voters, expect to see many Trinity-related items in upcoming bond programs.
Thus far, the city has spent almost $180 million of the $246 million approved by voters in 1998, including approximately $35 million on the Trinity River toll road, which may or may not ever be built. And somehow $19.5 million has already been spent on the non-existent lakes.
As Ann Margolin wrote to Jordan in an April 26 memo regarding the Riverfront redo's $14 million budget gap: "A future bond program can't be the solution to all projects that lack funding. Perhaps we have to work within the available funds or eliminate some pieces of the project to allow funding for others."
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And Caraway, much like last month, stressed that it's "unfair" to residents near the Cedar Crest Boulevard bridge to see so much money spent on improving the Trinity, yet the bridge is "dirty" and the surrounding area is "raggedy." He said city staff needs to "roll up our sleeves" and find the necessary funding to rejuvenate the bridge, perhaps even make it an entry into the Great Trinity Forest. Neumann mentioned that he admired Caraway's passion for the issue, but Caraway corrected Neumann, stating it was fact as opposed to passion. Want to ride your bike near the bridge? Get ready for a flat tire after riding over broken glass, Caraway said.
The expenditure report yielded the most interesting discussion of the day, with the presentation on the Texas Paddling Trail Program seemingly flying by faster than you could read Robert's post from earlier today. And, as for changing the city's floodplain ordinance, most of the committee was puzzled as staff explained that more than 1,000 structures are set to be remapped by FEMA as floodplain areas because of the insufficient interior drainage system.
Essentially, the wonkish presentation, which Neumann and Steve Salazar slipped out of because of conflicts of interest, boiled down to the city making it easier for folks to build on the floodplain by reducing the fees for fill permits by $5,500 and expediting the process by eliminating council approval and public meetings. The city doesn't expect these structures to remain mapped as floodplain areas once the drainage issues are resolved.
Vonciel Hill wasn't shy about announcing her confusion. She said she thinks the ordinance change is a good idea, but she knows she doesn't understand it well enough to vote intelligently at this point. So, instead of making a motion to send the item to the full council for approval, her motion was to send it to the council for a vote, which was unanimously approved.