Last week in the paper version of Unfair Park, Jim Schutze revealed the real reason Ed Oakley's been snatching up tiny pieces of land inside the Trinity Design District. Today, mayoral candidate Sam Coats tells Oakley that "an apparent conflict of interest" isn't such a woonerful thing after all, and he wants some answers. The press release, natch, is after the jump. And, no, there is no truth to the rumor that Unfair Park is being operated out of Sam Coats' guest bedroom. Not today, anyway. --Robert Wilonsky
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COATS CALLS ON OAKLEY TO EXPLAIN TRINITY CONFLICT
Council Member Stands to Lose Money If Toll Road Plan Revised
Former Democratic state representative and airline executive Sam Coats today called on City Council member Ed Oakley to explain an apparent conflict of interest involving his ownership of property inside the Trinity Design District slated for redevelopment by the city as part of the Trinity River project.
As reported last week by the Dallas Observer, Oakley, chairman of the City Council's Trinity River Committee, owns at least four tracts of property in the area of the Trinity Design District along North Industrial Boulevard that has undergone a series of zoning changes in recent years allowing property owners to become eligible for federal subsidies and special parking exemptions.
Coats pointed out that the Trinity River Committee chaired by Oakley has presented zoning and development proposals in the Trinity District that could benefit him personally, and asked Oakley to state whether his opposition to the Trinity Vote referendum is based in part on personal financial reasons. Supporters of the referendum have suggested that an Industrial Boulevard alignment could be more cost-effective and would intrude less into the Downtown Trinity Park than the current alignment.
In mayoral candidate forums, Oakley has repeatedly stated that an Industrial Boulevard alignment is not feasible because it would displace too many local businesses and landowners. He rarely, if ever, mentions that he is a landowner himself.
"Mr. Oakley owes it to the people of Dallas to explain whether his full-speed-ahead approach to the Trinity Toll Road is in the public interest or in his own personal interest," said Coats. "Oakley has been among those most vocally opposed to putting the Trinity toll road plan up to a vote. If the road is moved outside the river's levees, his land stands to lose some of its value. That certainly has the appearance of a conflict of interest, and at the very least Dallas voters deserve an explanation."
In recent weeks Coats has questioned the wisdom of building a billion dollar toll road within the Trinity's flood plain, and has endorsed the Trinity Vote referendum to move the toll road outside of the levees.
"What's going on here is clear," said Coats. "There are a lot of interests that stand to lose a lot of money if the Trinity toll road gets moved. I find it troubling that one of those interests is the chairman of the Trinity River Committee."