The Trinity River lakes were never going to be humongous. Seventy-five or 80 acres each, according to the Balanced Vision Plan developed for the Trinity River Corridor Project in 2003. But now the plans have been reduced to something so small -- a couple of 20-acre ponds reaching a depth of 10 feet -- it's fair to wonder if it's even worth building.
The City Council still thinks it is. It voted today to approve a $737,000 design contract, which will allow it to spend $44 million later on -- $36 million to build the Urban Lake, a 23-acre body of water near downtown and $8 million for the even smaller West Dallas Lake off Westmoreland Road.
As a side benefit, and as justification for using funds earmarked for the Trinity Parkway, dirt excavated from the Urban Lake will be used to form a bench for the controversial toll road.
Council members Sandy Greyson and Philip Kingston voted against funding the lake, taking the occasion to reiterate what a dumb idea it is to build a high-speed freeway along the Trinity and suggest that the city pulled a bait and switch, dazzling voters with visions of a recreational paradise in a cynical ploy to gin up support for the toll road.
See also: Dallas' Incredible Shrinking Lakes
Kingston suggested holding off on the lakes, if not permanently then at least until the city figures out how it's going to pay for the Trinity Parkway.
"This [toll road] project is so off track that I cannot believe that we should even entertain it before we go back to the drawing board and figure out how to do it," he said.
We all know by now how Kingston feels about the toll road. The question is whether this makes him a brave peddler of common sense or an enemy of democracy.
Here's Vonciel Hill's opinion:
"Regardless of how any of us may feel about any aspect of the Trinity, including the Parkway, the voters have spoken twice and it is not the right way to go to say, 'While the voters have spoken, I disagree with that and therefore we should not move forward with the aspect of the plan.'"
And here's Vonciel Hill dismissing Kingston as a naive attention whore:
"I did not come to council in my first 10 months, pontificate about what was or was not in the bond package or what was and was not good," she says. She spent countless hours poring over the original bond package and the 1999 master plan and the 2003 Balanced Vision Plan. So, "I have an understanding of what we are voting on today. We are voting on the lakes."
Tennell Atkins also name-checked democracy.
"[The toll road] was in the bond program?" he quizzed Assistant City Manager Jill Jordan. "And the voters said yes?"
"Not only once but twice," Jordan said.
Then there was Jerry Allen, who accused toll road opponents of costing the city gobs of money by obstinately refusing to get on board.
"Millions of millions and millions have been wasted going down these rabbit trails," he said, later revising the figure to "hundreds of millions." He told Jordan to bring the council a dollar figure on how much toll road opponents have squandered. "You know that figure's huge."
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Not nearly as huge as the $2 billion it will cost to build the Trinity Parkway, which many view as actively harmful, but huge.
But while Kingston and Greyson's arguments were summarily ignored by a majority of their colleagues, they were treated to an unintentional display of irony when Atkins and Davis, all of 10 minutes removed from singing their paean to democracy, voted to limit open-mic speakers at council meetings.
Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.