Those who wanted a bit of theater at Dallas City Hall on Wednesday -- us, for instance -- didn't get exactly what they wanted, but Dallas City Council member Philip Kingston made sure they didn't go home empty handed.
Kingston, the id of Trinity toll road opposition, and Vonciel Jones Hill, his pro-toll road opposite number, had signed up as open microphone speakers at Wednesday's council meeting. Kingston signed up in response to a memo from Mayor Mike Rawlings criticizing members of the council for discussing the toll at a March 4 council meeting, when it wasn't on the agenda. Hill signed up because Kingston did.
Unfortunately for those who like chaos, Dallas City Attorney Warren Ernst had the two council members be taken off the open-microphone speakers' list because, like the off-agenda discussion three weeks ago, letting them open up about an issue that's not on the council's agenda would have violated the Texas Open Meeting Act. Regular citizens can talk about whatever they wish during the open-microphone session, but council members are council members and bound by the law, even if they climb down from the council dais and stand among the plebes.
Kingston, who said he did not agree with Ernst's reading of the law, decided to hold a press conference instead.
"I'm going to tell you about an urban planning story in Dallas, and it's not a really fun story," Kingston said. "The toll road project was sold on a pack of lies."
Among those lies, according to Kingston, are the suggestions that the proposed toll road will relieve congestion, that the toll road is a necessary evil that will allow for the development of the long-awaited Trinity basin recreation amenities and that the toll road will help residents of southern Dallas access healthcare.
"Think about the ethics of that argument, just for a moment," he said. "'Here under-served area of Dallas with inadequate access to healthcare, could we charge you $7 one way for a trip to Parkland?' Does that sound like someone who cares about the public health of Pleasant Grove?"
Kingston singled out Rawlings as being among those pushing lies about the toll road.
"I believe when the mayor says we don't know what the road looks like, that's a lie. I don't know how to soften that blow," he said.
As for when actual, on-the-agenda discussion of the toll road might happen, Kingston said that it's unlikely until the new council is seated in June. That's when he, as well as fellow anti-toll road council members Scott Griggs, Adam Medrano and Sandy Greyson could receive reinforcements from the May elections.
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"[The mayor] is just not going to be able to avoid it. With the new people coming, this will be one of the prime topics that they want to talk about. I fully anticipate that we'll have some kind of discussion about this shortly after the election."
Rawlings, who's in Washington, DC, issued a statement:
"The Dallas City Council follows state open meetings laws regarding public notification of matters to be discussed and debated around the horseshoe. We will bring the Trinity Parkway to the council for discussion when there is something to vote on."