Dallas' parents, its dads specifically, got a leg up from the City Council on Wednesday afternoon. From now forward, any newly built or renovated city-owned building, privately owned restaurant, theater or retail store will have to provide at least one "safe, sanitary and convenient diaper changing accommodation" in each restroom available for public use.
The ordinance's passage is the culmination of months of work from Chris Fox, a new dad from Lakewood, and Oak Cliff City Council member and mayoral candidate Scott Griggs.
Lee Kleinman, often critical of an ordinance he views as bad for Dallas businesses, called the new requirements "nonsense." Nevertheless, it passed by a 10-4 vote.
Fox started his push for the ordinance last summer.
"At the time, around July or August, my son was 2 months old or 3 months old, and we would go out to restaurants. We even took a trip to Florida, and everywhere I went, there was a limited amount of diaper-changing stations, specifically for men," Fox told the Observer earlier this year. "We'd go out to a place, and my wife would be like, 'All right, I guess I have to go change his diaper.' ... I just started thinking that there's got to be some kind of way that we can figure out a way to get diaper-changing stations (in Dallas)."
Fox first talked to his City Council member, outgoing East Dallas representative Mark Clayton, about what the city might do to change things. Clayton supported the idea, Fox said, but didn't know how long it would take for momentum to build behind the issue at City Hall.
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A few weeks after meeting with Clayton, Fox got a call from Griggs' wife, Mariana. She helped Fox connect with her husband. Scott Griggs got the changing table requirement on the City Council Quality of Life Committee's agenda in March. The committee unanimously signed off on the idea, sending it to the full council.
Dallas' new law is similar to a New York City ordinance approved in January that imposes $500 fines on any new or newly renovated public accommodation that doesn't have either a changing table in every restroom or a sign with clear directions to the nearest changing table. The city's code compliance department would be charged with responding to reported violations.
Without a changing table, Fox said, parents often have to resort to changing their children on the restroom's counter or floor. If neither of those spots works, they might be forced to go out to their car, he said.
"I am an equal partner in my wife and son's life," Fox said. "This is just being practical."