City Hall

Is Dallas "Built Out," or Are City and County Officials' Priorities Completely Out of Whack?

A little more than a week ago, the U.S. Census Bureau revealed that the city of Dallas barely grew between 2000 and 2010 -- by 0.8 percent, to be precise, though Matt Stiles and Emily Ramshaw, the Texas Trib'ers contributing to this morning's New York Times, are generous enough to bump it up to "a paltry 1 percent." Which still puts Dallas's growth 37.6 percentage points behind Fort Worth; 19.4 behind Austin; 15 behind San Antonio. So what gives?

City and county officials tell Stiles and Ramshaw: "The third-largest city in Texas is simply built out." But Not-Mayor Tom "No Trinity Earmarks (Say Wha?)" Leppert says don't you worry your pretty little head about that: "We're bringing a lot of business in, seeing a real resurgence in the downtown area. We've positioned ourselves very well for the future."

The rest of the piece and the folks interviewed for it (including a certain ubiquitous Hilltop prof) don't share the U.S. Senate candidate's optimism:

Critics suggest that Dallas's larger-than-life image may be shrinking for another reason. They say that officials' lack of investment in public schools, streets, parks and pools -- the real-world priorities outside the city's highbrow Arts District, with its cultural monuments designed by the hottest "starchitects" (Norman Foster, Rem Koolhaas, I. M. Pei, Renzo Piano) and soon-to-be sky-high Santiago Calatrava "signature" bridges -- is sending white families and middle-class minorities moving to the suburbs. The result, they say, is an increasingly Hispanic, less educated and poor inner city.

"That means property values are likely to decline, and with property values, tax revenues," said Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University. "At the end of the day, when a family has to make a choice between living in Dallas, close to its cultural amenities, or having better infrastructure, schools, libraries and pools in the suburbs, they're not going to choose Dallas."

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky