Laura, Jim Has Something He'd Like to Say to You

The mayor says Jim Schutze grossly distorted the facts concerning the Trinity River. To which Jim says: Hey, at least I got facts. So there.

Of course I don't like the phrase "gross distortion of the facts" in Mayor Miller's characterization of my reporting on the Trinity River project. But I am really excited that this new dialogue on the project may finally bring us closer to some answers the public needs to hear.

The problem with the mayor's response to my article is that it offers a list of simple assertions about the project without any evidence. But at least the assertions themselves are a place to begin.

She says, "We created 10 miles of lakes, wetlands, trails, an island, a whitewater canoe course, soccer fields, an amphitheater and pedestrian overlooks." Then she says, "We didn't pretend we had all the money for the new, improved plan," and, "We will have to either raise the money privately...get it from the state or the feds or put it in a future bond program."

Here is a key point: In 1998 when voters approved $246 million for this project--the largest single bond project in the city's history--voters were told they were paying for it, all of it, all of the city's share. The mayor's assertion that she "created" all of these new features that are now not paid for by the 1998 package requires a little bit of bullet-biting candor: How much more money is needed for the project? If it is to come from state and federal sources, how much of it will come from those sources? What are those sources? Which state or federal programs can be called upon?

But even more essential, if none of that money shows up to cover this new design, how much more bond money will the voters of Dallas have to approve? How much has the total ticket gone up, and what is the total potential liability to the voters of Dallas?

It's not politically honest to put this kind of dream project in front of the voters and fail to tell them what the costs are. At least some of those numbers should have been offered in the mayor's response. It is not a good sign that they were not.

She makes a host of other assertions that cry out for proof. For example, she says the freeway bridges to be replaced by Calatrava signature bridges are slated for replacement anyway. But these are state/federal bridges, and they are not on the list of state/federal bridges slated for replacement. I challenge her to provide proof that they are slated for replacement.

She says Calatrava's steel bridges will last three times as long as standard reinforced concrete bridges and that they will improve flood protection. Either of those assertions could be true or totally untrue. We have no way of knowing until we see some kind of supporting evidence.

Blogs are O.K., but blogs have their limitations too; they are not the place for a comprehensive review of this very complex story. I intend to do that review over the weeks ahead, and I hope when I'm done the Observer will publish my work in the newspaper.

Here's what I predict: I think I will be wrong. And I think I will be right. And I think the mayor will be right and wrong about various aspects of this. It's too important for a simple he-said she-said treatment. I look forward to working with the mayor and her staff on a search for these very important answers. Notice that I did not accuse the mayor of "gross distortion."

Not yet. --Jim Schutze

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky