Precisely How Many Deadly Sins Can DART Commit at Once, Anyway?

Everybody needs to watch the ongoing KTVT-Channel 11 series by Bennett Cunningham on over-the-top spending at Dallas Area Rapid Transit. People also should go look at the incredible Web presentation 11 has put up.

The thing that comes across so powerfully in Channel 11’s hidden-camera pieces is the overall culture of gluttony and sleaze at DART, especially among the board members splashing booze down their gullets while belly-to-belly with DART contractors at fancy hotel parties in California. In one piece there is a passing reference to another theme that really gives me personal heartache.

Republican State Rep. Linda Harper-Brown from Irving points out that DART will be going to Austin in the next session of the legislature to ask for a new “transportation district” law. She suggests that the gluttony uncovered by Cunningham may come up at that time.

Transportation district? Whazzat? Let me tell you.

Last week I heard this scheme discussed at a meeting of the “regional transportation council,” which is kind of strange uber-government nobody knows about that meets in grand offices out by Six Flags and hands out kabillions in public infrastructure money.

This is the deal: The suburban board members of DART have banded together with their brethren who live even farther away from Dallas and don’t even belong to or financially in any way support DART. Together they have come up with a scheme to basically take DART away from Dallas by creating a totally new level and form of government, which they had intended to call a transportation district.

Didn’t hear about that one? A new government and they didn’t even tell you? Well, look at Cunningham’s stuff on 11. They’ve been busy.

This new government would be a big flabby thing stretching all over Dallas and Tarrant Counties. It would have the power to tax. It would be even farther away from voter control than DART is. And it would be totally dominated by the ‘burbs, the ex-burbs, the re-burbs, the de-burbs and the burbariti of furthest boondockaronia.

It’s basically a hijacking of DART. The 'burbs have reason to worry. For the first time in a half century, all of the smart money in real estate nationally is predicting a 180-degree turn in settlement patterns, away from the ‘burbs and back to the city. One of the principle mechanisms by which this change will be made possible is mass transit, arrayed to serve density.

So what do our ‘burbs hope to do with DART? Jack it and use it instead to facilitate re-burbinazation. They want to make sure the bulk of rail money is spent on turning off the new urban momentum, not stoking it.

The RTC is made up of 43 representatives from area cities -- elected officials appointed by their city councils or mayors. They are the ones Harper-Brown was talking about who want to go to Austin and get a law passed setting up a new level of government into which DART could be simply and totally subsumed.

At the RTC meeting I attended, their principle preoccupation was in finding ways to deflect attention from the fact that this would be a new taxing authority and a new level of government. They decided not to call it a district for that reason. They are going to think about other words, like “association” or “group” or something -- things that won’t sound quite so governmental.

The technical philosophical and political science term for this process would be “lying.” It is too a new government. Trying to keep the taxpayers from knowing that it is a new government is lying.

What makes me sickest about his whole dodge? Guess who’s the head of the RTC? Dallas council member Linda Koop. She’s sitting there smiling and nodding while they stab Dallas in the gut.

But that’s the real problem. The suburbs are smart. They stick together. They stick up for themselves. Dallas City Hall is an idiot.

I’ll tell you one thing. Take all those scenes of sleazy DART gluttony with the contractors at the Hotel California and multiply it by 1,000 if they get this thing passed.

Look at DART! Those people act the way they do because they think they are completely unanswerable. What do we think happens when you lift the whole thing up, give it even more money and move it even farther from voter control?

If you think voter turnout is pathetic in municipal elections, imagine what it will be in the every-10-years election for whatever they’ll call themselves -- Official Fellows of the Aspirational Association of Regional Logistical Collaboration, Greenness and Well-Meaning Whatnot. This will be high-hog heaven for the types you can see wallowing already in Bennett Cunningham’s stories.

DART is not about to get better. --Jim Schutze

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Jim Schutze has been the city columnist for the Dallas Observer since 1998. He has been a recipient of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ national award for best commentary and Lincoln University’s national Unity Award for writing on civil rights and racial issues. In 2011 he was admitted to the Texas Institute of Letters.
Contact: Jim Schutze