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The Unifying Theme in Dallas' Fantastically Bad Behavior Is That Stupid Toll Road

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Please read Eric Nicholson's story this week about the city's incredibly callous treatment of Southern Dallas horse-owners whom City Hall has deemed unworthy of inclusion in that stupid fancy-schmancy run-by-an-alleged-animal-abuser horse park they're building near the river. And even though I hate sending you there, I hope you will also take a look at the lead editorial in this morning's Dallas Morning News decrying the decimation by a city contractor of a beautiful pond in the horse park area.

A single theme unifies Nicholson's story and the editorial in the daily, a theme I would argue (will argue in a column next week) is also present in ongoing deliberations over what to do with Fair Park, the city's 277-acre behemoth exposition park that looks more like bad Miami with every passing year.

The simple version of that theme is the expression often found in social media: WTF.

If top city staff went to some weird university in Iceland and took advanced training in how to be total dick-heads, could they possibly do it any better than they are already? And by the way, just to cut to the chase, the answer is no.

But of course there is more to this amazing confluence of official dick-headedness than mere serendipity. Yes, as you might suspect, City Hall behaves the way it does and does it so consistently because there is a consistent cause driving all of these otherwise disparate-seeming dismal narratives: The Trinity Roll Road.

Wait, wait, don't tinfoil hat me just yet. Nicholson does a great job -- a great job -- tracing the city's utterly ignominious treatment of Southern Dallas horsemen to Jill Jordan, the assistant city manager over the Trinity River Project.

Jordan's name crops up also in the News' editorial today taking the city to task for allowing a building contractor at the horse park to destroy a beautiful pond by sucking all the water out of it. The editorial quotes a memo written by city council member Scott Griggs: "There is no transparency, no accountability, no honesty when it comes to the Trinity River Corridor Project led by Jill Jordan."

Her name has not figured in the deliberations over Fair Park, to my knowledge, but I know from multiple good sources that her handiwork and project -- the Trinity River Toll Road -- was front and center when the Fair Park task force was trying to find out where all the money went that should have funded proposals made by a previous task force in 2003. Into the toll road.

I'm not offering this as a conspiracy so much as a culture. The Trinity River project, which is really the toll road project, is a cancer that drains off resources from every other area of municipal responsibility, almost always without any acknowledgment or transparent accounting by city staff.

It's how they roll. Eight years ago former city council member Mitchell Rasansky told his constituents he had caught the staff handing off $160 million to the Trinity without admitting that's where the money was going. I wound up having a big interview about it with Suhm, Jordan, Rebecca Dugger who was Jordan's right hand on the Trinity, and former Mayor Laura Miller. Dugger came up with the city's defense. She said it wasn't $160 million. It was only $73 million.

Oh, well damn, only $73 million? That's all you took the voters for? You only pumped $73 million more in unacknowledged funding into the damned stupid bottom-of-the-bathtub truck route without telling voters? That time? That was eight years ago, and God only knows how much more money has been siphoned from bond programs that nobody caught, in a city with a staggering burden of capital needs and deferred maintenance.

And it's not just the cash. The egregious treatment of the community around the horse park and ritzy golf course being developed on city land in Southern Dallas flows from a kind of attitude: it's an attitude that says what we do is so important, so over the heads and comprehension of the common voter that it makes us that important, too -- too important to tell anybody what we're up to, too important to worry.

People of modest income who love horses, puddles of water back in the woods, even the rescue of Fair Park (otherwise known as the arts district they don't need any more): none of that phases them. They have their mission and their marching orders. Pity the person who gets in their way.

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