| Schutze |

The "Vengeance" of the Trinity Pavers

Michael Morris, Director of Transportation for the NCTCOG, lives in Arlington -- so, like, what does he care if Dallas paves the Trinity, anyway?
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At the last Trinity debate I attended, I picked up a definite grumbling and uneasiness among the toll road backers after the event was over. A common comment was that their side “had the facts” but, unfortunately, “emotion and sound bites seem to carry the day.”

I have a different view, of course, based in part on the fact that the audience at this particular event laughed out loud and derisively at the mayor. He suggested that now is the time to put our municipal trust in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

It looks to me like the Vote NO! -- i.e. Pave the Trinity -- people have lots of the really complicated arguments why putting a major highway between flood control levees inside a park is an excellent idea. Meanwhile the TrinityVote people have common sense on their side: Why in the hell would we build a highway where it floods and in the middle of a park?

A prominent government official, speaking privately to me yesterday, said he believe that in matters like these, common sense often carries the day against the voices of experts and authorities. “The authorities told those people in the Twin Towers to stay at their desks,” he said.

I don’t know if it’s frustration over losing the debates or just the general meanness of spirit you often get from hired guns, but the voices from the Pave It! camp – especially the henchmen and aides de camp -- have carried a certain nasty tone and edge from the very beginning. Please take a gander at an excellent specimen of this on the TrinityVote site.

TrinityVote, as you may be aware, just got its hands on a trove of e-mails between city staff and the hired guns of pavement, all of which they have posted on their site. The particular one I am offering here is an e-mail in which former city council member Alan Walne assures former mayor Ron Kirk, former County Judge Lee Jackson and Vote No! political consultant Carol reed that “there will be plenty of time to be angry and take vengeance out where that is do (sic) right after we win in November.”

Let me ask you something. This is an important civic debate about flood control, the future safety of the community and the nature of a vast central park in the city that could become the city’s sacred heart for centuries to come. Not a single advocate on the TrinityVote side is getting any money out of this. They’re all in it from a sense of civic duty and commitment.

Do they really deserve to have Alan Walne and Ron Kirk and Lee Jackson angrily plotting to “take vengeance out?” I think that’s a real window on the Vote No! side’s inner nature.

It’s a window you won’t be seeing soon in The Dallas Morning News and certainly not under the byline of Bruce Tomaso for certain sure. I hope he’s getting a bonus. (I called him about the e-mails last week. The News’ editor, Bob Mong, called me back. I’m not allowed to ask Tomaso questions.

Today a News reporter, Rudy Bush, was scheduled to come to Unfair Park HQ for the second time to ask me questions. (This morning, we put it off for another week.) Under Morning News rules, they can ask us questions, but they can’t answer our questions. How’s that for a window?

The Trinity River debate is proving my long-held conviction. The Dallas Morning News can take any kind of propaganda dry-out pledge it wants, join any 12-step program it can find for recovering information abusers. Doesn’t matter. Next time it strolls by the Oligarchy Saloon, catches a whiff of that spilled Insider Brew, hears a few strains from the Old Boy jukebox, it’s gonna fall off the wagon again and start crankin’ out the bullshit again.

Poor old thang. It just can’t do no better.

Yesterday’s drunken ode to Unhelpful Untruth ran under the headline, “Transportation planner says Trinity toll road vital to area,” and was authored by Tomaso, who, when this is all over, must be nominated for the UnPulitzer.

In this offering, Tomaso reported the amazing news that Michael Morris, a staffer at the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCG), believes the Trinity Toll Road must be built through the planned park downtown and inside the flood control levees. Or else!

Tomaso writes:

Without it, he said, other plans to address the downtown traffic mess become difficult if not impossible to carry out. Congestion will grow worse, Mr. Morris said, and so will air pollution …

The tiny bit of background and perspective Tomaso fails to bring to this story is that Michael Morris has been the main promoter, huckster, used-car salesman par excellence behind this thing from the beginning. A story saying Michael Morris wants the toll road built through the park is like a story with a headline, “Mark Cuban Found to Love Self.”

Morris is a henchman for NCTCG, which is the voice of the suburbs in regional planning. Of course he wants this road to go downtown, and of course he doesn’t care if it ruins our park. Of course he knows that the vast majority of the vehicles on the road will be making suburban and regional trips.

In Morris’ view of the world, Dallas is the path of least resistance.

Highway planners know -- they have conceded -- that four out of five vehicles in the Mixmaster downtown are trucks and cars trying to get away from downtown Dallas, not go to it. So why shouldn’t we move all that misery out where it’s from and where it wants to go?

Because people out there will fight it. And the planners like Morris think the city is too weak and too poor to fight it with the same vigor.

I spoke to Morris yesterday to ask him where he got the numbers he was used in Tomaso’s story, showing that it’s too expensive to put the toll road anywhere but under water between the levees. He said he got them from the North Texas Tollway Authority.

I called the people at the NTTA to whom he referred me. They declined to take my call, so I put in an open-records demand.

I don’t mind going that route, but let me ask you something: If all these numbers and studies proving that the Captain Nemo route is the most cost-efficient are so important and so crucial to the debate, don’t you think the NTTA would publish all this stuff on their Web site instead of refusing to take calls and making me use legal demands for the data?

I think a lot of the unease on the part of the Pavers has to do with the fact that Donna Blumer, Sandy Greyson, Angela Hunt and the rest of the TrinityVote team are kicking the crap out of them in debates around the city.

If the TrinityVote people have some kind of innate advantage, it’s called common sense. And common sense is a hard thing to get rid of, no matter how much money you spend.

Really. The best thing to do is just stay at your desk and don’t contribute to crowding in the stairwells. Really. We’ve got numbers that prove it. Stay at your desk. --Jim Schutze

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