From 1998 when the Trinity River Project was first presented to voters as a racially unifying parks project, there has been a tension, to put it very politely, between the promise and the real agenda. As a matter of fact, I don't really use the word tension. I prefer lie.
And the lie doesn't die. Right now we have an important case in point involving trails that the council approved a year ago along the river through downtown to link major trail systems already complete north and south of the downtown stretch.
Last year the mayor joined council members Angela Hunt and Scott Griggs, and together they persuaded the rest of the council to fund the new trail segment through downtown. Once complete, a paved trail linking Dallas' still virtually segregated hemispheres would be the first physical delivery on the promise former Mayor Ron Kirk made 15 years ago of a park to bind the city's divided heart.
That promise has always been and will always be a sales pitch to mask a lie. The real agenda for the Trinity River Project is a semi-private highway to enable lavish redevelopment of land deliberately divided and sealed away from South Dallas -- more of the same, in other words, an ugly past reaching forward to corrupt what should be a better future.
Even though the council voted a year ago to fund the trail, the city manager is not proceeding with it, citing some kind of change she thinks needs to be made. Let me give you my own two-bit theory. The toll road partisans use private entities such as the Trinity Commons and Trinity Trust Foundations to foil and defeat any attempt to turn the riverfront into a real park. The last thing they want is a bunch of beer-drinking citizens down there along the river with their dogs and Frisbees thinking it belongs to them. Instead, the partisans intend to keep the river downtown clean of citizenry so nothing will stand in the way of that road when they finally get a chance to build it.
Look at their record: The upshot of the two big projects the partisans have pulled off -- the Calatrava bridge and the white water feature -- is that the entire river through downtown is now virtually inaccessible to canoeists and kayakers. By building high-concept diversions at both ends of the downtown stretch they have managed to annihilate recreational use between those points.
The Dallas Morning News has a good editorial today about all this, urging the city to proceed with the downtown trail, but it contains a very understated insight that I want to bring up into relief for you. Apparently the News' editorial board has been calling City Manager Mary Suhm and her immediate underlings all week trying to get them to explain why the trail is on hold. No one will call them back.
Now, on the one hand, there is a psychological term that describes the feeling of an alternative press journalist when he finds out that the snooty bastards at the city's only daily can't get a call returned, called Schutzenfreude. On the other hand, I can't avoid pointing out that the refusal of staff to move ahead with an authorized project is the other side of the same coin we saw recently in the fracking-in-the-parks controversy, where staff did go ahead and pursue a deal that the City Council had expressly told them not to pursue.
The staff at City Hall does not work for us, because it does not take its orders from our elected representatives. It takes its orders from the Park Cities. And what might those orders be?
Sell the damned parks to the oil drillers if you have to, just don't raise any taxes that our businesses in Dallas will have to pay. Keep your dirty masses yearning to be free away from our toll road. Let us build our walled plague city in the old Stemmons industrial corridor so that we can continue to live large near our arts district and not to have to look at you.
And under the city manager system, the staff says, "Yessir, yessir and yessir." What's our role in this? Pay them. Do you see anything amiss here, or am I just a whiner?
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.