Cabs, Keys and Taking a Bite Out of Dog Parks: Highlights From Council's Morning Session

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Shortly before recess, the council and mayor sang Dave Neumann "Happy Birthday." Adorable.
Council's already in recess -- till 1:30, said the mayor, citing a brief afternoon agenda. But the morning began with a bit of a bite -- bark too.

First up, a man repping the striking cabbies said the strike's over, for now. There's a demand on the table, of course, for the city to drop the ordinance allowing taxis powered by compressed natural gas front-of-the-line privileges at Love Field. If the city does that, said the rep (whose name I didn't catch), the cabbies will go out and get "EPA-certified" taxis -- "hybrid, electric, hydrogen," whatever it takes to get back in pole position.

After that, Richard Hunter stepped up to demand Mayor Tom Leppert rescind Dwaine Caraway's title of mayor pro tem, following his decision to give Michael Vick one of the lesser keys to the city. He also wants the key returned. The mayor said, look, it wasn't a real key to the city -- it only gets you into Arthur and Archie's house -- and then thanked Hunter for being a good daddy to his puppy Mel, formerly one of Vick''s "bait" dogs.

But most interesting was council member Ann Margolin's announcement that she can't support the NorthBark dog park on Gramecy Oaks Drive near the Dallas North Tollway and the Bush. Said Margolin, the cost of constructing the new park -- $1,574,019, paid out of Collin County grant funds ($98,000) and 2006 city of Dallas bond funds ($1,476,019) -- isn't the issue. Rather, she said, the park itself underscores a "serious issue with the budget process" -- as in, she said, city staff has informed her it will cost $80,000 annually. And that, she said, is money the city does not have -- and probably won't for several years to come.

Margolin said: How can the city justify spending that much on a single dog park when it can't operate the Esplanade fountain in Fair Park? To which Dave Neumann responded, shortly afterward, that dog parks are keys to building good neighborhoods -- and, matter of fact, expect one in Kiest Park sooner than later. So there.

Margolin asked Paul Dyer, head of Parks and Rec, how many parks the city has added in recent years. He mentioned a few, including Main Street Garden downtown, which, he explained, was funded for two years by Downtown Dallas, Inc. But that money will run out in November, at which point the city will have to begin paying for Main Street Garden all by its lonesome. At which point Margolin voted against NorthBark. She was the only council member to do so. 
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27 comments
Aggie91
Aggie91

First. How can it cost $1.5 Million to build a Dog Park? -- lets see you need a fence, Grass, some benches and trashcans. $100K max.

Second. How can it possibly cost $80K/year to maintain a Dog Park -- That covers what mowing and picking up trash?

dallasmay
dallasmay

Dog Parks are some of the most used parks in the city. You should have gone out to the White Rock Lake dog park a few weekends ago (remember when the weather was 72 deg?) There were hundreds of people there with their dogs.

Abuckley1970
Abuckley1970

The city is short staffed, over budget and we're worried about damn dog parks? I'm with Margolin on this one. dog parks are expensive IF maintained properly - more so than 'people' parks. Drainage becomes a huge issue as well as several other issues I'm not bothering to get into here. we need to take care of existing parks and leave new parks alone for now. If people are so concerned, maybe some more HOA's could pick up the slack and provide some privately maintained dog parks...riiiight.

Hell, maybe we could take the dog park money and reallocate it to the levees. :D

Ann Margolin Fan
Ann Margolin Fan

I live in Ann Margolin's district and could not be any happier with her leadership and common sense on this issue.

We love you Ann!!

Mister_Mean
Mister_Mean

It seems that coucilwoman Margolin is the only one worth keeping on the city coucil. The rest are a bunch of clowns. That includes the city staff. The mentioned need to be replaced ASAP. Lepper needs to go back to private life after all look what he not only has done to Washington Mutual but to the city of Dallas. Criminal!

Goodgovernance
Goodgovernance

Why is the City of Dallas required to pay 94% of the capital contribution to this doggie park when it is Collin county citizen's that are likely to receive the lion's share of its benefits? Why isn't Collin County required to ante up annual NorthBark maintenance dollars to sustain this project? Those are some very lucky SOB doggies - and what a deal: live in Collin County, get exemplary Plano ISD schools, bypass Howdy Doody Dallas County, but get the City of Dallas to pay for a multi-million dollar cool neighborhood doggie park. And even though you have to live north of 635, you get to maintain your coolness and bragging rights that you are still a resident of Big D. Now, there is a D spot for you.

Montemalone
Montemalone

What exactly does a "dog park" need that costs a mil and a half? I would think a plot of land would be about it. Do they plan on building little doggie swing sets? And 80 grand a year? Is that for daily poop-scooping?I just don't understand how these things can possibly cost this kind of money.

Mike
Mike

I wasn't sold on Margolin at first, but she rocks.

My neighborhood in Dallas is really nice and all we have is one of those old non-tendy parks for people.

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

CM Margolin raises a very valid point--- under Mary Suhm, the City has completely lost all budgeting sense. They spend millions of dollars to build stuff without any thought as to how it will be maintained. If they DID think, they would realize there is no money to maintain all this new stuff, much less the existing stuff.

It would be much better to be proactive about this, rather than the City's approach-- which is to forget about the future impacts when making current decisions. Mary Suhm wouldn't last a week in private enterprise.

Ray Who
Ray Who

Sometimes, it seems that Ann Margolin is the only one who has any sense.

Syd_Nancy
Syd_Nancy

Hey Carraway, why don't you have your boyfriend Vicks donate the 80 grand to support the dog park? Sounds like a win win. 80 grand so a dozen dogs can pee and play sounds reasonable to me.

Judge_Softy
Judge_Softy

Arthur & Archie will never not be funny.

Ellum08
Ellum08

I think Margolin brings up a good point. Why continue to build new things when the City can't even afford to maintain what it has?

I understand parks/libraries etc. are good for neighborhoods, but does EVERY neighborhood need one of each?

Howard
Howard

The taxpayers of Dallas funded all these projects -- both high profile and "small" like these dog parks -- despite the questions of whether any of these are actually needed, can be paid for and maintained over the years, in order to subsidize the Senate bid for the mayor, so he can say look at all these great things he did for the city, while his successor is left with the unglamorous task of (and will probably get the blame for) figuring out how to pay for everything.

That's the common thread that's been running through everything in Dallas over the past 2 years, but nobody really wants to call it out publicly.

Bobalouie
Bobalouie

Maybe she is, maybe not. You have to remember that she is Leppert's lap dog; just keeps a low profile for now because she can. She is fiscally conservative and has a tendency to keep a better eye on the cash than the others, but Lep also has her in his pocket.

My tax dollars at work
My tax dollars at work

So if the Collin County citizens who are also citizens of the city of Dallas shouldn't get contributions from the city they live in, where should they get them? Don't other dog parks receive both city and county funding?

I used to live in one of the slightly run-down apartment complexes nearby, and let me tell you, I did not feel very cool when I lived there. Not that I feel much cooler living in Carrollton. I do know that I would love a dog park to bring my damn dogs to that I didn't have to drive 13+ miles one-way to reach (Jack Carter in Plano, White Rock Lake); every mile with a howling, unhappy beagle in your car is like 10 minutes in rush hour traffic. I'd also like one that's closer so I wouldn't feel the need to hire a guide to help me hunt down the mythical 1-acre dog park in Addison that I bet never has dogs in it because...well, where the hell is it? And if I still lived in my apartment over in that much-neglected nook of Dallas/Collin County, a glorified patch of land next to the intersection of two roads residents of Collin, Dallas, Denton, Rockwall, Tarrant, and all other counties close by pass without even giving a second thought to, I would love my tax dollars to go something that would so immediately benefit me.

Gabe
Gabe

You need a lot of fence, basic landscaping, some tree removal, those posts with the baggies, some benches and picnic tables, a parking lot with at least 400 spots ($1-2K each) because it's going to be so popular and of course no one will walk to the park. Then you need lights for the parking lot, even though it will be closed at night. And of course if they want to add water features or a gazebo...

The 80 grand per year will pay for electricity, minimal cleaning and re-landscaping when erosion moves stuff around. It will also pay for someone to come out and unlock the gate and relock it at night, inspect the grounds, change the light-bulbs in the lamps, and replace the baggies.

cp
cp

I recently adopted a dog and we have been going to the big dog park at White Rock Lake. One of the latches is smooshed and someone put up a cotton rope to throw around the top of the fence to make the gate shut. Another gate doesn't completely close because the latch is bent.

With hundred of dogs out pounding the ground day after day, week after week, there is no grass. One guy told me that the City usually closes it on Mondays for maintenance. I said, "What maintenance?"

Dog parks are pretty simple and straight-forward. You put up a fence, put in a water spigot, build a few benches and that's really it.

heyheymama
heyheymama

Your comment brings to mind two vacant buildings near my neighborhood: Walnut Hill Library and the old fire station near Walnut Hill & Marsh. The city also does not consider the impact of maintaining vacant city buildings or the impact these have on the neighborhood when the city allows them to become eyesores.

Mary Suhm doesn't want to sell these properties until the market rebounds. That's one choice, but it comes with the responsibility to be a good landlord for the indefinite future.

Ms. Suhm also doesn't want to bulldoze these buildings that she has deemed unservicable. But, again, it puts the burden of stewardship on the City.

I've got a third-grader who I'm trying to teach to pick up after himself and to follow through on projects. Am frustrated when professionals have not learned these basic lessons.

Heywood U Buzzoff
Heywood U Buzzoff

By getting the dog park built but not having funds to operate it, does this mean the city is actively seeking to build neighborhoods with piles of dog feces??

cp
cp

Cept that par's in Far North Dallas, in Collin County. So no, I'm thinking that somehow a new "Friends Of" group can manage to support the O$M costs. And $80 large sound like it's a tad too much anyway. Dog Parks are pretty simple.

cp
cp

How do you figure that she is Leppert's lap-dog?

Goodgovernance
Goodgovernance

Hey tax dollars, I just did some checking. I found out that 51,000 of City of Dallas folks live inside of Collin County. City of Dallas has (as of 2009) about 1.3 million people. That means that a mere 3.9% of Dallas City residents are tied to Collin County. Since Dallas is being asked to cough up 94% of the capital contribution and an additional $80k per year in operating costs, one has to ask how is this fair or rational? The population of Collin County is about 790,000, so 51,000 Dallasites is a bigger deal for Collin County to consider than it is for Dallas to consider. OK, we are one region. We should be doing the regional thing and mutually supporting stuff. Maybe one day. Sure, why should they even argue when Collin County gets a $1.5 million capital improvement and fabulous neighborhood amenity for $98,000.

Have you been to Waggin Tail Dog Park? Fabulous and cool. Check it out. Worth every penny to Dallas. Dog parks are expensive given the qualified improvements and making sure it is kept sanitary and there is proper drainage. They openly bid these projects out - so check out the proposals if you want to know what costs so much and why.

Councilwoman Margolin IS looking out for our tax dollars - bless her. In the words of another posting, MARGOLIN ROCKS! My dog gives her a high paw. Wish we could have a dog park here in the mid-city and not have to go all the way downtown or to White Rock. At least Waggin Tail is located at Keller Springs and Preston - it has great amenities and has trails- it is not the fenced dirt and scuzzy benches approach that Dallas has done before. Glad to hear that South of the Trinity they are getting their own nice doggie playground.

The dear Councilwoman is just trying to make the case that we need to take care of what we already have. One way to do that is to have our Dallas citizens support the parks and trails, and to make sure what Suhm knows that what we have now must be properly and financially maintained. They call that stewardship.

cp
cp

80 grand a year for lighting? What are you talking about erosion control? Is this new park on a levee? At a lake shore? And why would you have to take trees out?

Benches, parking, all that stuff is capital costs. Not maintenance. We're talking about how we get to 80-grand a year for maintaining a patch of dirt with a few fences. Seriously.

Montemalone
Montemalone

And both of those buildings could have been renovated and continued to provide the uses for which they were originally constructed, but then the campaign contributions from contractors are much bigger than the renovators.

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