Breathalyzers for the City Council, Now There's an Idea Worth $10 Million

Categories: Get Off My Lawn

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I have a new idea for controlling costs at City Hall. Breathalyzers for the city council, because those people must be drunk.

The city is in the toilet, so broke it can't mow the parks. So broke it can't fix the streets. So broke it can't keep the rec centers open. On and on.

So tomorrow they're going to vote to spend $3.5 million more in taxpayer money -- the city's share of a $10 million fee -- to get Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava to redesign his make-believe suspension bridge over the Trinity River so we can have a design that will cost almost $300 million more than the city can afford anyway.

No, not that one. That bridge, the one you see already going up when you drive downtown, the thing that looks like half a huge McDonald's arch made out of PVC pipe, that's the first one, already under construction. The city council thinks we need more fake suspension bridges. Why more? I do not know. So the first one won't be lonely, maybe.

Why does the Spanish architect need another $10 million to redesign the second pretend-suspension bridge? Wait, wait, wait. Better question. What is a pretend-suspension bridge?
OK, we have to get across the river, right? We have highways, streets, rail lines, and they all have to get across the river. So we need bridges. In this case we are talking about the Interstate 30 freeway bridge from downtown to Oak Cliff. The state of Texas wants to spend $170 million to build a new bridge for I-30 because the old one, engineers claim, is falling apart.

But the new bridge the state wants to build is what the city council calls a "plain vanilla" freeway bridge. What is a plain vanilla freeway bridge? Oh, man. Just go along with this, OK? Maybe you'll get it. A plain vanilla freeway bridge is a bridge like all those other cities have. Just a...you know, a freeway bridge. We want something special.

Our city council wants a fake suspension bridge, instead, which was going to cost $500 million. The city said it could cover its share of the extra cost with $92 million that it got from the Congress. But then the state said the $92 million was their money, not the city's, so now the city has zip.

And a fake suspension bridge is going to cost half a billion dollars instead of $170 million for the vanilla kind? No, that's why we have to spend $10 million more. To make it cost less. City Manager Mary Suhm said a week ago she could get it down to where it would cost only $350 million to $450 million. You know, give or take a hundred mil'. But we have to pay the Spanish architect $10 million to figure out how to get the cost down.

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So, we pay this guy, Santiago Calatrava, $10 million more and he'll tell us how to spend less of the money we don't even have? Yes, he is a genius.
Oh, now, wait. We were going to answer the question: What is a fake suspension bridge?

OK, a fake suspension bridge is a tall bridge held up by cables that looks like a bridge over the San Francisco Bay or a bridge to Mackinac Island or a bridge somewhere in Europe. But this one is over the Trinity River, from one flat place to another, where you don't need a suspension bridge. So it's sort of, you know, make-believe. Just for looks.

Why do we want that? We just do. Shut up! We just want it. We want it!

But we already have one. So what? We want two! In fact, truth be told, we want three! Then we'll have the most fake suspension bridges of anywhere in the world. We'll rule, man!

So if we give the Spanish architect $10 million, and he can only get the fake suspension bridge down to a cost of $450 million, and the state intends to pay no more than $170 million, and the rest of the cost falls to the city, then the city will be short $280 million. And we will have spent $10 million, a third of it in tax money, to get there.

And you know what? I'll make you a prediction right here. This is exactly what the city council will vote to do tomorrow.

So my idea again? Before they vote on anything to do with money, we have a team from the Police Department come into the council chambers and give them all Breathalyzers. Or we could do it other ways. We could set it up so they have to blow in a tube before they can get their vote button to work.

I just don't have another explanation. I really do not.



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55 comments
MortgageGuy
MortgageGuy

I don't actually have millions of dollars, so I have trouble putting this kind of thing into perspective - how many teachers is $280 million equal to?

Cheap Old Geezer
Cheap Old Geezer

Why just one ugly bridge, when we can have 3 ugly bridges for a whole lot more. Dallas is being run by a bunch of senile nuts.

Mister_Mean
Mister_Mean

Our elected officials at the city level are clowns. It would be funny if it was not sooooo sad. I wonder how they can go out in public. Where is the shame? Oh I forgot they are elected.

Thelisma Partridge
Thelisma Partridge

Don't we need to hire some more highly paid consultants to study whether we need to spend $10M before we authorize this "spend-to-save" bullcockery?

I mean, why change now?

Russp
Russp

This all makes perfect sense. The citizens of Dallas will need these bridges to stand on while watching downtown wash away when the levees fail.

Lolotehe
Lolotehe

Jim Quixote, when are you going to write that book about all the construction boondoggles and scandals this city has been through? It just needs a catchy title. I'm pretty sure someone here can think of a good one.

Who Ray
Who Ray

The only guy laughing (all the way to the bank)...........Santiago Calatrava............betcha' he wishes he had a few more patrons (oops, I mean clients) like the City of Dallas.

Renegade
Renegade

I'm cool with paying Calatrava another $10MM, but only if he is required to spend the entire amount within the confines of the City of Dallas. You know, stimulate the local economy and all that...

busterkeaton
busterkeaton

Come on guys! All we need to do is get rid of a few more of those welfare queens, I mean teachers, off the payrolls and then we can build a really cool signature time portal to transport folks across the Mighty Trinity!

elbueno
elbueno

This whole philosophy on behalf of the city is absolutely ludicrous and egotistical. This city is run by billionaires from the bubble and people should just stop pretending otherwise.

Brenda Marks
Brenda Marks

I'm asking the same question I asked over week ago when the first post about the "new- improved-cheaper-taxpayers pay nothing more" announcement. Where is the $3.5 Million coming from?

Ien Black
Ien Black

I read very recently that they're replacing the right of way landscaping on central expressway between 635 and downtown, starting probably next month. Theres actually an example patch of some of the new landscaping around mockingbird. Only addressing that I agree we don't need another designer bridge :)

Amy S.
Amy S.

Jim, shame on you, you've forgotten your Michigan geography. There is no bridge to Mackinac Island, it stretches to St. Ignace.

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

For the last 3 months, I've observed fender bender after fender bender from my office window, because the City of Dallas couldn't afford to replace the vanished lane striping (at a cost of a few hundred bucks).

Nearly every day, I find myself trapped in hellish, several mile-long traffic jams along Central Expressway or I-35, because the City of Dallas fails to employ (at modest cost) proven best practices in accident clearing--- this not only renders our existing highway capacity ineffective, it generates huge amounts of pollution (from stalled traffic) and wastes millions upon millions in dollars in wasted time (because citizens are forced to sit in traffic for no reason).

How can we get a competent city manager to replace Mary Suhm?

Texaspainter
Texaspainter

Maybe Dave Neumann can kick in some money from his gas industry contributions.

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

What the hell is wrong with these idiots!!!! Driving any of the expressways around Dallas, one feels like they've entered a post-apocalyptic nightmare, because the City has decided they can't afford to continue annual maintenance of the right of ways.

Central Expressway (once one enters Dallas) has now become what has to be one of the ugliest urban expressways in the United States. Similarly, I-35 looks a complete mess. Both of these situations could be corrected through spending a relatively modest amount on annual maintenance, amounts the City says it doesn't have-- because it's broke.

Yet Queen Suhm, accountable to no one (except her Park Cities' minders), continues to spend, spend, spend to make them happy.

Montemalone
Montemalone

The world already has too many world class cities.We need to be Galaxy Class.Let's get us some transporters.

Harvey
Harvey

Nero's fiddling, the economy is tanking, heat is rising, oil is depleting, and people are broke....and all we got was this crappy big ass bridge over an open sewer. I'm sure glad rich guys are running the place so we can remember what folly looked like.

MushMouth1
MushMouth1

Staggers the mind how much they would spend if it was a bridge over something that resembled a real river.

NewsDog
NewsDog

So the council wants pay more so it will cost less. WTF?I may only have a public school, not DISD, education but that doesn't make sense.

Jay Hawk
Jay Hawk

If you don't overspend for suspension bridges and build a convention center hotel that won't be profitable, then you won't be a world class city.

scottindallas
scottindallas

"OK, a fake suspension bridge is a tall bridge held up by cables that looks like a bridge over the San Francisco Bay or"

No, it's not Jim, a fake suspension bridge is a bridge that is conventionally supported, by occasional piers set in soil to make the spans small enough that simple materials can cross the gaps. The entire arch is all ornamental as are the cables. Actually, the cables are probably useful in supporting and stabilizing the arch. What you've described is a real suspension bridge, in a place where it's not needed. We don't only not need it, we're not getting one. The apparent cost of that vainglorious arch is over $300 million, essentially twice the cost of the bridge itself.

Thelisma Partridge
Thelisma Partridge

Eventually someone is going to have to tell them There is No Santa Claus.

JimS
JimS

Why don't they cut out the middle man, set up one of those demolition trash chutes out from the front of City Hall and just shovel the money out?

JimS
JimS

The Bible?

busterkeaton
busterkeaton

Yeah, I heard that's EXACTLY what he's going to do with it.

Borborygmus
Borborygmus

That must explain the "I like Mike" sign in the front yard, Mockingbird just east of the Tollway?

Tom L (No, Not That L)
Tom L (No, Not That L)

Stand in front of a full-length mirror facing away from the mirror. Bend over with your hands on your ankles. Look into mirror. That's where the money is coming from.

Mister_Mean
Mister_Mean

I seem to remember that just after the budget (and tax rate increase-- on top of valuation increases by the appraisal district) that they (city council & staff) figured a good use of tax dollars was to spend around $300,000.00 on beautifying Central. Seem to recall to that the foliage has been DEAD for some considerable time too (10 years?) on 75. The city council and staff are like crack addicts with tax payer money. "I can't control myself! I have got to squander money" , they chant.

JimS
JimS

Oh, yikes. I wrote a huge long story for the Free Press about the building of that bridge. Excuse me while I go gouge out my eyeballs.

TheDallasTexan
TheDallasTexan

Wylie H. "...because the City of Dallas fails to employ (at modest cost) proven best practices in accident clearing..."Um what are the best practices in accident clearing? Because from what I've seen in all my years of freeway driving is, that no matter what you do, the freeway will always be backed up ESPECIALLY if the accident is during RUSH HOUR. So may I ask again what in the hell you're talking about?

Do you mean magically teleporting tow trucks and police cars to accident scenes without having to drive thru the traffic itself? Seriously man I want to hear these suggestions of yours. And the money should definitely go towards fixing the road of Forest Ln inbetween Cromwell Dr & Marsh Ln or the entire stretch of road surrounding Degoyler Elementary which is just horrible. Go ahead take a drive around it, I dare ya.

yeahIsaidthat
yeahIsaidthat

your lips to god's ears. let's see who is the first city councilperson to suggest that.

Thelisma Partridge
Thelisma Partridge

Disagree. We need to keep Neumann as far away as psooible from anything that has to do with money - or at least accounting for money.

Ellum08
Ellum08

TXDot is responsible for all highway maintenance, isn't it?

In fact, the best our highways have ever looked was right before the Super Bowl when the City forked over the money to mow, etc. Also, I think Downtown Dallas has to pay TXDoT extra money to maintain the Commerce Street/I-35 overpass and surrounding area.

busterkeaton
busterkeaton

I didn't read all the post before I chimed in(having an ADHD day) but it looks like we're thinking the same way(don't be scared, at least this time)! How bout we split the profits: 60%(you) 40%(me)?

Amy S.
Amy S.

Listen carefully, it's easy to spend because IT"S NOT THEIR MONEY! It's ours. Simple. Always easier to spend someone else's money, isn't it?

DoubleOJoe
DoubleOJoe

Scott, I want to clarify what this bridge actually is. It's a cable-stayed bridge. The approaches are conventional, but the center span is actually supported by the arch and the cables. It is, in fact, a legitimate and sound type of design.

What is not is practical or pragmatic. It's a real bridge dressed up by a pretentious architect as a useless piece of public art. A functional, well-designed, even beautiful bridge could be built for a fraction of the cost.

Bill Holston
Bill Holston

good question, they are afraid some of the money would wind up in the hands of ordinary citizens

busterkeaton
busterkeaton

Because, then they'd have to build a new shiny, multi-colored light show signature wall in front of it, so nobody could see the good City Hall members doing their civic duties.

elbueno
elbueno

Ha! I saw that too!

I yelled out to myself in my car: "YOU DON'T LIVE IN DALLAS! YOU DON'T VOTE FOR OUR MAYOR!"

Brenda Marks
Brenda Marks

Funny. That much I knew (having already experenced it many times before). I am curious as to from which departmental budget Suhm is robbing funds to pay the Spaniard.

get off OUR lawn!
get off OUR lawn!

if you gouge out your eyeballs, then your shot will be worse than it already is. whaddaya think?

Amy S.
Amy S.

I have a sister who's the island vet. It's still worth the drive.

Dallas_Joe_Schmo
Dallas_Joe_Schmo

Actually the state only pays for maintenance of a simple design, i.e. grass median. Anything above and beyond is usually, contractually, the city's responsibility. Like all the weeds along Central, the City must keep all that looking nice since the city requested it all to be put in when the highway was rebuilt. Unfortunately, no one anticipated that shit wouldn't grow in an oven that rises to 350 degrees surrounded by diesel fumes without rats chewing through water pipe when they were desperate for water during the month of August.

scottindallas
scottindallas

Are you sure about that for the second bridge? The first bridge sure looks to be conventionally supported considering the piers, but I'll take your word for it. I think Calatrava, if his bridge is supported by the cables, has made the span so small, it's no architectural achievement, save for it's vanity.

DoubleOJoe
DoubleOJoe

I can't speak to the second bridge. For the first one, though, the central span of ~1200 feet is cable-stayed. The metal trusses that we can see under it in the webcam (and here: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wi... ) are temporary. The span will be supported by the arch and cables.

Edited to add: Again, though, I'd like to mention that while I don't think the design is flawed, I think the idea and the execution are. This bridge is being built for the wrong reasons, in the wrong place, using the wrong money.

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