Slow Learners: Dallas Morning News Plants Another Nail in Trinity Toll Road's Coffin

Categories: Get Off My Lawn

SHZ_GetOffMyLawn_TitleImageV2.jpg
Michael Lindenberger had a great piece in The Dallas Morning News yesterday about public distortions of fact by former mayor Tom Leppert and backers of the Trinity Toll Road like the Trinity Commons Foundation before the 2007 toll road alignment referendum.

The main thing the story got across was that City Hall knew back then there were serious problems with the design and financing of the proposed highway between the levees. In spite of that, Leppert vowed to voters that the Corps had signed off on safety and the North Texas Tollway Authority had signed off on financing for the project. Neither was true.

The story said Leppert, who is running for the United States Senate, wouldn't comment. If people get nothing more from it, they should take from Lindenberger's story that Tom Leppert is a man whose most public and adamant vow cannot be trusted.

But people should get more from it.

It was well-written, probably well-edited, and I do not presume to improve on it. I just want to make sure a couple of points are not lost in the shadow of more sensational revelations.

Trinity River Toll Road.jpg
Two very important secondary themes in Lindenberger's story have to do with the regional staff of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and with the NTTA. Basically, neither one of those agencies is ever going to tell the truth about the toll road any more than Leppert did.

The Corps is a public works construction contracting company owned by the federal government but whose principal business partners are local governments. The NTTA is a public works construction company owned in part by local government. Both entities depend entirely on local governments as their client base.

They do not want to offend local governments. Ever. And they won't if they can help it. So neither one of them is ever going to stick its neck out even a quarter inch and make a declaration yea or nay on building the toll road out where it floods.

Why should they? This vaunted plan to build a multi-lane high-speed expressway out in the middle of a floodway is never going to happen anyway. We have been saying this and reporting it here at the Dallas Observer for 13 years.

The basic idea is so bad, so directly and flagrantly in violation of state-of-the-art flood-control knowledge the world over, so fantastically upside-down in terms of transit efficiency, so wildly out of whack financially that it doesn't stand a snowball's chance anyway.

Why should the Corps or the NTTA take a huge political hit for telling Dallas what Dallas badly does not want to hear? The thing's never going to happen.

Read down into Lindenberger's story, and you will see Washington-level officials trading messages in which the toll road is called a "squirrelly project." One asks another if the thing can be killed at the Washington level if federal officials in Dallas fail to put a stake in its heart. "The answer to your question is yes," writes someone at the Pentagon, not named by Lindenberger.

This whole project has been one big municipal SAT exam for the old Dallas business establishment, very much including The Dallas Morning News, which shilled for the project in 2007 on every page of the paper. The results have not been good. I think this is the point where the school counselor, with the test results spread before her, starts talking with a tear in her eye about the dignity of honest labor.

I get the impression that The News has decided to play that role. This story and other signs I have seen on the editorial page tell me that the paper is preparing to let the community down easy in anticipation of some very bad news.

Guess what. We know all about it. We're bored. We'd rather talk about the Kessler Theater -- subject of an op-ed piece in The New York Times Sunday about the new cool Dallas.

It's incredible that anybody even thinks there is still a debate. But the establishment candidate for mayor, Mike Rawlings, is afraid to commit himself on the toll road. He says he's waiting to hear what the Corps decides, which is like waiting for the Martians to answer those radio signals we've been sending into outer space. I can't help reflecting that there is sometimes a fine line between extreme optimism and the wiggy ward.

Anyway, bottom line: Lindenberger's piece is well worth reading if you have not already. And by the way, if the Kessler Theater version of Dallas took the SAT, it could get into college anywhere in the world with a full-ride scholarship, so don't be depressed. It's all good. Some people just have a real bad letter coming in the mail.

Not you. Not me.

My Voice Nation Help
33 comments
holman
holman

Leppert stepped over the distortion line on the Headquarters Hotel when the Hotel Feasibility Study people the taxpayer hired at taxpayer expense told the City the Hotel was not feasible.  The City (staff or Leppert or Natinsky or all of them conspired).  Somebody - persons or persons unknown, re-ordered a "Market Study" since this kind of study did not require the object of the exercise to be financially "feasible", per "Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice" that govern the "feasibility study" process.  A Market Study is a sales brochure.   The taxpayer paid for these studies.  We were deliberately misled.  We were lied to to moment the City changed the name of the report because they knew from then on.

Bottom line - the City knew all along this thing would have to be taxpayer-fed, but that was not how it was portrayed (as a Public Works project) . . . a money pit supported by the taxpayer but affording the convention center bureau and downtown biz a bump off the next tier of big conventions.  An industry that has repeatedly been described as on the wane and where 44 new convention centers and hotels have been introduced across the nation.

B.R.Kuhlman
B.R.Kuhlman

"The basic idea is so bad, so directly and flagrantly in violation of state-of-the-art flood-control knowledge the world over, so fantastically upside-down in terms of transit efficiency, so wildly out of whack financially that it doesn't stand a snowball's chance anyway."

Favorite part of this entire article. If that doesn't get the point across, I don't know what does. ♥

WilliamJA
WilliamJA

Hah thanks Schuzte for using my rendering the of the Trinity Leppert Toll Road as the icon above. I made that photoshoped rendering for the Dallas Fort Worth Urban Forum back right before the election for/against the tollroad. Angela Hunt asked me to design a version for her to use. I still have my large version on my website(williamedia.com) along with a side by side comparison.

http://williamedia.com/2010/04...

Grumpy Demo
Grumpy Demo

Guess the editors at the DMN and their Park City buddies are behind someone other than Leppert for the GOP Senate Race.

At least it's fun to watch them screw their own for a change.

Gary
Gary

Jim, when's your book "Bully II" being published?  I dug out an excerpt somewhere on the net. As Leppert sat stunned, staring at the primary result coverage with the number 6% next to his name, he turned to his campaign manager.  "Carol, I thought you'd handle this Trinity thing like you did before."  A sigh.  "You were in over your head." "Without me you get 2 percent," she retorted and walked to the door.  "Your career is dead in the water.  Like those fish floating next to your road at the first hard rain." Leppert sobbed, then looked up defiantely as the door shut.  "Nature sucks!"

JimS
JimS

I like that a lot. And yes, nature does suck.

Alan
Alan

And for pete's sake, could we name names finally?  Who stood to make money if the tollroad was built by the public?  Not generic "landowners" but specific companies/people, so that it's clearer that Owner X is an ally/donor of Leppert, Hutchison, EBJ, et al.  Maybe that would also tell us if there's a suspicious connection to Rawlings, explaining his unwillingness to take a stand.

Jim Schutze
Jim Schutze

Alan: I guess a better reporter than I am could get it done. I have taken stabs at it. The problem is that the ownership is layered beneath law firms and other false fronts. In addition, the people with the most to gain sometimes don't own the land yet. If you look at the land downriver on Lamar where the news is trying to get the city to do inverse condemnation on two scrap yards, the person with the wires waiting in the wings to grab that land probably has at most an unrecorded option to buy. However: when I looked at the land, one of the major groups that showed up consisted of members of the Dealey clan who own the Morning News. Of course they would be there, because their family has owned land along the river since the early 19th century. Halff Engineering ten years ago had graphics on the wall of their conference room showing the old Stemmons Industrial Warehouse District  totally redeveloped and looking like Turtle Creek on steroids. They don't do pictures like that for fun. The Trinity toll road is the key. It does not make transit sense or flood control sense. But it makes sense if you want to redevelop the riverfront for rich people and you have a mid-century outdated view of urban centers which tells you rich people won't come downtown unless they have their own, both as an exclusive access and as an alligator moat.

Bob
Bob

Ah. I, too, was wondering why you folks had never published a list of land owners.

JimS
JimS

... have their own TOLL ROAD (above)And on scrap yards, obviously the evil doers don't have options on the scrap yards or the scrap yard owners would know. But I suspect a lot is going on all around them.

MattL1
MattL1

You know, I'm more happy that the DMN comment section ISN'T behind the paywall than I am sad that the actual article is.  Basic theme?  "No shit. Where was this four years ago?"  Better late than never, I suppose.

Ayn Rand
Ayn Rand

Why give Lindenberger a pass?  He admitted to having sat on the story that the Corps had not signed off on the plan until the day AFTER the vote.  Lindenberger then refused Schutze's request that he explain himself.

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

I suspect it is a very tough balancing act, working as a reporter at the DMN, and I try to be sympathetic.  They've got good reporters there-- however, it serves no purpose if they get fired for covering a story in a manner at cross-purposes with the publisher.

At the DMN, the publisher wields a heavy club, and isn't afraid to "put his thumb on the scale" when it comes to the way stories are covered (or frequently ignored on purpose).

The reporters have to tip-toe carefully around politically sensitive topics, picking and choosing their battles carefully.

Ayn Rand
Ayn Rand

So, Lindenberger can be bought.  Why bother reading anything of his if it is known that the writer omits or delays relevant information.  What value is his information?  What did Lindenberger omit in this latest article?

Of course, as per his prior posts, integrity is only important to Wyle H when it affects his pocket book.  Hence, Wright Amendment bad, illegal aliens good.

scottindallas
scottindallas

The biggest problem with all the solutions we hear from those so concerned are big govt solutions.  I'd think you might get that.  I've asked all those who feed you your information why they don't simply use their podium/platform to have their listeners ask the contractors they hire if their workers aren't documented.  They all refused or couldn't get my point. 

Guest
Guest

When a person works in a whorehouse like Lindenberger does, sometimes that person is forced to sit on things they'd rather not sit on.

helen trent
helen trent

The road was a non-starter 13 years ago.  What a shame we wasted those years and all of that political capital and millions of dollars.  Let that poor little river be -- mow it, put in a few benches and trails and call it a day. 

Mister_Mean
Mister_Mean

Re claw those millions of tax dollars.   

Bob
Bob

Lindenberger's article was a good term paper, but it would have nice if he rhetorically asked why three mayors, the city council, business leaders and the media support this folly.

Some people still don't believe the 1998 Trinity Bond Campaign was a construction project disguised as a improvement project.

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

I don't want to take away from Lindenberger's piece-- a well-written, long-overdue article.  But I too question why the DMN doesn't do more digging into the WHY?

WHY do the people who run Dallas continue to pursue such crazy "field of dreams" projects to the detriment of core city services?  Some of the stuff they obsess over is just so completely bizarre and roundly criticized when you get outside the North Texas region.

1)  The Wright Amendment-- universally condemned by virtually every single newspaper editorial board in the United States, major magazines, etc. Only supported by the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram and the DMN (until recently).

2)  Convention Center Hotel-- widely condemned outside North Texas as a completely inappropriate venture for a public body to pursue on its own.

3)  Trinity River Toll Road-- same thing--- you can practically here the guffaws coming from the DC bureaucrats as they are reviewing this idiotic project and wondering what the hell is wrong with people down here for pursuing this thing.

All three of these issues are not even really debated anywhere other than North Texas.  Elsewhere, people look at what's going on here and are pretty much unanimous in viewing it as crazy and nonsensical.  Yet, our municipal leaders continue to press on.  And the DMN coverage of these issues implies that there are equally valid arguments on both sides, when the reality is that one side (the DCC-backed side) is talking stuff generally regarded as completely foolish (once you escape the Park Cities' "vortex"-- which requires distancing ones' self by at least 100 miles or so).

SteveT
SteveT

Jim

Thank you for being modest; but as I recall, you wrote about the clear lack of commitment to the toll road on the part of the NTTA, the Army Corps of Engineers, Congress, etc.  You also showed how the cheerleaders (including the DMN) completely ignored those, at best, mixed signals and at worst, doubts, about the feasability (both logistically and financially) of this project.  I was so angry reading the piece because this is years too late; and because of your reporting they (the boosters and the majority of citizens who voted with them) had no excuse going so far down this road (so to speak).

John McClelland
John McClelland

I wonder if I can get an apology from the DMN Editorial Board for stating I was on the wrong side of the issues during my 2007 council campaign against Natinsky. I questioned the location of the road and the cost, and they looked at me like I was insane, and then proceeded the print as much. Maybe the apology will come in another 4 years.

trannyntraining
trannyntraining

This is the Gospel truth! And I don't think me or anyone else can add to the story as well as Mr.Schutze and the DMN has. On a side note...it's freakin hot out and i'm bout to make me a trek for some brewski's ...lord willing and the river don't rise, i'll be swimming chest high in some frosty suds in a few! peace

Enrique De La Fuente
Enrique De La Fuente

Without the tollroad now, once Homegrown gets too big, it will the entire Trinity River Bottom to grow into.  Homegrown will be more punk than ACL.

Bill Holston
Bill Holston

Well said sir. I love the juxtaposition of the Kessler and these big projects. Finally there's some attention to the Dallas I love.

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

General

Loading...