How Will Angela Hunt, Ann Margolin, Gerald Britt and Steve Blow (Settle Down) Fix Dallas?

Categories: Development
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Via Scott Dorn
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For those Friends of Unfair Park who don't have Jewish mothers, I will tell you: They get stuff done. That would probably be their motto, if they ever organized themselves into some kind of union. (Possible sub-motto: "But, Really, Would It Kill You To Call More Often?")

This morning, in front of a packed house at Congregation Shearith Israel, the local chapter of the National Council of Jewish Women convened a panel on the subject of making change in the city. (I got to sit next to Wilonsky's mother. She is adorable.) Working under the title "A Greater Dallas: What Does It Take?" the panelists were city council member Angela Hunt; Rev. Gerald Britt from CitySquare; Manny Ybarra, president of Pillar Commercial (and a former City Plan Commission member); and The Dallas Morning News's own Steve Blow of Sunnyvale.

With council member Ann Margolin moderating, the panel talked for two hours about how to get stuff done: by bettering the public schools, saving the newspapers, improving public transportation, attracting more businesses, building bike lanes, getting me to quit slouching and you are not wearing that T-shirt to school, just get back in there and change your ... sorry. Different Jewish mother. Back to the panel.

Hunt's first comments laid out what she sees as the "foundational" challenges for the city: improving schools and public safety, yes, but also "creating a city people love to live in and want to move to." She talked about the idea of the "creative class," who she said is most attracted to strong neighborhoods with clean, safe parks (not filled with homeless people, you mean?). And she praised the Arts District for being "walkable and fun."

"We have pockets like that" in the city, she said, "but we don't have enough." She talked about wanting Lower Greenville to look similar to Bishop Arts, saying, "We have too many bars and too many frat boys who like to have too much fun" in her part of town. Dallas, she said, also needs better transportation to get from one walkable area to another. "Like streetcars," she said. (At that, Jim sensed a disturbance in The Force and clutched his forehead.)

Britt, however, was more concerned with addressing poverty and homelessness in the city. "We're not going to make Dallas a greater city until we deal with poverty," he told the room. "We need to address the issues of food insecurity, homelessness, joblessness. ... Until we do that, we'll have a great city for some, but not for all."

"In Angela's area," he said, neighbors are "lauded as great" for trying to shut down bad bars. "But when poor people say they don't want scrap metal dealers and payday lenders in their neighborhoods, it's mean poor folks attacking these businesses."

Blow, meanwhile, was concerned with what's happening with his own paper, and what it means for the city at large. He referenced the recent layoffs at The News, and added that "circulation and staff are half of what they were."

"It would be a devastating loss for the city and the nation" if the paper went under, he said. "People would lose their communal place to come together and talk instead of being separated out into 1,000 blogs."

Each of the panelists were asked to make a "micro-proposal" for how to jump-start change here. Hunt suggested building bike lanes, a big part of the new Dallas Bike Plan. "We need a robust, practical plan," she said. "But we need the political will to do it." It's been a challenge, she said. "There's pushback. We love our roads, don't we? The idea of giving up a lane is a little scary."

Britt wasn't sure quick fixes were the solution, but he did advocate finding more space to house the chronically homeless as soon as possible. "We have a little over 5,000 homeless people in the city," he told the audience. "About 1,000 of those are chronic. We could put an end to that. That's political too." Adding that he meant no disrespect to Hunt or Margolin, he went on, "When politicians say, 'We don't have the money for that,' they mean, 'We don't have the money for what you want to do.' We can find the money for anything we want to find the money for."

Britt also emphasized the need for more grocery stores in the city's urban centers. "Areas with food deserts need grocery stores," he said. "they create jobs and collateral economic development." He criticized the Dallas Farmers Market for not accepting SNAP cards (food stamps). "That amazes me," he said. "It's a barrier to low-income people being able to access fresh fruit and vegetables." (The women in the audience muttered in dismay at the thought of people not being able to eat enough fruit and vegetables.)

Hunt asked what the city could do to help: Provide land? Economic incentives? The latter, Britt told her. "Incentivize major grocers," he said. "It's wonderful that Walmart is coming to Oak Cliff. People criticize it, but it's the only major store coming in."

Next, Blow brought Hunt back to the subject of streetcars. "They're slow and expensive," he said. (Somewhere, Jim perked up slightly). "Why not buses?" he asked, adding, "I know they're not sexy. ... Why not bring back something like Hop-A-Bus?" That brought a round of applause.

"It was pink," whispered a woman in the crowd to her seatmate. "And it had bunny ears."

Hunt, though, said that streetcars are "economic generators," something she saw on recent trips to Seattle and Portland. "But I'm not against the Hop-A-Bus" idea, she added. "I learned from Jason Roberts at Better Block that's it's all about short, quick wins, getting something done now."

As the panel wound down, Margolin asked for final thoughts. "Speaking as a journalist," Blow said, "things are so much better than they look in the newspaper. ...I'm often accused of being in the 'gloom and doom business,' but the idea is not to despair or give up, but roll up our sleeves and tackle things. Gosh, the Dallas I see today is so vibrant." It will take work to make it better, he said, "But maybe we all just need to roll up our sleeves a little higher and work a little harder."

Britt was a little less effusive. "I remain hopeful when it comes to Dallas," he said. "Don't fool yourself about how bad things are, but never lose hope." He thanked the council members for their time, and urged them to commit to "intentional, focused" coalition-building: "Make it a priority."

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54 comments
benjammin2003
benjammin2003

Buses suck.  Lived in Pittsburgh, they're everywhere, they run every red light ever, hold up traffic at intersections and have no sense of "sharing the road" with anybody; drivers, cyclists, pedestrians, babies in strollers, anybody.

Guest
Guest

Bunny bus!  Bunny bus!  One of my favorite memories as a child in Dallas...

Gimmeabreak
Gimmeabreak

I saw that too. I emailed the author about the little typo.

Borborygmus
Borborygmus

"But we need the political will to do it." It's been a challenge, she said. "There's pushback. We love our roads, don't we? The idea of giving up a lane is a little scary."Speaking for all of Preston Hollow and North Dallas, we will gladly give up one lane of Hillcrest Road to match the Park Cities sacrifice.

Stuffnottalkabout
Stuffnottalkabout

Hop a Bus ...  now it's Hop a Ambulance ///  Main pickup spots   The bridge homeless shelter , 1100 Cadiz , Salvation Army on Harry Hines  Oasis Apts Oak Cliff , Diamond Creek Pleasant Grove   oh I got lots more .....

Mister_Mean
Mister_Mean

Perhaps down town Dallas needs a new model as opposed to the buses.   How about this:   1) Closing access to downtown to all cars except taxis (special fee to travel down town streets).  After all many major cities (like New York and London) are overburdened with traffic. 2)  Palanquins (a conveyance formerly used especially in eastern Asia usually for one person that consists of an enclosed litter borne on the shoulders of men by means of poles-an entrepreneurial opportunity that could employ the homeless) and howdahs (a seat or covered pavilion on the back of an elephant or camel-I am thinking or Jenny the elephant from the zoo (special charter perhaps)).   Now THAT will be a tourist draw (after all we expect out of towners to pay for all of our over budget “got to haves”.

John_McKee
John_McKee

I know everyone wants to tip toe around the problem with buses but the simple answer is they have a massive amount of stigma attached to them that trains/trolleys don't. People will ride a train/trolley that would never set foot in a bus.

Chris Danger
Chris Danger

Heaven forbid if Dallas lost the DMN, as its about the only absorbent thing that works in my cats litterboxes. Blow is full of himself, his rag is threadbare and noone cares what he or anyone else at "Dallas's only print daily" says much anymore..

When it comes to urban transport, noone wants the "hop a bus", streetcars are cleaner, more efficient and better economic generators than a pink bunny bus. I say build them throughout the city, from oak cliff to greenville ave..

The short and skinny of it: Dallas needs to start thinking 21st century instead of mid 20th when it comes to shaping our future, elsewise, we'll be the large city equivalent of Lubbock...

Jack E. Jett
Jack E. Jett

I want to hear more about Mama Wilonsky. 

Ray
Ray

Tell Travis the Arts District reference was to Bishop Arts....different place, different scene.

Granny
Granny

A pink bus. With rabbit ears. In Dallas.

I need a drink.

Jay Hawk
Jay Hawk

Blow has been pimping "hop a bus" for more than a decade. It's one of the columns he recycles every few years to feed the beast. Does he have a stake in it?

Travis Rex
Travis Rex

*And she praised the Arts District for being "walkable and fun." *

LULZ...there is nothing to do there...even when the new deck park comes around it will still be one of the most sterile parts of downtown.  One usually thinks of an "Arts District" as a place or area where local artists are involved and can be seen working and selling their art on a regular basis.  Not ours!  We get million dollar LED signs that let us know what is playing in places most Dallasites can't afford to go.  There is no local arts retail there and not even a place for it to happen spontaneously.  I sincerely doubt  the deck park will be such a place either.  Saying the Arts District is "walkable and fun" is like her saying the new fake food truck lot on Greenville is an original idea.

Purpleindigo
Purpleindigo

I do like Hunt's zeal for bettering the city, but I must also admit that a lot of what she's said and proposed over the last year or so has smacked of elitism.

And the comment (not Hunt's by the way) about food stamps, the farmer's market, and barriers erected between low income households and fresh fruit is, well, laughable.

J. Erik Jonsson
J. Erik Jonsson

I love Angela, but frat boys? Really?  Let's stop pretending that SMU kids are bringing crime to Lowest Greenville.

Guest
Guest

"It would be a devastating loss for the city and the nation" if the paper went under, he said.

He's right. Who would sit on important stories until after they didn't matter anymore if the News didn't exist? Where would the Tom Lepperts of the world get their lies published without question (and get the editorial page to attack those who would dare point out actual facts, too) if the News didn't exist? Where would we go to see stories that appeared several days before on the TV news or in "alternative" media like the Observer and whatnot if the News didn't exist?

"People would lose their communal place to come together and talk instead of being separated out into 1,000 blogs."

Is he talking about the DMN.com message thingies after the articles? The ones that are usually filled with long screeds about how we need to shoot all those illegal immigrants who come here and cause all the drunk driving accidents?

BTW, I would ride a bus from time to time if it weren't a baffling nightmare to even try.

jfpo
jfpo

I think you're on to something. Natural gas powered shuttle buses =  more fracking. Electric powered buses would mean more coal burning and straining our antiquated power grid. I think Rickshaws are the answer. Councilmom Hunt can introduce legislation to have the homeless pull them. This would make Dallas more like the Senfeld land Schutze likes to reference.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

Mister_Mean
Mister_Mean

How about high speed moving sidewalks like the ones that use to be at Love Field?

Restaurantqualityblender
Restaurantqualityblender

Or better yet, maybe a LIGHT RAIL! that runs all throughout downtown and that will *only* shuttle back and forth the Kewl Kidz to either "The O.C." or lowest Greenville. Of course, the LIGHT RAIL! will have ample space for BICYCLES! and WIFI!for APPLE! products. It'll have to have a "hard door" policy to get on the thing. After all, we can only have the right sort of people on the LIGHT RAIL!

Chris Danger
Chris Danger

I'd love elephant-back transport, while were at it, lets bring in some cows and monkeys from india to roam the streets as well ;)

The Derelict
The Derelict

i agree with you McKee, white folks who think of themselves as 'urban' don't want to share a bus ride with blacks and mexicanos. 

Robert Wilonsky
Robert Wilonsky

She's lovely. Adorable too. Though I will admit: I'm a little hurt that Shearith, where my dad and brother and I were bar mitzvahed, invited Steve Blow and not, ya know, me. At least I live in Dallas. Always have.

Travis Rex
Travis Rex

 lol ffs...I guess I should have figured that out..

NewsDog
NewsDog

You obviously haven't lived here too long. I remember the Hop a Buses

Travis Rex
Travis Rex

It was a great thing in its day. 

Purpleindigo
Purpleindigo

Probably the same sort of stake that Hunt has in streetcars...that is, ideological, not fiscal.

NotTheSuburbs
NotTheSuburbs

I'm with you there.  I work in Chase Tower and I can't see how the Arts District could be any less walkable or less fun.  There is virtually no shade east of Pearl including "Sammons Park" which is not really a park at all.  It doesn't help that the city is infatuated with planting Pond Cypress trees everywhere instead of shade trees.  

Then you need to cross Pearl which is 7 lanes wide at Flora so you can get to the other side.  Not sure who is walking or having fun because the area is virtually deserted most of the time.

replay
replay

Sterile? It's clean and orderly and manicured and devoid of homeless and frat boys out to have alot of fun. That makes it good, right?

Icepalaceskater
Icepalaceskater

The comment of Britt's you mention is a bit over the top and silly, but I think his overall message was much more urgent and important than the mostly frivolous lifestyle issues Hunt champions. Her view of the city, while thought by many to be forward thinking, is in my opinion quite narrow in scope. Furthermore, there not only seems to be a not so disguised elitist air to her words, there's a creepy authoritarian hue in almost all of her proposals and/or enacted plans. If Hunt doesn't deem a business suitable, we need to find a way to make it go away (e.g., permits that if not secured basically shut a business down that relies on late night customers). Though I've never understood the appeal of fraternities or sororities, they aren't the problem with lowest Greenville Avenue - we all know that. I can go on here about the "coolness" of streetcars vs. the "uncoolness" of buses (and how Hunt is quoted on this very blog saying how she doesn't like riding buses/can't figure out the schedule), the turning Dallas into another city, the insatiable need for more and more parks that no one will use on a regular basis, and the never ending need for bicycle lanes that only a handful of people will ever use.  No matter what is built, no matter how much good money is thrown after bad, it'll never be enough.

Car free in Dallas
Car free in Dallas

It is true that it takes a little effort to figure out the bus schedules and routes.  But what you are gaining:  (1) costs much less to ride the bus, (2) your time on the bus is not wasted, as it is in a car, because you can read or nap or even blog, (3) you are helping to save the planet by cutting down on auto pollution.  I really urge you to make a real effort to get to know the bus system.  It's not that hard, and really worth the effort.

John2247
John2247

But without the DMN where would I read condensed versions of articles that were published by NYT and wire services several days prior?  

DARTer
DARTer

I was right there with you until that last line.

Baffling? Go to a stop, get on the bus, pay your fare, push the tape before the stop you want, get off the bus.

DART continues to make it easier all the time. Check out m.dart.org if you have a phone with web access.

Mister_Mean
Mister_Mean

Yes YES YES!   I forgot about the rickshaws.   In eastern asian countires they still rule.  The employment opportuinities for rickshaws and palanquins are boundless.   Empowerment that is the key.

Restaurantqualityblender
Restaurantqualityblender

F'n LOVE IT! Or how about something similar to the Pope Mobile? That way Kewl Kidz (of all ages!) can ride throughout downtown without fear of being attacked by THOSE people.

Chris Danger
Chris Danger

Makes sense to me...Keep out the undesirables like the middle-aged couple african-american couple, who were hopped up on night train and crack I saw at Pearl station a couple of years back beating the hell out of each other..It made for amazing street theater, I tell ya what..

In all seriousness, Dallas needs to evolve, we need to be thinking forward instead of staying in the past. We need to expand our transit options to include streetcars, not to mention make sure our current light rail system can run in bad weather, like we had this past winter...

NewsDog
NewsDog

But they wanted a real journalist from a real paper.  

Travis Rex
Travis Rex

 But do you love teh Hop a Bus and Belo?  Well....do you?!

Bob
Bob

Yes, it was such a great thing that it was discontinued because not enough people rode it.  It's great to smile when a giant Bugs Bunny belching diesel fumes chugs by you, but if you don't pay to ride it, you shouldn't complain when it goes away.

like my car, but often pedal
like my car, but often pedal

its not faster by any measurement I've seen.  it would add 20 minutes to my morning and afternoon commute and would keep me from being able to leave my office at lunch.  nap on the bus?  hahahahahahahahahaha!!!!!  really though, I can ride my bike to just about anywhere I want to go which saves the spotted owls or whatever else is dying and gets me there faster.  the train at the very least is fun to do with the kid once a year at state fair time and its predictable most of the time.  I realize dart is getting better, but don't pretend its a bowl of cherries.

bus driver free
bus driver free

i tried to ride a bus once on a cold icy day. didn't have correct change, got ordered off and back into the cold by a friendly driver who refused to accept a whole dollar bill. i choose to live bus driver free.

Guest
Guest

OK. Here's the difference:

I want to ride the train, I go to the train station, buy a ticket (I can even use my debit or credit card to do so), check the printed schedule that's there to see when the next train arrives and then consult the numerous clocks that are also at the station to see how much longer I have to wait. I sit on one of the many benches as I wait. The train comes, I get on. The train gets where I'm going, I get off.

If I want to ride the bus, I can't just show up at the bus stop at the end of my block because who the hell knows when the bus shows up or which one I'm supposed to take to get where I'm going. So, I go to the website. I enter in my address in the "Trip Planner". The Trip Planner comes back with an error telling me it doesn't recognize my address. So I guess at what the address is of the bus stop at the end of my street. After five or six guesses, I still don't have it right, but it gives me a stop that's only slightly further away, so I just go with it.

I go to the bus stop. I wait. For the first five years I lived at that address, I couldn't sit down at the bus stop because there was no bench. They've since added a bench, but there's no way to buy a ticket while I wait and no clocks to tell me the time. There's also no shelter from the elements, so if it's raining or snowing or otherwise crappy out, that's just my bad luck (the train stations aren't well sheltered, either, but at least there is some roof).

The bus arrives. I go to pay the fare, but I have to have exact change, which requires me to have gone somewhere in advance in order to get exact change so I can have it for the bus. No debit/credit cards allowed. At that point, I sit down, ride for ten minutes, tell the bus driver I want to stop, change buses, ride for nineteen minutes, tell the bus driver I want to stop, change buses and then ride for 26 minutes until I reach my destination, tell the bus driver I want to stop, and get off.

That, to me, is a baffling nightmare.

Jason
Jason

Dude! Stop it with the "kewl kidz". We get it. You missed the opportunity in your younger days to be cool. You hate progressive thinking and you deflect it with "jokes".

Can you please tell me why you apparently think light rail, wifi, bikes, and the number one technology product is the butt of your jokes? While our light rail system could be better, I still think it is useful. Wifi, really? You a Luddite? So people of a certain ilk are attracted to a brand name product (apple), who cares? Surely you have a brand of something you prefer over another. Kellog's All-Bran, amirite?

The kids table is to the right. The adult table is here in the middle. The Olds table is over in the corner. Take a seat somewhere. Just know that some of us at the adult table are trying to have a discussion and hash out the pros and cons of the future of our city.

You are so tiring.

Purpleindigo
Purpleindigo

Streetcars are nice to look at, but they make no sense. If the city would've kept them in use and built around them accordingly from its early days, then they would not only make sense, they'd be a city signature. Alas this isn't the case. Shuttle buses, on the other hand, do. They can be repurposed if need be; they can be rerouted if need be to anywhere in the city; and they are not nearly as costly.

Travis Rex
Travis Rex

 The Hop A Bus died when downtown did..

Dalfan
Dalfan

If riding the bus is too great an intellectual challenge for you, just keep driving your Suburban, idiot.

Guest
Guest

I'm sure once you figure out your route and plan ahead for it, it's pretty simple.

But I don't have a regular route. My work is twenty-two steps from my bed. No bus ride needed. So, if I'm riding the bus (or train), I'm usually going someplace I don't go on a regular basis, so every trip basically requires starting from scratch.

Bob
Bob

Schoolkids ride the bus every day.  Are you smarter than a fifth-grader?  I think your name says it all.

Purpleindigo
Purpleindigo

I hear you. The payment method is plain awful. The trick with the DART site is not use the trip planner, but to look at the route maps. Specifically the route that uses your local stop. It's a bit of a pain, but once you get the hang of it, it's no biggie. Hope that helps.

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