Can City Council Tell the Difference Between a Photo Op and a Hole in the Ground?

Categories: Schutze

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Drive around Dallas -- not the suburbs, Dallas -- and what do you see? You see a nice kind of new well-kept Dallas toward the northern end of the city, with a few glitches here and there. But anywhere south of Mockingbird you're likely to see a bunch of crapped-out streets and busted curbs. If you get into the really old parts of town like Old East Dallas, the curbs and gutters and sidewalks start looking post-apocalyptic.

Every once in a while somebody in one of the old parts of town will argue that the city is discriminating. Well, yeah. Well, not really. Maybe the city has devoted more resources toward new development in the far northern tiers and shorted the old neighborhoods in the process, but that was just how things developed.

Old is old. Old can be charming. But old can also be crappy. Old needs work.

And now push comes to shove on that. We are about to see exactly what the deal is. The city manager is telling the city council that they must spend $300 million digging a huge tunnel -- an underground river, in effect -- to carry rain water from big storms out of an old part of the city in East Dallas, Uptown and near downtown.

Oh, my. That's most of the money the city will be able to spend on anything for the next several years, and the council won't even get a new football stadium or a fake suspension bridge out of it. It's basically a sewer. What a lousy photo op that is.

You never know. Maybe they could reject the idea of tunneling and hire famed Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava to design it as a suspension sewer instead -- a huge 30-foot pipe hanging from delicately traced arches. Gail Thomas of the Dallas Institute could hire a bunch of native Americans or people who look like native Americans to come down from New Mexico and do a ceremony about giving the rain back to the sky. The council might get a pretty good photo op out of that.

But I don't think so. I think it's a $300 million sewer. It is the kind of basic infrastructure investment the city has to make in an old part of town if Dallas is not to abandon it as an unsafe slum.

satunnel.jpg
Big-ass flood-control tunnels aren't new to Texas. San Antonio's three-mile-long San Antonio River tunnel was completed in 1997 at a cost of $111 million. Ours would be bigger, cost tons more and, we suspect, include many fashionable boutiques.
At the briefing where the idea was unveiled, North Dallas council member Ann Margolin seemed a little antsy about it. I watched. She wasn't out-and-out negative, but I think you could see the wheels turning:

No photo op. Nothing for North Dallas. All this money for a sewer for the old part of town. Hmm.

I'm not even going to blame the council members from North Dallas if they resist this idea or start trying to chisel it down. They will only be sticking up for their own districts if they do.

This is what to watch for. Can the representatives from the older parts of the city coalesce and muster enough muscle at the dais to get this done? Will they see their shared interest in redirecting major investment from new to old?

Will Oak Cliff see it? This particular pipe won't help Oak Cliff at all. But if the city won't save East Dallas, Uptown and Baylor Hospital, why would it care about North Oak Cliff and Methodist Hospital?

More to the point, will southern Dallas see it? Or will they just write it off, as council member Carolyn Davis seemed to be doing at the briefing, as more money for some kind of white people somewhere?

It's a storm sewer. How exciting can a sewer be? But don't think of it that way. Think of it more like bypass operation for an aging heart in a guy who's got no medical insurance but a hundred grand to spend. What does he want to spend his money on more? The bypass operation? Or a new Lexus?

I'm afraid to ask.


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44 comments
RTGolden
RTGolden

Could we be a Third World Class City then?

Rantanamo
Rantanamo

reads like a poorly written cry fest

cp
cp

Gee golly, if more folks were interested in the whole bullshit bullshit redistricting process, then maybe, just maybe we'd have some representation worth a damn!

Tim Covington
Tim Covington

Jim, I'm afraid to know the answer to your question myself. But, I'm afraid I already know the answer. It is an answer you see written in fancy overpriced bridges and politicians not willing to do the hard things required to reduce debt and balance budgets (raise taxes and make significant cuts to spending). And, we have only ourselves to blame, since we are the ones who vote for these people.

RTGolden
RTGolden

I wonder how they're going to light this one.

Downtown_worker
Downtown_worker

Can't wait for the rendering of it. Solar-powered water taxis and clown in unicycles and all.

Perry Moore
Perry Moore

No, no, you're putting the horse before the cart. Wait until a couple of blocks of businesses are flooded, resulting in years of litigation. Then, pay off the displaced former business owners, and thereafter build the sewer to handle the runoff from your world-class concrete tarpaulin. The City of Tyler went through this exercise some years ago, on a much smaller scale, of course. I think they put the giant French drain on the site of the abandoned businesses, about three blocks from the downtown square.

cockadoodledoooo
cockadoodledoooo

We could always put a standing wave down in the new sewer...that should drum up a little more support for it!

Suburbias
Suburbias

Could we build a tollway through it?

Dell Cameron
Dell Cameron

According to Mary Suhm, Dallas needs to spend up to a billion dollars on drainage expansion projects. Maybe we do. However, what happened to priorities? This isn't New Orleans... we aren't facing extinction. Maybe if she'd stop handing over millions of dollars to "temporary" contractors like British based HCL Axon we wouldn't have to lay off so many teachers and police wouldn't be fearing for their pensions. By the way, there are plenty of Dallas based companies that could maintain our cities payrolls. Lets fly in an Australian construction company to work on the sewers.

Texasdave60
Texasdave60

cheese and rice.....cars floating down the street around the corner off skillman and live oak are still fresh memories. Shutze has the right to take it personally, it is the 'hood he dwells in.  The point being, if you don't fix broken infrastructure EVERYWHERE, you're gonna have trouble, well, EVERYWHERE.

East Texas P1
East Texas P1

This idea may be really out there but is there an economical way to pump this water back to Lake Lavon or divert it to the Lake Tawakoni watershed?

Doesn't seem like a good idea to let this get into the Trinity and go to Houston when North Texas is facing a long-term strategic water shortage.

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

The upside is the rock and dirt excavated in the process can be piled up to form Mt. Dallas, a world-class mountain in the middle of the city with a ferris wheel on top.

Now THAT'S a photo op!

Guest
Guest

I just read a Steve Forbes column that noted that projects like the ones Jim mentions don't create jobs or economic activity, so they should not be undertaken with taxpayer money. The proper role of government, according to this column, is to bail out banks (and do not, under any circumstances, try to hold anyone accountable for their misdeeds if they work in the banking industry because this creates uncertainty) so they'll lend more money to businesses who also won't undertake projects such as sewers and roads and whatnot.

So, clearly, the free market will take care of these kinds of things in some sort of magical way, so Mary Suhm and the City should just simply not worry about it.

T. Erickson
T. Erickson

Why not just flood the downtown tunnels after all the tenants are relocated to street level?

Heywood U Buzzoff
Heywood U Buzzoff

Jim, Jim, Jim -- you totally miss the point.  By putting in tunnels under South Dallas, the North Dallas folks could re-purpose those tunnels so that they could pass under South Big D  to get to Austin in their BWMs, Audis, and MB without having to look at South Dallas.  Add in a tunnel or two for the trucks dumping money-to-be next to Paul Quinn.  And these tunnels would be such lovely platforms for public art.  Plus you could finally say that the Dallas City Council knows the difference between their butts and a hole in the ground.

Abby
Abby

Sounds like we better get those resource recovery facilities under construction as soon as possible.  We need the money!!!  And would any of you like to guess how quickly these facilities could pay off this $300 million safety valve?  Especially since they don't cost the city anything to build?  Incredible!

Chris Danger
Chris Danger

City infrastructure is never sexy, but needed, I cant tell you how this would help deep ellum out, as well as the rest of east dallas. Also, Carolyn Davis is about 1/2 worthless as a city council member...

Grumpy Demo
Grumpy Demo

Says the clown who doesn't use punctuation.

scottindallas
scottindallas

Two issues, moving the water is the big part of the cost of our lake projects.  Those pumps have to be powered somehow.  Nor are those pumps purchased at the local Home Depot.  The other issue is that the water you're describing is street run-off and may not be the best stuff to drink. 

trudat
trudat

Although your idea seems far fetched at this time, it could begin to make sense sooner or later - with the growing water shortage that folks talk about and all...Since the water is going to be diverted, why not save it in some reservoir or something and use it when and where it's needed. Currently a dream right?....but seriously...

Willie
Willie

The answers to your two questions are no and no.

Zevon
Zevon

we can use the dirt to make the levees

Jon Daniel
Jon Daniel

Really?  Steve Forbes?  Any other icons of failed 80's supply side you want to post up?  It's like posting Neo-Con article by Wolfowitz when having a foreign policy debate

pak152
pak152

how about a link to the article so we can read it for ourselves?

RTGolden
RTGolden

As much as I'm a free-market advocate (and yes, I know we don't have any evidence of a free market system in this country), I hope Mary Suhm doesn't read your comment.  She's just dumb enough to make a power point slide out of it and use at the next council meeting to justify not spending the money to fix storm sewers.

scottindallas
scottindallas

you mean the trash recycling facility?  That won't pay for it's own operating costs.  Get that crap out of here. Then, let's consider the costs of the lawsuits that that project will and has kicked off.

Guest
Guest

By coincidence, I had just happened to have read a bit of his about privatizing infrastructure projects.

But picking someone who's arguments in relation to these matters don't really hold water to me was a good bit of the point.

cp
cp

Pussy. 

Guest
Guest

How about you sign up for your own subscription and get it in the mail like I did?

Guest
Guest

Don't blame me. It was in Forbes magazine.

(I'm something of a free market advocate myself, though I recognize that there are instances in which the free market could not or would not provide a needed service or product - and I don't mean convention center hotels - and instances in which regulations to protect the health, safety, other people's rights, etc. are necessary).

Alan
Alan

It's legit to criticize Mary Suhm's management decisions with which you disagree, but she's about as far from dumb as human beings get.

Urbandweller203
Urbandweller203

Suburban Idiot, you are much bigger than me. I would not have given him sh... after  that comment.

pak152
pak152

cp  thanks for starting off with an ad hominem attack. is that an example of debating legitmately? to attack the individual? what is wrong with asking for a link to an article that an individual has cited. I learned  graduate school to use what are called footnotes/citations. They are used to provide support for what i've stated. as for finding my way to the DO I use something you may not be aware. It is called a bookmark. I also use an RSS feed for Unfair Park blog posts clicking on the RSS feed takes me directly to the DO blog post. as for finding the article I'm well versed in web search techniques unfortunately the original message by sururban idiot didn't provide enough clues beyond the author and the magazine. Recent could mean anything. Or do you just prefer ad hominem attacks while spouting nonsense?

cp
cp

Why do you do this all the time? If you can't debate legitimately you have to ask for links? You can't find a Forbes article on your smartphone but you can find your way to the DO? Prioritize your political beliefs much? 

Guest
Guest

I believe the title was "Obama is a one-term president"

http://www.forbes.com/forbes/2...

Some highlights:

Many of the basic precepts taught today are wrong: Governments can stabilize economies; government spending stimulates economic growth..

Stimulus spending partially paid for projects like this one in other parts of the country.

Berlin has yet to grasp that it must aggressively halt the panic in Europe by having the ECB buy up hundreds of billions of euros’ worth of Italian and Spanish bonds or by putting pressure on the big European governments to guarantee the liabilities of their banks.

Giant bank bail-out is a government purpose.

All these hopefuls, to varying degrees, are also rallying around the basic precepts of reforming entitlements, first espoused by Representative Paul Ryan.

Providing future seniors with Medicare (rather than vouchers to buy private insurance that wouldn't keep up with the costs) is not a government purpose.

To have the federal and state governments wage war on banks for mortgage mistakes that emanated from the last decade’s binge undermines today’s economy. Because they don’t know their liabilities, banks aren’t lending to private businesses the way they normally would.

Whatever the bankers did, it's wrong to go after them because that creates uncertainty and banks won't lend if they think they might have to pay for their previous misdeeds.

Also, from an earlier (9/7/11) column against Obama's proposed infrastructure bank: Instead of federalizing infrastructure even more, we should move in the opposite direction. Other than maintaining the Interstate Highway System, Uncle Sam should take gasoline tax money and give it back to the states as block grants. The very fact that localities are strapped for cash means that more would follow Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels’ example: He leased the Indiana Toll Road (ITR) to private investors for 75 years for $3.8 billion. They are responsible for all operating and maintenance of the ITR for the duration of the lease. Wise local pols are waking up to the fact that allowing private capital to invest in what were once government-funded projects is the way to go in these tight times. And private investors would demand that projects actually make economic sense.

You think private investors are going to think a $300 million sewer in the "bad" part of town is going to make economic sense?

pak152
pak152

how about you provide the date and title of the column so we can find it online , besides I do have a subscription, but I'm on the road so have no access to the ODT version. or do we have to trust your interpretation? your avatar name is appropriate

scottindallas
scottindallas

SI, look at the 3 market theory I describe above, see if that doesn't clarify your thinking.  The truly free market needs no regulation, it's limited markets, where either the customer or the supplier enjoy a monopoly, or a utility (essential, or inelastic demand) that are problematic, and their profits (above costs and future planning costs) are a tax on everyone.  Limited markets need clarity, regulation, or some remedy, but truly free markets, your gardener, baker, restaurant--anything you purchase that you don't have to, but choose to is the free market.

It seems to me that so long as we have choices and nothing is hidden from us, we should be allowed to make our own choices. I think that may be an intrusion of gov't. But where markets are constrained, as in commodities trading, some regulation is needed. Our food supply has become so centralized it needs regulation. However, alternative foods should be able to enjoy looser standards (if you like natural milk, or cheeses made from natural milk you'd know what I'm saying.) I want to protect the average idiot, but if you want to stray off the beaten path, be warned, and good luck. We can't protect people from themselves. Though we do deserve fiduciary protections from banks, and in fair lending practices.

scottindallas
scottindallas

Restaurants, landscapers, bakers, butchers... what the fuck are you talking about Montemalone?  Your comment is just as half thought out as the Conservative/Libertarians who confuse the whole market as being the free market. 

There are several markets, the free market, the professional market, the utility market, and the professional utilities (healthcare and commercial banking)

Considering that in the free market we have competition and alternatives, the customer is always right.  In the professional market we have no alternative but some competition, though we are buying expertise and have to trust them to guide us to our best interest.  Fiduciary laws describe that duty.  Finally, the utility market means there is no alternative and no competition, here the customer isn't even free to boycott--no water, electricity? 

We can't judge or even manage these markets the same, nor should we ever confuse them.  The free market truly needs no regulation, the professional market is regulated by the professionals themselves and fiduciary law.  The utility market either must be regulated or wholly socialized, as the water/sewage facilities in most of this country.

cp
cp

Do you mean in 1792 or in 2012?

Guest
Guest

I don't think the free market can work on its own to benefit everyone. Without government protection and enforcement of contracts and property laws (and backing of the currency, etc.), we wouldn't have a market for very long (and there are many health, safety, consumer protection and environmental laws that necessarily put the brakes on activity that free markets would likely deem to be perfectly acceptable in order to benefit a greater good). And we all take advantage of infrastructure that taxes have paid for and which are necessary to keep the flow of goods running smoothly (what private business is going to build the Interstate Highway System, for example?)

I'm not a starve the beast kind of free market guy. Government has a very important function in maintaining a free society. The question comes in where the line separating "good" government behavior from "bad" is drawn.

I would also maintain that many politicians and big business types don't actually want free markets. They want their company to be able to compete as free of as much regulation as possible, but they also want barriers erected to protect their businesses from competition and from their own actions, and frequently ask for (and receive) a great deal of government benefits (how many free market businessmen go asking for TIF money or other government grants when they want to build something?)

So maybe I shouldn't say I'm a free market kind of guy. It would probably be more accurate to say that I'm for reasonably free markets.

Montemalone
Montemalone

Okay guys, please cite one instance of free market working for the benefit or everyone.Everything that has happened in this country has been with the blessing or backing of some government entity. ab initio

cp
cp

If by that you mean that she's very smart at keeping her job, then yes, I agree...

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