Dallas versus Sprawl! It's a Fight-to-the-Finish Cage Death-Match, Not a Church Picnic.

Categories: Schutze

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If The Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas at Arlington sponsor a big seminar on regional cooperation, how many people at the seminar are going to come out against regional cooperation? Yeah.

Not to be self-important or anything, but I believe that's my job, Pilgrim. So here it is: Regionalism is the poison pill that will kill this city. We need to fight like cats and a dog, and we be the dog.

They called the seminar "Stronger Together: An Interactive Conversation About Our Region." It was yesterday. I might have gone if they had put a question mark after it.

As it was, I did not go, so I won't characterize what anybody said except for the quotes I can find in the News and other accounts.

They had Richard Florida there. He's the academic and author who has turned "The New Urbanism" into his own trademark. They also had some journalists, some art dudes and Mike Eastland, head of the North Central Texas Council of Governments.

Florida's remarks had been foreshadowed in earlier reports. He operates an outfit called Creative Class R Us that has been working with people at UTA to study our region. Oh, sorry. It's called "The Creative Class Group."

The News quotes Florida as saying: "... in our research, we found something amazing. We found that there was little real competition [between the region's cities]. The economies here don't compete. They're complementary."

Wow. What bullshit. Nothing could be less true. Maybe it looks like that if you look only at economic data. But when you pull up the political matrix, it's a knife fight. Then you see clearly that the forces of so-called regionalism are the forces of sprawl, dedicated to sucking the milk out of the center city in order to give raw-land suburban developers the tit they need to survive.

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Richard Florida sees love among Dallas and the 'burbs.
Look at our regional rail system, DART. What should have been heavy rail to support walkable urban life in the city has been corrupted into a suburban choo-choo. It's an absurdly expensive, ridiculously inefficient life-support system for far-flung feet and fingers of a region slowly going numb anyway under the weight of environmental cost, sheer logistics and the fact that the post-Seinfeld generation doesn't want to live like Eight Is Enough.

Look at the toll road that the armies of regionalism want to ram through the Dallas' only waterfront, spoiling an immense urban park that otherwise could become this city's single greatest asset to attract the bed-head creative-types every city craves today.

Eastland is executive director of NCTCOG, a quasi-federal agency that divvies out state and federal transportation money to local governments. He is quoted in the News story as saying, "I've found that you have to force 'regionalism.'"

Yeah, well, he's good at that. Let me remind you all of an important little story here, one that paints Florida's remarks as extremely naive. We do compete; we compete like sons of bitches when there's something to compete for.

The example would be the inland port project, a massive shipping and warehousing development in southern Dallas that will compete directly with a similar establishment outside Fort Worth owned and controlled by the powerful Perot family.

You will remember that Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price, a Perot vassal, led an unlikely campaign to gut and hobble his own county's inland port project -- a situation that has made Price the target of a major federal corruption probe in which documents have been subpoenaed from a Perot-owned company.

You may not remember that Eastland's NCTCOG was right in there at Price's shoulder, hectoring the main developer of the inland port for all kinds of racial documentation on his employees and subcontractors, none of which was required by law, and trying to push him into an entire additional round of redundant planning.

The demand for more planning came after the developer had completed a successful five-year planning and entitlements process and just as he would otherwise have been ready to begin leasing and selling space that would have had significant logistical advantages. It was a move to screw the guy.

Hey. Do you even know what the NCTCOG is? Don't feel like the Lone Ranger. Nobody does. In fact that's the point. These regional agencies operate far from public awareness in a political vacuum. Even if you do know who they are, what are you going to do about it? You can't vote them in or out.

Given that cloak of political darkness, then, how do they really behave? Regionally? Oh, bullshit, again. When the rubber meets the road, they come down on the side of the money.

The money knows who they are. The money keeps close tabs on them. When the money needs their help, the money jerks their little regional chains.

They have huge power because of their control over government funding, and we never even see them coming until it's too late. They are the political equivalent of a rain-wrapped tornado.

Richard Florida is an interesting guy, but he's sort of a fly-over. In our case the reality is in the granularity, not the summary.

Eastland's outfit sells snake oil. They do not walk what they talk. They should change their name to Sprawl Inc.

But look, here's the important thing for you and me. If we really believe in urban life, if we love the city, then the dumbest thing we can do is get lulled into all this crap about regionalism and cooperation. This is a back-alley fight where the quickest knife wins.

So far, it's not us, but the fight's not over, and we have some good things going for us. The last thing we need is to get slowed down by a bunch of feel-good lah-lah-lah about regional cooperation. That crap is the equivalent of those guys pointing over our shoulders and shouting, "Watch out behind you!"

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Spiderman
Spiderman

Do you ever write anything positive or is it the 1% rule with you Jim?  If any organization, such as the NCTCOG or New urbanism, is 1% against anything you believe in then that entire belief or organization does no good for the "region" or anyone in the region.  Talk with some of the respectable elected officials in this region and see what they have to say since you seem to be an activist author with a slanted belief.

Subnx
Subnx

I don't believe in urban life. I like my yard and my pool and my basketball court and the ability to fire up the Yukon XL and go to Costco and load it up. I view public transportation as a necessary evil and hope that some day no one will need to use it and it can be dismantled. I don't want to live in a box downtown and can't understand why anyone would. Don't use my tax dollars to subsidize downtown.

ocschwar
ocschwar

Downtown's tax dollars are being used to subsidize you and your yard. 

Steve T
Steve T

Sprawl was enabled by 60 years of cheap, abundant oil.  That is ending and the shift in population will be to city cores and to farms.  The times, they are a changin'.

scottindallas
scottindallas

the most recent data shows a return to cities and a decline in suburbs for the first time in decades.

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

Why the hell wouldn't we sprawl? Metro areas with land aplenty spread horizontally. Every urbanist's favorite cities grew dense because they didn't have land to spread to. Or the means of transportation to make it realistic. Dense urban cores evolved in established cities before cars. 

Head up to Chicago and spend some time in Aurora or Naperville or some suburb 40 miles out and tell me it's different there. You have your urban Chicago (which is itself divided, don't kid yourselves), and the burbs where people only hop the train and get inside the loop once in a blue moon.

ocschwar
ocschwar

"Why the hell wouldn't we sprawl?"

Roads are expensive. 

Anon
Anon

"means of transportation to make it realistic"the freeways and transportation networks that made/make the perpetual horizontal development possible were/are a public policy choice. they have never paid for themselves through the gas tax and they never will. if the gas tax was raised enough to fully fund both expansion and maintenance reserves on existing highways, our gas prices would look like Europe. then people would drive smaller cars, drive less, and live in denser clusters, etc. corporate headquarters located way in the middle of nowhere would also no longer be attractive. the low land cost wouldn't be worth trying to get employees to spend $50 a day getting to and from work. the ability to sprawl is subsidized by taxpayers at many levels. I also subsidize those highways because I don't drive on the highway but my gas taxes go to fund them.Chicago is not developed the same as Dallas. seriously, it just isn't.

scottindallas
scottindallas

 the freeways have been entirely funded on gas taxes.

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

No shit Chicago isn't developed the same as Dallas, that's my point. It's older, it's at least got one major barrier that prevents going east, and it became urban at a time when they had no choice to be close together. And now it has sprawl that many, many residents never leave to see the urban core. Different means to the same end.

Name one corporate headquarters of a significant company that chose to relocate to the "middle of nowhere". Not one that grew from a tiny operation to a giant in that same spot they started in. Plano or Irving aren't the middle of nowhere, by the way.

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

Kind of helped that Perot has his own giant company to plop in to the middle of it all to get it going, you know. Plano wasn't exactly a one stoplight town before that, and seeing how it's mere miles from Dallas, you can't ever claim it was the middle of nowhere. Just because it took time for Dallas to grow to envelop Plano doesn't mean Plano would still be what it is without Dallas.

Now if you know of a significant company that decided to relocate to Fort Stockton, I'd love to hear about it.

scottindallas
scottindallas

 Fair enough, though it's not the middle of nowhere either.  In fact, the land for that is quite expensive.  (compare to parcels in far West Texas)  So, they wanted to expand the city.  This is much ado about nothing we control.  This year the cities grew while the suburbs declined for the first time in decades.

Anon
Anon

Plano isn't the middle of no where now. But it was. That was the whole point of the Legacy real estate play. If it wasn't the middle of no where, it wouldn't have been cheap enough to be a speculative bet on whether they could get more people and companies to move out there.

Joe
Joe

Again Jim does not know the relationship of central cities to suburbs. To him it is them or us. Regionalism is one of a few essential things that might save Dallas from its past sins of poor planning and hollowing out the Southern Sector. 

He says, "These regional agencies operate far from public awareness in a political vacuum." That is the best piece of comedy I have read in a while. NCTCOG is highly political! Just look at what developers are lined up with what politicians and then link those politicians to NCTCOGs executive board. Those lines cross city and county boundaries. 

The us vs them mentality is one reason that American metropolitan areas are like they are. By the time anyone got to regional planning (i.e. shedding us vs them in many parts of planning) it was too late. Central cities thought of themselves as bullet proof from the influence of the suburbs and didn't think they would be threatened. Well how did that work out?

Jim says that NCTCOG is selling sprawl but just look at the amount of money projects in Dallas have gotten from NCTCOG grants that promote its urbanism. Lots of stuff reviving the central Dallas core are partially funded by NCTCOG grants and that is a good thing.

However, urbanism does not exist just in Dallas but in its older suburbs as well. So lumping all of the suburbs into "sprawl" as Jim pretty much does regularly does not do the complex topic of urban growth any real justice. Keep in mind Dallas participated in sprawl as well and when and if its southern side undeveloped areas start turning dirt they will likely take the form of sprawl as well. Whats good for the goose is good for the gander.

unicornsandfrillytutus
unicornsandfrillytutus

Here's my .02, and after i'm done I want my change back. Anyway, when we're all on our death beds, clamoring for that last little bit of the world we live in(and soon to be, lived in) I don't think any of us are gonna be giving two shits to Terlingua who lived where and which of these, wheres, was the most obnoxious(city v. 'burbs). So, in my conclusion....who gives a rat's ass and treat each other good! The outcome of this spat ain't gonna stop this orb from spinning.

Schermbeck
Schermbeck

 "Do you even know what the NCTCOG is?n fact that's the point. These regional agencies operate far from public awareness in a political vacuum. Even if you do know who they are, what are you going to do about it? You can't vote them in or out."  No, but sometimes you can get to the table and influence a discussion or decision over time. That's what Downwinders did with the COG air quality committee by showing up, making pests of ourselves, and...eventually getting three public members appointed. And we still publicize, blog and report on every (mid-day) meeting of the regional COG air committee. Instead of sitting along the wall shouting embarrassing questions of state officials that can be ignored, we can ask them as part of the official proceedings where they have to be dodged. It's also true that the smog stuff has a tenuous threat in highway money that makes it more likely everyone at the local level rhetorically commit to regionalism and do the right thing...eventually.

sammy
sammy

Having been in the blog world for some time, let me say that I have noticed that many suburbanites (mostly those on the northern tundra)  seem to want Dallas to fail. Anytime you bring up something you are proud of in Dallas, they shoot it down. They absolutely refuse to believe that any DISD school is better than a suburban one - if there is good news they will try to dissect and dispute. They will go on and on about how dangerous Fair Park is - most likely never having visited.  They will swear up and down that they are not racist and point out that their neighborhood has a token amount of acceptable minorities.  They don't seem to understand the diifference between different governing bodies but have plenty of complaints. They have no time for any historical background on why certain things came to be - et cetera, et cetera..

Joe
Joe

On the flip side many blogging Dallas hipsters and curmudgeons like Jim haven't been north of 635 in decades. They don't write about it, and don't notice that those inner burbs have more in common with them than they realize. 

I'd also say that I hear just as much criticism of Dallas internal issues from Dallasites themselves as I do from far northern suburbanites.

S Aten
S Aten

The Achilles heel for the suburbs surrounding Dallas is water and the price of gasoline.  The next time we have a drought, Dallas may not have the water to save the suburbs from their reckless growth.    How much higher does gasoline have to go before it becomes uneconomic to drive 30+ miles a day to work?   $5 or $6.   At some point living far from a city center becomes uneconomic.

iamronburgundy
iamronburgundy

 It's an archaic system that gives Dallas control of the water. Having DWU control a major Dam in Carrollton off of Sandy Lake Road is ludicrous to say the least. You do realize that all of Dallas' water comes from Lakes to the North controlled by NTMWD, and the only way that they have any sway over policy making with that group is to spend billions of your dollars laying pipe to Lake Fork and Cedar Creek (which TRWD is sipping water from as well. You're crazy.

Ed D.
Ed D.

Sure, which is why people that work in Addison, Plano, Frisco, and other suburbs with headquarters of Fortune 500 companies should live there instead of Dallas. It's not like all the good jobs in the Metroplex are in the Dallas CBD.

Sidewalkastronomer
Sidewalkastronomer

I like using, "the sword of Damocles". The suburbs like the good life, but the good life could go bad in a snap just like the sword over Damocles head held by a single horse hair. Gasoline is that horse hair for the suburbs. If there is a large price increase for gas, the suburbs and their lifestyle are in trouble. That trouble is not control by us, but other countries. Having Dart trains going the suburbs adds more hairs to that dangling sword, but Dart has it limits. Dart trains have limited length and frequency for total capacity. So that sword could still fall and cut.

PlanoDave
PlanoDave

In the realm of internet rants, this rates at most a 3 out of 10.  This is nowhere near the level of one of Alice's rants against candy corn.

Jim, go drink whatever liquor your liberals drink to get yourself all fired up and try again.

Phelps
Phelps

Actually, the way I see it, Dallas wants to make an economic fight political, and the burbs aren't being suckered into that trap.Nice try, though.

Anon
Anon

Remember, the city of Dallas is now surrounded AND outnumbered. More people live in the burbs than in Dallas proper.

That makes those who make the decisions in Dallas very, very nervous. Instead of just shutting the burbs out and unilaterally deciding, they must now use all their wiles to make sure the burbs are pitted against each other so Dallas can continue to get its way - especially regarding DART.

In lots of ways Jim is absolutely spot on about the knife fight comparison.

Paul
Paul

I say let's go with the regionalism, let all the cities in the area share in solving the area's problems.

We have already taken a whack at this with DART, so let's go to the next step.

That would be to shut down the Bridge (the homeless place, not the string thingy one), require any organization that serves the homeless to have an SUP (of course none will ever be issued) and then enforce a vagrancy law by taking anyone without a permanent address or shelter to the city limits and drop them off.

I suggest that we start dropping them off at the Highland Park Towne Limite' so as to save on gas before we start driving them to:

IrvingGrand PrairieMesquiteCoppellFlower MoundCarrolltonFarmers BranchRichardsonPlanoGarlandSeagovilleBalch SpringsUniversity ParkWilmerHutchinsLancasterDuncanville

Then after about two or three years, we will see about talking about a regional solution to homelessness.

Then we will start going after Highland Park and University Park about their Section 8 and Affordable Housing program. 

unicornsandfrillytutus
unicornsandfrillytutus

Why stop there? Let's just send the house-less to the ovens. Then we'll finally be able to sip our lattes in peace!

Paul
Paul

 Nope ... I say let Addison should build and operate the homeless shelter.  They can convert a hangar at their airport.

And Flower Mound can build the affordable housing.

Anon
Anon

Dallas already outsources its homeless problems to the inner burbs.

Guest
Guest

Sure, you do that and before long, you find yourself trying to escort a haunted drifter who was a special forces soldier in Vietnam out of town and wind up getting almost the whole police force killed in the woods.

Paul
Paul

 Rambo was just a movie, dear ....

Guest
Guest

I'll just say that, as a person who makes a living in creative pursuits, I became a member of the "creative class" so I wouldn't have to spend too much time outside, or, you know, out of my pajamas.

So, you know, the Great Trinity Forest or whatever doesn't appeal to me personally, though I support it as long as I don't have to go there.

Daniel
Daniel

I picture Jim delivering his rant with the tone, cadences and gesticulations of John Bolton talking about the U.N. (even Jim's point is similar, microcosmically).

Check it out at about 1:12 or 1:13 ... 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?...

Deepthroat
Deepthroat

I worked for the NCTCOG until a couple of years ago, and I agree with you generally. The Council is a case study for public choice theory. They are experts in tailoring public meetings to favor their positions (have a large number of government officials show up to a meeting in the middle of the day). The rare times that critical citizens find their way inside one they are treated with open disdain. The are guaranteed 3% of Federal transportation funds for planning purposes. So, you are correct in that they want to represent as large an area as possible. That means offering carrots to get Kaufman, Parker, Johnson, and Wise County to join (See Loop 9 project).

Lastly, Richard Florida is one of many consultants that who have made a killing by providing an intellectual backing to predetermined recommendations of cities and planning agencies. Their reports are mostly plagiarized from previous reports and made up numbers. Arlington couldn't just say that the Cowboys Stadium would create thousands of jobs; they had to hire an UNT professor to make it sound legitimate.

JimS
JimS

Interesting stuff, Deep. So, tell me: are Anon and Daniel here astro-turfing for the COG, or do you think they're real people? They're sort of shy about their own opinions.

Anon
Anon

Jim, if you are going to write about the COG you ought to at least bother to attend some of tthose open meetings. There are a lot of issues that can only be solved or even begun to be attended to regionally. Take the DFW Connector highway project which is one of the largest highway projects in the counrty right now. That project isn't in Dallas, yet the City of Dallas, and all the rest of the North Texas region will benefit from solving that bottleneck that has been a problem for decades.

The COG does a lot more. I enjoy reading your rants. Really I do! But you run the risk of sounding like some of the far right when they protest about the various and sundry UN Conspiracy Theories they so often promote.

The COG, the RTC, and and other regional planning organizations are sorely needed. I would hate to leave all the planning that has to be done for the fourth largest MSA in the country up to the City of Dallas and its vastly dysfunctional council. We could wind up with string thing bridges to everwhere and nowhere if that were the case!

JimS
JimS

Logical flow = bad. Illogical twisty slow-mo might as well stay close to home = good.

iamronburgundy
iamronburgundy

 Wrong. They are encouraging development of all types - take a look at last years allocations to Hike and Bike programs from COG. Millions of dollars spent across the metroplex. I'm not saying that it's a perfect agency, but they are significantly more efficient at analyzing and applying logical solutions to our traffic flow, congestion, and development "problems" than the individual Cities are.

Guest
Guest

COG's main responsibility is to solve the congestion and emission issues for which it was created.I am not sure how increasing vehicle miles traveled unto the burbs by supporting planning that is encouraging auto-oriented development is doing that?They should be encouraging people to move back into the City by investing in Dallas!

Mike
Mike

Someday Mr. Schutze will realize his suburbs are really large cities in their own right with few of their citizens that interested in what Dallas wants. His attitude reminds me of a scene in the comedy, Always Sunny in Philadelphia, where one of the clueless characters attends a high school reunion. He at first refuses to interact, thinking his natural glamor will "draw them to his flame.". When his classmates go on to have a good time ignoring him, he then starts engaging in spiteful actions to make them sorry.

It was funny with actors. Recommending a whole city do the same seems childish.

cp
cp

 Nice way to show your age,.....

Aerorazavi
Aerorazavi

Piss poor analogy. That suggests Dallas and everyone else grew up together and graduated at the same time. Dallas is more like the older relative, who's been through it all, but still doing what it can to survey. And the older suburbs are the middle-aged folks seeing the Dallas they mock is being to resemble them, and the young punks...Prosper, Frisco...are zipping past the middle aged burbs.

RSF
RSF

Yeah except people in the suburbs don't go to high school reunions - they have no loyalty nor fondness for their schools - of which they have attended many...

Titus Groan
Titus Groan

Change "ignoring" to "ignoring while sucking all the money from" and you'll figure it out.

Texas_Dawg
Texas_Dawg

"Wow. What bullshit. Nothing could be less true. Maybe it looks like that if you look only at economic data. But when you pull up the political matrix, it's a knife fight. Then you see clearly that the forces of so-called regionalism are the forces of sprawl, dedicated to sucking the milk out of the center city in order to give raw-land suburban developers the tit they need to survive."

Bravo, Jim.

I have to say... I'm surprised to see that coming form Florida.  He usually argues more forcefully against sprawl.

Anon
Anon

Anything new here? I think we hear this same exact rant every few months. I do agree - the recent depletion of federal highway fund should be tangible proof that we can't afford to ship people to the far flung suburbs without massive subsidy - but there's really nothing new in this post that you haven't written 10x before. 

JimS
JimS

... but tell us a little about your own point of view. Don't be shy.

Ed D.
Ed D.

Some good points but DART gets more than 50% of its revenues from those suburbs who in turn get far less than 50% of the service. Addison will have been paying into DART for more than 50 years before they see a single DART train at the Addison Transit Center.

Guest #2
Guest #2

Not accurate. Dallas is by far the largest sales tax contributor to DART...larger than all the other cities combined.

Gabe
Gabe

Barely true historically. DART sales receipts since they started show between 8-9 billion. Dallas contributed roughly half. 

As ED said, most of the service is concentrated in Dallas. I actually agree with Jim that DART should concentrate on the D2 line and building up local transit in denser areas (or areas with a high capability of becoming dense). But the story of DART is not one in which Dallas gets screwed out of it's dollars by the suburbs. 

Guest
Guest

First, you have to build through Dallas to get to the burbs to connect them to downtown. Second, sales tax revenues are where people spend more money. How can DART control that? As the burbs grew, their sales revenues grew too. 

Anon
Anon

DART numbers show that since inception Dallas has contributed 54.56% of the total sales tax receipts received by DART. You are correct, it is just barely over half. And Dallas gets more than its money's worth.

Anon
Anon

That was true in the past. Current DART information clearly shows that the currnet tax receipts for 2012 from the City of Dallas comprises just under 50% of that received in 2012. 49.42% according to DART.

Guest
Guest

DART isn't just trains.

Guest
Guest

 It appears that a lot of the bus service is also concentrated within the Dallas city limits (I'm not willing to do the math necessary to give it a percentage, but it looks like a lot).

Guest
Guest

I know it appears that they prefer rail, but I know Plano has bus service... even on the West Side.

I just don't know whether Dallas has the majority of the bus service.

cp
cp

 No. The burbs don't think that buses = transit. They want rail and ONLY rail.

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