Winfrey Point Fallout Shows City Hall Still Doesn't Know How to Listen

Categories: Schutze

SHZ_GetOffMyLawn_TitleImageV2.jpg
Dallas City Hall. Enough to drive a sane person crazy on any given day. What is it they don't get -- other than everything?

In today's Dallas Morning News, Paul Dyer, the very decent man who is director of the Park Department, gives an absolutely honest and totally infuriating explanation of the way stuff gets done at City Hall.

"When we finish the consulting process and we come up with some viable options," he tells the News, "then we'll engage the community."

That's upside down. Backwards. Inside out. But it's how they do.

arboretum-2_opt.jpg
Look, when we want your opinion, we'll beat it out of you.
Dyer is trying to explain how he and his department got caught planning for a sea of pavement and a possible parking garage on a patch of lakeside parkland at White Rock Lake -- green space treasured by the residents of Dallas for its innocence of manmade structure.

And I think he gives a candid description of the process. First, before you even tell anybody you're thinking about it, you hire a "consultant," meaning some commercial entity that makes its money off building stuff. They recommend building stuff.

Then you pay the same people to come up with a list of alternatives for the public to choose among, which always wind up amounting to: A) build stuff, or B) be stupid.

Then you hold one of these "community input" meetings that City Hall excels in, where you somehow choose the perfect time, venue and means of public notice to guarantee that nobody from the community will show up. To the 14 wayward souls who do show up because they they saw somebody else going in the door and thought it was an AA meeting, you hand out cards asking people to check off whether they are in favor of, A) building stuff, or B) being stupid. By a narrow vote "the public" endorses building stuff.

The battle over building a parking lot for the Dallas Arboretum at Winfrey Point is absolutely parallel and of a fabric with recent battles over community gardens and neighborhood farmers markets. All anybody at City Hall ever had to do was just walk out of City Hall one time, one day, just go outdoors, and they would have seen an overwhelming cultural trend in favor of safe food, community gardens and farmers markets, not to mention a reverence for open park land not sullied by concrete.

Instead they are locked within this tiny tunnel of input made up almost entirely of their own bureaucratic brethren, where the only pinpoints of daylight are from pearl-dripping dowager committees and public works contractors. Welcome to the city manager system and "professional" government.

If city government were less professional and more political, they would have started out with community input, not ended up there. And guess what? The community in the Winfrey Point battle is smart and creative, and many of them love the Dallas Arboretum, which wound up instead being cast as their deadly foe in this battle.

The community would have suggested lots of places up and down Garland Road with zoning and infrastructure already in place to accommodate the arboretum's parking needs without raping a park.

There's what this comes down to. The community is not bad. The community is good. The community is not stupid. The community is smart. The community is not NIMBY selfish. The community wants to see institutions like the arboretum flourish. But the culture of Dallas City Hall sees the community upside down, backwards and inside out from all of that.

So instead of creative resolutions of conflict you get big fat messes like this battle over parking at Winfrey Point. I wish the community could march down to City Hall at night with Charles Dickens torches, assemble the entire management team and hand them cards to check off. The choices would be, "Do you want to, A) ask us first after this, or, B) continue being stupid?"


Sponsor Content

My Voice Nation Help
66 comments
Sanders Kaufman
Sanders Kaufman

It's always funny to me when some protestor starts talking like the government is disconnected from us.  But the reality is that In this country and in this city, we ARE the government.

We built our government this way because this is the way we want ourselves governed.

Sixthfloor1500marilla
Sixthfloor1500marilla

It's what makes Laura Miller's canning of both Police Chief and City Manager so remarkable. Consider how hard it was to muster the ouster vote when the City Manager can spread all those constituent relations slop buckets of money into those districts.

Every councilmember, EVERY ONE OF THEM, has at least a couple of slippery deals they know should not have been done using some HUD funds, bond funds, TIF funds, DHFC funds, and Mary and the gang took care of it. Job security forever.

No matter how wretched her IT department, parks department, housing department, economic development depart, she just got a raise. Worst job numbers, housing numbers, population numbers in the State, and the Council literally weeping because they couldn't give her more. Yet.

Darrd2010
Darrd2010

The problem with having an out of control city manager such as Suhm, is that she is not elected and therefore cannot be voted out of office by the voters. Unfortunately, she continues in her job every day at the pleasure of the city council and the Dallas Citizens Council. Being the first one to organize a 'coup' to oust her comes at great peril to the one who tries it.

Unless residents pressure their council person to do so, she stays, and stays, and stays........

David L Lee
David L Lee

Once again you are spot on Mr. Schutze. This is exactly how Dallas ISD works as well. We need a wide ranging grass roots effort to change this and take our city back. I for one am sick and tired of the North Dallas business community telling us what we need to do. Real community based decision making works. It's too bad we seem to have to settle for the status quo.

Don Abbott
Don Abbott

This formula of bunkering has netted Dallas a disillusioned citizenry, dispirited bloggers, acidic critics and a legion of people that, if it weren't for the sheer economic reality, just want to leave...to go just about anywhere else.  And the Mayor, the City Manager, city staff, et.al are about as interested in changing this city as they are getting on the bad side of the omnipotent Citizens' Council.  This is a truly unique place to live, in a very, very negative way.    

TURK182
TURK182

HA HA HA !!!!!  This is funny stuff.... Did you know that this City has only 8 dispatchers in fire dispatch (new minimum staffing, down from 12  ) per Suhm and her side kick Kirk Stuart ( the wants to be the guy that replaces her) 

It is funny everyone gets in an uproar over weeds. The stuff that matters and the mother who's son has an allergic reaction from the fire ants in the weeds and can't breathe and is wondering why it is taking so long.  You can  thank Suhm and Kirk.  Remember the dispatchers that take the calls and were protesting  at City Hall This rag stated we were upset that our overtime was going away and Belo placed Chief's salaries on the TV and stated that "that was the dispatchers salaries." And the simpletons ate eat up.  

Look at this hand and do not pay attention to the wrong and dangerous things I am doing with the other.  

Not so funny when the shoe is on the other foot, Mow it pave it.  Fill it up with visitors and when something goes wrong hope you are lucky enough to get in touch with the 8 that are on calls already, also get a LOTTO ticker odds are close to the same.  1.5 - 2 million people in the city working or visiting and 8 people to answer the call, be careful and know where you are.  "Don't hang up we are receiving a high volume of calls at this time"  

This is a real issue and you save the weeds people got more positive press from this rag than we ever hoped too.  You were suckered quick by flash of Chief's salaries and and how greedy dispatchers were.  I stated in a post earlier  how many calls DPD and DFD take a year 250,000+  thats is about 30,000 per dispatcher, but I understand wild out of control weeds/flowers gets everyone upset.   Stay out of the fire ants and watch for snakes "enter this City at your own Peril"  Hell the city manager deserves a raise oh what the hell am I saying 30,000 dollars is a drop in the bucket should have made her take it in Comp Time like she did the police and fire people.  

TURK182

AreyousurprisedJim
AreyousurprisedJim

Jim, you have covered City Hall for how long?  And what about this process surprises any of us, who have worked in executive roles for the City of Dallas.  The process is - we have the solution based upon who screams the loudest, then press forward as though those affected don't matter.  This is so typical of the City of Dallas.  I worked in the executive ranks for over 25 years............under city managers from Schrader to Mary Suhm.............Nothing in this story is amazing...........Paul is a good yes executive.............and will insulate Mary.............

Donna Harris
Donna Harris

Thank you for this. I have to say, I was taken aback yesterday, at the afternoon session, when Mr. Dyer made these comments. We were there to present the petitions. Luckily the loud slap of my own forehead, when he said it, did not drown out the admonishment he received from Vonceil Jones Hill.

When she asked him where was the community input, he said, there is an advocacy group that was formed 30 years ago and they are the "go to" people. Seriously...he said that out loud...in front of us.

I never heard of this advocacy group he spoke of.   It's not like my head was buried under a rock. In the late 80's, before kids and after college, I bought on the east side of the lake in Casa Linda. Like all first time home buyers, with a shiny new key to the rest of our lives, jumped into community activism. We all worked hard executing bake and rummage sales, festivals, home and garden tours and drinking soirees. 

We did this for the beautification of the triangles within Casa Linda, the CL park, and having toxic gas drums removed from under the old Lockwood Mall, so we could get new retail nearby.  We desperately needed a Home Deport for our fixer uppers. I was one of the former Presidents of Casa Linda Estates and wrote the neighborhood newsletter. This is why I was dumbfounded to learn about this 'go to' group.

CLENA wasn't the only one, other East Dallas neighborhoods were marching equally to their own beat towards revitalization and making great progress, as well.

Like you, I am totally flummoxed why we spend gob wads of money for suggestions by people who do not live here or why they only include a few neighborhoods, when they do. Input on these issues like the Arboretum putting a parking structure within their compound, should come from all sides of the lake. 

Now living on the west side, near the lake, the last last thing I want to hear while kayaking, is the sound of car alarms, car horns when people lock up, doors slamming and the constant squeal of rubber on cement when they drive from one story to the next at the Arboretum.

 

Love, love, love the Arboretum, but the neighborhood was here first and everyone who buys in, buys the lake, not the Arboretum. Does the Arboretum keep conquest development going to keep the money flowing? If not, perhaps it's time they spend the next 10 years appreciating the wonderfulness that they are, make forward thinking changes including some time management, so it can pay for itself. 

 

East Dallas is not an up and coming neighborhood on the verge of awesomeness. We're there! We've done the work and it paid off. We're not perfect, we have our flaws. I guess you could say we're FLAWESOME - but we got heart, spirit and you are right Jim, we have a plethora of good people with great ideas.

 It's upsetting to read the comments by your readers who've given up. It makes me fear what will happen when we all get tired of banging our head against the wall and start doing nothing!

 

PlanoDave
PlanoDave

For what it is worth, there is a shit load of unpaved natural land at Cedar Hill State Park, Isle du Bois up at Ray Roberts and at Dinosaur Valley State Park down in Cleburne.

But I guess since you can't walk to those or take public transportation, they don't count.  You can only get there by using an evil car on an equally evil freeway.

Frankly, that's fine by me.  

Edward
Edward

You are exactly right, Jim. Just like the school bond elections, city bond elections, etc. It's all run by the developers, construction companies, companies that provide architectural services, legal services, etc. 

Dallas keeps building new schools for a declining student population, while not taking care of the schools they have (there's no money in that.)

They keep building new libraries but can't staff them, buy books for them, or even keep them looking presentable a year or so after they are built.

As always is the case, follow the money....

Grumpy Demo
Grumpy Demo

Jim,

You left out the the first step. It's where a Park Cities Developer or his wife has an idea on how to spend Dallas' tax dollars for their personal benefit (profit or public acclaim) and tells the staff at city hall what to do. The the staff hires the consultant, . . .

Other than that, no whiff from what I can tell.

matilda of tuscany
matilda of tuscany

You forgot:  If we have to bring it to a Council Meeting where citizens show up, here is the process:1)  List item as number one on the agenda so citizens will get there first thing in the morning2)  Start meeting and announce you have moved it to last item on agenda (so citizens who take off work, or arrange child care will be impacted and have to leave)3)  Delay meeting with extended introduction of "honorees"4)  Announce there will be a closed door session and make everybody leave council chambers5)  Let that go on until lunchtime, but not inform citizens of shenanigans6)  Inform citizens they will take lunch and return at 27)  Go to agenda items that citizens did not come to talk about8)  Finally get to agenda item everybody has come for9)  Let Department head give Mary's version of what she wants done, so she doesn't take blame10)  Let certain council members get completely off track or not understand simple points about issue, so that citizens stare shocked and open mouthed at just how unqualified some of our council members are and lose all hope.  10)Half the citizens have left, other half has to pay for time off all day, babysitting, parking tickets or getting the car out of impoundment.  We've given them a civics lesson!

Steve T
Steve T

I spent 14 years at City Hall and much longer than that living in Dallas; You got it right, Jim.

Daily Reader
Daily Reader

Why get citizen input after they've already made up their minds that they're going to proceed with a project the way they think is best.  Their mindset is to hell with the citizens.

InquiringMind
InquiringMind

Citizen input? Not at Winfrey Point.

Interesting note. Mary Suhm, our City Manager, and Mary Brinegar, CEO of the Arboretum, have almost identical salaries.

In 2010, Brinegar lists $276,519.

In 2012, Suhm lists $265,617

So Suhm runs a billion dollar operation and Brinegar runs an outfit about of about $30,000,000 counting donations, and guess who makes the most money?

Sad Texan
Sad Texan

Could they possible plan to make money by charging for parking? That would stop a lot of people from going to the park.

lorlee
lorlee

This was just how we got the Driving Range that uses up land that was donated for park use at Samuell Grand.  42 of us showed up, 41 of us were opposed -- and there were other options without using park land.  Technically, I still think the reuse is an illegal taking of park land, but their minds were made up before they asked us. 

Alan
Alan

No doubt your insight applies in most instances, but I'm curious how you'd approach the rare exception.  Take public housing, of which Dallas has far too little.  No affluent or even middle class neighborhood would accept it if they're asked in the way you suggest.  Poor neighborhoods won't fight it because it's what they're used to.  Net result is the segregation of the poor (with its corollary racial segregation, even if you believe that's benign).    Isn't economic mixing sound public policy, despite the objection of neighbors?

PhilanderingMoustache
PhilanderingMoustache

Dallas is too large to have a city manager form of government.  What has happened is that you have an unelected cabal of "leaders" that create the agenda and make the decisions.  There is no one around (and aware enough) to hold them accountable for the many terrible decisions they make, so they continue to make even more terrible decisions. At least you can vote elected officials out.  Those appointed will continue to do a bad job for decades until they retire.

Donna Harris
Donna Harris

Your concern to response time and the concern ofthe land protectors to keep our public parks open to all people, are quality oflife issues. Our city officials should respond and act on behalf of allpeople. It is galling how much money we've wasted on their buddies who are consultants and own ad agencies attempting to identify who we are, when it is right under their noses and can be summed up in one word. Keep up the good work!

scottindallas
scottindallas

 Actually, the DeGolyer estate and the Arboretum WERE there before you, or anyone who lives there now.  Otherwise, your comments are appreciated.

Brenda Marks
Brenda Marks

Don't give up Donna.  And please don't move away.  We need more of you, not less.  I'm on the west side of Central, in Oak Lawn, and we have your same stories, just different locations.  And we're still trying to figure out how to get Arlington Hall and Lee Park back.

Darrd2010
Darrd2010

DonnaIt's residents like you and others who have the stamina and potential to help Dallas find its lost soul. We along with the good folks at DO just have to keep digging up info, filing FOI's, and calling out wrong doers no matter what office they hold. Then we get rid of them, bring in Dallas residents (no City Hall old guard)with new ideas to move this city forward. Not until after then, should the words'world class' be used.

cp
cp

You do like me and move away as far as possible, like to, oh I dunno.... Minnesota. 

biff
biff

I'm shocked at your location. Or that the fact you don't know Dinosaur Valley is in Glen Rose, not Cleburne. Why the hell should you have to drive two hours to get to places like that?

Primi timpano
Primi timpano

Two immutable laws of human nature:

1. The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits.

2. You can't fix stupid.

And even more importantly, money doesn't talk, it screams.

wilme2
wilme2

You forgot - quietly list on the consent agenda, then act surprised when anyone signs up to speak and you have to move it off the consent agenda.

JS
JS

I believe it is properly said as, "All of you are white. Go to hell."

Primi timpano
Primi timpano

This is higher than the salary of a US Senator.

Cremebrulee
Cremebrulee

I wouldn't do that job for any amount of money! No matter what you do, everyone thinks you suck! Give the woman the raise! She won't be sleeping any better at night.

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

Well, most people would consider Suhm to be overpaid even with that comparison.

Matthew Gunter
Matthew Gunter

Based on J.J. Samuells trust with the city, it was illegal.

Sixthfloor1500marilla
Sixthfloor1500marilla

Nope.Well wait, if you mean cheaply built, poorly maintained, 100-percent-public funded projects stuffed to the gills with the destitute and mentally ill, well yep, neighbors fight that. That's the stuff dead broke 'developers' Hamilton and Greenan are slopping up public dollars year after year after year while they wag their fingers and tsk tsk about how hopelessly ungenerous everyone is. If you mean Dallas Housing Authority public housing oversized with nothing but low income, neighbors howl.

If you mean projects where a responsible developer brings some of their own funds and listens to the neighbors, like the Family Gateway/First Presby project Downtown, the Matthews project in the Cedars, the Fisher Copperidge project, Habitat for Humanity projects well those folks listened to and made peace with their neighbors.

As for your ignorant comment that poor people are used to it, please. Marginalized neighborhoods fought like crazy to keep Southwest Housing's overlarge LIHTC deals out of their neighborhoods but a corrupt Housing staff and City Councilman Hill kept them coming. Near the VA the Lisbon Heights neighborhood is complaining about too much rental TODAY, and the corrupt Housing department keeps them coming. Three so far. Runyon Springs and Singing Hills and Hacienda del Sol, all complained. Councilman Atkins keeps them coming.

scottindallas
scottindallas

 you don't have to be a jerk and introduce measure and facts.   What an a-hole.

Darrd2010
Darrd2010

And continue to get a raise like Mary did yesterday out of fear and intimidation.

scottindallas
scottindallas

 I'm not sure structural reforms will fix this.  So long as money is the currency of politics, so long as city gov't directs large budgets, and takes actions that will reward persons and firms, one sees a similar corruption in all forms.  Size matters, mostly in that size means the booty is larger.  I appreciate your spirit, and I'm all for solutions, but they are inherent in gov't.  I don't think a yankee townhall democracy is possible, but at least in democracies we can throw the bums out. 

Matthew Gunter
Matthew Gunter

As much as I dislike that my city leader is an unelected bureaucrat, it's the citizens council and their financing of candidates that makes this idiocy possible.

Donna Harris
Donna Harris

Thank you for the opportunity Scottindallas.  I realize there aren't many native, multi-generation Dallasites left. Those of us who are, paddle boated at WRL on Sunday afternoons, watched movies at Casa Linda Theater, shopped with our Moms at the S&H Green Stamp Store, cruised with our big brothers at the lake, and got fitted for our first bra from the Madddox shop  (assuming you were a girl). At that time, there was no Arboretum. Settling in east Dallas seemed only natural.  

PlanoDave
PlanoDave

You are correct.  My bad.  Glen Rose, not Cleburne.  Although, we can add Cleburne State Park as another location that has not paved wilderness.

Along with Tyler State Park and Lake Murray up in Ardmore, OK.

Who are the true nature lovers?  The people who demand to have it in their neighborhood in walkable distance and are willing to fight for it?  Or the people who are willing to drive 2, 3, 4 or even 18 hours to enjoy it?

I don't HAVE to drive 2 hours, but since I am in Plano and those places are not, I am willing to drive to them.  In fact, I love the trips.

US175guy
US175guy

 Hmmmm.... and how many times have we heard that the city has a deficit or is otherwise broke, yet somehow they find "strong Mary" :D some $$$ for a raise??  Uh-huh...

Primi timpano
Primi timpano

It's all of our faults for electing this flotsam. Change the council, get an honest mayor, they can terminste Suhm. We elect these people; we need to take responsibility for it.

scottindallas
scottindallas

ahh, it's a great way to learn.  I ain't scared to be wrong.  

Phil
Phil

Forest Hills, the neighborhood directly south of the Arboretum, was platted in 1924 and there were actually numerous houses along San Fernando (overlooking what is now Garland Road) at that time.  Many houses on the northern end of the neighborhood (nearest the lake) were built in the 20s and 30s.  So, yes, that neighborhood too precedes the DeGolyer estate by more than a decade.

Lakewood proper is even older.

So unfortunately, you are utterly and totally incorrect

Donna Harris
Donna Harris

That is incorrect Scottindallas. Casa Linda Plaza opened in 1939 and was built by Carl Brown. Brown purchased the farmland in 1924 and started building homes with his son in the 30's. At the time, the area was called Reinhardt, Texas and was not annexed by the city of Dallas until 1948.

The DeGolyer estate was built in 1940 after Brown began development, after Casa Linda Plaza opened and long after Lakewood was established. Lakewood Country Club opened in 1908 and many of the homes here date back to that time. 

The DeGolyer estate did not become the  Arboretum until 1976.

scottindallas
scottindallas

Sorry, but the DeGolyer estate preceded all of that.  It's as old as Lakewood

RTGolden
RTGolden

I think you're letting your Dallas-centric hatred of suburbanites has clouded your reading comprehension.  He didn't say he'd rather live in a non-walkable neighborhood.  He stated he's willing to drive to visit wilderness, and that he enjoys the drive.

I would hazard to guess that if you wanted to visit the locations he mentioned, you'd drive as well.  It's not really a walkable trip from Downtown Dallas.

Jeremy Adams
Jeremy Adams

PlanoDave think about your inane little argument you made just there for a moment.  The just of this issue is DPR and DABG taking parkland for parking lots.  Hey Dallas, lets all driver our individual cars to our not so local state park every weekend so they have to build a new parking lot on our parkland too.  

As with biff, I am shocked.  You would rather live in a non-walkable neighborhood?  As my Mom would say, "You wouldn't have the sense to poor piss out of a boot if the instructions were written on the heal."  Walkable neighborhoods are almost completely lacking in Dallas and the surrounding areas 30+ freeways, you HAVE to drive to EVERYTHING.  Shut up and stay in Plano.

Linda Venable
Linda Venable

Instead they gave Suhm a whopping 9.2 raise, when she is still asking public safety to cut their budgets. Another subject for another day, I suppose. But it still aggravates me that they can always find money for their pet projects, but the safety of our citizens and public safety officers is put on the back burner.

Now Trending

Dallas Concert Tickets

From the Vault

 

General

Loading...