Hooray for Dallas' Big, Dumb Ideas Like Fancy Bridges. They Stir Up the Smart Kids.

Categories: Schutze

SHZ_GetOffMyLawn_TitleImageV2.jpg
So, back to the new fake suspension bridge we're building at enormous cost over the Trinity River, and, in fact, let's go back and review the whole Trinity River project. In fact, let's go back and review everything.

Here is my question: Why are huge, obviously stupid projects the best thing that ever happened to Dallas? And, by the way, they are.

See also:
- Calatrava "Bridge" No. 2: We're Spending an Extra $7 mil to put Lipstick on a Pig

Dallas has a history, in fact, of huge, obviously stupid projects. Yesterday I took part in a discussion group at a retreat for City Council members and top city staff. I argued that the 1980s plan to double-deck Central Expressway was a great example of stupid huge projects and great big huge stupid masterplans that have really helped Dallas evolve into a better city by being so stupid.

lifeboat.jpg
As the plucky survivors passed the deadly white water feature, they looked back at the gleaming white bridge and asked themselves, "What the fuck is that thing doing there?"
Let's not go through the whole blah-blah-blah. Here's the thumbnail: The plan to turn Central into a huge, honking, roaring, stinking monstrosity was a goal ardently sought in the early 1980s by all the top city planners and by the private secretive fraternal order that calls itself eerily "The Dallas Citizens Council," representing the big money.

Because it was so manifestly stupid, awful and destructive, the double-decking plan stirred up angry opposition from neighborhood groups, especially in the M Streets area. They beat the plan by learning how to be brilliant at politics, end-running the hell out of the local moguls by going to Austin and eventually to then Congressman John Bryant to put the screws to the plan.

The beautiful public work we have now in Central -- I still say it's one of the best designed urban expressways in the solar system -- came about when dissent and opposition beat the socks off the moguls.

The moguls always use so-called planning as camo for whatever dumb thing it is they want to do. They always say something like this:

"We want the city to dig a shipping canal through Uptown so barges from the Port of Houston can deliver containers full of Chinese head-bands to some warehouses in Garland that we happen serendipitously to own ourselves. We hired some very famous planners from top universities and ad agencies to look at our idea. Oh, look what they found: They say a shipping canal through Uptown is exactly spot-on the best idea ever."

Yeah. Go back to the fake suspension bridges. How can sluicing huge amounts of scarce public treasure into fake suspension bridges be a good thing? It's so monumentally stupid, it reminds everybody how stupid the people are who run this joint, and I think that gives everybody else the courage they need to defeat them.

In fact, if you want to know what's really great about Dallas, why Dallas is the place to be, I would argue it's the city's oppositional culture. We have tons and tons of people here who just don't accept the ruling paradigm.

If you're in one of those cities where the ruling paradigm is pretty well locked down by history and general consensus -- well-known smart towns like Boston or pretty places like San Francisco -- then you more or less just have to sign up and go along. Here, we can look at something like two fake suspension bridges over a ditch downtown and say, "No way do I go along with that."

How big is that? It's huge. Look, David Brooks has a column in The New York Times today he calls "The Great Migration," about how all of the top most smart members of the meritocracy are migrating to a few agreed-upon cities. He says that migration will defeat whatever the Democrats try to do to mitigate inequality in America.

I'd like to take him to North Oak Cliff in Dallas. I think North Oak Cliff is where the opposition to his idea is forming up right now. North Oak Cliff is brimming with bright young people, some of whom may have gone to the "top 11 schools" Brooks cites as so prestigious that their degrees almost automatically bestow success. Probably a lot more of them attended the other 100 schools that are just as good academically but have less prestigious names.

They're here. They're not in Boston, Brooklyn or Seattle. Who knows why they are here instead? Life is complicated. I suspect it has a lot to do with the fact that people can get jobs here so they don't have to be remittance men and women. I think of a great line from Girls, in which the protagonist's boyfriend says he would never take money from his parents. He says he is supported by his grandmother.

So maybe a lot of young people are in Dallas so they can support themselves. I don't know. They're here. That's all I know.

Brooks thinks the division of the nation into smart places and dumb is inexorable. He cites a book called The New Geography of Jobs by Enrico Moretti which Brooks says demonstrates that "the magnet places have positive ecologies that multiply innovation, creativity and wealth. The abandoned places have negative ecologies and fall further behind."

Brooks concludes, "This sorting is self-reinforcing, and it seems to grow more unforgiving every year."

Oh, bullshit. We're talking about self-anointed aristocracy, however they got to it. Because they earned a prestigious degree or because someone dubbed them with a sword -- makes no difference. They think they're God's big IT and they're the only ones who are.

So my prediction would be quite different from Brooks'. I think places like North Oak Cliff will pop up all over America where bright young people will say to themselves, "We're God's Big Other IT, and we're going to kick your IT's ass."

Back to the fake suspension bridges again. By doing huge obviously stupid things, a place like Dallas gives those bright young other-IT people the confidence and the drive they need to push against the ruling paradigm where they are. And then by extension they will push against ruling paradigms everywhere.

Pretend I'm on a sinking ship lost at sea in the middle of the Atlantic on a cold winter's night, and I have to choose between two lifeboats. One is full of top meritocrats, good students who did what they were supposed to do all their lives, got to Harvard, took away top grades, moved to Brooklyn and found Harvard jobs in Manhattan. The other is full of scrappy North Oak Cliffers who went to UT and University of Michigan and Kenyon and then came to Dallas, of all places, and used their own wit and determination to build their own Park Slope.

You don't even have to ask which boat I'm jumping in. Right? I'll go with the oppositional castaways every time. It's places like Dallas that turn bright young people into oppositional castaways. America is about castaways, not aristocrats.

Anyway that's what I argued sort of yesterday at the City Council retreat thing. I think I caught a couple of those dudes sawing logs.


My Voice Nation Help
44 comments
patrickm02l
patrickm02l

"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete." - Buckminster Fuller

casiepierce
casiepierce

Sssooo, suspension bridges are good because it stirs up the smart masses? Didn't we have a bunch of elections over this project?

director21
director21

Oh, we are getting SO much more to make us a "World Class City." We are getting gas wells on our golf courses and rifle/pistol/shotgun ranges, gas wells and compressor stations on our brand new soccer complexes, we already have a brownwater park in the middle of Shit Creek, and we are getting a toll road between the levees right where we are spending over $200 Mil to build a "World Class Outdoor Recreation Venue."


Who could possibly ask for more? We obviously have the most corrupt, illiterate, bought off city government on the face of the planet.

mark1270
mark1270

You need to explore the third leg of the stool: We are getting the equestrian park and the golf course. All that remains is the world class South Dallas Polo Grounds. Now, there's a Big Idea for the ages...

don.abbott
don.abbott

Imagine a city built without a seaport or big boat river.  Imagine a city where the original families from the prime real estate around the railroad (1871) still call the shots.  Imagine a city where corrupt pols match the number of potholes.  We call them polholes.  Imagine a city whose ethos is rooted in being nothing more than a large organic cash register.    Imagine a city whose raison d'etre is to see and be seen.  Dream of a city that wants to get better from your street corner out.  Imagine Dallas.  Now wake up and go buy something, or someone.

timdickey
timdickey

These young Oak Cliffers managed to get $30 million diverted from the DART Green Line connector to Love Field so we could fund a trolley car to Bishop Arts. That's great political judo, but is it really good for Dallas? And before anyone says, "That connector was going nowhere--the money was just sitting there", we deserve to have NCTCOG explain WHY that money was "just sitting there" with that connector not being built, as promised.

WhiteWhale
WhiteWhale

The submersible tollway is a world class project.  How many burgs can boast having a tollway that depending upon the hydro conditions can be used by either hybrid automobiles or solar powered water taxis?  Jim just fails to see the beauty of it.

Lakewooder
Lakewooder

So how many of you commenting here grew up in Dallas?  I was in a meeting today and immediately spotted MHH bridge among the buildings of the skyline. The thing makes me proud - it creates excitement and it's spawning real estate development. That includes North Oak Cliff.  People want to see that bridge from their own windows.   If you want a plain bridge move to a boring town.

LoopDLoop
LoopDLoop

Well, Schutze, it goes both ways. This is complicated, but I'll try and lay it out as simply as I can.  

Gentrification involves tearing down old things and building new things.  It means deals between the city and developers. Much of it is ethically dubious. However...  

North Oak Cliff is a "happening scene" because of gentrification. If i wasn't, then city/developers would have had a much harder time pushing through Calatrava bridge 1. Further, if that new rebel/hipster/anglo/educated group you love wasn't in Oak Cliff, then city/developers wouldn't have the "bike lanes" excuse for the next bridge. 

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

Lifeboat is one of my all-time favorite films.  Tallulah Bankhead was fabulous.  I can never figure out if she's doing a Bette Davis impression or if Davis is doing an impression of Bankhead.

dualband71
dualband71

On this I have to disagree on a small point, "In fact, if you want to know what's really great about Dallas, why Dallas is the place to be, I would argue it's the city's oppositional culture."  You have obvisouly never had to deal with Swiss Ave Association, Munger Place &/or Peaks Addition.  They have put Gaston Ave in a time capsule and refuse to open it.  NO ONE opposes them, NO ONE. 

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

Hey Shutze,I wondered yesterday and still do,  why are our Calatravas more expensive than the ones around the rest of the world?

James080
James080 topcommenter

I do have to admit though, I argued that the Convention Center Hotel would be a colossal boondoggle. It seems I was wrong about that Big Idea.

James080
James080 topcommenter

Dallas' elite want four fake suspension bridges for the same reason 65 year old men want to drive new Corvettes with girlfriends 1/3 of their age riding along in the passenger seat.

P1Gunter
P1Gunter

Don't forget Jim that before even you were born (and that's a long time ago!), the City of Dallas was hellbent on making the Trinity a shipping canal. This city was founded on giant, stupid projects.

bmarvel
bmarvel

What did you do with the good Jim Schutze??? Where are you hiding him? We demand that you bring him back!

dallasdrilling.wordpress.com
dallasdrilling.wordpress.com

Still trying to understand why they don't want a copy of  the brand new Hampton/Inwood bridge for about $24 million. It's a classic design, and does what it needs to do.....carry cars without the showbiz.

P1Gunter
P1Gunter

@timdickey As far as I know, they did explain it. There wasn't enough money, by far, available for the connector. If memory serves, they were $100m short.

casiepierce
casiepierce

@Lakewooder Like that awful barbecue place on the other side that's propped up by the city?

director21
director21

@Lakewooder I am an Oak Cliff native, born in Methodist Hospital, and that bridge is a sad joke in addition to being butt ugly! It is a fake suspension bridge, and if it makes you proud, then you are very easily amused.

heart_and_soul
heart_and_soul

@Lakewooder  

Looks like a big plastic penis to me. I thought it was suppose to be made of Italian steel. So how come it looks like it is made of PVC pipes?

roo_ster
roo_ster

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz Dear Lord in Heaven, we agree on something.  I'm not singing "Kumbaya," though, not even if you also like the movies "Rope" and "Petrified Forest."

clevertrousers
clevertrousers

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz excuse me while I blow chunks..

dualband71
dualband71

Moral of the story, Dallas needs to stop creating things until they fix the things that are broken. 

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

@dualband71 I'm glad the Craftsman homes on Swiss have been preserved.  The same goes for the Fairmount neighborhood in Fort Worth.

WhiteWhale
WhiteWhale

@ScottsMerkin Come on you really already know the answer, this is Dallas Texas where everything is bigger including the consulting fees

heart_and_soul
heart_and_soul

@James080 

The hotel was promised to bail out the Convention Center boondoggle that we have been subsidizing to the tune of about $400,000 a year. Didn't happen. The Convention Center is still losing money.

You were right the first time. The hotel is a boondoggle. You just haven't gotten the bill yet.

cynicaloldbastard
cynicaloldbastard

@James080  Why were you wrong?   Is the hotel generating enough revenue to cover both its operating expenses plus debt service?  And how much business is the city owned hotel diverting from property tax paying hotels?

dualband71
dualband71

@darrd2010 Why don't we build something that does not carry cars?  Why do we need anymore concrete poured?  We have streets that are falling apart, bridges that are in need of repair yet we just build more?

dualband71
dualband71

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz So am I, i live in a 100yr old home.  But until Swiss Ave lets go of the past, East Dallas is stuck in the early 1900's.  Without some serious attention to things like Gaston and Live Oak (i.e. road diets) the only thing worth seeing in East Dallas will be Swiss Ave.  Like I stated earlier, Swiss Ave is opposed to improvements in East Dallas. 

P1Gunter
P1Gunter

@bmarvel There's also the Klyde to the MHH Bridge. Good ideas do occasionally happen. The Klyde is great, the MHH goes to Ray's Guns and Hardware and was built solely for private land developers.

The Texas Centennial brought us the State Fair and Fair Park. Deepening the Trinity all the way to the Gulf would've defined the word clusterfuck.

A few good ideas that work don't justify the dozens of terrible ones that don't.

Lakewooder
Lakewooder

Why am I never behind those buses?

dualband71
dualband71

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz Don't get me wrong, there are city departments that need to be gotten under control as well, DART.  Their busses fly down Gaston and Live Oak ignoring the posted speed limit of 30 MPH.  Gaston and Live Oak are Residential streets, NOT expressway.  But DART drivers pay no attention to that.  I can back up this comment, I spent some time sitting on the busses as they drove their routes, using an app on my iPhone i clocked their speed...avg speed 50mph between stops.  Not long distances, just a block the drivers pushed the bus over the speed limit.

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

General

Loading...