Getcher Program Here: An Inside Baseball Report on Maneuvering Behind the Trinity Road

Categories: Schutze

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Well thank goodness Friday has finally arrived so we can have a little privacy here on the lawn, without all those damned readers butting in. Normally when they're around I don't like to do inside baseball, because, you know, it just makes them get all anxious and nattery. Then that guy who uses my name in his name starts raving, and then we have to ring for the health aides. But today it's just you and me, so I have some way inside baseball for us.

I have been saying here for the last couple of months that the proponents of the Trinity River Toll Road think they are closing in on victory, and they're trying to everything in order to make sure nothing stops them at the final gate. I'm sure that's at least a major factor in the decision of the Dallas Citizens Council, which possibly should not be unfairly associated with anti-integration "white citizens councils" of yore, to form a political action committee and pump cash into next May's Dallas City Council elections a la Karl Rove and Citizens United at the national level.

I also made the statement and raised the question: They already own all but three seats on the 15-member body and one of those they don't own is not up for grabs, so why would the Citizens Council be so intent on buying up the last two? OK, a few chords on the Inside Baseball Hammond organ: This is where we take our seats in the bleachers at Inside Park. Peanuts, please.

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Imagine my inside baseball shock last week when I learned that former Dallas-100-years-ago council member and full-time toll road advocate and lobbyist Craig Holcomb was sending emails to current council members informing them he had been named the "community advocate" for the state highway department's rebuilding of the downtown freeway interchanges that we so unfondly call "The Mixmaster."

Whose community?

Allow me to unwind: The proposed toll road -- proposed but not built for roughly 15 years because of issues -- is supposed to be built out between the levees in the unprotected floodwater passageway that is designed, in fact, to fill up with water twice a year during our spring and fall monsoon seasons. Why would anyone propose building a huge freeway almost on top of the river cutting off access to the city's only waterfront and then put it in a place where it's going to be underwater twice a year?

Yup. That's why 15 years have passed.

The Citizens Council, which is sort of a boys club for downtown landowners and big public works construction companies, wants it done no matter what. The opponents of the road have lulled themselves into a false sense of security because they know the road is two billion bucks over budget. What they're not thinking about is this: What's two billion bucks between friends?

The two billion looks like a lot when you're the taxpayer out of whose pocket it must come, but when you're the construction company into whose pocket it's going to go or the landowner whose property will benefit, a couple billion looks pretty sweet. But in this strapped public sector environment, where does all that public money come from, really?

It comes out of other stuff. In this case, the toll road project must suck almost all of that two billion out of critical highway projects like rebuilding the Mixmaster. Which is crazy. All of the traffic numbers show that rebuilding existing downtown interchanges is far and away the biggest buck-bang we can hope for in terms of reducing congestion. The toll road is a total waste for reducing congestion. The reason the Citizens Council is so intent on getting its ducks in a row on the toll road is because half the time ducks will be the only ones able to use it.

Aha. Here is where we come back to the inside baseball pitching rotation. On the current 15-member City Council, 13 members are pitchers the Citizens Council pro-toll-road lobby can count on to throw home runs every time the Citizens Council is at bat. How does a pitcher throw guaranteed home-runs? Practice, practice, practice.

But three members - Sandy Greyson of North Dallas, Scott Griggs of North Oak Cliff and Angela Hunt of East Dallas -- have been vicious, mean, awful, cruel, relentless throwers of dangerous smokin' steeeeeeeRIKES! They have been the only ones in the past to catch the toll roaders at their game, which is to use long-range public works planning processes to divert money out of the Mixmaster project, formerly called "Project Pegasus."

In the last year it has become evident to inside baseball fans that the highway department, knowing full well that the Mixmaster is the right project and the toll road the wrong one, intends to get Project Pegasus done one piece at a time without ever announcing that's what it's doing. But doing that, you see, would stop the huge sucking sound of money being drained off to pay for the toll road.

The not-necessarily-white Dallas Citizens Council needs to accomplish two ends. It needs to shut up the analysis and criticism coming from the three strike-out pitchers on the council. It needs to hear every single thing the highway department is up to before it's up to it and keep some kind of evil eye on them in the process.

They can't do anything about Greyson. She's running unopposed for re-election next May. In Grigg's district they will pump money into the campaign of his opponent Delia Jasso. She may not be able to throw home-runs for them, but they can count on her to just sort of let the ball dribble out of her hand and hit her own toe four times in a row for a nice walk. In Hunt's district, they will fund Bobby Abtahi, who will help them put it waaaay out of the park (crowd-roar sound effect) every single time at bat.

The second part, the listener and evil eye? You got it. Mr. Holcomb.

I have always liked and respected Holcomb. He's a good guy from Old East Dallas. Used to hold Hunt's chair on the council a long time ago when he and I were young. I asked him this week if he would object to being called an advocate for the toll road.

"I am not trying to hide that or back away from that," he said.

Hope not. He conceded to me, for example, that he was part of the lobbying process that persuaded former U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison to stick a rider on a defense spending bill exempting the toll road project from important federal environmental reviews. Actually, in order to get that done they had to exempt the whole North Texas portion of the river. So, yeah, from here on out we've got the only river in America not covered by key federal environmental reviews. Ain't we proud?

The post to which Holcomb has been appointed, he said, is strictly uncompensated and volunteer. "As far as I can tell it is to have a private citizen who gets lots of briefings on it who can say, 'Oh, this doesn't make sense,' and monitor public involvement and make sure public involvement occurs."

He denied that the Mixmaster rebuild, which he is calling "Project Horseshoe" (go figure), has any connection with the toll road project. "Project Horseshoe really has nothing to do with the parkway or toll road." (They call the toll road a "parkway." Go figure some more.)

Yeah. Except for the money.

I am straining straining straining here not to fall back on that terribly tired worn-out cliché about foxes and henhouses. I refuse to say that by getting Holcomb appointed as some kind of special citizen big-ears on the Mixmaster Project, the Citizens Council boys have succeeded in providing the fox with a bed, shower and free WiFi inside the henhouse. I will not say that.

I did ask him who appointed him as our public advocate. I'm public. Aren't you? Do you remember us being asked?

He said he wasn't sure. It wasn't the highway department. He said it was some highway institute or something or other. Yeah, well, you know: Here's your highway institute.
I think I'm going to have my own "highway institute" appoint me as the public advocate to attend all Dallas Citizens Council executive committee meetings. Umm, second thought, maybe not. You have to worry those stories about initiation rights and microchips could be true.

Anyway, that's inside baseball for today. Any private use or rebroadcast of this game is strictly OK, but we'll tell you right now nobody will watch it except for a few stragglers on Fridays.



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29 comments
Manny
Manny

We all better send Scott Griggs some money or we're going to feel even worse than we do now when nobody is present on the Council to speak truth to power.  

WhiteWhale
WhiteWhale

Jim resistance is futile.  Just give it up already.  Gondolas are a valid form of mass transit and think of all the money to be made by redeveloping parts of downtown Dallas into a lagoon like Venice Italy.  Let the river go where it wants to go and not some unnatural drainage ditch.

baker24
baker24

Well, up here in the revamped District 11 (used to be in District 12 with Sandy Greyson), Mr. Kleinman has been endorsed by half the DCC, so I guess that explains where he is likely to stand..... The other thing that comes to mind is that they can't build that nicely landscaped parkway on a berm they show in all their literature and the website. That berm will narrow the floodplain to the extent the levees wouldn't protect downtown from a gentle spring rain much less a gully-washer. Instead of the nice bermed parkway, think a viaduct or bridge that runs for miles inside the floodplain. It will have to be tall to raise the road above full flood stage - at least as tall as the levees - and then you have to find a way to get the road past all the bridges.....  It will cut off any view of the river - all you'll see of the river from downtown is cars and trucks moving along the "parkway".  Then too, the Corps of Engineers won't allow them to build an elevated highway next to the levees because of the danger that drilling hundreds of holes for pilings will destabilize the levees, which sit on at least one and maybe two layers of sand, as Jim mentioned in an old article on this. So, the road will have to be placed away from the levees and that will in some areas use up most of the available land in the floodplain. I'd be surprised if most of the "amenities" like parks, ball fields, etc, ever get built if that parkway goes in.

smithd443
smithd443

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dallasmedia
dallasmedia

Listen, Schutze, this whole trinity toll road "conspiracy" you have been harping on SINCE 2007! is getting way old.

Here's an obvious little secret: road development in Dallas is a scam, along with DART's latest "Turquoise" line. But unlike other rackets, it's a scam that gives back to the community. These poorly constructed, haphazard road networks outsourced to various agencies and construction company subsidiarys generate revenue: car wrecks create jobs for hospitals and insurance companies. 

WylieH
WylieH

Abtahi has a lot more substance than you think.

dallasdrilling.wordpress.com
dallasdrilling.wordpress.com

Delia got her super PAC money either late in December or early January from the Citizens Council. She will be anything you want her to be as long as it benefits her. In her newsletters to residents, she tells them to vote for her because she has a lot of pull with a majority of the other council members.

Abtahi got all twitchy and sent me an email earlier this week saying...that he "is for a strong gas drilling ordinance that protects neighborhoods.
As a plan commissioner I voted against a cement crushing plant near the elm fork soccer complex."

The man doesn't know that you have to choose sides, you cannot be humble and transparent to residents AND still take the Citizens Council Benjamin's at the same time.  But wait, that's what Mayor Mike does, oh well.

When the Citizens Council endorsed religious nut-home phobic-let's talk about the slave ships-Vonciel Hill, I knew that they had stooped real low.

As Angela Hunt once famously said, this exhibits "whorish behavior". 

Not that there's anything wrong with that.


mcdallas
mcdallas

Seems like the everyday Joe is playing table tiddlywinks against a baseball team.

Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

You know, since the river is now free from nosy government EPA types, maybe someone oughtta call Harold Simmons and see if he wants to build another nuke storage dump down there. Could use those barrels to shore up the levees 'fore they go and plunk that road down. Some good solid depleted uranium would make a great road base, don'tcha think? And Harold would probably like to have some of that stuff close by so he can keep an eye on it 'stead of having it all piled up out there in West Texas.

bealotcoolerifyoudid
bealotcoolerifyoudid

1) Project Horsehoe = dressage, therefore this will get the economy going.

2) On a serious note, and I ask out of complete ignorance, what's the link with Abtahi that makes you sure the Tollroadsters will hit grand slams off him everytime?

Gangy
Gangy

@WylieH   He appears to be a subsidiary of the Dallas Citizens Council.

mcdallas
mcdallas

Not Joe the Plumber, by the way...

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@bealotcoolerifyoudid 

Didn't get a letter last week from Donna Halstead telling him the Citizens Council thanked him for his interest but would be supporting his opponent. Means they will be supporting him. Means that during his Citizens Council interview he allowed them to pour a barrel of chicken blood over  him while they recited the Book of Revelations in Pig Latin.

WylieH
WylieH

@heart_and_soul No, but I've interacted with him, on occasion.

bealotcoolerifyoudid
bealotcoolerifyoudid

@Gangy @WylieH Not a question of if he has substance, but where/whom he got it from, but I could say that about most candidates for political office

heart_and_soul
heart_and_soul

@WylieH I am going to bet that someone with a fake facebook page has more to hide than I do. 

Maybe you should practice what you preach, "WylieH".

WylieH
WylieH

@heart_and_soul Matthew 7:1-5

ndal81
ndal81

@JimSX @Gangy @bealotcoolerifyoudid I am confused. I googled Catherine Horsey and she was appointed to a board by Angela. Also, saw that Angela's park board appointee is supporting Bobby. What gives?

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@Gangy @bealotcoolerifyoudid @JimSX 

Yeah, Catherine Horsey, wow, I know. After they leave the huge seed pod in your basement and it turns into you, what do they do with the real you, does anyone know?

Gangy
Gangy

@bealotcoolerifyoudid @JimSX   It's not just Craig Holcomb, other endorsers who operate for the Citizens Council are:  Veletta Lill, Catherine Horsey, Ed Oakley, Chris Luna, Hector Garcia, and probably many others.

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