The News Muddies the Waters over our Vanishing Trinity Lakes

Categories: Schutze

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City of Dallas
This is what they promised us. This will never be built.
Yesterday morning after I read the story in The Dallas Morning News about the so-called Trinity lakes the city is going to build, I went straight to the kitchen and put my face under the cold water tap, then gave myself a couple of sharp slaps and said loudly, "No, Jim, no more pissing matches with the News about the stupid Trinity River project."

At some point several years ago, I thought I had brought myself to a point of equilibrium on this. I told myself that the News isn't deliberately lying to people about this vast project if the people who work at the paper are legitimately impaired. Instead they are enunciating reality as it really appears to them through the refraction of their impairment. I was OK for a couple years. But then I read the thing yesterday -- hours before our witless City Council voted overwhelmingly to endorse the puddle plan -- and my keyboard fingers started twitching again.

I almost never blame the reporters. Instead I think I see the handiwork of editors, who are all looking over their shoulders at executives who are looking over their shoulders at owners.

In this instance, reporter Tom Benning, a solid hand, did a good job getting the basic concept of puddles high in the story as opposed to the concept of lakes. This is a story we told you about two weeks ago: In 1998 when voters were asked to vote for a huge public works project along the river, the bond issue was sold as a parks project, and the public was shown graphics depicting vast man-made lakes dotted with sailboats. But soon after the votes approving the project were tallied, City Hall revealed that the real plan all along was to build an expressway along the river, cutting off downtown from any parks or lakes to be built.

Two weeks ago, after 16 years of dithering and nary a shovel of dirt turned for the lakes, a city official revealed to a committee of the City Council that almost all of the money for the lakes had been spent already on other stuff. The official also listed a series of unforeseen engineering issues that will limit what can be built to one to three 20-acre ponds. Puddles, in other words.

What made my fingers twitch in Benning's piece was the last paragraph in which he allowed Assistant City Manager Jill Jordan to make an assertion, apparently unchallenged by Benning, to the effect that the puddles are an installment payment on the full vision of the lakes, which will come to fruition in time: "The city is going to have to build it out over time, bond program by bond program, donation by donation," Jordan is quoted as saying.

See. That's the thing. In the entire story to that point, Benning does a fair job of showing that two things will stop that from ever happening. The money's gone. Even if we had the money, the city is now citing a whole series of physical and engineering obstacles that will preclude the construction of anything bigger than puddles.

But if he had left it there -- the lakes cannot be built -- and not allowed Jordan unchallenged weasel room at the end, then the reader would have been forced to draw the obvious inference: "Oh. They fucking lied to us. The bastards told us they wanted the money so they could build big sailboat lakes downtown. What they really wanted to build was a highway, but they knew we wouldn't vote for a highway. So they showed us pictures of lakes with sailboats and, get this, solar-powered water taxis, like bread and circuses for the Roman masses, and we fell for it. Now they are forced to admit that they lied."

Something in the culture at the News, in the editing process, the recruitment process, the water, whatever, something stops them from ever divulging what they think might be a destabilizing truth. If the Martians really were coming in spaceships to eat us, the News would find a way to say that the upcoming visit of the interplanetary newcomers is being greeted with optimism and high hopes by the city's convention and visitors bureau. In this instance, however, there is a great big obvious question that needs to be answered. What if you took the highway out of there? Huh?

There's almost $30 million still sitting there for a big stupid toll road that's underfunded by $2 billion or more, wouldn't go where anybody wants to go, would greatly exacerbate downtown air pollution and, frankly, is never going to be built because it's too stupid. So what if we just killed that son of bitch? Wouldn't we have room for the lakes then? And money?

In 2007 we had a referendum on the proposed toll road in which the issues were hugely misrepresented by a public works lobby willing to spend millions to hang on to its bowl of soup. But we ought to be able to frame it for people more plainly now. Who wants lakes? Who wants a toll road? Show of hands.

Sometimes I try to imagine what a show of hands would look like in the city room at the News. I guess it would look like Jesse James was in town -- everybody reaching for the sky with both hands. Yeah. It's a culture.

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35 comments
mysmallwheels
mysmallwheels

Jim,

We've mulled this "Town Lakes Project" before- wasn't it 2002 or so they finally admitted the lake deal was never going to happen and the only thing the city had to do was "put on a project"? I'm tired of bitching about the Dallas CH- they haven't changed in 40 years I know of; a few "new generation" players, but they still have the same hands up the Kazoo as always. Getting even is more my speed anyway! I have put up a petition at Change.org: Put Null Voting on all ballots; any candidate or issue category receiving 25-30% null vote is turned out as "no result". Go sign the thing- it is the only defense I can see from these evil powers!  

dc005
dc005

Jim,  You're likely gone for the day,  please find time to answer a Q that's been bugging me since I came to Dallas in the 70's.


Are some members of the Dallas Council so incredibly stupid or dumb that they're totally out of touch with what seems obvious to many of us?   Al and James and Don notwithstanding,  are they on the take?   Do they do whatever Staff tells them to?   Are they listening to "opinion leaders" in their Districts?   Or,  is it us on the wrong side and we don't realize it?


I know how they keep getting elected.  About 1% of us try to get involved in elections,  15% max actually vote.


This might be grist for a short column,  how do we end up with a few (or close to half) assorted nutwings on every Council?



Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

We had the Yes/No vote.

Then we had the YesMeansNo/NoMeansYes vote.


I think it's finally time for the Maybe/Maybe Not vote.


Sammy
Sammy

OK, I want the lakes and not the tollroad.  How do we go about making this happen?

s.aten
s.aten

I would change "witless" city council to mostly witless. There were 3 votes against the mud puddles.   Any update on the White Water of Death?

James080
James080 topcommenter

I get the impression the DMN dances around direct criticism of Dallas political and staff officials to preserve access.


Jim, what percentage of your calls to council and city staff returned?

Yobogoya
Yobogoya

How do we get another referendum on the ballot to defund that damn highway?

Voot
Voot

Okay, enough of this mopey stuff. Let's pull together now and list all the ways the management of Dallas DOESN'T resemble that of a Tyson chicken house.


1.

jmckee3
jmckee3

At this point I really don't care if they do anything, scrap the road, scrap the park, scrap the lakes, put whatever money is left into the streets budget.


And the city needs to get over that stupid overpriced bridge, it's really not that exciting and yet I see it all over Dallas promotional stuff. The High 5 is more impressive and I still am not excited by it. 

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

"To Serve Man"

A riveting 6 part series presented by the DMN editorial board, complete with mouth-watering photography.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

Staff pulled a similar schtick by getting the Omni over the top on its bond election.  Gonzalez changed the study from an appraisal to a market study only when told it wasn't feasible (a money loser).  Then the City promoted the deal as an economic win-win when they knew it wasn't, by wagging the market study in our faces.  1,000+ votes out of 80,000 cast would have defeated it (it passed by 2k votes).  And had the citizen known it will eventually be hung around their collective necks (the truth as known by Gonzalez at the time), it would have lost.  Gonzales blocked the completion of the feasibility study from concluding it was not (feasible).  Now it's just a dead man walking.

To the machine which runs this city, an informed citizenry is "problematic".

merely a workaround.

and the elected side of the house are treated as children.

RobertStinson
RobertStinson

Jim - you are spot on, but you sometimes forget (omit?) that newspapers are the business of making money first and in journalism second. The second must never impact the first - especially at the DMN. And this is a pretty damn good argument for starting a not-for-profit news organization in Dallas. Mr. Wilonsky would be a fine editor-in-chief of such an organization. 

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

Well I have to admit, Staff is effective taking the long pull on wearing down the citizenry.  We don't need an elected council or ribbon-cutting mayor.  We got the unseen (and un-elected) hand.

I fear the car wash guys are in trouble.

ozonelarryb
ozonelarryb

It's not water at the Snooz. It's Koolaid.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

@Montemalone  

Actually YesMeansNoWeDon'tWantToStopIt and NoMeansYesWeDoWantToStopIt


This time it will be YesNoMaybeNoMatterWhichWayYouVoteTheDamnRoadWillBeBuiltAnywayButWeNeed$2BillionForTheStockTanks


TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@Sammy  

Apparently, you say NO to the things you want, and YES to the things you don't.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@jmckee3  

just so long as we don't have to pay back the money the City has already spent.

mysmallwheels
mysmallwheels

@holmantx  I thought at the least the guy with the great suits we had for mayor should have signed on to schlep bags for free if it busts. Even his old boss Harlen Crowe didn't have any use for the Omni, or his sometime employee!

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

Look on page 10-1 in the Market Study.The first disclosure (no. 1) in the appraisers’ required “Statement of Assumptions and Limiting Conditions” which underpins the report is this: “This report is set forth as a market study of the proposed subject property; this is not an appraisal report.”

It’s not a ’57 Chevrolet either.But why disclose that which it is not?

Because it once was.

ruddski
ruddski topcommenter

Trolling for Obamacare references from me again, aren't you?

ruddski
ruddski topcommenter

A non-profit news agency would be just as subject to ideologically driven mis-information or promotion of dubious enterprises as any publication, it would just probably shut down a lot faster.

ruddski
ruddski topcommenter

Why not add a car and boat wash to the vision, manned by the homeless? If the pristine waters were stocked with jumping Asian carp, tilapia and perhaps nutria, then Dallas could teach them to fish and hunt. The carp could also be an attraction for skeet shooters and folks who like those canned pigeon/dove hunts.

mysmallwheels
mysmallwheels

@ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul @Montemalone  I can only repeat "Vote None of the Above". There is a petition to put "None of the Above" on all ballots- so that the voters can say that all the choices offered are bad or unintelligible. Find it at Change.org!

Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

@ruddski You guys need to give up on ACA.

The health care system is disfunctional for all but a few.

The Ds recycled an R plan, and even then the Rs did everything to screw it up because Obama.

Now we have a new monster to tame. All because repubs/teabaggers are nothing but 5 year olds that will kick and scream and carry on if they don't get exactly what they want when they want it no exceptions and nobody else is allowed to get anything they want at all ever end of story.

dfwheathen
dfwheathen

@ruddski  Almost spit out my coffee! LMAO! You calling someone a troll.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@ruddski  Well, He IS a positive law advocate where the Constitution is now a Grantor of Rights versus a Limiter of Rights so  yeah, I guess I am.  And by unilaterally parking huge chunks of the Law of this Land it allows Him the latitude to grand AND suspend rights on a whim, thus delivering true transformational governance.  As Holder asserted to a convention of states attorney generals a couple of days ago, this can be applied all up and down the legal line, from local to federal.

Who needs politicians when you've got a Leviathan?

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