My Kingdom for a Sewer. But What About My Councilman?

Categories: Schutze

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I would not trade the councilman on the left for a sewer system.

The other night after talking all day to people about the no-sewer zone around the new University of North Texas at Dallas campus in Southern Dallas, I got to wondering. If the rest of us in other parts of the city had to give up a single part of the normal public infrastructure that keeps us all going, which one would we choose?

For example, which would you rather have, drinking water or a sewer system? Cops? A firehouse nearby? See what I mean? It's not easy.

The no-sewer zone is an area of about 1,000 acres, roughly the size of Highland Park, where the city of Dallas has never seen fit to install sewer mains. Not sewer pipes: you have to pay for those yourself to connect your own property or your own subdivision to the main. I'm talking about the big city-owned mains. There are no mains to connect to in the no-sewer zone.

We have talked about it a lot here. The mayor has a new initiative called "Grow South" to try to overcome some of the inequities between the north and south sides of town by providing economic incentives and mentoring. I've talked to you about people like Robert Pitre, who owns 120 acres in the no-sewer zone. Pitre's position is that he just wants a sewer.

The money has been approved for sewer mains in the no-sewer zone. The city staff has even designed them already. But the city councilman for that district, Tennell Atkins, won't allow any sewer mains to be built for that part of his district. He says putting them in now might screw up some big development plans he has for the area later.

So let's not get into all of that. I want to keep it simple. This is what I've been noodling around: In the no-sewer zone, they have all the other stuff the city provides for the rest of us -- water, cops, firehouses, curbs, gutters, grease-disposal awareness campaigns. But no sewers. So I was thinking, what if they could swap?

What if the people in the area around the UNT-Dallas campus could give something else back to the city in exchange for sewers? Sure, the grease-disposal awareness campaign, yeah, they'd trade that back in a minute for a sewer system. But let's be fair to the city, OK? It has to be something of roughly commensurate value.

When I was trying to figure out that part, I came up with the idea of looking at it the other way. Maybe the best way to put a value on everything the city does for us is to try to figure which parts most of us would trade for a sewer system if we didn't have one.

What about water? You can buy water in the store, but you can't go to the bathroom in the store, not all the time or they'll kick you out. So I might trade running water for a sewer.

I'd hate to give up the cops on account of my neighbors on Friday nights. And by the way, I am NOT the one who calls them. I could see trading firemen for a sewer, because how often does your house burn down compared with how often you have to go to the bathroom? Tough choice, though. Roll of the dice.

That got me thinking about the City Council. Just think how important it is to people to have their own council member. That's something we have fought for in this country pretty much since the British. What if your city councilperson were the one thing standing between you and having a sewer? You know, that kind of changes the equation a little on basic liberty.

Don't get me wrong, I believe City Council people have enormous value to their districts. In fact, I believe having your own City Council person has a value right up there with having a sewer. You could probably call it an even trade.

What if they did this, as a part of the mayor's Grow South deal? What if they gave people a straight-up choice? Which would you rather have? Tennell Atkins or a sewer?

That would be a very interesting one to watch, would it not? What do you say? Should we hold our breath for that to happen? Or hold our noses?



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28 comments
gordonhilgers
gordonhilgers

Interesting fact of history not in Les Miserables, the summer musical: In 1848, Paris exploded in riotous protest, and soon barricades sprang up, and hungry, homeless, impoverished peasants began street warfare.  Soon, this Communard-led rebellion spread from city to country to nearly all of Western Europe.  The causes for this rebellion in 1848 were not political, but rather a result of the vast and unintended social and economic displacements that followed the Industrial Revolution, and typically, the cloistered elite had no idea what was happening.  


Thirty miles outside of the center of Paris, in Versailles, royalty for quite some time had noticed a horrific stench in the air.  Standing on the balcony of the Royal Summer Palace was torturous.  Why?  No sewer system. 

That's right, folks: While the city of Paris had exploded in terms of population in only a matter of years, the typical disposal of human waste was--oddly enough--in the medians between lanes of the magnificent city.  Huge piles of excrement made everyone miserable, and combined with rapacious exploitation by industrialists, farm owners, landlords and merchants, the peasantry, no longer willing to be victimized by a qualitative change in their status as citizens, almost took France down. 

The King?  He was to indisposed with luxury (read: toys) to think about actually ruling and coordinating a massive social and economic change that had tremendous political consequences.  Finally, some genius snapped and decided: We need sewers! 

In other words, when a government is charged with "the general welfare" and "the domestic tranquility" and that oddly-ignored little phrase in the U. S. Constitution's preamble, "...for the people...", does not embrace fundamental changes within the purview of its governance, people are eventually going to get angry and force change down the very throats of those too "indisposed" with luxury and special interests to notice that--nope!--they're not doing their jobs. 

Screw the real estate developments, Councilman Atkins.  While we all realize that development in South Dallas is a primary concern in terms of uplifting that sector of a major metropolitan area, we have to use our common sense here and remember the old axiom, "First Things First". 

oakclifftownie
oakclifftownie

 The money has been approved for sewer mains in the no-sewer zone. The city staff has even designed them already. But the city councilman for that district, Tennell Atkins, won't allow any sewer mains to be built for that part of his district. He says putting them in now might screw up some big development plans he has for the area later.

The money<-----------------------That has been approved must be some kind of magical money that won't lose spending value over time .Right ?

As in the day it is spent it will still have the same purchasing power as the day it was set aside ?

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

Jim, ask Pitre if he has discussed his situation with counsel.

I wonder as the public works for his area were put into a bond package that was approved by the voters, and from what I'm told the bonds were sold and monies from the bonds received by the City, is the City obligated to perform the work that was stated in the bond package?

It would stand to reason the City made representations to the voters and must perform the work which it stated would be done should the voters approve the package.

One would think there's an attorneyout there who might take this on pro bono to prove the point...

WylieH
WylieH

As a part of HUD's proposed settlement with the City of Dallas, aren't they demanding that the City of Dallas put everyone in South Dallas on the City's sewer system?

dc005
dc005

Would seem time for Pitrie or some other person affected by the opposition by Atkins might oughta file a civil suit that will give them the right to take Atkins deposition,  learn exactly what his opposition is based on.  Everything is discoverable under Texas Court Rules.  Unless, of course,  Atkins chooses to take the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination ...   Or,  unless he'll tell us what they are,  without a lawsuit.


One of 14 having "big plans" that aren't disclosed is another confirmation that new Rules are needed to avoid giving Council Members an all-powerful veto in their Districts.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

Gotta have water to flush into the sewer, so the water trade is out.

Used to, all you'd need was a bent County Commissioner. WAIT A MINUTE!?!

The 1,000 acre guys just need to get together and rain cash on Commissioner Price.  Lube the pipe so to speak.  If the City is unwilling to pony up the main, call JWP when you 

absolutely

positively 

HAVE to move mass quantities of crap overnight.

He's the Man to facilitate this BM.

MaxNoDifference
MaxNoDifference

I'll trade my Councilwoman (V. Hill) for a Trinity River Park without a toll road..

ozonelarryb
ozonelarryb

Trade?? Seems like with Atkins, they already got sewer. Or at least contents.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

I wonder if maybe the problem is that Mr. Pitre hired the wrong consultants?



"14-1, all the disadvantages of ward politics with none of the benefits." -- Me



PS: Jim, when will you be publishing the story on Councilcritter Atkins' development plans, for land that he doesn't own?

oakclifftownie
oakclifftownie

So Jim and others how is this one guy able to stop a project that has already been approved ?

HeywoodUBuzzoff
HeywoodUBuzzoff

<i>Which would you rather have: Tennell Atkins or a sewer?</i>  Well, let us have Mr. Atkins give details of his super duper plan for sewers later along with a blank check on his personal bank account to pay for sewer mains if his plans crap out. 

Voot
Voot

As someone who grew up in suburbs where septic tanks were the norm I guess I'm not feeling the horror here I might should be.


But your basic question is still a great one: what Dallas The World Class City amenities would you be willing to trade in? Just me:


1 - Google internet - wouldn't it be great to live in the First World?

2 - Bikes, walkability - if this isn't Amsterdam, see #1

3 - Sewers - see also First World, but .995 World isn't a dealbreaker

4 - Signature bridges - see #2

5 - Cobblestone streets - is that how we're marketing them now, or are you telling me this is Amsterdam?



dc005
dc005

@mavdog I never checked to see if it was appealed,  Judge Anne Packer of the Dallas District Courts ruled that just 'cause a bond package promo showed sailboats and board racing,  that was no guarantee or promise they'd actually be built.  Or some other specific that wasn't.  City has right to change it's reputed mind.  


As Louisiana Gov Earl K. Long famously put it,  when Teddy Kennedy's father-in-law, the bag man,  came running in after Earl vetoed a Bill he'd been paid to sign:  "Governor,  my clients, what am I gonna tell 'em?"   "You can tell 'em I lied to 'em!"

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@mavdog Could the tax-paying citizens, who are on the hook for the bonds, hold the City responsible for the work being completed?  After all, they're the ones who are paying for it.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@mavdog  

He probably needs the tract under contract to a developer with a contingency that the City would extend a trunk line in a timely manner.  

WylieH
WylieH

That's exactly what I was thinking...

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

14-1

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@WylieH  

The property owners aren't "damaged" yet.  They still own land without utility infrastructure.  It's value hasn't changed until development is proposed which needs the trunk lines extended. Then the property owners have a bitch.  The only reason why the property remains il-liquid is because the City will not follow through on the purpose of the bond issuance. 

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@JimSX So now you're back to castigating 14-1?  I thought last week your basic attitude was "you're all shit outta luck".

ozonelarryb
ozonelarryb

Jim, that is a facile, empty response. Plz explain the mechanism by which a single councillor can tell a civil service employee NOT to perform some work approved by the full council.

Thx

ozonelarryb
ozonelarryb

That still is not an explanation. If it's approved by the council, that's the decision of the whole lected government. So why/how can one jerk sidetrack it?

Is this just a nudge nudge wink wink between council members to go along with these petty power plays? Who the hell started this crap, and why do we let it continue?

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

@ozonelarryb  

No, he can't do that, but apparently can decide whether or not the fire house gets improved.  It only applies to items that require council approval.

ozonelarryb
ozonelarryb

Still not explanatory.

So, councilperson dipshit can call the firehouse in his district and tell the chief there NOT to give legislated raises to his firemen?

WTF? And explain how/if my analogy is not apt.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

@ozonelarryb  

It is because the great power that the councilcritters have comes from the fact that on anything that happens in their district that can do one of two things: 1) Say No; or, 2) Not say No.

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