Dallas' Libraries, Among the Nation's Worst Funded, May Actually Get Some More Money

Categories: City Hall

The substantially underfunded Dallas Public Libraries are in desperate need of overhaul, including increased hours of operation and community programs.
On Wednesday, book lovers from across the city showed up in force at the Dallas City Council meeting. It was the first time council members were able to throw amendments at the proposed city budget for the next fiscal year. And supporters of Dallas Public Libraries wanted them to carefully consider the library budget in their decision-making.

After half a decade of budget cuts, Dallas' library system has some of the most limited operation hours of any city library system in the country. It catching up to do if it is to restore competitive hours -- that is, more than 40 hours per week -- and standard facility operations. This last fiscal year, the City of Dallas spent $18.29 per person on its libraries. Houston spent $18.26. Houston's is the worst funded library system in the country. Dallas' is the second-worst.

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How the Mayor's Task Force Wants to Combat Poverty in Dallas

Categories: City Hall

City of Dallas
Doing what he can to fight poverty.
In February, Mayor Mike Rawlings created a task force to fight against what he calls Dallas' "barbell economy." Dallas is a wealthy city, experiencing 68 percent GDP growth between 2000 and 2012, but it is also a city with pockets of concentrated poverty that promote blight and toxic stress for residents.

The task force, headed by Councilman Tennell Atkins, CitySquare president Larry James and attorney Regina Montoya, has been helped in the preceding months by hundreds of people. As you might expect, its recommendations to the council were general, if pragmatic and unlikely to face much opposition.

The recommendation likely to receive the most attention is a plan to leverage the federal Earned Income Tax Credit to reduce poverty and generate revenue for the city.

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Dallas Construction Workers Want the City to Make Working Construction in Dallas Suck Less

Categories: City Hall

Bill Jacobus
DFW construction workers are often denied water or rest breaks during the summer months.
He's still in his 20s, but Amarildo Gonzalez has worked construction in the Dallas area for several years now, traveling the metro area repairing foundations and doing other work. He's worked through rain and ice storms, but the brutal Texas summers are by far the worst -- especially with Texas' notoriously lousy workers' rights regulations. That's why he and his fellow construction workers are lobbying Dallas City Hall for increased worker protections, hoping to duplicate the success of similar lobbying efforts in Austin.

"The hardest thing about working in the construction industry is working in the heat," he says. "The worst thing is that they don't give you permission to drink water and you can get dehydrated and suffer heat exhaustion."

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Dallas Will Allow a New Katy Trail Mid-Rise, Highland Park's Objections Be Damned

Google Maps
The building that's on the site now.
Over the objections of their Park Cities neighbors, the Dallas City Council voted this afternoon to approve a zoning change that will allow for the construction of a new luxury mid-rise apartment building on Cole Avenue site currently occupied by the Saltillo Apartments.

See also: Highland Park, Fighting Luxury Apartment on Katy Trail, Insists It's Not Against Density, Just Tall Buildings

A group of Highland Park residents, their mayor and their attorneys showed up at the meeting to again voice their disapproval for the change, which they complained would cause traffic and parking issues in addition to sullying some Highland Park residents' view of the Katy Trail.

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City Council to Seek More Research for Mayor's Proposed Sex Offender Restrictions

Categories: City Hall, Crime


After receiving the presentation from the city attorney's office and the Dallas Police Department that we told you about on Monday, the Dallas City Council affirmed its unanimous distaste for sex offenders but raised questions about whether the city should enact tougher restrictions on where registered offenders can live.

See also: City Council to Consider New Residency Restrictions for Sex Offenders. Will They Work?

"We need to make sure that we're not watching one segment on the TV news and considering ourselves experts on a complex subject," council member Philip Kingston said, in reference to the May WFAA report that sparked Mayor Mike Rawlings' action on the issue.

The presentation outlined the city's current, limited restrictions on the movement of registered sex offenders and highlighted ordinances in other cities and states that might serve as a model for Dallas.

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Full City Council Takes First Swing at Transportation-for-Hire Ordinance

Many Lyft cars can be identified by their pink mustaches.

Back from its July recess, a divided Dallas City Council took up work again on a package of regulations for cabs and ride-sharing services that aims to bring the city up to date with the changing transportation landscape. Wednesday's hearing was one more step toward a final vote on the new rules, intended to take place in September, barring any roadblocks.

Meet the roadblocks: council members Dwaine Caraway and Tennell Atkins. Atkins said he was worried that the tougher car inspection requirements proposed by the ordinance would lead to worse transportation-for-hire cars being on the road, while Caraway provided an unconfirmed anecdote about a slow Uber pickup and regaled the room with tales of his Uncle Johnny's limo-driving career. Caraway also took the opportunity to complain that none of the 30-plus D-Link buses currently in operation make the trip to South Dallas. That's likely, since the buses are on a fixed route that serves Dallas' centrally located entertainment districts.

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State Health Services Says Dallas Bag Ban Must Exempt Poor People from Five-Cent Fee

Categories: City Hall

Bags like this will soon cost five cents in Dallas. What happens next is anyone's guess.
If the point of a plastic bag fee is get people to stop using plastic bags, then it may not make sense to give the bags away to people who can't afford the fee, though the Texas Department of State Health Services says poor people on federal aid shouldn't have to pay for grocery bags.

A few weeks ago, the state wrote to Dallas City Hall asking if people on food assistance programs would be exempted from paying five cents for disposable bags under the city's new ordinance. If not, Dallas may be breaking the law, argued Mary Alice Winfree, a manager with the state's WIC program. (That's short for Women, Infants and Children, the federally funded program that supports low-income new moms and their kids).

"Will grocers be exempted from charging the five cent per bag fee to individuals purchasing food with WIC and SNAP benefits?" she wrote to Green Dallas, the city's office that promotes environmentally friendly initiatives.

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Dallas City Employees Are Too Fat, So City Hall Now Has a "Chief Wellness Officer"

Categories: City Hall

Mayor Mike Rawlings is his own chief wellness officer.
It's been six months, 11 days, and, oh, about three-and-a-half hours since City Manager A.C. Gonzalez was voted into office on a promise to shake things up at City Hall, and it's finally happened. The city announced today that Gonzalez has injected new blood into upper management by bringing in two fresh faces: Eric Campbell, an assistant city manager in Charlotte, N.C., and Mark McDaniel, the city manager in Tyler.

Kudos to them. Kudos also to Ryan Evans, who has been permanently placed in Gonzalez's former perch as first assistant city manager. But where there are winners, there are also losers.

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Dallas Lawyers Try a Mulish Approach in Defending Protest Law. Judge Cracks Whip.

Thumbnail image for BushCheneyProtestArrest.jpg
Occupy Dallas
Dallas Police Chief David Brown never gave a terribly convincing defense of an ordinance barring protesters from demonstrating near highways. He said it was intended to protect the safety of motorists who might be distracted by a sign-waving demonstrator, but as council member Philip Kingston highlighted as the City Council considered revising the ordinance, Brown produced not a shred of evidence to support his claim.

Several peace activists challenging the constitutionality of the law in court would also like to know the city's rationale for the law, both for the decades-old original ordinance and the updated version passed in January. If a government in America decides to abridge free speech, after all, the courts require there be a compelling reason. Vague allusions of public safety may satisfy two-thirds of the Dallas City Council, but hopefully not a federal judge.

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After Complaints of Racism at Kung Fu Saloon, Dallas Stresses Guidelines on Dress Codes

Categories: City Hall

Cameron Russell
This place can get some training, if it so desires.

On Thursday, the city of Dallas' Fair Housing Office released a presentation outlining its specific policies regarding dress codes and other means of potential discrimination at bars, restaurants and other public accommodations.

There's nothing new in the guidelines, which were seemingly reiterated in response to the multiple charges of racism lodged against Uptown's Kung Fu Saloon earlier this year. Dress codes must be in writing, clearly posted and equitably enforced. Changes to dress codes must be posted at least seven days in advance.

See also: Kung Fu Saloon: Racist Or Simply Wary of Customers Who Like Air Jordans and Hennessy?

The enforcement mechanism for businesses that violate the requirements remains the same as well. Patrons who feel their rights have been violated have to file a complaint; those complaints are then investigated by the city attorney's office.

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