Dallas City Hall and Trinity East Have Teamed Up to Keep Their Fracking Fight in the Dark

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Jay Barker
Back in February of 2013, Schutze shook loose a secret memo showing that City Manager Mary Suhm had struck a secret deal with Trinity East Energy to allow gas drilling on city parkland while, at the same time, promising the City Council that there would be no gas drilling on city parkland. The memo offered a rare glimpse behind the curtain at City Hall, a place where an unelected bureaucrat can and often does flout the will of the people.

One can almost imagine Suhm and Trinity East execs huddled in a dimly lit back room somewhere, a dense cloud of cigar smoke hanging about their heads, their knowing chuckle building to sinister peals of laughter as they imagine playgrounds being replaced by drilling rigs.

Plant that image in your mind, because that could be as close as Dallas gets to actually discovering what transpired between city officials and Trinity East.

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Federal Judge Sanctions Dallas in Protest Lawsuit

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Occupy Dallas
The Dallas City Council's decision last week to repeal its anti-protest ordinance -- the one that has irked both the far left and far right, from the peaceniks railing against the Bush Presidential Library to the Obama-hating patriots -- was a tacit admission that banning people from protesting next to highways is probably unconstitutional, no matter how many times Dallas Police Chief David Brown says it's dangerous.

That realization came too late to save the city from a pair of free speech lawsuits (neither of which, for the record, is going away), and it came too late to save the city from legal sanctions brought on by its apparent legal strategy of mindless obstructionism.

We mentioned here before that the federal judge handling the lawsuit filed by the Bush Library protesters wasn't very happy with the city's knee-jerk refusal to answer rudimentary questions about how the anti-protest ordinance was drafted. Last Wednesday, the same day the City Council repealed the ordinance, a different judge, U.S. Magistrate David Horan, slapped the city with sanctions for its obstructionism.

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Philip Kingston Is Pissed About the Mayor's Trinity Toll Road Breakfast

Here you go, Mr. Mayor.
One thing is clear after Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings' 15-minute speech Wednesday at a Trinity Groves breakfast: It can't possibly be about what he said it was about. There is no way that after all the time, all the "balloon juice," that's been expelled over the issue, that he can possibly be befuddled over what the road will look like or how he feels about it.
"I don't understand how a guy can be the mayor of Dallas and say that he's confused about this project. I don't think that's acceptable," says Philip Kingston, Dallas City Council member and curator of the Trinity Toll Road Naughty and Nice List.

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Anchia Survey Finds That Everybody Hates the Damn Trinity Toll Road

Rafael Anchia
And the survey says...
The results are in from state Representative Rafael Anchia's survey of Dallas residents' feelings about the Trinity toll road. They are exactly what you'd expect.

Of 1,014 respondents who reported Dallas ZIP codes, only 42 said they supported the toll road, and 955 were against the toll road and. Somewhat inexplicably, 17 people cared enough to log in and take the survey but said they needed more information about a project that's been in the works for more than 15 years.

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Dallas City Employees Are Fat, Some Are Fatter Than Others

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Dwaine Caraway (via Facebook)
Council member Dwaine Caraway doing his part to support A.C.'s initiative.
As we've mentioned before, City Manager A.C. Gonzalez's presentations at the end of City Council briefings are frequently excruciating and uninformative. Tuesday, though, there was an interesting tidbit in the midst of Gonzalez's promotion of the city's wellness initiative for city employees.

After singling out City Council member Dwaine Caraway's eager adoption of the wellness program, Gonzalez revealed that a full 20 percent of the city's employees are morbidly obese and 80 percent are at least somewhat overweight.

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New Rules for Taxis, Uber, Lyft, Etc. Up for December 10 Vote

Uber, Yellow Cab and Lyft's apps.
A debate that began more than a year ago when City Manager A.C. Gonzalez tried to slip an ordinance that would have banned car services like Uber and Lyft in Dallas will likely end December 10, when the council takes up new regulations for transportation-for-hire businesses.

The new regulations that will probably pass on the 10th -- it's clear that the proposal has at least eight votes from the 14 members of the council and the mayor -- are very similar to the existing regulations for cab companies, but they at least attempt incorporate the cell phone app-based services like Uber in a way that won't render them useless.

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Philip Kingston's Toll Road Naughty and Nice List Is Essential Reading

Categories: City Hall

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Dallas' No. 1 political Rorschach test.
Like the river its supposed to run beside, everything about the Trinity toll road is murky. It's hard to know where the funding for the toll road will come from, hard to know what it will look like if it ever gets built and harder still to figure out why anyone thinks it should be built.

City Council member Philip Kingston, one of the strongest voices in the city against the toll road, has completed a little project to do his part to clear things up. Kingston has managed to collect the most extensive documentation we've seen on who exactly is for, and who exactly is against, the toll road.

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Dallas Unveils World's Saddest Bike Sharing Program

Eric Nicholson
On Thursday afternoon, a dozen or so journalists stood in an awkward semi-circle near the Women's Museum at Fair Park, gazing at Dallas' first bike-share station. They had been promised that Mayor Mike Rawlings would be there at 3:30 p.m. to take the inaugural ride on one of the gleaming blue bicycles arrayed on the docking station before them, but the designated time had come and gone with no sign of the mayor. Dallas park director Willis Winters, the only punctual city official, stood on the fringe checking his email and looking not particularly eager to steal the show.

The reporters waited, grousing idly about the temperature, which hovered in the mid-30s. And they waited some more. Initially, the bike-share program at Fair Park was scheduled to go live early last summer, when it was still warm. But delays, including objections from the Dallas Landmark Commission over the location of one of the docking stations, delayed the unveiling to the fall, and the State Fair precluded an October debut. Hence the launch on the day of the season's first freeze.

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Dallas City Council Doesn't Think Construction Workers Deserve Rest or Water Breaks

Categories: City Hall

Daquella manera
The City Council keeps delaying the passage of an ordinance to require rest and water breaks for Dallas workers. What gives?

At Wednesday's City Council meeting, a group of Dallas day laborers and representatives from the Workers Defense Project were out in full force to advocate for local workers' rights. Their appearance yesterday was the latest in a push over the last several months to require Dallas employers to allow water and restroom breaks for workers -- an issue which particularly affects construction and minimum wage workers and day laborers.

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

It's an issue that, three months ago, City Council members overwhelmingly supported. But now, it seems to have stalled. So what exactly is the problem? Bureaucracy. The Dallas City Council doesn't want to make employers to give their workers water and restroom breaks because that might not be the City Council's problem.

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Vonciel Jones Hill and Carolyn Davis Star in Bizarre Council Fight Over City Collections

Categories: City Hall

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Dallas Observer
Vonciel Jones Hill and Carolyn Davis in happier times.
The issue at hand is a little wonky, but not too complicated. The Dallas City Council took bids for a contract to collect fines for the city's municipal courts. In the next fiscal year, the contract holder is expected to resolve more than 150,000 cases. MSB Government Services submitted the bid most favorable to the city by far, and was awarded the contract by an 8-7 vote Wednesday afternoon.

Right. Like it was that easy.

Since 2002, the law firm Linebarger, Goggan, Blair and Sampson has held the contract and submitted a bid for the new one, but it finished third under the city's scoring system this time. MSB had the highest-scoring bid, because it guarantees the city almost $21.9 million. Linebarger only guaranteed the city $300,000 -- not that they wouldn't have collected more for the city. That's just how much they were willing to guarantee in advance.

What MSB doesn't have is DeMetris Sampson as a former partner, or her firm's history of making generous political donations across Texas. Sampson is a longtime figure in southern Dallas politics and close associate of political consultant Kathy Nealy, Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price's co-defendant in a pending corruption case in federal court. We're not saying the Nealy/Price case is in any way related to the city bid. It's just fun to note all the links that crop up in local politics.

Anyway, the point is that MSB submitted the best bid by the city's own rules, the well wired Linebarger et al came in third and several members of the City Council wanted to reconsider the bidding process for some reason.

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