Dallas Libraries Attempt to Raise Money the City Won't Give Them

Categories: City Hall

James Joel
The city pays for library "buildings and bodies," but anything else the libraries need must be provided by donors.

If the city won't give money to Dallas libraries, maybe the community will. Thursday was North Texas Giving Day, which means Friends of the Dallas Public Libraries, along with other north Texas do-gooder groups, were busy rattling their tin cans for spare change to raise money that, in the library's case, the city should already be providing.

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

Last month, city staff released the budget plan for the next fiscal year. After several rounds of negotiations, the city settled on an additional $3.8 million to go toward the library budget. The raise comes after years of cuts, steadily driving the annual budget from $32 million in 2008 to last year's budget of $22 million.

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Dallas Councilwoman Vonciel Hill Is Really Mad at Scott Griggs for Doing His Job

Categories: City Hall

How dare you say things that make sense, good sir.
Rather than, you know, enunciating her concerns at the city council briefing both she and Scott Griggs attended on Wednesday, Vonciel Jones Hill fired off a memo Wednesday morning chastising her fellow council member for his "inaccurate, incomplete and insulting" writing.

The rest of Hill's memo is less alliterative, but just as biting.

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A Modest Proposal For Fixing A.C. Gonzalez's Already Terrible Briefings

Categories: City Hall

Kent Wang
Do it A.C.. We dare you.
A.C. Gonzalez took the time at the end of Wednesday's City Council briefing to at least wink in the direction transparency. He didn't jump into the open government pool by any means, but he took about 15 minutes at the end of the meeting to spew jargon in the general direction of the council.

He spoke of "management systems integration" and the "Baldrige Approach" while insisting that it's important to do things as quickly as possible, if we can," in an apparent nod to council member Scott Griggs' recent complaints about the city's "paralyzed" Trinity and transportation offices.

See also: Oak Cliff Streetcar Is Paid For, Inexplicably Stalled

Griggs issued a memo outlining those complaints Monday, partly because, he says, any questions council members wish Gonzalez to address during his updates must be submitted in advance, in writing.

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Oak Cliff Streetcar Is Paid For, Inexplicably Stalled

DART_Rendering_Full Unit.jpg
When these cars start rolling, they won't really go anywhere.
In a memo prepared in advance of Dallas City manager A.C. Gonzalez' first of what he promises to be periodic progress report to the City Council, council member Scott Griggs outlined multiple issues with the city's Trinity office and transportation department. Among them is the stagnation of the Oak Cliff streetcar project meant to connect the Omni hotel downtown to the Bishop Arts District.

"In this department you've got the failing to do due diligence in the hiring of the convicted animal abuser to run the horse park, you've got the Houston Street viaduct not getting timely repairs and you have this [the failure to proceed with the streetcar project], the department is absolutely paralyzed," Griggs says.

Phase one of the project only goes the 1.6 miles from Union Station to the intersection of Beckley and Colorado, stopping about three quarters of mile short of Bishop Arts. Until phases two and three are complete, the streetcar doesn't really go anywhere.

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Dallas Broke Its Own Rules to Get Dirt for Its Golf Course. Now, It Wants a Free Pass.

Eric Nicholson
Trinity Watershed Management Director Liz Fernandez (blue hardhat) and her executive staff survey damage to the pond a contractor drained last month.
To understand just how badly City Hall has bungled its stewardship of the section of the Great Trinity Forest sandwiched between the Trinity Forest Golf Course and the Texas Horse Park, you can visit the delicate wetland pond the city illegally let a contractor drain last month for "dust control." From there, you can follow the broad, freshly-blazed dirt road the contractor plowed through a half mile of previously untrammeled forest to where dozens of acres of formerly virgin post-oak savannah have been clear-cut and strip-mined to provide fill for the golf course. You can watch the excavators indifferently scooping sand from an already-gaping pit to feed the lumbering parade of dump trucks shuttling industriously to and from the golf course, and you can turn around and be confronted by the remnants of several hundred mature trees, which have been mulched and piled into towering heaps that bear a resemblance, possibly imagined, to an extended middle finger.

Of you can just talk to Ben Sandifer.

Sandifer, a genial, middle-aged accountant, is perhaps the city's most tireless advocate of the Great Trinity Forest. Disarmingly tall and, when he's not at work, typically clad in Carhart overalls, he has spent years obsessively exploring Dallas' wilderness, chronicling his adventures on the Dallas Trinity Trails blog. His excursions have made him an ardent preservationist, but he is always careful to stay behind the scenes, letting fellow Trinity advocates thrust themselves into the public eye when disputes with the city arise .

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Vonciel Hill and Michael Morris Join Forces and Seek Delay on Car-Service Regulations

Jack Keene
Would be first among equals.
You could see the dark clouds gathering Monday morning. Word had come down from somewhere near Michael Morris' Arlington compound that someone from the North Central Texas Council of Governments was going to make a contribution to the city's interminable discussion about regulating Uber, Lyft, Yellow Cab and any other transportation-for-hire service.

See also: Never Try to Take Public Transit to DFW Transportation King Michael Morris' House

That person, it turned out, was Morris himself, who showed up at the Dallas City Council's transportation committee meeting to regale Vonciel Jones Hill and her charges with the dangers of the city going it alone in the fight to protect citizens from any car service that isn't Yellow Cab.

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The Cruel and Unusual Building of the Texas Horse Park

Dylan Hollingsworth
Kevin Woods wanted to work with the Texas Horse Park. He ended up getting stampeded by it.
Hunched over a table at a Jack in the Box, Kevin Woods doesn't look much like a cowboy. No hat, no belt buckle, no boots, not a horse in sight. Here, tucked between a cluster of warehouses and a bustling urban highway, is about as far from the open range as a Texan can be. With his plain red T-shirt lightly dusted with sheetrock, and his calloused hands entwined in front of him, he looks like the home-repair contractor that he is. But it's a cowboy's blood that runs through Woods. This is a man who's broken wild mustangs and wrestled half-ton steers to submission in soft dirt, who can rope a calf and shoe a horse, who's as comfortable in the saddle as behind the wheel of a truck.

Woods was born into farm life in Stamps, Arkansas, a hollowed-out agricultural town a few miles north of the Louisiana border. He left as fast as he could, fleeing for Toledo, Ohio at 14. He took with him his fondness for horses and livestock, but his passion lay fallow for several years as he clawed for survival. He slept on the streets and rummaged through garbage cans for scraps before he fell in with a gang, started dealing drugs and pulled himself out of homelessness.

"I was one of the drug dealers you didn't want to meet on the streets," he says. "I'm the one Momma warned you about. You know, like I said, I was taught in the school of hard knocks."

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Dallas Spent Five Years and $4.4 Million not Building Veterans Housing, And Dwaine Caraway's Pissed

Categories: City Hall

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City Hall has done its part to make Patriot's Crossing a reality. Over the past five years, it's handed developer Yigal Lelah $4.4 million and promised another $1.3 million in HUD funds. It has endorsed him in three unsuccessful attempts to win lucrative, highly competitive low-income housing tax credits from the state. Mayor Mike Rawlings made it part of his marquee GrowSouth plan. The city really, really wanted this particular project, which would provide 162 units of veterans housing directly across the street from the VA Hospital.

Lelah, meanwhile, has done ... absolutely nothing. Well, not quite nothing. He used the city's money to acquire the land for the project, and he's obviously been very busy behind the scenes marshaling political support (the City Council voted five times to increase funding for the project, which also received an official endorsement from State Senator Royce West), but he's built nothing. For an idea of what that looks like, you can hop in the car and drive down Lancaster Avenue, or you can just hop on Google Streetview. The picture's two years old, but it could have been taken yesterday.

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Dwaine Caraway Has Skipped 52,500 Calories and Dropped 15 Pounds in the Last Three Weeks

Categories: City Hall

Dwaine Caraway (via Facebook)
Dwaine Caraway works out with city of Dallas Wellness Director Forest Turner at the Cotton Bowl.
City Council member Dwaine Caraway might be having a bit of trouble abiding by his own "Pull Your Pants Up" initiative after losing 15 pounds since the start of his Councilman Caraway Wellness Challenge three weeks ago.

Caraway checked in at 300 pounds at the press conference announcing the challenge, a weight he said was the heaviest he'd ever been. He had one last meal at Rudy's Chicken the night before, then started "eating healthier and simply making better food choices," as he told his Facebook audience.

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Dallas Executive Airport's Neighbors Are Being Heard, But Being Listened to Is Something Else

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Eric Salard
The city-owned Dallas Executive Airport has a new website. It's slick, a vast leap forward from the static, text-heavy site that seemed a relic from the dial-up era. Just in time, too, since the airport is on the cusp of a major expansion. There, amidst bold-faced promises of Dallas' "world-class shopping" and "five-star entertainment," in apparent response to pretty well substantiated concerns that neighbors were shut out of the planning process, is a tab headlined "Being a Good Neighbor." It is topped, somewhat puzzlingly, with a photo of Klyde Warren Park but goes on to tout the public outreach that's being done in the area that actually surrounds the airport, some 10 miles to the southwest.

Head over to the DEAneighbors.com, local gadfly Raymond Crawford's agitprop watchdog website, and you'll find documents (e.g. sign-in sheets from key Planning Advisory Committee meetings composed entirely of city staffers and people who do business at DEA) and jeremiads detailing how the public was left out despite the promises and Federal Aviation Administration rules to the contrary.

Two months ago, the city sheepishly apologized and, according to the documents posted by Crawford, then-interim Assistant City Manager Theresa O'Donnell and aviation director Mark Duebner promised to reboot the public-input process so neighbors could have a meaningful say.

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