With the Trinity River Corridor, It's Always the Tail Wagging the Dog

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At this late date, exactly where the idea for the Trinity toll road sprang from, and how it metastasized from a pleasant country lane into a beauty-killing concrete monstrosity, is a moot point. The project long ago developed its own queer logic and momentum and became, in a way, untethered from facts and history.

But understanding the history is important, as it illustrates how policies can be shaped by powerful interests and insider deals. In his piece on the toll road this morning, The Dallas Morning News' Brandon Formby lays out the broad strokes of the Trinity Parkway's history. The common thread is that engineering firm Halff Associates kept pushing the project and kept making money. To wit:

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Trinity Toll Road "Dream Team" Says Dallas Does Not Need Highway Through a Park

Categories: City Hall

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Trinity Commons Foundation
Look! A new watercolor.

BY JIM SCHUTZE AND STEPHEN YOUNG

Over a $125 plate of chicken salad with boiled egg at the Trinity Commons Foundation's annual luncheon, Dallas' betters -- and Jim Schutze -- were the first to hear just what exactly Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings' Trinity toll road "Dream Team" had been up to over the past four months. What they were doing was dreaming about how to get rid of that highway between the levees.

The mayor, who said he hadn't yet seen the report, offered promises of a "big, beautiful park" served by a road that would help develop southern Dallas by making it more accessible. The "bench" for the road, a built-up earthen shelf capable of supporting a minimum six-lane, high-speed freeway, is a great example of how components of the plan for the Trinity River basin can work together, Rawlings said. It will allow 100,000 people a day to see a planned Trinity park and strengthen the river's levees.

Building the road, according to Rawlings, will help make Dallas a "city of choices that can serve an increasingly diverse population."

But, if the mayor really hadn't got an early peek at the Dream Team's proposal, then he must have choked on his chicken when he heard the Dream Team's chair Larry Beasley say a high-speed, limited-access highway was unneeded and would destroy the park.

All the reasons the mayor had just finished citing for building the toll road were countered by Beasley. This much was clear, Rawlings and Beasley were not on the same page.


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DMA-Created, Mike Rawlings-Starring "Uptown Funk" Lip Sync Video Sure Is Something

Categories: City Hall

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Dallas Museum of Art via Youtube
That's Mayor Mike on the right.
Each spring, the Dallas Museum of Art hosts an expensive fundraiser called the Art Ball. It costs $2,500 bucks to attend, features a live auction and, this year, an after-party DJed by Solange Knowles. This year's ball went down Saturday night. None of that really matters, though. What matters is, for the past couple of years, the museum has made a parody video to celebrate the occasion. This year's video features DMA Director Max Anderson fronting a lip synching of Mark Ronson's "Uptown Funk." It's not particularly funny and almost unbearably dorky, but it does feature Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings with his hair up in curlers.

Unfair Park doesn't really have an opinion on any of this, but it's worth noting something Peter Simek said for D Magazine:

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Dallas Set to Roll Out Something Called "City Hall To Go," Seriously

Categories: City Hall

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City of Dallas
When we first saw that the city intends to roll out something called "Dallas City Hall To Go," frankly, we imagined something else. Maybe the city would bring Vonciel Jones Hill to your neighborhood to check your pool chlorine levels or maybe Sheffie Kadane to test your tap water for excess fluoride. Alas, City Hall to Go is something a lot less fun, but a lot more useful.

Taking a cue from a similar Boston program, the city is retrofitting a Chevrolet Express Commercial Cutaway 3500 Van to provide city services in areas where residents might be unlikely to visit Dallas City Hall proper.

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The Defenders of the Great Trinity Forest [Video]

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Sarah Passon
Great Trinity Forest advocate Ben Sandifer on the Texas Buckeye Trail.
Ben Sandifer isn't the Great Trinity Forest's only guardian angel. A small but dedicated contingent of amateur naturalists and environmentalists have devoted themselves to exploring and preserving the thousands of acres of wildlands that follow the Trinity River through southern Dallas. But Sandifer is their leader, and he has emerged in recent years as the forest's most forceful advocate.

See the video: Touring Dallas' Endangered Great Trinity Forest with Ben Sandifer

This wasn't Sandifer's intent when he first plunged into the forest. A corporate accountant by day, he was basically a weekend warrior, albeit one prone to wandering off established trails and taking breathtaking photographs, which he would post on his Dallas Trinity Trails blog.

But Sandifer's hobby has become increasingly political as City Hall has latched onto the Great Trinity Forest as a potential boon to economic development in southern Dallas. As the city began work on a massive equestrian center, a world-class golf course and miles of concrete trails, often with little regard for the environment, Sandifer began lobbying to protect threatened areas.

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Kingston: "Rely on the State of Texas for Public Health and Safety, You Get the West Explosion"

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Philip Kingston for City Council
Clay Jenkins, Philip Kingston (and Lee Kleinman) in happier times.
Ahead of a vote next week in the Texas House of Representatives on a bill that would strip Texas cities of most of their power to regulate a certain resource extraction process that totally doesn't cause earthquakes or flaming tap water and will carry the United States to energy independence, local leaders including Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins and Dallas City Council Member Philip Kingston denounced the measure at City Hall on Thursday.

Kingston, as you can hear in KERA's audio of the press conference, gave what has to be the definitive quote of Dallas' fight to stop HB 40.

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Mayor to Tell Us All About the Trinity Toll Road Dream Next Week

Categories: City Hall

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Dallas Observer
One doubts the mayor will look this contemplative next week.
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings took the time Wednesday to finally tell us when we we're all going to get to hear about the sure-to-be-revelatory findings of his self-convened Trinity toll road "dream team."

Rawlings, who says he asked the team to design a road consistent with both a meandering parkway and the high speed tollway called for by the Federal Highway Administration when it signed off on the road, said the first to hear about the dream team plan will be the diners at a $125-a-head nonprofit lunch next Tuesday, April 14. For the rest of us plebes, a special City Council meeting called for Thursday will give us our first peek into the dream team universe.

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Mike Rawlings, Philip Kingston and the Trinity Toll Road, Somebody's Either Wrong or Full of It

Categories: City Hall

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City of Dallas
Late Friday afternoon, the Federal Highway Administration issued its record of decision (ROD) for the Trinity toll road.

As everybody anywhere knows, a ROD is the FHWA's final step in a process under the NEPA that begins with an NOI, a draft EIS, final EIS and then ROD.

We SYN (shit you not).

What the ROD is in physical terms is a 190-page slog, unfit to be read in full by anybody but masochists. There was one line, though, that stuck out because it again confirmed one of the hardest facts for toll road supporters to argue around.

"This decision selects the Alternative 3C as the only practicable alternative [for the building of the road]," the ROD says.

Alternative 3C is more commonly known as that big freakin' toll road between the Trinity River levees that keeps grinding on no matter what. So the highway administration says, "well all-righty then, if you want."

For the increasingly small sample of the Dallas political community that supports the building of a toll road between the Trinity levees, "we don't know what the road looks like" and "I support the Balanced Vision Plan" have become mantras. Figuring out what these statements mean, especially when there's only been one version of the road approved by the Army Corps of Engineers, and now the FHWA, is difficult.

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Dallas Set to Try Revamping its Day-Labor Sites

Categories: City Hall

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City of Dallas
Garland's Saturn Road day labor center.
Monday morning in Dallas, if you'd gotten up without a permanent job and gone out seeking a couple of hours of physical labor to make whatever ends meet you could, you might have headed to 7-Eleven at Marsalis Avenue and Eighth Street in Dallas or the closed Sam's Club on Park Lane in North Dallas. Once there, if you managed to get a job for the day, you might get four or five hours of work.

The city estimates that Dallas day laborers picked up at current, unregulated sites make about $10 an hour. Workers have little protection from exploitation or wage theft, unless they head to one of the day labor centers available in the suburbs.

Both Plano and Garland have day labor centers to connect workers with contractors. Both locations are near DART-rail stations. The Garland center allows for outside services like ESL-education and HIV testing, but doesn't interfere with the workers contractors select. The Plano center doesn't allow outside services and connects workers to contractors by lottery. Dallas city staff is looking at both models, in addition to organizing at current sites, as a way forward out of the ad-hoc system currently prevalent in the city.

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Dallas Council Member Kingston: Trinity Toll Road Built on a Pack of Lies

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Stephen Young
Philip Kingston
Those who wanted a bit of theater at Dallas City Hall on Wednesday -- us, for instance -- didn't get exactly what they wanted, but Dallas City Council member Philip Kingston made sure they didn't go home empty handed.

Kingston, the id of Trinity toll road opposition, and Vonciel Jones Hill, his pro-toll road opposite number, had signed up as open microphone speakers at Wednesday's council meeting. Kingston signed up in response to a memo from Mayor Mike Rawlings criticizing members of the council for discussing the toll at a March 4 council meeting, when it wasn't on the agenda. Hill signed up because Kingston did.

Unfortunately for those who like chaos, Dallas City Attorney Warren Ernst had the two council members be taken off the open-microphone speakers' list because, like the off-agenda discussion three weeks ago, letting them open up about an issue that's not on the council's agenda would have violated the Texas Open Meeting Act. Regular citizens can talk about whatever they wish during the open-microphone session, but council members are council members and bound by the law, even if they climb down from the council dais and stand among the plebes.

Kingston, who said he did not agree with Ernst's reading of the law, decided to hold a press conference instead.

See also: Mayor Rawlings Claims Scott Griggs Broke Law with His Trinity Toll Road Jeremiad

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