Dwaine Caraway Does a Terrific Vonciel Hill, but Maybe Not a Good Way to Win Her Vote

Categories: City Hall

Dallas Observer
Quite the comedian, this guy.
Update: The Dallas Morning News' Robert Wilonsky reports that Caraway has pulled the Mandela renaming plan and is now calling for Lancaster to be renamed for legendary Booker T. Washington and Roosevelt High School football coach Raymond Hollie.

Earlier in the week Dallas City Council member Dwaine Caraway told The Dallas Morning News that he had the votes necessary to secure the three-quarters majority of the City Council to override the City Plan Commission, which voted 13-1 against his proposal to rename South Lancaster Road after Nelson Mandela.

Wednesday afternoon, it quickly became apparent that he did not.

Public speakers on the issue -- many of them veterans -- spoke against the potential change for the trouble it might cause the VA Hospital and costs it might impose. Multiple council members backed away from the plan.

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City Council Can, In Fact, Vote Against Trinity Toll Road, Says City Attorney

Categories: City Hall

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Not so inevitable.
The Dallas Morning News' Rudy Bush got the scoop: a copy of memo from City Attorney Warren Ernst that says the City Council could walk away from building the Trinity River toll road despite the city's contract with the North Texas Tollway Authority to build the thing.

"There is no commitment of future Council approvals for funding, nor would any such agreement be enforceable," Ernst says in the August 5 memo to council member Scott Griggs, a toll road opponent.

The timetables set up in the original 15-year-old tollway agreement have long lapsed, Ernst says, which opens the project up to termination by the council. Walking away from the agreement could cause what Ernst obliquely referred to as "legal issues" because of the "open-ended nature" of the agreement between the NTTA and the city, but is not impossible as previous councils have been told repeatedly by staff.

That could mean one of three things A) Ernst is wrong; B) staff members who told the council the contract was ironclad were wrong about a $1.5 billion project; or C) those staff members were lying through their teeth.

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Dallas Apartments and Hotels Are Terrible at Recycling

Kevin Dooley
It's really easy to recycle in Dallas if you live in a house. Just dump that unsorted mass of old newspapers, empty soda cans and milk cartons into a cavernous blue bin, drag it to the curb and let one the city's lumbering dump trucks haul it away.

For those who live in apartments -- nearly half of the city's population -- recycling is much, much harder. There's no blue bin, no city dump truck. The average apartment complex doesn't even offer recycling.

Apartments, along with offices, hotels and other businesses, are part of an enormous blind spot in Dallas' recycling efforts. Together, they generate about 83 percent of the garbage that goes into area landfills. Houses account for a mere 17 percent.

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Demolishing Old Buildings in Dallas Is Easier Than Saving Them

Categories: City Hall

Main Street circa 1910. The taller building is the Praetorian, Dallas' first skyscraper, which Headington demolished in 2012.
Tim Headington, the oil billionaire behind the Joule Hotel, has a weird relationship with local preservationists. On the one hand, Preservation Dallas honored him with an achievement award last May for his work on the hotel, which sits in a restored 1927 building. On the other hand, Preservation Dallas Executive Director David Preziosi says that when he tried to talk to someone from Headington's company about the 129-year-old building it also owns across the street from the Joule, nobody got back to him.

"In May, after the article came out about the demolition of the building, we tried contacting [Headington Companies President] Mike Tregoning," Preziosi says, referencing a Dallas Morning News story confirming that the building at 1611 Main was going to be demolished at some point. "We did not get any response back from them."

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One Drained Pond, a Few Chopped Trees Aside, Trinity Project Doing Great, Carolyn Davis Says

Categories: City Hall

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Dallas Observer
At least two people think the Trinity Project is being handled well.
After last week's trading of contemptuous memos, Unfair Park was pretty excited about a potential confrontation between Vonciel Jones Hill and Scott Griggs at Monday's meeting of the city's Transportation and Trinity River Committee. As far as city hall showdowns go, this one was likely to be pretty good, pitting the force who actually wants to increase transperency and accountability in city government against the one who still thinks the Trinity toll road is a good idea.

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

Both Griggs and Hill are concerned with the Trinity-adjacent wetland pond that the city allowed to be drained by contractors so that water from the pond could be used for dust control. Griggs thinks the draining is symptomatic of a mishandled effort; Hill thinks it's a blip on the otherwise good project.

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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

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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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