Panhandling is a new priority, dynamite is an option, and some of our city officials could benefit from a better understanding of the First Amendment. Here's what happened in Dallas this week:
The Dallas Police Department says that it is cracking down on panhandling, particularly in downtown Dallas. Assistant chief Gary Tittle says that the department has seen an increase in aggressive panhandling in the downtown and surrounding areas over the past few weeks.
"We are going to focus on the downtown and surrounding areas first, and expand accordingly," Tittle says. "One way we are addressing this issue is by educating citizens on other options regarding giving and receiving assistance."
The initiative is running for 16 hours a day, seven days a week. The initiative is not to stop citizens from giving per se, or stop those in need of assistance from getting help.
Removing the "Dallas wave," the whitewater feature that was installed in the Trinity in 2011, may cost more than repairing it.
The Park and Recreation Department told the Park Board that a repair could slow the flow of water through the channels, but that removing it would require damming the river upstream and downstream and rerouting the Trinity.
Board member Rodney Schlosser urged the board to close it down rapidly, and board member Jesse Moreno said he didn't want to throw good money after bad. But board member Paul Sims had the best line: "I am curious why we don’t just put a couple of sticks of dynamite down there and blow it up."
Debt or roads, pick one
Dallas officials this week debated which is cheaper: fix our crumbling roads but go into more debt, or pay off debt and postpone fixing the roads. Mayor Mike Rawlings suggested postponing a bond election scheduled for 2017 that would fix the streets, and pay down our old debt before taking on more.
But the streets are in such bad shape that not repairing them will probably cost more money down the road. The council ultimately agreed that deferring is probably not an option.
Prurient city officials and millionaires about to waste time and possibly our money
Mayor Mike Rawlings is not keen on the return of Exxxotica, a sex-themed event petitioning to return to the Dallas Convention Center in August. An agenda item has been added to the Dallas City Council meeting on February 10 regarding "a resolution regarding a proposed contract with Three Expo Events, LLC for a three-day expo at the Dallas Convention Center."
As city council member Scott Griggs points out, events like this are protected by the First Amendment. The convention, and the city, cannot discriminate based on the nature of the event. People like Ray Hunt mounting a battle against them is a big waste of time and potentially our taxpayer money.
"Every year or so, a federal judge reminds the Dallas City Council that the First Amendment exists and we can't ask for an exception," Griggs says. "Remember in 2013, when a federal judge ruled that Dallas' homeless feeding ordinance violates ministries' religious freedoms? Remember in 2015, when after being sued TWICE in federal court, the Dallas City Council had to pay $270,000 to make protesters' free-speech lawsuit go away?
"Will the mayor and Dallas City Council learn from the past? Or is 2016 the time to waste more taxpayer money fighting a First Amendment lawsuit in federal court?"
The homeless in downtown Dallas are being targeted by dealers of K2, aka synthetic marijuana, defined as "a mixture of industrial chemicals intended to mimic the effects of THC, the naturally occurring active compound found in marijuana."
Synthetic marijuana dealers are targeting the homeless by staking out clients near drug treatment centers, homeless shelters, and mental health clinics. The mounted unit of the Dallas Police Department Field Services posted a photo last week showing two victims whom they rescued.
Love Field parking
Dallas Love Field gets a big chunk of land west of the airport for parking. The Dallas City Council approved a lease by the airport of 2,808 acres located on the west side of the airport at 2225 and 2311 Burbank St.
Following the expiration of the Wright Amendment in October 2013, the airport has experienced increased passenger traffic and demand for additional parking space. These vacant lots will provide additional parking and space for rental cars while Garage C is completed in 2018.