City News Roundup

Visit Dallas audit and DISD candidates top this week's city news

Visit Dallas audit and DISD candidates top this week's city news

B_G Visit Dallas
This is not part of VisitDallas' official B_G campaign. Photo courtesy of Mockingbird Pothole For City Council

Some not-so B_G things are going down with VisitDallas, which received a damning audit from the city of Dallas, accusing city and tourism officials of ignoring city contracts and obligations. Meanwhile, STDs are on the rise. Yikes!

Here's what happened in Dallas this week:

BIG audit
VisitDallas, the city's tourism bureau, was slammed by city auditors who said the agency has never lived up to its end of the contract. What’s more, auditors say city hall officials ignored their oversight responsibilities and failed to collect many millions of dollars on time from VisitDallas.

The audit delivered to the City Council’s government performance and financial management committee at a meeting on February 19 was the first time the city conducted a performance audit of the organization. Financial audits are conducted annually.

VisitDallas receives tens of millions of tax dollars each year intended to lure visitors to the city.

Of the 53 city-wide convention events last year, only 43 percent met the minimum requirements for visitor hotel bookings, Councilman Scott Griggs said. VisitDallas President and CEO Phillip Jones said that current tracking systems don’t account for hotel-night stays booked outside the convention contract, such as travel websites.

Griggs has been a vocal critic of the tourism agency and has publicly questioned Jones’ $700,000 annual compensation package.

The audit has been referred to the full city council for consideration after a motion from Phillip Kingston to terminate the city’s contract failed to pass.

The city of Dallas has never put its tourism bureau to a competitive bid since it began outsourcing tourism in 2013.

STDs on the rise
STD rates are soaring in Dallas County, with gonorrhea, syphilis, and chlamydia surging by 20 percent in 2018, according to a study released by the Centers for Disease Control.

The study reported a fourth consecutive year of increases with nearly 2.3 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis diagnosed in 2017. This number surpasses the previous record set in 2016 by more than 200,000.

People ages 15 to 25 account for about 60 percent of all STD diagnoses. And STDs affect African American and Latino communities at much higher rates.

Local officials point to a lack of resources in low-income neighborhoods.

"Certain communities lack medical care in the sense of education outreach," said Interim Director of Dallas County Health and Human Service Ganesh Shivaramaiyer. "Those areas will not have the resources, will not have the necessary education, the prevention. It doesn’t happen in those areas."

Curfew update
In the ongoing saga of the juvenile curfew, the Dallas NAACP Youth Council is the latest group to come out against the ordinance, which expired in January.

Youth have become the most vocal critics of a curfew, which has disproportionately affected Hispanic and Black teens according to city statistics. The Youth Council is holding a press conference on Saturday to advocate for decriminalizing the teen curfew and outline its adverse effects.

"It is an unfortunate pathway for innocent youth to enter the criminal system sooner. We as the Youth Council believe these excessive consequences are disproportionate to the offense and unnecessary and cause irreparable harm to teenagers," Dallas NAACP Youth Council President Corinne Dorsey said in a statement.

Dallas City Council held a public hearing last week in South Dallas, where they voted to delay curfew considerations for 30 days.

DISD Board candidates
Voters this May will elect three new members to the Dallas ISD Board of Trustees. Candidates are:

District 4
Karla García
Omar Jimenez
Amalia Lozano
Camile D. White

District 5
Maxie Johnson
David King

District 7
Ben Mackey
Brent McDougal

Find a master list of city council candidates here.