City News Roundup

City Council sticks up for walkable sidewalks and more Dallas news

City Council sticks up for walkable sidewalks and more Dallas news

Deep Ellum, walking man, downtown
Walking Man doesn't need sidewalks. Walking Man can walk anywhere. Deep Ellum/Facebook

Walkable sidewalks turn out to be a topic on which nearly everyone in Dallas can agree. There's a new 911 feature, and a budget survey you can fill out.

Here's what happened in Dallas news this week:

Sidewalk closed
The Dallas City Council was briefed by the Public Works Department on problems plaguing sidewalks and streets in and around downtown Dallas.

Problem areas include AT&T shutting down a segment of Commerce Street to pedestrians for the purpose of building a pedestrian plaza; and a lengthy re-do of Skillman Avenue near Live Oak Street, three months behind schedule and fraught with safety issues, particularly for pedestrians.

Solutions proposed by Public Works include enforcement and accountability that requires developers to prioritize residents when blocking the right of way and allows the city to nix shoddy contractors from winning future construction contracts with the city.

From August 2018 to March 2019, 13 Public Works officials issued 314 citations to contractors for developers and the city.

A proposed scoring matrix would factor in past experience with contractors so that a lack of emphasis on neighborhoods during construction will bar companies from working with the city, regardless of whether they have the lowest bid or not.

Other improvements to the policy include sealed bids and increased enforcement of right-of-way violations.

City Hall continues work on the scoring matrix and will soon begin public comment sessions. A city council vote is expected this summer.

City auditor
Dallas hired a new city auditor, despite some concerns raised about the hiring process.

On March 27, Mayor and City Council voted to approve Mark Swann as the auditor, effective May 1.

The City Auditor's Office is the independent auditing authority, responsible for managing and conducting financial, performance, and compliance audits of city departments and other entities that receive state or federal funding.

In addition, the office manages and conducts a fraud, waste, and abuse investigative function. Swann will also oversee operations of the Employee Retirement Fund as a member of the fund's board.

Most recently, Swann served as Chief Audit Executive for Nashville and Davidson County in Tennessee. Prior to that, he was city auditor for San Antonio.

But questions arose regarding the firm that was hired to forward candidates to the council. District 14 representative Philip Kingston found what appeared to be a lie on the resume of another candidate, who claimed to have a job he did not hold.

Kingston and others expressed concern over whether the search firm properly vetted all candidates, and called for delay for making a hire. But the council voted 12-3 to approve.

Text to 911
If you're in an emergency and can't make an old-fashioned phone call for help, you can now text 911 for emergency assistance.

The city rolled out the text-to-911 feature to better assist citizens and visitors who have speech impairments or are otherwise unable to speak. Texts will be treated like emergency phone calls, but the Dallas Police Department and Dallas Fire-Rescue have a few do's and dont's.

Do text in simple English, without abbreviations or slang; and do include your location and the type of emergency in the first message.

Don't include videos, images, or emojis; and don't include 911 in a group message.

The city reinforced that calling 911 remains the most reliable way to reach emergency responders. Texting or calling 911 with a prank or false report is a crime, and mobile users can still be located by authorities.

Budget survey
The city is soliciting feedback on its annual budget. A survey asks which city services are most and least important and if you want property taxes to increase, decrease, or remain the same in order to provide adequate services.

You're also asked to divvy up $100 between six major programs, including public safety, neighborhoods, mobility, quality of life, human services, and government financial management.

The survey is open until April 2.