City News Roundup

Dallas City Council puts VisitDallas on the ropes and more city news

Dallas City Council puts VisitDallas on the ropes and more city news

Dallas Convention Center
Despite "promotion" from VisitDallas, the Dallas Convention Center still operates at a loss. Photo courtesy of Dallas CVB

The Dallas City Council had much to mull over this week, including updates on VisitDallas and housing for the homeless. Meanwhile, Dallas has reached the final chapter in its Confederate statue saga.

Here's what happened in Dallas this week:

VisitDallas on watch
At the May 15 Dallas City Council meeting, city staff and VisitDallas officials presented 20 measures they are taking to correct numerous accounting and contract issues identified in an audit of the tourism board that was published in January.

Some council members support a contract extension with VisitDallas including Casey Thomas, Tennell Atkins, Kevin Felder, and Rickey Callahan. But no vote was taken.

The briefing covered a number of corrective actions proposed to bring accountability to the agency that can't explain how it uses tax dollars. VisitDallas will now be under weekly scrutiny on key performance metrics, such as economic impact, bookings, and convention rentals. The city will also begin monthly checks on compensation and expenses.

Among the fixes: hiring two outside firms (one for the city, one for VisitDallas) to ensure proper goals and metrics are in place.

The contract with VisitDallas expires in 2020, and some council members are pushing for an open-bidding process.

"My sense is that competitive bidding fixes a lot of things," said District 14 representative Philip Kingston. "If everything you told us is true, and all these wonderful structural reforms can be implemented, and the city of Dallas will have near-perfect oversight of all this, then it would merely make you all the strongest possible bidder. Right?"

Homes for homeless
The Office of Homeless Solutions presented strategies for creating housing and emergency shelter for homeless individuals. In 2017, Dallas voters approved a $20 million bond for housing the homeless.

The plans included three sites where apartments can be built.

Adam McGough complained that the area around the location proposed for his district is already plagued by crime, and a homeless housing development may worsen crime rates.

Phillip Kingston said there would be no problem with the two sites on Haskell Avenue in his district. He also proposed additional sites, including one in Uptown used by Dallas Water Utilities to access the Mill Creek Tunnel.

Sites are being chosen using four criteria, including access to public transportation, parks, and libraries. A main factor is a tricky calculation of several economic factors known as the Market Value Analysis, or MVA, which uses a scale to indicate economic stability.

Homeless Solutions also presented a plan to allow churches and other organizations to use their facilities to provide shelter during extreme cold and hot weather, IE below 32 degrees between December and March, and above 100 degrees between June and September.

Council is expected to vote on the inclement weather shelters on May 22.

HUD budget
The city of Dallas will approve the proposed Housing and Urban Development consolidated plan on May 22, but before that, City Council discussed amendments during a briefing May 15.

The plan is a $30 million budget, which provides affordable housing, homebuyer assistance, homeless shelter, and other programs.

Residents will have a final opportunity to weigh in at a public hearing at the May 22 council meeting.

Confederate demolition
At its meeting on May 16, the City Plan Commission unanimously affirmed that the Confederate Monument should be removed from Pioneer Cemetery near City Hall. The CPC vote was the final hurdle to clear before the five towering statues can be pulled up from the historic cemetery.

The demolition permit was already approved by City Council and the Landmark Commission, with the CPC hearing final appeals from Confederate monument supporters. CPC buried the decision at the very end of the agenda, forcing public speakers to wait out a marathon eight-hour meeting chock full of zoning requests. Supporters of Confederate monuments also paid $700 to protest the demolition permit.

The monument is already draped in thick sheets of black plastic, and city staff is in the process of choosing a contractor to yank it up. The city has budgeted $500,000 for the removal and storage, anticipated to take place in the summer.

Pedestrian safety
TxDOT is increasing its consideration of bicyclists and pedestrians in the development of transportation projects, as part of design, construction, and maintenance of state roadways and in the development of federally funded transportation projects. Part of that is this online survey citizens can take to help prioritize topics such as sidewalk conditions and disconnected facilities. Deadline for the survey is June 7.

Freeway closure
The nightly eastbound closure of US 175 (C.F. Hawn Freeway) that began May 9 has been extended through May 24 to set bridge beams on the north and southbound bridges. The closures will take place from 10:30 pm to 6 am. Eastbound lanes of the highway will close nightly at the intersection of SH 310.