The Dallas city council is back and the exciting process of government is back in gear. There were conversations this week about the Trinity toll road, the State Fair of Texas and the DART Rail line in downtown Dallas. Let's get to it:
Trinity toll road vote
After questions about the prospect of flooding in the Trinity River, the city council sort of indirectly voted for a four-lane parkway. The vote was really about how to spend the city's remaining $47.7 million in bond money from the 1998 bond proposition.
They ended up with a measure precluding the use of the money "for any development of a road that is greater than the four-lane parkway, to access the parks development and meet transportation needs." As council member Philip Kingston put it, the bench can now be started "in exchange for a weak statement of support for prioritizing transportation last and for a 4-lane road."
"Yesterday's deal came together because both sides — those who really want the [toll road] and those who want Dallas to be something other than a concrete hellscape — saw the deal as advancing toward their preferred outcome," he said.
Downtown rail line
DART and the city are deciding where to put a second train line through downtown Dallas. This second line is viewed as necessary for expansion. Right now, all four DART Rail lines run on the same single track downtown. You can only squeeze so many trains through one track.
DART has offered a new route that will avoid having to knock down new townhomes near the Farmers Market. It would run underground from Victory Station, rise to street level near Field and Young Streets, head east on Young until it gets to City Hall, then over to Jackson before connecting with tracks in Deep Ellum.
The transportation committee will examine alternatives at its meeting on August 24.
A cool $60 mil
Just as budget talks begin, Fox got ahold of an audit showing that $60 million was paid to city employees with no record of manager approval, and 77 employees who received paychecks show no record of having worked at all. Four high-level city employees, including Karl Zavitkovsky and J. Hammond Perot, the director and assistant director of economic development, took many days off, but did not record their absence.
Big Tex slap
The State Fair of Texas does not like to be messed with. In March, Austin attorney Jennifer Riggs filed an open-records request seeking information on the fair's finances, including contracts with the city of Dallas and deals made by its president Mitchell Glieber and past president Errol McKoy. In response, the State Fair sued her, claiming it wasn't a governmental body and didn't have to respond.
Judge Staci Williams ruled on Thursday that the State Fair's lawsuit qualified as a "SLAPP" (strategic lawsuit against public participation) suit, intended to intimidate critics. The judge sanctioned the State Fair to the tune of $38,587.32, plus that same amount for Riggs' attorney fees.