The Dallas City Council had an SRO meeting this week, and a mystery muckraker dug into some doings by the Dallas Visitors and Convention Bureau. Plenty happened last week in Dallas, here are the highlights.
The DCVB money pit
Unpaid muckraker Wylie H. Dallas did a two-part examination of the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau and its role in promoting taxpayers' continued support of a convention center and adjoining hotel that don't seem to be reaping a return. In part 1, he questions claims made to the city's Economic Development Committee by DCVB president Philip Jones that the economic impact of the Dallas Convention Center is growing.
Sifting through the city's financial report, he finds that revenues for the convention center were down by $3.7 million, and the facility appears to cost us $71 million to maintain. Meanwhile, conventions are on the decline, not just in Dallas but nationally. Rather than continuing to plow money into a dying industry — one that Dallas residents don't even get to use — we should maybe spend money on arts, culture and other things that make Dallas a more interesting place to visit.
In part 2, he finds that Dallas' hotel market since the Omni Hotel opened in 2011 has been lower than the national average, despite a disproportionate increase in the DCVB's budget. "Might not spending less on promoting Dallas and more on actually increasing the desirability of Dallas as a place to visit have a more positive impact on the local hotel industry and the economy, in general?" he asks.
City Council sweep
With the town hall meetings done, the Dallas City Council moved this week into workshopping the 2015-16 budget, beginning with a briefing on September 2. It drew a packed house of spectators and included presentations from cultural affairs, the library, park and recreation, and HR.
Most of the attention focused on a presentation by Dallas Animal Services (DAS) manager Jody Jones. Stray dogs have been in the news following a handful of encounters, including some biting incidents, in southern Dallas, mostly in Oak Cliff.
The city's response in the past has entailed "sweeps," where DAS goes out and picks up every loose dog it can catch. Jones pointed out the futility, since pet owners just go out and get another dog to replace the one that was taken away. And there's no room at the shelter to house a big sweep of dogs.
She recommended the creation of a team targeted specifically on southern Dallas, where the stray and loose dog problem is most serious; part of the team's duties would involve education and more spay-and-neuter.
The best part of the meeting was the exchange between council member Philip Kingston and Mayor Mike Rawlings. Kingston was expressing dissatisfaction with the tactics of city manager A.C. Gonzalez, in a manner so direct, it made Rawlings fidgety. Rawlings began to accuse Kingston of making personal attacks. "Cut me off if I cross the line, Mayor," he said. "Otherwise, pipe down."
Alamo round 2
Alamo Manhattan unveiled a revision for the development it's plotting in the Bishop Arts District. Residents found the original plan too blocky. Alamo inserted setbacks and added details to the facade so that it looks more like individual buildings. Alamo president Matt Segrest told KERA that they wanted it to feel like a one-story building at street level. They also widened sidewalks and added bike racks. No jugglers, though.
Body cameras on DPD
The Dallas Police Department has introduced body cameras. According to Deputy Chief Andrew Acord, about 66 officers in Deep Ellum, old East Dallas, downtown, Uptown, the Cedars, and northeast Dallas have them, plus eight officers who've have lots of complaints. That sounds juicy. The department hopes to get 1,000 cameras in the next five years. Other North Texas cities using them already include Fort Worth, DeSoto, and Balch Springs.