The struggle for transparency in Dallas politics continues, with some politicians prevailing despite personal risk. A southern Dallas college got a windfall, and a dedicated public servant passed on.
Here's how it went down in Dallas this week.
If you know your Trinity toll road, you know that the main justification for building it is that it will reduce traffic. That's the reason it got federal approval. After Mayor Mike Rawlings' Dream Team scaled down the size, they were still saying that a four-lane highway would divert 53,000 cars off I-35 and I-30.
So after the Dream Team's most recent presentation, city council member Scott Griggs asked city staff for the documentation proving the toll road would reduce traffic.
It turns out that the "documentation" consisted of a random estimate made by a city staffer. A story in the Dallas Morning News says that it was "an informal conclusion that assistant Dallas city manager Mark McDaniel arrived at after receiving a three-sentence email from a NCTCOG engineer about how to estimate usage of a slower toll road."
If that's bad, the way that Griggs got the material is worse. McDaniel didn't respond to Griggs' request until after an NCTCOG project engineer warned him that an NCTCOG spokesperson had sent the email to the newspaper. "When asked why he sent the documents to the council on Friday if he didn’t think they were relevant or what was being sought, McDaniel said he didn't want officials to learn about their existence from a reporter," the newspaper wrote.
Pension fund circus
At a special meeting on April 1, the Dallas Police & Fire Pension board voted not to censure city council member Philip Kingston, after Kingston made comments about the Museum Tower building on a local TV show.
The pension fund has suffered financial problems resulting from questionable trips by former administrators and possibly risky investments. Their portfolio includes the Museum Tower high-rise, best known for the glare it casts on its neighbor, the Nasher Sculpture Center.
After Kingston's TV appearance, emails circulated among board members that seemed to imply a campaign against him, including a statement from chairman Samuel Friar that said, "Great ammunition. Just need to fire it at the right time during the meeting."
In a bonkers meeting, the board — made up of policemen, firefighters, and four city council members — approved a policy limiting what information board members have access to. So they basically voted against themselves being fully informed to make proper financial decisions.
The oddest behavior came from assistant chairman and city council member Lee Kleinman, who cut other people off, volleyed insults at Kingston, and threw a fit at the end of the meeting when it didn't go the way he wanted — quite the show for the audience of media, Kingston supporters, and retired fire and police officers.
Paul Quinn College gift
Paul Quinn College received a $3.5 million gift from the Harold Simmons Foundation, the second multi-million donation the college has received in three years. The money will help finance construction of the first new building on the campus in almost 40 years and will fund the college's transition as the nation’s first historically black work college.
The college is home to the We Over Me Farm, an organic farm located in the former football field that has produced more than 30,000 pounds of produce since its inception in March 2010.
Neil Emmons RIP
On March 30, Neil Emmons, a dedicated citizen of Dallas who served on many neighborhood committees and commissions, died in his home; he was 45. Emmons was a Dallas native who served as president of the Oak Lawn Committee, and as a commissioner on the Dallas City Plan Commission for two terms: from 2001 to 2009, and then again currently as an appointee of council member Adam Medrano. A memorial will be held on April 5 at 11 am at St. Rita's Catholic Church, 12521 Inwood Rd.