City News Roundup
Dallas County has a new district attorney, and Dallas' Fire Department has a new leader. The Dallas City Council took a look at city streets and how much it will cost to save the crumbling pavement.
Here's what happened in Dallas this week:
New Dallas DA
Dallas District Attorney John Cruezot was sworn into office on New Year's Day, declaring a new approach to criminal justice reform, particularly when it comes to pot and homelessness. Most notably, Cruezot has promised to dismiss all first-time pot possession charges, drastically expanding the county's cite-and-release program.
Under the cite-and-release initiative, officers can issue a court summons to someone who possesses less than 4 ounces of marijuana, rather than arresting them. The countywide program went into effect in 2018, though Dallas has been the only city to take part.
Cruezot’s department also will no longer prosecute simple criminal trespassing cases, which disproportionately punish the homeless. Tossing people in jail won't fix the problem, he said.
"They come out just as homeless as when they went in," Creuzot said. "All they do is relocate somewhere else."
The program won’t apply to residential trespassing.
He also promises to broaden diversion programs to provide treatment for drug users who enter the justice system and retrain prosecutors so they are better prepared to work with drug use and abuse.
Creuzot selected longtime Dallas County prosecutor Kevin Brooks to serve as his first assistant.
Potholes for days
The potholes in your neighborhood aren't getting filled anytime soon. That's the message Dallas city staff gave the city council during a meeting on January 2.
The Public Works Department presented new data about how poorly each thoroughfare and alley score on the city's new pavement condition index. This gives insight into which neighborhoods have the best and worst streets. Unsurprisingly, North Dallas districts have the best road conditions, and downtown and East Dallas score the worst.
A majority of streets will continue crumbling unless Public Works receives billions of dollars in additional funding over the next decade.
To maintain zero street degradation as defined by the pavement condition index, the city's new 0-100 grading system for streets, Dallas would need to budget $94 million more than what's projected for streets in 2021, almost $230 million more than projected for 2022 and more than $180 million above the amount projected in 2023 to be allocated to street maintenance.
New fire chief
A 23-year veteran of the Dallas Fire Rescue now leads the department. Assistant Chief Dominique Artis was promoted to Chief on December 28.
As assistant chief, he oversaw recruiting, which has experienced significant growth in the last two years. In 2018, Dallas Fire-Rescue reached a milestone with 265 new firefighters joining the force, and another 200 recruits in the pipeline.
Artis replaces former chief David Coatney who resigned in December to become director of the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service.
The city didn’t consider any outside applicants.