City News Roundup

Dicey Fair Park doings dominate this week's dose of Dallas news

Dicey Fair Park doings dominate this week's dose of Dallas news

State Fair
Fair Park's future is a hot topic in Dallas. Photo by Jason Hays

The biggest, and also the worst, news of the week revolved around Fair Park: from a lousy vote by the Dallas City Council to a sudden multi-million dollar windfall.

And you may want to replace your shocks, because the news about our streets is not good. Here's what happened in the city of Dallas this week:

City Council ick
An action by the Dallas City Council at its February 8 meeting will go down as one of its ickiest ever: The Council voted to promote Sean Johnson of the Park Board to the position of vice chairman, replacing former vice chair Jesse Moreno.

The vote came two weeks after the infamous January 26 meeting of the Park Board which included a presentation by State Fair of Texas head Mitchell Glieber. When Moreno and other board members tried to ask questions about finances, Glieber left and Johnson lectured the board members, telling them they needed to "learn their role."

One would think that Johnson's ignorance on what the role of the Park Board should be — i.e., to serve the interests of the city and taxpayers — would be questioned, not rewarded. But nope.

City Council member Tiffinni Young called for Johnson to be promoted. It passed, 8-7. Here are the 8 council members who voted to promote a guy who lectured someone about learning your role and not asking questions: Mayor Mike Rawlings, Erik Wilson, Casey Thomas, Carolyn King Arnold, Rickey Callahan, Tiffinni Young, Lee Kleinman, and Jennifer Gates.

It's hard to see how they can justify the vote, but Rawlings' own Sean Spicer told D Magazine that the mayor was not aware of the Park Board episode. He said that Rawlings voted to promote Johnson for the sake of diversity.

As Barrett Brown put it for D, "The mayor claims to have voted for a black guy to hold the vice chairmanship over a Hispanic guy in the interests of racial diversity. Whereas previously we had a Hispanic guy and a black guy on the board, you see, now we have a black guy and a Hispanic guy."

On top of all this, Johnson seems to have a dicey personal connection to the State Fair. He's employed by the city of Lancaster, reporting to Lancaster Mayor Marcus Knight. Knight's father is Richard Knight Jr., board chairman of the State Fair of Texas.

In summary: Johnson works for the son of the chairman of the State Fair board, which the Park Board is supposed to oversee.

Dallas ISD school board member Miguel Solis said, "@JesseInDallas is one of the finest young public servants our city has to offer." Anonymous persona Wylie H Dallas tweeted, "Would like Sean Johnson to start a lecture series educating @CityOfDallas as to which questions are and aren't allowed to be asked of reps."

Here's $6 million
Completely coincidental and out of the blue and unrelated to any of the drama surrounding Fair Park, the State Fair of Texas has pledged $6 million to the City of Dallas to be used for Fair Park improvements in 2017. They're leaving the decision on how to allocate the money completely up to the discretion of the Park and Recreation director. Just take this money, seriously, we want you to have it.

In addition to the $6 million, the State Fair will also dust and vacuum the entire Fair Park complex and complete several other projects in Fair Park throughout the year as part of its totally-completely-normal annual effort to improve State Fair operations.

Fair Park proposals update
The city of Dallas has given the green light to all three teams who submitted proposals for the management and operation of Fair Park. Those include In The City For Good, the Fair Park nonprofit partnered with Trammell Crow, Spectra, and Biederman Redevelopment Ventures; The Oak Cliff Foundation/Fair Park Redevelopment, Inc., led by Oak Cliff developer Monte Anderson; and Fair Park Texas Foundation, the Walt Humann group. They'll all move forward to the proposal stage.

The city will now hire a consultant to evaluate the proposals and is interviewing four candidates: Chicago-based Hunden Strategic Partners; HR&A Advisors, dubbed "New York's 'it' firm"; Johnson Consulting, a small Chicago firm; and ETM Associates, based in New Jersey.

No bond
The Dallas City Council voted against a bond package dedicated to fixing streets that would have gone on the ballot in May. Council members Philip Kingston, Scott Griggs, and Mark Clayton tried to call a special meeting to get a May vote, but Rawlings pushed it back, blaming the city's financial problems, plus the newness of new city manager T.C. Broadnax, plus he was out of coffee filters.

Creuzot for DA
Former Dallas County State District Judge John Creuzot announced he'll run for District Attorney against Faith Johnson, who was appointed in December 2016 by Governor Greg Abbott. Cruezot has been in private practice as a criminal defense attorney, but served more than 20 years as a State District Judge, presiding over a felony court in Dallas County.