The pandemic may be casting its shadow across life in Dallas, but the wheels at City Hall keep turning, sorta. There's a new city budget, and a new system for communicating with residents.
DART has new sanitation features to combat COVID-19, and in bad news, there's money troubles at the Dallas Zoo.
Here's what happened in Dallas this week:
City of Dallas budget
City Hall staff has released a new biennial budget for FY 2020-21 and FY 2021-22. According to a release, the city considered two significant factors: the drop in revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to reimagine public safety.
The proposed budget for the first year of the biennial is $3.83 billion and the planned budget for the second year is $3.82 billion. In a statement, Chief Financial Officer Elizabeth Reich notes that the General Fund operating budget "is roughly the same, year over year, even though the needs for services and investment in our community are substantial."
Major investments for FY 2020-21 include expanding the RIGHT Care program responding to behavioral health 911 calls with clinically trained social workers to increase access to services and reduce hospitalization and arrests.
Other investments include:
• Expanded Dallas youth recreational and cultural programming
• Mentoring relationships with the youth
• Job training and apprenticeships
• Physical and mental health initiatives and fun educational activities
• Support for formerly incarcerated people
Furloughs at the Dallas Zoo
The Dallas Zoo has furloughed about 25 percent of their staff of 400, due to COVID-19. According to CBS, they've frozen at least 75 open positions and have permanently closed the Adventure Safari Monorail and the Children's Aquarium. They've also offered their first-ever early retirement incentives.
The zoo, which is privately run, was closed for more three months and is estimating a revenue loss of more than $5 million.
Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) has begun installing face mask and hand sanitizer dispensers on all buses, light rail vehicles, and streetcars. The agency plans to have dispensers available to assist customers on each of their more than 600 buses, 160 light rail vehicles, and four Dallas streetcars by the end of August/early September.
The City of Dallas Office of Communications, Outreach, and Marketing has launched a text message alert system that allows citizens to receive news updates on their mobile phones. The text alert system, which is being administered through GovDelivery, will be used for non-emergency purposes including information on facility closures, event cancellations, and COVID-19 updates. (For emergency notifications such as severe flooding, chemical emergencies, and public safety risks, residents should opt into Dallas Alerts.)
To subscribe, text DALLAS NEWSENG (or DALLAS NOTICIAS for Spanish speaking subscribers) to 468311. The service is free, but standard text messaging and data rates may apply. Hey, here's a quote from Catherine Cuellar, City of Dallas Director of Communications: "By providing residents updates via text, the City of Dallas is helping to close the digital divide and more equitably serving as a trusted primary source of timely information in English and Spanish," Cuellar says.