City News Roundup

Fair Park faces a promising new future and more Dallas city news

Fair Park faces a promising new future and more Dallas city news

Swan boats and Texas Star ferris wheel
But don't we already have a signature Ferris wheel? Photo courtesy of the State Fair of Texas

Dallas had an action-packed week: We've got corruption, a resolution at Fair Park, a shut-down of a car wash, and a Ferris wheel.

Here's what happened in Dallas city news:

Fair Park handoff
Dallas City Council voted unanimously to hand control of Fair Park over to the Fair Park First Foundation, a nonprofit that will oversee management of the park.

Also taking control of the park is Spectra, a Comcast-owned, for-profit organization that will oversee day-to-day park operations for the next two decades. Spectra oversees 300 properties, including 22 other fairgrounds, across the nation.

The city approved $36.4 million to fund Fair Park over the next 10 years.

Spectra is expected to transform the park, which is vacant aside from the annual State Fair of Texas, into a venue that will be used year round. The Fair Park First board is separately tasked with fundraising, supervision of subcontractors, community engagement, outreach, and historic preservation.

Fair Park First is managed by a board overseen by Dan Biederman, the Biederman Redevelopment Ventures executive who is lauded for transforming New York City's Bryant Park.

More corruption
Larry Duncan, former board president of ill-fated Dallas County Schools, a transportation organization that once bused DISD students to and from district campuses, pleaded guilty to one count of tax evasion.

Erin Nealy Cox, the United States Attorney for the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, announced Duncan's guilty plea in a press conference on October 22, alleging that over a four-year span, he accepted $245,000 in campaign contributions from Force Multiplier Solutions president Robert Leonard.

Leonard pleaded guilty earlier this year to conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud in a DCS deal that scored Force Multiplier Solutions a $340,000 servicing agreement and a $25 million licensing agreement to install stop-arm camera equipment on DCS buses. The agreement bankrupted Dallas County Schools and landed Dwaine Caraway in federal court on bribery and corruption charges.

Duncan allegedly used money to pay for things like cash withdrawals, giving money to his wife, and car-related expenses, Cox said. In 2016, he also failed to disclose money to IRS.

Defendants in the DCS are Louisiana real estate consultant Slater Swartwood, former DCS superintendent Rick Sorrells, Force Multiplier Solutions CEO Robert Leonard, former city councilman and Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway, and Duncan, all of whom are accused of public corruption.

Duncan could spend up to a year behind bars and could be forced to pay up to $250,000 in fines.

Car wash
A long-fought battle over a car wash near Fair Park continued this week as the Dallas City Council took a step toward shutting it down.

Jim's Car Wash on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., near Fair Park, has provoked controversy since 2004, when the city argued in a lawsuit that the owners had not done enough to stop crime at the location.

A zoning change that came after the current owners bought the property in the 1990s put the business out of compliance.

The city council's vote puts the business' fate in the hands of the Board of Adjustment, which is tasked with deciding whether or not the car wash has an adverse effect on the surrounding neighborhood.

If the city decides to leave the business open, owner Dale Davenport will have to bring the car wash up to zoning compliance. If it's shuttered by the city, Davenport will be allowed to keep the property and could choose to open a compliant business, which he said he had considered.

Another Ferris wheel
Dallas City Council Wednesday approved a zoning change that moves The Odyssey, a giant Ferris wheel that will reportedly be larger than the London Eye, one step closer to completion.

The 500-foot-tall wheel will be surrounded by a retail development including restaurants, shopping, a performance venue, and a parking garage. Sitting just south of downtown on the Trinity, The Odyssey would offer climate-controlled observation rooms to be enjoyed during the almost 40-minute rotation.