City News Roundup
Butts out for cigarette smokers and more top Dallas city news
The city of Dallas made life a little less friendly for cigarette smokers, and in case you haven't heard, we elected a new president. Here's what happened in Dallas news this week:
Blue Dallas County
President Donald Trump won the state of Texas with 53 percent of the vote, but Dallas was one of the few counties, and the only county in North Texas, to vote blue. Hillary Clinton won Dallas County by nearly double, earning 61 percent of the vote versus Trump's 35 percent. Frontburner breaks it down district-by-district, with Jennifer Staubach Gates' district 13 being staunch Trump territory.
Texas state Representative Kenneth Sheets, who was the Republican incumbent in East Dallas, lost his seat to attorney Victoria Neave.
At its November 9 meeting, the Dallas City Council approved a long-sought-after smoking ban. The agreement makes smoking illegal in most Dallas parks, starting in March. Fines for violating the ordinance could be as much as $200.
Approved by an 8-6 vote, the ban is not as complete as some council members would prefer. Earlier this year, the Quality of Life Committee supported a ban without exemptions, amending the Park and Recreation Department’s original recommendation. The agreed-upon exceptions from the parks department were reintroduced during the meeting. They include city-owned golf courses, the Elm Fork Shooting Range, and park events in leased spaces like the State Fair of Texas and the Dallas Arboretum, who will be able to establish their own smoking rules.
So, why reintroduce the exceptions? According to the Dallas Observer, some feared the ban would make certain city-owned facilities less popular. City council member Rickey Callahan, who sponsored the amendment, claimed that golfers like to smoke and, faced with a smoking ban, would instead go to courses without bans. Ditto shooting sports.
Dallas City Hall has the rest of the month to prove the city spent nearly $30 million dollars properly on 54 affordable housing projects. According to the Texas Tribune, a letter sent from HUD stems from an internal audit that found the city does not have proper documentation to show why city employees steered federal funds to particular projects and how they later followed through on compliance.
In a letter sent to city manager AC Gonzalez, Shirley Henley, a HUD community planning and development director in Fort Worth, said that her agency's main concern is finding documentation that would confirm whether the city's approach to distributing federal funds was correct.
Affordable housing has been a hot topic in Dallas as a result of a conflict between the city and landlord HMK, owner of more than 300 low-rent homes in West Dallas.
Pay hike for police and fire
After nearly a year of discussion, the city has reached an agreement with Police and Fire to increase salaries by 27 percent for newer officers. The increase is aimed at keeping young officers in Dallas. Tenured officers also will receive a pay increase.
Police and fire department members will vote on the deal, and then it goes to the Dallas City Council. Three years ago the city approved an agreement that increased stagnant wages for police and fire department members for the first time in years.