Dallas City Council Works Efficiently, Cleans House on DART Board

This was former Dallas  Councilwoman Vonciel Jones Hill’s pool, breeding grounds for West Nile Virus-spreading mosquitoes and Zika. This is who Lee Kleinman wanted on the DART Board (Photo: Eric Nicholson/Dallas Observer)

The brand spanking NEW City Council voted today on the new DART board. This is a very positive move for Dallas real estate ultimately. And they did NOT vote for the appointee my ex-opponent and District 11 City Councilman Lee Kleinman proposed: Vonciel Jones Hill. That is a very good thing!

Here’s the positive news: the new 7 member DART board that represents Dallas will be the four nominated by the transportation committee a few weeks ago: Patrick Kennedy, Jon-Bertrell Killen, Amanda Moreno Lake, and Catherine Cuellar. The three new members voted on today are terrific and also all three are attorneys: Dominique Torres (love, also just ran for City Council), Michelle Krause, and Ray Jackson. Three of these board members — Kennedy, Lake and Krause — voted against that disastrous $ 1 billion bond borrowing for the Cotton Belt. The new board members say they want to focus on core ridership, improving the bus system, and put reliability over expanding rail lines for few riders. Thank God!

A little background: the new Dallas City Council will influence three or four major projects that will shape Dallas for the next 100 plus years.

One of those is public transportation through Dallas Area Rapid Transit, DART, the regional transit agency that runs what they brag is the largest light rail system in the country. It’s also the country’s most inefficient and unreliable system and the city (us) subsidizes every DART rider to about $4 per ticket. Monday night, Jon and I watched the DART line at Fair Park stop with 7/8ths of the seats empty at 10:00 pm. A friend who took the train to the Fair Park Meeting was later than we were, and we drove from Preston Center by car. With Candy driving!

The other  items that will hopefully take place during the next two years? Build/finish/enjoy Trinity Park without a tollroad, get Fair Park under decent leadership and renegotiate the lease terms with the State Fair of Texas. This is a very important decision, as evidenced by what we saw Monday night.

By the way, you know the SFOT has proposed they pay the city the money it owes, but they (SFOT) will decide what to do with the city’s rent money.

Confused? This is just another one of those Twilight Zone things that happens in Dallas and inspired me run for Dallas City Council this spring. According to the 2003 contract (or lease) the State Fair signed with the city of Dallas, the State Fair is obligated to share a portion of its profits for the upkeep and continued maintenance of Fair Park’s historical buildings and grounds. It’s real estate 101: kicking in for the “common space” as almost every commercial tenant does. When Dallas negotiated its lease contract with the SFOT, it said the fair must spend money to help maintain the historic buildings. The State Fair agreed, and signed the contract. 

Except that in 14 years, they have never paid that fee for the common space. And the city never collected. And last summer, the Mayor and his co-horts ALMOST stuck the taxpayers with the bill INSTEAD of collecting from the State Fair.

Last week, the State Fair and city attorneys finally agreed that money has to be paid. (Duh!) It’s somewhere in the millions, enough to maybe make some needed repairs. Of course, Fair Park, needs about $250 million total, but holding the SFOT to its lease will at least provide a down payment of sorts on the work.

But get this: instead of paying a lump sum of what they owe, the SFOT and the Park Board came up with this “memorum of understanding” that lets the State Fair basically get away with murder. Here is the deal. The SFOT is to pay its ten million a year (for 14 years ) into a special fund for capital improvements and major maintenance that they decide how gets used.

In other words, the SFOT will tell the park department what that money can be spent on.

That has to be craziest thing I have ever heard! Show me one successful landlord who lets his tenant decide exactly how maintenance & repair items are going to be spent.

Today’s votes on DART give me great hope that this new city council might actually get some money out of the State Fair of Texas. 

 

One Comment

  • It’s a good piece. You manage to state the obvious. I can’t help but wonder how anyone in their right mind would agree to the kind of deals that the City has – I’m glad some people are exercising their right to free speech and questioning the City’s rationale. Keep posting!