How Would You Score the Debate Between Gates and Miller?

The truth about Preston Center: Latest proposal for the parking garage

A couple of days ago, Phil Crone, Dallas Builders Association Dallas Division executive officer, asked for help plugging the DBA debate planned for April 4 at the division’s monthly meeting. Knowing that Jennifer Staubach Gates had canceled an earlier debate, I jumped on this and called executive editor Joanna England: we’ve got to live stream it!

We got to Maggiano’s, got set up, and were told that we had a problem: Neither candidate had agreed to video of any kind. Jennifer Staubach Gates was seated, and Laura Miller had not yet arrived.

I went right up to Gates and asked if we could live stream. She said yes, of course. The DBA asked Miller when she arrived, and she agreed. The Dallas Morning News was there taking stills. Knowing that residents of District 13 wanted to see this, we also decided to post the hour-and-a-half-long video here on the website.

Keep in mind that the DBA drafted the questions and yes, it was builder-oriented, which is very pertinent to the issues concerning D13: building, growth, density, big houses dwarfing smaller 1950s ranches, traffic, site views, density, highest and best use of land, and did we mention density? Crime and other issues were not discussed, but we will cover those in our soon-to-be published candidate questionnaires. (Ours were so detailed the candidates are all asking for more time.)

During the debate, Dallas Morning News writer Robert Wilonsky messaged me that it was riveting, then asked how I would score the candidates. 

The corner of Preston Rd & Northwest Highway, 2014. It has since been replaced by The Laurel Apartments, the first shot over the bow of the burgeoning Preston Road and Northwest Highway debacle.

 

We have been following the Preston Center/Behind the Pink Wall real estate saga for years. Full disclosure: my mother bought a condo there in the early 1990s, which I still own. My daughter lives in another complex there. Our Jon Anderson lives there. Several dear friends live there. Many Real Estate agents live there. So I just know too much, and I knew when either side was not being entirely truthful.

For example, when Laura Miller stated that 90% of the people living Behind the Pink Wall are against the city’s vision to re-zone the roughly 13 acres constituting PD-15, she was not telling the truth. The truth is 90% of the HOA reps are against the city’s plan. Because of HOA rules, individuals are not allowed to vote individually. Our Audience Engagement Director, Bethany Erickson, asked Miller to clarify her statement via email after the debate. Here’s what she said, as well as the documents she provided:

Councilwoman Gates appointed a PD-15 Steering Committee in May 2018 to come up with a recommendation for a zoning change to PD-15. When that group could not agree on a recommendation, Ms. Gates disbanded the group. To its credit, the group engaged a pro bono architect and urban planner and met separately as a group from their regularly scheduled meetings from September 2018 through December 2018 in order to find a compromise that would be supported by all, or most, of the Pink Wall homeowners and could be presented to the Councilwoman. This was accomplished in December 2018, and committee members representing 90 percent of the Pink Wall homeowners presented Ms. Gates with the compromise, which she did not support. The Steering Committee member who shepherded this effort is Kevin Griffeth, who was appointed to the Steering Committee (along with Grover Wilkins) by Ms. Gates to represent all of the 612 Pink Wall owners outside PD-15. The compromise is currently supported (as the attached document shows) by the Steering Committee members who represent 1,077 of the 1,213 owners behind the Pink Wall (90 percent), which also includes owners in the Athena and Preston Tower; the only owners not in favor of the compromise are the four, small properties located inside PD-15 (136 owners) who support the re-zoning because they either currently have sales contracts on their properties that are conditioned upon the rezoning; or they want the ability to sell under the new, higher zoning conditions. The color-coded map of the Pink Wall, also attached, identifies the buildings containing the 1,077 homeowners who are represented by the Steering Committee members chosen by Ms. Gates and who currently oppose the staff recommendation that Plan Commission will vote on on April 18, which Ms. Gates supports.

Steering Committee Votes as of 2-12-19 by Joanna England on Scribd

PHSNA Map Highlighted W-opposition to Staff Recommendation 1-19 by Joanna England on Scribd

I also know there is a high percentage of renters in this area because many people, like me and like Laura Miller, inherited units from parents. (Laura said she and her husband bought their Athena unit for her mother-in-law when Gates pointed out the hypocrisy of being anti-high-rise when you own a unit in one.)

A systematic, standardized poll of residents behind the pink wall has never been done. Not by mail, not door to door, nor by phone. I do know what we hear from our readers via comments and emails. So I would challenge the veracity of Miller’s statement.

When Miller stated that an alternate plan for the new development had been created by an architect (but ignored by Gates) she was also fibbing. She was referring to a model created after “Several committee members felt no progress was being made, mainly due to the lack of direction and absence of a conceptual vision the city was supposed to provide.” (I’m quoting from an email I received from one of the actual committee members.)

They went a little rogue, pulled in an architectural designer, not an architect, though talented nonetheless. I spoke with him, actually. He told me what he created was a rough conception, a first stab, at a compromising structure. As Gates said correctly, it was a vision. It was not shopped to any developers

 “The “compromise” 10-6-4 plan, just like the Preston Center Area Plan that preceded it, consists of boxes with no ties to economic reality,” says our Jon Anderson, who has covered PD-15 exhaustively. “The plan’s supporters have no idea even on the basics. For example, they have no idea how many cubic feet they’re proposing and how that translates to density. None of the proposed buildings’ sizes are aligned to what’s currently being built in urban Dallas – and there’s a reason, they’re not viable.”

Finally, Preston Center: Gates pulled no punches, had no problem speaking up about her opponent’s motives for getting involved the Preston Center parking garage conversation, maybe the entire D13 race: It was to help out a friend.

Miller said she had a friend ready to donate $10 million to create a park over the current parking garage, the “Deason Family Park”, and put the parking underground. The city has enough money in the bond for semi-underground parking.

Miller said the owners all agreed, and loved this idea. 

The owners who agreed must have been nearby homeowners, or ghosts because the people who actually have control over the garage do not. 

The parking garage is owned by the City of Dallas, but property owners surrounding the garage have parking easements on it, per court order.

There must be unanimous agreement by the owners to do anything to the garage, and the owners do not want a park. 

“There will never be a ground-level, 3 acre park,” says Luke Crosland, who has easements over all the streets and the entire deck. “There will be underground parking, and pocket parks.”

I spoke with developer Robert Dozier briefly last week. For the first time, he told me, there is a unanimous agreement among all the owners, to do something with the garage beside let it rot. That something is a luxury apartment complex with small pocket parks on the corners at street-level, a new parking garage with residences above. Developers have added a park on a top level. He repeated what Crosland said, no park.

8181 Douglas

Frankly, the owners are concerned a street-level park would attract only more of Dallas’ growing and northward expanding homeless population.

Gates said there were strings attached to Miller’s friend’s offer. The friend, wealth management president Doug Deason, son of Darwin Deason and now Miller’s campaign treasurer, told Gates he’d give the dough for the park if the zoning for the Saint Michael’s and All Angels development (apartments, office) was killed. Gates told Deason she supported the park, but not this way. Darwin, who lives in an 18,270-square-foot condo on the 9th floor at 8181 Douglas – across the alley from the church’s proposed development — is apparently concerned about the site view from his condo should the Saint Michael’s zoning be approved.

8181 Douglas #800

Wait, so this all about protecting someone’s site view?

Miller is a very good debater, she grabs the mic, she walks and paces as she speaks. She has mastered the technique you learn when running for public office, to keep on message, validate the question, but steer everything to your talking points (listen to how she responds to/evades Dallas builder Alan Hoffman. Classic.) If only she wouldn’t lie. Miller definitely has a truthfulness problem, said Executive Editor Joanna England, who was present for the debate.

Debating: 9

Fact-check: 2

Gates is not a good debater, which she admits, but she was amazing: Articulate, stayed behind the desk, lobbed a few stingers, and defended her record.

Debating: 8

Fact-check: 10

Both disappointed on the ethics question from JLD Custom Homes founder Jeff Dworkin: Gates said she, Scott Griggs, and Adam Medrano were the sole BS detectors initially when it came to the Dallas County Schools taxpayer ripoff. No one asked about VisitDallas, dang it. Miller described her first encounter with James Fantroy, who served prison time after thousands disappeared from the Paul Quinn Community Development Corp. Fantroy wrote checks to himself, his family, and his campaign using an account of the corporation. (His attorney told jurors that Mr. Fantroy took the money because he was broke.) She said you stop the corruption by pairing three or four Council members with a developer, not one as the current way. That reduces the risk of taking bribes.

Or does it just spread the money out more?

Miller really raised eyebrows when, after Gates pointed out that she would have to recuse herself from any Council work on PD-15 since she owns an investment rental unit at The Athena, said no way. Miller basically refused with a pout. Ironically, Miller had praised Gates earlier for recusing herself from the Transwestern development that scraped Townhouse Row and resulted in the luxury Laurel Apartments. And  City Plan Commissioner Jaynie Schultz, from my District 11, has recused herself from any discussion of PD-15 because she has family members living at The Edgemere. I am awaiting word from the Dallas City Attorney’s office on this.

How would you score them?

This article was updated after further clarification on the Preston Center Parking Corporation from Luke Crosland: underground parking yes, street level park, no

18 Comment

  • Who cares who is a better debater? Totally irrevant. What voters should care about is Laura Miller is uncapable of telling the truth. I have personally witnessed her untruthfulness on numerous occasions regarding these issues and called her on it.

  • I do not understand how anyone with a brain in their head, or any sense of ethics, could possibly vote for Laura Miller.

  • Bottom line Candy, it’s well known that you’re cozy with Ms. Gates so there’s never going to be anything close to unbiased reporting on Candy’s Dirt. I understand sensationalism makes good journalism and that’s why Candy’s Dirt is read ” with a grain of salt” by those smart enough to discern . Here’s a photo of you two commiserating after the debate.

    I was fortunate to have attended and witnessed the debate firsthand and thanks to you, others can watch the video as well ( I highly recommend doing so to anyone who wants to be informed). Then you can draw your own reality-based conclusions on the situation.
    What you will see is that Laura is an eloquent speaker; an open and clear communicator. She has vast experience in the Dallas City Council Arena as a former Mayor and City Council Representative as well as in her career as journalist , and it shows. Jennifer on the other hand has a set of public speaking skills that are rudimentary at best. They include sputtering & stammering and a ubiquitous nervous hand-jive , a notable lack of eye contact and a clear lack of thought or planning , that left a room full of folks feeling awkward for Ms.Gates’ innaprioriate and sophomoric outbursts. And ultimately it does greatly matter when it comes to who’s a better debater, as it is a clear indication of who is a better listener, communicator, thinker, and who has a better understanding of the innate questions & challenges District 13 contains and of how to effectively deal with them.
    Watching the video will give everyone keen insight on just these subjects.
    So thanks again Candy, for providing that video for your audience to see for themself, ” Democracy in Action”

  • Thank you so much for getting to the true facts, especially about the 10/6/4 plan. So much misinformation has been circulated about this entire PD 15 process. Jennifer Gates was the one that came out and delivered facts, not fantasy.

  • I trust that the voters of District 13 will remember all to well Laura Millers divisive and self-serving time as Mayor. Her approval rating by the citizens of Dallas when she left office would have clearly indicated the horrible sentiment for her and her lack of ethics and integrity. If you support her, don’t act surprised to find she only ran for a self-serving agenda and her casual relationship with truth telling will be rivaled only by Donald Trump. She has signs in my neighborhood which she doesn’t even represent. Most of the money supporting her (Deasin, John Corona for example) are also not in her district and live in Highland Park! Tell me the truth….no matter your debate skills! That’s what matters to me! Thanks for the piece Candy and the stream.

  • I would like to know why Laura Miller unfailingly advocates for continued depressed property values in Preston Center West and Behind the Pink Wall.
    Does she have deals with certain developers that have low-balled bids? I wonder.

  • Own a condo on Bandera. Not primary Ms Miller should but out. Let the market prevail.

  • The Laurel is a failure. It’s not attractive. It’s not renting. It’s not up to the standards of Preston Hollow. It’s not a quality building.

    You can thank Laura Miller and the single family homeowners for demanding so many restrictions on what could be developed on the property. Restricting density, height, and lot coverage produces less expensive, lower quality construction.

    We have a once in a generation opportunity to create a signature development in Preston Hollow. One that increases property values for all the other neighborhoods. Progress that moves the area toward the future, instead of tethering it to a 60 year old past.

    • This is not a once in a generation opportunity to develop. Developers are chomping at the bit to dive in this area as soon as possible. All the property down NWH has been bought out by Mark Cuban and an entourage of a vast network of developers under DBAs. The areas within district 13 have been being purchased anonymously by developers the last couple years with an agenda. Non of this is luck or coincidental. The push back is that people want transparency from the developers and the city council members who are pushing this without giving full disclosure. There should be laws that require full disclosure of an agenda and if they want approval of a development then they should release the blue prints and development plans rather than keep them in the dark. They don’t want to share otherwise they would have definitely tried a little harder to provide the information asked for by the community. I have read all the pdf plans thoroughly on the cities website. (the amendment sections) it is purposely written to be unclear and confusing- but basically they give a max height – then you see how many amendments are possible allowing for higher and higher- with no limit of amendments which can be combined. Basically no written max height. My issue is not this one development, but the one after that and after that. Wait till you see NWH in 20 years. Preston hollow should be protected. Developers should go to the bad areas not in the decent good ones. Or at least show people what to expect in 20 years. They should have a say. I want to live in Preston hollow in my retirement which is a long time from now. What will it look like?
      I’d like to live in the home my family owns and have it be a Sanctuary within the ever growing changing city. How amazing would that be? And the property value would be incredible. So I am protecting my right to preserve my future home. No one should have to vote on anything until a full release of development plans are disclosed by the city and the developers.
      Including the development of NWH over the next 20 years. And the plans for NWH east of toll road. West of toll road is being bought out by developers as well to build the next mansion highland park area. It’s being bought out by various DBA’s. They already are working on future plans. So no this is not a once in a generation opportunity. Also, there are plans for Uber car stations and flying car stations – which is being proposed for DFW airport. They have those plans too. I just wish people would open their eyes and see the amazing potential for complete preservation of such a small area. It will be priceless in the future! Imagine New York without Central Park? Think future rather than here and now….

  • The citizens of district 13 deserve to be heard by our representative. So far, that has not happened for me in district 13 with JSG. I have been ignored and not listened to. I want an open and honest debate to hear where the candidates stand. If you are too scared to debate, I have to wonder if you are too scared to hear my opinions and represent me as well. This simply does not bode well for someone in public office. If you feel you are too privileged to listen to your constituent’s, well then we have a problem. You have no idea why you got into public office to begin with.

  • (1) The members of the PD15 Authorized Hearing Steering Committee did not “represent’ the opinions or ideas of any group Behind The Pink Wall” and were not selected for that purpose. They were merely citizen volunteer members of a working group, which is a procedural formality in developing any new City ordinance.

    (2) At the April 2018 lst Community Meeting in the authorized Hearing process, Gates asked for ‘volunteers’ willing to be members on a volunteer working committee (NOT representing any group consensus) to try to come to some agreement on the area. People from the neighborhood submitted their names to be considered As you reported, Gates announced she would not pick anyone who was overtly against the Authorized Hearing Process ( she did not say she would not pick ‘people against development’).

    (3) The volunteers selected in conjunction with Authorized Hearings of specific areas (as is indicated on Gates website in her letter delineating how she selected the volunteers) were residents from The Athena (2) and Preston Tower (2) which was 50% of PD15 and residents from Royal Orleans (1) Preston Place (1) Diplomat (1) and Diamondhead (1). Then two volunteers from the 200 ft. notification area – Grover from Royal Arms, who volunteered) and Kevin Griffith from Gaslight who also volunteered to be on committee. The other member was actually Juli Black from Preston Hollow East – who called Gates to volunteer, and, also, in no way represented the opinions of Preston Hollow. They were ‘representative members’ on the steering committee, not “Representatives” of the condo’s and their points of view. They were merely residents of the areas directly involved representing themselves only as individuals on a temporary working committee. They have absolutely no obligation to present any point of view other than their own, as they were not appointed by their respective condo’s or neighborhoods to present a polled pov/consensus at the committee meetings. Laura Miller clearly knows from her prior experience the difference in ‘community input’ by individual residents on working committees and ‘formal representation’ of am acknowledged group agenda – which must be formally declared.

    (4) It is a misnomer for Laura Miller to keep referring to the group who got together in closed, secret meetings as “The Steering Committee” or even “The Former Steering Committee.” Only 5-6 of the former steering committee members were involved in a process that had nothing to do with the PD15 Authorized Hearing Process, which BY LAW must be announced in advance and open to the public. The other half of the former Steering Committee were in no way involved in these private, closed door meetings. Once the Steering Committee had completed their service and were disbanded due to another total stalemate in reaching a compromise, NO Steering Committee existed any longer. The next step was the CPc’s recommendations, which had no obligations by Code to consider anything the Steering Committee recommended; it is merely a formality to show that the City has allowed community input. That groups meetings were not announced nor open to the public at any time.

    (5) As a former Mayor, Laura Miller is well aware of these facts and how the Authorized Hearing process works and the use of volunteer citizens on tasks forces, steering committees, advisory committees, etc., There are probably 100 of these going on throughout the City right now. I have participated in about 50 of them, the most recent being serving 3 months on the 2017 Bond Task Force where we worked for 3 months and the first words out of the City Council was that they had no intentions of listening to any of our recommendations – a Task Force involving Mike Sorrell, Chad West, Bobby Abhati,Dave King, and other well known city activists, and we only represented our own ideas while trying to do what we thought was best for the District we were representing on the committee. There was no input from anyone in District 13 as to what I should be working towards in the Bond package, nor to any of the other committee members. We were ‘committee members’, not representatives of any group. And, like the PD15 Steering Committee, we were advised of that upfront. No secret meetings were allowed, under law. Kevin Griffith and Grover Wilkins did NOT represent anyone other than themselves as volunteers on a committee.

    (6) I already addressed this in my former email, but Laura Miller, as a former Mayor and in conjunction with her “six years working on zoning issues,” knows firsthand that the City or any government entity cannot mandate in any ordinance how property must be sold or to one developer (as in the 10-6-4) proposal. Again, that proposal was not a solution, nor a compromise, and was irrelevant in the Authorized Hearing or in ANY zoning process. All 7 tracts in PD15 have the unique rights to sell to whatever developer they choose. then if three developers want to get together after the fact an combine interests, that is then their business, but the City can have NO involvement in interfering with property rights and title transfers. Many missed it, but at the 2ne Community Meeting, Gates addressed this issue. Grover Wilkins, in presenting that 10-6-4 Plan at the 2nd Community Meeting as representing the “Steering Committee,” was being totally erroneous and misleading in regard to the facts.

  • Laura Miller was excellent and brought some great points to this debate.
    I am pleased to hear that she is supporting the park development in Preston Center and I can’t wait to hear more about LMiller’s homeless program as well. Once I started hearing about this election a few weeks ago I looked into what LM’s accomplishments were as Mayor and the homeless programs she implicated has been a huge influence on the revamped Downtown we see today – being a place to go and eat and walk around safely with parks and atmosphere.
    I’m thankful Laura Miller was listening to the concerns of the people in Preston Hollow and stepped up to be a representative. I don’t want to see Dallas dictated and areas accidentally ruined by the agenda of a few.
    Development is inevitable and necessary, but so is preservation. If Dallas had had a representative like Laura Miller in the 70’s, it’s likely Ross Avenue would still be a beautiful Historical Street, instead of garages and cheap architecture it is today – the market will influence development but we have to be wise about it.

    • mm

      Yes a park would be nice, but it CANNOT HAPPEN! She cannot dictate a park over another group’s deeded property right, don’t know how much more clear I can make that. This is the US and we thankfully still abide by US laws. Unless the government takes that parking garage by eminent domain, it won’t happen without 100% agreement of the owners. I would LOVE to know what Laura did while Mayor as far as the homeless sit, which has gotten worse with each subsequent term of city leadership. In fact, if factual, I would devote an entire post to that. She said her synagogue adopted one homeless man. Dallas has many, many more.

      • Hi Candy,
        First of all, I am so glad you brought up a very important point! “[she] can not dictate [a park] over another’s deeded property right.”
        Exactly!!! Well said!
        Because the city is trying to dictate the deeded property right of the homeowner’s in Preston Hollow. They are not listening to the homeowners who by law have the right to protect the district they live in. They also have the right to claim that the current approved laws of an area can not be changed bc the agenda of Gates and the developers.
        I would be happy to go back and refind the stats I had found and do more research on the achievements during her term!

        Are you not slightly tired of the “big guys” running over the masses with their agendas? Poor Gates is just the middle man trying to please her family and the people who support her – the developers. She doesn’t know what she’s doing.

        Another fun fact: If you do some research, you will find that Laura technically did not make the final decision for Jerry Jones- it was negotiated between Jerry and the mayor of
        Arlington completely on their own terms. Exactly the same way the Cowboys headquarters location was decided. Jerrys decision.

        • mm

          We are thrilled to have your opinions! Alsp, fyi, sports stadiums never make $ for municipalities, they usually cost us money. I do believe you are right about the Cowboys and Arlington!

  • I fear the contiguous business owners are being short-sited and unduly cautious by not embracing a park. They need look no further than Klyde Warren Park in Dallas, Discovery Green in Houston, Bryant Park and the High Line in New York, and Millenium Park in Chicago to see the staggering benefits of new public spaces done correctly. They should keep an open mind and explore the idea.

    • mm

      Very well could be. How to convince them? See, they are happy with their parcels and income that’s produced on it. Probably do not want to rock the boat. But I agree, a park could energize the area.