property taxes

(Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Allen Gwinn is a number cruncher. Or a gadfly. Or a muckraker/local political analyst. By day, he teaches at SMU School of Business as a Professor of Practice.

Basically a detailed data miner, he has taught information technology at SMU Cox School of Business for 30 years. For years, Gwinn also ran a popular website called Dallas.org, which was 18,000 registered users rich, as large as many local media sites. As he puts it, “I had lots of bandwidth.”

Now Gwinn is gearing up a reboot of Dallas.org, because he believes that taxpayers need a constant stream of data about government spending. An informed citizenry, he feels, makes better voting decisions, which is why he analyzes public data.

“I’m putting together a bunch of data to analyze revenue and expenses at DISD,” he said by phone. “We can show exactly what tax dollars they are getting. It’s eye-opening. DISD historically has been very, very closed with the very data taxpayers need.” But before we dug into school taxes, I flipped out over his tracking of who pays property taxes. I hope a fainting couch is nearby:

Keep in mind that tax revenues levied on Dallas residents and renters have (not quite) doubled since 2013.” (more…)

Will the city stop playing politics and do what’s right to help the Pink Wall’s PD-15 get the update it deserves? 

Beginning in April 2018, city staff ran the Authorized Hearing process working with the Pink Wall’s PD-15 committee. The Authorized Hearing process, whereby the city oversees a community response to zoning changes, was kicked off because the original 2017 neighborhood committee stalemated. That stalemate can be blamed on the intractable NIMBYism of the Athena and Preston Tower (catch-up on last meeting here). The Authorized Hearing ended in a similar stalemate. At that point, November 2018, city staff was asked by council member Jennifer Gates to write the changes they’d propose to make to update the decades-old PD-15.

Of course, the “N” in NIMBY stands for “Not” and that pretty much summed up the towers’ response.

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You’re the North Texas Tollway Authority, so I get that you’re unlikely to walk a lot to clear your head. But as a minimal driver, I get plenty of walk/think time in.

I was re-reminded recently of your debacle in trying to put a useless tollway down the Trinity River – an automotive Schlitterbahn if you will. As I recall, no one seemed to want it except those who were building it and raking a profit from its operation. Not your finest hour.

But the other shoe no one really talks about is the fact that you were planning to mortgage your soul of tollways and their future revenue generation to secure the funds to pay for it (the part state and fed wouldn’t cough-up).  As I recall hearing, NTTA uses existing tollways and future tolls as “collateral” for more toll roads.  Fine, nothing unusual there.

But that “soul” seems to still be mortgageable. I have a better idea than sending it down a river.

When I think of the petroleum industry, I see them scrambling to ditch “oil” for the less burn-y “energy” just like another greasy business woke up one day as KFC. Both realized they were too narrowly defining themselves in unsustainable language. It’s time for NTTA to broaden its horizons too by replacing “tollway” with “transportation”.

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Have you ever wondered why Texas cities are more liberal than outlying areas?  It’s not a Texas thing.

Large urban environments are typically more ideologically liberal around the globe. Like a blast zone, liberal ideals diminish the further away you get from an urban environment.  But why?  The clichés of vibrancy, higher average education, and these days, younger populations.  But research is beginning shed a slightly different light on the phenomenon.

In a nutshell, liberalism today can be equated with empathy. The regular immersion and interaction between the daily lives of diverse peoples makes it easier to empathize with the effects of policies and ideas on people you know. Conversely, the further people are from those affected by negative actions, the easier it is to accept them. Call it skin in the game.

From the media we select, to friends (sometimes family), to the very real estate we inhabit, humanity has built its own echo chambers (often referred to as “bubbles”) in recent decades.

As a nation we cared more about war when there was a draft that (most) everyone was subjected to. When it was your children or your neighbor who was conscripted, you paid more attention. Would the Vietnam protests have changed the course of that war without mandatory service? Would the U.S. still be in Iraq and Afghanistan were there a draft? Would we have gone at all?

I hear you asking what this has to do with real estate. Simple. The vibrancy brought about by urban environments is not only great at attracting good restaurants and sidewalk-littering scooters, but it’s also good at breeding empathy, which today unfortunately equates to liberalism. Unlike the faceless online world, real life is generally kinder when real people are face-to-face.

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Election

Legos made of Jello. This is important.

It’s 12:19 a.m. on what is now Sunday, and I just filed my election story. I’m saying this because it’s cause for celebration — I believe it was almost 2 a.m. last time. But I also realized that because I have a surplus of awake time now, as well as a surplus of snark, it’s a great time to review what I’ve learned in my time covering elections, and in my time covering this particular election.

Ready? (more…)

Who stands to benefit if District 14’s Philip Kingston is ousted?

I used the above graphic when reporting Lincoln Property’s Katy Trail project failed to pass Dallas City Council in January (after failing City Plan Commission). It was a portend that I thought the arrogance shown by the developer throughout the process hadn’t ended. I’d heard the contract between Lincoln and the Turtle Creek Terrace condos had expired and not been renewed. I’d also heard that it hadn’t been canceled either and that the property was still actively looking to sell.

Just as District 13’s election revolved around development, it appears the District 14 runoff may have some of that same razzle-dazzle.

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candidates

Photo courtesy the National Trust for Historic Preservation

Nobody (at least, media-wise) is asking, but we did. And from the candidates who responded to our questionnaires we sent out a few months ago, we know where many of them stand on an ordinance that is allowing the slow death-by-demolition of one of the country’s few remaining intact Freedman’s towns — the Tenth Street Historic District.

Yes, I said country. It’s also one of the city’s few remaining intact Freedman’s towns, but it cannot be stressed enough — the death of Tenth Street would also be a blow to the preservation, history, and story-keeping of our country, too.

Periodically, I drive through to see the homes that are slated for demolition, knowing that at any one of my drives, I could be looking at an empty lot where there was once a home where a family lived, overcame, thrived, and loved.

There are stories in this neighborhood, and most (if not all) of them happened within the walls of the homes the city of Dallas is capriciously stripping from the community, lot by lot by lot. They’re the stories of a community that has survived in spite of what the city has done to it, not because of what it did for it. (more…)