Dallas electionsFourteen Dallas City Council seats and three Dallas Independent School District trustee seats are up for grabs on May 6. I’ll start saying this early — as I always do: It can cost somewhere around $1 million to hold an election, and in most May Dallas elections, we see less than 10 percent of voters turning out to vote.

And it really couldn’t be much easier. Check and see if you’re registered to vote here.  If you’re not, you can click here to register. If you vote early, you can vote at any early voting polling location in the county – so on your way to work, during your lunch break, on your way home, or even on a Saturday. The last day to register to vote is April 6. Early voting begins April 24 and will continue through May 2 for all Dallas elections.

The last day to register to vote is April 6. Early voting begins April 24 and will continue through May 2. You can even vote on a Saturday or a Sunday.

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The Lake Highlands neighborhood that might be home to the proposed White Rock Trail Elementary is pretty adamant about its opposition, citing a deed restriction at the top of its list of reasons. (Photo courtesy Rahul Yodh)

The Lake Highlands neighborhood that might be home to the proposed White Rock Trail Elementary is pretty adamant about its opposition, citing a deed restriction at the top of its list of reasons. (Photo courtesy Rahul Yodh)

If you build a school, but most of the neighborhood is against it, will they come?

That was the question I was left pondering after conversations on both sides of a debate over whether the proposed site for White Rock Valley Elementary. On one side, you have Richardson ISD, who insists that the site – bordered by Walnut Hill, White Rock Trail and DART tracks is the most viable option. On the other, you have the parents and neighbors who insist the site is dangerous, expensive and potentially unallowable because of a public deed restriction in place since the 1970s.

The opposition has coalesced into a grassroots group – “We Have a Voice.” Rahul Yodh, its spokesman, says that the group realizes that overcrowding at White Rock Elementary means something must be done – but not at this site. (more…)

Future of Fair park mtgOn Thursday evening, Dallas City Councilwoman for District 7, Tiffinni Young, held an evening meeting at Fair Park in the African American Museum to fully inform her constituents about the Humann Plan for Fair park.

John Jenkins from the Dallas Park & Recreation Board was there to explain proposal basics, and Walt Humann took the stage with microphone to talk details. We are posting videos of the meeting here. Full disclosure: they were created by The Foundation for Community Empowerment, founded by Don Williams.

Just for your information, the videos are broken into eight segments. The meeting started with Mr. Jenkins, then Walt Humann took the stage, then Tiffinni Young wrapped.

Instead of offering Q&A with the audience immediately after the presentation, Tiffinni explained they would have break out groups, one with her, one with Mr. Humann, one with Adam McGough.

Young, McGough, and Monica Alonzo are the three Dallas City Council members charged with negotiating and revising the contract presented at the Dallas City Council briefing August 29.

At least one of the attendees thought the break-out method was unusual – I have been to many seminars and while break-out groups usually occur within a meeting, I have never seen them used as AFTER a meeting, unless you come back to everyone and “report” on what each group produced. This gentleman used this as another example of the City’s refusal to discuss the Fair Park Foundation plan openly. Why NOT an audience Q&A? (more…)

City Hall Fair park

There were a few empty seats at City Hall on Monday, but not many…

That’s why he is pushing this plan so hard, even if it costs taxpayers $7 to $9 million a year. Even if it doesn’t include a park. Even if it is just a camo jobs program that will be shifted to a private foundation where more shenanigans with taxpayer money can be hidden.

Even if it might be illegal.

I learned a lot by sitting through Monday’s four hour briefing. Which by the way, should have been held at a taxpayer-convenient time: evening or weekend.

One, I wondered why the mayor was so eager to get this thing done. Why did he say, at the end, “if we don’t pass this it doesn’t happen in the next twenty years. This is a democracy. Let’s talk, let’s get it done.”

A democracy all right: that’s why, after four really great hours of debate, five and a half council members ripping the plan apart, the Mayor hands it off to three of his buddies: Tiffany Young, Adam McGough and Monica Alonzo. He refused to include Adam Medrano — Fair Park is mostly in his district — because Adam said he was against it.

“It is near impossible to negotiate a deal with 30 people,” Rawlings said.

But isn’t that what a democracy does, what government does? Even McGough, his former chief of staff, who had posed some of the tougher questions, wanted to go on record as saying he was not ready to vote for the plan — and that was OK with Mr. Mayor, right?

The best recap of the afternoon can be found here, at Watchdog.org.

It’s clear now that Mayor Mike Rawlings doesn’t have the votes to ram through a version of the plan that would commit the city of Dallas to $600 million-plus in repairs, salaries, and fees, while leaving the actual park contingent on the success of some future fundraising drive. The issue is likely to come down to the votes of three African-American council members: Casey Thomas, II, Carolyn King Arnold and Erik Wilson.

I counted Jennifer Gates as a “half”, because she did ask some good questions, including the one I starred in my notes:  why are they offering jobs to all the current employees without performance reviews?

“Park and Recreation to evaluate performance,” was the response.

It’s stuff like that that has many people angry. Same old same old. Maybe its the last vestiges of Dallas holding onto its old small town ways. Still, I bet Jennifer and Lee Kleinman, my fiscal watchdog who was very reserved yesterday, vote with the mayor.

It’s not that we don’t want to implement a plan to revitalize Fair Park, restore and preserve the historical buildings properly, and finally give them the love they deserve. (more…)

Preservation Dallas sent out a press release tonight that references our Thursday evening panel discussion, the one that “forces” tried to deter. The press release is an inaccurate misrepresentation of that panel discussion. (Press release posted in entirety, see below.) Thankfully, we video-taped and live streamed the whole event, so readers can see and hear and decide for themselves.

I know that many people, from Preservation Dallas to Jennifer Gates, thought the panel was one-sided because we did not invite the “other side” to participate in the panel. Maybe I should have. I also know the timing was crappy because of the budget meetings a lot of Council members were having that very night. (John Jenkins couldn’t be on the panel for that reason.) But then, the City Council’s special agenda is Monday (tomorrow) at 1 p.m. I was out of town until last Monday. Thursday was the only night and the space at the original venue was limited so, I thought, let’s video this and do another panel with the “other side.”

Which I would still love to do.

But then, I thought, what is wrong with just getting information out? What is wrong with listening to other points of view even if it is “one side”? I billed this as a panel discussion, not a debate. The Mayor, like the President, has a huge bully pulpit and the “other side” has had tons of press.

I love the good folks at Preservation Dallas, and I adore Virginia McAlestar. Our historic district would not be here if it wasn’t for her. Dallas is not just lucky to have her, we owe her a lot.

With all due respect and much love, this release is taking some of the discussion from Thursday out of context.

Here’s the deal: most preservationists hate developers… and for good reason. Sometimes, quite frankly, they are idiots with no foresight or economic inclusivity. I mean, look at what developers did to State Thomas.

There is a huge fear that Don Williams, a lawyer who actually worked for one of the largest developers in the world, is going to get all land grubby with Fair Park.

In fact,  a comment about land grabbing was made after our panel, by someone in the audience. The huge fear is that the entire Fair Park deal is one big rush to buy land cheap and flip it when the area gets as hot as State Thomas or Uptown.

The only entity buying real estate around Fair Park has been the State Fair of Texas.

And then I think there is the fear that someone will touch those buildings, the National Historic landmarks, the Art Deco goddesses that are, according to mayor Rawlings, the largest collection of Art Deco buildings in the U.S.

There was no talk of that Thursday night. Touch those buildings over my dead body. (more…)

3 City Councilman at Homeless

City Council members B. Adam McGough, Jennifer Staubach Gates, and Lee Kleinman organized this meeting on attacking homelessness in Dallas at Churchill Recreation Center in North Dallas Monday night

We have showcased the generosity of one of the city’s most progressive and elite real estate networking groups, the Pacesetters, and how they have made a commitment to eradicate homelessness in Dallas. 35 dynamic top-producing agents from a myriad of brokerages created a selective networking group back in 2003. It is by invitation only, and very difficult to break into: top selling innovative agents need only apply.

An innovative, tech-minded group with an eye on the future of real estate, The Pacesetters approach marketing real estate from a fresh, modern perspective — not always continuing what’s been done in the past. And yeah, you should hire them to sell your homes.

Now they are trying to shake up the problem of homelessness in Dallas one step at a time, by making a contribution to the wonderful work being done at Incarnation House, a highly successful “drop-in home” for homeless students at North Dallas High School.

But there is more to be done in Dallas on the homeless issue. In fact, experts on this problem will tell you that there is a very real danger that we are raising a second generation of homeless in our town. While the homeless issue impacts all areas of Dallas, downtown seems to be hit the hardest: The Cedars, Deep Ellum, and the West End. All areas where developers are grabbing and building as fast as they can.

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Tanya Ragan and the “drop-in” kids

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Lake Tahoe

I left Dallas last Thursday morning, a beautiful, hot, sunny day, to land in Reno, Nevada for a long weekend of R&R with my family. My son lives in Silicon Valley and Lake Tahoe is about a four-hour drive for them.

We arrived before noon, the western fam arrived at about 5 due to a shut-down on Interstate 80. We put the phones away, got the baby to bed, and were just settling down for a relaxing dinner. My son (who checks his phone probably more often than I do) said, “there has been a police shooting in Dallas.”

And thus it began.

DPD Memorial Squad Cars HQ (more…)

 

NeilEmmons

City Plan Commissioner Neil Emmons was found dead in his home this morning. Photo: Twitter

The political and real estate worlds of Dallas were rocked today with the news that tireless advocate of neighborhoods and preservation of Dallas’ architectural history Neil Emmons apparently passed away in his sleep overnight. He was 45.

Robert Wilonksy reported in the Dallas Morning News that Emmons, who has been serving as a City Plan Commissioner, was found dead by his mother this morning.  As city officials and others who have worked closely with Emmons in his 15-plus years serving the city learned the news, their reactions were overwhelmingly of shock.

“We did not always agree, but I always knew Neil was up for the fight. I learned a lot from you over the years, and I am sad that our hidden notes at the horseshoe will not continue. You will be missed greatly my friend,” said councilman Adam McGough on Facebook.

Dallas Planning Commissioner Neil Emmons was found dead in his home this morning. Photo: Rockwall Pets

Dallas Planning Commissioner Neil Emmons was found dead in his home this morning. Photo: Rockwall Pets

Councilman Philip Kingston also took to Facebook to eulogize Emmons, saying, “No single person in Dallas has done more to affect land use in recent history, and the changes he fought for were overwhelmingly positive. His philosophy was always to side with the neighbor and the neighborhood because doing so produced the best result for the city.

The result? Billions of dollars of economic development that may not have happened without his input and probably would have looked like crap if it did happen. It is not an exaggeration to say that Uptown, Turtle Creek, Oak Lawn, Lower Greenville, and Downtown owe much of their success to Neil Emmons.”

“I don’t think most of the city knows how sad a day this is for Dallas,” Kingston concluded.

In February, our Leah Shafer wrote about the historic Mayrath House and the formation of Dallas Endowment for Endangered Properties (DEEP) by Emmons and three other preservationists.Four preservationists, Virginia McAlester, Jim Rogers, Lisa Marie Gala, and Neil Emmons, together founded the Dallas Endowment for Endangered Properties (DEEP) fund last month. Joanna England wrote more in-depth about DEEP, which would be a fund to buy up endangered historic properties to save them from the wrecking ball.

Emmons served several terms on the City Plan Commission, starting in 2001 when he was appointed by then-councilwoman Veletta Lill. He served from 2001 until he left in 2009 due to term limits, and then was appointed again in 2014.