[Editor’s note: Jon Anderson is a columnist for CandysDirt.com who lives in District 13. His opinions are his own.]

It’s only been a few days since I broke the story of former Dallas mayor Laura Miller’s candidacy for city council District 13, and the whirlwind of sound bites has already begun. Multiple news outlets have reported variations on Miller’s bite of being a “mellow” 60-year-old in an attempt to distance herself from her combative days as mayor. Any news outlet covering Miller’s campaign will quickly see that for the political lie it is. Ignoring Miller’s combative attacks on council member Jennifer Gates, how “mellow” is it to join Twitter for the express purpose of calling out Gates in six tweets that now seem to have been scrubbed? But as you’ll see below, Twitter never forgets.

(Editor’s note: Miller did not delete her Tweets, they were all replies to Gates, which we documented in this December 2018 story. In the interest of transparency, we’re linking to it now, and indicating our error with a mark through).

Ignoring campaign rhetoric japes, Miller is unabashedly running for city council because of zoning – specifically, two zoning cases that haven’t made it to plan commission yet. This myopathy pigeonholes her as a one-trick-pony candidate in a district and city that requires more.

Equally telling is a seeming lack of research by Dallas news outlets. WFAA identified Miller supporter Steve Dawson as a “resident.” Dawson lives in University Park and can’t vote for her. His family owns a small apartment complex behind the Pink Wall. As regular readers know, seemingly to keep competition out, Dawson fought the Pink Wall’s Laurel development at Miller’s side and continues to fight area progress. In the WFAA story, Dawson claims Miller has wide support in District 13. If that were true, why didn’t she offer up a “reference” who actually lives in the district?

In Miller’s announcement, she names former Sen. John Carona and former city council members Donna Blumer, Mitchell Rasansky, and Sid Stahl as supporters. Given their admitted ignorance of the zoning issues in the district, I wonder if their support is little more than the toll of friendship.

That a city district with many needs is reduced to a single issue in a single area should be troubling to residents living outside the Preston Center orbit. To get very specific, anyone who is untouched by St. Michael and All Angel’s proposed development of Frederick Square and the redevelopment of Planned Development District 15 (PD-15) within the Pink Wall should be very wary of Miller’s desire to do much for you.

For those involved with these two zoning cases, Miller may wind up being a paper tiger.

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Laura Miller Ambush Gates

As promised, It’s time to see what’s been going on outside of view – a gift just in time for the holiday season. There was a meeting on November 1 at City Hall with Council Member Jennifer Gates, Plan Commissioner Margot Murphy, and a bevy of opposition to the Authorized Hearing within PD-15 behind the Pink Wall.

The opposition was a combination of the usual suspects and a few oddities:

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Preston Center Task Force Map

The Task Force’s 1,630 acre charge

As CandysDirt.com readers (and likely most all of Dallas) know, Councilwoman Jennifer Gates formed a task force to hire a consultant to tell them how bad traffic and parking are in the Preston Road and Northwest Highway area. Granted the scope of the project is much larger (see map), but this intersection is where the action will be. I just heard today that the consultant has been selected who will deliver suggested solutions for their $350,000 fee.

During the last task force meeting on April 27, it was revealed that they were about $100,000 short and seeking donations from concerned area citizens and businesses needing a tax write-off. The other $250,000 is being fronted by North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTOG).

NCTOG is a voluntary coalition formed from local government representatives from the 16 counties surrounding Dallas and Fort Worth and includes 235 members. NCTOG is a political subdivision formed by the State of Texas in 1966. NCTOG’s mission seems to be to a shared resource to help municipal planning in the region (judging from current job vacancies, traffic management is a large part). Unfortunately their reports and recommendations carry no force so no matter how smart (and right) they are, local governments can ultimately do whatever they want. Funding comes from member dues and local, state and federal government agencies.

The initial data will take 12-18 months to gather and present to the task force. I then easily foresee another 6-12 months of digesting and bandying around various scenarios before crafting a final document to present to the City Council. Or in other words, about two years. Then the work begins to beg, borrow and curry favor to implement whatever recommendations have made it that far. Best guess for seeing a first shovel hit the ground? At least four years from now … if at all.

If at All

  • “If at all” because if Dallas and University Park City Councils are not even supportive enough to fund the study, then surely they’re not anxiously waiting, wallet outstretched, to unleash the millions needed to actually better the area, are they?
  • “If at all” because, as pointed out by Morning News blogger Robert Wilonsky, today’s fracas is a near word-for-word repeat from 1976 which sought (unsuccessfully) to back-zone properties to three stories in an effort to curb development and traffic.
  • “If at all” because two later studies in 1986 and 1989 received little/no action or funding from the city.
  • “If at all” because Mayor Mike Rawlins, faced with overflowing property tax coffers, would rather cut taxes than fix crumbling infrastructure. Infrastructure that’s admittedly underfunded by the Texas Transportation Commission by $2-billion annually in the NCTOG area (I hate taxes too, but I hate crappy roads more).

I think the City Council is more likely to thank the task force for their work before ushering them out with a case of Rice-a-Roni and a year’s supply of Tic Tacs. The anti-development crowd knows the game being played is to stall and starve developers. The death of 1,000 City Council postponements.

Begun in 2014, we will spend over four years pretending this is a difficult and time consuming project. It’s not. In fact, I spent a few hours over a weekend and crafted the poor-man’s Preston Center Traffic and Parking Plan. I have mailed a copy to each member of the city council so that, years from now, I’ll have my big, fat, “I told you so” moment.

Granted my plan is more concise and isn’t full of the pretty sketches of happy, dog-walking models on tree-lined, car-less streets – I’m not good with Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, or AutoCAD.  But don’t be fooled, these kinds of images are all just a marketing “show” put on for the tourists.

But the same recommendations on how to fix traffic and parking will be there. Why am I so sure? Because the area surrounding Northwest Highway and Preston Road is finite and so are the solutions. It’s the simple application of math coupled with a little research on traffic management theory. After all, we’re talking physical roadways here, not a TARDIS.

Jon Anderson’s Traffic Plan for Preston Center

Jump for more details.
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