Saturday, May 26, 2007

Dallas Mayor's Election

We have had a mayoral election in Dallas. In this mayoral election, many interesting white people with money ran, as well as an interesting homeless transvestite. There was also an interesting significant African-American candidate and an interesting, very significant gay politician who represents the Oak Cliff district. I refer to all districts in Dallas as ADD Crayola districts, simply because I can't figure out why there are huge blobs of ink representing districts linked together with spaghetti thin strips of land. Or maybe they aren't linked together at all. The courts, years ago, suggested that an at-large system where only white people are represented might be racist, and hence our present electoral system with 14 districts drawn by a 5 year old with ADD. The increased minority representation is good, but how they came up with the map, I'd like to know. It seems like proportional representation of some kind might make more sense, but I guess you don't have political parties at the local level.

The only issue of any contention was the enormous Trinity River Project. The Trinity River project stretches back to the 1998 election, when voters approved $246 million to construct a park in the Trinity river flood plain for the beautification and improvement of our fair city. The money for this project was tied to state funding for a toll road to run along the opposite sides of the levee. It is eight years later and there is no park, there is no road. Voters did approve more funding for the project in a $1 billion bond package. I am not sure the voters knew they were approving more funding for the project, but that is what they did all the same.

One candidate, Sam Coats opposed the Trinity river project. I didn't hear any of his arguments against it, but I think I can guess- stupid, wasteful, bad, lies. Words like these. Oh, and did I mention the project has changed a bit. Where the road is going to go seems to be somewhat in limbo. Now the plan appears to be to build it in the flood plain. Jim Schutze, in his Dallas Observer column, had mentioned the plan might be to build it on top of the levees, to which the Army Corps of Engineers said, “Yeah, okay. As long as we can blow your toll road up real good when we need to fix the levees.” It seems the Corps of Engineers reserves the right to blow stuff up when they have to prevent cities from being flooded. How blowing stuff up prevents flooding is beyond me, but after Katrina, I think it's pretty clear they know how to prevent cities from getting flooded, and we should defer to their expertise. Just what the hell it is we will all get out of this project still seems to be in question.

If you build the toll road in the plain next to the river, where does the park go? I guess there's just less park.

Council member Angela Hunt has suggested it might be time for a referendum on the project. The Dallas Morning News and everybody else doesn't agree with her. Apparently after eight years, going on nine, of crack government planning with no road and no park to show for it, holding a referendum in five months would be a ridiculous delay. Also, since the project has changed, voters may not like the new project, which means they may vote against it. Voters can't be trusted to make decisions like this.

Jim Schutze wisely kept a copy of the 1998 brochure that was sent out by some group with some mysterious source of funding. Their name was probably Friends of the Trinity, or The New Unified Trinity Protectorate, or the Ministry of Love, or the Beatles. But the brochure itself is interesting, with an illustration of people sailing in boats on a town lake. There are also kayaks, and happy people cavorting on a terraced landscape of green grass. I'm so excited I can hardly wait. I want to go to public planning meetings and yell things like, “I get first dibs on the whitewater rafting. And I get to ride on the sail boat!”

All of this could work. How the project turns out is still a matter of contention. I would rather see the greenspace preserved somehow, but that's just my opinion. A state park? Nature trails?

All of the candidates supported infrastructure, which is good. I like roads. Fire stations and police stations are essential to our community. We need sewers and plumbing. Nobody came out in opposition to these things, which is always encouraging. It would be fascinating to hear a candidate advocate less infrastructure, no phones, destruction of our paved roads, and a return to horse and carriage. Maybe an Amish candidate, or a Luddite.

The candidates were all pro-economy. Good again. They want businesses to move to Dallas, not away from Dallas. I don't know what they are going to offer. The Nasher sculpture garden is real neat. Maybe that will work. I think tax breaks might have something to do with it.

Oh, and the election took place, and now there's a runoff. It's Ed Oakley, the popular local politician from Oak Cliff, and Tom Leppert, the money candidate with the Dallas Morning News endorsement, the Roger Staubach endorsement, and probably the Jesus Christ endorsement, but we're still checking on that. With the Roger Staubach endorsement I'm not sure the last endorsement is necessary.

Ed Oakley has a reputation as a competent council person who knows the basics of public government. Tom Leppert runs big corporations which don't function anything like public government (see my exposition on the Trinity River Project). I glanced at Lee Iacoca's latest book. He said he was interested in running for office once, so he asked his friend Tip O'Neil for advice. Tip told him he'd go insane in 48 hours. He'd be so frustrated at the endless haggling, compromise, and bartering. It ain't like running a company.

Maybe that's good enough reason to vote for Ed.


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