In the month of August, the Dallas City Council voted to approve the recommendations of the current 2012 Capital Bond proposal which now gives citizens the task of casting their votes for the propositions in November. Described as ‘no frills and thrills’ proposal, this bond campaign seeks to take care of the City’s basic needs.
The $600 million Capital Bond propositions are focused on three major areas: street resurfacing and development, economic development, flood protection and erosion control. The fulfillment of the bond components is said to ensure public safety and to improve areas as an aid to the acquisition of more economic development dollars. While these areas have all been identified as critical needs, the funds are not equally allocated.
Street maintenance is the focus of the first proposition. It allows a total of $221,200 million to be assigned to projects that include street completion, the construction of sidewalks, alley and trails, the repair of bridges and street lighting. The West Dallas Gateway, Houston Street Bridge and all City sidewalks received the strongest focus with project funds totaling $45 million with another $34.8 million strictly dedicated to street reconstruction and resurfacing. The goal of the streets proposition is to get all districts to an 87 percentage satisfactory rating as mandated by a council directive with no area under 80 percentage. It also furthers the city’s goal of encouraging multi-modal transportation throughout the city.
Flooding and Flood control has the highest bond dollar priority at $323,800 million. This is slated to protect the lives of the citizens and their property. Thus, it makes allowances for the repairs of known neighborhood flood plains in the city, selective upgrades to the city’s storm drainage systems, and the re-building of creek, culverts and bridge areas degraded by erosion. The areas around Mill Creek, Peak Branch and State Thomas are allocated a joint total of $218,600 million – the highest amount designated for this proposition.
The last proposition is succinctly referred to as Economic and Business Development and tagged with the remaining $55,000 million and is related to the furtherance of the transit-oriented development, land acquisition and improvement of streets, utility and infrastructure needs in the Southern Sector of Dallas. Specific areas identified are the economic and housing-driven projects, the UNT-transit-oriented development, and Canyon Boulevard. It’s complementary focus is to aid the quest to the grow the area tax base contribution as previously detailed in the Mayor’s growth plan – Grow South-launched in March 2012.
Prior to making the initial recommendations for the projects of the bond, the city management updated the needs assessment survey by reviewing the previous bond packages of 1998, 2003 and 2006. From this assessment of the completed, outstanding, cancelled and projects-in-progress at the close of 2011, the estimated amount of $600 million dollars of the bond proposal was identified.
In February and March 2012, the city began seeking public input by taking an account of the emergency 911 and 311 calls to the non-emergency assistance division. In addition, meetings with the business and neighborhood associations and citizens input meeting were scheduled. Also, the recommendations of Dallas city workers in the public works, streets services and other relevant departments on the front line of these areas were included in the project development stages.
April became the month in which the preliminary bond information was released to the council through briefings. The months of May and June featured the District Town Hall meetings with constituents to share the proposed plans for their districts in hopes of incorporating their opinions and recommendations into the final decision.
However, the release of the bond allocation for public comment in June with the less than $60,000 million allocated to the development of the Southern Sector and only $5 million allocated for UNT transit-oriented development struck a negative tone with some residents and business owners in City Council District 8.
Robert Pitre, a concerned business owner in the University Hills area near Wheatland and I-20, shared in an earlier North Dallas Gazette editorial, his observation of the absence of the needed infrastructure to develop the homeowner and businesses around the campus. According to Pitre, the need for water, sewer, and waste water systems to aid in the development of the businesses has been once again overlooked by Tennell Atkins, Mayor Pro-tem and District 8 Councilman and the City of Dallas. Pitre questioned if it may be a ploy for a later land acquisition.
Councilman Atkins had a very different view of the allocation 2012 Bond dollars allocated to his district.
“We have got more earmarked for this area now with the $600 million,” said Atkins when comparing the time span of the release of the $1.32 billion bond package in 2006.
He was referring to the $300 million dollar development package in UNT- Dallas area that is to include Dart Rail Lines, trails and other transit-oriented development. This is aimed at connecting students to the University and to the Kathryn Gilliam Academy by 2014-15.
“We want change University Hills to be like Hillcrest,” proclaimed Atkins.
However, Atkins admitted some of the projects are city projects and that just happen to be in his district. The location of the education corridor is a key focus in the both the Mayor’s Grow South and the City Council bond programs. Atkins also stated the current focus for the district is creating access to education and it is where he is primarily applying the new bond dollars for his district.
“Without education, there is no growth. The higher the education, the better quality of life we will have and more diversity. We know that the University is going to grow and we must be sure that we grow with them.”
Atkins estimated with the funding an additional 1,200 households could possibly come to the area. He added, “I think it was a great share to target the UNT Corridor.”
The call for the bond election has been made. Now the new quest of the bond program management team is to raise the public awareness of their responsibility to cast their votes on the ballot during the November Presidential Election.