By Carolyn King Arnold
The Nov. 7 Campaign for the Dallas City Bond election tends to remind me of scenes from the 1939 classic “Wizard of Oz.” The purse strings have loosened and the “lollipop guild” is ready to sing and deliver the goods. Campaign signs sponsored by Dallas Bond are beginning to populate key Southern voting precincts. Constituents are being encouraged to follow the Yellow Brick Road to Emerald City. The Great Wizard awaits with the solutions to homelessness, parks, economics, and public safety.
Parks, Privatization, Profit and Payback are some of the common themes the voting communities should be aware of as they head to the voting booth next month. Fair Park is on the road to becoming privatized by the city leaders. The privatization of a government function involves transferring ownership of the associated business processes or facilities to a company within the private sector. Private sector means just that: the public is locked out of the decision-making process.
Proposition C on the ballot asks citizens to vote for a $50 million purse to be set aside for a yet to be determined management team. Citizens are being asked to ‘trust” a governance group that has not been voted on by the Dallas City Council nor screened by the citizens. The big payback in terms of interest on a 20-year note is an approximate $67 million. Of course, the impact of the market and the contracts will affect the final payback.
The question remains, “What true benefits will the community gain from loss of citizen input or oversight with this project?” The renovation of Fair Park is a great idea, but this is probably not the only solution. Ultimately, citizens will face the long-term financing of another layer of administration and other unforeseen costs. The side effects of privatization of city properties often lead to gentrification, profitization and elimination of oversight. Through government oversight, we have the opportunity for equal access for bids and employment.
Funding for “Downtown Parks” is covered under Proposition B on the ballot. Private groups have provided monies for many of the parks, yet the citizens are being asked to fund approximately four new parks that very few in the South will use on a daily basis. The downtown communities will enjoy the luxury of having access to updated and exclusive parks for their homeowners. The asking price for the taxpayers is $262 million and the 20-year pay off is expected to be approximately $304 million.
Streets are addressed in Proposition One and will gain the most support and least scrutiny. The grading of the streets are not as important to the constituents as the actual day-to-day experience of fighting potholes, cracked sidewalks, no sidewalks and gutters. A quick look at many of the Southern sector streets will show many have been resurfaced or simply ignored. Street rehabilitation is costly with reconstruction costing $1 million per lane mile. Resurfacing is a quick repair with a cost of $650,000 per lane mile. Every council district has designated approximately $23 million for repairs in the district.
The citizens have faithfully voted for four bond packages since 1998 and still the underserved communities in the South remain.The 2006 bond listed Economic Development for the “Southern Areas of the City” to the tune of $41,000 and $55,000 respectively. Four bond packages with totals in millions of dollars, over a 17-year period and yet the Southern areas of the city remain underserved. The status report on 1998, 2003, 2006, and 2012 Dallas Bonds show $173 million not yet released. Some of the promised projects are on hold, in the design phase, or incomplete.
Over 200,000 Southern sector voters are in a position to change the course on Nov. 7 and in the aftermath. It is time to replace the “Yellow Bricks” with an infrastructure built to foster political, economic and social equity across the Mason-Dixon line in Dallas. In the end, we can all learn from the Scarecrow, Tin Man and the Lion as we fight to truly “benefit in the South.”
Like Dorothy we all want to go home to a neighborhood we can be proud of every day.
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