District Attorney Craig Watkins
8/13/7 The ODB's
Propaganda War Begins
There's an old Mac Davis song, "It's hard to be
humble" that needs to be redone to fit Dallas politics. The new title
would be "It's hard to be hopeful". The original song says "It's hard to
be humble, when you're perfect in every way." The new song would say "It's
hard to be hopeful, when you're lied to in every way."
There are so many ways Dallas voters were lied to in 1998 and are being lied to
now, but DMN's Bruce Tomaso inadvertently nails it in this article:
Opponents of the Trinity River toll road say city leaders pulled a fast one nine years ago, promising Dallas voters a beautiful downtown park and delivering a hideous highway instead.
They accuse the city of a "bait-and-switch," contending that when voters approved a 1998 bond issue for Trinity River improvements, they thought they were voting for a "parkway," a sort of Turtle Creek Boulevard by the river ? while what's being planned instead is a multi-lane, high-speed freeway, something closer in concept to the Dallas North Tollway.
But a review of city and state documents, court records, news coverage and campaign materials put out by both sides in the months before the 1998 bond vote shows clearly that the city intended to build a tollway inside the levees.
Those records, thousands of pages of them, show that city officials and state transportation planners thought a major reliever route was needed to alleviate traffic congestion downtown and along Stemmons Freeway.
"I can tell you unequivocally and emphatically that we never, ever misrepresented the nature of what was being proposed. We were proposing a highway," said former Mayor Ron Kirk, who pushed hard for passage of the Trinity bonds in 1998.
"In everything we communicated, we made that clear to voters. And the opponents of this project know that. If they're saying otherwise, it's totally disingenuous."
... But Dallas City Council member Angela Hunt, the driving force behind a November referendum to kill the toll road, said if anyone's being disingenuous, it's Mr. Kirk and his allies. She points again and again to the language on the May 2, 1998, ballot, which described the project only as the "Trinity Parkway and related street improvements."
"If the people who support this road are so certain that everyone understood that what was being proposed was a huge, high-speed toll road with no direct access to the park, then why in the heck wasn't that on the ballot?" Ms Hunt said.
"If what you intend to build is a high-speed toll road, to describe that to voters as a 'parkway' ? there's something purposefully deceptive in that."
A lawsuit brought by environmentalists in 2000 unsuccessfully sought to halt the Trinity project on those very grounds. The suit argued that city leaders had altered the project substantially after voters approved the 1998 bond issue.
"Bait-and-switch is a perfect description," James Blackburn, the Houston lawyer who represented the environmentalists, said last week. "They called it a 'parkway' for a reason. If they had called it a toll road, it might never have been approved."
... Ms. Hunt said that today, as she goes around talking to voters, "when I say, 'Do you know they're building a toll road where we're supposed to have our downtown park?' they look at me in disbelief. They look at me and say, 'What are you talking about? That's the dumbest idea I've ever heard.' "
Voters may indeed decide this fall that building the Trinity toll road is a dumb idea. And many of them thought it was a dumb idea nine years ago.
The Trinity bonds were narrowly approved ? by fewer than 2,400 votes. Ten other bond proposals ? for things like parks and playgrounds, a new police headquarters, a fire station, libraries and an animal shelter ? won overwhelming public support.
... The list of documents that identified the Trinity Parkway as a planned toll road before the May bond vote is a lengthy one:
?The city printed 20,000 booklets (5,000 in Spanish, 15,000 in English) to distribute to voters in advance of the election. The 18-page booklet summarized all the propositions on the ballot. The summary of Proposition 11, the one to authorize the Trinity bonds, described the proposed Trinity Parkway as "a 6-8 lane reliever route" and said: "This project is under consideration by the North Texas Tollway Authority for development as a toll facility."
?On Nov. 5, 1997, the City Council was briefed on "Trinity Corridor Transportation Improvements." Printed materials for that briefing discussed options for speeding up construction of the Trinity Parkway by building it "as a toll facility."
?In the weeks leading up to the election, supporters of the bond issue mailed out slick color brochures to about 75,000 households, urging voters to approve the bonds. ... (There is nothing in the drawings that looks anything like a highway.)...
?A political ad purchased by opponents of the Trinity project was published in The Dallas Morning News on April 28, 1998, four days before the bond vote. The ad urged voters to reject the bond proposition. One reason: "Proposed eight-lane tollway inside the levee would increase pollution." ...
?Jim Schutze, a columnist for the Dallas Observer, wrote a lengthy story denouncing the Trinity project on Jan. 22, 1998 ? 14 weeks before the election. Today, Mr. Schutze echoes the line of Ms. Hunt's group, TrinityVote, that what happened back in 1998 was a bait-and-switch ? a phrase he used in an Aug. 2 appearance on KERA-FM (90.1). "This was presented to people as a park and lakes and sailboats," he told KERA's listeners.
But his 1998 story made it clear that he, at least, was aware that the Trinity bond proposal called for a toll road. In it, he referred to the role of the North Texas Tollway Authority ("a bunch of road hucksters hungry for work"). ...
Former Mayor Laura Miller, who succeeded Mr. Kirk in office, was running for the City Council for the first time in that same May 1998 election. (She would win and go on to represent an Oak Cliff district.)
As a candidate, she opposed the Trinity bond project.
That's because she didn't like the toll road, she said last week.
... In 2003, as mayor, she led an effort to revamp the toll road design, making it more environmentally sensitive. ...
Those who accuse the city of a bait-and-switch often point to a March 1998 study by the Texas Department of Transportation, the "Trinity Parkway Corridor Major Transportation Investment Study."
... That study does describe the proposed Trinity Parkway as something akin to what Ms. Hunt's group has in mind ? "a lower speed parkway design rather than a freeway design," with a posted speed limit of 45 mph.
... "No one is going to pay a toll to drive 35 miles an hour," Paul Wageman, chairman of the North Texas Tollway Authority, said in an interview last week.
Ms. Hunt, however, reiterated that if the city wanted to build a high-speed toll road providing little access to the park, it should have just said so.
... Ray Hutchison, who represented the city in the 2000 lawsuit brought by Mr. Blackburn, said general, even vague, language is common in bond proposals. (Mr. Hutchison's firm, Vinson & Elkins, also employs Mr. Kirk, the former mayor.)
... Although a formal contract between the city and the North Texas Tollway Authority regarding financing of the road wasn't finalized until January 1999, in principle, the City Council had agreed by the fall of 1997: The Trinity Parkway would be a toll road. That would necessarily mean a higher speed, and more lanes, and less direct access to the park than what many environmentalists wanted.
... "To claim, 'We didn't know about it, you disguised it' ? it was never disguised."A color brochure that Trinity bond supporters mailed to voters in the spring of 1998 showed sailboats, blue skies, a green park ... but no highway or cars in the park. The text of the brochure, however, mentioned that the project included "a system of tollroads." A March 1998 report from the Texas Department of Transportation (above right) described the proposed Trinity Parkway as a low-speed road, but added "some design changes could be necessary" if it were built as a toll road instead.
... But the ballot language for the bond proposal described the planned road only as "the Trinity Parkway." Critics contend that this was misleading, particularly because city officials already knew they were considering a high-speed, multi-lane toll road.
|I want to ask you a simple
question. How many
city and state documents
have you perused or studied in depth about anything? If you got hold of a
inch-thick (or more) stack of stuff regarding something you are going to be
asked to vote on, how much time would you spend on that stack of data?
Assuming, that you had access to the stack of stuff at all. But, Tomaso
says himself there were
thousands of pages of them.
Again assuming that you voted on the Trinity Project in 1998, did you get one of
the 15,000 English booklets describing the 1998 bond election? Just
because they were printed, does not mean 15,000 were distributed.
Considering the number of registered voters in 1998, 15,000 is miniscule and
certainly could not have been widely circulated.
A Fantasy Toll Road was not in the bond election
language. It was not in the brochure, it was not in the sales pitch.
demonstrates that not only would a road be operationally unfeasible in
the flood plain, it would almost impossible to build on time and under
would have to proceed with coffer dams, etc. to keep the construction
site dry - since the entire roadway would be subject to
Like building a road - at grade -
in a swamp. Imagine the delays, cost over-runs and emergency "pump outs"
that would have to be programmed into the plan.
My favorite part of the entire article was
reading the comments from good old Con Jerk/Ron Kirk. As some in
my family will say, the guy would climb a tree to tell a lie when he
could stand flat footed and tell the truth.
"I can tell
you unequivocally and emphatically that we never, ever misrepresented
the nature of what was being proposed. We were proposing a highway,"
said former Mayor Ron Kirk,
everything we communicated, we made that clear to voters. And the
opponents of this project know that. If they're saying otherwise, it's
Can you imagine anything more
preposterous than Ron Kirk accusing anyone of being "totally
I have to confess to just loving the idea of Ron Kirk out in front of this new
Trintity Bondoogle campaign. He's such an easy target. Apparently,
Con Jerk has lost some of his influence in the Southern Sector. In
A Tough Sale
from DallasBlog.com (8/7/7), Rufus Shaw writes:
Political observers on both sides of the Trinity toll
road issue are quietly acknowledging that getting voters to the
polls in November will be a difficult task. Educating and selling
voters on the pros and cons of a toll road is a tough sale even in
the best of political times. But for the Black community this is not
the best time to try and sell an issue that we have already voted
on. We are still waiting on promises made to the Black community the
last time we voted for the Trinity River project.
... On the other hand, Kirk was always a big ticket
guy. However, one now has to wonder
just how effective Ron Kirk will be at selling anything to the Black
community after he championed the second
strong mayor proposal that was soundly defeated especially in the
Black community. Mr. Kirk has the additional baggage of having sold
the original Trinity River project to the Black community, as among
other things, a major economic development engine for Black
businesses. That has yet to happen.
The pro toll road forces are going to have plenty of
money to spend in order to get out the Black vote. However, what are
they going to tell Black voters? As I have said many times, the
Black community is still waiting on economic development promises
made by the Kirk administration ... but we
can certainly call the Kirk administration a failure on that score.
So, what can the pro toll road forces possibly tell the Black
electorate this time? How do they motivate Black voters to go out
and vote for a toll road this time when we did not get anything the
last time we supported this issue? If the above mentioned problems
are not enough, at least some Black voters in the southern sector
feel the toll road will make it more expensive for them to drive to
north Dallas. Why would they vote to spend money they already don?t
have to pay a toll to drive to north Dallas? And if that
characterization of the toll road is wrong, who is going to tell the
Black electorate the truth about this issue?...
Obviously, Rufus Shaw knows
more about Southern Sector and/or Black voters than me, but I wrote this
response to his very long piece (worth the read in its entirety) ---
Many of the people Con Jerk
tapped to pull off two close elections in 1998 do not live in the City of Dallas
in 2007. Many did not live in the City of Dallas in 1998, but voted from
fraudulent addresses. When Dallas County Elections Dept. updated the voter
registration rolls, many of those non-Dallas voters went away. They had to
register where they actually live. Many middle class African-American
families have fled to better schools in Duncanville, DeSoto and Lancaster.
The mega Black churches can no longer deliver hundreds of voters in City of
Dallas elections because many of their congregants no longer live in Dallas.
African-Americans who live North of the Trinity do not vote as a block or even
with the same mindset as Southern Sector voters. Ron Kirk might have some
influence with them.
Speaking of influence, some Trinity Tollroaders are calling Dallas County area
elected officials to arm twist them into opposing the TrinityVote position and
supporting Con Jerk's version of the Trinity Project. You should e-mail
and call your Congressman, both Senators, your State Representative, your State
Senator and your County Commissioner to ask them to either support the
TrinityVote position or to stay neutral. Hearing from their constituents
does make a difference to politicians -- at least those who want to be
You know, Belo hardly mentions Angela Hunt getting 80,000 signatures. Jim
Schutze says it was over 90,000 -- but who's counting? It's a significant
accomplishment. These were real voters. Hopefully, someone (Allen,
are you out there?) has already put the petition signers into a data base.
We need to know where they live in the city. If an elected official sees
10,000 or more people in his district signed the petition, it will give him or
her pause for thought as to whether or not to get involved.
It would make little or no difference to most voters what their elected official
has to say about almost anything these days. We are so accustomed to being
lied to by people we elected that most of us vote for the lesser of two evils.
I want to take a minute to brag on one elected official who is keeping his
promise to his council district. My friend, Councilman Dwaine Caraway, got
two crack houses in District 4 demolished this week. Michael Davis has a
great report on his blog site, DallasProgress:
Oak Cliff Drug Houses Come Down.
You really should go read it. Mike has a wonderful slide show attached.
It will make you feel good about City Hall -- at least for a minute.
As cynical as I am, there's a Pollyana in me that will not let me give up hope
entirely. If you don't hope, why bother to vote? If you don't hope,
why bother to do anything?
As I said in my response to Rufus Shaw's blog, Angela Hunt knows where she's
going. She's not awed by or afraid of Our Downtown Betters. The ODB
are scared to death of her and her rag tag army of supporters.
Angela Hunt's giving us hope in a town where it's hard to be hopeful.