by Mike Siegel, Texas Care Alliance
On November 9, YP descended upon City Hall to gain a better understanding of how our local government works. Timing the visit to within 36 hours of passing a $1.025 billion city bond seemed to be an excellent strategy as each department was eager to host us and discuss their key initiatives.
Council Member Jennifer Staubach Gates greeted our group and provided background on herself and our city government. She also discussed the growing economy in Dallas and the associated demographic shifts that are occurring. Council Member Gates concluded by highlighting the challenges of representing a diverse constituency with diverging opinions on future plans for District 13.
We proceeded to observe a City Plan Commission meeting, which primarily discussed requests for zoning changes or new business permits throughout Dallas. Thanks to our host for the day, YPer David Nevarez, we even got a shout-out from the Chair of the Commission at the start of the proceedings. With small business owners and local residents in attendance to plead their cases, it was exciting and encouraging to see local democracy in action. The key takeaways: there are more bars coming to Deep Ellum, and don’t try to open a bail bonds service in a residential neighborhood.
We then had the privilege to meet the staff who works with the plan Commissioners. They shared their perspective on the Plan Commission’s accomplishments, such as widening sidewalks to help make Lower Greenville more pedestrian friendly and the destination it is today. The team also discussed its “Neighborhood Plus” program to help revitalize parts of south and east Dallas.
Our group met briefly with Parks & Recreation and was excited to hear the plans to connect the 50+ miles of trails in metropolitan Dallas, as well as the long-awaited Oak Cliff deck park adjacent to the Dallas Zoo.
We then headed down to the basement of City Hall, which is apparently the safest place to be in the event of apocalypse, to see the 311 and 911 centers in action. While much of the publicized staffing shortages of last year have been alleviated, it was no less impressive to observe the staff handle such difficult calls on a routine basis.
We wrapped up our day with a stop at the Transportation Management Center. The team demonstrated its power to adjust traffic signals to better control flow and showed us the feeds of the cameras they have observing traffic patterns throughout the city. If you want a quicker commute, talk to these guys.
For more photos of our day, please click here.
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