Residents attending town hall meetings seem receptive to spending what it takes to get the city’s infrastructure back in good shape
Dallas residents attending town hall meetings to learn more about a proposed bond program appear receptive to spending at least a billion dollars to improve the city’s infrastructure, according to several City Council members hosting the meetings.
Council members are holding about 30 meetings across the city to hear residents’ concerns and to ask for suggestions about needed improvements. The meetings, which will end Feb. 21, are attracting an average of about 50 residents.
The council plans to finalize a plan in late summer and put the bond program proposal on the November ballot. Another series of meetings will be held to present the final proposal to residents.
The billion-dollar price tag for needed improvements to the city has been described by some council members as a “drop in the bucket” compared to the $7 billion total needs list identified by city staff. Gay council member Ed Oakley, who co-hosted a meeting with council member Dr. Elba Garcia, said he did not hear any complaints about the prospect of higher taxes. A billion to a half-billion dollar bond program seems reasonable to the residents he has heard from, he said.
“We didn’t have any cranky people at all, which is unusual,” said Oakley, whose district includes Oak Cliff. “They understand if they want things to be improved, that we have to pay for them.”
The cost to individual taxpayers who own homes valued at $100,000 is estimated to be a total of about $56 over the six-year life of the bond, Oakley said. Older residents with senior homestead exemptions owning homes that are valued at $80,000 or less would incur no cost, he said. The calculations are based on an estimated 2.8 percent increase in property values.
Oakley said he has also attended meetings hosted by council members Don Hill in South Dallas and Bill Blaydes in North Dallas. Residents at those meetings also seemed to approve of the proposed expenditures, he said.
Angela Hunt, who represents parts of Oak Lawn and East Dallas, said her meeting also attracted supportive residents. Residents want to see overdue improvements made to the streets, sewer lines, parks, libraries and other facilities.
Most residents want to improve public safety through improving street lighting and fire stations and cleaning up problems areas, she said.
“I think residents very much want to improve our city, and that came through loud and clear at the bond meeting,” Hunt said.
“With all of the needs we can’t continue to do small bond packages and expect our infrastructure to improve because the needs are overwhelming.”
The city’s last bond program was in 2003 for just over a half-billion dollars.
Pauline Medrano, who represents part of Oak Lawn, said she has held two meetings that generated support from residents.
“By far I could safely say they would support anything between a $1 billion and a $1.5 million program and anywhere between,” Medrano said.
Medrano said she is hopeful residents will take advantage of the current meetings and the meetings in late summer where the final proposal will be outlined.
“Once people are made aware of the process, they are more comfortable,” Medrano said.
Linda Koop, who represents parts of North Dallas, said residents attending the one meeting she has held also expressed support for the bond proposal.
City staff showed a video outlining development in the city.
“They were real positive about the city,” Koop said.
“They appreciated the opportunity to see all of the new things that are going on in the city.”
Koop said she was impressed by people’s interest in the bond package.
“I’m very pleased that people seem to be willing to spend their time to be in small groups and advocate for their projects and tell us what they would like to see in the city,” Koop said.
For information about the town hall meeting schedule see www.dallascityhall.com or call 214-670-4050.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition of February 10, 2006.