A grateful 2017
It’s the end of the year, and I’m torn. Thanksgiving and Christmas are upon us and I am conflicted as to how to evaluate this past year in our fair city. Is it better to look at 2017 through the mindful lens of Thanksgiving gratitude? Or should we take a cue from Santa and drop some coal into a few Dallas stockings? Do we count Dallas’ many blessings? Or list who’s been naughty and nice?
A naughty and nice list sure would be fun, but this has been such a good year for Dallas, why don’t we start with the good stuff?
The first goodest stuff, the bestest stuff: The death of the Trinity Toll Road. Almost 20 years after voters narrowly approved a vision of lakes and parks in our floodway, and a full decade after voters narrowly defeated the toll road referendum, the Dallas City Council finally voted to kill the Trinity Toll Road once and for all. The road had delayed our park for a generation. With the toll road gone, we can finally move forward in building an accessible, natural and flood-hardy Trinity Park.
Next up on our gratitude list is Dallas’ City Manager TC Broadnax. Broadnax has been shaking things up at 1500 Marilla since he came to Dallas in February, bringing in a slate of top professionals from across the country to run Dallas City Hall. He’s completely overhauled several city departments, including housing, economic development, and transportation. His new police chief has initiated a top-to-bottom review of the police force. With his focus on process, transparency and community engagement, Broadnax has brought much-needed change to our city government.
Dallas also can be grateful that our city is moving in a new direction when it comes to transportation and mobility. It started with last year’s CityMAP, an incredible project led by the Texas Department of Transportation that evaluated improvements to downtown Dallas highways. CityMAP wasn’t just trying to figure out how to move more cars faster. It evaluated how different highway scenarios impacted inner-city neighborhood redevelopment, community preservation, economic growth and walkability. It’s a remarkable first step in re-engineering central Dallas highways for future generations.
In other positive transportation news, the Dallas City Council shook up the Dallas Area Rapid Transit board, selecting a group of Dallas representatives who are pushing DART to focus on smart, pragmatic transit priorities, like overhauling our inefficient bus system. And the recently approved $1.05 billion City of Dallas bond package includes $20 million to construct the Loop Trail, which will connect more than 50 miles of off-street trails in central Dallas. That’s going to be a game-changer.
Some of our city’s most challenging financial and legal issues also were put to bed this year. Thanks to some great leadership on our city council, the police/fire pension crisis has been averted, and it also looks like we’ll finally see some resolution to the police pay referendum lawsuit that has loomed over the city for years. Some closure and finality on these issues is important to our city’s financial health as well as to the morale of our first responders.
Lastly, our city can be grateful for the great strides the Dallas ISD has made over the last year. For the second year in a row, DISD added three new national Blue Ribbon schools, leading the state both times. Over the last four years, district has reduced the number of schools rated “improvement required” from 43 to 13. The school district also made great gains in the state math assessment, and under DISD’s Teacher Evaluation System, the district has been able to retain good teachers while losing those less qualified.
There’s so much good stuff to be grateful for in our city over the last year that I’ve run out of space. What a wonderful problem to have.
I guess we’ll have to wait until January for that naughty list. In the meantime, may your holidays be merry and bright.
Angela Hunt is a former Dallas city councilwoman. She writes a monthly opinion column about neighborhood issues. Her opinions are not necessarily those of the Advocate or its management. Send comments and ideas to her email@example.com.