Perhaps we in Lake Highlands should consider secession from Dallas, if for no other reason than to get away from DART – the undisputed champion of taxing and spending.
DART allegedly stands for “Dallas Area Rapid Transit,” but the only activity DART had done rapidly is spend all of the revenue generated by the one-cent transit sales tax in Dallas and other DART member cities.
And now, DART’s spending spree has developed so much momentum that we are heading straight for the bottomless pit of debt.
DART has more problems than the number of passengers they claim they will carry someday. There is one development in progress that most clearly demonstrates the arrogance of the bureaucrats and the elected officials towards the people they presumably serve.
In 1983, the original DART campaign promised a pay-as-you-go system that would incur no debt and would require no federal funds. A simple look at the DART construction signs littering Downtown reveal that the federal government is a prominent sponsor of our local project, perhaps also providing the ultimate role model for public mismanagement of private tax dollars.
In 1988, DART vigorously campaigned for the authorization to incur long-term debt, which was put to a vote of the people. (Apparently, $230 million in annual revenue was not quite enough to get this program started.) The voters, prudently rejected the notion of long-term debt, and so DART went sulking back to its million-dollar board room to regroup and decided to take over the old Sanger-Harris building for the new DART headquarters.
By the way, during my “citizen’s tour” of the new headquarters, I asked my tour guide (a DART employee since 1983) if Dallas really needed light rail, and his surprisingly candid response was: “No, it’s nothing more than a tourist attraction.”
In 1993, the State Legislature reduced the size of the DART Board and reiterated the prohibition against DART to incur long-term debt. Under its charter, DART can issue bonds that incur debt for no more than five years.
DART apparently still hasn’t gotten the message. In a blatant move that disregards the 1988 vote of the people and ignores the requirement of voter approval for long-term debt, DART is attempting to “stack” a series of five-year notes, the last of which would not mature until 2005.
DART’s general counsel received permission from the Texas Attorney General’s office to rob the taxpayers, so DART can then put us on a train. This sounds similar to what got Jesse James in trouble, though admittedly in reverse order.
The technical question, of course, is how many consecutive, but overlapping five-year notes can DART issue before it becomes “long-term debt?” The voters on whose backs the debt will be carried consider long-term debt to be anything in excess of five years.
It is bad enough that DART is admitting the need for debt (contrary to the 1983 campaign promise), but now DART is actually trying to do what was expressly rejected by the voters in 1988.
So, can we expect the Dallas City Council to come to our rescue?
Not hardly. Lake Highlands’ own Councilman, Donna Halstead, drafted a resolution communicating to DART the Council’s support for DART’s proposed use of a series of five-year notes.
We are not only watching a black hole of debt being dug – we in Lake Highlands are actually holding one of the shovels.
Isn’t it nice to be a part of history? Perhaps future DART tour guides will point to the White Rock “Swamp” as one of the many sacrifices made by Lake Highlanders to bring about the DART amusement park.
It is unlikely that Lake Highlanders will enjoy any of the alleged benefits of this financial fiasco, but we most assuredly will have to continue bearing the burden of DART’s skyrocketing budget and the adverse effects of a City that is older and deeper in debt.
You collectors may want to mat and frame this column for posterity. Someday, I may be called the “Nostradamus of the Nineties,” but it is not hard to predict the obvious.