It was billed as a Town Hall, but it played more like Dallas City Councilman Adam McGough’s first State of the Community Address. One year after being sworn into office, McGough updated constituents Tuesday night on items “accomplished” and items “next” on his list.
Working from a slick handout entitled “Accountability Plan” and speaking to a full Lake Highlands High School auditorium – patient and interested despite the lack of air conditioning – McGough said Lake Highlands is on the move.
“We are turning a corner and I genuinely believe that the best is ahead of us,” he told the crowd. “It’s been an absolutely amazing year.”
The community has challenges, he admitted.
“We have some of the best, some of the wealthiest areas and we have some of the highest crime areas of the city.”
Referring to his “scorecard” from the year, McGough stressed, “I believe that I should be accountable to each and every one of you.”
McGough’s five-point plan involves strengthening neighborhoods, improving public safety, supporting education and employment, branding LH and encouraging communication, and improving infrastructure and transportation. He also shared ideas for supporting the five areas of LH: White Rock Valley Corridor, Hamilton Park, North Lake Highlands, Skillman Gateway and Lake Highlands Town Center.
“There has been a lack of development in Lake Highlands, but we are on the rise,” said McGough, describing the development team he’s formed.
Public safety, he said, is also high on his list.
“The mayor appointed me vice-chair of the Public Safety Committee, and I’ve enjoyed working to support our police officers,” he said. “We’re examining the nuisance abatement law, which uses guns, gambling, rape and aggravated assault to close problem properties. The law hasn’t been used effectively in the past, but this could be a legacy project.”
He was equally as enthusiastic about the Violent Crime Task Force.
“At Forest/Audelia, we’ve had 151 officers make 1500 calls, 143 citations and 190 arrests. Since March 1st, we’ve seen a reduction of crime there by 27%. My goal is for Lake Highlands not to have two of the highest TAAG – Target Area Action Grid – areas in the city.” Dallas Police have named Greenville/LBJ 8th and Forest/Audelia 5th on Dallas’ crime hot spot list.
McGough gave credit to his team and to the fellow council members, local developers, board and commission members and city staff in the audience.
McGough also worked to establish two school zones and form a D10 principals group to encourage idea-sharing. He wants to bring SROs – school resource officers – back to RISD schools like LHHS. When DISD opted to form their own police department, DPD pulled out of schools and RISD began hiring off-duty officers.
“They just don’t have the impact of officers who know the kids and know the families,” he said.
He also discussed a steering committee to coordinate organizations as various as the Exchange Club, Women’s League, Junior Women’s League and Pamper Lake Highlands, an initiative at City Hall to protect the Little Free Library, and signing a “respect pledge” with fellow councilmen in honor of Peace Day Dallas.
“While we disagree a lot, we’ve got a great city council,” he said.
McGough said plans for the new LH aquatics center aren’t final – but they’re close – and the project is fully funded. He envisions food trucks pulling up and full community involvement. He’ll continue to push for trails and Complete Streets, he said, and he expressed excitement about approval of the Skillman Gateway signature bridge.
And he asked for input: “I’ve had different people approach me about renaming Plano Road to Lake Highlands Drive, so if that interests you, please contact me.”
There’ll be a city bond package in May focused on streets and infrastructure, he said, but first there will be a needs inventory from every area of the city, so, “please plug in.”
At the Town Center, shared-access homes have been approved and will be constructed soon by David Weekley Homes at the south end and the new retail block has been approved and will be built soon at the water’s edge. Groundbreaking ceremonies for the Sprouts store are on the near horizon, he said.
An application has been completed, with the help of RISD staff, for a historical marker honoring the rich heritage of Hamilton Park Pacesetter Magnet school. Designs are complete and funding has been approved for a new library, said McGough.
At Flag Pole Hill, the volunteer group FTLOTL (For the Love of the Lake) is looking to make improvements, especially to the playground, and a master plan is currently being developed with the help of the Dallas Parks Department. LH Exchange Club’s Oktoberfest will be moving to Flag Pole Hill this year.
McGough has adopted a saying, a logo, a hashtag – “All in D10,” referring to LH’s District 10.
“All in D10, what does it mean?,” said McGough. “It’s all of us. We have at times been a divisive community. We can fight, we can disagree, but at the end of the day we’re going to come together.
“It’s also a focus on D10. District 10 has been overlooked. Some of Dallas’ other districts are receiving $200-300 million while we’re in the $100,000 range. I just feel it’s time we remind the city that our neighborhood is just as much in need as everybody else.”
Lake Highlands resident Cindy Woolley had praise for McGough and his message.
“This meeting was a great way to pull the community together,” said Woolley. “I learned that there’s a lot more stuff going on in Lake Highlands than I knew about. You focus sometimes just on your own backyard issues, but all the small things add up.”
Kim West agreed.
“I expected less detail and more overview, and he included more specific plans than I expected. I feel more comfortable that things are in better control than I imagined. I had a general idea of how a councilman runs things, but I don’t think I had a good appreciation for the huge amount of work and the detail. I don’t think anybody appreciates it as much as they should.”
I asked West if McGough’s request was realistic – for our neighborhood to be more engaged at City Hall.
“I really do from the people in Lake Highlands. We are a strong and vocal community. It’s very impressive that he is willing to open the floodgates, because there is animosity among the people that disagree. But if there is anybody who is going to demand support for our area, it’s Lake Highlands.”
You can reach McGough at firstname.lastname@example.org or call his office at 214-670-4068.