Friday, May 30, 2008

Wherein I discuss city finances, voting, hotels, and the Trinity River

This is your last day to vote to rename Industrial Blvd over by our new Trinity River park/highway/floodway/boondoggle. Go here to vote!

And while you are exercising your right to make your voice heard to rename a street, remember that your elected representatives aren't interested in your input for things like building a 1,200 room convention center hotel for $500M with revenue bonds. Nope, we don't need a vote for the city getting into the hotel business. But renaming Industrial, now that's important stuff.

Jim Schutze points out the extra incongruity in this whole hotel business when you consider that the city is going to have to curtail basic services due to declining sales tax revenue. So the city is $50M in the hole for the next budget year but we've decided to spend $500M on a hotel. And Jim doesn't buy the argument that it's free money because it's revenue bonds. There's no guarantee that revenue generated by the hotel will cover the debt service on these bonds. And if revenue does fall short they become general obligation bonds. Translation: the taxpayers just bought debt service on their fancy hotel to add to the budget deficit. Thanks Mayor Tom and Council!

Since it's Friday and I don't want to end on a down note, here's some great news about the new Audobon Center, which is one of the bright spots of the whole Trinity River project.

"We wanted the building itself to be a teaching tool," said Craig Reynolds, a principal in Brown Reynolds Watford Architects Inc., the project's architects. "The idea was to create something that's an extension of the natural setting, rather than something that intrudes on that setting.

"We hope that because of the way it's been designed and built, this center will help convey the message that the land and the water are worth preserving."

According to the Dallas school district, there are 37 elementary schools, seven middle schools, six high schools and one Montessori magnet school within five miles of the center. Together, they have almost 38,000 students.

Most of these students are from low-income families. Some have never seen a river except from a car, a forest except on television, a fish except in fish sticks.

The opportunity to reach this urban school population was one of the things that attracted Audubon to the project, said Ben Jones, the group's director of education at the center.

Way to go Audubon Texas, Meadows Foundation, and Dallas Parks and Recreation! This will truly be a great asset to our city.

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