Dallas South Interviews City Councilwoman Angela Hunt
Dallas City Councilwoman Angela Hunt scored a major political victory when she and TrinityVote secured over 80,000 signatures to force a referendum to alter the tollroad portion of the Trinity River project. Dallas City Secretary Deborah Watkins certified the signatures, and a November vote will allow Dallas voters decide the fate of road. Angela Hunt granted Dallas South an interview regarding the latest developments regarding the Trinity.
Dallas South Blog: First off congratulations on successfully gathering over 80,000 signatures to force a referendum on the Trinity River Toll Road. How do you feel about what you and TrinityVote were able to accomplish?
Angela Hunt: Thank you. It's been really amazing. The fact that more people signed our petition than passed the original Trinity River proposition or voted for our current mayor, that's incredible.
We've also had broad support and volunteers from across the city. I think it really speaks to the fact that the people of Dallas want the Trinity Park they were promised and they don't want a huge toll road to ruin it.
Visit TrinityVote by clicking here.
DSB: What is the best possible outcome, regarding a Trinity toll road, for the citizens of Dallas?
AH: Removing the Trinity toll road from the park. We can create an incredible urban park, one that is nationally known, a beautiful recreational amenity in the middle of our city. But putting a toll road in it will ruin that opportunity.
Other cities across the country are spending tens of millions of dollars to rip out large roads built on their waterfronts. And here we are, about to make a billion dollar mistake.
DSB: Why do you think Mayor Tom Leppert, former Mayors Ron Kirk and Laura Miller, and Council members like Mitchell Rasansky oppose the efforts of TrinityVote?
AH: I can't speak for them. I do think that for some people, there is a lot of inertia behind this project. There are also a lot of powerful people who have vested financial interests in this area who want to see this toll road built. It can be challenging to take on those special interests.
DSB; Opponents of the referendum say that any changes to the current plans delay the long awaited construction of the Trinity River project. How accurate is this assessment?
AH: It isn't. The challenges associated with engineering a huge toll road in a floodway — something that hasn't been done before — have held up this project. That has delayed our park by nearly a decade.
Removing the toll road from the park is not going to delay the park or flood control improvements. It's not going to jeopardize funding for the park or flood control. And we'll finally get to build our park.
There are so many components of the Trinity River Project that are underway that have absolutely nothing to do with the toll road: the Equestrian Center, Audubon Center, Elm Fork Soccer Complex, the Great Trinity Forest, the Dallas Floodway Extension. These projects are ongoing. Their funding isn't tied to the toll road. Their construction isn't tied to the toll road. So when referendum opponents claim the whole project will fall apart, it's just scare tactics.
DSB: Some entities, including the Dallas Morning News, have charged supporters of the referendum with spreading misinformation regarding flooding and exaggerating the environmental impact the road will have on the parks. How do you respond to these claims?
AH: We've done our best to provide only facts. Here's a fact: back in February, the city staff presented a briefing to the Trinity River City Council Committee stating that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (which controls what gets built between the levees) is changing their guidelines about what can be built in and around levees, and that the NTTA hoped to get a waiver or exception to prevent further modification of their current plans.
That troubles me. I don't think Dallas residents want the safety of our levees compromised in any way in order to build a toll road. As for flooding, the fact that the Corps can't point to another floodway anywhere in the country that has a large scale road in it, that means we're the guinea pigs. We're building a billion dollar road in a location that regularly floods.
DSB: What will TrinityVote do between now and the November vote?
AH: We'll continue our grassroots efforts to educate voters, to let Dallas residents know how important it is to "Vote Yes" in November to keep the toll road out of the park. We're not the ones with the deep pockets, so we expect the opposition will mount a slick ad campaign.
But we want to focus on getting the facts out to voters so they can make an informed decision. We continue to need volunteers for our effort, so we encourage anyone who's interested to visit www.trinityvote.com and sign up to volunteer.
DSB: Thanks for your time Angela.