I specifically remember being glued to the television on May 2, 1998, tracking the results of the City of Dallas bond vote from my Irving apartment. I watched with anticipation as Dallas voters went to the polls to vote up or down on a number of propositions, including whether to issue $246 million of bonds for the Trinity River Project. This included funds that would be used to build the American Airlines Center.
I had attended a number of meeting about the Trinity plans, and saved newspaper clippings detailing the need for bridge replacements from some of the roads spanning our fair creek. While 10 other bond propositions passed with relative ease, the Trinity funds were narrowly approved 51.6 to 48.4.
It was then that I made the decision that I wanted to move to Dallas. It just didn’t seem right to leave civic issues that I cared about most (and that I felt most affected me and my family) up to others to decide. I wanted to be a part of the process, I wanted to cast my vote. So on Saturday was another big city vote that would be added to voting for Craig Watkins as Dallas County D.A. and for the Billion dollar civic improvement package a few years ago.
Map from Dallas Observer
This time, I did a little more than cast my vote. I generally prefer to put out the facts -as I see them- and let About a month ago I urged the “Vote No” folks to turn up the heat and start reaching out to Southern Dallas. But then I was inspired by the refrain of the R.I.P. Dallas commercial which said “This is Our City.”
I thought about the fact this is was why I moved to Dallas in the first place. To try to make a difference on issues that I feel matter most.
There were people on both sides of the hotel debate that worked hard for the issue who don’t live in Dallas. As I understand it, a Highland Park resident spent $5 million of his own money to see the the convention center hotel was not built. (Speaking of which, can anyone who supported “Vote Yes” on so called merit explain why The Hilton Anatole -as reported this morning by Steve Blow- withdrew from the Dallas Visitors and Convention Bureau last month?)
But when you live here the stakes really are higher. I can’t imagine going to any of the suburbs and getting intimately involved in one of their municipal elections. Helping out a candidate I know maybe, but a municipal manor, not hardly.
But this is Dallas, and it’s different.
When my friend Coop and I walked into Gilley’s for the Vote No watch party much of the major celebrating had already taken place. We were a little late after spending most of the night at Tejano with our friend Casey Thomas who’d had a tough evening, but the energy on Lamar was still high.
The first person I saw when I got off the stairs was the Honorable Dwaine Caraway. We both smiled and I told him how I saw him campaigning person to person for Vote No in the Home Depot parking lot last Sunday.
There were hugs all around, one each from Veronica Torres and Cheryl Richard of the Callas Convention and Visitors Bureau. A bear hug from John Scovell whose Woodbine company runs the Hyatt Regency Dallas. And a hearty congratulations to Jack Matthews and his Matthews Southwest Company that is developing the new property.
RIP Dallas was in full effect and were thoroughly excited about their part in the win. Mike Davis and I huddled for a moment discussing what this will mean for the city as well as the grassroots effort that came together in the last minute that pushed Vote No over the top. My friend, who is not a Dallas resident, had a chance to see the people who’d been in the news up close and personal at this open event.
Think about it. The margin of “victory” was about 2,000 votes. That means if 1,000 people change their vote it goes the other way. Without question the combination of RIP Dallas, Enough is Enough, and the Southern Dallas push made the difference.
I’ve trolled a few of the usual sites this morning to see the haters still hating and predicting doom for D-Town. But guess what….Dallas is still here.
We -the citizens of Dallas- are on the verge of making Dallas the best city that it can be. The tendency in the past has always been a desire to be “the next Chicago” or “A Southern New York.” We tout how we have the “biggest this” or “the most that.” But we should keep our eyes . So we’re about to be the only city in the world that has four buildings within one contiguous block designed by Pritzker Architecture Prize winners. So what?
The haters will keep their eyes focus on what we don’t have, and I know full well Dallas is not perfect. But we don’t have to feel like we have to compare ourselves to other great cities, our suburban brethren or our good buddies in Ft. Worth.
Ft. Worth has a great downtown, I get it. Arlington has the Rangers and the Boys, I know. But Dallas, just be Dallas.
Let’s accentuate our positives: Great rail service, a booming arts scene, and our first public university. Let’s eliminate our negatives, such as the lack of downtown retail and poor schools. There’s nothing wrong with trying to use a hotel and the entertainment that will surround it to augment our city.
We don’t have to apologize to anyone. Our city is great in its own right and everyday the people of Dallas add to that greatness. I believe that a convention center hotel will also add to that greatness. I hope that it allows more people to see the greatness of Dallas and the rest of the North Texas region. And I hope more people will choose to move to Dallas to become part of the solution rather than pointing out the problems.