Proposition One victory reinforces my decision to move to Dallas

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.

Convention Center Hotel Message to a Friend

I was responding to a message from a friend this morning and figured I’d post what I typed on the blog.

Shawn,

Just read your latest post. Why is the hotel so important? I don’t live in Dallas and I don’t have a say but what is it expected to bring.

I have heard of conferences but with so little entertainment to offer I don’t see that being a big pull. I think it is great that this mayor wants to build up Dallas but I am not sure what or why you all think a hotel is the way to go about it.

Friend

###

Friend,

That’s a good question and a question I plan to answer in the next few days. The hotel is important to a city like Dallas because convention and tourism is the lifeblood of major cities. New Orleans is taking their time to rebuild living space, but they wasted no time making sure that tourism was protected and back up as soon as possible.

Dallas is the only city in the top 20 convention markets that does not have a convention hotel. Even most opponents agree that the city will benefit from such a venue, they just don’t agree with how it’s being funded.

Regardless of what people say, convention planners like to come to Dallas. When you have a convention on a coast like San Diego -A GREAT CONVENTION CITY- it can be tough for people to travel from the East Coast. Early Departures/ Late Arrivals, jet lag, it all takes away from the experience.

When I was working a convention in Seattle recently they told me attendance was down this year because many of the doctors from the East Coast did not attend. The logistical convenience offered by Chicago, Dallas, (even Houston) offers an initial incentive for our first customer: convention planners.

And there are things to do in Dallas that even folks who live here don’t take advantage of. Ask locals whether they have been to the Nasher Scupture Center and most will say no. Yet it’s one of the reasons the New York Times listed Dallas as #17 in the their list of top #44 cities in the world.

In my initial article on this issues for the Dallas Morning News on December 17, 2007, I stated that Dallas needs both a hotel and improved entertainment options to be successful. In this hotel deal, Matthews Southwest (hotel developer) has committed to raising up to $30 million for entertainment and retail space around the hotel. These are the same people who recruited Brooklyn’s Jazz Cafe to the Southside. I was there on Friday, you could hardly get in.

It’s just one man’s opinion, but I think Jack Matthews is the 21st Century Trammell Crow/Marcus Stanley. Because he’s not from here (like many of us) he’s not bogged down by what can’t happen. “You can’t make money out of that Old Sears Building,” but he did. “You can’t build a successful hotel downtown,” but he will.

The way Matthews treats his African-American retail tenants (which are quite a few) is outstanding, and he’s a huge supporter of “minority owned businesses.” I’m sure that goes for everyone who work and live in his buildings. People love working for the guy. I was on board with the hotel before they announced a developer, but I can tell you my support would not be as strong were it anyone else.

FACT

In 2007-2008 the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau booked 1 million room nights, $ 1 billion of economic impact for our city. That’s a record for Dallas and up 20% from the previous year. This had everything to do with the fact that the Dallas City Council approved the hotel.

In the end, I think part of it is that I see Dallas not as it is, but as it will be 5 years from now. I see Dallas with a deck park over Woodall Rogers, a beautiful bridge extending into West Dallas, a Performing Arts Center and Theater that rival any such venues in the world. I even see the stinky Trinity becoming a white water rapids course.

Our city made some mistakes, and if I can borrow a line from our President, much of that took place before I got here. But Dallas has to protect Dallas. Prop 1 and 2 don’t make one person safer, one road smoother, and they don’t save one job. We have to move forward, and that’s what we’ve been able to do in the last 4 or 5 years. We can’t let one person stand in our way for fear that he’ll lose business.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Shawn

Join Me and Save Dallas

PUT ON FOR YOUR CITY! – VOTE NO!

Here’s what’s going on:

Many of you moved to Dallas and live here because of the opportunities available to you. You moved here because Dallas is a growing city.

Dallas has been losing everything of value to the suburbs. We lost the Cowboys to Arlington. Nokia Theatre is in Grand Prairie. The Texas Motor Speedway is in Fort Worth instead of on I-20 in Oak Cliff. Don’t you want to do things in Dallas?

More than $2.5 billion dollars of economic impact and $800 million in direct spending is waiting for us if we VOTE NO! One group is trying to prevent that from getting to Dallas.

If Dallas becomes less business-friendly, we lose. The economic future and opportunities of our generation depends on whether or not we VOTE NO!

We didn’t like the last Mayor because she shot down every project and now we have a Mayor with great ideas for a great city. We need to have his back!

How it affects you

Dallas will be become a ghost town.

We won’t be able to bring back and build up South Dallas, Oak Cliff, Pleasant Grove, and West Dallas unless we VOTE NO!

No more places in Dallas like West Village, Mockingbird Station, and Uptown.

If Dallas can’t bring big events to downtown, finance economic development, and recruit companies, this city will dry up! The more we lose, the more jobs leave Dallas, and the less opportunity you have to succeed. That’s not why you came to Dallas!

Here’s what you need to do

They have more money but we have more people!

If you want Dallas to continue to grow, you need to come to our rally on Wednesday April 29th in front of City Hall.

Music starts at 4PM and the speakers start at 5:30–guest speakers include Veronica Torres of the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau, Michael Davis of Dallas Progress blog, Ron King of PartyChaser.com/Trinary Media, and others.

Are you going to let one group stand in the way of YOUR future?

Come hang out with 1,000 of your friends and learn why we must fight for our city.

MAP LINK:

When: Wednesday 4/29 – music starts at 4PM

Where: City Hall Plaza, Akard and Young Street, at the fountain (google map) http://tinyurl.com/saveourcitydallas

Parking is along streets and behind City Hall

IMPORTANT LINKS

Early Voting: April 27, 2009May 5, 2009

Early voting locations

Election Day: Saturday May 9th.

Here is all the information you need to cast your vote.

Check your voter registration by name or address

Demonstration of Touch Screen Voting Machine (Flash player required)

Services Available to Voters with Special Needs in Texas

State of Texas Early Voting Rules

R.I.P. Dallas makes is presence known, gathers 600 young professionals to support “Vote No” Campaign

It’s amazing what a group of friends can do with an email a Twitter account, and a few facebook messages.

Early this week I got an email from a friend that I trust. It read as follows:

Hello:

I would like to invite you as my special guest for theDallas Young Professionals for the Convention Center Hotel Luncheon, next Thursday April 16th from 12-115pm at Eddie Deans Ranch (Downtown Dallas off Lamar Blvd).

The benefits of attending this luncheon will be powerful networking with the top young business and political leaders in Dallas and information and planning session for supporting the Dallas Convention Center Hotel.

This will be the first event of its kind where we are expecting over 300 young corporate professionals/entrepreneurs to attend. If you are serious about building your network and growing your business or climbing the corporate ladder, then you must be there. If you received this email it is because I truly believe that you are a young professional leader who will continue to excel.

I’m not sure how many more invites I’ll get to events for “young professionals,” but I’ll ride that train until it runs out.

Anyway, I thought since Dallas South was one of the first entities in Dallas to offer an opinion on the Convention Center Hotel , and since people link the site to the project, it seemed like a good idea to at least show my face. Wasn’t sure how they’d pull off 300 people since I was just hearing about it…but I try not to judge.

A couple of days later I received another email from someone that I didn’t know, and a phone call on yesterday from someone else asking if I was planning to attend. I’m not a rocket scientist, but I’d say it seems like they were covering their bases. It felt like momentum to me.

So when exited off I-35 and headed toward Eddie Dean’s Ranch, I halfway expected the bumper to bumper traffic turning into the parking lot. And when I got inside the room; it was jumping.  A lot of folks in attendance were shaking their heads at the beginning, and now that I know more of the story, I can see why.

As it was told, about a week ago 4 or 5 friends got together and asked themselves how could they impact the Prop 1 and Prop 2 elections. They decided to hold a meeting to get out the facts about the proposals and what they think it would mean to Dallas.

So supposedly they emailed their friends and asked their friends to email their friends, started as website called R.I.P.Dallas, and there we all were at Eddie Deans. 600 people showed up for the gathering. Even the organizers were visibly shocked.

Now let’s be clear, the 4 or 5 friends aren’t just anybody. The guys I met and that I was introduced to were the sons of some heavy hitting Dallas businessmen. But they have a (somewhat) diverse circle of friends that produced more African-Americans than I had expected to see.

There was a question and answer session with Dallas City Council member Ron Natinsky, a few people from the audience to speak, a slide presentation and some words from the mayor. All and all a really good meeting. Check the RIP Dallas site. We’ll be ramping up convention hotel talk next week.

A couple of hours after the meeting ended, I received an email from “Grim” the fictional leader of the group. Here’s what Grim had to say:

Will we soon be saying R.I.P. Dallas? If the two propositions on the May 9 ballot pass, very likely.

That’s why we are asking YOU to get on board the movement to Vote NO! on Propositions 1 and 2 on May 9 and to forward this message to 20 of your friends.

More than 600 souls have already joined our campaign but we need many more. Here’s how you can get involved:

1. Campaign headquarters is Loft 111 at South Side on Lamar. Drop by when you can to help with strategy, pick up signs and get on camera to speak your mind about billionaires and unions pushing their agenda on our Dallas.

2. We will be conducting an urban sign blitz Friday April 17 at 4:00 pm. E-mail me if you are willing to assist – we’ll convene at campaign headquarters (see above).

3. We are going to storm City Hall next Wednesday, April 22. E-mail me at grim@ripdallas.com to participate.

4. Forward this e-mail to 20 people you know and encourage them to join the campaign.

5. Go to the website where you can read blog posts by Grim (feel free to comment), view photos and videos of our upcoming stunts all over Dallas and read about projects in jeopardy if Propositions 1 and 2 prevail. If you are at work you may want to check your volume:

http://www.ripdallas.com

Gotta run. Lots to do. This election is going to be the death of me yet…

Grim.

This is how movements are created in the 21st Century. What started as an idea a week ago has become a coalition in short order. I’m looking forward to seeing what these guys (and ladies that are now working with them) have up their sleeve for city hall next week. It looks like it could be a doozie.

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Shawn P. discussing Convention Center Hotel at 5 and or 6 on WFAA 8

I just finished shooting (Wednesday) an interview with Brad Watson from WFAA 8 a few minutes ago. Brad wanted my thoughts regarding the “Vote No” (For the hotel) campaign and a press conference that was held by a group of  Southern Dallas pastors who are against the hotel.

The interview is scheduled to run at either 5pm, 6pm, or both on Channel 8.