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Dallas voters consider $1.25 billion bond for upgrades to city streets and facilities in May 4 election

Dallas voters consider $1.25 billion bond for upgrades to city streets and facilities in May 4 election
Dallas voters consider $1.25 billion bond for upgrades to city streets and facilities in May 4 election 05:12

DALLAS — Dallas City Council Member Paula Blackmon is among a long list of city leaders - past and present - who support all 10 ballot propositions that make up the city's $1.25 billion bond for 2024. "We need to invest in our city, plain and simple."

That list includes Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson and four previous Mayors - Ron Kirk, Tom Leppert, Laura Miller, and Mike Rawlings - to current and former city council members, and a wide variety of organizations. 

Voters will consider the bond in the May 4 Municipal election. 

Early voting begins Monday, April 22. 

Most of the bond money will go toward Proposition A: streets and transportation for a total of $521 million. 

We're talking about fixing potholes, repaving and repairing streets and alleys, and making roads safer. 

Two items on the very long list of projects include a complete re-do of Peak Street from Lemmon and Haskell down to Parry Avenue near Fair Park at a cost of more than $22 million. 

Another street set for a complete re-do is Harwood from Woodall Rogers south to Main Street in downtown Dallas for more than $15 million. 

Blackmon said, "A lot of people don't want six-lane roads anymore. We need to have safe streets with pedestrian connections, micro-mobility, mass transit. What we're also seeing is people saying you know what, I don't want to be in my car all the time. I want a bike trail, I want a sidewalk, and so we need to meet those needs as well and that's expensive."

Dallas Council Member Cara Mendelsohn supports Proposition A. "I'm going to call those the no-brainers." 

There's also money for new traffic lights. 

Mendelsohn said, "I think it's 45% of the traffic signals in Dallas are older than me, and they have about a 30-year useful life. So, you can imagine that is way over date." 

Proposition B is for expanding and upgrading parks and recreation, which has the second most funding: more than $345 million. 

This includes $30 million for improvements to the Dallas Zoo, including a new Safari Trail habitat, plus $4 million to make upgrades to the Dallas Arboretum including for the main entrance and ticket booths, $6.5 million for the expansion of Klyde Warren Park - and also $20 million to dredge White Rock Lake, a project that's also received federal funding. 

Blackmon told CBS News Texas, "As we've seen, people care about that lake and since the pandemic, people want to be out in a public park." 

Mendelsohn said there are many other needed upgrades slated for neighborhood parks across the city. "In my district, three-quarters of the playgrounds are older than their useful life, meaning they're 30 to 50 years old. I've got parents taking kids to the playgrounds where the playground is the same one they played on when they grew up. These need to be switched out for safety." 

There's also Prop C - $52 million for infrastructure and storm drainage to protect neighborhoods against flooding. 

But Mendelsohn said while important, she opposes this proposition, along with another. "Those propositions have other ways to fund those projects and so we don't really need to go the route of a bond." 

But Blackmon said voters should approve Proposition C. "We have real issues with flooding, especially in East Dallas, where we have lots of creeks. So, I say it's a small amount to invest in people's quality of life in their neighborhood." 

Then there's Prop D - upgrading the city's public libraries for more than $43 million. 

More than $75 million would go to Prop E - toward repairing city-owned arts facilities and attracting visitors to the Arts District. 

Prop F - $90 million will go toward public safety facilities. 

That includes $50 million for the newly proposed Dallas Police Department's new training facility, the largest single ticket item in this year's bond. 

Supporters, including former Dallas Council Member Jennifer Staubach Gates, say a new police training facility is needed because the existing one became outdated long ago. "Anybody who's toured it I think is just appalled. "If you want a great police department, it starts with the training, and this is going to help us retain and recruit which we desperately need. It's going to help us become a world-class police department. It's going to be community-focused." 

The new facility will be built at UNT's new campus in South Dallas. 

But not everyone supports this project, including Tamera Hutcherson of the group Stop Cop City Dallas. "We believe that will result in more over-spending and repression in our communities and we think that money could be utilized elsewhere. The Dallas Police Department already has a training facility and I know the pushback has been that it is outdated, they don't have the amenities they need. Well, why not invest money in updating that facility instead of constructing a new facility entirely." 

Mendelsohn, who chairs the council's Public Safety Committee, supports the new police training facility. 

We asked her about the opposition to this project. 

"Probably the same group that wanted us to defund the police way back when. What I'm going to say is that we need to have a robust police force," said Mendelsohn. "Right now, we are down hundreds of officers. I have not met anybody that doesn't want more police in their neighborhood that doesn't want a highly trained officer." 

When asked for a response Hutcherson said, "I would encourage those people to engage in a conversation with us." 

The training facility will cost a total of $140 million. 

If voters approve, the city will have a total of $80 million committed to the project, and Staubach Gates told CBS News Texas that she's been speaking with a number of private foundations about making contributions of their own to this public-private partnership. "We're moving in the right direction. We have a lot of support, but we need the voters to stand up and support this proposition." 

Prop "G" would provide more than $72 million for economic development and attract jobs and workforce programs. 

More than $26 million would go towards Prop "H" - and expanding options for affordable housing. 

Mendelsohn told CBS News Texas she opposes this proposition as well because there are other programs that can pay for housing initiatives. She said the city has already used them effectively. "We're actually ahead of what our goal was in terms of affordable housing production. So, it's not like we're not creating it. It's not like we don't have tools to do it, but I don't think it's wise for us to take on debt to create affordable housing." 

Prop "I" would spend $19 million to help the homeless, which includes funding for renovating and increasing capacity at the Bridge shelter. 

Prop "J" would provide $5 million to upgrade the city's IT infrastructure, after various problems with technology and security in the city government. 

The city has to pay back bonds, which are paid for by property tax revenues. 

Blackmon said, "This is within our capacity to borrow." 

She said the city needs to be competitive not just against other cities in the state and U.S., but in North Texas as well. 

"If people are moving into North Texas, they need to pick Dallas and that means we've got to give them a place to live and we've got to give them a reason to be here."

Watch Eye On Politics Sunday at 7:30 a.m. on CBS News Texas on air and streaming

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