Dallas city staff bond recommendations: More money for streets and housing — but less for parks

Dallas city staff is recommending a cut to the parks and recreation bond allocation — and an increase to both street infrastructure and housing.

By Nathan Collins, KERA NewsDecember 18, 2023 9:53 am, , ,

From KERA News:

Dallas city staff is recommending updated bond allocations that prioritize street and transportation funding — and cut back on funding for parks and recreation. That’s according to an early December memo from City Manager T.C. Broadnax.

According to the memo, city staff is recommending over $500 million go toward street infrastructure. That includes repairs, alley reconstruction and repaving. That’s over a hundred-million dollars more than what a 15-member city-appointed bond task force recommended in early November.

But the increase in street funding comes with a caveat. City staff are also recommending a cut to the taskforce’s park and recreation recommendation — by almost $125 million.

The recommendations come after a lengthy campaign for more greenspaces spurred by Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson during his reelection campaign.

Critics of the push for parks say that bond funding should go toward more affordable housing. And some council members questioned the emphasis on new green spaces in the city when big bills — like pension system obligations — loom in the distance.

Staff’s recommendations also include nearly $50 million more in allocations for the city’s housing needs.

At an early December briefing Dallas parks and recreation officials — and land consultants — told council members that the city’s park system contributes to the city’s commercial real estate value, is driving the “sustained economic development” in Dallas and “meaningfully leading to equitable outcomes.”

“The bottom line is…we’re not against the parks,” Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Carolyn King Arnold said during the meeting. “It’s just please let us not try to show that the parks will be the great hope that will take us across the mark…we can take our families to the park, but we cannot live in the park.”

Johnson used the State of the City Address to push for more parks, claiming investment in the city’s park system is one of the best investments of taxpayer money. He says he realizes the need for housing in Dallas — “but historically government is simply not good at playing the role of a housing developer.”

Johnson appointed Arun Agarwal as chair of the bond taskforce. Agarwal also serves as the president of the Dallas Parks and Recreation Board. Only one member of the task force voted against the initial parks allocation.

Housing advocates are planning to show up to Wednesday’s council meeting to advocate for more bond allocations aimed at securing more affordable housing options. Critics have liked the shortage of housing to a “crisis” in the past.

Wednesday’s scheduled discussion is only the first in the next phase of deciding what will ultimately be put to Dallas voters in a 2024 bond election.

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