Proposal seeking Dallas voter approval of $300 million bond for streets hits roadblock
A proposal from two members of Dallas City Council seeking voter approval for a $ 300 million bond package prompted several of their colleagues to order them to step on the brakes.
Members of two council committees voted 6-3 on Wednesday against submitting the proposal to the full council next week to decide whether it should be included in the May 1st vote. The proposal would pay for the modernization of road and traffic signals.
Among the reasons for slowing the idea down, Councilors cited concerns about the proposal, which was largely drafted without community input this week. the prospect of this leads to higher taxes; the ongoing pandemic; and increased city debt.
The deadline for voting ends next Friday. City officials said the May 2023 ballot could be the next opportunity to get voter approval.
The proposal was spearheaded by Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Adam McGough and Councilor Cara Mendelsohn, both of whom along with Councilor Jennifer Staubach Gates had voted to move it forward.
Mayor Pro Tem Adam Medrano and councilors Chad West, Casey Thomas, Adam Bazaldua, Tennell Atkins and Lee Kleinman voted no. Councilors Carolyn King Arnold and Paula Blackmon, who are not part of either committee but were present at the meeting, also called for the proposal to be delayed.
Chief Financial Officer Elizabeth Reich said she would not recommend putting the proposal to voters in May.
The item could still be put on the council’s agenda on Wednesday for Mayor Eric Johnson or City Administrator TC Broadnax to consider. The city administrator attended the meeting but did not comment on the proposal. Johnson is not a member of either committee and was absent. The final agenda had not been published by Friday afternoon.
Dallas voters approved a $ 1.05 billion bond package in November 2017 to improve streets, parks, homeless services, public safety, and other urban facilities. The largest component, around $ 534 million, is set to cover more than 1,000 road and transportation projects such as road renewal, new traffic signals and bridge repairs.
The city has yet to issue $ 410 million in bonds on these road and transportation projects, city records show.
There are also unsold bonds from a 2012 voter-approved $ 642 million bond package and a 2006 voter-approved $ 1.35 billion package. These packages also included money for road upgrades.
The difference from the recent proposal is that the $ 300 million generic debt will be used solely to improve road and traffic signals, said Mendelsohn, chairman of the council’s government committee on performance and financial management.
Residents’ demands for better roads drove the proposal, she said.
Neither she nor McGough, chairman of the council’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, explained why it was opened a week before the registration deadline.
“Dallas residents want their streets fixed and they don’t want them fixed later, they want them now,” Mendelsohn said. “We should give them the choice to make their voices heard.”
Deputy city administrator Majed Al-Ghafry said it would take Dallas $ 5 billion to fully tackle any road improvements in the city.