A time of great hope in Dallas

The following was adapted from my April 1 email newsletter.

March 2020 was a time of fear in Dallas. A time of uncertainty. A time of the great unknown, of a virus that was closing in, undetected, on your community. A time of disaster declarations and shutdowns and furloughs and layoffs and hospitalizations and shortages of PPE and COVID-19 test kits.

March 2021 will hopefully be remembered as a time of great hope and renewed optimism. A time of vaccines — those triumphs of medical science. A time of economic stimulus and declining COVID-19 case counts and making plans again and responsibly wearing masks, even though it’s no longer required by law.

The future of Dallas will be determined by the path we take at this critical juncture. Change is on the horizon, and this could be the moment that the city begins to reach its full potential.

The city will soon receive hundreds of millions of dollars in aid from the federal government through the American Rescue Plan. The City Council will be briefed on the details of the plan later this month. I wrote a column with Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price about what this relief could mean for Dallas and Fort Worth. You can read it here.

And the new infrastructure plan under consideration in Washington could be transformative for Dallas — preparing the workforce for the jobs of the 21st century economy, creating more affordable housing and sustainable infrastructure, stitching neighborhoods back together, and building equity in underserved communities.

The Task Force on Innovation and Entrepreneurship is developing its recommendations to make Dallas more of a hub for startup businesses and entrepreneurs. The co-chairs will deliver the report in a month. You can give your input to the Task Force now in a new survey.

There are some major challenges ahead. Public safety remains the top one — and it has been made more difficult by the City Council’s vote last year to cut into public safety resources, including the absolutely irresponsible 25% cut to the proposed police overtime budget while the police force was shrinking, police response times were swelling to unacceptable levels, and violent crime was spiking. Murders are currently on pace to exceed last year’s total, which was the highest in Dallas since 1998.

Police Chief Eddie Garcia is working on a violent crime reduction plan along with criminologists, but he will need help to turn the trends around. Implementing and continuing to fund the Task Force on Safe Communities’ recommendations will be crucial. New lighting along the Malcolm X corridor is a positive start, but more lighting is needed across the city. Blight remediation efforts are underway. Contracts for long overdue violence interrupters will be up for City Council consideration this month.

And vaccinations will remain a top priority in the months ahead. Mass vaccinations at city-owned Fair Park have been going well lately, especially since FEMA arrived to help Dallas County. The city’s operations at The Potter’s House have been running extraordinarily smoothly, and the city’s contracted vendor, AMR, can handle far more doses if the state provides them. I am also partnering with Uber and nonprofit Project Unity on a new initiative to give out free rides to a vaccination site. Uber will provide 2,000 promo codes for rides to Project Unity, which, in partnership with Catalyst Health Network, is hosting a by-appointment vaccination event on Friday at St. Luke “Community” United Methodist Church.

Partnerships such as this one are a major part of what makes Dallas great. When businesses, faith leaders, nonprofits, government agencies, and individuals step up to help each other, there is nothing that Dallas can’t accomplish.

But all of these efforts should serve as a reminder that there is much at stake right now. Dallas cannot rest on its laurels or ignore the problems it faces. The City Council needs to hear from you about your priorities. You can contact your City Councilmember here. And remember: Dallas City Council Election Day is Saturday, May 1! Let your voice be heard.

The city also needs you to register to get the vaccine to help put this pandemic in the rear-view mirror. The state has a new registration website to help you get an appointment. You should also register at DallasCountyCOVID.org, with Denton County Public Health, or with other health providers out there.

The end of the pandemic is near, and this is an exciting time. Be a part of it, and stay engaged!

Park of the Month

Yes, I just named a Park of the Month for March (the wonderful Dallas Zoo!) last week, and it’s only April 1. But West End Square deserves to be lavished with attention now.

The newest downtown park, built in partnership with Parks for Downtown Dallas, is everything Dallas aspires to be. It’s welcoming and inviting. It’s environmentally friendly and sustainable. And it’s technologically advanced while still honoring the historic character of the neighborhood.

The park will become a gathering place for all. It has the potential to become the heartbeat of one of the city’s most distinct neighborhoods — a tranquil soft spot in a historic and hip red-brick village.

And the park has ping-pong tables, which are fun.

So stop by the Park of the Month and meet up with friends and family while the weather is nice. West End Square is at 607 Corbin Street next to the old Spaghetti Warehouse building.

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