Why is everyone moving to Dallas*?

Dallas must compete economically with its suburbs or be left behind in this fast-growing region.

The following was adapted from my email newsletter. Visit MayorofDallas.org to subscribe.

The asterisk in the headline is intentional — and extremely important.

First, there is no doubt that Dallas is growing. The 2020 Census recorded 9% population growth in the city over the last decade — a faster rate than seven of the other top 10 cities in the country.

It’s the kind of growth that prompts The New York Times to run a story titled “Everyone’s Moving to Texas. Here’s why.” Ostensibly, the NYT was focused on Dallas.

Except they weren’t. Not really. They were actually writing about the booming Dallas suburbs. Arlington, Allen, Euless, Frisco, McKinney, Plano, etc. They’re all growing faster than Dallas. The region, in fact, grew at a 20% rate over the last 10 years.

The other North Texas cities, the NYT wrote, are appealing because they “have relatively little crime and are teeming with jobs, housing, highly rated schools, good restaurants, clean air and racial and political diversity — all at a steep discount compared to the cost of living in America’s coastal metropolises.”

The distinction between the suburbs and Dallas might not matter all that much when you need to buy some furniture at Nebraska Furniture Mart or IKEA or when you’re going to a Cowboys game. And you might even say, it’s not technically Dallas, but it’s all a quick drive away. So what’s the big deal?

But cities do matter. A dollar spent in Plano might not help Dallas at all. A business picking Sherman over Dallas for its manufacturing facility doesn’t help Dallas either. When people and businesses choose where to locate, they don’t just get to pick the Dallas region. They choose an actual place with city limits and political boundaries. They pay property and sales taxes within those city limits or in those school districts. And they build communities in those places.

As I said during the State of the City address, it’s time for this city to assert itself and to recognize that all the surrounding cities are trying to outcompete Dallas. The Dallas Morning News agreed with that assessment, saying the “city must remain a regional problem-solver, but it must also seize opportunity when it can.” They added: “Dallas’ economic success is critical to the prominence of the region.”

Dallas, the DMN concluded, cannot afford to lead from behind.

The challenge ahead of Dallas is clear. Case in point: the NYT’s story included a quiz that could help people identify the places in the country where they might want to live. What it shows is that Dallas struggles with its schools and its crime rate compared to its suburbs.

No matter what you think of the quiz’s methodology or rankings, you can’t dismiss it outright. These kinds of quizzes sum up how people make their decisions about where they want to live or where they want to locate their business. And in an increasingly mobile, work-from-anywhere economy, Dallas needs to step up and fight for its fair share of residents and businesses.

So what can Dallas do? The city government doesn’t control the school districts inside the city limits, but it is crucial to do everything possible to make Dallas an affordable and viable option for families by creating safe neighborhoods, strong communities, a vibrant culture, and amazing amenities.

That means prioritizing public safety, improving workforce development, cutting the property tax rate, strengthening economic development efforts, boosting the city’s international presence, supporting arts and culture, and continuing to add new parks and trails.

There was great news today on that last front: I announced that Oncor has donated 110 acres of land, including Parkdale Lake, in southeast Dallas to the city’s Park and Recreation system. That’s the largest single donation of parkland in Dallas since 1938, when the W.W. Samuell Estate turned over more than 600 acres to the city.

This donation is huge for Dallas. It will create new recreational opportunities and help connect the city’s neighborhoods through the trail system.

The Park Board will be briefed on Oncor’s generous donation next week. Community input will be part of the process for programming the new park, too, so stay tuned for updates.

The Park Board’s leadership, Oncor’s generosity, and the Circuit Trail Conservancy’s partnership will help bring this amazing asset to life. This is the kind of effort required to help Dallas build for the future and remain competitive for years to come.

Now, here are some other updates.

Quick hits

Thanksgiving. Hopefully, you had a great Thanksgiving. Ours started with the annual YMCA Turkey Trot and ended with food and family time. It was great to be able to be back out and to spend the day with loved ones again. Let this be a reminder to get a COVID-19 booster shot when you can, especially with the Omicron variant now lurking. And it should also serve as a reminder to finish your Thanksgiving leftovers before they go bad.

Ethics reform. The Dallas City Council on Wednesday will be briefed on the ethics reform proposal, and the Ad Hoc Committee on General Investigating and Ethics will meet Thursday to move it forward to a vote. The proposal has been through numerous committee discussions over the last few months, and passing the reform package remains a top priority. Dallas City Hall needs a strong and understandable ethics code — and an inspector general to enforce the rules.

Final agenda meeting coming up. The City Council will have its final regularly scheduled voting agenda meeting of 2021 on Wednesday, December 8. There will be some very important items on the agenda. Stay engaged and tune in!

R.I.P. Richard Knight. The first Black city manager in Dallas history — he served in that city government CEO role from 1986 to 1990 — has tragically died at the age of 76. Richard Knight was a trailblazer who opened doors at Dallas City Hall during his tenure. He went on to serve his city as a business and nonprofit leader. Read more about his life, his civic endeavors, and his business career in The Dallas Morning News.

Return of Texas Ballet Theater. It was wonderful to have the opportunity last weekend to welcome Texas Ballet Theater back to the stage in time for the holiday season. The performing arts were hit especially hard by the pandemic, but this city rallied around its artists and helped them get through the most challenging of the COVID-19 restrictions. The Nutcracker is now playing at the Winspear Opera House. Mask up and ring in the holidays with the magic of Texas Ballet Theater.

SMU football. Dallas is excited to welcome Rhett Lashlee back to the city to become the new head coach of the Mustangs football team. Pony Up, Dallas!

South Oak Cliff football. At the high school level, South Oak Cliff is representing the city exceptionally well. After an upset of 10-time state champion Aledo, South Oak Cliff has the chance to become Dallas ISD’s first UIL football state champion since 1950. The next game will be against Lovejoy at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at The Star in Frisco.

Chag Sameach! Hanukkah began Sunday evening. Dallas has a vibrant Jewish community, and we hope everyone who observes has a happy, healthy, and safe Hannukah with their families this year.

That’s all for now. Have a great week, and stay safe out there.

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News, speeches, statements, and other information from the Office of Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson

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