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Dallas To Ask Voters To Help Fix Streets

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Bud Gillett
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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – It’s been six years and a really bad recession since the city of Dallas asked voters to float bonds for city improvements.  But Wednesday Dallas city council will begin the process again, mostly focusing on a perennial problem: streets.

“Some of them are wrecked and some of them are tore up,” says Dallas driver Theresa Whitehead, adding, “Yeah, they’ve got potholes to mess up your tires.”

Kelly Harbacheck moved here from Iowa two years ago and doesn’t think Dallas streets are up to Iowa standards. “The potholes and the different levels that the streets are at, and when they do the actual repair on the street it doesn’t seem that thought-through.”

Ricky Vaughn is a little more ambivalent.  “Some them are okay, some of them ain’t so good.”

The streets are bad enough, though, that councilmembers are preparing to ask residents to approve between $450 million and $550 million dollars in bonds, mostly for street improvements and flood control.

Mayor Mike Rawlings believes voters will go along.  “They like it when their roads are in good shape,” he says, adding, “they like the fact that they can go to sleep at night and their homes are not going to be flooded.”

The city cites a handful of floods in the recent past, including a 2006 flood that inundated West Dallas.   And while other important items such as park improvements and library expansions are also on an overall $10 billion wish list down the road, flood control and street improvements are wanted now.

Drivers like Vaughn aren’t sure voters will go along.  “Nobody wants to pay more taxes on anything, not me, not anybody.   But where the hell are they going to get the money?”

Mayor Rawlings is confident finding funds won’t be an issue with voters.  “Now, they don’t want to spend a lot of money on this.  They want us to be prudent, they want us to be careful. Our balance sheet can manage this. We can have this bond election without raising taxes.”

The last time Dallas voters were asked, they approved $1.3 billion back in 2006.  “Normally sewer, water, and streets are easy to sell,” says political consultant John Weekley, who feels a half-billion dollar plan might just get support this year.

But he cautions, “If they go anywhere close to a billion — or over — I think they’re flirting with disaster because every survey I’ve seen says the public is very attuned to economic issues now.”

Weekley has run more than 30 bond campaigns across North Texas and explains how a successful bond program could be sold to voters.   “One of the things that we discovered doing bond campaigns is the more you level with people and tell them exactly what you’re doing and what you’re asking for and give them the details of what’s involved the more likely they are to say, ‘Okay, it sounds like they told me everything to make up my own mind,’ and that tends to favor a positive outcome.”

If things go according to plan the issue will first be presented to the council on Wednesday and eventually be presented to voters this November.

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