New Priorities for Proposed 2024 Dallas Bond Referendum

Equity and Housing Policies will influence the plan to be offered to voters.

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Dallas City Council members Wednesday began discussing what should be included in a proposed 2024 public improvement bond referendum.

The city borrows money to pay for big capital improvements and the needs are enormous.

The current city inventory has $14 billion in needs.  Officials suggest only $1 billion should be included in a May 2024 borrowing plan to be funded without raising property taxes.

City Manager T.C. Broadnax gave streets and transportation almost half the initial plan offered to council members Wednesday.

“Obviously the most weighted and heavy one is streets because that’s what we hear a lot about, but within that are alleys and all kinds of things,” Broadnax said.

Getting included in a public improvement bond referendum does not mean changes happen fast.

Davis Street between Hampton and Westmoreland was included in the 2017 bond referendum, but work won’t begin on that segment until late 2025.

The big Mill Creek tunnel boring project to relieve East Dallas, Deep Ellum and Fair Park area flooding is funded with past bond money, but it won’t be finished until 2025.

Council members have said the new bond plan must be crafted to help make up for past racial inequity in certain parts of the city.

“We’ve got to accept the fact, ‘equity’ is the word now. It’s an uncomfortable term. So was segregation,” Council Member Carolyn King Arnold said.

The “Equity Policy” approved by the city council last year could suggest that neighborhood streets neglected for years near Kiest Boulevard could be included in the new bond referendum.

Several streets in that area including Easter Avenue have an F-grade street quality rating from the city but are not on any work schedule.

Past priorities promoted more heavily traveled streets along with upgrading street quality.

“We know that we’ll probably affect more folks on an arterial street versus a residential street,” Assistant City Manager Robert Perez said.

Yet streets alone may not produce the economic development upgrades some members seek for their districts.

“If we’re going to continue to invest the lion's share of these opportunities in potholes, that’s not going to get grocery stores to my constituents,” Councilman Adam Bazaldua said.

Also Wednesday, the council discussed a new housing policy that has been in the works for a year.

“This new policy is a game changer colleagues. This will change our city in a good way, create a way that we can provide some balance,” Councilman Casey Thomas said.

The housing policy suggests a variety of strategies to boost the supply of affordable housing in a city where big new expensive homes are quickly replacing smaller, more affordable dwellings, threatening to displace existing residents from Dallas neighborhoods.

The City Manager’s initial plan includes over $100 million to support affordable housing.

“Yea, this is going to cost a lot of money. It’s not going to be cheap. But we shouldn’t shy away from it,” Councilman Omar Narvaez said.

City Housing and Neighborhood Services Director David Noguera said housing development needs to be coupled with other changes to make Dallas housing better compete for new residents.

“Having a unit is not the same as changing the quality of life for people who live in that area,” he said.

Broadnax cautioned that new priorities come at the expense of old ones.

“If I’m putting in a whole new infusion of housing at $125 million, something is not going to get done and be at the level it has been, parks and other things like that,” he said.

Council Member Cara Mendelsohn said new projects often overlook the cost of maintaining them.

“We will go for things we want to have, new exciting shiny objects, but we have not taken care of the things we already have,” she said.

The next Dallas public improvement bond referendum is planned for May 2024.

Many public meetings will be held around the city to help formulate the final mix of projects for voters.

Also, the result of public input, the new equity and housing priorities will strongly influence the new plan.

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