The White Rock Lake Task Force comprises some 25 members representing the myriad interest groups and neighborhood associations around the White Rock area. It is an advisory committee to the Dallas Park Board, which discusses, provides feedback and takes positions on proposed projects that would impact White Rock Lake.
At a meeting Tuesday, task force member Michael Jung, who represents the White Rock neighborhood association, expressed his disappointment at the recent actions of task force chair Gerald Worrall, who also works for the Dallas Park and Recreation Department.
Remember the whole parking-lot-over-Winfrey-Point thing? Jung says Worrall was in conversations and involved in planning of projects affecting White Rock Lake — specifically the exploration of ideas to create parking over Winfrey Point — without telling the other task force members.
“I only learned of it through documents obtained by the Barker brothers,” Jung says. He means Ted and Hal Barker, the guys who filed open records requests to obtain emails and meeting notes pertaining to said parking discussions (those you can find on their web site).
When those docs became public and the whole thing blew up — remember the outrage and protests — task force members say they were questioned by friends and neighbors: Why didn’t you do something about this? To which they could only answer, We didn’t know about it.
The issue of the new boathouse at White Rock was another occasion, Jung has said, of the park board leaving the task force out of major conversations about lake developments.
Because of Worrall’s actions, Jung says, “Trust in the task force has been shattered.”
Worrall silently listened to Jung and several other members’ expressions of dissatisfaction. When given the floor, he told the group he appreciated everything they had to say. “It is difficult for me to hear,” he says. “I don’t want to stall out over this. We have so many important things to do.”
Jung suggested some serious changes to the task force, and Worrall agreed that it is a good time to start discussing those changes.
First of all, Jung demands transparency and honesty from the City/Park Department.
“No idea regarding White Rock should be broached without the task force being aware,” he says.
He says he believes the city should make a “public formal commitment to transparency.”
He also suggests: election of task force offices as opposed to appointment, more frequent meetings of the task force, ability to call meetings as needed, increased checks and balances, and better communication within and with the public, including a web site (“if you don’t have a web site these days, you don’t exist,” he notes).
Jung’s spiel garners a round of applause.
Jung went on to suggest that the task force consider a more fundamental change regarding the independence of the task force: Do we want to be an advisory committee existing at the sufferance of the park board, or do we want to be a citizens’ committee independent of the city?
“The way it is, if the park department says the task force is abolished, it is abolished.”
Worrall says he is open to that discussion. “That would be a fundamental change that requires follow-up conversations … we need to find out from the city what the implications of that change might be.”
Click to sign up for the Advocate’s weekly news digest and be the first to know what’s happening in Lakewood/East Dallas.