Dear City of Dallas,

As 2015 draws to a close, I thought it would be helpful to suggest a few New Year’s resolutions you ought to consider for the coming year.

#1 Get in shape: Dallas has a weight problem. We consistently rank as one of the fattest cities in the country. It’s a serious health issue, and you need to make a change.

It’s true that we Dallasites love our cars. But we also love walking, running and cycling (witness the extraordinary popularity of the Katy Trail and White Rock Lake). So encourage that. Invest in connecting our off-street trails with new on-street protected bike lanes. Make a web of safe trails to connect neighborhoods with transit, parks, schools and business centers. It will transform our city.

You’re balking. The thing is, you talk a lot about getting fit, but when push comes to shove, you refuse to do anything that would actually slim down your wide roads. (And stop saying you’re not fat, you’ve just got big roads. No one’s buying it.)

We’ve got an excess of right-of-way on many of our streets that could be used for separated bike lanes. You think nothing of taking away hundreds of acres of parkland for a massive Trinity Toll Road, but when it comes to taking a teensy bit of concrete from cars, you break out in a sweat. Stop making excuses and just do it.

#2 Be smarter about money: Quality of life investments don’t come cheap, but you need to be smarter about the things you invest in. You see bright shiny things and you want to spend, spend, spend. But you’ve got to stop throwing hundreds of millions of dollars at things you don’t need. Fancy bridges are lovely to look at (I guess?) but our streets and basic infrastructure need some serious attention. Focus your energies on doing the basics really well this year.

You talk a lot about 
world-classiness, but sometimes I don’t think you’ve ventured farther 
than Frisco.
The problem is, your spend-thrifty ways are catching up with you. Dallas’ bond rating just got downgraded, meaning our interest rates will likely go up and we’ll have to pay more interest on our $1.7 billion in outstanding debt. The downgrade was based on several things, including our significant infrastructure needs and the city’s unfunded pension liabilities. So get the Police and Fire Pension Fund under control. There’s no excuse for letting the fund make questionable investments that end up putting taxpayers at risk.

#3 Eat healthier: East Dallas has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to grocery stores. We’ve got a flagship Kroger, multiple Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, an enormous Central Market, Tom Thumbs on every other corner, Green Grocer, Aldi’s, the list goes on. You can’t throw a rock in East Dallas without hitting a grocery store.

We’ve got great options when it comes to eating well, but that’s not the case in other parts of Dallas, particularly south of I-30. People in southern Dallas have to drive for miles to get to a grocery store, and then it’s often slim pickings. There’s no excuse for food deserts in a city of wealth like Dallas, so you need to do something about it in the coming year.

You’re crazy about tax abatements and such when wealthy folks come knocking, so use those same tools to get grocery stores to southern Dallas. Have a private meeting with a bunch of executives from the top grocers, ask them what it would take to get them to southern Dallas, and then make it a priority to make it happen.

#4 Travel: You talk a lot about world-classiness, but sometimes I don’t think you’ve ventured farther than Frisco. Visit other cities across the country that are known for having a great quality of life. What are they doing right and what can we learn from them? Bring back some best practices for making our neighborhoods safer, building better parks and creating a city we all love to live in.

It all starts with the first step. Happy New Year!


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