District 9 City Council member Paula Blackmon addresses the Greater East Dallas Chamber of Commerce on Feb. 15, 2022. Photo by Renee Umsted.

At the Greater East Dallas Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Tuesday, Council member Paula Blackmon gave an update on District 9.

Just one day prior, Mayor Eric Johnson announced that Blackmon would be leading a task force to tackle the intractable problem of permitting delays at City Hall. Long a sore spot, Johnson gave up on City Manager T.C. Broadnax solving the issue and asked Blackmon to make progress where others haven’t.

Blackmon called it “an exciting day.” She joked (sort of) that people have been coming to her house to talk about permits. “It’s an essential service,” Blackmon said. “Permitting underwrites much of what we do.”

“Government is designed for the status quo,” she noted, “and I am not a status quo gal. It’s exciting and scary at the same time.”

“Thank God the eagles didn’t need a permit to build their nests,” Blackmon quipped.

Blackmon delivered some stats on District 9 — 100,000 residents, 2,000 businesses, 21,000 employees, median age of 36.5 years — and emphasized both the outdoor and cultural opportunities the district offers.

She updated the crowd on the White Rock Lake dredging, one of her original campaign platform issues. Since the silt and trash from upstream doesn’t come from Dallas, Blackmon doesn’t want to burden Dallas taxpayers with the whole $80 million price tag. She recently hosted a meeting with the Army Corps of Engineers to see if the dredging fits into a restoration program or other buckets of money that may be available. Her hope is that the issue can be addressed through long-term maintenance plans rather than one-shot bond programs.

Blackmon lauded the recent opening of White Rock Hills Park near the corner of Highland and Ferguson and the ongoing work of getting a nearby rec center built with bond funds.

Always a subject of neighborhood chatter, Blackmon addressed traffic issues. She noted the start of construction at the 3G intersection and an estimated completion date of spring of 2023. The pedestrian bridge across Garland Road will be closed four months during the construction. She disclosed that a Ferguson Road Corridor study will be started this year but an Abrams Road corridor study is a few years away, pending funding. The light at Richmond and Abrams, however, is scheduled for replacement this year.

“Bike lanes need to connect to something,” Blackmon said, acknowledging the “confusion and frustration” of the bike lanes recently installed on Abrams. “The intent was good,” Blackmon followed, “but the execution wasn’t.” The lanes aren’t technically in District 9, but Blackmon said she has given her thoughts to District 14 Council member Paul Ridley and District 2 Council member Jesse Moreno.

In the Q & A session, Blackmon said she expected some changes to the boundaries of District 9 as a result of redistricting. The 2020 census determined that District 9 will need to gain residents. Where that comes from— east, west, north or south — one can only speculate. The Redistricting Commission is meeting now to review the census results and make recommendations to the City Council on new boundaries for the 14 council districts later this year.

After Blackmon’s address, Brad Grist presented the Chairman’s Award to Steve Moore for his efforts on behalf of the Greater East Dallas Chamber of Commerce.

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