DowntownDallas Inc. Just Wasted 1,500 Manhours

Update (2/18/11): There were only 1,100 people at the luncheon.

I just returned from the annual meeting of DowntownDallas Inc. at the Fairmont and I’m pissed. What an utter waste of time for the 1,500 or so people who attended. They spent 43 minutes publicly patting each other on the back for their hard work and good deeds. That’s not an estimate. That’s a fact. Forty-three minutes. “So-and-so has such passion and dedication to downtown. Join me in thanking her.” [applause] “So-and-so is amazing. Without his passion and dedication to downtown, we never could have done this.” [applause]

Hey, listen, I’m sure all these people are amazing. And they’ve been working hard. DowntownDallas Inc. does good work, and if you’ve spent any time at all in the Central Business District, you know far we’ve come, thanks in large part to DDI’s efforts. But you don’t need to make 1,500 citizens eat rubber chicken so you can slap each other on the back and bask in applause. These amazing people have been working hard because, I’m told, they have passion for downtown. And they’re dedicated to it. They don’t work hard because they want rubber chicken and applause

Here’s what I wrote after last year’s annual DDI meeting:

On the walk back to the office, one of our group (who shall remain nameless) asked, “So what was all that about again?” The meeting could have provided a bit more food for thought … . I suggest that at next year’s confab DowntownDallas throws down a discussion about what needs to happen next. Come up with 10 ideas. Tackle em. Have your smart people get up onstage and address em. Should we do away with all those damn one-way streets? Is there any way to widen the sidewalks? What about that proposed second set of DART tracks through downtown? Should we make parking more or less convenient? And so on. … [N]ext time we get 1,000 people in a room who all care about downtown Dallas, let’s have something to show for our effort.

Yes. That. Again.

After the 43 minutes of high-fives today, DDI’s consultants got up onstage and showed us a whirlwind PowerPoint presentation filled with fancy CAD drawings that depict a future in which every building in downtown will be coated with gold leaf and every resident will be issued his own flying unicorn for transportation purposes. And, yes, several of those slides depicted the second DART line through downtown.

Why not stop down and explain that second DART line? If you’ve got 15 minutes with an audience, just pick one thing and explain it. Why do we need a second DART line through downtown? If so, which alignment is best? How do we tie it in with streetcars — possibly streetcars running to Oak Cliff? It’s complicated issue. If you’ve got 15 minutes with a room, maybe you can tackle that one issue. You can plant a seed in the minds of those who matter most when it comes to making such decisions. “We need that second line. It needs to go here.” That’s it. If you can get the 1,500 people in the room to walk out thinking those two thoughts, you’ve accomplished something.

Today? People walked out of the room exhausted from watching all those high-fives. That’s about it.

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