Last night was an interesting one both at City Council and at the Rogers household. I had a laptop open so that I could keep an eye on the Council debate over Reverchon Park as I watched the Mavericks play the Nuggets. My 14-year-old daughter asked what I was doing.
“The Dallas City Council has an important vote tonight,” I told her.
“What’s it about?” she asked.
“They want to build a baseball stadium in a park.”
Without hesitation, she said, “They shouldn’t do that.”
“What? You don’t even know what you’re talking about.”
“What’s in the park now?”
“There’s already a baseball field there now,” I said. “The stadium is, like, 100 years old, and it’s falling apart and homeless people break in and live there.”
“Homeless people have to live somewhere,” she countered. “And if it’s 100 years old, then it’s a historical landmark.” I put my head in my hands in exasperation. “See? I got you there. You know I got you. And who wants a baseball stadium in their neighborhood with all the lights and stuff?”
That’s pretty much how it went at Council, too, especially when it came to the 100 or so public speakers who took their one-minute turns at the mic. Speaking in favor of the proposed agreement to take the next step in building a 3,000-seat minor-league ballpark were a bunch of folks who made sense: DISD superintendent Michael Hinojosa, former Park Board president Bobby Abtahi, a guy who had gone to Reverchon on a beautiful Sunday to conduct a headcount and had found just 25 souls using the park, the baseball coach from North Dallas High. Speaking against the deal were a bunch of ill-informed cranks.
I am being unfair. Some of the folks against the deal offered cogent remarks about how they felt left out of the process, how more neighborhood input was needed and so on. But here’s how I’d characterize the vast majority of the remarks from those opposed: “I live near downtown, but I don’t like noise! Beer is dangerous! I don’t like fun! Trees are pretty and it’s crazy to cut them all down and give away the park!”
In response to all that and in response to my daughter, let me offer the remarks made by Park Board president Calvert Collins-Bratton. In her allotted one minute, she said: “Many of us in this room share a love of Reverchon. But we’re not happy with its current state today. This agreement does not—does not—give away any parkland or change the beautiful 41 acres. Do you really think the Park Board would vote twice, 11-2, to give away any parkland? Of course not. Despite the ludicrous amount of false information and lies that have been propagated about this project, this is an excellent deal for the city, the park, and the neighborhood. The strength of our partnerships is among why we’re considered a top 10 nationally accredited park system. We have to know ways to stretch the public dollar. We also understand privatization can be a slippery slope, and it is why this process was thoughtfully vetted. The Park department and board felt it was in Reverchon’s longterm best interest to seek private operators for the ballpark, not the park. It is no giveaway of any parkland. Dallas is built on thinking big. Please stop thinking small, and vote in favor of this agreement today.” Collins-Bratton speaks quickly.
Finally, the vote last night in favor of the deal went 11-4, with these four council members voting against it: Adam Medrano, Omar Narvaez, Jaime Resendez, and Adam Bazaldua. You know that reference Collins-Bratton made to the propagation of false information? She tells me she was referring to, among others, some of the members of the Facebook group called Reform Dallas. Steven Wollard is an active member of the group. I have it on good authority that last night, sitting in the audience, he was texting and Facebook DMing with several on Council during the proceedings. All that communication is discoverable via open records request. I hope everyone saved their DMs.