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Local Government

Why All the Secrecy About the Dallas Wave?

Is the city a democracy or a bureaucracy?
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Jim Schutze has posted a humdinger of an account of what went down in a Dallas City Council emergency executive session on Wednesday, when city staff surprised the council with the news that they had only hours to commit to spending $3 million-$5 million to fix the dangerous Dallas Wave whitewater feature on the Trinity River.

If the city didn’t pony up, they were told, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers could shut down the entire drinking water system. Or, as Schutze puts it:

All of a sudden — bang! out of nowhere! — the lawyers lock the council up where the taxpayers can’t see them, shove a letter from the Corps in their faces and tell them if the council doesn’t agree to spend millions more on this already atrociously over-budget fiasco by 5 p.m. that day, the Corps is threatening to yank federal permits that could effectively shut down the city’s water supply.

Hey, there’s a way to run a railroad! Hurry! Give us $5 million bucks right now or everybody will have to move out of Dallas!

The council refused to agree to pay on such short notice, but instructed staff members to send the Corps a letter committing to either fix the Wave or tear it out.

On his Facebook page this afternoon, Councilman Scott Griggs wrote that he requested documents to help explain the issue and received 65 pages with a cover letter issuing this warning:

Therefore, unless the Attorney General or a court rules that this information may be released, you are required by the Act to keep this information confidential and you are prohibited from releasing this information to the public. Additionally, it is a criminal offense to distribute information considered confidential under the Act. Moreover, it is a violation of the City’s Code of Ethics to release confidential information.

Griggs, himself a lawyer, calls this undue secrecy “an abuse of the Attorney-Client Privilege.”

Then, later, Griggs revealed:

City Staff working on possible plan to change the United States Congressional law to exempt the Trinity River between Dallas and Fort Worth from navigability requirements to make the Standing Wave issue go away. Council and the people of Dallas kept in the dark.

More evidence to make the case that Dallas is governed as a bureaucracy and not a representative democracy?

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