The empty chairs represent the six open city council seats that the Dallas Green Alliance hopes to fill with green conscious council members. The political action committee will be supporting candidates who oppose the Trinity Tollway project. Photos courtesy of the Dallas Green Alliance.
Dec. 12, 2014
A year ago, Dallas environmentalists were standing around Dallas City Hall in awe of what they’d done – joined forces with residents, neighborhood associations and City Council members to help usher in one of the strictest gas drilling ordinances in North Texas to date.
There was a “What next?” feeling in the air.
That question has been answered with the debut of the Dallas Green Alliance, which held its first press conference on Wednesday.
This new political action committee is reaching higher and has pulled in supporters from an even broader base.
The membership represents the "A-list" of Dallas environmentalists, including Dallas Sierra Club activist Rita Beving, green architect Gary Olp, philanthropist Margie Haley and White Rock Lake green space defenders Hal and Ted Barker, to name only a few.
Now the environmentalists who stood up to the gas industry, the nature enthusiasts working to save the Great Trinity Forest, the bee lovers speaking out against aerial spraying and park proponents who oppose the Trinity Toll Road have come together to get officials elected who can vote their values.
“It’s as broad a coalition that I've ever seen come together all over the city,” said Jim Schermbeck, director of Downwinders at Risk and a Green Alliance charter member.
The group’s initial focus is helping elect environmentally conscious city council members who will stop the Trinity Toll Road, a nine-mile six-lane highway planned to run along the Trinity River in the floodplain in Dallas. According to critics, the project, backed by Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, would squander transportation dollars, put residents at risk of flooding and most importantly – destroy valuable green space.
Plans for the six-lane nine-mile Trinity Toll Road call for it to be built in the floodplain of the Trinity River, which many say would ruin plans for a linear park.
The Dallas Green Alliance wants to identify and support eco-minded City Council candidates who can fill at least four of the six open seats available in next May’s election. Together with four existing green council members – Sandy Greyson, Scott Griggs, Philip Kingston, and Adam Medrano – they’d make an environmentally-friendly majority of eight.
According to Zac Trahan, Texas Campaign for the Environment’s DFW director and a Green Alliance organizer, they’ve already been contacted by candidates who are interested in hearing what they have to offer.
“In addition to financial support, eventually we will offer endorsements, door-to-door canvassing, campaigning,” said Trahan.
Paul Ridley, a Dallas attorney and Green Alliance associate, said they’re hoping to attract donors who vote with their dollars.
The political action committee has already raised $5,000 and is seeking support of those who want to see Dallas create a truly livable city that protects its green space.
“We’re not looking for mega-donations,” said Ridley. “We want grassroots support. We’re interested in the everyday ordinary citizen.”
He said opposition to the toll road is galvanizing the group. Mayor Rawlings has recently said the project could be underway in a year.
“It will destroy the potentional amenities of Trinity parkland,” Ridley said. “You can't have a park next to a ugly speedway. Special interests are behind it. It’s a project looking for a mission.”
Cherelle Blazer hosts the Green Alliance kickoff press conference at Dallas City Hall on Dec. 10.
Former Dallas Mayor Laura Miller said as much in a recent Dallas Morning News article. When asked why the toll road persists though it lacks money, justification and citizen support, Miller says the answer’s easy, Robert Wilonsky reports: "Too many have too much tied up in seeing it built."
Catherine Garrison, a Green Alliance steering committee member, said the city needs a new direction and putting the toll road behind it is an important first step.
“The toll road is symptomatic of everything wrong with the old Dallas way of doing things – dividing neighborhoods with pavement and back room agendas,” she said. “Taking the toll road off the agenda begins to move the city in a new direction once and for all, with no concrete albatross around its neck."