Toward a More Sustainable Dallas
As an alliance of sustainable, environmental, public health, good food, LEED-building, tree preserving, bike riding hiker activists, we share common values and ideals that will guide our decisions when choosing potential elected officials to represent us on the Dallas City Council. The following core goals are each an important step toward a more sustainable Dallas.
Trinity Toll Road
We do not support the construction of the Trinity Toll Road in any way, shape or form, because it would waste limited transportation dollars, threaten our flood protection and leave residents at risk of flooding, and ruin any chance of a promised park system along the floodway. In its place, we advocate for a sustainable system of parks, wetlands, waterways and trails that will provide an urban oasis for all residents.
Save Open Spaces
White Rock Lake Park should be permanently protected, rather than continually facing development threats that neighbors and organizations must fend off one at a time. White Rock Lake Park is a shared treasure for all residents to enjoy forever, not wasted open space for any type of commercial development.
Dallas should purchase and conserve more public park land, period. We rank near the bottom of every parks-per-capita list, which affects the decisions of potential residents when they evaluate whether to move here.
We should also improve our zoning rules to protect open spaces when development does take place. If we can encourage green space and walkability in all new developments and reconstructions, we will have a better city to live in.
We should improve the tree preservation ordinance to protect our ecosystems while still encouraging responsible stewardship and development. These goals are not mutually exclusive – they support each other.
The Dallas Landmark Commission should consider designating our most important open spaces – such as White Rock Lake Park and the Great Trinity Forest – as permanently protected City of Dallas landmarks.
Dallas should create and enforce a Master Plan for our city park system so we will have a long-term vision for our parks and green spaces. We must include policies for more responsible pesticide and herbicide practices and end the indiscriminate use of hazardous chemical treatments in areas where our children are at play. We must also improve programs to prevent and remove the invasive species that pose a long-term threat to our parks.
Conserve Natural Resources
We should be leading the state and nation in energy efficiency standards – which is the fastest, cheapest and easiest way to conserve energy and prevent the air and water pollution that comes along with it. We should also purchase far more energy from renewable sources such as abundant, affordable wind power. Both of these steps will create jobs while reducing pollution.
Dallas has already become just the second city in Texas to adopt a Zero Waste Plan, and now we need to turn its goals into reality: We need to adopt a Universal Recycling Ordinance to ensure that all apartments, offices, retailers, hotels and restaurants will offer recycling for their tenants and customers, we need to begin composting our organic and food waste instead of sending it to landfills, and we must phase out single-use, disposable products that are designed in a way that makes them impossible to recover, recycle or compost.
While Dallas has gone further than other D/FW cities to enforce residential lawn-watering schedules, we must do far more to conserve our precious water resources. For example, homeowners associations should not be allowed to prevent reasonable xeriscaping and native plant cover meant to withstand heat and drought. In addition, industrial water users should be subject to restrictions during draught conditions – just as residents are.
We already have forward-thinking green building codes in place to encourage sustainability during new construction. However, now we must resolve any conflicts that exist with our historic conservation rules, so that all of our buildings – old and new – will follow sustainability standards.
Protect Quality of Life
As was illustrated jarringly last year by the “river of blood” flowing from a slaughterhouse into a creek that feeds the Trinity River, we need better enforcement for illegal discharges and dumping – for individuals and businesses alike.
Our flood control policies have long been designed to divert excess runoff from north to south – and funding for these systems often comes from taxing large land areas more than small spaces. The results: flood stability and economic gains in north Dallas, primarily paid for by the same south Dallas communities that bear elevated flood risks. We must design fair and equitable flood control programs that will bring stability to all communities without putting undue burdens on any.
Dallas should immediately stop spraying ineffective, potentially harmful mosquito control chemicals in our neighborhoods. These chemicals, which target mosquitos in their adult phase, can easily be replaced by safer, more effective methods designed to kill mosquitos in their larva stage instead. This will prevent the spread of West Nile Virus and protect human health as well as our farms, ecosystems and beneficial insects.
We need to improve local food policy to help make healthy, nutritious food available throughout the city. For example, Dallas should pass a market garden ordinance to allow community gardens to more easily sell produce to residents and restaurants.
All development and industrial permit applications should trigger a mandatory review and report by the Dallas Office of Environmental Quality. This department is currently underutilized and subject to undue political pressure, when it should be serving as independent oversight to encourage safe, sustainable development.
Finally, Dallas should restore meaningful citizen participation in city governance. All too often, citizens are left out of the decision-making process – which is controlled and manipulated by city staff, leading to bad decisions that are made behind closed doors and then presented to the City Council as a “done deal”. In order for any sustainability plans, goals and programs to be effective, citizens must have a voice and place in the democratic process.