Dallas’ Community Bond Task Force has finalized its recommendations for how funds from the upcoming $1.1 billion bond program should be allocated.
The task force (CBTF) is a citizen-led group that is supposed to help the Dallas City Council select projects to fund through the 2024 Capital Bond Program. It comprises 15 members, including a representative from each council district and a chair appointed by Mayor Eric Johnson. CBTF’s work concluded with its final meeting on Saturday.
“We accomplished a very big goal of deciding the future of Dallas, allocating $1.1 billion of funds which will help the goals of critical infrastructure and build the future of the city,” CBTF chair Arun Agarwal told The Dallas Express.
He said the City Council and Mayor Johnson set the task force’s highest priorities.
“The mayor and City Council always said the priorities were three P’s: parks, public safety, [and] potholes,” he said. “We tried to take care of all three of them.”
On Saturday, the CBTF decided to recommend the following allocations:
- $349.8 million for parks and trails;
- $375.3 million for streets, transportation, and other infrastructure projects;
- $200 million for critical facilities to support police, firefighters, and other municipal employees;
- $75 million for flood management, storm drainage, and erosion control;
- $98.4 million for housing and economic development;
- $1.6 million for homeless services.
Agarwal told The Dallas Express that Saturday’s deliberations between task force members went much more cordially than he thought they would.
“Before this, some people tried to make it very personal,” he said. “… I’m pleased that we set the tone initially to make sure [it was] collaborative [and] no one would be allowed to bully.”
There are several steps to go before the bond program is finalized, as the task force is merely an advisory board. Agarwal will present the recommendations to the Dallas City Council on December 6, along with City Manager T.C. Broadnax. The council will then consider the recommendations and approve final fund allocations before the bond program is put before voters next year.
Agarwal said he “feel[s] very good” about presenting CBTF’s recommendations to the council next month.
“We go with the data. We go with … conviction. We go with what people have wanted [from] the town hall meetings,” he explained. “We will present it not just because we voted on it but [because of] why we voted on it.”
The task force deliberated for several hours over its final recommendations for specific projects within the larger aforementioned categories. Several changes and amendments were made to individual allocations during the meeting. A representative of the City’s Office of Bond and Construction Management told The Dallas Express that the full recommendations, including Saturday’s amendments, will be released either on Monday or on Tuesday.
Agarwal said the task force chose to recommend spending on projects they believed would “have a long-term impact, a 20-year impact.”
It is currently unknown whether the bond election will be held in May or November 2024. Task force members discussed whether they should make an election date recommendation to the City Council, but they opted against doing so since the members disagreed on which month to propose.
Despite the task force recommending nearly $100 million of spending on housing projects, some believe the allocation is not enough to address the current housing shortage in Dallas. Relatedly, Saturday’s meeting was briefly disrupted by three activists from Sunrise Movement Dallas who were advocating for more spending on “affordable housing.”
The activists did not shout or audibly interfere with the task force’s business but sat holding signs that read “DALLAS: AFFORDABLE HOMES NOW” and “DALLAS: GREEN HOMES NOW.” They sat for several minutes before leaving the meeting.
“We think the City should be putting more money into affordable housing. We’re spending $1.1 billion on City services, and we think there’s a huge loss of affordable housing in our city,” Sunrise Dallas organizer Kidus Girmab told The Dallas Express. “This is a great opportunity to right that wrong.”
Girmab argued the City of Dallas “should invest more money in community land trusts [and] increase the amount of money that’s being allocated to housing.”