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D.A. investigation of Trinity petition won't stop referendum

By Catherine Cuellar, KERA Reporter

Dallas, TX –

Host: Leaders of Dallas activist groups who disagree about the placement of a road in the proposed Trinity River park seem to agree that political banter between Dallas County district attorney Craig Watkins and mayor Tom Leppert are just distractions from a referendum that's unlikely to be derailed, as KERA's Catherine Cuellar explains.

Catherine Cuellar: Watkins says he learned from reporters that the Dallas D.A.'s office would be asked to validate some of the TrinityVote petition signatures before he received the city secretary's request late Tuesday.

Craig Watkins, Dallas County District Attorney: At this point I don't know the number of signatures we have to look at, I just know we have a packet here. I believe that when you're in a political dispute, don't use the D.A.'s office to forge your agenda. It may be a valid complaint. I don't know that yet. We have to investigate it. If it is it we will take necessary steps. But whoever made the comment to the newspaper that we were investigating this issue did a disservice to the political process and this office because we don't comment on pending investigations, especially where politics are involved.

Cuellar: Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert denies that the city secretary's decision to involve the D.A. was politically motivated.

Tom Leppert, Dallas Mayor: I've seen the documentation where those were sent over. I think that was the right thing for our city attorney to do. That will be in their hands, the appropriate hands. They did it in a professional way. And the people in that position are going to make the appropriate judgements.

Cuellar: Council member Angela Hunt, who led the TrinityVote effort to collect 80,000 signatures when only 50,000 were needed, is undaunted. Her group wants to replace the currently planned high-speed tollway within the river levees with a low-speed parkway that provides access to recreation.

Angela Hunt, Our position remains that 47 petition pages out of 10,150 were sent over to the district attorney, none of which had been counted towards the number of required signatures to put this on the ballot. So in effect this has no repercussions whatsoever about whether or not the Trinity Vote effort succeeds in allowing the people of Dallas to have a voice in November.

Cuellar: Although the petition doesn't require a referendum, Craig Holcomb of Save The Trinity says his camp will fight to advance the current Trinity River development plan, including the tollway.

Craig Holcomb, Our issue is that there be an up and up election. WE're focused on the election. Clearly the concern about the validity of the signatures clouds the election but our focus is telling people how big, how important this project is, and how the pieces fit together."

Cuellar: Fundraising for the two campaigns has already exceeded half a million dollars, and that amount is expected to double between now and the election.
Catherine Cuellar, KERA News

More on the web:
Trinity Vote
Save The Trinity