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Dallas Council Members Want To Talk About Trinity Toll Road, But Can't During Meeting

Bill Zeeble
Dallas City Council member Phil Kingston held a noon press conference in Dallas City Hall's Flag Room to list his points of opposition regarding the Trinity Parkway.

City Council members control the agenda and microphones, but can’t talk during meetings about anything that’s not on the official agenda. So on Wednesday, a pair of council members planned to leave their seats and head for the public microphone. The topic? What could be the hottest issue in May’s election: the proposed Trinity toll road. At the last minute, though, the city attorney put the kibosh on their plans.

After the morning session, council members Philip Kingston and Vonciel Jones Hill were blunt.

“The toll road project was sold on a pack of lies,” Kingston said.

“I absolutely, unequivocally support the Trinity Parkway,” Hill said.

Kingston targeted Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings.

“I believe when the mayor says we don’t know what the road looks like, that’s a lie. I don’t know a way to soften that blow,” Kingston added.

Credit Bill Zeeble / KERA News
The Dallas City Council in session Wednesday.

Rawlings is out of town. Earlier this month, he warned that a Trinity Parkway council discussion could violate state law because it wasn’t scheduled. Today, Kingston listed his complaints.

“We were told that the road would provide congestion relief. TXDOT’s own numbers show that the congestion relief is extremely minimal, amounting to maybe a couple minutes. We were told we had to have the toll road in order to get the recreational amenities. That was a lie," Kingston said.

He also challenged the claim by plan proponents that southern Dallas flood protection was tied to the toll road, saying that didn’t make sense.

“We were told it was necessary for economic development for southern Dallas. This road literally has a wall shutting out southern Dallas residents,” Kingston said.

Credit Bill Zeeble / KERA News
Dallas City Council member Scott Griggs talked with reporters.

Hill rebutted Kingston, though she wasn’t part of his press conference.

“We need to move forward,” Hill said. “It is a reliever route. It helps people from the south with transportation, economic development and air quality. Not only does it help people coming from the south and southeast, it helps the entire city. We should proceed as quickly as possible.”

Council member Scott Griggs said his colleagues should have been allowed to speak openly.

“It’s anti-democratic for sure,” Griggs said. “So I encourage discussion. I’ll continue to speak out. That’s why I’m elected, and I’m not going to be bullied into silence.”    

Rawlings is in Washington D.C., but said in a statement that the council follows open meetings laws regarding public notification of matters to be discussed and debated around the horseshoe. He said the Trinity Parkway would come up again for council discussion -- when there is something to vote on. 

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.