As you may know, Paul and I produced our last SOUVENIR OF DALLAS for D Magazine. It was featured on their Frontburner blog -- right here. (Fear not. I'm still contributing to D Magazine. In the March issue, I have a feature. You will hear more about it soon.) In the comic, I took this shot at my town: "Does this train stop in Arlington?" "No, they don't believe in mass transit. It's a strange mysterious creature... that helps people commute." This jab refers to the fact that Arlington is the largest city in America without public transportation. Despite the fact that we have a huge commuter population, despite the fact that the geography of the Dallas/Fort Worth area makes it ideal for rail transportation, and that a bus system would make things much easier to connect Arlington, and even though the mayor and almost every council member wants public transportation, the same vocal minority continues to vote down proposals for such an improvement to our growing city. Good times. Why the resistance to public transportation? In part, it's an irrational fear of any tax whatsoever. Believe me, I like low taxes. However, not all taxes are created equal; some public programs have benefits that far outweigh the expense. When you avoid the most straightforward approach to fund a successful program with tactics that avoid a tax, you may create something ineffectual and wasteful (i.e., state lottery to fund public education, what?). I've heard some weak reasoning about public transportation bringing "a certain element" to our fair town, i.e., poor people. I'm sorry to break it to the fearful citizens, but we already have poor people in Arlington. They would benefit from public transportation. And that would help improve all of Arlington. Ideally, when poor people can travel to their jobs, they can make money, save money, and (ta-da) pay their taxes. Yes, hurt and offended middle class, poor people pay taxes too. I could go on a rant about how we've turned poverty into a moral failing, and how some people feel the liberty to punish the poor for their situation (doesn't seem very Christian, does it?), but I'll save my crazy ideas for another day. I also think some Arlington citizens are in denial. Arlington went from a modest suburb located conveniently between Fort Worth and Dallas to being a major city in its own right. We need to start behaving like a city. The problems that major cities face will come to us whether we like it or not, but we are in wonderful position to anticipate these problems -- and avoid them where possible. Cities suffer when they ignore the needs of its citizens.
I also write for QUICK -- right here. Instead of our regularly scheduled WE'VE NEVER MET, we created a special two-page "Welcome to Dallas" feature for next Thursday. It's in anticipation of the Superbowl. Geoff Johnston and I, along with our fearless editor Rob Clark, wrote the feature. My artistic collaborator and personal hero Chad Thomas submitted the final art last night. It looks incredible. Suitable for framing. And yes, I take one or two playful jabs at Arlington.
I should say that I love Arlington. I love living here, and I ardently defend our city to those who still think we're just a place to keep their sports teams and amusement parks. We need to develop our downtown, support locally-owned businesses (you must eat here). We need public transportation. We need to develop our local arts and pub/club scene. The Highlands needs a frickin' parking garage. We need to push the planned bike routes into action. We need UTA to be acknowledged as the tier one school that it is. We need to support the GMC plant and its workers. All of this (except the parking garage) adds up to one thing: Arlington needs to discover its identity as a major city. Fort Worth did it years ago with its investment in Sundance Square and the Museum District, and with its undying support of TCU and the young professionals who live there. We shouldn't simply "follow the formula" and create something artificial. It's about championing the things that Arlington already possesses and focus on the needs of our people. Obviously, this rant is long on ambition and short on actual plans. Blogs are good for that. None of my rambling is too earth shattering. However, I felt the need to tell Arlington: I complain, because I care.