trinity river

If you know what a “charrette” is, then you’ve probably been to a lot of public meetings. If not, here’s how former City Councilwoman Angela Hunt explains it in her January column for the Lakewood/East Dallas Advocate:

… the difference between public meetings and charrettes was defined by the level of pre-school craftiness involved. If you sat in a chair the whole time listening to a presentation, you were most likely at a public meeting.

But if the experience was interactive, if you got to walk around to different “stations” and draw on big white boards and play with glue sticks and colored dots and maps, well, then, you have been charretted upon.

Hunt says that during her years of service at City Hall, she attended many charrettes, where taxpayers took time out of their Saturday mornings to draw on maps and give their input into public projects. And guess how much of that valuable input made it into the city’s actual plans? Virtually zero percent.

I was incensed. All those meetings, those fancy “charrettes,” had been a sham designed to exploit residents’ reasonable expectation that their voices mattered, when in fact, they did not.

That’s basically what happened recently with the Oak Cliff Gateway project. Stakeholders spent years hammering out details that ultimately were ignored.

Hunt warns us to expect the same thing with the charrettes that inevitably will come with presentations for the Trinity toll road from Mayor Mike Rawlings’ “dream team” of urban planners. Hunt says the toll road plan cannot in reality be reworked without restarting the lengthy process of approvals from federal authorities. I will revel in writing this: a charrette is a charade.

… the consultants, the charrettes, the solemn reconsideration, it’s all political theater designed to distract Dallasites while the city moves forward with its plan to build a massive toll road in the Trinity floodway.

She asks that toll road opponents express their disapproval with their votes.