Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Where Is Everybody?

Yesterday, I praised the improved transparency and usability of government databases. Today, I use an excellent example, courtesy of Washington and New York. It's US Census data and a user interface provided by The New York Times.

After the jump, does your Richardson neighborhood feel less crowded than it did ten years ago?

A good example of improved usability is what The New York Times has done with data from the 2010 Census. For example, type "Richardson, TX" in the search box in the upper right on the web page with the US map to see census data for Richardson. (You'll have to zoom in a little. Or type ZIP code "75080" in the search box and zoom out a little. Improved usability is an evolving thing. ;-)

Richardson's overall population grew 8.1% between 2000 and 2010, but that growth was not evenly distributed throughout Richardson. The map colors indicate where that growth is. No surprise, Richardson's previously less developed Breckinridge panhandle area is growing rapidly. Another growth area straddles Campbell Rd east of Central Expressway. Yet another is northwest Richardson surrounding UT-Dallas. What surprised me is that many older areas of Richardson are actually showing negative growth.

My first takeaway from this map is that Richardson's identification of DART light rail and UT-Dallas as being engines of growth is spot on. The neighborhoods just east of Central Expressway, where the DART Red Line runs, are where the only growth in Richardson's older neighborhoods is happening. Richardson should not take its eyes off that ball.

My second takeaway is that Richardson needs to pick up the pace in its neighborhood revitalization efforts to turn around the population loss in our other older neighborhoods. We need programs that target the worst of the decline at the heart of this population loss.

My third takeaway is that all levels of government, including local government in Richardson, need to constantly improve not only transparency into the work of government, but in the usability of the data being made available.

(h/t: D.K.)


dc-tm said...

Mark, yesterday’s blog about the checkbook was missing commentary on your part about how the city spends money in some questionable ways. That was just my observation. Over a million dollars to the RCC each year, taxpayer money going for country club memberships, and the food purchases.

If you tie that in with today’s “second takeaway” you might see why the neighborhoods are lagging in quality care, some very poor choices in spending priorities from my perspective.

Richardson seems to take very good care of the major streets. Over the past month the city has been making some major repairs to Plano Road. At first thought it seemed like a waste. But, I had just grown use to a few bumps here and there. In reality though, they were doing a good job by taking care of it before it become really bad.

The same can’t be said for the neighborhood streets. Why don’t you drive Dumont from Central to Waterview? That street has been in very bad shape for the past 15 years. It gets patched when the main break, but that is about it.

Actions like that seem to imply Richardson takes care of the busy streets in an attempt to leave the impression Richardson is better than it is, while at the same time ignoring the condition of the neighborhood streets.

My take is that it would be a better use of taxpayer funds to take care of the aging and poorly cared for neighborhood streets than it would be to purchase hundreds of thousands of dollars in food, country club memberships and millions to the Richardson Chamber of Commerce.

As to your first takeaway, most of the older neighborhood have no room for growth. They are built out.

As to your third takeaway, good point.

Anonymous said...

"The same can’t be said for the neighborhood streets. Why don’t you drive Dumont from Central to Waterview? That street has been in very bad shape for the past 15 years."

Actually that street is being repaired and the water line underneath it replaced. The street repair is in the 2010 Bond Package. Don't you remember? It's the one you opposed.

Nathan Morgan said...

Oh, Andy,
Why must you fuss about your success with the bond election so? We know they're in trouble and can't honor their promises. We know they're having to put together another bond election to finish the projects they sold us in the last election. We know how poorly they estimate and all the cost overruns. We know that's just the way things work here.

That's why there was opposition to the last bond election. Not because the infrastructure was crumbling after years of being ignored, but because they are such rookie project managers. Every major project they touch costs twice as much before they're done. Where does the money go?

dc-tm is probably right about Dumont. When the 50-year old water line is fixed and the "repair" to the street is done, it will be no more than another patch job on a poorly maintained neighborhood roadway.

I bet you're glad to see at least one of the major water/sewer line issues in your neighborhood fixed.

dc-tm said...

Andrew, you completely miss the point. Two years later and still the repairs have not been made even though the money is in the bank to pay for the project. Dumont has needed serious repairs for 15 years or more. So yes, I remember the bond package and being against parts of it, but for reasons you seem to forget.

The bond was loaded with items Richardson should not be on the hook for, such as $2.8 million to built roads for UTD on UTD property that mainly benefit UTD. Those roads could have and should be built with UTD money, not Richardson taxpayer money.

But, more to the point, if Richardson would not have squandered so much money on items such as $35 dinners, millions of dollars over the years to the RCC, paying for country club memberships, and other items such as these, Richardson leadership could afford to do in a timely fashion what its primary responsibility is, taking care of infrastructure needs.

Just to correct what appears to be misleading implication of yours about repairs on Dumont, the 2010 Bond covers road repairs which run from Central to Hyde Park, and the water line you refer to doesn’t run from Central to Waterview, but just a section from of waterline from Floyd to Weatherred.

Anonymous said...

"Two years later and still the repairs have not been made even though the money is in the bank to pay for the project."

Major reconstruction of a roadway and replacement of water utilities for three quarters of a mile in an established neighborhood requires engineering and management. It requires staging, planning, utility issues, drainage, grading, and general engineering practice. One isn't going to just start throwing dirt around. The underlying surfaces on much of that were put in 55 to 57 years ago. It is a complex engineering proposition.

Engineering studies and design are underway and perhaps nearing completion. One can go up and down Dumont and see spray paint and other markers from surveyors and engineers. If you were in the right place in the past few months, then you might have actually seen the surveyors and engineers on site.

So the fact is that this work is underway now.

All of this including repair or reconstruction of Dumont and other residential streets contradicts your false claim about, "...ignoring the condition of the neighborhood streets."

Anonymous said...

Contrary to your claim, those of us who pushed these items to be on the bond election list of propositions did so with respect to older neighborhoods. We were not in many cases making suggestions with respect to our own neighborhoods. Its true that some were made with respect to our own neighborhoods but the main push was for infrastructure in older neighborhoods generally.

Case in point. The big beneficiary of the residential roadwork is the Highland Terrace neighborhood. Much of the leadership of Highland Terrace opposed the bond election, yet we were in favor of improving the conditions of that neighborhood because it was an older neighborhood in need of these improvements.

Nathan Morgan said...

Oh, I see...that's former council member, John Sweeden's back yard, right?

dc-tm said...

Andrew, trying to claim I make "false claims" is not doing you any good. Take a second and look at the complete statement where you pulled that quote: "Actions like that seem to imply Richardson takes care of the busy streets in an attempt to leave the impression Richardson is better than it is, while at the same time ignoring the condition of the neighborhood streets."

Not to parse words, but I was comparing how poorly the neighborhoods streets are taken care of to how well the main streets are taken care of.

Work in general may be going on with the street repairs, but not work on the repairs and waterline on Dumont. If you meant that "this work is underway now" as to mean "planning and organizing", I could agree with you.

But still, you miss that point that city leaders ignored the problems for far too long and have spend money is undesirable way. Would you agree to that?

dc-tm said...

Consider the manner in which they packaged the bonds. The city leadership was pretty smart and seems to have learned how things work in Washington. Mix some pork with real needs for an all or nothing approach.

Rather than just four items on the 2010 bond, it would have been much better for the residents if it had bee each project listed alone. In effect, the equivalent of a line item veto for the residents.

Anonymous said...

I don't see what good it does to rehash the bond election.

dc-tm said...

I agree it does no good to rehash the bond election. But with you bringing it up in this thread, I thought I would go ahead and engage you in that conversation.

But I am curious why you brought it up in this thread. It was you, Andrew, after all, who brought the 2010 Bond Election into this thread.

Anonymous said...

By "rehash" I mean to go over the arguments in favor of it or against it. I could just as well have said, "Dumont is being fixed because of a bake sale" had that been the case.

dc-tm said...

Well now Andrew, Richardson just may need to hold some bake sales after busting last year's budget by over-spending $20 million. Does it not bother you that there is some seriously questionable spending priorities? I guess not since you haven't touched on that subject.

Nathan Morgan said...

On the contrary, Andrew. Reviewing success and failure of council initiatives is the best way to grade performance. Richardson cannot sustain and maintain fiscal responsibility if we continue to be dishonest about the comparison between what measures were used to entice the public vote on the bond election and the actual result. Richardson leadership has developed a reputation for over promising and under delivering when it comes to bond elections.