What I’ve learned working with the City of Dallas

My mind works in threes. So, to start off this blog thing, I’ll have a series of three blogs based on triplets. The first will be about how the City of Dallas works, then what makes a place, and finally my philosophy on how to solve problems.

In my four years of working with the City to make events happen, I’ve come to learn that the checks and balances of our local government should work in a municipal trinity: city staff, city council, and citizens. City staff is the bureaucracy that you need to run a city this big. City council are the representatives that direct the bureaucratic machine. And citizens choose the councilpersons and tell them what needs to get done.

The problem is that this system has broken down. How can you have an informed and empowered city council when only 7.5% of the voting population participates in deciding the direction of their city? Without the pressure of over 1 million voters in the county, city staff can do whatever it wants with impunity. They can make fracking deals that lead to the City getting sued. They can put a Sam’s Club in Central Dallas and probably get the City sued. If people aren’t informed and aren’t making a fuss, the only thing we can do is join the fight when it’s already been lost.

The 2012 national elections drew 60% of the voting population in Dallas County. People in Dallas will vote, but how do you get them to participate in elections that directly affect the leadership of their local community?

How I solved my identity crisis

I cut my teeth here in Dallas by starting the Deep Ellum Outdoor Market. For the past 4 years, I’ve developed event production skills that have sustained this project. I’ve also put together some food truck events, some concerts, and other events. The thing is, event production isn’t what gets me up in the morning.

Transforming under-used spaces and the challenge of creating walkable environments is what really gets me going. To look at an area and envision a place where people walk and engage with their environment inspires me to work and realize that vision. Hunting for sponsorships, on the other hand, makes me want to roll over in bed.

ACP logo

So here comes a solution to my identity crisis! ASH + LIME Strategies is the result of many months of meeting with Rik Adamski and Amanda Popken about how to make places better, contacting municipal leaders in our network, and pushing to get them to agree to our contracts. As a result, we have the opportunity to affect change in the downtown areas of communities around DFW.

Among our first clients are the City of Duncanville, UTA Fort Worth, and Downtown Dallas Inc. There are others to come, but already we have enough work to fill our days and stress us out.

The team itself is a very interesting with our skill sets complimenting each other. Rik has a background in urban planning and real estate. Amanda is coming from the City of Dallas Office of Economic Development and has also been educated in urban planning. Myself, I bring the community-based entrepreneurism.

Please join us at our launch on Friday July 18 at the Twilite Lounge in Deep Ellum. We’ll start gathering at 6pm and go until later in the evening! RSVP here!