On Monday, Dallas-area State Sen. Royce West (D)—a candidate for U.S. Senate—dodged questions regarding his son’s proposal to build soccer fields on taxpayer property in the city of Dallas, alleged to be a conflict of interest.
In September, Texas Scorecard reported on a proposal involving I-345, a stretch of highway constructed in 1973 that has been blamed for the decades-long economic downturn of the Deep Ellum area east of downtown Dallas. Coalition for a New Dallas, a political and social think-tank led by former D Magazine publisher Wick Allison, has proposed tearing down the miles of the expressway, replacing it with boulevards, and transforming the area for mixed-use development. The City of Dallas, which controls the land, approved this proposal.
Meanwhile, the senator’s son, Roddrick West, pitched a different plan to the Texas Department of Transportation, which owns the land: build soccer fields beneath the highway.
The Deep Ellum Foundation, a nonprofit whose mission is “to enhance, improve, and market the neighborhood as a whole,” objected.
“We prefer that they do another parking lot for the neighborhood, which has generally been our position,” DEF President Jonathon Hetzel told Texas Scorecard in September. “We also want to make sure that soccer fields don’t include any [obstacles] to 345 potentially coming down in the future.”
Hetzel also expressed concerns about the safety of those playing soccer beneath a bridge filled with vehicle exhaust.
In February, DEF did offer a counter-proposal that would allow the soccer fields but still provide parking. They also gave specific deadlines regarding the soccer field development and usage, in an attempt to avoid a situation similar to the 16-year-long Panther Island boondoggle in Fort Worth.
Monday evening, State Sen. West spoke at the first of three meetings hosted by Coalition for a New Dallas to discuss plans for the highway. TxDOT presented options available for addressing the I-345 situation; the soccer fields were not mentioned.
West stressed the importance of gathering “public input” when it comes to deciding the future of the highway. Texas Scorecard asked West what public input was solicited regarding his son’s proposal.
“That project belongs to my son, not to me,” he replied.
“The reality is, let’s not change the narrative,” West said. “The reality is that your senator has always been making certain that we have a proper solution for 345 that doesn’t slow traffic down, and makes certain that we don’t have to go around 30 or 635.”
West refused to answer Texas Scorecard’s question about allegations raised by D Magazine earlier that day. The publication said Roddrick West’s proposal presents a conflict of interest for the state senator, because if I-345 were torn down, as Coalition wants, then the soccer fields couldn’t be built.
District 5 Dallas City Councilman Jaime Resendez—elected in May and present at the meeting though I-345 is outside his district—said he had not been briefed on West’s soccer field proposal.
A second meeting will be held on Tuesday at 6 p.m. at 2711 N. Haskell, and a third meeting will be held on Thursday at 10 a.m. at 400 N. Olive Street.