Dallas Mayor at NewCities Summit
This post is part of our Re-imagining Cities discussion series, following the third edition of the NewCities Summit in Dallas in June 2014.
As the lead-off keynote speaker, Mayor Mike Rawlings made sure to extend what would become, for the Dallas event, a signature warm, oversized Texas-style welcome to the 800 attendees, coming from 51 countries.
Rawlings deftly made the link between the Dallas Summit’s theme, “Re-Imagining cities” and the main site of the event – the Winspear Opera House, centerpiece of the AT&T Performing Arts Center – which had always been at the heart of the earliest plans for an arts district “re-imagining” of Dallas. “We can’t reimagine our cities by simply reacting, or by coming up with cool ideas after a bottle of wine,” Rawlings exhorted the audience. “We must be more strategic.”
Rawlings took the assembled audience on a walk through Dallas’ history, from the late 1880s – when Dallas apparently first reimagined itself as a tourist destination heralded by the first State Fair of Texas – to the present day business capital of the Southwest, and still important technology hub. He also addressed the city’s biggest, most publicized setback – as the setting of the 1963 assassination of president John F. Kennedy – as well as achievements such as the completion of turn-key urban projects including the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in 1974, the DART light rail system in 1983 and the largest urban arts district in the United States.
The gap between the haves and the have-nots is still too wide. We must close that gap.
Today’s Dallas is developing, according to Mayor Rawlings, a well-deserved reputation for nurturing not only its love of the arts, but also for eco-friendly green spaces. Examples include the spawning of three new downtown parks, and a recent embrace of the bicycle as a green mode of transport. Allowing for the numerous challenges still very much on Dallas’ plate, namely tending to the homeless, tackling poverty, and improving educational standards, the mayor knows this: “This city is still young, only 158 years old, and we’ve grown up a lot, especially in the last decade,” he said. “But we understand that of the major issues we continually face, the gap between the haves and the have-nots is still too wide. We must close that gap.”