Jim Schutze’s Observer post yesterday about federal plans to turn the Trinity River into a canal, in hopes of making Dallas a port, jogged my memory. Several years ago, I was researching a story about the North Dallas Chamber of Commerce Little League for our Far North Dallas magazine and I ran into a line on the chamber website: 1954-1959 — Traveled to Austin to back Trinity River Canalization plan.

How odd, I thought. So I did some checking, and discovered that there was a referendum in 1973 to ask Dallas-Fort Worth voters to approve a property tax to pay $150 million of the cost to "canal-ize" the Trinity. The referendum failed, and voters in this part of the river region voted solidly against it (and it even fared poorly in the downriver counties, which were supposed to have favored the plan).

The clips I found in The Morning News showed it was the same sort of campaign as our Trinity vote — city leaders on one side, a lone elected official on the other, similar arguments, and much controversy. You can read the actual clip of the News’ analysis of why the referendum lost, from March 15, 1973, here. (If you have trouble reading it because the type is so small, use the zoom control on your browser.)

Here’s a thought. If someone had remembered this 18 months ago — and I have no idea why I didn’t, because I still have my notes — would it have made a difference in the toll road referendum?

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