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Making Dallas Even Better

Dallas City Council to Discuss ‘Travesty’ of the Police & Fire Pension Fund

Wednesday’s Dallas City Council briefing is chockfull of the sort of bad news and head-numbingly dense financial talk that makes you wonder why anyone would voluntarily serve in municipal government. They’ll discuss the city’s bond ratings. Those determine how much the city must pay for debt service, and one was recently downgraded.

While Dallas still rates as “high quality,” all of big three agencies cite unfunded pension liabilities as a major concern in the city’s future. Just how unfunded?

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Things To Do In Dallas Tonight: Nov. 30

I hope everyone had a safe and happy Thanksgiving. If you did not, that’s unfortunate, and I hope the rest of your year goes better. Maybe some of these 25 things to do in December will help. First, let’s cross off the last calendar box for November with a Mad Men party, a talk from Tuesdays With Morrie author Mitch Albom, and some other seasonal happenings.

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Leading Off (11/30/15)

FC Dallas Falls Just Short of MLS Cup. After losing the first leg of the Western Conference Finals 3-1, FCD came close to sending it into extra time last night, up 2-1 and pressing. But they never could get that third goal and Portland netted a second at the end of stoppage to end a great season. The young, homegrown squad will be back, and even better.

On-Duty Dallas Police Officer Arrested on Suspected Drunken Driving. James Covey was arrested Saturday after he drove into high water on Elsie Faye Heggins Street in South Dallas. A plastic cup found in the car smelled of alcohol. Covey admitted he’d had whiskey that morning. Unrelated: I made it the entire Thanksgiving weekend with my family without touching a drink.

Seven Rescued From Trinity After Fishing Boat Flips. Kind of chancy, given the river conditions. Not surprisingly, there were plenty of calls for rescues over the holiday weekend, most of them involving cars.

Will Schutze to Take Over as Scrooge at NorthPark. Nice little story here.

ICYMI: Cowboys Lose, Tony Romo Out For Season. He broke his collarbone again. Or re-broke it. Or it wasn’t 100-percent healed and now it’s way less than that. Anyway, he’s done for the year. Doubt there are any miracles in store for the team. Watch the Mavs and/or Stars.

Things To Do In Dallas: The Thanksgiving Weekend Edition

Thanksgiving is the greatest holiday. No gifts. Sound message: Be thankful for what you have. Good food.An adequate amount of family time that — if you keep conversation limited while focusing on the kitchen table and a television screen for the duration of a football game — won’t end in tears and the airing of ancient grievances. To top it off, it’s just the start of an extended holiday weekend with all kinds of things to do. Happy Thanksgiving.

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Three Questions About That Linda Septien Article in the Dallas Observer

I just read the Observer’s cover story this week. It’s a profile of Linda Septien, who is a voice coach and star maker responsible for a long list of pop performers you’ve heard on Radio Disney. Three things about that story jumped out at me:

1. Septien is 62 years old? Holy cow. She looks great for even 42.

2. Did the Observer not see Skip Hollandsworth’s 2006 profile of Septien in Texas Monthly?

3. Even if the Observer didn’t see that 2006 profile, did the paper not realize that Septien’s former husband, Rafael, a former placekicker for the Cowboys, was indicted on a charge of aggravated sexual abuse of a child and pleaded to a 10-year probated sentence? Because the Observer’s story mentions that she was married to him but doesn’t include that important detail. I bring this up because I know the person who was the child in that abuse case. And I don’t think Rafael Septien’s name should ever be printed without mentioning that he was indicted on a charge of aggravated sexual abuse of a child.

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Things To Do In Dallas Tonight: Nov. 25

Happy Thanksgiving Eve. It’s a tricky night. You could join your family early, but then you’ll be sick of each other by the time Grandpa Frank cuts the turkey tomorrow. We’ve got better ideas. Go see Mac Miller at the Bomb Factory, be regaled at Dallas’ premier storytelling series, or dance the night away at Beauty Bar’s fifth anniversary bash.

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Leading Off (11/25/15)

Parkland Workers Can’t Be Held Liable in Patient’s Death. In 2011, George Cornell died in restraints at the psych emergency room. It’s one of the incidents that brought about some of the recent changes at the hospital. A lower court initially ruled that the hospital executives and workers couldn’t claim immunity from a civil-rights lawsuit brought by his family. Now a federal appeals court decided otherwise, because it is almost impossible to hold government employees accountable when they screw up.

Attorney Owes Accident Victim $700,000. Diana Bernal was in a car accident in 2009 and won a settlement, but was never told about it. When she tried to contact her attorney, Richard Jaramillo, he didn’t respond. A judge recently ruled that Jaramillo owes Bernal $776,000. Bernal, still recovering from her injuries, says she doubts she’ll ever see the money.

North Texas Spends More on Christmas. We go out more, we shop more, we spend more on gifts. We also, according to this Deloitte survey, spend more on ourselves. Nearly half of the North Texans surveyed said they planned on buying themselves something.

Heavy Rain Expected on Thanksgiving. The weather psychics say we should expect a lot of bad weather over the holiday weekend. Please be safe.

Toronto Scraps Highway Teardown, Opts for Skaters Under the Overpass

However smart, no one said tearing down highways was easy. And so while the city of Toronto had been mulling a demolition of Gardiner Expressway, an elevated highway that separates a stretch of the city from its Lake Ontario waterfront, in the end the city opted not to kill the road. Too bad.

So, time for plan B: a proposed park the city hopes to develop under the elevated freeway. I point you to this idea for three reasons.

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Things To Do In Dallas Tonight: Nov. 24

There is a so-called “Wookie Calling Contest” tonight at the Libertine Bar on Lowest Greenville, and we should briefly discuss how to win it. (At the risk of being that guy, I feel the need to first publicly point out that that it’s actually spelled “Wookiee”). Practice some common phrases in Shyriiwook, the trade language made most famous by Chewbacca in the Star Wars films. Go-tos like “Ruh gwyaaaag” (“I am a friend”) and “Huwaa muaa mumwa” (“Can I buy you a drink?”) will serve you well at a watering hole, but more elaborate sentences like “Arrrrrwrrrrrronnkkk raarrh” (“Is the air-conditioning actually on in this building?”) should really impress. Next, watch this “Chewbacca Sound Tutorial” video (YouTube views: more than 1.8 million) and rehearse at home. Take those steps and you might as well park the Millenium Falcon outside and strut in with Han Solo before entering the contest.

If you’re more of a Star Trek person, or maybe you’ve been on a second date in the past year, there are plenty of other things to do tonight as well.

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A Curious Art Sale Puts DMA Bequest Back in the Spotlight

Art watcher Greg Allen noticed an interesting sale at a recent Christie’s auction of postwar and contemporary art. Felix Gonzalez-Torres’s Untitled (L.A.), 1991 sold for a record-setting $7.7 million. If you have been to the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth at any point in the last few years, you probably know the work. It consists of 50 pounds of candies laid out on the floor. Part of the fun of the piece is that visitors are invited to take pieces of candy. It’s art you can touch and eat, and as a result the piece itself is static and ephemeral. The record price was, in part, an acknowledgement that it is an important work by an important artist, whose career was cut short by AIDS in 1996.

Even though Untitled (L.A.) was on view in Fort Worth for so many years, it was on loan from the Rachofsky collection. It’s that provenance that Allen finds curious.

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Leading Off (11/24/15)

Robert Jeffress Makes Dallas Look Bad. Our Mike Mooney profiled the pastor of First Baptist Dallas in 2012. Mike said Jeffress was a likable guy. Okay. I guess. But watch this video and read what Jeffress has recently said about Islam (short version: bonkers). Most important, read this blog post written by Robert Hunt, the director of Global Theological Education at SMU’s Perkins School of Theology. It’s titled “The Darkness in the Heart of Dallas.” Read it in the context of the misguided armed protesters who showed up at the Islamic center in Irving. We have SO far to go before Dallas gets to “world class” status, and it has nothing to do with signature bridges or riverside toll roads.

Elvis Andrus Unclear on the Concept. Yeah, yeah. We’re focused on the Cowboys and Mavericks right now. What? The Stars are playing? And it’s the team’s best season ever? Okay. Throw in the Stars. But here’s some Rangers news. Elvis Andrus, who committed, like, seventytwenty errors in Game 5 of the American League Division Series, says, “For sure, what happened last year is something that is going to make me work harder. I don’t think about it. It was a long process, but I’m in a good spot right now.” Say what? You don’t think about it, but it’s going to make you work harder? You screwed up, dude. THINK about it.

Two Arlington Officers Indicted. Detention officer Pedro Medina and former lead detention officer Steve Schmidt were indicted on a charge of criminally negligent homicide in the death of Jonathan Paul, who was in police custody.

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What Dallas Can Learn From Syracuse

The Atlantic visits Syracuse, New York, where decades ago an elevated highway was built that destroyed neighborhoods and enabled the flight of the middle-class to the suburbs. The city has seen its poverty rate soar as a result.

The section of highway in question — part of  Interstate 81 — is showing its age and in need of repair or replacement. Long-suffering FrontBurnervians will understand what this has to to with Dallas. Only the situation is somewhat different in Syracuse because there the offending highway almost certainly will have to come down:

An opportunity to try and reverse some of the decades of decay has recently presented itself. The state of New York now says that I-81, the highway that was built in the 1960s and displaced the 15th ward, is reaching the end of its useful life. The state and region are currently debating proposals about what to do with the road.

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Ahmed Mohamed’s Family Demands $15M From City of Irving and Irving ISD

The lawyers for the family of former Irving teenager Ahmed Mohamed sent a letter demanding $10 million from the city of Irving and $5 million from the Irving school district for how police and officials handled the clock controversy.

From the letter, via DMN:

He will continue for the rest of his days to experience pain and suffering. A large segment of potential employers will steer clear of Ahmed to avoid controversy, despite his many obvious talents. There is no other way to put it: his reputation in the global community is permanently scarred. One also that Ahmed, quite reasonably, will have a lifelong fear of the law enforcement and educational establishments that have let him down so terribly.

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