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Making Dallas Even Better

Is Downtown the New Uptown? A Chat With the New Head of Downtown Dallas Inc.

Kourtny Garrett has worked for Downtown Dallas Inc., the nonprofit that advocates for the businesses and residents of downtown and oversees programs to help keep it a clean and safe place, for more than 13 years.

In March it was announced that she has assumed the role of president of the organization and will take over as CEO come next January, when current chief executive John Crawford transitions into a new role as vice chairman.

After a recent visit to the Dallas Farmers Market blew my mind about how great that corner of the central business district is becoming, I asked Garrett to have a conversation (via instant message) about her unique vision for the future of DDI and the neighborhood. I share that with you now.

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‘There Is a 100 Percent Chance Mark Cuban Becomes President’

That’s what Silicon Valley investor Chris Sacca, a former Google employee and sometimes co-star of Cuban’s on ABC’s Shark Tank, told CNBC this week:

Sacca noted that Cuban could be at least as successful as Trump were he were to campaign for leader of the free world.

“The minute you’re coined a billionaire in this country, everyone just takes everything you say as gospel. You can say no wrong,” Sacca said. “And that’s why we see Trump skating in. He says asinine things and everyone says ‘well, he’s a successful business guy.’ Cuban has all of that, but is not an idiot.”

So if we factor in a massive Trump flop this fall, and the Republican Party still trying to stitch itself together in the aftermath come 2020, then we’ll get two terms of Hillary Clinton.

Cuban 2024?

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Podcast: LeeAnne Locken of Real Housewives of Dallas on Her Carny Past and the Show’s Future

Despite all that Tim has written in each of of his episode recaps of the first three installments of Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Dallas, series star LeeAnne Locken was game to appear at the Old Monk on Thursday afternoon to chat about the show — and game enough for another cringe-inducing (for me anyway) game of iPhone roulette.

Before you listen to what turned out to be the second-longest episode in the illustrious history of EarBurner, please note:

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Leading Off (4/29/16)

Cowboys Select Ezekiel Elliott. With the fourth pick in this year’s NFL draft, Dallas took the Ohio State running back. Reviews of the decision are mixed, with some suggesting they should have gone with Florida State cornerback Jalen Ramsey instead. The Cowboys also tried — and failed — to trade up to get another first-round pick with which to select Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch as Tony Romo’s heir.

Dallas ISD Votes to Buy New Headquarters. The $46.5 million purchase was approved by board trustees in the earliest hour of Friday morning. The building, at 9400 N. Central Expressway, will consolidate the district’s headquarters and 15 other offices in one place. DISD anticipates the change will produce tens of millions of dollars in savings by 2021. Trustees were divided on the matter, which got the go-ahead on a 5-3 vote. Trustees Bernadette Nutall, Joyce Foreman, and Lew Blackburn opposed the purchase, expressing concerns about how it’s being funded and about the district headquarters moving six miles north of its current relatively central location. Some employees could be relocated to what’s being called the Dallas ISD Education by the end of the year, with the entire moving process taking about four years.

Blackie Sherrod, RIP. Sherrod, who died of natural causes at age 96 on Thursday afternoon, is being remembered as “the greatest Texas sportswriter of his generation.”

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Let’s Talk About How to Fix Dallas Schools

Next Tuesday evening here at D Magazine World Headquarters, we’re hosting a happy hour/panel discussion on education in North Texas: More specifically, the question of how schools can find, reward, and retain the best teachers. Eric Celeste will moderate a talk among Dallas ISD trustee Miguel Solis, Stacy Hodge of education advocacy nonprofit Stand For Children, and Todd Williams of overly-punctuated education nonprofit Commit!

If you’re interested in attending, mosey on over this way.

As for myself, I was too excited about the issues to wait all the way until next week. So I asked John Hill, who writes and podcasts about education in Dallas on his blog Turn and Talks, to have a little chat with me (via instant messages) to further whet my appetite. Hill is a former DISD teacher and is now teaching 10th-grade world history at his alma mater, Jesuit Dallas.

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City Council Gives Zale Corp. $450K to Sort-of Move to Dallas

The Dallas City Council just voted this morning to grant Zale Corporation up to $450,000 to move out of Irving. Luring a corporate headquarters to town is generally considered an accomplishment worth crowing about, but take a look (above) at where the company plans to build its new $45 million complex.

The dark gray line represents the city limits. You can see on the map that Zale’s plan is to move just a couple miles away to the little island territory of Dallas around North Lake, as part of the Cypress Waters development. It’s an area even farther from the center of Dallas than is Zale’s existing headquarters. Some of you may not even have realized that land was part of the city. It was annexed back in the 1950s when Dallas Power and Light (which became TXU) needed a cooling reservoir for a new electric plant.

In return for the city’s largesse, staff members estimate the economic impact to the city of $11.3 million over 10 years. Outlaying $450,000 for a return of $11.3 million obviously seems like a no-brainer.

However, when Councilman Mark Clayton probed for more information about the estimate during the council’s discussion period, it was disclosed that only about $800,00 would come back to the city as direct tax revenue. The vast majority of that $11.3 million is based on estimating the impact of the hundreds of new employees that will, according to the underlying logic, come to live, work, and play in Dallas (spending money all along the way).

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An Absurd $4.6 Million Bridge Is Going Up Over Harry Hines

The DMN takes a look at why the city, county, state, and federal governments are pitching in to build a pedestrian path over Harry Hines Boulevard at Walnut Hill Lane, an area of town known for its strip clubs and other adult-oriented establishments:

Even the guy whose business is a few steps from the base of the bridge has no idea what the heck the thing’s doing there.

“I thought it was for the DART station,” said Song Kim, owner of Just for Play, the lingerie shop in Ravi’s Wholesale Plaza. Kim said Monday that he’d been in this spot for two years, and never once has anyone explained the point of this bridge.

The DART station’s a good guess. Dallas Area Rapid Transit has the Walnut Hill Green Line station on the other side of Harry Hines. But the bridge doesn’t connect to it. Denton Drive separates the light-rail station from the bridge.

The bridge’s backstory hides in plain sight: The fall 2014 issue of Utility Newsletter, the must-read published by the Dallas County Department of Public Works, tells us the bridge “will allow safer pedestrian and bicycle traffic along Harry Hines Boulevard and serve as an example of the modern transportation principles of sustainable and multimodal infrastructure.” There’s also a 2014 map from the North Central Texas Council of Governments that shows the pedestrian bridge as part of a much larger “Northwest Dallas Multimodal Connectivity” project built for the Asian Trade District.

Wishful thinking? Bureaucratic planning run amok?

No One Is Drilling in the Barnett Shale

The Star-Telegram reported on natural-gas industry data that shows that there are no active rigs drilling anywhere in the two-dozen county region of North Texas under which the Barnett Shale formation sits. A decade ago, there were nearly 200:

Plummeting oil and gas prices, along with the seductive lure of bigger payouts in other parts of Texas and across the country, have brought exploration in North Texas to a halt. In March of last year, the count dropped to one rig for a week, then stayed under 10 since then.

Things have gotten so bad that the Powell Shale Digest in Fort Worth, once a must-read for those following industry activity in the Barnett, is publishing its last edition on Tuesday.

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Poll: Where Does Dirk Rank in the Dallas Sports Pantheon?

Yes, the Dallas Mavericks were eliminated from the NBA playoffs last night. But nobody’s blaming Dirk Nowitzki for yet-another first-round exit. All the love for the greatest player in Mavs history that I saw on Twitter in the wake of the loss got me thinking about his place in the Dallas sports pantheon.

It’s going to be a long while, if ever, before anyone supplants Dallas Cowboys legend Roger Staubach in the hearts of North Texas fans, but is it possible that Nowitzki has passed the other top contender — Troy Aikman — for the No. 2 spot?

Or maybe you think I’ve got it all wrong. How would you rank the most beloved players of each of our big-four professional sports teams? (I’m giving the Cowboys two spots because, well, this is Dallas.) Weigh in below.

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GQ Says WFAA Just Killed #RunningManChallenge

Monica Hernandez and Wes Houx of WFAA-Channel 8 gave the latest viral dance craze, the #RunningManChallenge, a go yesterday on their morning news show.

GQ was less than complimentary of their efforts:

And yet, you never really know how strong a dance craze is until it’s attempted by a couple of daytime local news anchors. Yesterday, Monica and Wes of WPAA in Dallas became the unfortunate pair to do just that. First, after falsely attributing the dance to the U of M players, Monica then went on to explain how her fiancé challenged her and her co-anchor, and then, like pure dumpster-fire poetry in motion, they launched into it.

Cause of death: an astounding dearth of rhythm. But then, with a swift dagger of white dorkiness as if to ensure the running man challenge’s death, Wes comes in and dabs.

However, there might actually be something nice about the running man challenge dying before it ever really lived. After all, if this went on for a few more weeks, we’d probably have to watch Hillary Clinton do it on Ellen.

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Forget About Buying a New Home Under $200K in North Texas

Citing a report by housing-market data service Metrostudy, HousingWire says anyone looking for a brand-new starter home for under $200,000 in the Dallas-Fort Worth area is out of luck:

“First-quarter starts data presents further evidence of Dallas-Ft. Worth’s market shift in price,” said Paige Shipp, regional director of Metrostudy’s Dallas office. “Historically, most of DFW’s starts and closings occurred below $200,000. The new normal reflects a meteoric rise in starts above $200,000.”

According to Shipp, housing starts to be priced between $300,000 and $349,999 jumped 81.2%, which is almost twice the increase in closings.

On the other hand, starts below $200,000 dropped 14.6% from last year and closings plummeted 31%, Shipp said.

And Shipp said that there’s not much hope on the horizon for those looking for a new home priced under $200,000.

“Due to rapidly rising land and development costs, developers argue there is little hope for the revival of the sub-$200,000 new-home market,” Shipp added. “This will remain an issue until municipalities, developers and builders understand and deliver higher-density lots and smaller homes to the market.”

D Magazine HQ to Host American Conservative Talk on U.S. Foreign Policy

Former FrontBurner contributor Wick Allison, chairman of D Magazine Partners, is also chairman of the American Ideas Institute, a D.C.-based nonprofit that publishes The American Conservative magazine in print and online.

In that capacity, he’s asked that I let D Magazine readers know about an event being hosted here at our downtown office this Wednesday. Four editors from TAC will have a discussion about what impact the 2016 presidential campaign will have on U.S. foreign policy.

If that sounds like your jam, click right here to RSVP, space permitting.

Let’s Not Learn the Wrong Lesson of Expanding State Highway 161

This morning Wired worries that transportation planners will take the wrong lesson from the traffic data the Texas Department of Transportation released last week that shows that traffic is “sailing” along a three-mile stretch of State Highway 161 ever since drivers were permitted to start using the shoulders of the road. It should not be used as evidence that widening highways is a tried-and-true method of relieving congestion:

Two things might explain why the Dallas project worked. The first is that the bottleneck on that highway was a very specific problem: a two-lane stretch connecting three-lane highways. Opening the shoulders eliminated the choke points of squeezing into a tighter space.

The second and more cynical explanation for the project’s success is that it wasn’t actually successful. The traffic numbers published this month include just a few days after the new lanes opened in September. Traffic has increased since then, though the TxDOT says traffic is still moving faster than before the project. It’s quite possible unbearable congestion will return, as more locals change their behavior to take advantage of what is suddenly a smooth ride—that’s the fundamental principle of induced demand.

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