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Friday Afternoon Time Kill: An Interactive Tornado Map

St. Delkus says we may be in for a tornado today. That shouldn’t really come as a surprise. April is Dallas’ peak month for tornadoes, according to this new interactive weather map created by U.S. Tornadoes that tracks the high-point of the tornado season across every county in the United States. Dallas County averages 22 tornadoes in April historically. As you scroll your mouse over the map, you may notice something of a pattern. The data suggests tornado season is migratory:

As we’ve shown in a number of other articles, tornadoes are like snowbirds — they winter in the South. Even there, cool and dry is the name of the game more often than not in the weeks around the new year when tornado tallies reach their minimum. Cold-season tornadoes are generally limited, but larger events happen.

Moving out of winter, we typically see tornadoes move back north and northwest through the Mid-South and Southeast during early spring, then into the Midwest and Plains heading into summer. The main tornado zone ultimately reaches the U.S./Canada border area by July or so, before crashing back southward (with occasional outbursts) during fall.

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Will Texas Central Partners Manage to Quell Rural Opposition to the High-Speed Rail?

Last week Texas Central Partners, the company behind the effort to build a high-speed rail link between Houston and Dallas, announced a slate of open house informational meetings about the project. The locations of those meetings – Ennis, Corsicana, Mexia, Cypress, Jewett, Teague, and Waller – say everything about where opposition to the project originates.

After all, if you don’t live near either of the end terminus points of the rail, there’s not really much in the project for you outside of a new piece of infrastructure running through your county. Most of the concerns about the project that have come up in rural Texas relate to the impact the railway may have on the land, including interrupting deer hunting, the movement of livestock, potential for noise, and eminent domain.

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What Can We Learn About the Trinity River Project From Yesterday’s Dallas City Council Meeting?

Purely as a piece of political theater, yesterday’s Dallas City Council meeting had something for everyone. There were surprising plot twists, contentious debates, great dialogue, and even moments of hilarious buffoonery. What started as a presentation of the plan the mayor’s urban design “Dream Team” created for the Trinity River morphed into a workshopping of byzantine parliamentary procedure.

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Dear Dallas City Council: Please Learn from the Trinity Mistakes of the Past

Today at 1 p.m. the Dallas City Council will convene a special meeting to discuss the latest plans for the Trinity River Project. The plans were developed by the mayor’s so-called “Dream Team” task force, a group of some of the best urban thinkers in North America who revealed a vision Tuesday of a “gracious and harmonious parkway” for the Trinity.

On the agenda is a resolution that will create “a team, including regional and State agencies and professionals, from appropriate disciplines, to determine any actions that would be necessary to implement the findings of the Trinity Design Charrette.”

There is every reason to believe that that group will not be able to realize the Dream Team’s vision because of the reality of the funding, flood control, and environmental requirements already written into the DNA of the Trinity River Project as it is conceived today.

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Three Things That Must Happen if Mayor Rawlings Is Serious About His Dream Team’s Trinity Plan

I just got back from the Trinity Commons Foundation annual luncheon during which urban planner Larry Beasley revealed the details of the so-called urban design Dream Team’s plan for rethinking the controversial Trinity Toll Road. Details of the plans are now available online here. Tim will be along to fill in on some details of what went down at he luncheon, and I need a little time to digest it all.

But here’s a one line takeaway: What Beasley essentially presented was a reversion to — and, you could argue, improvement of — the Balanced Vision Plan. No highway. No trucks. No exit ramps flying in every direction. No ugly wall. Just a meandering parkway that provides access to the park and facilitates through-city traffic. Also, no details on how this vision will fit into any funding scheme, or how it meshes with the federal environmental review (Beasley claims it fits snugly, but I’m not immediately convinced), or how heartily Michael Morris chuckled with maniacal laughter when he saw such a quaint vision of a road paraded out in the place of massive highway he wants to fit into his massive regional highway system.

But leaving the luncheon, scratching my head a bit, and wondering with Tim if his initial assessment was correct, that there’s no way the mayor could have ever expected Beasley’s team to recommend Morris’ vision,  I couldn’t help but fixate on the fact that we’ve been here before.

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How City Staff and Toll Road-Backers Misled Mayor Mike Rawlings

As Tim pointed out in Leading Off, there is some tremendous reporting in the Dallas Morning News today from transportation writer Brandon Formby. In his article, Formby lays out the entire chronology of the efforts by former City Manager Mary Suhm and Trinity Commons Foundation Executive Director Craig Holcomb to save the Trinity Toll Road project in the face of mounting opposition. The report comes ahead of today’s private luncheon reveal of the so-called Dream Team’s reworked vision for the road.

The piece pulls back the curtain on just how power brokers have pressed their influence on the mayor, rallying financial support for the pro-road effort, editing his op-eds, counseling him with misinformation or half-truths about the essential features of the road, and coming up with the idea of the dream team and setting the parameters of that groups’ deliberations.

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Why Marcos Ronquillo Will Never Be Mayor of Dallas

Last night the Dallas Museum of Art held their annual Art Ball fundraiser. As they have in years past, the museum created a parody video (below) intended to stoke chuckles under the tent raised for the black tie hot spot on the city’s social calendar, and perhaps score a little internet buzz in the subsequent days. The video is chock-full of (white) people you should know if you circulate around the halls of power and money and art in Dallas, collectors and patrons, curators and museum administrators, scenesters and socialites. Notably featured is Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, who hams it up alongside DMA museum director Maxwell Anderson, who plays the front man in a remake of Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk.” I find the whole thing a little grating and embarrassing, for the museum and everyone involved, though as the DMA’s media relations will surely remind me, I am certainly not in the video’s target audience.

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Federal Study: Trinity Toll Road Will Make Commute More Difficult for Southern Dallas Commuters

It is going to be very difficult for those shilling the Trinity Toll Road to fall back on the argument they have rallied behind over the past months, namely, that the Trinity Toll Road is an act of gratuitous social justice because it better connects southern Dallas commuters to jobs in the north of the city. The Dallas Morning News reports that a federal traffic study shows that while the Trinity Toll Road will reduce some congestion in the Mixmaster, it will also increase traffic on other major highways, making it more difficult to commute from parts of southern Dallas:

Regional traffic estimates referenced in the federal approval documents show that by 2035, the $1.3 billion toll road will increase the number of motorists driving major highways and roadways to get in, through and around downtown by about 10 percent, or 206,000 drivers.

The payoff: a reduction in the collective average daily number of drivers using the Canyon and Mixmaster by about 3 percent, or 10,000 motorists.

That decrease is about one-fourth the number of drivers the toll road will add to U.S. 175 east of S.M Wright Freeway, a major artery for people from South Dallas, Southeast Dallas and Pleasant Grove.

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Crane Crashes Into Dallas Museum of Art

This morning at 9:30 a.m. a crane being used to construct a massive tent on the plaza at the south entrance of the Dallas Museum of Art toppled over and crashed into the museum.

According to a statement released by the museum, the operator was injured during the accident and taken to the hospital via ambulance. No works of art were damaged, but the crane gouged a hole in the front facade of the Edward Larrabee Barnes-designed museum and damaged part of the roof line. Luckily, the crane just missed the large sculpture Mark Di Suvero sculpture that sits on the museum’s front lawn.

The tent was being raised for the museum’s annual Art Ball fundraiser set to take place next Saturday, April 11. It is not the first time the Art Ball staging has damaged the museum. Last year concrete steps leading to the plaza had to be replaced after they were damaged during installation of the tent, and the year before the entire front lawn of the museum had to be re-sodded. There is no word yet as to whether or not the Art Ball will be postponed or moved.

Here’s the full statement from the DMA:

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What Did We Learn From Last Week’s Fair Park Poll?

If you haven’t noticed, my post last week that asked readers how they would react to the idea of moving the State Fair of Texas out of Fair Park got a wee bit of attention. So much, in fact, that I now keep a bag packed and ready to go by my front door so I can flee the state when the angry mobs arrive in the middle of the night with pitchforks and torches ready to tar and feather me. One thing I’ve learned: admitting you’re a Yankee and then saying anything about Big Tex is the online equivalent of suicide by cop.

Regardless, the amount of feedback that post received does seem to warrant a revisit, at least to sort through the noise. So, what have we really learned?

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Fort Worth Is a Bad Urbanism Champion

We’re used to hearing about the strides being made in the revitalization of Fort Worth’s downtown and Sundance Square, and the city does deserve credit for its efforts. However, it’s not like our neighbor to the west is a shining light of urban planning. In fact, it’s doing remarkably well in a tournament of dubious distinction, Streetsblog’s annual Parking Madness tournament.

The tournament pits 16 cities against each other who “vie for the coveted Golden Crater, awarded to the most horrendous pit of parking to blight an American downtown.” And Fort Worth is performing solidly, leading its elite eight showdown against Tampa. Here’s what gives Fort Worth an edge:

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Poll: Would You Care if the State Fair of Texas Left Fair Park?

Yesterday Mitchell Glieber, the president of the State Fair of Texas, released a startling statement. Responding to a proposal put forward by Boston-based planner Antonio Di Mambro that completely rethinks the layout and use of Fair Park, the State Fair said that adopting such a plan would “effectively end the 129-year tradition of the State Fair of Texas in Dallas.”

Sound the alarms! Raise the flags! The State Fair could leave Fair Park! How did we get here?

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In Case You Still Don’t Believe in Driver-less Cars, Here’s Some Video

It has been a few years since videos of driver-less cars began circulating out of Silicon Valley and people began to speculate about what they might mean for the future of cities and transportation. We’ve even kicked around the idea a touch. Still, I think it is worthwhile to prick ourselves every once in a while as a reminder that it is more than likely that by 2030 driver-less cars will be a part of normal, everyday life. That is how fast the technology is moving. In fact, the U.S. Department of Transportation hopes to have rules drafted by 2017 that will mandate vehicle-to-vehicle communication technologies on new autos by an unspecified deadline, and GM, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Nissan, BMW, Renault, Tesla, and Google all expect to have cars that can drive themselves (at least part of the time) at market by 2020.

If this all sounds too optimistic, check out this video of the Mercedes FO15.

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Leading Off (3/25/15)

Investigation Alleges “Reverse Robin Hood” Scheme at DISD: An investigation has revealed large discrepancies in per-student spending within DISD, suggesting that the district is reallocating funds — upwards of $70 million — intended for underprivileged students and spending them on pet projects and magnet schools. Expect a formal complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Education as soon as today. DISD has released an official response: “hogwash.”

Mother of Slain Basketball Star Sues DISD: Not a great day for the district. The mother of Troy Causey, the 18-year-old South Oak Cliff High basketball star who was beaten to death by teammates a year ago, has filed a wrongful death suit against DISD Superintendent Mike Miles and Terry Smith, head of Dallas County’s Juvenile Department. The suit accuses DISD officials of questionable athletic recruitment practices, including recruiting Causey out of juvenile detention and placing him in a special residence within South Oak Cliff’s attendance zone.

Is Dallas DA “Unstable” and “Overly Suspicious”?: We played a quick game in the office yesterday: power rank all the district attorneys in Dallas history. The department doesn’t exactly have a stellar history, and Susan Hawk looks more and more to fit the profile.

Highland Park High’s Racist Chant Leader Unveils Strategy Aimed at Salvaging His Ruined Name, Reputation: Levi Pettit, the Highland Park High School graduate who was captured in video leading racist fraternity chants in Oklahoma, will now attempt to become “a lifelong advocate for the African American community.”

AT&T Continues to Make Dallas’ Job Growth Look Great: The corporation looks to add 500 new positions throughout the region.

Texas Leg Silly Bill of the Day: Guns! We need to be able to carry them everywhere!

Paranoid Irving Mayor Follows Flapping Mouth to Promised Land of the Blow Hards: Beth Van Duyne has some hot sports opinions about religious communities in her city, and so, of course, Fox News comes calling.

Social Media Threats Responsible for More Public Dollars Spent Protecting Against Filter-less Crazies: It used to be that people would sit at a bar and say stupid things to their friends about stuff they didn’t like. Now they put it on Facebook, and as a result, security earns overtime for running extra details protecting people like Dallas Rep. Jason Villalba, the state legislature who introduced a bill that would make filming police all-but illegal.

Three North Texas Military Members on Creepy ISIS “Hit List”: Names, photos, and addresses of three North Texas members of the military personal surfaced on a website that asks sympathizers to target and kill 100 enemies of the so-called Islamic State.

Dallas Potholes Now So Big They Can Swallow Cars: Dear Dallas City Council: Quit talking toll roads, and fix our freaking streets already.

If You Like the Weather in Texas: Wait ten minutes.

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Trinity Toll Road Roundup: Why Are Dallas City Council Members Signing Up to Address the City Council?

The council campaign season is starting to really heat up, and the Trinity Toll Road is shaking out to be a central touchstone of the campaigning. Over the weekend, that potent mix set-off a series of developments. There’s a lot to catch up on, so let’s jump to it.

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