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Making Dallas Even Better

Are There Any Good Reasons Left for Susan Hawk Not to Resign?

UPDATE: Clearly as a result of reading my post, Susan Hawk did the sensible thing a couple of hours later and released a statement clearing up the whole DA goes AWOL situation. She is taking a four week leave of absence to battle a “serious episode of depression.”

I’m going to piggy back on Jason’s poll today and extend the question about Susan Hawk with a request for feedback in the comments. I’m really curious to hear what you think about this. I’ve been following the Susan Hawk regime like everyone else, and at this point, I’m left wondering if she has any reasons left not to resign her post as Dallas County District Attorney. Here’s the situation as I see it.

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Is the Lakewood Theater Under Attack?

UPDATE: And, of course, Fingers of Fury has more details, including confirmation that crews are not demolishing the murals, etc.

On Friday Jim Schutze stopped by the Lakewood Theater, allegedly mid-donuts run, and noticed that work crews were busy inside the historic theater. He ducked in and, before being kicked-out, noticed that interior demolition work was going on. This was after Robert Wilonsky posted about the demolition shots that were clogging his Facebook page, including a disheartening photo of a dumpster filled with the theater’s seats. This morning, my Facebook page has also been inundated with updates about the renovation/demolition work. There are apparently TV news crews now on the scene.

But should we be freaking out about the Lakewood’s presumed demise?

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A Case For Removing All Traffic Lights, Stop Signs

About a month ago a pedestrian was killed crossing Travis St. near Knox and the Katy Trail. Almost immediately, reports placed the fault on the pedestrian. She was looking at her phone. She didn’t look both ways. I found that reaction curious. After all, the pedestrian wasn’t the one operating the fast-moving, multi-ton machine responsible for killing more than 30,000 people a year. Rudy Bush tried to leverage a little reason to the tragedy. It is unfair to lay blame on the driver or the pedestrian, he argued, the problem is with how we design our streets.

I thought Bush made an important point. Travis is supposedly one of Dallas’ most “walkable” areas, and drivers should anticipate the presence of pedestrians there just as pedestrians should take care when crossing the street. But if you want to see how irrationality guides our conversations and assumptions about road safety and responsibility, spend a few minutes poking through the comments to Bush’s post. Many of the reactions were seemingly penned by people who believe that even the quietest city street should function according to the rules governing the the Daytona speedway.

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Visualizing Poverty Growth In Dallas

Before we head into the weekend, I thought I’d jump back into the fray after some time away from the office with a really depressing post about poverty growth in Dallas. Shall we?

I don’t have new information for you, just a new way of looking at it. The data comes from a report from 2014 put out by cityobservatory.org which looked at population change in the nation’s poorest urban neighborhoods and argued that the most pressing problem confronting our cities is not gentrification, but rather the concentration of poverty. This concentration of poverty is illustrated in a map I pointed to back in July that showed income inequality broken down by neighborhood. But now we have a new set of nifty maps by designer Justin Palmer that presents the issue in bleak, ominous tones.

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Leon Bridges Played Deep Ellum Last Night

Leon Bridges is a good person. He was the surprise guest at last night’s best of Big D party at the Bomb Factory. After Tim Rogers got on stage to thank sponsors, crack Philip Kingston jokes, and say all the things you have to say when you’re the tux-toting editor of the city magazine hosting the party, he asked Bridges to join him. Spinderella’s birthday is this week, and before the DJ brought the evening to its finale, Bridges was to surprise her by singing happy birthday.

Bridges looked sharp, of course. He wore a crisp grey suit, a white collared shirt with a skinny black tie, and black patent leather shoes. He took the mic, led the crowd in a brief acapella rendition of “Happy Birthday,” waved to his fans, and exited stage right. He was a good sport to make an appearance for us, especially in light of his ever-busy schedule, which saw him performing in the UK last week and will bring him to the West Coast later on this week.

But that’s not why Bridges is a good person.

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Canadians Make Texas Highway Spoof That’s Uncomfortably Close to Reality

The Canadian radio show That is That is basically an audio Onion. In this week’s episode, in addition to reporting on a family in Washington State that is allowing its child to self-identify as whatever species it would like, the radio jokesters report on a new luxury freeway in Texas.

The conceit of the joke: Texans love to drive and a lot of them are rich, and so a few would probably be willing shell out extra $65,000 to drive on a road from Dallas to Houston that is reserved for people who can buy their way into an elite motorist clique. “Just feels good to get out there and drive with like minded people, I guess,” one interviewed character says. And another: “I take great comfort that everyone on the road has insurance.”

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The History of Dallas Urbanism in the Story of a Seafood Restaurant

Perhaps this is more of a Ghosts of Dallas thing, but I just thought I’d share with you some findings from a rabbit hole I slipped into this morning.

It began with this article about the closing of Vincent’s Seafood in Plano. I’ll be honest, I never heard of the place, which is why when the headline announced that it had been open for 117 years, I was really taken aback. How did a century-old restaurant escape my Dallas history nerd-o-meter? And how is it possible that a restaurant in a bland, concrete strip mall in Plano could be such a historic establishment? I started to dig.

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How Will The Dallas Morning News Buyouts Impact Coverage?

Culture Map has a list of some of the Dallas Morning News reporters who have taken the most recent round of buyouts at the paper. And, boy, there are some big names on there. Frequent Frontburner sparring partners Steve Blow and Rodger Jones will leave the paper. Also taking buyouts: writer Brooks Egerton, Oak Cliff reporter Roy Appleton, Washington bureau chief Todd Gillman, airlines reporter Terry Maxon, and legendary business columnist Bob Miller (who was already retiring and has been “grandfathered” into the buyouts), among others.

Those are some pretty important beats. What I’ll be interested in seeing is how new DMN editor Mike Wilson goes about back-filling some of these positions — and which he leaves vacant. One thing I’m particularly concerned about is the loss of classical music critic Scott Cantrell, who is also taking a buyout. With Cantrell out as the DMN’s classical music critic, the state of Texas now has, from my count, no full-time classical critics just one full-time classical critic (the Chronicle’s Joshua Kosman). (UPDATE: The Chronicle works with a number of writers who cover classical, but there are no full-time classical critics with the paper, the paper’s features desk confirmed.)

It’s a tough day for the media industry, but a particularly sad one for arts criticism in Dallas.

UPDATE 2: Some more clarifying via Scott Cantrell:

Although I am indeed taking the buyout, it looks as though I’ll continue covering the classical beat through next season on a reduced freelance schedule. That will give me the transition period I’d hoped for, and give editors time to figure out how they want to go forward with classical-music coverage.

 

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Uptown Sam’s Club Opponents Live to Fight Another Day

You probably saw the news yesterday that an appeals court judge ruled in favor of the Dallas residents group that is still trying to block the development of that Uptown Sam’s Club project. You can read more about the ruling here, but it basically boils down to this: a judge rejected the city of Dallas’ claim that the non-profit organization formed by residents to fight the Uptown Sam’s Club had no legal standing to fight the developer in court.

In short, Judge Phyllis Lister Brown said, “Um, yeah. Of course the citizens do have legal standing. Because, you know, duh.” Or in legal terms: “Protecting the quality of neighborhood living is a civic purpose. … Therefore, the Association has a nonprofit purpose and is a nonprofit association to which the Code applies.” Funny that the city of Dallas needed a judge to remind them this.

So, what does the court ruling mean?

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Do Millennials Really Prefer the City Over the Suburbs?

An article in Gizmodo challenges some conventional thinking with regards to millennials’ preference for urban lifestyles. According to some new studies, the generation born after 1980 may not be shunning the suburbs after all. In fact, there is evidence that more millennials are moving to the suburbs than the city, only they just might be making the move a little later than prior generations.

FiveThirtyEight dug into this a few months back. According to the 2014 census, while the rate at which people between the age of 25 and 29 are moving to suburbs has slowed when compared to the mid-1990s, when you look at the 30-44-year-old range, the rate of suburban relocation has actually sped up.

Why?

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Leading Off (7/14/2015)

The Barnett Shale is Off-Gassing More Greenhouse Gasses Than Previous Thought: The EPA botched its initial estimates, and as it turns out, fracking in the Barnett Shale is responsible for 64 percent of all methane in our local atmosphere. The good news: most of those emissions are the result of human errors and mechanical failures.

Let’s Put Those Increased Violent Crime Numbers in Perspective: The Dallas Morning News breaks down the much-reported 10 percent increase in violent crime. The takeaway? Glass half-full, glass half-empty. You could argue the increase reflects a return to a historical norm. And if violent crime continues at pace through the end of the year, murders will be at the same level they were 2013 and 2012, while aggravated assaults would only see a 0.4 percent increase over last year.

When Will We Finally Run Craig Holcomb Out of Town? Read Eric Nicholson’s look into the laughable bike share program in Fair Park. I mean, it couldn’t be more stupidly designed, so it will come as no surprise that the usage numbers are equally laughable. But here’s the important bit: when Nicholson tried to get the usage numbers through an open records request, he was stonewalled by the Friends of Fair Park, which operates the program. That decision to not to release the bike share numbers was then upheld in a ruling by the Texas AG.

I mean, seriously? Bike share numbers? We’re keeping those under lock-and-key? Why? Because Friends of Fair Park – which is run by Craig Holcomb, who also heads the Trinity Commons Foundation – doesn’t want more mud on his face for a program that anyone who has any idea about anything looks at for two seconds and thinks, “Good God, that is the sorriest excuse for a bike share program I have ever seen in my entire life.” I mean, seriously? How long are we going to let Holcomb meddle in the city’s business? How long are we going to let him lord over his two little fiefdoms, which happen to involve two of Dallas’ greatest civic assets – Dallas and Fair Park – both of which have languished for decades under the weight of curiously stupid ideas? For the love of all things good, Criag Holcomb, will you please just drift off into a quiet retirement and leave Dallas alone? Please. Thank you for your service. Now go away.

New Designer Drug in Town: It’s called Flakka, and it doesn’t sound like too much fun. Effects include “murderous rage, paranoia, ultra-violence, and running around screaming.” Or basically what it feels like to read about Craig Holcomb’s meddling in Dallas affairs.

It’s Finally Texas Hot: After cool temps and so much rain, we can’t really complain about DFW finally flirting with 100 degrees (heat index popped up to 109 in some places yesterday). Well, unless the AC goes out in your entire apartment complex. Then you can complain.

Troy Aikman Hates Potholes. So Does, It Turns Out, Every Other American

Over the weekend, Dallas Cowboys legend (and former auto dealership owner) Troy Aikman was driving in Dallas. Presumably his car hit a pothole. Or maybe he spotted a pothole ahead of him in the road and swerved to avoid it. Maybe he hit a few potholes in a row, or maybe his entire trip felt like he was dodging potholes like Giants linebackers. Whatever the case, Dallas Cowboys legend Tory Aikman was fed up with the damned potholes, and so he got mad. So mad, in fact, he did what all Americans do these days when we’re mad. We Tweet:

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The New York Times on the Federally Subsidized Dallas Exodus

The New York Times reports on the success of an experimental housing policy the federal government rolled out in Dallas. In short, the new program offers vouchers to people who qualify for housing subsidies. That’s not new. Here’s the new bit: if the person receiving the voucher wants to move to a more expensive neighborhood, the government will give that person more money.

The thought is that by helping families move into better neighborhoods, they will have a better chance of breaking the cycles of poverty that persist in poorer parts of town. Better schools, safer neighborhoods, short commutes: in the long run it all translates into lower costs for everyone, those receiving the subsidies and the government. So far, this strategy has been proven successful, even if the program is not perfect:

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The Canaries are Yelling in the City Hall Coal Mine

Elizabeth Findell has a story in the Dallas Morning News that is ostensibly about council members yelling at city staff members and a general loss of decorum at Dallas City Hall. Throughout the piece, various subjects offer their thoughts on why things have gotten testy down at city hall. Council member Sandy Greyson blames it on social media. Council member Lee Kleinman says many elected officials don’t have much experience as managers. The article ends with the suggestion that what has happened is a generational culture shift.

But you have to read between the lines of the article to get at the real story, which is not so much about manners in governance as it is about a city government whose very structure creates a contentious relationship between elected officials and city staff.

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Dallas-Fort Worth Has the Worst Income Inequality by Neighborhood in the U.S.

Governing reports on a new Urban Institute report that looks at how income inequality affects neighborhoods. In short, the report demonstrates that between 1990 and 2010, wealthier neighborhoods have become wealthier, while poorer neighborhoods have become poorer, further exaggerating levels of income inequality between neighborhoods across U.S. metro areas. And the region that leads the way in this trend towards increasing neighborhood income inequality is Dallas (or, more accurately, DFW). Via Governing:

The analysis examined inequality within commuting zones, or large regions of several counties that resemble metropolitan areas. Of all commuting zones with at least 250,000 residents, those with the largest neighborhood disparities were Dallas, Philadelphia and Baltimore.

The Dallas commuting zone, home to about 3.7 million residents, had the highest degree of neighborhood inequality of any area reviewed. The Urban Institute’s Rolf Pendall, who wrote the report, attributed this to the area’s extremely low average wages for poor communities, along with a regional education system that trails other parts of the country.

There are a few interesting takeaways from the study.

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