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Making Dallas Even Better

How Well-Connected Is Your Home to Public Transit?

TransitCenter and the Center for Neighborhood Technology released a nifty little tool last week that allows you to gauge how well-connected any spot in the United States is by public transit. Plug in an address, and the All Transit database culls together information on access to jobs, number of commuters, workers near transit, and other curious factoids.

I haven’t dug into the data too deeply, but I did run the numbers on a few Texas cities just to see how Dallas’ public transit system stacks up. Leaving aside all the usual moaning and groaning over Dallas’ sub-par transit system, Dallas actually has the best performing public transit system in Texas according to the All Transit tool, with an overall performance score of 6.8. Houston comes in second with a 6.2, while Austin (5.5) and San Antonio (5.7) live up to their reputations as transit-challenged cities.

What does it all mean?

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CueCat Inventor Serves Up Craziest Video You’ll See All Day

Remember the CueCat, the digital media punchline to end all digital media punchlines? The device was introduced by the Dallas Morning News way back in the dizzying late-1990s when a feverish hysteria over the magical World Wide Web was turning the shaggy inventors of “slow and cumbersome” online streaming services into billionaire sports team owners. The CueCat was nothing less than one of the worst inventions ever, and it was Dallas’ very own daily that owns the dubious honor of having invested millions in one of tech history’s most buffo footnotes, a device that really only functioned as a way to avoid typing a link into a browser window.

Well, we can rag on the DMN for the CueCat all day, but perhaps their error was not in their own idiotic vision but in being suckered into trusting someone who was selling them an idiotic vision.

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Dallas Arts District Turns to Booker T. for New Chief

Ever since Catherine Cuellar left her position as executive director of the Dallas Arts District for a gig with the Communities Foundation of Texas in July 2015, the largest arts district in the U.S. has sat without a leader. During that time, a lot has happened.  The Dallas Arts District contracted with a design firm to update its decades-old (and woefully out-of-date) masterplan, the Sasaki Plan. New developments in the district have opened, and construction on others is underway. The beleaguered Dallas Police and Fire Pension Fund threw up its hands over the ongoing controversy with the Nasher Sculpture Center and the blinding light the pension fund-owned Museum Tower beams into the museum’s galleries. Meanwhile, the Dallas Arts District board revamped its structure and changed its bylaws, and Max Anderson, once the chairman of the Arts District board, abruptly left the Dallas Museum of Art — and the city.

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Does the Federal Government Really Have the Power to Wage War on Divisive Highways?

The big news in the world of transportation policy this week has been the somewhat landmark announcement by U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx that the federal government will set about addressing the impact urban highways have on cities. In short, Foxx — who grew up in a predominately African-American neighborhood in Charlotte, North Carolina, that was walled off by highways — wants to stop building and expanding highways that cut people off from jobs and opportunity. To that end, the U.S. Department of Transportation launched its Ladders of Opportunity initiative.

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Can Dallas’ Two Most Notable Film Festivals Survive a Scheduling Overlap?

In a world where Dallas has two film festivals.

A world where a second festival, backed by the American Film Institute, burst on the scene 10 years ago with a slate of B-list celebrities and new films from Sundance and SXSW. A world of bitter feelings, backroom character attacks, and donor base pillaging.

Now comes what is perhaps the most awkward programming clusterf*ck since the heavens unleashed an icy hell on Jerry Jones’ Super Bowl.

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The Real ‘Dallas Way’: Illogical, Absurdist Thinking

Here’s a pretty efficient summary of why the Trinity River Project is completely bonkers via DMN architecture critic Mark Lamster.

Only in Dallas would you design a highway in a park, and only in Dallas would you design a highway in a park before designing the park itself. Or even developing a general concept of that park, much less creating an authority that might actually be charged with building and paying for it.

No wonder, then, that we have a project that has been meandering along for the better part of two decades with no tangible result beyond an endless series of conflicting reports, studies, and briefing documents.

As I mentioned yesterday, other places don’t think like this. The Dallas Way of doing things has been alternatively described as bold thinking bolstered by a relentlessly entrepreneurial can-do spirit or — as Ambassador Ron Kirk recently put it — inefficiency brought on by endless bickering between  interest groups. But the reality is “the Dallas Way” describes a city so mired in the overreach of private interests and a city government set up to cater to those interests that it produces plainly and absurdly dysfunctional thinking.

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Meanwhile in New York, Governor Dedicates $40 Million for Parkway Removal

While we in Dallas debate whether or not to build a billion dollar road in the Trinity River flood plain, the city of Niagara Falls, NY is planning to tear out their own four lane highway because it separates the city from its waterfront.

The Robert Moses Parkway (yes, that Robert Moses) was opened in the 1960s, and it was constructed as a way to bypass Niagara Falls, looping around the city’s downtown and cutting off access to the adjacent Niagara Gorge. Its removal will allow the land formerly occupied by the highway to be turned into trails and green space.

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As Mayor Seeks Public Input on Trinity Road, It Is Time for the Project to Truly Evolve

The Dallas City Council’s transportation committee just wound up its briefing on the now-vetted plans put forth by the mayor’s so-called “Dream Team” of urban designers to rethink the Trinity Toll Road. There’s much to sort through in the back-and-forth conversation that unfolded this morning between council members, city staff, and the members of an oversight committee that was appointed to review the early technical adaptations of the conceptual plans for the road. I won’t get into all of it in too much detail here, but here are the key takeaways from my perspective.

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The Racist Legacy of America’s Inner-City Highways

There’s an article on Vox today that offers a concise summary of just how we went from being a nation of streetcar riders to a nation of long haul auto commuters. Its a familiar story to anyone who knows the history of urbanism in the 20th century. First came pressure from the auto industry to build new roads for their cars, resulting in a push for public funding of “freeways.” Then came the vision of a future America modeled after the modernist Utopian dream so compellingly depicted in General Motor’s Futurama exhibit at the 1939 Worlds Fair.

With public sentiment favoring a world made easy by zipping to and from suburban homes and downtown offices on ribbons of concrete — and a booming post-war economy that made car ownership more possible — President Eisenhower signed the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, kick-starting the interstate system. Eisenhower didn’t want the highways to extend into the cities, but once he signed the federal legislation, the highway engineers took over. There was no turning back.

In America’s cities, highways became more than a transportation amenity.

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Jim Schutze’s Modest Proposal to the Dallas Morning News

Get your popcorn ready. Jim Schutze just played a fairly entertaining rhetorical chess opener. Call it the “Preservationist Queen’s Gambit,” the “Sicilian Architectural Defense.” Let’s set the board:

The Dallas Morning News has been a champion of historic preservation, pounding its fist whenever an old building in this city comes under threat. Most recently, they have caused a worthy ruckus over a 19th century home in the Cedars and the proposed desecration of the Meadows Building. Schutze argues that their outspoken ire over old buildings feels out-of-scale when considering the extent of child poverty in Dallas, but I don’t see why the two things have to be mutually exclusive. Both indicate an aspect of the city’s character that ignores its obligation to reconcile with historic realities while favoring the numbing feeling that comes with swallowing well-marketed visions of future fantasies. But I digress.

The point is, the DMN likes old buildings. Enter into the mix the news that the DMN may soon move out of its own historically significant home.

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Are ‘Dallas Office Developers’ Building Too Many Buildings?

There is no more concrete indicator of the booming North Texas economy than the number of cranes filling-out the skyline. Just how booming? Well, with 7.6 million square feet of new commercial real estate construction coming online, Dallas ranks second only to New York in terms of new office real estate construction, according to a new study.

That prompted researchers to wonder: is Dallas building too much new real estate?

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Before You Head to 35 Denton, A Look Back at the Denton That Was

This weekend, the fifth installment of the music festival currently called 35 Denton will take over the “little Austin” north of Dallas. In many ways, the growth of the festival has mirrored the growth of the reputation of the town, which has even attracted its first celebrity relocation in Jason Lee. But the music hub and home to the University of North Texas has long fostered its own particular and peculiar culture. If you remember Denton before the Fry Street Fire, then these old photos uploaded to Alec Williams’ Flickr account will more than prick your nostalgia. Taken between 1977 and 1986, the images of high school marching bands, crumbling buildings, cavorting college kids, interiors of shops, old store fronts and more are accompanied by extended captions that set the images in a particular place and time. For example, here’s the one he includes for the image above:

Here are some nice folks posing for me on the steps that led to the high ground on West Hickory. The camera is looking due west. The steps are by Strawberry Fields, and you can see the Sound Warehouse sign in the background. Walking due west would take you past Reader’s World, Voertman’s, and on up the hill to Jack in the Box. To the right is the entrance to Benny’s Jazz Club.

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Donald Trump Promises First Baptist Dallas Pastor He Will Legalize ‘Strong Christian Lobby’

Speaking at a rally in Fort Worth today, presidential candidate Donald Trump said he hopes to remove the federal restriction against tax-exempt organizations endorsing politicians, in order to create “the strongest Christian lobby.” But the fact that churches remain forbidden from endorsing political candidates didn’t stop First Baptist Dallas Pastor Robert Jeffress from offering what sounded about as close to an endorsement as he could have been made without speaking the words “I endorse Donald Trump.”

Jeffress appeared on stage at the Fort Worth Convention Center as Trump’s wandering, hour-long stream-of-consciousness stump speech wound towards its conclusion. Trump had been listing his supporters, mentioning Jeffress and former Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin by name, and then he spoke about his desire to create a powerful Christian lobby.

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Price v. Caraway: Fight Breaks Out During Dallas County Commissioner Radio Appearance

WFAA is reporting that a fight broke out between Dallas County Commissioner candidates John Wiley Price and Dwayne Caraway during an appearance on radio station KHVN:

The candidates, including Micah B. Phillips, were at the station to talk about their campaigns. According to news director Robert Ashley, the altercation broke out during a commercial break and police were called to the scene.

In video filmed by Phillips and obtained by News 8, several people can be seen holding Caraway back as he yells out at Price.

UPDATE: The Dallas Morning News posted the video and has more details on what caused the fight to break out:

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How Dallas Won the Right to Tell Its Own History

There was an item missing from yesterday’s City of Dallas Parks and Recreation Board agenda. It was briefing about a gift two philanthropic foundations, the Boone Family Foundation and the Rainwater Charitable Foundation, planned to give to the city. The gift seemed admirable enough.  The foundations wanted to install markers in seven city parks that would acknowledge their history as historically segregated African-American parks. Sparked both by the redo of Uptown’s once black-only Griggs Park in 2013 and the Facing Race conference held in Dallas in 2014, the intent was to do just that: face up to this city’s racial history, acknowledge the ignominy of the past and celebrate the role these parks played in shaping this city’s African-American community.

But while the board tabled the briefing on February 4, resetting it for February 18, the briefing didn’t happen. Instead, the two artists who were commissioned by the two foundations to prepare the text for the historical markers addressed the board. They spoke of manipulation, cooption, explicit and implicit censorship on the part of the two foundations. They outlined a research process that degraded into prolonged silences, stop orders, and backroom character attacks that led to standoff between the artists and the foundations.

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