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Making Dallas Even Better

It May Cost More to Remove the Dallas Wave Than to Fix It

I just happened to spend my morning hanging out at a meeting of the Parks and Recreation Board (always a good time, let me tell you), and got to sit in on the first public briefing on the Dallas Wave since the January 20 city council meeting. If your short term memory needs refreshing, the January 20 meeting was when the city council found out that they had 5 hours to respond to a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers request to finally figure out how to fix the whitewater feature on the Trinity, which has been closed since it opened in 2011.

There wasn’t much new revealed in the meeting that hasn’t been batted around to death. One of the most eyebrow-raising revelations was that most of the people on the parks board have never been briefed on the Dallas Wave, despite the fact that a power point presentation seemed to suggest that city staff spent much of 2015 trying to figure out what on earth to do with the thing. According to city staff, the city is looking at two options for fixing the wave problem. The first is to lengthen the bypass channel in order to decrease the grade, making it possible to navigate upstream. The second is to simply take the white water feature out altogether.

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Remembering June Mattingly, Intrepid Dallas Arts Supporter

If you’ve spent more than five or ten minutes in a Dallas gallery, you’re likely to have met June Mattingly. Mattingly was a stalwart supporter of the Dallas arts, the author of a book on Texas contemporary artists, and a former gallery owner who introduced a number of this city’s more notable artists. The Dallas Observer reports today that Mattingly has passed away.

Mattingly’s creative roots in Dallas ran deep – all the way to one of this city’s most iconic sculptures. The original Pegasus that sat on top of the Magnolia Building in downtown Dallas was created by her father H. Harold Wineburgh’s sign company, Texlite. Mattingly was a tireless advocate for her father’s Pegasus, and it was restored and reinstalled outside the downtown Dallas Omni last year. In this interview from 2011, Mattingly speaks about her father and the Pegasus. In 2012, Mattingly sat for an hour long interview to offer her insight into the history of Dallas culture.

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Why Yesterday Was Such an Important Day for Dallas History

As Tim mentions in Leading Off, the Dallas Landmark Commission voted in favor of pursuing protection for a number of important historic sites and structures yesterday, choosing preservation over lazy private interests in each case. The decision to move a 19th century home in the Cedars, rather than bulldoze it for a parking lot, and to move towards designating the Meadows Building on Central Expressway as a historic landmark, thus protecting it from its current owner’s planned demolition of a wing, demonstrates a rare and welcomed willingness from a city board to stand up to private developers in the name of the public’s interest. And the move to protect Big Spring also showed that the commission is willing to step in on behalf of Dallas’ dwindling natural resource, even in a case where the chief threat to the preservation of that natural resource is the city itself.

Mark Lamster runs through all of this in a column, and I don’t have much to add to his thoughts, though it is worth highlighting a few of them:

If the Meadows isn’t a landmark, than nothing is. The commission’s unanimous vote in favor of designation was a heartening indication of this reality, and a welcome validation of its own responsibility. A landmarks commission that cannot protect a building like the Meadows is not worth its name, and serves no purpose.

Yesterday, Dallas demonstrated that it has a Landmark Commission with a purpose. That should be an encouraging source of optimism. Perhaps we are transitioning into a new kind of Dallas, a city that bucks the character cliches of its ensconced business-first civic mentality that has historically devalued not just history and nature, but the public oversight of municipal government to boot.

When Drivers Hit Pedestrians, Where Do We Lay the Moral Blame?

There’s a rather difficult to watch video over on NBCDFW which shows a dog being run over by an SUV in Oak Lawn. The incident happened at the corner of Cedar Springs Road and Throckmorton. Two women out walking their dogs on Saturday afternoon approach the intersection. The light is green, and as one of the women steps into the crosswalk, an SUV comes around the corner, runs over the dog, and skirts so close to the woman that she is knocked to the ground. The car drives away; the dog reportedly dies a few minutes after the video ends.

It’s an awful scene, but perhaps equally awful is reading the comments beneath the video and on Facebook. Many people who have watched the video have come to the conclusion that the woman walking the dog is at fault for what happened. They note that when she steps into the intersection, she is looking away from the oncoming car, perhaps at traffic on the far side of the road. As a result, she’s blindsided. She should have looked both ways, the comments argue. She should have kept her dog on a shorter leash, some suggest. Only, because this is the internet, the tone of many of the comments is snide and deriding. It’s ugly stuff.

Whose fault is it when someone gets hit by a car?

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Jaap van Zweden and the Burden of Success

When the Dallas Symphony Orchestra introduced Jaap van Zweden as its musical director in 2008, he came to the city with high expectations and a certain amount of risk. Succeeding the 12-year tenure of Andrew Litton, the dynamic Dutch maestro promised a new look, feel, and energy for the symphony. Van Zweden had earned a solid reputation in Europe during his stints with the Residentie Orchestra in the Hague and the Netherlands Radio Philharmoic, but he had won his American gig based on a few guest appearances, particularly a 2006 string of concerts with the DSO. Essentially, the DSO was placing its reputation and its future in the hands of a conductor who was largely unknown to American audiences.

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This New Study Should End Downtown Dallas’ Parking Conversation

Anyone familiar with downtown Dallas knows about its parking paradox. According to many in the real estate community, there is simply not enough parking — such a lack, in fact, that it makes economic sense to build new parking garages to accommodate all of the cars that want to be downtown. On the other hand, take a walk through downtown and all you see is parking — huge expanses of lots, blocks and blocks of garages — so much so that parking is a major reason why downtown can feel so dead, vacant, and even dangerous.

I can appreciate why the real estate market responds to the issue of parking in the way it does. When you’re trying to fill up a giant skyscraper with office tenants, it is difficult to compete with buildings outside the central loop that can offer easy access to parking. The desire to add more parking downtown is part of a belief that if you make it easier to get to and park in downtown more people will come, and the area will thrive. But a new study shows just how backwards this thinking actually is.

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Why the Trinity River Project Remains Dallas’ Impossible Dream

If you haven’t been following the ongoing fiasco surrounding the Dallas Wave very closely, I don’t blame you. It has been particularly depressing and infuriating. Last week, the city council found out that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers threatened to shut off the city’s water supply if the city didn’t take immediate action to fix the white water feature that opened five years ago and was then swiftly closed because it was deemed too hazardous.

Today, Jim Schutze reports that some people inside city hall hoped to get Congress to exempt the river from a federal law regarding waterway navigation in order to get around the corps’ objections to the broken white water feature. You may remember that the city already managed to persuade Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson to slip a measure into a piece of federal legislation that exempts the stretch of the Trinity near downtown from all sorts of federal environmental oversight.

There are two pretty rich ironies floating around this latest scuttlebutt over the Dallas Wave.

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How an $85 Million Auction House Acquisition May Impact Dallas’ Public Art Museum

Here’s a bit of art world news that may not seem to have much to do with Dallas, but may actually have a real impact on how this city’s art scene – and its public art museum – are perceived. Auction behemoth Sotheby’s announced that it is acquiring Art Agency, Partners, a boutique art advisory firm, for $85 million. One of Art Agency, Partners principals is none other than Allan Schwarztman. That’s a name that should be recognizable to anyone familiar with our local collector scene. Schwartzman has been Howard Rachofsky’s art adviser for some time, and he has been influential in shaping that collection into one of the most renowned in the world.

According to industry watchers, Sotheby’s acquisition is an attempt by the auction house to add new revenue streams to its business, particularly by expanding its role in private sales. Sotheby’s stock has been dipping, and auction results have trailed off of late. There’s also chatter of an art market bubble. That’s not surprising in light of a statement buried deep in the NYT article made by an asset manager who states plainly that “The two greatest stores of wealth internationally today — compared with gold in the past — are contemporary art and real estate.” All that equity plowing its way into the contemporary art market have led to years of record-breaking, headline-making auction events. One assumes the party can’t go on forever.

But here’s why this is all so interesting for Dallas.

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Remembering David Bowie’s 1983 Las Colinas Sessions With Stevie Ray Vaughan

I’m still trying to wrap my mind around a world without David Bowie. The innovator, the legend, the icon — a man who belongs on a short list of the most important artists of the late-20th century — passed away from cancer last night at the age of 69. Amidst the many obituaries and tributes that are surely to come pouring out over the coming days and weeks, I thought I’d pass along 90 minutes of bootleg Bowie recorded at the Las Colinas Studios on April 27, 1983.

Let’s set the stage:

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Former Trinity River Project Manager: ‘I Felt Like I Was Part of a Giant Con’

Eric Nicholson has an important piece over on the Dallas Observer today about Bryan Kilburn, the man who used to be in charge of managing the Great Trinity Forest for the City of Dallas. Long story short, Kilburn became a Senior Project Manager with the City of Dallas after earning a degree in forestry from Stephen F. Austin university. He was instrumental in putting together the city’s forest management plan, which laid out a 100-year program for preserving and enhancing the ecological asset that is the Great Trinity Forest. He thought he was doing good work.

However, in light of the many recent instances of contractors draining ponds, cutting down trees, and otherwise unleashing havoc on the forest, Kilburn now says he believes that he was a cog in a “giant con” that is the Trinity River Project. Here’s what he posted on Philip Kingston’s Facebook page:

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NTTA Cameras Caught Footage of Deadly Tornado

One of the most frightening places to be during a tornado has to be in your car, exposed on the interstate. Indeed, when the deadly tornado ripped through the eastern suburbs of Dallas two weeks ago, many victims were driving on I-30. Now the NTTA has released footage from its cameras which show the tornado ripping across the President George Bush Turnpike.

There are five or six separate shots, and though blurry and difficult to decipher, it’s all pretty terrifying stuff. Perhaps it is precisely because the images are so un-cinematic — you never get a real shot of the tornado, only swirling debris, bending trees, blurring headlights, shaking camera, vapor appearing on the asphalt — that this footage captures something of the terrible, incomprehensible nature of disaster.

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Leading Off (1/6/16)

Two of Susan Hawk’s Former Top Employees Join Effort to Oust DA. The legal effort to oust Dallas County District Attorney Susan Hawk got a boost yesterday when two of her former top lawyers filed sworn affidavits that outlined her “bizarre behavior” and characterized her tenure as “paranoid and erratic.” The affidavits say the two lawyers even considered contacting the governor about their boss, a public official whose pupils sometimes “did not respond to light.”

Wyly Family Head to Court Today For Mega Bankruptcy Trial. Now that he has unloaded his personal art collection in a record-breaking sale, billionaire entrepreneur Sam Wyly and his sister-in-law Dee Wyly head to court today to begin what is shaping up to be one epic bankruptcy proceeding. Besides the high stakes – the Wylys are accused of owing $2 billion in back taxes, penalties and interest for hiding income in offshore trusts in the Isle of Man – the trial is expected to be incredibly long for a bankruptcy case (the judge has set aside four weeks). The IRS will introduce 1,270 exhibits in their effort to prove that Sam and his late-brother Charles masterminded one of the largest tax frauds in U.S. history.

Obama’s Gun Sale Surge. The president’s executive action on gun control has prompted a rush on gun stores, which have been selling weapons and ammunition like hot cakes according to a store owner in Garland.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly in Dallas Sports. Deron Williams hit a buzzer beater in the second overtime to push the Mavs over the Kings, and slumping superstars Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn were benched for the last 12 minutes of the skidding Dallas Stars’ loss to the New York Rangers. And here’s the latest solution to end the Cowboys’ misery from Jerry Jones, perhaps the greatest mind in the history of professional football general managers: “We need to draft another Troy Aikman.”

Another Departure and New Fees at the Dallas Museum of Art

The sudden end of Maxwell Anderson’s tenure as director of the Dallas Museum of Art left some speculating about what other changes may follow in its wake. After all, Anderson was the driving force behind a laundry list of high-profile initiatives at the museum that quickly made the DMA one of the most dynamic regional art institutions in the nation. Would the momentum continue without Anderson?

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Another Old Dallas Building Is Threatened, But How Far Should Historic Preservation Go?

That didn’t take long. On the heels of yesterday’s news that the Meadows Building off Central Expressway may be “amputated” comes word of yet another historic Dallas structure staring down the bulldozers. Candy’s Dirt reports that the owner of the former Church of the Master, Evangelical and Reformed Church in Oak Cliff, near the corner of Kiest and Polk, wants to rezone the land and tear down the building, replacing it with who knows what. The City Plan Commission hearing on the zoning case was supposed to be held today, but it has been pushed back to January 7.

Now, before we get all hot under the collar about this latest historic tear down, it’s worthwhile to raise the question of whether or not every old building in Dallas should be considered historic and worthy of preservation.

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