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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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Mayor Rawlings Reproaches Scott Griggs for Trinity Toll Road Tirade

The open microphone sessions of a couple of recent Dallas City Council meetings have provided some unexpected fodder for debate. The first instance came when Assistant City Manager Jill Jordan and Council Member Sandy Greyson tangled over the specifics of the engineering plans for the road that are currently under federal review. The second came when Scott Griggs responded to Yolanda Williams, Rick Callahan’s appointee to the Dallas Parks Board, who spoke to the council during the open microphone session about her love of all things Trinity Toll Road. Griggs got a little, well, impassioned, and then Philip Kingston joined in, while Callahan played defense.

It was all popcorn-ready entertainment, but don’t look for it to happen again anytime soon. The mayor released a memo rebuking the council members for speaking in violation of the Texas Open Meetings Act. According to a reading of the act by City Attorney Warren Ellis, during open microphone sessions elected officials’ responses must be limited to “statements of specific factual information” and a “recital of existing city policy.”

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If Only Dallas Could be More Like…Minneapolis

Yesterday John Neely Bryan fielded a question about transplants coming to Dallas and wanting to make this city more like the place they came from. But this comparative disconnect works both ways. Too often I’ve heard people from Dallas comparing this city to New York, or San Francisco, or some other coastal metropolis with a larger population, older history, completely different geography, or any other number of factors that makes a comparison with Dallas a little silly. Case in point: we built a suspension bridge over our drainage ditch of a river because, you know, amazing big cities have suspension bridges.

But what if we had more modest ambitions. What if we put all of our hopes and dreams into becoming the next — that’s right — Minneapolis?

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Our Salesman-In-Chief’s Sorry Case for the Trinity Toll Road

What’s left to say?

As Tim pointed out yesterday, the mayor of Dallas unleashed a full-frontal attack on good sense and truthfulness over the weekend in the form of an op-ed on the Trinity Toll Road. Tim says someone with patience needs to break down the argument and feed the lies back to the mayor. I think Wylie H. – curiously anticipating the appearance of the op-ed in the DMN – already did that with his long post last week.

For my part, I’m baffled, but not by the mayor’s op-ed. It is largely what he has been saying throughout, simply regurgitating talking points that have long been presented by toll road backers as fact even if they have been systematically exposed as fiction on numerous occasions. He claims to have listened to everyone’s opinion on the topic and has come up with his own, yet he avoids defending any of his individual justifications for the road, merely trotting out the same disproved notions carte blanche. The tone of the op-ed attempts to preclude any further debate; it also suggests a cynical form of dismal, characterizing further disagreement as dissent. What confuses me is how the mayor can continue to be so persuaded by erroneous information and so dismissive of the many civic leaders who have flipped their position on the road.

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Federal Data Shows Traffic Volumes Have Not Risen With Population Growth

If you’ve ever sat through a presentation by NCTCOG Director of Transportation Michael Morris, there is one fundamental point he drives home continuously. The Dallas-Fort Worth region is set to grow exorbitantly in the coming decades, and because of this growth we need to ready our roadways to prepare for the massive influx of new traffic it will bring. That’s why we need new roads, wider roads, toll roads, and as many intersecting strips of highway as we can afford — or not afford — to build.

The only problem is that the correlation between traffic and population is not supported by the data.

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Dallas State Rep Wants to Turn ‘Cop Watchers’ Into Criminals

One of the legacies of Michael Brown and Eric Garner is a network of so-called “cop watchers,” volunteer groups who police the police with video cameras. Locally, there are a few networks, including Cop Watch Dallas and Dallas Cop Block who have caught instances of questionable use of force by area police on camera. Needless to say, cop watchers make cops uncomfortable. Last year, Arlington police arrested three citizens whose only offense was filming officers. This was after the cop watchers rolled up on Arlington police arresting a man. As soon as the cops saw the camera, they let the man go, according to the Dallas Observer.

Some police departments and municipalities argue that filming police interferes with officers’ police work, while cop watchers say their actions are protected by the first amendment, an argument that was backed up last year by a ruling by a Texas judge. But if State Representative Jason Villalba (R-Dallas) has his way, “cop watching” will become illegal. Enter House Bill 2918, which amends the state’s penal code, making filming within 25 feet of an officer “performing a duty or exercising authority imposed or granted by law” a class B misdemeanor. Video taping of police is allowed if you are a member of the news media, but as The Free Thought Project points out, the bill also defines the media in such a way that it excludes internet sites — not to mention documentary filmmakers. If this bill is passed, in Texas you would have to be a member of a law enforcement agency, or an employee of a radio station, television station, weekly or daily newspaper, or magazine in order to turn on a camera within 25 feet of a police officer.

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Where Do the City Council Candidates Stand on the Trinity Toll Road?

This May’s council election is not a referendum on the Trinity Toll Road. That said, the Trinity Toll Road is far and away the most high profile issue in an election that sees six open seats up for grabs — enough to put together a block of votes on the council that could kill the Trinity Toll Road project for good. So, this council is very much about the Trinity Toll Road.

And as I wrote last week, the toll road is a touchstone, a symbol, and support for and against the project can tell you about a city council candidate’s general approach to a host of issues, from long-range transportation planning to sustainability and urban development to which backroom power brokers hold sway over their vote and opinions. And so when word dropped that the Dallas Green Alliance, a PAC that has formed to support candidates in the all-important May election, had published the results of detailed questionnaire they sent to all of the candidates who have filed for the race, I immediately clicked over to see how they responded to the Trinity Toll Road question.

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How to End Homelessness? Give the Homeless Homes

Utah has found a simple formula to end chronic homelessness in the state. When you added up expenses like shelters, emergency room visits, jails, and other support services, the combined cost of caring for the chronically homeless can be anywhere from $30,000 to $50,000 per person per year. However, if you just give a chronically homeless person a place to live, the cost of caring for them drops to around $10,000 or $12,000 per year. So, after looking at that simple math and doing some trial runs, the state went all-in with its Housing First Program. The idea is so simple, but so anachronistic when compared to how we have traditionally treated homelessness, that it seems at first like it couldn’t work. But it has. Utah cut its chronically homeless population by 72 percent in the past nine years.

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Texas, Cotton, and Historical Insecurity: A Book Review Every Dallasite Should Read

I’m going to try to avoid cutting and pasting the entirety of Michael Ennis’ “The White Stuff” from the March issue of Texas Monthly. It offers such a compelling take on Texas economic and cultural history – with particular relevance to Dallas history – that anyone interested in this city should read the whole thing.

The column is about Sven Beckert’s new book Empire of Cotton: A Global History, which Ennis likens to last year’s surprise sensation Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty insofar as it seeks to shine new light on the inner workings of the “invisible hand” of capitalism and how that hand has shaped the world in which we live.

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Yet Another Instance of Transportation Officials Misleading Elected Officials

Late last week, a press release issued by the office of Senator Royce West announced that the state senator’s next “Eggs & Issues Town Hall Meeting” breakfast on March 21 will focus on transportation issues, specifically the oh-so-topical issue of the Trinity Toll Road and the need for congestion relief for those who travel on I-30, I-35E, and U.S. Highway 67. From the senator:

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Poll: If the Trinity Toll Road Is Built, Will You Leave Dallas?

Before an event last night, I had a conversation about, yes, the Trinity Toll Road. Hard to avoid the topic these days, particularly in Oak Cliff at book readings with anarchist Icelandic politicians. I casually mentioned to someone that a number of people, particularly younger, community-minded people, have told me that if the Trinity Toll Road gets built they are going to leave Dallas.

“That’s funny,” he said. “I was just saying that to someone yesterday.”

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How TxDOT Justifies Demolishing 195 feet of the Historic Continental Viaduct

Here’s an interesting document that has turned up. Last November, Mario Sanchez, a historical architect with the environmental affairs division of the Texas Department of Transportation, wrote the Texas Historical Commission to lay out a preliminary design of the interchange between the proposed Trinity Toll Road and the Continental Street Viaduct. It offers a detailed account of just how the current design of the Trinity Toll Road – aka Alternative 3C, as it is called in official documents – will impact the Continental Street Viaduct, namely, by demolishing 195 feet of it.

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