Where Do Saturday’s Elections Leave Hispanic Dallas City Council Representation? The answer, in short, is not in a good way. In a newly drawn district that is 74 percent Hispanic, incumbent Scott Griggs defeated Hispanic incumbent Delia Jasso. In another new district drawn to give Pleasant Grove single representation at the horseshoe (the neighborhood was previously split between multiple districts), candidate Jesse Diaz is headed to a runoff with white candidate Rick Callahan. If Callahan wins, then there will be one less Hispanic representative on the council than previously, whereas the redistricting was seemingly designed to add one Hispanic representative. In other news, Farmers Branch got its first Hispanic City Council member.
Arlington Man Throws Homemade Bomb at Neighbors: Michael Alex Johnson, 32, allegedly lit an eight-gallon bucket of gasoline on fire and threw it at two vehicles in a neighbor’s driveway. Luckily, another neighbor saw the incident and immediately called police. No one was hurt. Other bomb making materials were found in Johnson’s home, and Johnson’s mother described her son as “mentally ill.”
State Rep Wants to Build Bullion Depository: I don’t know why storing gold that belongs to the University of Texas Investment Management Co. out of state is a big deal, but apparently Giovanni Capriglione of Southlake is afraid the Yankee state may seize it when Texas declares its independence, or something like that. That’s why he wants the state to fund the construction of a Texas depository for the roughly $1 billion in gold bars. Rick Perry is, of course, on board: ““If we own it,” Perry said, “I will suggest to you that that’s not someone else’s determination whether we can take possession of it back or not.”
Worst Son In the World: Gonzalo Lopez: The night before Mother’s Day, Lopez killed his mother.
I promise I’ll stop talking about The Big Read Dallas soon. I just have one more thing to share. The great folks at TZOM Films gave a lot of their time and talent to shoot this teaser video for us from our Read-In at Klyde Warren Park a couple of Saturdays ago. If you weren’t able to make it, that’s okay. The video above shows you everything: the dramatic readings by actors from Undermain Theatre, a flash mob/dance party put on by dancers from Booker T. Washington School for the Performing and Visual Arts, music by DJ Tyrone Smiley, the mural created by the guys at Sour Grapes, another dance party spurred on by the Mavs ManiACCS, and a rap session by our Librarian of the Year Pam Brown. All these people and all of you who joined in make reading look good. Thanks for a great month.
If you want to learn how you can become one of the people to plan and execute something like The Big Read Dallas, go to the jump and learn about D Academy.
Will Changing Politics of North Dallas Affect Makeup of City Council? On paper, the Dallas City Council is non-partisan, but you don’t have to sit through too many council meetings to guess who voted Mitt and who voted Barack during the last election. As it turns out, more residents in historically conservative North Dallas voted Barack last time around, so Gromers Jeffers wonders if that will mean inroads for Democrats at the local level (paywall).
Did University Park Fire Firefighter to Avoid Paying Medical Bills? A 31-year-old former University Park firefighter says that five months after he threw-out his back on the job, UP stopped paying for workers compensation benefits. Then he was fired. So now he is suing the wealthy enclave. University Park is self-insured.
Tarrant County Water District Election Borrows From Chinatown Plot: Why would the wealthy Dallas investor who bought the estate of Bernie Madoff drop big bucks on a candidate for the Tarrant Regional Water District board — a candidate who doesn’t even live in the district? Why would that candidate need to start Political Action Committee when his opponents last month raised contributions of only around $3,500? What if I told you there was a pipeline project involved, and said pipeline is set to run through a few East Texas ranches owned by some wealthy Ewing-types. Starts to come into focus, no?
Theoretical physicist Dirk Brockmann used network theory to track how dollar bills circulate. The result shows regional economic borders, the thick blue lines marking where dollars are unlikely to cross. As you can see, Texas dollars tend to circulate in Texas, seeping a little west into New Mexico and east into Louisiana — and big surprise — Arkansas.
On the other hand, Texas and Oklahoma might as well have our own Berlin Wall. What’s with that? Don’t Sooners bring down their dollars for Texas-OU? Don’t busloads of Texans play blackjack at WinStar? (H/t FastCompany)
Kaufman County DA and Wife Gunned Down: We’re only beginning to scratch the surface on this one. But some, such as Forney Mayor Darren Rozell, are already drawing connections between the killing of Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia, and the murder of Assistant District Attorney Mark Hasse two months ago on the day the U.S. Department of Justice released a statement saying Hasse was involved in a racketeering case against the Aryan Brotherhood.
DMN Lauds Don Williams’ Speech, Still Mum of Golf Course: Late last week, Glenn was quick to point out that Rudy Bush’s piece (paywall) on former Trammel Crow CEO Don Williams’ chiding of the Dallas elite at the Dallas Country Club was missing some choice words about plans to build a golf club in South Dallas (namely, that Williams at first thought the course was the “worst use of $12 million that the city could possibly spend” before taking a step back and saying that a golf course doesn’t equal jobs or development). Well, over the weekend, this Dallas Morning News editorial offered formal support to Williams’ tough talk, but still nothing about the golf course, which this DMN editorial endorsed back in November, saying that:
We know there will be naysayers and cynics. But when a corporation of AT&T’s size recognizes that it’s time to focus on southern Dallas — and then uses its substantial leadership powers to rally major backing — that’s a marker worth applauding. This golf course plan is a game changer.
So, DMN, tell us: Is Williams a naysayer or a cynic?
First Baptist Opens New $130 Million Campus For Easter: Those chewy, sugary gummy ducks in your kids’ Easter baskets? They weren’t the only tacky treats to arrive in Dallas yesterday morning.
…as you’ll see below, with “deep concern” [Dallas Museum of Art Director Maxwell Anderson, Perot Museum of Nature and Science CEO Nicole Small, AT&T Performing Arts Center President and Acting CEO Doug Curtis, Dallas Theater Center Managing Director Heather Kitchen, Nasher Sculpture Center Director Jeremy Strick, etc.] opposed the PID for myriad reasons, chief among them the fear that its expansive boundaries — which stretch from Uptown to downtown and take in office towers, condos and hotels — will hit hard those already paying into the Downtown Dallas Improvement District or the Uptown PID. The PID that Grant is proposing would assess property owners a 2.5 cent fee on every $100 in appraised value, or about $250 a year for a $1,000,000 property. Those who signed the opposing letter warn Grant that asking property owners to fork over even a few more dollars annually means “they are far less likely to support the Dallas Arts District, its cultural institutions and District-wide events and activities.”
But more to the point, the letter says, the proposed Klyde Warren PID would raise a few hundred thousand dollars annually for a single entity with a $3-million annual budget. To exclude the city-owned-and-supported buildings in the Arts District, the newly opened Perot and the infrastructure that connects them would be “a missed opportunity,” says the letter. The arts organizations’ leaders want a sit-down with Grant to discuss creating a PID that would benefit not just the park, but all the groups residing in and near the Arts District’s boundaries.
Okay, so it’s two things, really. One: the Arts District folks are concerned about the double-dip some property owners will take, making them less likely to donate to the Arts District. But then the second point is basically, “Well, and we’d like our piece, too. Don’t forget us.” The two notions contradict each other, and amount to throwing a bunch of darts at a board and hoping one of them hits the 16 you need.
If the Arts District doesn’t support the PID because it isn’t a universal, all-encompassing aide, that’s fine. It makes sense. But then it shouldn’t present the poverty argument.
Irving’s Trevor Ahlberg likes shooting elephants, charging exorbitant fees on payday loans, and donating money to conservative causes. He likes that last one so much that — through his company, Cottonwood Financial — he’s donated close to $1 million to conservative Texas politicians since 2009. Texans For Public Justice released a report earlier this week highlighting the top recipients of predatory-lending cash, and the top givers. The recipients list was obvious: Texas Speaker of the House Joe Straus, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, Gov. Rick Perry, Attorney General Greg Abbott. Ahlberg topped the donor list, doling out $904,200 between 2009 and 2012. Arlington’s Texas Consumer Lenders PAC was second, with $544,775. TPJ’s Lobby Watch:
By far, the most politically active payday lender is Trevor Ahlberg of Irving-based Cottonwood Financial. This payday king single-handedly invested more than $900,000 in Texas’ last two elections. “The Top Recipients of Predatory Lender Money” table on the preceding page shows that Ahlberg is the industry’s top contributor to most of the politicians who are most indebted to the predatory-loan industry. Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst collected the biggest Ahlberg payday ($60,000). Ahlberg’s Cottonwood Financial also is the industry’s top contributor to the Mexican American Legislative Caucus.
Two trade groups that doled out more than $500,000 apiece are the industry’s next-biggest contributors. The $62,500 that Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst took from the Texas Consumer Finance Association makes him the top recipient of its largesse. Meanwhile, the Texas Consumer Lenders PAC was especially sweet on Speaker Straus, who scored $76,000 from this trade group. This PAC raised just over $700,000 in the 2012 cycle, collecting 43 percent of it in South Carolina, 33 percent in Texas and 24 percent in Ohio.
The money, TPJ said, ensures predatory lenders “will continue to have their evil way with the most desperate and least sophisticated borrowers.” If you haven’t read Forrest Wilder’s fantastic first-person story about getting a loan from one of Ahlberg’s Cash Stores, have at it. For the full TPJ report, hit the jump:
As Wilonsky broke yesterday afternoon, the folks at Klyde Warren Park would like its neighbors to start pitching in with the costs of maintaining the park. Their plan is to create a public improvement district, which would assess a small tax on property owners in the district to help with, well, improvements. Wilonsky mentioned the 10 other PIDs in the city briefly in his piece, but let’s open it up a bit, and see where the Klyde Warren Park PID would fall:
Deep Ellum (founded in 1999), assesses a 12-cent/$100 of appraised value tax
Downtown (founded in 1992) assesses a 11.9-cent/$100 of appraised value tax
Knox Street (founded in 2010) assesses a 15-cent/$100 of appraised value tax
Lake Highlands (founded in 2008) assesses a 13-cent/$100 of appraised value tax
Oak Lawn-Hi Line (founded in 2009) assesses a 15-cent/$100 of appraised value tax
Prestonwood (founded in 1997) assesses a 9-cent/$100 of appraised value tax
SouthSide (founded in 2005) assesses a 15-cent/$100 of appraised value tax
Tourism (founded in 2012, no documents available yet)
Uptown (founded in 1993) assesses a 4.5-cent/$100 of appraised value tax
Vickery Meadow (founded in 1993) assesses a 10-cent/$100 of appraised value tax for premium areas, 5-cent/$100 of appraised value tax for standard areas
These were the proposed values for 2012, as found on the city’s PID website. The proposed Klyde Warren Park PID would begin at a rate of 2.5 cents/$100, but could raise up to 15 cents, the maximum value allowed. PIDs are approved in seven-year clips, but are often renewed. Each PID is created at the request of area property owners, and Klyde Warren Park PID supporters will need to garner the support of 60 percent of property value — not 60 percent of the property owners — to take the plan to the city.
Maybe this is what the city needs to get Zac’s double-park idea off the ground. Fingers crossed.
Dallas’ Coombs Creek and SoPac trails may soon get a welcome boost to their coffers, provided the North Central Texas Council of Governments takes its own advice. The two trails are the highest-ranked Dallas-area projects that applied for funding from the council last fall, outshining similar projects in Frisco, Lancaster, Terrell, and other area cities.
Back in September, the Texas Department of Transportation issued a $70 million call for projects, utilizing remaining Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient, Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users funds; the Dallas-Fort Worth region was awarded about $13 million to divvy out. Applications were due to TxDOT in November, and staff members have been running the projects through their evaluation and scoring methodologies since. Additional funding for seven Dallas-area projects (and six Fort Worth-area projects) has been recommended; NCTCOG received 37 applications totaling $47 million in requested funding. In order of their NCTCOG rankings:
Responding to questions about the percentage of women who voted for President Obama in last year’s election, former first lady Laura Bush told CNN last night that conservative candidates with extreme views on reproductive science are not the norm in the Republican Party.
She told Erin Burnett OutFront that “every candidate was different,” but that some were “obviously examples of candidates who frightened some women.” Those candidates, she said, “were the exception rather than the norm in the party.”
Bush went on to say that social issues shouldn’t be ignored just because of the party’s struggle to talk about them in an appealing way to voters.
“All of those social issues are very, very heartfelt by people,” she said. “And I understand their differences. And I’m glad that in our party we have room for all of them. I think that’s important too.”
Back in 2011, the city of Arlington dropped a little over $200,000 to purchase two battery-operated Leptron Avengers. The 11-pound dragonflies were equipped with cameras, and could zoom above the city at 40 miles per hour. Problem was, the city hadn’t received FAA approval to use the electric helicopters. Until late last month. From the Arlington Citizen-Journal:
[Police Chief Will] Johnson, who made the announcement at an annual awards banquet, called the “cutting-edge technology” a more affordable alternative to traditional police helicopters or airplanes. The drones could be useful in situations ranging from photographing car crashes or complex crime scenes to searching for missing people.
“We had a 77-year-old grandmother that left her front porch and was not seen again,” said Johnson, referring to Maria Arrocha, a woman with Alzheimer’s disease who died from exposure after wandering away from home Dec. 18.
“Despite your best efforts, searching for her 24 hours a day for weeks, we weren’t able to locate her. This technology … could help serve as a tool to return someone’s grandmother home safely.”
The department has been testing the craft for two years, but the FAA had restricted those training flights to secured city-owned land at the north end of Lake Arlington.
The approval makes Arlington the largest city in the country to receive such a go-ahead.
On Feb. 1, Texas reps filed a bill that would ban unmanned aircrafts from patrolling above private property; the bill has received widespread support and is making its way through the committee process. Privacy rights advocates are calling bull on Arlington’s “let’s help find grandma” line. They’ve posted YouTube videos and filed FOIA requests questioning the drones’ usage. And presumably spent some time watching Rand Paul’s filibuster.
Dallas Police Chief Fires Officers Who Allegedly Planted Drugs During Investigation: Chief David Brown had a busy Friday, firing two officers who are now charged with fabricated and/or tampering with physical evidence and aggravated perjury related to a 2011 drug investigation. The chief also suspended or fired additional officers for drinking and driving, getting into fights with off duty officers, the misuse of city equipment, whipping their children with computer power cords, and, lest we forget, waving around guns in rap videos.
Are Nolan Ryan’s Days With the Rangers Numbered? Late Friday Texas Rangers General Manager Jon Daniels became the team’s president of baseball operations, and Rick George, the Rangers’ COO, became president of business operations. That quiet administrative switcheroo had more than a few commentators wondering if Nolan Ryan will soon leave the team.
Dignitaries On Hand to Lay Van Cliburn to Rest: George W. Bush and Rick Perry were among those who eulogized the late musical legend, and Russian president Vladimir Putin sent a statement that was read during the memorial service at Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth.
The Legislature balked at putting so-called “outcomes-based funding” proposals into place last session, but did approve a measure authorizing the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to develop an outcomes-based funding model that could be used for 10 percent of its funding request for this session.
Branch said [Wednesday] that Texas “desperately needs more incentive” to up the number of graduates each year. He said that per year, an estimated 90,000 non-Texans are filling jobs that could be filled by Texans with the right credentials. “We need to do a better job of organically creating graduates in this state,” Branch said. “Texas needs stories that begin, have a middle and have an ending. … Taxpayers are looking to fund a story that has a completion.”
And that story would be funded based on graduation rates. Branch has now filed a bill that would tie 25 percent of school funding to outcomes and graduation rates, a move that has been approved or proposed in 25 other states.
Rudy Bush at the Morning News has an update on the city’s plan to become a zero-waste over the next 50 years, a plan that was derided when first raised a few years back. Seems now they’ve actually talked about it instead of just created a committee to talk about it, and then not meeting.
The plan sets clearer timelines for accomplishing key goals. A major one is getting apartments and businesses recycling regularly. This remains controversial. Apartments and businesses have their trash collected by private groups – not by the city. Many offer no recycling at all. Doing so would be expensive and difficult, many apartment owners say.
Under the plan, the city would slowly move toward a “universal recycling ordinance” requiring recycling be available for single-family homes, businesses and apartments or condominiums. At this point, the city is recommending businesses and apartments voluntarily recycle until 2019. Only then, if voluntary recycling isn’t at an acceptable level, would the city pass an ordinance requiring recycling.
What’s going to happen with all the trash? Options:
- Jerry Jones will sign it to a five-year deal to try and plug the holes in the Cowboys’ secondary.
- Melt it all down into a year-round ice-skating composite material, build an ice rink in every city park
- trash-magnetize Museum Tower, thus allowing a Super 8-like alien to build a spaceship with the trash and return to its home planet
- return the $91 million in federal funds earmarked for the Margaret McDermott Bridge and build the Calatrava elements with garbage
- dump it all in Fort Worth