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Making Dallas Even Better

Grocery or Big Box In Downtown Dallas? Or, Why Inequality Needs to be Part of Urbanism Conversation.

There’s an interesting tidbit on Unfair Park this morning about the possibility of a new, large-scale retailer coming to the ground floor of 1401 Elm, the largest vacant building in the Central Business District.  The Observer’s Stephen Young makes a heads-up observation. Back in January 2014, the developer of 1401 Elm requested TIF funds from the city, and the request said the project would include 25,000 square feet of retail or restaurant space and 40,000 square feet of office. Now, the developer has come back to the city with a revised outlook: how about just 65,000 square feet of commercial space? That, according to city staff, would allow the developer more flexibility for things like bringing in an upscale grocer to take over the building’s 50,000 square feet of ground floor retail.

But wait. Young points to a Dallas Business Journal article from December in which Jack Gosnell, who is brokering the retail for the site, suggests that the same space might be good for a “big box retailer or a department store.”

Cue panic. Could Sam’s Club be invading downtown too?

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How the Mayor Should Handle Ethics Complaints About His Well-Stocked ‘Officeholder Account’

Mayor Rawlings pinky swears he won’t touch money in his officerholder account that came in before he announced his re-election bid in December. He also said that he became aware of the loophole that allows incumbents to receive unlimited contributions back in 2011, and believes we “gotta change that,” but, you know, hasn’t gotten around to it. Now he will, at some point in the next six months, which sounds like after the election.

I don’t know about you, but I didn’t find that response terribly satisfying. Here’s a better idea.

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Trinity Toll Road Backers Launch Misinformation Campaign

This morning the Dallas Business Journal ran a commentary piece by Alice Murray, President of the Dallas Citizens Council, and I couldn’t help but wonder that if this had been 2006, the article would have appeared in the Dallas Morning News. Regardless, in the DBJ, Murray argues that we should build the Trinity Toll Road. Why? Well, because Dallas:

Quick: What do DFW Airport, DART, Victory Park and Klyde Warren Park have in common?

Give up?

Answer: All began as major public improvement projects that Dallas leaders were wise enough to support, and all have paid off big time in providing massive economic, social and cultural benefits to Dallas and the surrounding region.

And here’s another thing that they all have in common: All had vocal opponents who predicted all sorts of doom and gloom if these projects went forward.

Okay, so, you get that? Here we go.

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Downtown and the Homeless: Is It Time to Consider Relocating The Bridge?

Last week I was invited by the Dallas Homeowners League to moderate a panel which included representatives from four central Dallas neighborhoods: The Farmers Market, Deep Ellum, The Cedars, and downtown. There was plenty to talk about, from connectivity, to public safety, to development, to schools, to highways, to greenspace, and on and on. We probably could have jabbered on for hours and hours, but the DHL folks run a tight ship and the pug was pulled promptly at 8 p.m.

The last topic we discussed was probably the one most residents in those four areas were most concerned about: homelessness.

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Oak Cliff Filmmaker Makes Video Protesting Rezoning and Is Threatened With Lawsuit

If you’ve hung around Dallas music for any length of time, you know the name Kirby Warnock. Back in the day, he edited Buddy, one of first print mags to cover the Dallas music scene. Since then he has become a filmmaker, and his movie When Dallas Rocked showed at a film festival and on PBS (more on that here).

Warnock is also a staunch Oak Cliff-er; he’s been there long before it was the hip place to be. And he’s not happy about some of the attempts to rezone formerly single family lots on Hampton Road.

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Does Mike Rawlings Know He’s the Mayor of Dallas, Not Dallas-Fort Worth?

As Mike Rawlings told the Dallas Morning News editorial board recently, he’s “a numbers guy.” So anchoring all the puffery in his new mayor’s letter was one solid factoid: “According to a recent Forbes study, Dallas is now the fourth fastest-growing city in the country.” Wait, what? I mean, without even checking, I instinctively knew that wasn’t true, not by a long shot. What was this claim doing here? I had to get to the bottom of this.

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Vice Reports on South Dallas’ ‘Revolutionary Gun Clubs’

In Vice, Aaron Lake Smith writes about the Huey P. Newton Gun Club, a newly formed collection of five black and brown paramilitary organizations that has been staging regular armed patrols of the Dixon Circle neighborhood of South Dallas. The patrols were organized in the aftermath of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, though the neighborhood is also where James Harper was shot in 2012, another unarmed African American youth killed by police. In fact, according to a report cited in the article, of the 185 people killed by Dallas police since 2002, 74 percent have been black or Hispanic.

Huey P. Newton Gun Club members see themselves as armed protectors of a community no one else will serve or fight for. In the piece, the writer chats with Jim Schutze and Peter Johnson about Dallas’ civil rights history (in short, there wasn’t much of one), and delves into the friction between open carry advocates and these semi-related Black Panther-inspired groups as well as the history of the Black Panthers. The article ends with a Kafka-esque scene of futile hope and stifling bureaucracy. It’s worth a read. Here’s a highlight:

But despite the New Black Panther Party’s dismal reputation, in Dallas its members are, at least, the most thoughtful and professional revolutionaries around. They have a platform, an ideology, work as barbers and electricians, and are serious about their politics and the importance of being armed. “What you see in the media relates to them on a national level, but their organization is a lot different here on a local level,” [club co-founder Charles] Goodson tells me.

Trinity Toll Road Town Hall Backs Pro-Roaders Against the Ropes

A standing-room-only crowd of more than 500 people packed the auditorium at Rosemont Elementary in Oak Cliff yesterday evening for what was perhaps the most honest, open debate about the Trinity Toll Road ever to take place in this city.

The event, organized by State Representative Rafael Anchia, pitted the most outspoken representatives of the pro- and anti-toll road debate in a town hall-style discussion about the controversial plans to build a high-speed traffic artery through the Trinity River floodway. The crowd was overwhelmingly against the road and at times cheered for comments made by anti-road flag wavers Scott Griggs, Patrick Kennedy, and Bob Meckfessel and laughed –- and at one point hissed –- at remarks made by North Central Texas Council of Government transportation director Michael Morris. But the event was largely well-mannered, thanks in part to able moderating by the state rep, who reminded everyone at the outset that they were sitting in an elementary school.

“If we were parents, and children were acting up, we would frown on it,” Anchia said.

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Here Are the People Who May Decide Dallas’ Future

Mayor Mike announced, in Mark Lamster’s words, his “rethink the toll-road squad” this morning. Tim, assuredly, will be along with additional thoughts on this later this morning. But here are the names on the squad, and what they may bring, Cliffs Notes version:

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Finance Panel: Southern Dallas Just Needs More George Baileys

Last night the Dallas Morning News held a campaign event panel discussion hosted by Mayor Mike Rawlings at Adamson High School in Oak Cliff to discuss financing and investment in Dallas’ southern sector. What brought me out, in part, was Dallas Fed chair Richard Fisher, who was to speak. But I was also intrigued by the promise of looking at issues of poverty, race, and southern Dallas development within the context of the financial services industry, an important, though often overlooked, ingredient in the legacy of blight and disinvestment in the southern sector.

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Dallas: ‘City of Hate’ vs. ‘Plague City’

We like to poke fun at Dallas’ perennial striving to be “world class.” It’s a symptom of a kind of self-regarding, aspirational character that is not unique to Dallas, but which does manifest itself in this city in a particular way. Most newer, up-and-coming cities share a sense of wanting to prove their worth. But Dallas’ history has shaped this sensibility in its own way. Entrepreneurialism is the city’s birth right; social status is engrained as one of its highest civic values. But our scars, too, have contributed to the particular substance of our striving, self-conscious attempts to be regarded as great.

As we spent considerable ink exploring last year during the 50th anniversary of the John F. Kennedy assassination, the scars left by those terrible events affected Dallas in a particular way. Not every city could have been branded a “city of hate;” that was the result of the particular cultural and political soup that was simmering here at the time.  But also, not every city would have internalized that reputation – and its shame and sense of remorse – with quite the same measure of wounded-ness. Those wounds have taken decades to get over, and they have also contributed to the desire and drive to make Dallas a great city.

In the days following the Ebola breakout, I couldn’t help but think about the assassination.

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North Texas Gets TIGER Grant to Study Schools, Transportation

The feds announced their annual divvying up of TIGER grants today, and North Texas once again finds itself in the mix, albeit for one of the smallest amounts granted.

The $210,00 grant will help “create a regional program and implementation plan to promote connections and coordination between transportation agencies, local governments, and schools.” The benefit, according to the U.S. DOT:

There are very high pedestrian and bicyclist accidents within a half mile radius of schools in the region. The project seeks not only to improve critical aspects of bicycle/pedestrian access to schools, but also will advance community health, environmental quality, and economic vitality as communities’ accessibility to schools and school-related activities is increased. The proposal will target an awareness-building campaign to communities found to be most vulnerable to bicycle/pedestrian crashes in the Dallas region.

Bicycles! Community safety! Education! What could be wrong with this?

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Mapped: Where Texas Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz Spend Their Time on the Road

A couple weeks ago, the Sunlight Foundation did what can only be described as the Lord’s work. It took every U.S. Senate expenditure and transformed it from a worthless PDF to a searchable, sortable spreadsheet. It has everything. Staff retreats, photographer sessions, the salaries of the seven barbers who cut taxpayer-subsidized hair. Everything.

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Former Dallas City Councilman Dave Neumann Did Not Get a Parking Ticket Today, and Likely Never Will

In May 2011, Scott Griggs unseated Dave Neumann for the District 3 slot on the Dallas City Council. Today, Dave Neumann left a downtown event, hopped into a car on Lamar Street, pulled a quick U-turn, and headed off.

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