Find a back issue

Making Dallas Even Better

88-Year-Old Building in Bishop Arts Demolished Because, Well, Dallas

I’m going to try to restrain my anger in this post as best as I can, but my blood is boiling. This morning on Facebook rumors started to spread that a 1927 brick building on Davis. St. in the Bishop Arts was set to be demolished today. I was a bit baffled and reached out to a few people in the know. There hadn’t been any coverage of a proposed demolition and none of Oak Cliff’s characteristically combative neighborhood advocates had sounded the alarm that a historic building in the community was about to be bulldozed. I put a call into the owner of the building in question, but hadn’t heard back before Rachel Stone broke the news over on the Oak Cliff Advocate. Yes, it’s true. A building in the Bishop Arts is being demolished.


Why do you think? This is Dallas. The answer is always the same: mother ducking parking.

Read More

Moody’s Downgrades City’s Bond Rating

The fiscal chickens are coming home to roost. Years of under-maintained infrastructure and a police and fire pension system suffering from incompetent management and terrible investments have resulted in a downgrading of the city’s bond rating from from Aa1 to Aa2. The downgrading came on the same day the council approved $227 million in bonds for capital improvement projects, including $3 million for the relocation of a concrete plant at the behest of real estate developers already profiting from public investments in the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge and new West Dallas infrastructure.

As a result, the city will wind up paying about $887,000 more in interest than it expected over the life of the debt stemming from the sale of the bonds approved Wednesday, said Jeanne Chipperfield, the city’s chief financial officer. Chipperfield said that will come out to an average of $46,700 a year over the next 19 years.

And while that’s a fraction of the city’s annual $3 billion budget, that’s still money that could have gone toward paying public safety officers and fixing streets, Mayor Mike Rawlings said Wednesday night.

And I would expect that bond rating to decrease before it improves considering the city has no real plan for improving the overall quality of its streets and the police and fire pension plan faces an FBI investigation as it stares down potential insolvency.

Here’s looking at you, A.C. Gonzalez.

Read More

How We Can Still Save the Half-Built Trinity River Project

That photo above is a Google maps shot of a house that sits on the corner of Marlborough Ave. and Davis St. in Oak Cliff. It has more or less looked like that for the better part of five years. The house is the ultimate DIY project. As Rachel Stone reported in the Oak Cliff Advocate earlier this year, Ricardo Torres bought the house in 2008 and set about building his dream home. Torres is a crafty guy. He started from scratch with a plan for a two story home. Then he realized that if he added a third story, he could have a downtown view. You know what would also be cool? A game room. So he tacked on one of those, and the house grew like a drawing in a Dr. Seuss book.

Read More

In Search of Dallas’ Missing Alcohol Sales Tax Revenue

It’s been fun listening to the budget debates over the last couple of weeks: Mayor Rawlings, Lee Kleinman, Jennifer Staubach Gates, Scott Griggs, Rickey D. Callahan, and Philip Kingston politely asking for some minor (less than 1%) tweaks to the budget — and City Manager A.C. Gonzalez responding by threatening to burn the place to the ground.

One thing that never came up, however, was the city’s new mixed beverage sales tax. What’s that? You haven’t heard of it? Well, you’re not alone. I can find no mention of it in either the city’s 2014 audited financial statements or 2016 budget. I also can’t find any record of the City Council ever having been briefed on the matter, notwithstanding the fact the State of Texas is telling us they’ve sent us $8,410,145.63 as our cut, just in the first year-and-a-half. Going back through the financials, I did find something with a similar description, an “alcohol beverage tax.” And wow, look at that: up 52% since 2012!

Read More

Are There Any Good Reasons Left for Susan Hawk Not to Resign?

UPDATE: Clearly as a result of reading my post, Susan Hawk did the sensible thing a couple of hours later and released a statement clearing up the whole DA goes AWOL situation. She is taking a four week leave of absence to battle a “serious episode of depression.”

I’m going to piggy back on Jason’s poll today and extend the question about Susan Hawk with a request for feedback in the comments. I’m really curious to hear what you think about this. I’ve been following the Susan Hawk regime like everyone else, and at this point, I’m left wondering if she has any reasons left not to resign her post as Dallas County District Attorney. Here’s the situation as I see it.

Read More

D/FW Airport’s ‘Welcome Mat’ for Uber and Lyft

The recent news that Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport is finally going to stop prohibiting arriving passengers from using Uber & Lyft was greeted with great fanfare by long-suffering victims of the taxicab cartel. As promised by D/FW Airport CEO Sean Donohue earlier this year, the new procedure was going to be simple: “1. book your ride; 2. take your ride.” As long as the driver held a sticker issued by either Dallas or Fort Worth (the two cities that own and theoretically control the $7.5 billion nation-state), he or she would be good to go.

Although I hoped it was really this simple, knowing the time-honored North Texas tradition of protecting incumbent transportation monopolists (Exhibit A: Wright Amendment, Exhibit B: City of Dallas’ vice cops issuing questionable citations to Uber drivers, Exhibit C: City Manager A.C. Gonzalez’ secret effort to kill Uber, Exhibit D: City of Dallas attempting to kick Delta out of Love Field), I was a bit skeptical.

Sure enough, a closer look reveals the “new procedure” is anything but simple.

Read More

Leading Off (7/14/2015)

The Barnett Shale is Off-Gassing More Greenhouse Gasses Than Previous Thought: The EPA botched its initial estimates, and as it turns out, fracking in the Barnett Shale is responsible for 64 percent of all methane in our local atmosphere. The good news: most of those emissions are the result of human errors and mechanical failures.

Let’s Put Those Increased Violent Crime Numbers in Perspective: The Dallas Morning News breaks down the much-reported 10 percent increase in violent crime. The takeaway? Glass half-full, glass half-empty. You could argue the increase reflects a return to a historical norm. And if violent crime continues at pace through the end of the year, murders will be at the same level they were 2013 and 2012, while aggravated assaults would only see a 0.4 percent increase over last year.

When Will We Finally Run Craig Holcomb Out of Town? Read Eric Nicholson’s look into the laughable bike share program in Fair Park. I mean, it couldn’t be more stupidly designed, so it will come as no surprise that the usage numbers are equally laughable. But here’s the important bit: when Nicholson tried to get the usage numbers through an open records request, he was stonewalled by the Friends of Fair Park, which operates the program. That decision to not to release the bike share numbers was then upheld in a ruling by the Texas AG.

I mean, seriously? Bike share numbers? We’re keeping those under lock-and-key? Why? Because Friends of Fair Park – which is run by Craig Holcomb, who also heads the Trinity Commons Foundation – doesn’t want more mud on his face for a program that anyone who has any idea about anything looks at for two seconds and thinks, “Good God, that is the sorriest excuse for a bike share program I have ever seen in my entire life.” I mean, seriously? How long are we going to let Holcomb meddle in the city’s business? How long are we going to let him lord over his two little fiefdoms, which happen to involve two of Dallas’ greatest civic assets – Dallas and Fair Park – both of which have languished for decades under the weight of curiously stupid ideas? For the love of all things good, Criag Holcomb, will you please just drift off into a quiet retirement and leave Dallas alone? Please. Thank you for your service. Now go away.

New Designer Drug in Town: It’s called Flakka, and it doesn’t sound like too much fun. Effects include “murderous rage, paranoia, ultra-violence, and running around screaming.” Or basically what it feels like to read about Craig Holcomb’s meddling in Dallas affairs.

It’s Finally Texas Hot: After cool temps and so much rain, we can’t really complain about DFW finally flirting with 100 degrees (heat index popped up to 109 in some places yesterday). Well, unless the AC goes out in your entire apartment complex. Then you can complain.

The Canaries are Yelling in the City Hall Coal Mine

Elizabeth Findell has a story in the Dallas Morning News that is ostensibly about council members yelling at city staff members and a general loss of decorum at Dallas City Hall. Throughout the piece, various subjects offer their thoughts on why things have gotten testy down at city hall. Council member Sandy Greyson blames it on social media. Council member Lee Kleinman says many elected officials don’t have much experience as managers. The article ends with the suggestion that what has happened is a generational culture shift.

But you have to read between the lines of the article to get at the real story, which is not so much about manners in governance as it is about a city government whose very structure creates a contentious relationship between elected officials and city staff.

Read More

How City Staff and Toll Road-Backers Misled Mayor Mike Rawlings

As Tim pointed out in Leading Off, there is some tremendous reporting in the Dallas Morning News today from transportation writer Brandon Formby. In his article, Formby lays out the entire chronology of the efforts by former City Manager Mary Suhm and Trinity Commons Foundation Executive Director Craig Holcomb to save the Trinity Toll Road project in the face of mounting opposition. The report comes ahead of today’s private luncheon reveal of the so-called Dream Team’s reworked vision for the road.

The piece pulls back the curtain on just how power brokers have pressed their influence on the mayor, rallying financial support for the pro-road effort, editing his op-eds, counseling him with misinformation or half-truths about the essential features of the road, and coming up with the idea of the dream team and setting the parameters of that groups’ deliberations.

Read More

Who Is In Charge of the Trinity River Project?

Over the weekend, Mark Lamster filed an illuminating report from Houston, comparing that city’s successful clean-up of Buffalo Bayou with our own ill-fated attempts to reclaim the Trinity. The whole thing is worth reading, but towards the end, Lamster raises an important question:

Who, exactly, is in charge of the Trinity Corridor project? There is no ready answer.

Indeed, as I mention towards the end of this piece from last week, one of the frustrating aspects of the Trinity River Project is that the plan’s so-called advocates, like The Trinity Trust, are mum when it comes to things like the proposed Trinity Toll Road, which is poised to ruin some of the more positive, park-friendly amenities they have already brought to the Trinity greenbelt. Lamster attributes this to a general lack of accountability with regards to a civic project that has way too many agencies and organizations with their hands in the pie. And what are the results?

While the Trinity River Audubon Center is a civic jewel, this process has also produced a pedestrian bridge that leads to a no-man’s land on its downtown side; a whitewater rapids that doesn’t work properly; a horse park that provides no value to the vast majority of Dallasites; and plans for lakes and fields and trails that languish as the city mulls an ill-conceived toll road that would cut those amenities off from the very citizens they are intended to serve.

In Houston, they have a park.

Read More

Read Jon Bois’ Eulogy For RadioShack

If you didn’t read this — SBNation’s Jon Bois writing about his days working for RadioShack — when it ran last year, now is a good time to do it. A taste:

This is a consumer technology business that is built to work perfectly in the year 1975. The Internet comes around, and this, being a technology company, is expected to move on it aggressively and know what it’s doing, except basically nobody really understood the Internet for a very long time. So they whiffed big a few times. Then the iPhone came around and rendered half the stuff RadioShack sold completely redundant. This company needed to become something radically different a decade ago. I just don’t think it knows how to be anything else.

It’s like retracing the steps and doings of a drunk person: okay, here’s where he keyed the cop car. Wait, why’d he do that? I don’t know, but his pants are lying here, so this is before he stripped naked and tried to rob the library.

ALSO: the CueCat makes a cameo.

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.

Read More

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:

Read More

Why Do We Need to Spend a Quarter-Billion Dollars on the Dallas Convention Center?

Late last week, Philip Jones, president of the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau, tossed out his plan to seek up to $300 million to expand and fix up the convention center; you can read about it here ($200 – $250 million version), or here (up to $300 million version). Better yet, watch an over-the-top enthusiastic narration of the plan by recent WFAA hire Monica Hernandez here (up to $250 million version). This, on the heels of an announcement earlier in the week that the city of Dallas was spending $27 million on a high-end restaurant complex and parking garage adjacent to the convention center complex.

Read More