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Making Dallas Even Better

Uptown Sam’s Club Opponents Live to Fight Another Day

You probably saw the news yesterday that an appeals court judge ruled in favor of the Dallas residents group that is still trying to block the development of that Uptown Sam’s Club project. You can read more about the ruling here, but it basically boils down to this: a judge rejected the city of Dallas’ claim that the non-profit organization formed by residents to fight the Uptown Sam’s Club had no legal standing to fight the developer in court.

In short, Judge Phyllis Lister Brown said, “Um, yeah. Of course the citizens do have legal standing. Because, you know, duh.” Or in legal terms: “Protecting the quality of neighborhood living is a civic purpose. … Therefore, the Association has a nonprofit purpose and is a nonprofit association to which the Code applies.” Funny that the city of Dallas needed a judge to remind them this.

So, what does the court ruling mean?

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Poll: Should We Stop Honoring the Confederacy?

A memorial to Confederate soldiers was vandalized over the weekend in Denton, sparking another conversation about whether in 2015 we should continue to honor those who fought in open rebellion against the United States. What do you think?

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Denton Confederate Memorial Vandalized

I moved to Denton from Illinois in second grade and did most of the rest of my growing up there. I remember during one of my earliest visits to the Courthouse Square, still a child, I noticed the monument to Confederate soldiers, which was vandalized last night. I remember thinking it was curious that a city in the United States would memorialize people who’d fought in open rebellion against the nation. No, I’m not sure I appreciated then how divided our country remained for many decades after the Civil War.

I also attended Robert E. Lee Elementary in Denton ISD,  and I never gave much thought to the curiosity that the leader of a rebel army would be honored in such a way. I knew who he was, but really his was just a name of a long-dead guy on the building where I went to class, as much thought as I ever gave it.

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Hazing and Homophobia at a UNT Fraternity

Think Progress dove into a 2013 incident when a University of North Texas student named Derek Elrod rushed fraternity Sigma Phi Epsilon. Elrod speaks of a hazing incident which involved drinking straight vodka and being forced to do “complete countless push-ups”:

At that point, Elrod, who had been diagnosed in 2005 with a permanent medical condition involving abnormal nervous system functions, began to panic.

“I don’t even know how to explain the amount of mental anguish I was in,” he told ThinkProgress. “I felt like I was trapped…The lights were off, the blinds were closed…the door was closed, and there were guys in front of it…I had gotten to the point where I couldn’t even lift my own body up. It was the first moment in my life that I could not lift my own body up from the ground…I felt like I was not free to leave.”

Elrod eventually did get himself up, raced down the stairs, and dialed 911. According to video footage obtained by ThinkProgress, Randall denied Elrod’s allegations when the police officer arrived at the fraternity house, telling him: “We just kinda didn’t want him here because we thought he was on the homosexual side.”

“For our pledges, we just get like, ‘hey, you know man, he’s kind of on the weird side of heterosexual,’” Randall remarked. “I honestly thought he was homosexual. Hey guys, we shouldn’t invite him over to our house. It’s kind of weird that he is here.”

When the officer pressed: “You don’t like him because you think he is a homosexual?” Randall responded: “Honestly, yes…I mean, you get where I’m coming from?”

View the video above for more. Elrod was afterward told by the fraternity chapter to have no further contact with its membership. Read the whole thing to learn how the fraternity’s national organization has reacted (or, actually, not reacted).

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Ask John Neely Bryan: Should Texas Fear Jade Helm?

Question: I just read on the AM radio that the Fedral Gumint is going to invade and annex Texas and make it a State. Now I don’t have any real prolem with that, but the name of this invasion is “Jade Helm,” and that was a stripper that broke my heart years ago. What’s going on here? —Luke “Possum” Hogbreath

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Houston Socialite in Hot Water Resigns From UT Southwestern

Yesterday I passed along a story from the Houston Press about a high-profile couple who’d decamped the Bayou City, leaving in their wake a bunch of questions about their personal finances and those of a cancer-fighting nonprofit they ran. The wife, Beth Sanders Moore, landed a gig as director of development for cancer programs at UT Southwestern. Well, our Matt Goodman breaks the news on D Healthcare Daily that Moore has resigned.

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Ask John Neely Bryan: Is Dallas a Midwest City?

Question: Is Texas in the Midwest? And what’s the Midwest? — Ryan C.

The gentleman who risked suffering the repercussions of my wrath for having dared to submit this staggeringly insulting question provided — so as to justify the depths of his own ignorance, no doubt — a hyper text transfer protocol address of an article posted by some execrable cyberpunk publication.

On that unfortunate page — which I urge my own thoughtful readers never to peruse, lest they risk the lowering of their intelligence quotients — a parade of ignoramuses compete to demonstrate which of them is least deserving of being considered homo sapiens.

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How Will the City Council Settle the Preston Center Skybridge Battle?

In case you haven’t noticed, Preston Center basically sucks. If you want to know why, read this piece by the Dallas Observer‘s Eric Nicholson. Long story short, the decrepit parking garage in the middle of the development is owned by the city of Dallas, and all of the 70-odd property owners in the vicinity have usage rights. This highly fragmented ownership also impedes the area’s redevelopment.

Enter Harlan Crow.

Earlier this year, Crow proposed building a skybridge at Preston Center West to connect a new Tom Thumb grocery store to the adjacent parking garage. Even better, Crow proposed spending more than $1 million to renovate the garage and make it handicap accessible. As with every other new development proposed in the vicinity within the last year, however, it quickly became mired in controversy, with former mayor Laura Miller leading the charge, stating that a new grocery store “would only add to congestion,” and that “the oversized sky bridge … will cast a big shadow over an area that will now have obstructions in the sidewalk…”

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We Can’t Let Our Guard Down When it Comes to the Trinity Toll Road

Goodness, a bunch of dust has been kicked-up by a little bit of flooding. The past week’s rains have come just at the right time to spark a whole lot of silly talk about flooding and toll roads and Trinity River Project plans. Opponents of the road are circulating memes that use the floods as an excuse to dance on the road’s supposed watery grave — look, the floodway floods! Over at the Dallas Morning News, a couple of editorial writers try to throw water on the fires of panic and hyperbole. A couple of days ago, Rodger Jones made the somewhat obvious point that yes, we can build a road in a flood plain and make sure it doesn’t flood. Today, Rudy Bush chimes in, reiterating his support of the Beasley Plan and attempting to calm everyone down by saying that a road that occasionally floods isn’t the end of the world, let alone the end of plans for a road in the Trinity River watershed.

However, as I wrote earlier this week, I don’t think anyone believes that we can’t build a road that doesn’t flood. Surely the world has seen greater engineering marvels. The question is whether or not this particular road plan is a stupid idea.

Let’s leave that conversation for another day. Here’s the point I want to make: I’m a bit concerned by both Jones and Bush’s eagerness to call Alternative 3C – the engineering plans for a massive highway with high-five style exit ramps flying every which way – over and done.

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Museum Tower May Be Covered in Reflective Film

Is this the end of the Nasher’s dispute with its condo tower neighbor? Says the DMN:

Three years after the Nasher Sculpture Center first complained that it was blinded by the light coming off Museum Tower, the condo tower’s owner — the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System — has voted to cover the 42-story luxury high-rise in a reflective film, which is currently being tested.

“It isn’t a done deal,” says Dallas City Council member Philip Kingston, one of four council reps on the pension system’s board of trustees. “But the board had do to do something to continue with the testing.”

Kingston’s council colleague Lee Kleinman says the fix, which was proposed by Texas-based international development firm Hines, will not “take out 100 percent of the reflectivity” that led to the three-year-long dispute with the Nasher. But, he says, “it will reduce it by 50 percent, and that’s significant.” He says he’s “optimistic” this solution will satisfy the Nasher, which has yet to return calls concerning the board’s vote on Thursday.

UPDATE, 4 p.m.: David Dunnigan of PR firm Allison Partners, which represents the pension system, just sent me a note to clarify that the lede of Wilonsky’s post about yesterday’s vote isn’t precisely right. He says the resolution voted on was:

“Authorize the Executive Director to meet with the Nasher and Museum Tower homeowners and negotiate an agreement to be brought back to the Board in 90 days”

So they haven’t exactly voted in favor of covering the building just yet.

UPDATE, Sunday afternoon: Just now seeing a statement from Nasher director Jeremy Strick:

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Ask John Neely Bryan: You People Call That Mob Justice?

Lords and ladies, wildlings and free folk, knights and squires, bannermen and serving wenches alike, it has become necessary that I break from responding to your incessant onslaught of interrogatories to address a matter of the utmost cultural significance.

It cannot be allowed to pass without my own assiduous commentary, for it exemplifies the fraying stitch-work that binds disparate elements of this, the greatest city God and I have ever given the history of the world. I am speaking, of course, of the remarkable videographic evidence presented to the audience of this very D Magazine web log not two full days ago.

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Emails Shed Light on Inner Workings of Trinity River Project Funding Schemes

Brandon Formby reports on the latest bit of information to leak out of the trove of Trinity Toll Road-related emails that was released by the City of Dallas after council members Scott Griggs and Philip Kingston pushed to have access to communications between city staff and former City Manager Mary Suhm as well as Mayor Mike Rawlings’ so-called design Dream Team.

The nugget of the article suggests that a design firm — led by “Dream Team” member Ignacio Bunster-Ossa — was the beneficiary of a private grant of $105,000 that was donated to the city of Dallas by the Trinity Trust under the condition that said design company receive the contract for the work from the city.

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Why We Should Listen to Laura Miller’s Solution to the Scott Griggs Accusations

I was grateful that my weekend was mostly spent writing a story for the upcoming print edition about a good kid who catches a lucky break and makes the most of it. It was a rosier plot line than the one that unfolded over the weekend as city council member Scott Griggs was charged with a felony for threatening a public employee, bringing a possible sentence of upwards of 10 years in jail.

Jim Schutze offered an intriguing take on the whole ordeal yesterday, walking through the facts and suggesting that the charges are a form of retribution for exposing emails from city employees regarding the Mayor’s Trinity Toll Road “Dream Team.” I’m sure we’ll come back to those emails soon, but first, just a taste of what depressing realities they may reveal about how our city functions:

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Leading Off (5/1/15)

Mike Miles’ Job on the Line. Under a judge’s orders, the Dallas ISD board will convene at 4 p.m.today at district headquarters to discuss the superintendent’s job performance. Most of the City Council has expressed their support for Miles even as trustees Bernadette Nutall, Elizabeth Jones and Joyce Foreman seem determined to push for his ouster. While Miles appeared on Fox 4 and CBS 11 newscasts on Thursday to say he’s remaining focused on what’s best for the children, Brett Shipp at WFAA couldn’t get more than a written statement from Miles for his latest report about possible interference by the super and trustee Mike Morath into a district HR investigation. Friday’s meeting is a closed session, so you may not want to bother getting the popcorn ready.

Rival Protests Today Downtown. A rally and march, organized by Mothers Against Police Brutality, is scheduled for 5 p.m. at the Frank Crowley Courts Building to show support for the ongoing protests in response to the death of Freddie Gray in the Maryland city. Meanwhile a second demonstration called “Backing the Blue” has been announced ostensibly to “say ‘thank you'” to the Dallas Police Department, but really just seems designed to troll the other group’s event. And, according to Breitbart, a counter-protest by an open-carry group called Texans Against Gun Grabbers, is also happening at the same time and place. The TAGG organizer issued a statement about the event, with scary overtones: “My whole point is that this event has the potential to be extremely volatile very quickly. For your safety I would stay out of Dallas tomorrow night.”

Dallas Cowboys Pick Byron Jones in NFL Draft. With their first-round pick last night, the team selected a cornerback from Connecticut. Why do I find it funny to think of people playing football in Connecticut?

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