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Making Dallas Even Better

Leading Off (1/29/16)

Dallas Schoolchildren Required to Play. The DISD board voted Thursday that all district elementary schools must give students 20 minutes of recess each day for the rest of this school year, increasing that to at least 30 minutes daily next year. Recess also can’t be withheld as a form of punishment in disciplinary matters. Trustee Dan Micciche, who brought the proposal to the board, cited studies indicating recess improves social and emotional health. Considering the gorgeous weather we’re expected to have today, I plan to make the same argument to Wick this afternoon.

Arlington Woman Awarded Millions For Awful Book. I haven’t read Fifty Shades of Grey, unless you count Buzzfeed’s abridged, illustrated version. But millions have bought author E.L. James’ book that began as fan fiction published through a website co-founded by Arlington woman Jennifer Pedroza. A jury last year found that Pedroza’s partner had cheated her out of her rightful share of royalties from the work, and on Thursday a judge awarded the Fort Worth schoolteacher $10.4 million in royalties plus $888,643 in pre-judgment interest, as well as $1.7 million in attorney’s fees. So Fifty Shades has made so much money that a woman who didn’t even write the thing, and is splitting her royalty share with the other partners who worked to publish it, still looks to make $11.5 million? Jeez, you people like your S&M.

Dallas Police Chief Doesn’t Need Your Resume. Testifying as part of a civil suit filed against the city, David Brown explained the process by which he decided whom to promote to the rank of major within the department. His “intricate vetting process” has “little need for resumes, job interviews, detailed personnel histories or opinions outside of his command staff.”

Kennedale Smells Like Old Rotted Fish. Parts of Arlington too. Residents there are blaming recent changes at a landfill run by the city of Fort Worth. If I were better acquainted with Kennedale, I’d insert a cutting punchline here. But for all I know it was previously a veritable Garden of Eden, redolent of lilac and baby powder.

How Have There Been More Than 200 K2 Overdoses In Downtown Since the Beginning Of December?

According to this, Dallas Fire-Rescue has responded to more than 200 K2 overdoses since the beginning of December. (There is a bit more from an earlier report here.) K2 — also known as Spice and Black Mamba and probably a bunch of other things — is a synthetic cannabinoid that is gaining in popularity, probably because it is relatively easy to get and doesn’t show up on most drug tests yet. Still, though: more than 200 overdoses in 53 days in one concentrated area? That’s almost four a day. (If we’re focusing on the small number of bars and clubs, we’re mostly talking weekends, and the number is more like 20 a night.) I’m not an expert, but that feels like A LOT. And this reasoning doesn’t make a ton of sense to me:

Collin County Juvenile Probation Officer and Substance Abuse Counselor Grace Raulston said, “Downtown Dallas area probably there’s high population of people on probation probably for possession of marijuana and they’re probably trying to beat out the drug test.”

Whatever the reason, if there is one, watch out. Something is happening.

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Podcast: Bobby Abtahi on How He Got Kicked Off a Virgin America Flight

Let’s make this crystal clear right from the start: Prominent Dallas lawyer Robert Abtahi, who goes by “Bobby,” no longer owns the URL That much we know. And yet questions remain.

Primarily those questions center on the national-news-making incident in which Abtahi, an American of Persian descent, was denied his seat on a Virgin America flight from New York to Dallas last week. During our conversation at the Old Monk, Abtahi shared never-before-revealed details about what went down that day. #seaturtles

After that segment, stick around and behold Zac Crain unplugged. Listen to the full show below, or subscribe via iTunes or Stitcher.

But first, please note:

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Leading Off (12/4/15)

Grapevine Erects Massive Bronze Unicorn. The statue, unveiled last night, sits atop the Grapevine Convention & Visitors Bureau. It’s a winged unicorn as well, a sure sign that this piece of public art is intended as a challenge to the supremacy of Dallas’ iconic Pegasus. Obviously Phillip Jones and the Dallas CVB must prepare a counterstrike. Perhaps an armada of demonic Pegasi perched on every building in the central business district?

Board Discusses Pre-K For All DISD Students. Dallas ISD trustees generally agree that it’d be nice to provide classes for all 3- and 4-year-olds in the district, but uncertainty exists about how the proposal, which would be phased in through 2025, would be funded.

Petition Calls For Mandatory Recess. DISD trustees discussed the notion of requiring elementary schools to give a recess period to students each day. Though the whole matter kind of seemed like an excuse for trustee Miguel Solis to brag about his days as top dog on the playground. “It raised my ego because I was the best kid at playing tag,” he said. “I got my first kiss.”

Signatures Forged to Allow Aldredge House Weddings. Neighbors of the popular (and somewhat contentious) Swiss Avenue venue are claiming that their names were forged on city documents granting permission for large tents to be erected on the property. Dallas requires that anytime someone wants to put up a tent bigger than 400 square feet, every property owner within 100 feet has to agree to it. It’s unclear who’s responsible for the forgeries.

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The Organization That Benefited From Bobby Abtahi’s Missed Virgin Airlines Flight

Bobby Abtahi is trending. As Tim mentioned in Leading Off — and as you have surely read in either the New York Times, Jezebel, New York Daily News, Gothamist, or any of the dozens of media outlets covering the story — the lawyer, one-time city council candidate, and Dallas City Plan Commissioner didn’t board his flight from New York to Dallas with Virgin America Airlines. The Iranian-American, scruffy faced after a week on the beach, wasn’t allowed to board when the captain and crew of a flight allegedly stated that they didn’t feel comfortable with him on the plane.

Maybe it was racial profiling. Maybe it was a bizarre misunderstanding. Maybe it was a sprinkle of both. I’ll let other outlets hash that one out. I just wanted to call attention to the classy gesture Abtahi made in the heat of the moment.

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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.

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City of Irving May Need a New PR Crisis Consultant

Documents related to the l’affaire Ahmed Mohamedthe Irving “clock kid” — are filtering out. The Morning News has acquired interesting texts that document the way that city leaders in Irving jumped into crisis management mode as the story went viral:

Consultant said we were on the right track, continue to emphasize strong public safety, safety and security,” City Manager Chris Hillman texted the mayor at one point. “No more interviews, let the fire die down and don’t provide more oxygen.”

But when [Mayor Beth] Van Duyne asked about appearing on Glenn Beck’s internet show, the consultant gave the mayor the green light.

“He agreed with that because Beck will be a friendly,” the city manager texted Van Duyne.

Beck was friendly to Van Duyne, but her appearance sparked another wave of news stories after she shrugged off the host’s speculation that Ahmed might be involved in a jihadist plot to embarrass the city.

Not the best call by the consultant. Obviously Irving doesn’t have Olivia Pope on retainer.

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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.

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Parsing the Aldredge House Controversy

I keep trying to ignore the Aldredge House controversy, because I guess I keep thinking it will just go away. In addition, people whose opinions I like and respect have come down on opposing sides of the issue.

As I understand it, the deal is that the Dallas County Medical Society Alliance, a fairly well-heeled group of individuals, owns a fantastic, well-preserved old house on Swiss Avenue. To support its mission, the Society has turned day-to-day management of the space over to a special events company, which makes it available for weddings, parties, etc., much to the chagrin of surrounding neighbors.

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Arlington Is Mad About the Texas Rangers’ AL West Champions T-Shirts

I mentioned it this morning. The team, sportswriters, Arlingtonians (Arlingtonites? Arlingtony Toni Tone?) are mad because the shirt features a Dallas skyline. I guess there won’t be any more of those available, so maybe there is some sort of eBay reseller scam happening. I don’t know. I was able to track down this video showing what happened when the shirts were unveiled. Watch out. There might be some language. It got pretty heated.

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First Trailer For Truth, Movie About Dallas-Based Producer’s Role in ‘Rathergate’

Last month, longtime CBS News anchor Dan Rather stopped by the Old Monk on Henderson Avenue to record a delightful podcast with us. Among the subjects we touched on was the upcoming, Oscar-baiting film starring Cate Blanchett and Robert Redford that dramatizes the story of why Rather no longer works for CBS.

It’s the tale of Dallas-based TV news producer Mary Mapes and documents that purported to prove that George W. Bush didn’t fulfill his National Guard commitment during the Vietnam War.

Pretty standard trailer stuff — including the TV-journalism-film trope of handing off a tape from person-to-person at the last possible minute to be broadcast and ending with Blanchett emphasizing the title of the movie, hard.

Truth opens in New York and Los Angeles on October 16. It won’t get to Dallas until Oct. 30.

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Did Texas Monthly Go Too Soft on the New Texas Textbooks’ Treatment of Slavery?

The September issue of Texas Monthly reports on the Texas school book controversy that has been simmering since 2010. That’s when the Texas State Board of Education adopted new curriculum standards that, it was argued at the time, attempted to coax publishers into producing student textbooks that downplayed the historical realities of slavery, segregation, and discrimination. Well, now those textbooks have been published, and while they are not yet available to the general public, TexMo’s Tom Bartlett reports that those who have perused them don’t believe they are as bad as many feared.

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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.

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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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