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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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Mike Rawlings’ Kangaroo COG: Who Deserves Blame for the Wasteful Toll Road Planning Charade?

From the beginning, we knew the entire thing was a set-up, orchestrated to produce precisely this conclusion. We wrote that it was all an attempt to allow Rawlings a way to distance himself politically from the Toll Road ahead of the May election (From Formby’s story: “I believe the leaders of the city will make that appropriate decision [to expand the road to six-lanes] at that point,” [Rawlings] said. “I will not be one of them.”) This wasn’t the “dream team.” It was the urban planning equivalent of a kangaroo court. The dream team was actually the Kangaroo COG.

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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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Who Really Loses When the Uptown Sam’s Club Construction Starts on Sunday?

This Sunday, the Trammell Crow Company, on behalf of its clients Sam’s Club and the Metropolitan Life Corporation, the primary investor in the project, will blow up old Xerox building just off Central Expressway in order to make way for a big box store right in the heart of the fastest growing, highest tax base, densest area of Dallas.

It is utter madness.

And while I know you have heard the story in some form or fashion, on the eve of destruction, I believe it is worth recounting. There are many  lessons in the sorry tale of Uptown Sam’s, and the story should enrage you—not provoking the kind of idle anger where you throw up your hands and go, “Ah, there’s Dallas, yet again,” but rather provoking the kind of rage that makes you want to run down to city hall with pitchforks in your hands. Let’s get to it.

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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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Do We Know ‘American Sniper’ Chris Kyle’s Stance On Fluoride In Drinking Water?

I’ve read Michael Mooney’s story about the late Chris Kyle. I’ve read this story that quotes Michael. I’ve read this blog post that links to another blog post written by Michael. I’ve read a lot of things about Chris Kyle, some that surprisingly had nothing at all to do with Michael. And still, I’m left with one nagging question:

What did Chris Kyle think about putting fluoride in our drinking water?

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One HPISD Parent Is Still Trying To Ban The Working Poor

Last fall, Highland Park ISD superintendent Dawson Orr suspended seven books following parent complaints. Amazingly, he did this during Banned Books Week. That decision, and its timing, probably would have gotten national attention on its own, but Orr made it even easier by making David K. Shipler’s The Working Poor: Invisible in America one of the books. An incredibly rich school district effectively banning a book about poverty in America — throw in some B-roll footage, leave some space for a little Jon Stewart riffing, and The Daily Show segment is almost locked. Orr subsequently reinstated the books, and the district’s policy on how it selects books and how it handles challenges to those selections is being reviewed. (Thanks to the Morning News‘ Melissa Repko for covering this story so well.)

It seemed like the incident was coming to a mostly positive conclusion. But now it comes out that one parent is still unhappy that Shipler’s The Working Poor is being taught to juniors in Advanced Placement English III.

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It’s a New Year, And We Still Don’t Know How to Pay for the Trinity Toll Road

If you have been a little tuned out over the last few weeks like we have, then what better way to kick-off the New Year than brushing up on some Trinity Toll Road news? Let’s start with Wick’s masterful take down of Mayor Mike Rawlings’ latest position on the road. Then brief yourself on the all star mega-meeting Sen. Royce West is hosting this week to try to hash out just where he stands on the road (attendees are slightly skewed pro-toll road by my reading of the list, but let’s hope our man Patrick Kennedy gets time to speak his mind).

Of course the elephant in the room—after we’ve yammered on and on about planning and cities and economics and transportation equality—is that we still don’t know how to fund the blasted road. Brandon Formby brings us up to date on that ever elusive question by peeking into Michael Morris’ magical cabinet of financial wonders to see how the COG man is fudging the numbers of late. In short, the plan is still essentially the same: find enough cash in the couch cushions to get cement in the floodway, then bully taxpayer-funded government agencies to scale it up later.

Happy New Year.

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Museum Tower Designer Insists Nasher Needs to Yield in Reflectivity Dispute

In a piece earlier this month for the Architect’s Newspaper, Scott Johnson of Fain Johnson, the principal designer of Museum Tower, says the only possible solution to the Nasher Sculpture Center’s demands to be free of the light reflected upon its building and garden lies in the proposed alterations to its roof — changes which the museum has refused to make:

In the meantime, the Dallas Police & Fire Pension Fund, after exhaustive technical studies, has recommended recalibrating the clerestory cells in the ceiling without touching any other elements of the Nasher’s architecture. It is my understanding that they will turn their engineering research over to the Nasher design team to vet, design, and install the recalibration, and they will pay for it. The Nasher, I understand, has declined this solution, however, the original charge to “eliminate all reflection and do it all on Museum Tower,” given what we know, seems frankly unachievable.

I remain hopeful that new participants in the process will look beyond entrenched positions and a consensual and effective solution will be agreed upon. Dallas is a beautiful city and I hope that a resolution for this difficult issue between Museum Tower and the Nasher can be found soon.

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A Toll Road To the Trinity Paved With Good Deceptions

So we have this little thing we make every month here at D Magazine that we refer to as the print edition, and we are currently in the midst of trying to put together February’s issue. As a result, I’m neck deep in a feature story about art, success, love, suffering, life, death, Dallas, Europe, markets, art worlds, champagne, smoked haddock, race cars, and superheroes. If I can pull it off, it might be a decent read. But you don’t care about that right now. What you care about — what everyone cares about, again — is the Trinity Bleeping Toll Road. But I mention this pesky little article because it has prevented me from giving you an adequate update on the road in the wake of last week’s remarkable revelation that those who are in support of the toll road are dirty, rotten liars. Well, they are not really liars. I’ll explain why.

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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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So What’s the Mayor’s Trinity Toll Road Task Force Actually Going to Do?

After the mayor announced his Trinity Toll Road task force, I was left wondering about these smart urban guys he picked to rethink the design of the road. Sure, they’re all likely getting a nice pay check for their efforts, which may be motivation enough to stick their noses in this business. And they all have deep experience parachuting into controversy and knowing how to blast their way back out of town. But what are their marching orders? What – or how much – are they were expected to do in Dallas? Would they join a task force that was little more than a political charade or which couldn’t actually suggest any changes that were meaningful?

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Highland Park ISD Votes Not to Ban Book

At issue Monday night by a Highland Park schools “reconsideration committee” was whether the book The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein, should still be taught in English classes. Park Cities People reports that committee members voted to allow the novel, which is about a race car driver and his dog, and is told from the dog’s point of view. The controversy centered on the appropriateness of Park Cities teenagers reading one section in which an underage girl falsely accuses the driver of sexual molestation and tries to force herself on him.

From PCP:

There were 32 votes for “confirm the present use of the book for whole class required use;” three votes for “designate the book for required outside reading only;” and one vote for “restrict the use for certain grades.”

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Deep-Pocketed Black Rhino Killer May Not Get to Kill Endangered Rhino After All

You remember this story, right? The one that inspired a Colbert Word segment? The one about the guy who laid out a cool $350K at a Dallas Safari Club auction for a rare opportunity to shoot an endangered black Rhino and haul it back to the United States, stuff it, stick it somewhere in their home, and then brag to his friends about what a massive, Hemingway-esque trigger finger he has? That guy.

Well, that guy was Corey Knowlton, a international hunting consultant whose resume boasts of a Super Slam of wild sheep and the big five in Africa. And while, thanks to his success at the Dallas Safari Club auction, Mr. Knowlton does possess a permit to shoot and kill an endangered black rhinoceros, his little hunting expedition may not go off as planned after all. That’s because he needs another permit to haul the massive rhino carcass back to the United States.

Last spring, he applied for a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that would enable him to import the rhino’s body following the hunt in Namibia. But he’s still waiting to hear back.

The agency is applying extra scrutiny to Knowlton’s request because of the rise in poaching, said spokesman Gavin Shire.

If the permit is denied, the safari club plans to refund Knowlton’s money that was pledged to a rhino conservation fund in the southwestern African country.

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