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Leading Off (4/24/15)

Early Dallas ISD STAAR Results Disappoint. District eighth-graders taking the state’s reading test performed worse than last year’s students, while the fifth-grade passing rate increased slightly.

3 DISD Trustees Really, Really Want to Fire Mike Miles. On Thursday, Joyce Foreman, Elizabeth Jones, and Bernadette Nutall tried, and failed, to replace board president Miguel Solis because they’re unhappy that Solis has put off scheduling a board meeting to discuss the performance of the district superintendent until after the May election.

What the Cluck, Arlington Council? The city, you’ll remember, helped foot the bill for JerryWorld and got its own suite in return. Over the past five years, at nearly every event, two-thirds of the tickets have been used by the mayor, council members, and their spouses — to the surprise of no one.

Molina High Teacher Arrested For Student Relationship. Mary Todd Lowrance, 49, had confided her indiscretion to a co-worker.

Million-Dollar Lake Palestine Home Collapsing. In the ongoing battle between man and nature, nature scores another win.

Ralph Strangis Quits Dallas Stars. The popular broadcaster has decided to move on to “new challenges” after a 25-year career with the team.

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Leading Off-ish (4/23/15): The Zac-is-on-Vacation Edition

Dallas-Fort Worth Earthquake Risk Has Tripled.  That’s just since 2008, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Granted, the risk is still pretty low, and we have yet to experience any catastrophic seismic activity. Yes, the energy production business — pumping chemicals and wastewater into the faults — is to blame.

Central Expressway in McKinney Temporarily Closed Due to Flooding. St. Delkus promised us a deluge, but thing were pretty light around my place in Oak Lawn. Meanwhile, the Collin County suburbs are being punished by our creator for their insolence?

Dallas Cop Fired For Sex With Teen, Prostitutes. Jorge Guzman had an inappropriate relationship with a teenager in the Dallas Police Explorer Program.

Plano ISD Will Stop Locking Unruly Children Away. Sounds like a sensible policy change.

We Should All Just Go Work For Southwest Airlines. The carrier has posted a record $453-million first-quarter profit.

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Leading Off (4/17/15)

Trinity Wars, Episode VII: The Force Awakens, Is Quickly Sedated. Despite Tuesday’s declarations by consultants whom toll road proponents themselves commissioned  — namely that there’s no good reason for putting a highway through a potentially great park — support on the Dallas City Council for the federally-approved design known as Alternative 3C seems not to have softened. At a long work session on Thursday afternoon, toll road opponents moved to drop the massive project entirely and to seek federal approval instead for a low-speed, meandering road whose primary purpose would be to provide access to the adjacent park (just what Mayor Mike Rawlings’ dream team recommended.) But that proposal was roundly rejected, 10-4, and instead the same majority voted to proceed with planning for 3C. There was also an attempt by Councilman Philip Kingston to call a vote that would have forced each member to declare his or her support for (or opposition to) 3C. This irritated toll road proponents, who maneuvered around it with their own amendment to Kingston’s proposed amendment. Rawlings made another of his public pronouncements (about the Dream Team proposal) designed to sound like he’s keeping an open mind: “We have just met this beautiful, in my case, lady, and I’m not ready to get married today.” But he then seemed to show his cards when he put Vonciel Jones Hill — whose dedication to plopping a mega-highway next to the river is unwavering — in charge of seeking public input on the proposals under consideration. “It’s like putting the fox in charge of the hen house,” said former councilwoman Angela Hunt. Reminder: May 9 is Election Day.

 A Lot of Words About Dez Bryant. He recently fired one advisor, who had close ties to the Dallas Cowboys, and engaged the services of another management company. What does this mean for Bryant’s relationship with the team, which is still waiting for him to sign his contract for next season? Yeah, that’s the question.

Man Detained For Watauga Abduction Attempt. Police have found a person of interest in the failed kidnapping Mike mentioned in Wednesday’s “Leading Off.”

Sex Offender Escapes Fort Worth Halfway House. Charles Sprague is suspected in a kidnapping and robbery in North Richland Hills on Wednesday. He’s been added to the Texas 10 Most Wanted Sex Offenders list.

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Dear Dallas City Council: Please Learn from the Trinity Mistakes of the Past

Today at 1 p.m. the Dallas City Council will convene a special meeting to discuss the latest plans for the Trinity River Project. The plans were developed by the mayor’s so-called “Dream Team” task force, a group of some of the best urban thinkers in North America who revealed a vision Tuesday of a “gracious and harmonious parkway” for the Trinity.

On the agenda is a resolution that will create “a team, including regional and State agencies and professionals, from appropriate disciplines, to determine any actions that would be necessary to implement the findings of the Trinity Design Charrette.”

There is every reason to believe that that group will not be able to realize the Dream Team’s vision because of the reality of the funding, flood control, and environmental requirements already written into the DNA of the Trinity River Project as it is conceived today.

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Leading Off (4/15/15)

Probation Officer Admits Role in Violent Drug Ring. Selena Ball pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute cocaine. Ball, 30, of DeSoto, was in what’s being described as a “romantic relationship” with an inmate she was assigned to monitor. If not reporting serious probation violations, and facing up to 20 years in prison as a result, is your idea of romance.

Double Murder Suspect Killed in DeSoto. Colby Robinson was wanted in connection with two murders in Portland. He was spotted at a 7-Eleven. Then there was a chase. Then Robinson was pronounced dead at the scene.

Watauga Girl Escapes Kidnapping. “I was screaming, trying to get out and everything,” the girl said. She apparently chipped her tooth on the car door as she got away. Police are still looking for the suspect.

Johnny Football Attends Local Baseball Game. Looks like Johnny Manziel is out of rehab and back to sitting in prominent seats at sporting events. And the Rangers won.

Pay Your Taxes. It’s that day. I’m sorry. Here’s some free stuff.

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Leading Off (4/10/15)

Jordan Spieth Blows 15th Hole at the Masters. He went with the hybrid instead of the 4-iron. Seriously? Sure, he finished 8-under par, one stroke shy of a tournament record, with a three-stroke lead after the first round at Augusta National, but the 21-year-old golfer from Dallas clearly still has a few things to learn. I mean, c’mon, dude’s lost two of his last three tournaments. How good can he be?

Rawlings Has Far More Money Than Ronquillo. Campaign finance reports for the first quarter of 2015 show that Mayor Mike Rawlings has raised $546,227 for his re-election effort while challenger Marcos Ronquillo has collected $101,957. All that cash to win a job that pays $80,000 a year.

Prosecutors Probing Jerry Jones’ World Trade Center Deal. The Dallas Cowboys owner’s company, Legends Hospitality, won the contract to operate the observation deck of One World Trade Center in 2013. That building is owned by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which is partly controlled by New Jersey Gov. (and Cowboys fan) Chris Christie. The Manhattan district attorney is investigating whether Jones’ and Christie’s friendship influenced the procurement process. As if we needed another reason to feel dirty when we see this.

Collin County DA Asks Texas Rangers to Investigate AG. Watch out, Ken Paxton. Walker may be coming for you.

Ellis County Fire Chiefs Arrested in Sex Assault Case. The two men were allegedly aware of the incident earlier this year that involved a volunteer firefighter violated by chorizo and a broom stick, and they worked to keep the matter quiet. They were suspended from duty on Thursday and face felony charges of tampering with a witness.

McKinney Teen Wasn’t Bullied. Fourteen-year-old Raymond Howell killed himself last week. Dozens of people rallied outside Boyd High School on Thursday to protest bullying, which some of the boy’s family members said contributed to his suicide. But police report they’ve found no evidence that Raymond was being harassed.

High Heels, Dog Urine Harming Downtown Parks. “It’s one of those only-in-Dallas things, I guess,” says Tara Green, president of Klyde Warren Park.

Opening Day at the Globe in Arlington. First pitch for Rangers vs. Astros is at 3:05 p.m. You’ll have to bring your own Blue Bell.

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Leading Off (4/8/15)

Ellis County Firefighters Charged With Sexual Assault Involving Chorizo. Five were charged with what looks like a hazing-related assault, and one was charged with videotaping it. There are more details in this story, and all of them are unpleasant.

Second Death in a Week at Argyle High School Construction Site. The first one was Thursday, when some heavy metal framework collapsed, killing a 36-year-old construction worker. Yesterday, it seems a 21-year-old man fell off of a trailer. Work on the new athletic facility was halted.

Dallas Police Front Desk Officers Make A Lot in Overtime. Chief Brown says it’s part of a budgetary balancing act. The 11 officers assigned to work security at police headquarters made a combined $330,000 in overtime pay last year. In other Dallas public employee bonus news: 58 executives at Parkland will not get their fourth quarter bonuses for 2014. The scene looked like this.

Local Fake Navy SEAL Arrested in Puerto Rico. Carlos Luna-Gonzalez was arrested last November in Weatherford, then jumped bail and fled. He was picked up yesterday, far away. Mostly I included this story because Parker County sheriff Larry Fowler (a character Zac may have invented) knows how to give a good sound bite.

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Leading Off (4/6/2014)

Pedestrian Dies In Hit-and-Run Near Mockingbird Station. The victim, 20-year-old Paul Miltenberger, attempted to the cross Mockingbird Lane at a non-crosswalk area very early this morning and was hit by a black Dodge Charger. Miltenberger was a sophomore at the University of Missouri, and the campus newspaper reports that he is from Southlake. Let’s hope this pedestrian bridge happens.

Texas Health Resources Responds To Nina Pham’s Lawsuit. For starters, THR would like the whole thing dismissed. But the five-page response goes on to generally deny the allegations that the hospital’s lack of proper training and equipment caused her to contract the Ebola virus and that Pham’s privacy was violated. Pham’s attorney, Charla Aldous, says she is “disappointed but not surprised” by the hospital’s response.

Trinity Toll Road Faces Army Corps of Engineers. After the Federal Highway Administration approved the proposed six-lane Trinity toll road last Thursday, the final federal hurdle is the Army Corps of Engineers. Within weeks, they are expected to determine whether the road can be built without compromising the levees, as well as the overall impact of the project and whether or not federal funds should be used to pay for it.

A Bird-Napping In Oak Cliff Ruffles Feathers. Someone very nonchalantly snatched a wild male peacock from the Beckley Club Estates neighborhood, and the residents, who feed and care for the birds, are understandably upset. Considering that birds are really just tiny dinosaurs, you might wonder how this happened. “The bird wasn’t paying any attention. The male was, um, mating.” Anyway, just bring the peacock back, please.

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Leading Off (4/1/15)

Truck Crashes Into Store, Killing Woman. Fort Worth police arrested the 19-year-old driver on suspicion of intoxication manslaughter. The crash happened around 2:00 p.m. yesterday and left seven other people injured. Investigators said the truck was traveling between 80 and 100 miles per hour when the driver lost control and slammed into a Star Food Mart, killing a 24-year-old mother.

Second Suspect Surrenders in Deadly Butt Lift Case. Bond for Alicia Clarke was set at $25,000. Clarke is the alleged partner of Denise “Wewe” Ross, who turned herself in and bonded out of jail last week.

Susan Hawk Doesn’t Talk About Troubles to Law Students. Instead of getting into her personal issues or the troubles she’s faced in the last week at the office, the Dallas District Attorney told a class of SMU law students: “I know when you stand on the truth, you never fall down.” I don’t have any problem with her not going into this stuff right now, in a forum like that. A better forum would be a profile in D Magazine.

Tony Romo Says DeMarco Murray Asked Him to Take a Pay Cut. Romo also said he’d do it: “I would take $5 million less if it meant getting him back.” Easy for him to say, with Murray safely signed away in Philadelphia. I wonder, though, if this statement might lead to some awkwardness in the future, seeing as how a certain wide receiver is looking for a lucrative longterm deal.

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Leading Off (3/27/15)

Dallas ISD Approves “Interim Bridge Plan.” At about 1 a.m., trustees voted for a measure that provides $129.5 million in funding for fast-tracked improvements at a number of schools, while expanding pre-kindergarten offerings and reopening several campuses. The final amount was less than the $134.7 million initially proposed after a number of amendments were made. Lakewood Elementary was among the big winners, as the school will get $12.6 million for an addition and renovations. All of this discussion is, of course, a prelude to voters later being asked to approve a comprehensive bond package totaling as much as $1.4 billion.

Bridge Collapse Kills Arlington Man. Yesterday’s accident in Central Texas along Interstate 35 in Salado, in which a tractor-trailer hit an overpass and caused a beam to fall onto the highway below, claimed the life of 32-year-old Clark Davis. I-35 was closed in both directions around the site until well into the night.

Rain May Ease Water Restrictions. The abundance of wet weather the last few months has resulted in some area lake levels rising dramatically and most of Dallas-Fort Worth shifting from darkest red to light red or orange on the U.S Drought Monitor map. Lake Lavon, one of the North Texas Municipal Water District’s reservoirs, has gone from 46.2 percent to 77.5 percent of capacity. If the trend continues this spring, the district may ease tough restrictions on watering that have been in place almost two years.

World War II Vet Recovers Empty Duffel Bag. Waymon Blundell, 94, certainly seemed tickled to be reunited with the bag, which he’d carelessly lost when he’d jumped onto the beach at Normandy as part of the D-Day invasion in 1944.

Keller Student Denied “Promposal.” Sixteen-year-old Casey Akers says her school wouldn’t let her stage a public invitation to the prom because she and her chosen date are gay. The school district issued a statement saying that it doesn’t allow any students to plan such elaborate invites, as they are disruptive. Anyway, when did it become an expectation for kids to treat a prom invite like a marriage proposal? Sounds like an excruciating burden for both straight and gay kids.

Derelict 1955 BelAir Wagon For Sale. It’s up for auction on eBay. You have until 10 a.m. today to make a bid. JFK assassination historian Farris Rookstool III (!) says the car is unique because a fellow named Lee Harvey Oswald once rode in it with his rifle.

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Leading Off (3/20/15)

Thursday Was a Texas Basketball Massacre. All five teams from the state in the NCAA tournament lost. Baylor and SMU fans can argue about who suffered the more painful last-minute loss.

Irving Endorses Anti-Islamic Bill. Spurred by fears of nonbinding, voluntary mediation at a mosque, the city council, led by Mayor Beth Van Duyne, voted on Thursday to endorse a bill by State Rep. Jeff Leach of Plano that would forbid judges from using foreign law in their rulings. The bill’s language is nearly identical to a previous proposal by another lawmaker designed to limit the influence of “large populations of Middle Easterners.” Said Van Duyne, ““Why anyone would feel this is hatred or bigotry is absolutely beyond me.”

State to Audit DA’s Office. It’s the first time the state auditor’s office has used the authority the legislature gave it in 2011 to conduct such reviews. They’ll look into the alleged improper use of forfeiture funds during the tenure of former district attorney Craig Watkins. If violations of the law are found, the DA’s office and Watkins himself could be subject to a civil penalty up to $100,000.

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Let’s Send Crime-Fighter Richard Jefferson of the Dallas Mavericks Undercover

TMZ broke the story that Dallas Mavericks forward Richard Jefferson, at the behest of the FBI, recorded a phone conversation between himself and his business manager Ted Kritza, in which Kritza allegedly admits to having withdrawn $2 million on Jefferson’s bank credit line. The matter is still under investigation.

Now that we know Jefferson isn’t afraid to go undercover to fight crime, what other local Dallas notables should we maybe have him give a ring?

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Dallas State Rep Wants to Turn ‘Cop Watchers’ Into Criminals

One of the legacies of Michael Brown and Eric Garner is a network of so-called “cop watchers,” volunteer groups who police the police with video cameras. Locally, there are a few networks, including Cop Watch Dallas and Dallas Cop Block who have caught instances of questionable use of force by area police on camera. Needless to say, cop watchers make cops uncomfortable. Last year, Arlington police arrested three citizens whose only offense was filming officers. This was after the cop watchers rolled up on Arlington police arresting a man. As soon as the cops saw the camera, they let the man go, according to the Dallas Observer.

Some police departments and municipalities argue that filming police interferes with officers’ police work, while cop watchers say their actions are protected by the first amendment, an argument that was backed up last year by a ruling by a Texas judge. But if State Representative Jason Villalba (R-Dallas) has his way, “cop watching” will become illegal. Enter House Bill 2918, which amends the state’s penal code, making filming within 25 feet of an officer “performing a duty or exercising authority imposed or granted by law” a class B misdemeanor. Video taping of police is allowed if you are a member of the news media, but as The Free Thought Project points out, the bill also defines the media in such a way that it excludes internet sites — not to mention documentary filmmakers. If this bill is passed, in Texas you would have to be a member of a law enforcement agency, or an employee of a radio station, television station, weekly or daily newspaper, or magazine in order to turn on a camera within 25 feet of a police officer.

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Ask John Neely Bryan: How to Have a Midlife Crisis, Dallas-Style

Question: When I turned 40 about a year ago, I just thought it was another day. But lately I’ve been asking myself a lot more of those introspective questions you normally wouldn’t ask unless you are really drunk or going through a midlife crisis. But can you still be going through a midlife crisis if you’re still in love with your wife, feel fulfilled in your career, have a full head of hair and don’t have any impulses to make expensive material purchases? Why can’t I just be happy that I actually made it to 40? Thanks in advance — Looking for the Beer Tap of Youth in Lake Highlands

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