Find a back issue

Leading Off (10/24/14)

Porsche at Center of New Allegations Against DA’s Office. The car was parked for months at the courthouse parking garage before Ace Parking (which manages the garage) asked United Tows to haul it away. Thing is it was a vehicle belonging to the county government and intended to be used in drug stings. The owners of United Tows says Craig Watkins’ staff accused them of car theft, even though it appears the company followed all the legal procedures required of it. The Morning News sought records detailing the process by which the DA’s office bought back the car from United Tows, but has had to file a lawsuit to get those details released.

It’s Going to be in the 90s This Weekend. Yes, we’re getting to the later part of October, when things would — you’d expect — be cooling down a bit. But instead the forecast calls for unusually high temperatures for the season. Meanwhile the continued drought is prompting more significant watering restrictions, and we have an unusually cold winter to look forward to.

SMU Makes Offer to Mack Brown. The school’s football team is looking for new leadership after former coach June Jones bolted after the second game of what’s been a dreadful season for the Mustangs. They’ve reportedly had “preliminary discussions” with Brown, the former University of Texas at Austin head coach who led the Longhorns to a national title for the 2005 season. The dollar figures they’ve discussed are $4 million a year for eight years.

Lawn Care Company Flying Too Many Flags. If you’ve ever trekked up to my hometown of Denton and exited onto Dallas Drive on your way to the Courthouse Square, after you descended the hill along which I received the first two speeding tickets of my life, you saw a fleet of orange trucks sitting along the right side of the road, usually adorned with letters spelling out some community announcement about a Knights of Columbus pancake breakfast or a VFW barbecue or somesuch.  And you saw a whole lot of American flags.  The orange trucks belong to Frenchy’s Lawn Care, which is owned by Vietnam vet Andre “Frenchy” Rheault. Well, after many years of displaying as many Old Glories as he likes, the city’s code enforcement department has told Rheault that the flags have to come down. Only one American flag, one Texas flag, and one miscellaneous flag are allowed on any one property. Rheault plans to fight.

Topless Cheerleaders Use Drugs. Photos of the Lamar High School students engaging in naughty behavior made the rounds of social media and have caused quite a ruckus in Arlington.

Full Story

Harvard Club of Dallas Celebrates Its 100th Anniversary

Yes, yes. The Harvard Club of Dallas’ own website says it was founded in 1913. But operations didn’t begin until the next year, 1914, so they are counting this year as their centenary. You know what else happened in Dallas in 1914? The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas got up and running. Lo, the current president and CEO of the Dallas Fed, Richard Fisher, is himself a Harvard grad. And, even further lo, tomorrow Fisher will give the keynote at the Harvard Club’s birthday shindig at the Anatole. Details are here. Even Yalies are welcome.

UPDATE (10/20/14) As has been pointed out in the comments, I got the date wrong. This Harvard thing happens this coming weekend. It starts Friday, and Fisher speaks Saturday. My apologies.

Full Story

Highland Park ISD to ‘Deep-Clean’ Its Schools

Park Cities People reports:

Highland Park ISD just released a memo on behalf of superintendent Dawson Orr saying that the school district will commence a deep-cleaning of each campus this weekend and into next week. Custodial staff will also “step up” daily cleaning measures.

“We have checked the CDC guidelines for recommended cleaning products and the commercial grade anti-viral disinfectants currently in use on every campus exceed those recommendations,” Orr said in the memo.

In the spirit of rumor control, the district wished to emphasize that no member of the Bradfield Elementary community was on the Frontier Airlines flight with Ebola patient Amber Vinson — a parent and student did fly from Cleveland to Dallas on Oct. 13, but on a different plane.

You’ll remember that earlier there was some minor hysteria within the Bubble about the risks posed by County Judge Clay Jenkins, who came into contact with acquaintances of deceased Ebola patient Thomas Duncan and whose children attend the district’s Armstrong Elementary.

Full Story

SAGA Pod/Learning Curve: Schutze on Ebola and DISD

I think the headline is pretty straightforward. A few other things you should know:

• Jim starts off the podcast by coughing. He is so old and broken.
• We record it in his house, because he forgot that he didn’t have a car that day.
• At one point he tries to silence one of his dogs. I don’t even want to get into how he did this.
• If you’re wondering where ALL the antiques are, they’re in Jim’s house. I think you hear eight different clocks clang and ring and cuckoo during our talk.
• About Ebola, we focus on our officials’ reaction, the question of whether Presby can recover from its bad PR, and Peter’s question about how many will be infected before we panic. On DISD, we talk about the proper role of school board trustees, why black trustees ignore those rules, and how the city’s racial history fits into all this.

Here is the embed:

Full Story

Update on the Miles-Nutall-Dade Fight

The DMN today has a story saying that three longtime anti-Miles trustees — Bernadette Nutall, Joyce Foreman, and Lew Blackburn — want a board meeting to discuss the superintendent’s authority. In a blog post yesterday evening, I pointed out that said meeting is unlikely to happen until the board reviews its own lines of authority. Why? Because when Blackburn says in the DMN story that he will openly violate board policy whenever he wants, the root of the problem is exposed. Also because in the Dade matter, Nutall clearly was in the wrong in trying to attend a school staff meeting over Miles’ objections, and Miles was 100 percent right in having her removed when she didn’t comply. For background on school board policy that states this, see my post from Monday.

Full Story

Leading Off (10/3/14)

Storm Wreaks Havoc. The high winds, rain, and hail that blew through North Texas Thursday afternoon left hundreds of thousands without power during at least some portion of last night, temporarily halted DART train service, knocked down trees, collapsed a building in the Fort Worth Stockyards, and tore the roof off a dorm at Arlington Baptist College, among other widespread damage. Having lost power, UT-Arlington canceled all classes Friday, all Arlington ISD schools are closed, as well as 40 Dallas ISD campuses and some schools in Mesquite and Richardson. DART hopes to be fully operational by this morning rush hour, with red, orange, and green lines normal, but only bus service available on the eastern stretch of the blue line.

Ebola Patient’s Family Held Under Armed Guard. Those who shared a Vickery Meadow apartment with Thomas Eric Duncan, the man diagnosed with the virulent disease, are under an order not to leave their home or receive visitors. However, one of the family’s children attended a DISD school on Wednesday morning. In order to enforce compliance, a guard has been stationed on site. Meanwhile, Texas Health Presbyterian issued a release Thursday evening to explain that a failure of two of its record-keeping systems (one for nurses, another for doctors) to communicate resulted in key information about Duncan’s recent travels not being considered during his initial Sept. 25 visit to the hospital, which led to his release.

Texas Can Enact Strict Abortion Restrictions. A federal judge’s decision overturning legal requirements for abortion facilities is under appeal. On Thursday the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the state can go ahead and enforce those measures even as the appeal process is under way.

Trinity Toll Road Supporters Have Gone Silent. This follows reports that a) the road isn’t projected to significantly affect traffic congestion and b) that the city council is likely under no obligation to fund it. Councilman Scott Griggs, who opposes the $1.5 billion, 9-mile route, has a theory on why North Central Texas Council of Governments transportation director Michael Morris and others have been unavailable for weeks to make comments on the issue, “I imagine they’re trying to come up with a new reason for it,” he said.

Full Story

HP Grad Writes in New Yorker About Those Banned Books

A kind, alert FrontBurnervian points us to this story on the New Yorker’s site about the aborted book ban at HP ISD. It was written by Annie Julia Wyman, an HP grad and a doctoral candidate in English at Harvard. A taste:

My own story provides some evidence of how books can expand the horizons of a kid growing up somewhere like Highland Park. As a young woman with desires for things that I’d read about but couldn’t find in my home town—including what felt like non-negotiable forms of social and economic justice—I stayed away from the Park Cities during and after college. I refrained, too, from talking about where I came from, because it embarrassed me. I could see only that I came from homogeneity; I was terrified I would be rejected from the new life I’d stumbled into, a life that was richer and more complex. But I should have been more honest. I never would have known to be embarrassed had I not gone to world-class public schools where I read whatever I wanted. Books were there, and they had taught me to value difference.

Take a minute to read the whole thing. It’s short. And smart.

Full Story

Leading Off (9/19/14)

Police-Fire Pension Fund Losses Total Almost $200M. The board that oversees the retirement money of Dallas cops and firefighters got details of the bad news in a report on Thursday. In venturing into speculative real estate investment, the fund lost $196 million in recent years. That figure includes $90 million on tracts in Arizona and Idaho, $46 million on Napa Valley resorts, and $60 million on luxury homes in Hawaii and elsewhere. Even as real estate values plummeted and the losses mounted, in 2012, fund administrator Richard Tettamant received $78,300 in incentive pay and a $25,000 bonus on top of his $270,000 salary. One consulting company on the failed Napa projects has also been paid $3.6 million. Tettamant, you might remember, was removed from his gig earlier this year.

Man Trapped Beneath DART Train. He fell onto the tracks just as the train was pulling into the station. Fortunately emergency workers were able to free him from where he was pinned, and he’d suffered only a broken arm and some cuts. It could’ve been much worse.

Report Places Blame For Firefighter’s Death. The widow of Stanley Wilson, the firefighter who perished in a six-alarm blaze last year, released the findings of the investigation into the incident. The state report faulted commanders’ assessment of the fire before sending several men, including Wilson, back into the collapsing condominium building.

Madison High Basketball Coach Officially Fired. Roderick Johnson was one of 15 coaches and administrators dismissed in June by Dallas ISD Superintendent Mike Miles following a recruiting scandal that caused the school to be stripped of its state championship. On Thursday, a hearing confirmed the termination. Meanwhile some of the others who lost their jobs have instead been given the option of resigning.

The Governors Rick Dine at Mi Cocina. Texas Gov. Perry and Gov. Rick Scott of Florida on Thursday both attended a fundraiser at the Highland Park Village offices of Republican Party national finance chairman Ray Washburne and then sauntered across the parking lot for some Tex-Mex.

Commie Logo Removed From Vietnamese Restaurant. Not sure how nobody at Yum! Brands wondered whether a big red star was the ideal symbol to feature on their new Banh Shop concept.

Full Story

Jim Schutze Details the DMN’s Slanted Coverage of DISD

News comes today that DMN managing editor George Rodrigue is leaving the paper to work in some capacity at WFAA Channel 8 (we’ll post the memo to staff in a bit). The editor of the paper, Bob Mong, announced earlier that he will step down next year. Here is job No. 1 for whoever fills these top two spots: straighten out the paper’s coverage of DISD. What am I talking about? Please read this post by Jim Schutze. Then, for even more background, read Eric’s post on the same topic. What they’re doing over at the Morning News is irresponsible.

Full Story

SAGA Pod/Learning Curve: Jim Schutze on DISD, the Toll Road, and Moving to Plano

Jim Schutze stops by to discuss his column from this week, which basically covers all the important things in Dallas: How we’re going to get middle-class parents to send their kids to DISD schools (or if we even should want to do that); how that would affect the ability of young couples to stay in the city, as they increasingly want to do; and how the Trinity River toll road (and the thinking behind it) makes all of this harder than it has to be. Also, I play a song on my phone. Because Tim convinced me to. The lesson: Never listen to Tim.

Full Story

DISD Trustee Bernadette Nutall Apparently Can’t Do Math

Take nine minutes to watch the below video. It is truly amazing. What you’ll see: DISD trustee Bernadette Nutall trying and failing to understand a math problem that my 8-year-old daughter could probably grasp. The district budgeted $1.9 million for a program last school year. It spent all but about $400,000. So it is going to roll that amount over to the next school year. The district’s CFO spends nearly 10 minutes trying to explain that concept to Nutall. Watching the video, I laughed out loud at several points. It’s almost like Nutall is trolling the CFO, just screwing around with him.

Eric didn’t think it was so funny. He spent a few minutes yelling into my ear about how this sort of foolishness happens at every board meeting and how it hurts the district because good, smart staffers simply can’t put up with this sort of thing very long before they throw up their hands and go get another job. He’ll have a much lengthier post over on LearningCurve about this. For now, just watch the video:

Full Story

Biggest Grammar Mistakes in Dallas-Fort Worth Signage

Automated proofreader Grammarly recently held a contest seeking submissions of photos featuring the most egregious grammar mistakes on signs in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Above you can see the winning entry, and right off the bat I have a complaint.

That sign is obviously filled with purposeful misspellings intended to attract customers’ attention and underline the folksiness of people selling the produce. I think it should have been disallowed rather than given the prize.

Below are the other top entries from North Texas.

Full Story

Should DISD Split Apart, Move Board Elections to November, or Change Its Calendar?

You don’t know the answer to these questions? If you want to take part in the Home Rule Commission public discussions (first two are tomorrow, 9-11 a.m. at W.T. White and 1-3 p.m. at Hillcrest High), you’d better get studying. Lucky for you, I address each of these issues on Learning Curve:

Should DISD be split apart?

Should trustee elections be moved to November?

Should DISD change its school calendar?

Remember, we’ve previously mentioned home rule suggestion posts on student trustees, board accountability, and trustee impeachment, as well as whether home rule is “taxation without representation.”

Get reading, and sign up to talk at these community meetings. Or don’t. I mean, it’s only relevant if you care about your kids/ the city/ your soul.

Full Story