Find a back issue

Making Dallas Even Better

Leading Off (6/29/16)

Homeless Didn’t Get Less Homeless After Tent City Closed. Unsurprisingly, the shut down of Tent City in early May didn’t fix Dallas’ homeless problem. Large encampments have grown under two bridges since then. The city will shut down a South Dallas camp at I-45 and Coombs by July 19, and, most likely, one near Fair Park at I-30 and Haskell before the State Fair kicks off. Shelters are full and the wait lists for housing are long. In the meantime, “No Trespassing” signs and dumpsters are being brought in. My guess is we’ll be seeing the same story, different encampment by, say, early-August.

Area Creeps Going to the Clink for Hurting Kids. A Wylie man was given 28 years without parole on Monday for molesting a child younger than 6 years old. Also, an Arlington man was sentenced to 30 years for making child pornography videos with a 6-year-old girl. I know a federal prison guard. From what he’s told me, child abusers don’t do well behind bars. Even the baddest bad guys hate those who hurt kids. The three masked men who kidnapped this adorable 10-year-old in Oak Cliff for six hours on Monday should be shaking in their boots.

Ken Paxton Echoes Dan Patrick on FWISD Transgender Guideline Issue. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton offered an advisory opinion on Fort Worth ISD’s transgender policy, calling the guidelines illegal and saying that Superintendent Kent Scribner violated the state’s education code by not going through the school board first. Paxton’s big fuss: the guidelines say school personnel should only share information on the students’ gender identity with parents on a need-to-know basis. He says this limits parental involvement and encourages secrets. Scribner is working with the board to refine the language, while LGBT advocates are applauding the district’s efforts to keep transgender students safe.

It’s Tiki O’Clock Somewhere. Some serious stuff in the news. I need something stronger than coffee. 

Read More

Leading Off (6/10/16)

Man Kidnapped by Carjackers, Murdered. Investigators say the 42-year-old victim was likely targeted, followed to a gas station at DFW Airport on Thursday afternoon, where he went inside while thieves tried to make off with his rental car. When the victim saw the theft in progress, he rushed out to stop it, jumping into the vehicle’s driver’s side passenger door. He was later found dead at an apartment complex a few miles away.

Muslim Says He Was Nearly Run Off Road Driving. A white pickup truck aggressively followed Omair Siddiqi after he stopped to put gas in his car on Wednesday afternoon. Siddiqi was listening to a recording of the Quran when the white, middle-aged driver of the truck pulled alongside, rolled down his window and started screaming at him, “Take your rag ass back to your country. I’m gonna [expletive] kill you.” The truck then allegedly tried to run Siddiqi’s vehicle off the road. Police traced the license plate number that Siddiqi provided to an address in Garland. Siddiqi works as an outreach coordinator for the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Dallas Fort-Worth chapter

DISD Looks to Reduce Suspensions of Youngest Students. There’s disagreement among trustees about whether an all-out ban of imposing out-of-school suspensions on children in pre-kindergarten through second grade is the right move, but they want to do something at least to reduce the practice, which disproportionately affects black boys and can put them at a disadvantage for attaining future academic success. The board asked for more input in discussing alternatives.

Judge Forbids Slumlord From Evicting Tenants. The order is in place until the city’s lawsuit against Dennis Topletz is heard. Topletz is accused of renting 190 properties that violate many city codes to low-income residents. Topletz had sent a letter to his tenants threatening to evict them or raise their rent if they cooperate with the city’s action.

1 in 10 Dallas County Jail Inmates There Solely Because of Mental Illness. So says research of the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, which presented a plan Thursday aiming to keep the mentally ill who aren’t dangerous out of the jail. It would involve embedding social workers with police units responding to mental crises and be funded by $7 million in private grants.

Rangers Draft Pitcher. With their first pick of this year’s MLB first-year player draft, Texas took Cole Ragans, a high-school leftie from Tallahassee, Florida. Remember that in baseball the draft is pretty much a crap shoot, so even though he was the 30th overall player taken, who knows if he’ll ever make it to the Show.

Leading Off (6/8/16)

DISD big pimping, Spending Cheese. Yes, I realize it’s “Gs,” not “cheese.” I was having issues with all-caps text. Doesn’t matter. It all leads to this: WFAA-TV aired an investigation on the DISD’s marketing department last October questioning a payment made to a consultant before the consulting was ever done. DISD fought back. Some may have lied. The school district’s internal audit proved the news team right yesterday and found that it wasn’t an isolated incident. Some DISD officials resigned, some remain.

911 Calls for Dog-Mauling Victim Released. Neighbors weren’t able to save Antoinette Brown from the pack of loose dogs that bit her more than 100 times, but a couple of them called 911. Recordings were released yesterday. The timeline of the calls show that the city may have fudged its story on officers’ response time.

Animals in Peril. Oh, gosh. So many more horrible animal-related stories in the news. Where do I begin? There’s the story out of Farmers Branch about the boyfriend beating his girlfriend’s Terrier mix to the point that it had to be euthanized. Speaking of euthanization, a woman went to pick up her dog from Mesquite’s animal shelter too late. That’s awful. Also, a cat was stabbed and burned in Fort Worth. Good news is that it’s on the mend and people care. Another silver-lining story: A dog missing after surviving the car crash that killed its owner in Collin County has now been found.

Bedford Mom Makes A Very Mom Mistake. A 16-year-old Bedford girl has gone viral after tweeting a text exchange with her mother. In the texts, Lisa Banks gets furious with the teenager for having, what she assumes, a baggie of illegal drugs in her nightstand. Turns out the narcotics were actually capsules that expand into dinosaur sponges when placed in water. I can’t honestly say I will never do this.

What Could Possibly Happen at Mark Cuban’s Library Storytime Today?

This event was posted on my neighborhood’s mommy Facebook group. I sent it to Tim and Zac so one of them could write about it. Tim’s busy with  Real Housewives. No clue what Zac is doing – probably coming up with more names for his little lists – but he refuses to post about Mark Cuban’s storytime at the Audelia Road library today at 2:30pm. So it’s all up to me.

But the thing is, I’m a 35-year-old mom. You want me to write about Bieber and Gomez (he’s following her on Insta again!) or Becky with the good hair, then cool. Mark Cuban and/or sports stuff, not so much. So I’m going to crowd source this one. Anyone? What’s going to happen at Mark Cuban’s storytime this afternoon? The only bone Zac would throw me: Cuban does the entire reading from a StairMaster. Got anything better?

Read More

Leading Off (5/25/16)

ARLINGTON CITY COUNCIL SIGNS OFF ON A NEW BALLPARK. The council approved the $1 billion plan that would give the Texas Rangers a new stadium. However, the next step is to convince voters to spend $500 million to keep the team in Arlington. Opponents have asked why the current stadium, which opened in 1994, needs to be replaced.

POLICE FIND AN ALLIGATOR BEHIND A SOUTH DALLAS MIDDLE SCHOOL. The nearly 7-foot-long reptile was captured near Steam Middle School around 2 a.m. Wednesday morning. An officer, who was patrolling the area, stopped after spotting what he thought was a log. It’s possible the alligator came from one of the area’s nearby creeks.

THE BATHROOM SAGA CONTINUES. State Attorney General Ken Paxton may file a legal challenge to President Barack Obama’s directive that instructs schools to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms that match their gender identity. This could affect Fort Worth ISD’s newly established guidelines that would accommodate transgender students. Paxton has scheduled a 2 p.m. news conference in Austin.

STATE SCHOOL BOARD CANDIDATE WHO THINKS OBAMA IS A FORMER GAY PROSTITUTE LOSES. Thankfully, Mary Lou Bruner, a retired teacher who suggested Obama might have been a “gay prostitute” in his youth, lost the Republican nomination last night by more than 10,000 votes. Bruner drew national attention earlier this year for her Facebook commentary which included claims such as “Islam is not a religion” and that Noah’s ark carried baby dinosaurs. Lufkin school board President Keven Ellis won the nomination and will face Democratic candidate Amanda Rudolph in the fall.

DALLAS ZOO WELCOMES ELEPHANT CALF. The calf was born May 14 to one of the five Swaziland elephants that arrived in Dallas in March and is the first African elephant calf born in the United States in nearly two years. The 3-foot, 175-pound calf hasn’t been named yet but is bonding with his mother. In January, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service granted the zoo a permit allowing the zoo to bring over the elephants from Swaziland–a move that was contested by animal advocacy groups. It’ll be a few months before the public can meet the calf so–until then– this video will have to suffice.

Read More

Leading Off (5/13/16)

Dallas ISD to Cut Jobs. A proposed budget for 2016-2017 would eliminate about 260 positions to offset a $24 million drop in revenue (most of that reduction is due to a decrease in state revenue.) DISD is aiming to have a balanced budget of about $1.42 billion developed by the end of June. The plan would also give stipends to high-performing teachers who haven’t had their pay increased for the current school year. Most district hourly workers would meanwhile receive 2-percent raises.

DISD Expands Magnet School Enrollment. The school district has added 107 students to the popular programs at William B. Travis Academy, cutting its wait list in half. The plan is to increase the number of available slots at other campuses with similarly high demand as well. Meanwhile, district trustees are still considering the elimination of the controversial sibling rule, which gives preferential placement at magnets to kids who meet minimum admission standards just because they already have a brother or sister enrolled at the same school.

GOP Leaders Grandstand on Bathroom Debate. Because there’s no more pressing issue to deal with than deciding who can use which toilets? Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Greg Abbott appeared at the Republican Party of Texas Convention in Dallas on Thursday, and both decried what they perceive to be outrageous federal government overreach that dares to suggest that transgender people ought to be able to use the bathroom consistent with their own gender identities. The convention continues through Saturday, when Sen. Ted Cruz will deliver his first formal remarks since he suspended his presidential campaign.

Frisco Hospice Overmedicated Patients. According to a Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services report, Novus Health Services gave excessive doses of morphine and other drugs to those in its care. In addition, the FBI is investigating whether the company ordered nurses to end the lives of some. Novus says it treated patients properly and committed no violations.

House-Broken Bison For Sale. If you’re interested in purchasing Bullet, a 1,000-pound bison that routinely walks around inside the Schoeve family’s home in Argyle, the Craigslist ad is right here. She’ll cost you a little less than $6,000, and she won’t poop in your house.

Read More

All Clichés Are Bigger in Texas Award Nominee: Friday Night Lights Edition

Last weekend, voters in McKinney approved a bond that will fund a nearly $63 million high school football stadium, and national press outlets have taken note. At that price, it would be the most expensive in the country, supplanting the troubled Allen ISD ball yard.

Today’s nomination goes to a Forbes contributor, Maury Brown. He writes:

This all gets back to keeping up with the Jones’. McKinney may be the biggest Taj Mahal high school football stadium now, but only a fool would think that there isn’t already boosters from other areas trying to mount a charge to get theirs built. Everything is bigger in Texas… including stadium envy.

Pray this newfound trend doesn’t gain a foothold outside the state. Imagine what the response from the state that prides itself on saying, “don’t mess with Texas” might be.

Read More

Leading Off (5/11/16)

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick brings potty talk to Fort Worth schools. Patrick visited the FWISD Board of Education complex yesterday to call for superintendent Kent Scribner’s resignation. He says Scribner violated parents’ right to know what’s happening with their schoolchildren by implementing a policy that allows transgender students to use the bathroom and locker room of their choice. Patrick also said Scribner “is putting the privacy and rights of 78,000 or 79,000 students in the back seat for a few.” However, Scribner says he simply tweaked a 2011 policy and called Patrick a “bully.” Patrick didn’t have a solution for transgender students, but I’m thinking maybe there’s an extra empty naval base lying around Grand Prairie. Stick a few porta-potties on that. All good.

Local man’s son back in the Senate saddle. Ted Cruz returned to his Washington Senate office yesterday, receiving a tepid welcome back from colleagues.

Murdered Midlothian fitness instructor case weird enough for national tabloids. Flirtatious messages pointing toward infidelity, financial and marital problems, a solid chance the hammer-wielding killer caught on surveillance video might actually be a woman, and a mother-in-law who blames Camp Gladiator for taking her daughter-in-law’s life — People has all the strange details.

Watch the bovine go. Yesterday’s local news broadcasts brought us two loose livestock videos. A bull trotted through Arlington and Dalworthington Gardens with police in tow for nearly four hours before a rancher was able to wrangle him. This incident totally showed up the guy who said “only in Stephenville” after a calf booked it through town on Sunday.

Read More

Leading Off (4/29/16)

Cowboys Select Ezekiel Elliott. With the fourth pick in this year’s NFL draft, Dallas took the Ohio State running back. Reviews of the decision are mixed, with some suggesting they should have gone with Florida State cornerback Jalen Ramsey instead. The Cowboys also tried — and failed — to trade up to get another first-round pick with which to select Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch as Tony Romo’s heir.

Dallas ISD Votes to Buy New Headquarters. The $46.5 million purchase was approved by board trustees in the earliest hour of Friday morning. The building, at 9400 N. Central Expressway, will consolidate the district’s headquarters and 15 other offices in one place. DISD anticipates the change will produce tens of millions of dollars in savings by 2021. Trustees were divided on the matter, which got the go-ahead on a 5-3 vote. Trustees Bernadette Nutall, Joyce Foreman, and Lew Blackburn opposed the purchase, expressing concerns about how it’s being funded and about the district headquarters moving six miles north of its current relatively central location. Some employees could be relocated to what’s being called the Dallas ISD Education by the end of the year, with the entire moving process taking about four years.

Blackie Sherrod, RIP. Sherrod, who died of natural causes at age 96 on Thursday afternoon, is being remembered as “the greatest Texas sportswriter of his generation.”

Read More

The Oak Cliff DISD Trustee Race Has Turned Ugly

Early voting has begun for the May 7 joint elections, which feature many ISD races. As I wrote about in my May column in D Magazine, this is an especially crucial vote for Dallas ISD, with four seats up for grabs. I point out that, contrary to popular opinion, the school board has overcome status quo efforts to maintain the status quo, putting in place important reforms that will help poor kids throughout the district. (Which, in turn, will help the city at large.)

Since I wrote that column about six weeks ago, one race has become awash in nastiness. Which happens, right? It’s local politics.

Except this time, that nastiness includes not just political operatives but also City Council members. In fact, the council members have become political operatives in these ISD races in ways that make me very queasy, in part because the folks doing this include people I admire and consider friends. Which means this is not going to be fun. Let’s do a little FAQ to get you caught up:

Read More

Let’s Talk About How to Fix Dallas Schools

Next Tuesday evening here at D Magazine World Headquarters, we’re hosting a happy hour/panel discussion on education in North Texas: More specifically, the question of how schools can find, reward, and retain the best teachers. Eric Celeste will moderate a talk among Dallas ISD trustee Miguel Solis, Stacy Hodge of education advocacy nonprofit Stand For Children, and Todd Williams of overly-punctuated education nonprofit Commit!

If you’re interested in attending, mosey on over this way.

As for myself, I was too excited about the issues to wait all the way until next week. So I asked John Hill, who writes and podcasts about education in Dallas on his blog Turn and Talks, to have a little chat with me (via instant messages) to further whet my appetite. Hill is a former DISD teacher and is now teaching 10th-grade world history at his alma mater, Jesuit Dallas.

Read More