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Leading Off (5/22/15)

Denton to Be Fracked Over. The day after Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill severely limiting local regulations of oil and natural gas drilling, Vantage Energy notified the city that it would resume its well operations. Denton made national headlines after banning hydraulic fracturing with a vote last November, but the new law undoes that.

It’s West Nile Virus Season. Batches of mosquitoes in Mesquite and Frisco have tested positive for local newscasts’ favorite bogeyman disease. I’m hoping Zac has already put in a call to his inside source on the insects’ summer plans. Developing.

Attempt to Kill Bullet Train Project Fails. A Texas Senate committee voted against a proposal to prohibit the use of state funds to support the effort to build a high-speed rail line between Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth.

Texas Legislature Legislates. Lawmakers in Austin have reached a deal to cut property and business taxes, instituted new regulations on the chemicals that caused the West explosion, and protected religious leaders and institutions from a problem that hasn’t been shown to actually exist.

Jordan Spieth Still Good at Golf. The Dallas PGA Tour pro, who won the Masters tournament earlier this year, sits tied with three others at the top of the leaderboard after the first round of the Colonial tournament in Fort Worth.

Wet Weekend Coming. North Texas has already received more rain so far this year than we got in all of 2014. And more and more is on the way.

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Should We Really Be Trying to Build a Park in the Trinity?

I was out of town last week so I missed much of the rainfall that has now transformed the Trinity River flood plain into a broad, fast-flowing, messy river. It’s a lovely sight: passing over the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge on the way into the office and seeing water running from bank to bank underneath the series of bridges that for too much of the year look like exaggerated spans traversing a tiny creek.

There’s something beautiful but also terrifying about the swollen Trinity. Its snarling, brown waters smother trees up to their spindly tops. The floodwaters push out against the long ridges that funnel water past the city. A hundred or so years ago, that water would be lapping up against downtown buildings and sweeping away the foundations of homes.

These occasional floods are good for the city. We certainly need the rain. But perhaps as important is the reminder they offer that Dallas exists within a particular natural environment, and that nature isn’t always friendly.

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Poll: Are Schools Too Quick to Call a Snow Day?

When I was a kid, I don’t think school ever got called off a day in advance due to the weather. We always had to wake up as early as usual to find out if we were among the lucky districts to get time off.

Maybe I’m misremembering, but it seems to be a phenomenon of the past several years to have shutdowns declared before a storm has even arrived. I’m probably misremembering. But what do you think?

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A Little History for the Dallas Citizens Council and Alice Murray

Alice Murray, president of the Dallas Citizens Council, recently wrote a piece in support of the Trinity toll road. Peter did a pretty thorough job destroying her weak arguments. One point that Murray tried to make was this: DFW Airport, DART, Victory Park, and Klyde Warren Park were all big public improvement projects that wise leaders supported and naysayers fought. Never mind that DART is one of the worst performing public transit systems in the country and Victory Park was a huge financial failure. Murray’s point is that wise leaders, like the sort who belong to the Dallas Citizens Council, will carry the day.

This got artist, author, environmentalist, and sometime D Magazine contributor Laray Polk thinking. Because she remembers that in the early 1970s, the Dallas Citizens Council supported turning the Trinity River into a navigable canal that would bring ships from the Gulf to the port of Dallas. Oh, and James Hoffa’s people were part of the deal. Laray reminds us:

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Parks Director on Accidental Destruction of 170-Year-Old Tree: ‘No Excuses. I Feel Terrible.’

Zac mentioned yesterday that he found it odd that at a meeting of the Texas Trees Foundation, the director of Dallas’ Park and Recreation Department, Willis Winters, said a few words but didn’t address the controversy over the recent accidental destruction of a 170-year-old state champion black willow at White Rock Lake. I got Winters on the phone late yesterday to talk about the poor tree and how the accident happened. I confess that when I received the news release from the city, I was outraged — though I promise I was (mostly) kidding when I suggested that the guy who cut down the tree should be disemboweled, in accordance with an ancient German law. After talking to Winters, my white-hot rage has subsided, becoming something a lot less Teutonic.

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SMU Earthquake Researchers Find Fault From Irving to West Dallas

This morning seismologists at SMU have released an interim report on their findings from installing 20 portable earthquake monitors around the sites of the Dallas area’s recent slew of tremors, which United States Geological Survey data previously indicated were centered around the former site of Texas Stadium.

But it appears we can’t blame Jerry Jones’ secret underground lair after all. The more precise data collected by the SMU team shows that the quakes have actually been concentrated along a two-mile line that indicates a fault from Irving to West Dallas:

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Dallas City Contractor Accidentally Destroys 170-Year-Old Tree

You can read the full release from the city, below. But here’s what happened: there stood a 170-year-old black willow tree at Stone Tables in White Rock Lake Park. On Monday, city staff learned that a contractor cut the tree down and ground its stump to nothingness. The tree was one of four champion trees on the state registry that stood in the Dallas parks system. According to the release: “The City intends to seek remediation from the contractor, and to prevent this type of occurrence from happening in the future.” The Germans had a law for dealing with people who killed trees:

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Ask John Neely Bryan: What’s Causing the Dallas Earthquakes?

Question: As the oldest known resident of our little village, and witness to over a century and a half of history, can you offer any explanation for the earthquakes at what we know as the old Texas Stadium plot? Can you clarify the rumor that an old Indian burial ground has been disturbed? What the hell happened there? And why now are the spirits angry? Or is there another explanation for the earth rattling that we might understand with your ancient wisdom? — John B.

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Yet Another Earthquake in Irving (UPDATE: Actually, Dallas)

The United States Geological Survey reports a magnitude 2.7 earthquake was centered around Irving at 9:36 a.m. this morning.

You know what questions I have about this.

UPDATE: Zoomed in on the epicenter on the USGS map and it’s actually near the intersection of Northwest Highway, Interstate 35E, and Loop 12, which is within Dallas limits. So it would appear we’ve got our fair share of sinners in the big city too.

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Poll: Can Texas Cities Ban Fracking?

Denton’s ban on hydraulic fracturing, the first such measure in the state, goes into effect today. A legal battle challenging it is already under way, even as other Texas cities are looking to follow suit. It’s a fight over the rights of property and mineral rights owners vs. public health concerns about the potential environmental damage caused by natural gas drilling operations.

So whose rights matter more?

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