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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.

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Questions About Jill Jordan’s Bewildering ‘Trinity Lakes’ Briefing

On Friday afternoon, a Facebook post by Robert “Fingers of Fury” Wilonsky captured my attention. Said Wilonsky: “If you read one Dallas City Council briefing all weekend, make it this one: the surreal Trinity Lakes Amenities Design Plan.” How could I resist? To the extent I had any lingering doubts, he helpfully provided two illustrations: one of an alarming number of people crowded under a freeway overpass, evidently engaging in some sort of hyper merry-making; and another of a small tree-lined four-lane boulevard. Hmm … I had the sense this would prove enlightening.

Assistant City Manager Jill Jordan’s cover memo to the briefing document helpfully closed with the statement “Please feel free to contact me if you need additional information.” After reading through the 99-page attachment, I actually had quite a few questions, so I prepared to contact her. Upon closer reading, however, I noticed that: 1) she didn’t provide her contact details; and 2) even if she had done so, the memo was addressed exclusively to “The Honorable Members of the Transportation and Trinity River Project Committee,” and I’m not a member.

Therefore, lacking such access, I am posting my questions here, in the hopes that they might reach Ms. Jordan and Judge Vonciel Jones Hill (the Committee chair) prior to the meeting:

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Yes, We Are Still in the Midst of a Drought, and It Is Still Exceptional

Gosh, we had all that rain last night. The storms last week. So we should be doing a lot better with the wet stuff, right? Not so fast. The Texas Water Development Board releases a drought report every week. The new one is just out. It says:

For the first time since late 2010, less than half the state is under drought conditions. We saw improvements in south Texas and the southern High Plains over the past week, but drought worsened in North Texas. One patch of exceptional drought includes Dallas, Fort Worth, Weatherford, and Mineral Wells, and another patch includes the Wichita Falls area.

So let’s continue to conserve, people. Which is totally different than if I’d written “let’s continue to conserve people,” which is what I almost did. The comma makes a big difference. Because if we wasted some people, we’d actually do better with conserving water. Anyway, I got distracted a bit there. So: water. Let’s watch it.

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Leading Off (8/1/14)

City and Klyde Warren Park Talk of Closing Olive. And they didn’t tell their neighbors yet. They swear they were going to. Why wasn’t that stretch of the street closed when they built the park?

Fort Worth Doctor With Ebola Returns to the U.S. Kent Brantly was in West Africa offering humanitarian aid when he contracted the deadly virus. CNN has used the pandemic as an opportunity to scare the bejesus out of its viewers by pointing out that Ebola is “only a plane ride away.”

Immigrant Kids Won’t be Housed in Dallas County. County Judge Clay Jenkins announced as much after the federal government said that the tide of refugee children from Central America has slowed significantly.

Dallas ISD Won’t Tell Investigator Why He’s Being Investigated. Jeremy Liebbe was placed on paid leave and escorted from his office two weeks ago, but his lawyer says he still doesn’t know why. Sources told the Morning News it’s because of the way he went about conducting an investigation of his own supervisor.

Toddler Falls Over Railing at the AAC. The 2-year-old was watching the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus with her family when she tumbled from the 200 level to the Plaza level below. She was hospitalized in critical condition.

Another Day With a High in the 80s. Yes, you still live in North Texas.

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Big Fire Near Trinity Forest Continues To Burn

On Wednesday, a large fire consumed a good portion of the land near Big Spring, not far from where the new horse park and golf course will be built near the Trinity Forest. According to the Save Pemberton’s Big Spring Facebook page, nine fire trucks were called to the scene — and the fire has sparked up again today. Speculation is that it was arson. You’ll find some pictures of the damage on that page, too.

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Why Is the Air We Breathe Getting Worse?

The Texas Tribune yesterday published a story that you should read — but only if you live in North Texas and if you breathe air. It only matters to that group of people. Here’s the top-line summary: though we are still way above where the federal government wants us on ozone, for years our levels had been dropping. In 2008, as you can see from the above chart generated from research done at UNT, that trend reversed itself. And the rise in ozone levels has accelerated fastest in parts of North Texas where the most drilling is done. It’s an important story. It’s not that long. Please read it — again, though, only if you live here and breathe air.

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Dallas Weather Forecast: DUCK!

Nothing much happening in downtown Dallas right now, except for a bunch of clouds. But — holy hell — up north in Denton and Cooke counties today’s heavy rains have already arrived and it sounds like chaos, with highways shut down and roads flooded.

WFAA says we’re going to several rounds of rain through tomorrow. So a downpour is coming your way later today, if it hasn’t reached you already.

Be careful out there.

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Dallas Confirms Season’s First Positive West Nile Test

Not in a person — in a mosquito pool near the 6600 block of Brookshire Drive in North Dallas. The city is planning to spray insecticide tonight and tomorrow between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. in the area bounded by Azalea Lane on the north, Tulane Boulevard on the west, Airline Road on the east, and Walnut Hill Lane on the south. From the city’s release:

While the insecticide is approved by the Environmental Protection Agency for treatment, residents in the above areas should avoid contact with the spray by staying indoors. Persons inside a vehicle while trucks are actively spraying should remain in their vehicles with the windows up and the air conditioner on until the trucks pass and the spray is no longer visible. Persons out during the scheduled spraying time should be alert for trucks and should not follow them. Residents who come in contact with the spray are advised to wash the affected area thoroughly with soap and water. The spray breaks down quickly in the presence of sunlight and has no residual effect.

Zac’s mosquito source could not be reached for comment.

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Leading Off (6/6/14)

Tests Prove Fracking Contaminated Parker County Water. The Texas Railroad Commission’s findings earlier this year concluded that the amount of methane in one man’s well was under the federally allowed limit, but a UT-Arlington scientist ran his own test and found the methane levels dangerously high. Not only that, but the evidence indicates the methane almost certainly came from gas in the Barnett Shale. The Railroad Commission stands by its report.

Synthetic Marijuana Bust Involves Ridglea Theater. The feds have busted the owners of the Gas Pipe chain of head shops for the manufacture and distribution of K2, or “spice.” DEA agents seized cars, a house, businesses, and nearly $3 million in the operation. Caught up in the mess is the historic Fort Worth theater, which documents claim was purchased with money from the sale of the illegal substance.

County Vows to Take Guns From Domestic Abusers. On the Sunday the Morning News reported on how officials haven’t been enforcing state and federal laws that should keep guns out of the hands of those convicted of domestic abuse or subjects of protective orders. On Thursday, officials vowed to institute ways to impose the law as they should. Score one for the fourth estate.

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I Paddled the Trinity River Rapids and Lived To Tell This Story

You are hereby invited to read a story, if you haven’t already, that I wrote for the June issue. The online headline is the SEO’ed (I guess) “How I Survived the Trinity Rapids,” but the print version headline, which I prefer, is “Here Be Dragons.” In ye olden tymes, that’s what mapmakers would write when they didn’t know the lay of the land (or ocean). Those were parts unknown. Places to be feared. That’s how I read Jim Schutze’s reporting on the Dallas Wave.

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Catch Laray Polk at CentralTrak on Thursday

You might recall Laray Polk’s name from the 2010 story she wrote for us about Harold Simmons and he stood to make millions by storing nuclear waste in questionable way. It was titled “Harold Simmons Is Dallas’ Most Evil Genius.” Well, Laray co-authored a book last year with Noam Chomsky (yes, that Noam Chomsky) called Nuclear War and Environmental Catastrophe. She’ll talk about the book Thursday at CentralTrak. Here’s how the evening is billed:

Topics in the book will be explored in relation to Texas as it has over time become a dumping ground for the country’s radioactive waste. The state has also become a convergent point for environmental activism over the controversial proposed Keystone XL pipeline. The discussion will include images of West Texas’ “Nuclear Alley” and acts of recent nonviolent protest in East Texas, followed by a Q&A.

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Leading Off (5/9/14)

Dallas Cowboys Pass on Johnny Manziel. The former Texas A&M quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner was still available when the team made its first-round pick — No. 16 overall. But despite the marketing bonanza that could’ve come from pairing Manziel with Jerry Jones in a Papa John’s commercial, the Cowboys selected Zack Martin, an offensive lineman out of Notre Dame. Johnny Football is taking his talents to Cleveland.

City to Award Love Field Gates to Virgin. According to WFAA’s sources, an announcement will be made today. City Manager A.C. Gonzalez made the call, which comes as no surprise, given the Justice Department’s stance on which carrier should get the gates the American Airlines is being forced to divest in order to have its merger with U.S. Airways approved.

Storms Flooded Streets, Downed Trees, Cut Power. Late Thursday, thousands of homes were still waiting for electricity to be restored. Though some places saw several inches of rain, officially (at D/FW Airport) the area got only a half-inch, leaving us still 8 inches below normal for precipitation this year.

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