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Hope You Like Rain, Dallas

El Niño, climate conditions spurred on by warmer-than-normal temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, is likely to keep us rain-heavy for the next few months:

Rick Mitchell, a meteorologist at KXAS-TV (NBC5) said the southern jet stream has been active for some weeks now, and “will stay active, and active from California through the southern tier of the U.S., continuing to impact all of Texas and the southern third of the nation.”

Following the heavy rains in April and May, “I feel like El Niño has been fairly well-behaved,” Mitchell said.

“We felt there would be a relaxation of rain over the summer, but I don’t think anyone thought it would dry up the way it did,” he said. “And when the spigot turned on again, it really did, and I think that trend should continue through the rest of fall and into the winter.

On the plus side, the Texas drought is over, again:

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How We Can Still Save the Half-Built Trinity River Project

That photo above is a Google maps shot of a house that sits on the corner of Marlborough Ave. and Davis St. in Oak Cliff. It has more or less looked like that for the better part of five years. The house is the ultimate DIY project. As Rachel Stone reported in the Oak Cliff Advocate earlier this year, Ricardo Torres bought the house in 2008 and set about building his dream home. Torres is a crafty guy. He started from scratch with a plan for a two story home. Then he realized that if he added a third story, he could have a downtown view. You know what would also be cool? A game room. So he tacked on one of those, and the house grew like a drawing in a Dr. Seuss book.

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What Happened to Citizen Oversight of the Trinity River Project?

After reading late last week about Mayor Rawlings’ plan to make more plans for the city’s largest park (without the involvement of the Parks Department or the citizens of Dallas), I thought it was time to check in on the status of the Trinity Citizens’ Oversight Committee. As you may recall, the Trinity Dream Team’s leader, Larry Beasly, stated their proposal needed “public input and confirmation,” and that the design process “needs a conscience that is ‘of the people.'”

Their “suggestion (was) a carefully arranged monitoring of implementation, (then) and on an ongoing basis into the distant future, but an oversight panel of independent professional and citizen monitors who can make sure the concept does not get distorted through the detailed design process.” Peter Simek reported Beasly as stating that the multi-disciplinary team of experts should actually report to the citizens group. In that same piece, Council Member Lee Kleinman was quoted as stating his desire for more public input. The Dallas Chapter of the American Institute of Architects also publicly endorsed such an approach, stating they “strongly advocat(e) for an oversight body comprised of Dream Team members, local design organizations (including AIA Dallas) and private citizens to ensure that the vision of the Dream Team is faithfully reflected in the design and execution of a Great Trinity Park Parkway.”

So where do we stand on the formation of such an independent oversight body?

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Leading Off (9/10/15)

New and Improved LBJ Has Instruction Manual. Get ready for the new LBJ Freeway to be unveiled today. However, only parts of it are still free. There´s even an online instruction manual dedicated to answering all your inevitable questions. In short, part of LBJ is free, and the other part contains six toll lanes below. Prices can range from 10 cents per mile to 75 cents per mile depending on traffic. It will no doubt take drivers a few test runs to decipher the most efficient routes, but time will soon tell if the years of maddening construction were worth it.

Infant hit by car in north Oak cliff. Yesterday, a 4-month-old boy was left critically injured when a car hit him. He was with his 18-year-old mother in a parking lot by North Bishop Avenue. A friend who came to pick them up accidentally struck the boy with her car when she pressed the accelerator too hard and drove onto the sidewalk, where the boy was. He is now at Children´s Medical Center.

D/FW record rainfall thanks to hurricane linda. Yesterday´s rainfall exceeded the National Weather Service´s expectations when it grew to approximately 2 inches by the end of the day. The previous record was about 1 inch in 1913. This was the first real rainfall in weeks and even created flooding conditions for the first time since we needed an ark back in the spring. We have Hurricane Linda to thank for this break in the usual dry spell that is September. Still, Dallas is way ahead of our typical yearly rain rate with 38.83 inches of rain.

Railroad Commissioner Christi Craddick: Texas Now Leading U.S. Again in Some Oil and Gas Regs

Texas Railroad Commissioner Christi Craddick won’t talk yet about a preliminary report to the commission ruling out a link between earthquakes near Azle and a disposal well operated by XTO Energy—findings that contradicted an earlier study by scientists at SMU, which did find a connection. But during an appearance in Dallas yesterday, Craddick said the commission, which regulates the Texas oil and gas industry, is working with its recently hired staff seismologist to investigate seismic activity and to hold “conversations” with concerned communities.

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Leading Off (8/20/15)

New Parkland Hospital is Open Today. Bright and early at 6am, the Rees-Jones Trauma Center, Emergency Department, Urgent Care Emergency Department and Labor & Delivery services in the new Parkland Memorial Hospital opened at the new location, 5200 Harry Hines Blvd. Other sections of the new hospital, including intensive care units and a burn center, will gain operation over a three-day period. All inpatient services will be transferred by Saturday’s end. I, for one, would not wish to be a patient during this transition. Chaos. But the new 2.1 million-square-foot facility does look pretty.

Burn Bans Spread Across DFW like wildfire. Denton and Tarrant counties have already set up burn bans, and Dallas County will likely do so next Tuesday, which would be in effect for 90 days. Funny how the burn bans are coming on the heels of yesterday’s rain, the first since July 8. And to think, not long ago we were all hoping the downpours would desist.

Cannabis-based Smoothies Coming to a Suburb Near You. I mean, Frisco. Who would have thought? As it turns out, the AmeriCanna Cafe, a cannabis-based smoothie shop, is indeed set to open in Frisco within the year. If the hair starts to stand up on the back of your neck while reading this, don’t worry. It’s perfectly legal. Apparently, the ingredients are derived from hemp seeds, while are allowed for consumption in the U.S. Smoothies will have at most only negligible traces of THC, so you will not need to worry about failing a drug test (at least not because of this smoothie).

D/FW Airport’s ‘Welcome Mat’ for Uber and Lyft

The recent news that Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport is finally going to stop prohibiting arriving passengers from using Uber & Lyft was greeted with great fanfare by long-suffering victims of the taxicab cartel. As promised by D/FW Airport CEO Sean Donohue earlier this year, the new procedure was going to be simple: “1. book your ride; 2. take your ride.” As long as the driver held a sticker issued by either Dallas or Fort Worth (the two cities that own and theoretically control the $7.5 billion nation-state), he or she would be good to go.

Although I hoped it was really this simple, knowing the time-honored North Texas tradition of protecting incumbent transportation monopolists (Exhibit A: Wright Amendment, Exhibit B: City of Dallas’ vice cops issuing questionable citations to Uber drivers, Exhibit C: City Manager A.C. Gonzalez’ secret effort to kill Uber, Exhibit D: City of Dallas attempting to kick Delta out of Love Field), I was a bit skeptical.

Sure enough, a closer look reveals the “new procedure” is anything but simple.

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Leading Off (8/7/15)

Heat Wave. The official high temperature at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport reached 102 on Thursday, and the forecast calls for nothing but triple digits ahead. It’s so hot that water mains broke in North Oak Cliff, as ground deprived of moisture shifted and ruptured the pipes. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which oversees the state’s power grid, projects that we could set another all-time peak demand record during the next few days, after having just set records on both Wednesday and again Thursday that topped the god-awful summer of 2011.

Arlington Cops Kill Burglar. The man reportedly drove his Jeep into the showroom of a car dealership at about 1 a.m. today. When officers arrived on the scene, there was an altercation, and the suspect was shot.

Police Issue Alert For Missing Man and Son. Vincent Jackson, 26, and his 6-year-old son Vincent Jr. haven’t been seen since leaving their Southeast Dallas home nearly two weeks ago.

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Leading Off (7/24/15)

We Still Haven’t Officially Hit 100 Degrees. Plenty of local weather stations have registered a triple-digit temperature in 2015, but where the records for all of North Texas are decided — near Runway 17C at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport — 99 is as high as it’s gotten this year. That’s unusual for these parts and could change today.

Lawyers Criticize Addison Police. Luz Granados-Reyes was arrested Monday after paramedics found her in a bathroom at the Hotel InterContinental, where she works as a maid, sitting on a toilet in which her newborn child (still attached to her via umbilical cord, as she’d just given birth) was submerged in the water. After the medical examiner’s report was made, the capital murder charges were dropped. Local defense attorneys who reviewed the arrest affidavit claim the police lacked cause for the arrest in the first place.

NAACP Comes to Defense of Grand Prairie Worker. Demoyas Baker was arrested for allegedly showing two teenage boys surveillance video of two 12-year-old boys engaging in a sex act at Dalworth Recreational Center. The civil rights organization is arguing that Baker, who is a black man, is being unfairly punished while a white co-worker is not being held accountable for his involvement in the same incident.

Richland High Debates Mascot Name. They’re the Rebels. The Birdville ISD school also has “Johnny Reb” and “Dixie Belle” student groups, in apparent celebration of the Civil War-era South. Some say it’s time to move on from such icons.

Poll: What Is Dallas’ Biggest Problem Right Now?

This morning’s “Leading Off” was a bit of a buzzkill, what with its news of air polluted by fracking, a rise in violent crime, and the arrival of true Texas summer heat, not to mention a tirade against Craig Holcomb. Take this along with Peter’s post yesterday about potholes, and this city just about seems on the edge of collapse.

Anyway, which issue most urgently needs to be addressed?

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Leading Off (7/14/2015)

The Barnett Shale is Off-Gassing More Greenhouse Gasses Than Previous Thought: The EPA botched its initial estimates, and as it turns out, fracking in the Barnett Shale is responsible for 64 percent of all methane in our local atmosphere. The good news: most of those emissions are the result of human errors and mechanical failures.

Let’s Put Those Increased Violent Crime Numbers in Perspective: The Dallas Morning News breaks down the much-reported 10 percent increase in violent crime. The takeaway? Glass half-full, glass half-empty. You could argue the increase reflects a return to a historical norm. And if violent crime continues at pace through the end of the year, murders will be at the same level they were 2013 and 2012, while aggravated assaults would only see a 0.4 percent increase over last year.

When Will We Finally Run Craig Holcomb Out of Town? Read Eric Nicholson’s look into the laughable bike share program in Fair Park. I mean, it couldn’t be more stupidly designed, so it will come as no surprise that the usage numbers are equally laughable. But here’s the important bit: when Nicholson tried to get the usage numbers through an open records request, he was stonewalled by the Friends of Fair Park, which operates the program. That decision to not to release the bike share numbers was then upheld in a ruling by the Texas AG.

I mean, seriously? Bike share numbers? We’re keeping those under lock-and-key? Why? Because Friends of Fair Park – which is run by Craig Holcomb, who also heads the Trinity Commons Foundation – doesn’t want more mud on his face for a program that anyone who has any idea about anything looks at for two seconds and thinks, “Good God, that is the sorriest excuse for a bike share program I have ever seen in my entire life.” I mean, seriously? How long are we going to let Holcomb meddle in the city’s business? How long are we going to let him lord over his two little fiefdoms, which happen to involve two of Dallas’ greatest civic assets – Dallas and Fair Park – both of which have languished for decades under the weight of curiously stupid ideas? For the love of all things good, Criag Holcomb, will you please just drift off into a quiet retirement and leave Dallas alone? Please. Thank you for your service. Now go away.

New Designer Drug in Town: It’s called Flakka, and it doesn’t sound like too much fun. Effects include “murderous rage, paranoia, ultra-violence, and running around screaming.” Or basically what it feels like to read about Craig Holcomb’s meddling in Dallas affairs.

It’s Finally Texas Hot: After cool temps and so much rain, we can’t really complain about DFW finally flirting with 100 degrees (heat index popped up to 109 in some places yesterday). Well, unless the AC goes out in your entire apartment complex. Then you can complain.

Leading Off (6/19/15)

Lake Grapevine Flooding May Force Evacuations. Leaders in Grapevine, Flower Mound, and Coppell have warned some residents they may need to leave their homes as the overflowing lake is expected to crest at more than 563 feet tonight. Part of FM 2499 was shut down yesterday as water had spilled over into Denton Creek, which rose to cover portions of the road near Grapevine Mills Mall.

TCU Advances in College World Series. The Horned Frogs topped LSU for the second time, by a score of 8-4, on Thursday. But they’ll have to beat defending champ Vanderbilt — a team they lost to earlier in the double-elimination tournament — twice to advance to the best-of-3 finals. They play tonight at 7 p.m. in Omaha.

Lake Dallas Ousts Muckraking Councilwoman. Some shady goings-on in the small town north of Lewisville Lake this week. Julie Matthews had won election to the Lake Dallas City Council with 69 percent of the vote and only took her seat on June 11. Previously she’d operated a Facebook page on which she’d posted documents about Mayor Anthony Marino’s firing from Lewisville ISD for having been involved in the harassment of a gay student, images of him using city dumpsters to get rid of his own commercial waste, and a video of him drunkenly wielding a weapon at a banquet. Matthews had also complained that Nick Ristagno is in violation of state law by serving as both the city manager and police chief. So, based on what sounds like transparently thin charges, Marino and the three other members of the council voted to remove Matthews from her position.

Tennell Atkins Guilty of Assault. The soon-to-be former Dallas city councilman must pay a $166 fine for what he did to a city employee who wouldn’t let him into City Hall through a secured door last December.

Former UNT-Dallas President Owes Child Support. John Ellis Price quit as the head of the school in summer 2013 after reports of inappropriate relationships with employees. But he had still been teaching accounting classes at the school — at a salary of $191,000 a year — since then. On Thursday he resigned from that post as well, following news of a lawsuit against him by a 33-year-old former UNT student. Price is 63 and the father of a son the woman gave birth to in 2008.

Don’t Go to Oklahoma City. Maybe good advice at any time <rimshot>, but especially today as a 4-mile stretch of northbound Interstate 35 between Ardmore and Davis in Oklahoma has been shut down while officials try to figure out what to do about boulders that collapsed off a hillside onto the highway following the heavy rains of Tropical Storm Bill.

Rangers Lose on Balk-Off. Is the balk the lamest rule in sports? Discuss.

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Why Central Expressway Doesn’t Flood During Torrential Rain

Here’s a little Dallas infrastructure secret that we missed in our Hidden Dallas edition: the Cole Park Storm Water Detention Vault. It’s an un-sexy name for an un-sexy facility that performs a rather un-sexy function. And yet, there’s something evocative and mysterious about watching this video (below) of a Dallas city worker descending in a steel grid-ed elevator into unknown cavernous depths beneath Uptown. The video follows the man into chambers that were carved out 100 feet beneath Uptown in the early-1990s during the construction of the new Central Expressway.

The statistics on the vault are staggering: the 13 chambers with 40-foot ceilings stretch a length of two football fields with the capacity of holding upwards of 71 million gallons of water. In the instance of massive rainfall, these vast basins collect rainwater that would otherwise overwhelm Central Expressway’s storm drainage system and flood the highway.

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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.

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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