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Making Dallas Even Better

A Dispatch From the D Magazine Sweat Lodge

When we got to work this morning at D Magazine world headquarters, in beautiful downtown Dallas, we learned the AC is out in our building, St. Paul Place. The editorial crew all sits on the east side of the office. That would be the side of the building that is currently under assault from the sun. I’m guessing, but it’s probably 87 degrees at my desk, which sits right by a window.

To survive, many of us have moved our computers into our lobby, which is on the west side of the building. We are sitting at the table you see here, elbow to elbow. We aren’t exactly sweating. But we are all sticky. At least I am sticky. I haven’t taken a survey. Zac (far left in the pic) is on edge. I made an innocuous comment earlier about the movie London Has Fallen, and he threw a coffee mug at me. Then the Spirit Father came to see me, and I sprouted wings, and I flew with him high above our hunting grounds, admiring the herds of buffalo that have sustained our people for generations. Do you hear that noise, my brother?

I am now naked save for my loincloth. I am lashing myself with the sage branch. An intern is pouring water on the stones that still glow red from the fire, and the steam is cleansing my MacBook Air. We are working on the August issue. It will be an inspired document, if not error free.

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Leading Off (6/18/16)

Donald Trump RallY at Gilley’s. Following a fundraiser at the Highland Hotel, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee spoke before a crowd of a few thousand downtown. Hundreds protested nearby, while a much smaller crowd gathered outside the Highland earlier in the day. Trump told his acolytes: “We have to stop people with hate in their heart from coming into our country.” Meaning he was calling for himself to be banned from entry into the United States? Unusual move. What a maverick. Just the sort to shake things up in Washington.

It’s Hot, and Heat Can Kill. North Texas is under a heat advisory — with expected high temperatures in the high 90s and a heat index of between 105 and 108 — through Saturday. On Thursday, Dallas County confirmed the county’s first heat-related death of the year.

Colby Lewis Takes No-Hitter to Ninth. The Texas Rangers pitcher lost his bid for a perfect game with no outs in the eighth inning but still hadn’t allowed a hit to the Oakland Athletics when Max Muncy came to bat to lead off the final frame. Muncy hit a ball to right field that the Rangers’ Nomar Mazara barely missed before it dropped in to break up the no-hitter. Lewis finished the 5-1 win having allowed two hits.

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What Do You Think of the New Plan for the Trinity River?

A few weeks ago, the mayor hosted an event that unveiled a new, $250 million vision for the Trinity River Project. Before offering some reservations, Mark Lamster practically swooned over the initial designs, which, on the surface, seem to internalize some of the criticisms of previous incarnations of the plan. Like Lamster, when I looked at the latest Trinity River Project watercolors, I recognized what looks like a gesture towards compromise. The floodplain is depicted as a more dynamic, natural setting, designed to participate in — and not resist — the regular flooding events that are the heartbeat of the ecology of the river.

Now a website has been set up by the two nonprofits that have long been pushing forward the Trinity River Project, The Trinity Trust and the Trinity Commons Foundation. Reading the brief description of the new park on that site, I found the kind of language that should surround any attempt at re-imagining the Trinity River. I also saw some questionable assertions.

First, here’s the good:

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Leading Off (5/20/16)

Arlington to Build New Rangers Stadium. At 22 years old, Globe Life Park is already the 11th-oldest stadium in Major League Baseball, and it appears it may not survive to celebrate its 30th birthday. The city of Arlington and the Texas Rangers have reportedly agreed to go halfsies on a new $900 million ballyard with a retractable roof. The deal is expected to be officially announced at a press conference this afternoon. The new digs could open even before the team’s current lease expires in 2023. Arlington taxpayers would have to approve dedicating tax funds to the project, a possibility that only exists because the city anticipates paying off its debt the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium early, as soon as 2021. Guess downtown Dallas missed its chance to lure Major League Baseball east.

Missing Woman’s Body May Have Been Found. Richardson Police have confirmed that they’ve discovered a body in a field off State Highway 78 near Farmersville while investigating the disappearance and alleged murder of 27-year-old Jessie Bardwell. Bardwell’s boyfriend, Jason Lowe, has already been arrested and charged with her murder. The county medical examiner is working to identify the remains.

People Who Bought Homes Near a Landfill Surprised to Smell Garbage. One resident of the River Glen neighborhood of Carrollton describes the odor wafting into her home from nearby DFW Landfill as “rotten eggs mixed with stale milk.” Residents have asked the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to investigate. A spokesman for the city of Lewisville, where the dump is located, said recent rains have stirred up the scents. “We noticed it in the past only if we stepped outside,” said one resident whose real estate investment choices I find confounding.

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Study: DFW Airport Quakes, Most Texas Quakes Caused by Humans

just-released University of Texas/SMU study has found that humans (specifically oil and gas industry activity) have been causing earthquakes in Texas since at least the 1920s. Some of this seismic activity is associated with the injection of fluids (usually wastewater) into the ground, while others involved oil and gas or fluid extraction. Say the scientists:

Altogether, for the 162 Texas earthquakes having magnitudes of 3 or greater and occurring between 1975 and 2015, we categorize 42 (26%) as almost certainly induced, 53 (33%) as probably induced, 45 (28%) as possibly induced, and the remaining 21 (13%) as tectonic

The study notes that analysis of the string of quakes centered near the old Texas Stadium site in Irving is not yet complete, but it does devote a section to discussing seismic activity at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport between 2008 and 2013:

We and others conclude that the DFW airport earthquakes were induced because of the absence of historical seismicity prior to injection, the proximity of the injection well to a known mapped fault, the onset of activity only six weeks after injection commenced in 2008, and the earthquake depths at and below the depth of injection.

What do the government regulators charged with monitoring the oil and gas industry have to say about these findings? A Railroad Commission spokesperson told the Morning News the study’s methods — admittedly based on somewhat subjective questions and drawing correlations from the data — are arbitrary.

God bless Texas.

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Ben Sandifer Fights To Protect Dallas’ Nature So That You Don’t Have To

Robert Wilonsky has a great story in today’s paper that you should take the time to read. It’s about a private citizen named Ben Sandifer who is dealing with the city’s shit — literally. In this case, a city worker drove a massive excavator onto sensitive parkland so that he could take a dump. The excavator got stuck in the mud, and a front-end loader had to go in after it to pull it out. A whole bunch of Norbuck Park, off Buckner Boulevard, got torn up in the process. Sandifer saw it happen. He took video. He asked questions. If it weren’t for him, people who use the park would have wondered why it had been torn up, and the crappy city worker would never have been held accountable. (A city official told Wilonsky Wednesday that he wasn’t sure if the city employee would be punished, which is difficult to understand. Here’s how it should be handled. Supervisor: “Did you drive your excavator into a park so that you could take a shit?” Worker: “Yes.” Supervisor: “You’re fired.”)

Anyway, that’s all a preamble for what I really want to tell you. Hopefully you know about Big Spring and the effort to give it a historic designation. The Dallas City Council is scheduled to vote on the matter April 27.

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Leading Off (4/12/16)

U.S. requests extradition for Brenda Delgado. Now that 33-year-old Brenda Delgado, the woman accused of plotting the murder of the dentist who was dating her ex-boyfriend, has been arrested in Mexico, the U.S. wants her back on American soil to face her charges of capital murder and unlawful flight. If Delgado doesn’t appeal this, it could only be two or three months before she is extradited.

Tent city to be closed by May 4. Last week, the Tent City situation seemed more uncertain, but now the homeless encampment near downtown is set to be closed by May 4. Residents who refuse to move to a shelter or other housing by then will be arrested. Dallas city officials have divided Tent City into five parts, and the first two will be closed next week. After these two have been closed, officials will decide when to close the others.

Mavs secure playoff spot. The Mavs’ 101-92 victory against the Utah Jazz last night put them in the NBA playoffs. Now Dirk and the Mavs can’t finish any lower than seventh in the Western Conference, but I’m always stubbornly hopeful for a 2011 repeat.

Softball-sized hail hits North Texas yesterday. Hail measuring 4.5 inches landed across North Texas yesterday. Wylie was one of the areas to be hardest hit; Wylie ISD cancelled all classes for today due to storm damage. Hopefully these spring storms are on their way out. Good riddance.

Dallas-Fort Worth Earthquake Risk Has Increased 10-Fold

Now that we’ve gotten the fear-inducing headline out of the way, let’s dial things back by noting that even though the United States Geological Survey says that the risk of earthquake damage in North Texas is 10 times greater than it was in 2014, that risk remains only between 2 and 5 percent.

Which, true enough, is the same risk people is some parts of California are facing, according the forecast the USGS has released. But thank your stars that you don’t live in Oklahoma:

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Q&A With an Entomologist: Attack of the Mosquito Hawks!

They are everywhere in North Texas. Are they here to suck your blood? Do they mean us harm? What’s the deal with mosquito hawks? I called an entomologist to find out. Mike Merchant is a professor and extension urban entomologist with Texas A&M. He lives here. He knows a thing or two about bugs, and he runs a bug blog that you might enjoy. Here’s the deal:

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Leading Off (3/11/16)

Elephants Arrive in Dallas. Just 17 pachyderms will be coming to America from Swaziland. Dallas Zoo officials revealed that one of the original 18 died in December of an acute gastrointestinal condition. The death means that only five of the animals, which got to North Texas a little after midnight this morning, will stay in Dallas while the others are headed to Omaha, Nebraska, or Wichita, Kansas.

Trinity East Dispute in Court Today. Lawyers for Dallas will argue that the lawsuit filed by the energy company should be tossed because the city has immunity from the suit. For its part, Trinity East charges the city with breach of contract, negligent misrepresentation, and fraud in denying the company access to land near the Elm Fork Golf Course for which it had hoped to obtain gas leases.

Captain America Robs Beauty Store. Plano Police say a man in a superhero sweatshirt — and his partner in an unimaginative black hoodie — may be connected to the burglaries of several ULTA cosmetics stores in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Dallas Police to Investigate Racist Facebook Post. Lt. Thomas Glover said the Black Police Association asked the DPD  to investigate after at least two officers made comments indicating their support of the posting of a picture reportedly snapped at an office party in Russia.

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Leading Off (3/10/16)

Plano lawyer to take on Sandbranch case pro bono. Sandbranch is a tiny community in far southern Dallas County, and its residents don’t have clean water. They haven’t for many years. Plano oil lawyer Mark McPherson wants to change that, and he’s taking this case on for free. McPherson learned about Sandbranch’s plight when he was part of a team that delivered water coolers there recently. His goal is to “provide a reliable and safe water supply for the Sandbranch community.”

East Oak cliff death being investigated as homicide. A 62-year-old man, Allen Davis, was found dead on Tuesday in east Oak Cliff in the property where he lived, near Beckley-Saner Park. This follows another possible homicide that occurred recently in the same area. Both investigations are pending.

More violence at Tent City. The large homeless encampment near downtown, known as Tent City, saw yet another violent incident Tuesday night. Nikkie Perkins and Anthony Pierre were accused of assaulting three people whom they thought stole belongings from their tent. Apparently Pierre was armed with a hatchet. There was a fatal stabbing at Tent City last month, as well as another murder in January. Plans for the city to shut it down are underway, with a goal of May 4.

Attempted robbery in old east dallas. Raymond Jimenez was walking his dog in Old East Dallas when two men in a Jeep attempted to steal his cell phone. Jimenez didn’t let go of the phone, but the men eventually did. Aside from a few scrapes and bruises from being dragged, Jimenez, his phone, and his dog are fine.

Cowboys’ Brandon Carr Gives $100,000 to Flint

Says the Guardian, the Dallas Cowboys cornerback is making the donation to his hometown of Flint, Michigan, in response to the ongoing water crisis there:

The Community Foundation of Greater Flint says Carr is donating $100,000 to create the Carr Cares Fund for Flint. He’s also donating $10,000 to help with replacing pipes and plumbing. The water crisis has been linked to a wide variety of health problems after the city started drawing its water from a local river to cut costs. Many residents now bathe, cook and drink with bottled water straining household budgets in a town that has already been hit hard economically.

“I am especially concerned about the children of Flint who now, because of lead poisoning, face tremendous adversity for the remainder of their lives,” Carr said in a statement.

On a related note, “said in a statement” is one of the funniest phrasings in all of journal-ese.

Anyway, good for Carr.

We Can All Agree Gas Drilling Under Lewisville Lake Is a Bad Idea, Yes?

Dallas Water Utilities has joined the town of Highland Village and a slew of environmental groups in protesting the potential sale of a gas lease that would allow drilling near and underneath Lewisville Lake. The cities of Lewisville and Denton are also considering making their own formal protests.

The Army Corps of Engineers doesn’t officially oppose the lease, which is set to be auctioned off by the federal Bureau of Land Management on April 20. But, DMN reports:

A 2013 presentation by corps engineer Anita Branch brought up human-induced earthquakes, dangers of fracking fluid migrating through underground faults and the possibility of water contamination. She noted that gas drilling wasn’t factored into the design of the dams.

Branch’s presentation at a professional conference recommended extensive geological testing in drilling areas and close monitoring. The PowerPoint presentation said the proposals weren’t officially endorsed by the corps.

The corp has started researching gas drilling and dams but results haven’t been completed. There little certainty about what – if any – risks are posed by gas drilling near dams or levees.

So it looks like there’s a consensus that the risk posed to Lewisville Lake, a major source of drinking water in North Texas, isn’t worth what would be gained by permitting the drilling.

Let’s hope the BLM comes around to seeing it the same way.

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Leading Off (2/11/16)

Third Zika virus case confirmed in Dallas. This was announced yesterday. The sample in this case was tested and confirmed positive by a local laboratory. The hope is that local testing for the Zika virus will help contain the disease. The Dallas woman who was confirmed to have Zika had shown symptoms after coming home from Honduras, where the outbreak is far worse. Four other Dallas County residents have had potential symptoms of Zika, and the CDC is currently testing samples. Symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes. Health experts say the major Zika outbreak in South America is not likely to happen in the U.S. but that Texas is one of the states more susceptible to minor Zika outbreaks because we’re, uh, well-acquainted with mosquitoes. Time to stock up on insect repellent.

Grass fire near Celina and McKinney destroys 50 Acres. Yesterday a grass fire was responsible for burning 50 acres of land north near the two Dallas suburbs. Several fire departments responded to the incident, which might have threatened a few homes. The fire was put out, and no injuries were sustained. The cause of the fire is not known yet.

Woman with cognitive impairment missing in Plano. 75-year-old Annamarie Doyle has been missing since yesterday afternoon. Because she has a cognitive impairment, her safety could be in jeopardy. Police say she was last seen driving a 2003 gold Jeep Liberty in Plano.

Why the Trinity River Project Remains Dallas’ Impossible Dream

If you haven’t been following the ongoing fiasco surrounding the Dallas Wave very closely, I don’t blame you. It has been particularly depressing and infuriating. Last week, the city council found out that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers threatened to shut off the city’s water supply if the city didn’t take immediate action to fix the white water feature that opened five years ago and was then swiftly closed because it was deemed too hazardous.

Today, Jim Schutze reports that some people inside city hall hoped to get Congress to exempt the river from a federal law regarding waterway navigation in order to get around the corps’ objections to the broken white water feature. You may remember that the city already managed to persuade Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson to slip a measure into a piece of federal legislation that exempts the stretch of the Trinity near downtown from all sorts of federal environmental oversight.

There are two pretty rich ironies floating around this latest scuttlebutt over the Dallas Wave.

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