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Making Dallas Even Better

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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What Caused That Earthquake Over the Weekend

Longtime readers of the magazine know who Laray Polk is. The author, artist, and environmental activist sends a few word this morning about our shaking ground:

After the magnitude-3.3 earthquake on Saturday — the sixth one in two month’s time — I revisited notes from an interview from years ago with one of the top seismologists in Texas, Dr. Cliff Frohlich. The occasion was this story. Prior to 2010, I knew very little about seismic activity in Texas. I purchased one of Frohlich’s books, learned a little more, then called him. Here are a few excerpts:

How earthquake prone is Texas? “The biggest earthquakes are in West Texas. The Panhandle has the second highest risk. The four earthquake zones in Texas, in order according to most prone areas, are: West Texas/Panhandle, North Central, North East, and Gulf Coast.

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The Guardian Argues Denton’s Future Hangs on Today’s Ballot

Today my hometown, Denton, is voting on a measure to ban hydraulic fracturing, the controversial technique used by the natural gas industry to pull energy from rocks. Even if it is approved by voters, the resulting ordinance likely will face legal challenges.

The Guardian took note of the fight today, in a piece that trots out the usual symbols of Denton as “slacker capital of the American southwest” — namely the picturesque, yet funky square and the city’s fondness for live music and music festivals. They even bring up Frenchy and his orange trucks.

But the paper goes a bit far in the final paragraphs of the piece, implying that today’s vote will determine whether Denton will one day inspire a mildly funny IFC sketch comedy show or instantly convert into an endless sea of McMansions, corporate campuses, and shopping centers:

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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.