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Making Dallas Even Better

DMN Columnist Launches ‘Shame AT&T’ Campaign in AT&T’s Back Yard

You’ve got to admire Dave Lieber’s cojones. For a while now, the “Watchdog” columnist for The Dallas Morning News has been absolutely eviscerating hometown company AT&T for its, uh, poor customer service. And today, in a column headlined “Customer is always right: AT&T’s lousy,” the writer announced he was launching a #shameATT campaign on Twitter. He followed that news with nearly 20 withering snippets from AT&T customers and former employees, all basically blistering the company for the tone-deaf way it treats its constituents.

At a nonprofit luncheon earlier this week, a top executive with the telecom giant went on at considerable length about the company’s good works. About how AT&T is the country’s largest union employer, for example; about how it’s a leader in diverse hiring practices, a lavish spender on infrastructure, a major local taxpayer and, in general, just pretty great all-around. There’s much truth in those assertions, I’m sure. But, for companies dealing on a large scale with the general public, “customer service” is where the rubber meets the road. We’ve asked AT&T to comment on Lieber’s Twitter campaign, but so far haven’t heard anything back.

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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 (2/12/16)

Another Porn Convention Targets Dallas. Adultcon — likely jealous of the free publicity that competing adult expo Exxxotica has been getting from the Dallas City Council and more than willing to take its own settlement cash from a lawsuit if their request is likewise rejected — inquired on Thursday about available dates for an event at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center. Odds that the council soon reverses course on this sex-filled can of worms it’s opened?

Southwest Airlines to Pay Record Profit Sharing. Due largely to a drop in fuel costs, the carrier posted $2.2 billion in net income for 2015. That’s resulted in a record $620 million available for its profit sharing program. Each eligible employee will receive 15.6 percent of his or her annual salary —  eight weeks’ pay — as a bonus. Sagging oil prices sure aren’t all bad for the Dallas economy.

High-Speed Police Chase From Rockwall to Waco. At times the pursuit topped 100 mph, and it only ended when the driver crashed into a median guardrail.

Plano Cops Rescue Kid From Fire. Officers Russel Harris and Mark Jones saved the 5-year-old boy from the second story of a burning home.

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North Texas Is the Most Competitive Job Market in the U.S.

So says Forbes, citing a study by the job search site CareerBuilder. Their methodology was to compare the number of jobs added between 2014 and 2015 across the 150 biggest metropolitan areas in the United States to the number of jobs that one would expect to have been added considering the national job growth rate of 2 percent:

At the top of the list of the most competitive metros is Dallas, Texas. The area added 112,829 jobs between 2014 and 2015, surpassing expectations by 44,871 jobs.

San Jose, California comes in second with 39,519 jobs added above expectations. As a result, 3.7% of the area’s overall employment is attributed to that competitiveness factor–higher than any other area on the list. (Dallas added the greatest number of jobs during the same period, but San Jose’s growth accounts for a greater percentage of the city’s overall employment.)

Los Angeles, Seattle, and Miami were the rest of the top five “most competitive” markets.

The most disappointing performances (the least competitive) market was Chicago,  which added about 40 percent fewer jobs than expected. It was followed by New York, Philadelphia, New Orleans, and St. Louis.

How much credit do we have to give Plano?

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Pizza Hut Didn’t Pay to Appear in People vs. O.J. Simpson Series

Last night’s installment of the FX miniseries The People vs. O.J. Simpson (recommended) featured a cameo by Plano-based (yes, Plano, again) Pizza Hut.

The episode centers on the famous low-speed chase of Simpson’s Ford Bronco that seemingly our entire nation stopped to watch one evening in June 1994. To illustrate just what a phenomenon the incident was, the writers show how a delivery pizza restaurant has been so inundated by orders from viewers glued to their TVs that it runs out of cheese. This segment is based on the fact that the day of the chase was reportedly Domino’s Pizza’s best day ever.

Yet the restaurant depicted (see the scene above) is Pizza Hut instead. Adweek reports that this wasn’t a case of paid product placement. Which is believable, since it could appear unseemly to promote one’s brand in the midst of a retelling of the most famous double-homicide of the 20th century. The chain merely granted permission for its logos to be used after Domino’s declined.

On another note, I’m gonna need a fact-check on a throwaway line of dialogue. One of the Pizza Hut employees can be heard asking if they’ve still got chicken wings. But, according to this Pizza Hut franchisee, the restaurants didn’t start selling wings until 1995, following Domino’s lead.

I’m sure that’s the only distorted fact in the entire production.

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Leading Off (2/10/16)

Son of Local Man Finishes Third in New Hampshire Primary. As of late last night, Carrollton resident Rafael Cruz’s son Ted was just behind John Kasich, good enough for third place. Trump and Sanders both won by big margins.

Rams Owner Buys Waggoner Ranch. The famous, massive ranch was on the market for $725 million, though it’s not clear how much L.A. Rams owner Stan Kroenke actually paid. In addition to a football team that will playing in a nice, new stadium in Southern California, Kroenke owns 11 other ranches in North America.

Man Pleads Guilty to Killing Teenager Who Was Battling Cancer. Yep. Tyler Wiley, 20, from Desoto, admitted shooting 15-year-old Ryan Lara in 2014 outside the boy’s Duncanville home in what police believe was an attempted robbery. Lara had been fighting Lymphoma. Three others are charged with murder and awaiting trial.

Dance Teacher Accused of Molesting Students. Vann Gilbert, who calls himself “the Doctor of Dance,” was arrested yesterday after a 90-minute standoff with the Dallas SWAT team. He’s charged with two cases of indecency with a child, stemming from an accusations that go back nearly 20 years.

Read Some Michael Brick. Earlier this week I posted about the death of a friend of mine, an incredible writer who graduated from R.L. Turner. I miss him. Yesterday, the New York Times posted a collection of some of Brick’s work. You should really take the time to read a few stories.

Laughter, Good Works Mix at Tocqueville Event

Besides announcing good works and bringing together some of the heaviest-hitting business people in North Texas, the monthly Second Tuesday luncheons of the local United Way’s Tocqueville Society are, in contrast to some nonprofit gatherings, as entertaining as they are informative. And today’s, held at the AT&T headquarters building in downtown Dallas, was no exception. […]

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Ben Bernanke, A Bush Economics Adviser … Again

If you didn’t recognize Ben Bernanke from his days in the spotlight, orchestrating the Federal Reserve response to the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, you might have assumed he was just another number-cruncher in the little crowd gathered at the Dallas Fed building last night. Affable enough but shy, the former chief economic adviser to President George W. Bush (2005-2006) and two-term chairman of the Federal Reserve (2006-2014) maneuvered tentatively through the small-talking throng, evincing the most enthusiasm, it seemed, for the excellent hors d’oeuvres.

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Help Wanted at D CEO

D CEO magazine has an immediate opening for a managing editor. In addition to being a first-rate writer and editor, the affable, super-organized person who takes this job will oversee day-to-day operations, making sure deadlines are met for a title named the country’s best regional business magazine for the last three years. Duties include assigning front-of-the-book stories, managing budgets, and supervising the fact-checking process. And, oh yeah—he or she also will have to put up with me. Journalism experience and familiarity with business required. Send a résumé to glenn.hunter@dmagazine.com.

Leading Off (2/4/16)

Southwest pilots picket for higher pay. Yesterday, hundreds of Southwest Airlines pilots picketed outside of Love Field to address the fact that they still don’t have a new contract after negotiating for four years. They held signs with “It’s time for a contract” written on them. Negotiations for a new contract will begin again in March.

50 police officers could be added to force. For the coming fiscal year, city council members are informally in favor of adding 50 more cops than the usual 200 added annually. This would add $2.3 million to the budget for next year. Police Chief David Brown noted to the council that, since 2010, his department has lost 200 officers.

Plano man loses thousands in fraud scheme. 88-year-old Plano resident Bob Devinney, a former University of Kansas track star who set a national record in 1952, lost $250,000 in retirement savings due to a Jamaican fraud scheme. The suspects had talked to Devinney on the phone, told him he won the lottery, and over two years asked him to pay insurance and taxes on his “winnings.” Devinney had planned to use his savings to take care of his wife, Sarah, who has Alzheimer’s.

Leading Off (1/28/16)

Southwest airlines pilots to picket at Love Field. This is set to occur next Wednesday, and it will be the first informational picket ever to take place at this Dallas airport. The pilots are not happy that after four years of negotiations for a new contract, when profits have been high, they still don’t have one. First, both the pilot union and airline will meet with federal mediators on February 2 in hopes of reaching a compromise.

Charter school in southern dallas approved. Yesterday, Dallas City Council members approved a controversial new charter school, K-12 Uplift Education. There were protests by DISD folks who say the growing number of southern Dallas charter schools is taking both resources and kids away from the school district. The vote to approve was a narrow 7-6.

SNL‘s Lorne Michaels will speak at Bush Center. On February 27, Lorne Michaels, creator of Saturday Night Live, will be at the George W. Bush Presidential Center, along with the former president and first lady. The evening will center on the show’s longstanding comedic portrayal of the presidency, as it’s become famous for.

Road rage incident leads to fatal shooting of Fort Worth woman. This happened in Arlington. 26-year-old Brittany Daniel was fatally shot yesterday evening while driving east on I-30. A man who was sitting in the back of another car shot her, said a passenger to police, who are still looking for the suspect.

Surprise Report: Is Jaap Van Zweden Bound for New York?

Jaap van Zweden could be close to bolting his job as music director at the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. According to today’s New York Times, the Dutch-born celebrity conductor is one of two leading candidates to become music director at the New York Philharmonic. While the paper said a representative of the Dallas conductor declined to comment, the under-the-radar development came as a “surprise” to one observer who’s intimately acquainted with the DSO. The reason: reports of van Zweden’s “abrasive” treatment of some DSO musicians, which the observer assumed would have knocked van Zweden out of contention for the prestigious New York post. The music director’s contract with the Dallas orchestra runs through the 2018-2019 season.

UPDATE: Van Zweden is also music director of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra. Earlier this week, he was asked by the South China Morning Post about the New York Philharmonic job and replied: “Well, whatever is going to happen, I have a phenomenal relationship with that orchestra, and it’s the same type of relationship which I found when I came [to Hong Kong], this eagerness, this enthusiastic music-making of the highest level. And of course it’s such an institution, it’s one of the top orchestras in the world, and I’m very honoured that I’m being named in these [newspaper] articles. But we will see.”

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Leading Off (1/21/16)

Ethan Couch to return to U.S. soon. Yesterday, his attorneys said they expect Couch to be present at his Tarrant County probation hearing on February 19. They also said Couch’s legal team in Mexico will not attempt to block his return to the U.S. anymore. We’ll find out soon enough if Couch’s case will be transferred from juvenile to adult court.

Gaylord Texan primed for $120 million expansion. The Grapevine hotel’s owner announced yesterday that the planned expansion for the Gaylord Texan will make it the second-largest hotel in Texas and one of the country’s biggest non-gaming convention hotels. 300 guest rooms will be added to the 1,511 rooms currently at the Gaylord.

Dallas seeking new fire-rescue chief. The city will pay search firm Affion Public $24,000 to help Dallas Fire-Rescue continue to search for a new fire chief as Chief Louie Bright III will retire in March. The job will be posted for 30 days.

city streets still bad, says Rawlings. Dallas City Council during a meeting said that 37,656 potholes had been patched on Dallas streets over the past year or so. But Mayor Rawlings didn’t seem to be as content with that as the city council was. Although it was contended that the streets did not get any worse than they had been, Rawlings said that keeping streets in bad condition is not the goal. At least spending on streets will be up in 2016.