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Leading Off (7/31/15)

AG’s Ties to McKinney Tech Company Probed. Ken Paxton’s relationship with Severgy, a self-proclaimed “innovation engine,” appears to be under investigation as part of the Collin County grand jury’s look at whether the Texas attorney general should be indicted on felony charges over his admitted securities violations. Severgy has been involved in its own legal troubles in the past, accused of fraud by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Paxton owns at least 10,000 shares of the company.

Fort Worth Bike Cop Kills Man. In the early morning hours of Friday, the policeman shot a guy who was brandishing a handgun during an altercation between two large groups outside the Ojos Locos Sports Cantina in the city’s downtown. The man later died at a nearby hospital, and the officer has been placed on routine administrative leave while the incident is investigated.

Parkland Sues Four Builders. A lawsuit filed earlier this week claims that contractors delivered faulty work in the construction of its new central utility plant. The project is intended to provide water and emergency power for the new $1.3 billion county hospital that opens in August. Reps for the builders say that Parkland’s legal team is just providing cover for the leadership failures of Parkland officials.

Dog Missing in Ellis County. Yes, this story got actual airtime on a local newscast in the country’s fourth-largest television market last night.

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Ask John Neely Bryan: Does Dallas Value Its Past?

That pontificating whippersnapper Simek got me thinking yesterday about the fetishism of the past to which a surprising number of you folks cling. A mediocre sub-urban fish joint shuts its doors and that boy waxes rhapsodic about — well, by his own admission he’s not precisely sure what. Lordy!

You want Dallas to return to its imagined heyday of 1906? You soft-shelled ninnies wouldn’t last a minute back then. Why the pungent odors wafting from the great, relatively unwashed mass of humanity alone would knock you flat before you could scamper across Main Street. Even if you could manage the feat, enjoy wiping the paste of dust and well-ground equine excrement from your soles when you reach the other side. And the heat! My god, the heat! No artificial refrigeration to ease summer’s onslaught, no sir.

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Leading Off (7/30/15)

Rangers Trade For Cole Hamels. The deal for the Phillies ace might be too late to get them in the playoffs this season, but it sets up the team well for 2016. In exchange, they gave up Matt Harrison and a package of prospects, most notably catcher Jorge Alfaro. There is a lot of cash involved, too, so the commissioner’s office hasn’t approved the deal yet. So I guess there is a chance to Rangers could still get DeAndre Jordaned. Yes, we’re saying that now.

Dallas Man Sentenced to 15 Years For Sex Trafficking. LaDestro Douglas was pimping out underage runaways, and got what he deserved. This has been a signed editorial comment by Zac Crain.

Zoo Employees Mourn Kipenzi. Yeah, this still punches me in the gut.

Duncanville Teen Arrested After Video Shows Him Beating Up Other Teens. A few lessons here: 1) Don’t assault other teens, or other older people if you’re an older person. 2) Don’t have someone film you assaulting other teens, or other older people if you’re an older person. 3) If you don’t have someone filming you assaulting other teens, or other older people if you’re an older person, assume someone is filming you assaulting other teens, or other older people if you’re an older person. 4) Definitely do not — and I really can’t stress this enough — post or let anyone post that video of you assaulting other teens, or other older people if you’re an older person, to any social media. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, whatever. Actually, you can post it to LinkedIn.

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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.

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Ask John Neely Bryan: Why Can’t Businesses Place Signs on Downtown Sidewalks?

Question: Why aren’t businesses allowed to put signs on the street downtown? How are people supposed to know they exist if they cannot? (For example, Hospitality Sweet in 400 N. Ervay; Serj across the street from them.) — David H.

What luck! Just last night, during my habitual bedtime reading, I finished Article VII of Chapter 51A of the Dallas City Code, which governs signage and other signage-related activities. It was among the most riveting passages so far of my trip through the regulations of local municipal governance. I am continuously awed by the ability of lawyers to take the language of Shakespeare and Keats, Twain and Hemingway, and fashion it into the verbal equivalent of pouring out a medium-sized container of thumb tacks and jamming them one by one into the back of your hand. A taste:

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Leading Off (7/22/15)

Dallas Police Officer Fired After Sexual Assault Arrest. Chief David Brown fired Senior Corporal Ryan Ramirez yesterday after Ramirez was charged in Kaufman County with aggravated sexual assault of an 8 year old.

Armed Civilians Guard Military Recruiters in Cleburne. Most of the men and women carrying guns, gear, and flags identify themselves as veterans. They say they are there to protect the active service members from an incident like last week’s shooting in Chattanooga. Apparently there are 15 to 20 groups like this organized around the country.

Addison Woman Arrested for Killing Newborn. Police in Addison arrested Luz Aurora Granadosreyes, 25, and charged with capital murder of child under the age of 6.

Jordan Spieth Flew Home with Zach Johnson, Drank from Cup. Really though, everything he does is great. Look at these pictures. Say you don’t love him.

Tony Romo Sues NFL. He’s part owner of “The Fan Expo,” which organized a fantasy football event at the Venetian in Las Vegas. Players scheduled to attend included: Dez Bryant, DeMarco Murray, Odell Beckham Jr., and Rob Gronkowski, The NFL somehow canceled the event, and Romo’s group wants more than a million dollars.

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Denton Confederate Memorial Vandalized

I moved to Denton from Illinois in second grade and did most of the rest of my growing up there. I remember during one of my earliest visits to the Courthouse Square, still a child, I noticed the monument to Confederate soldiers, which was vandalized last night. I remember thinking it was curious that a city in the United States would memorialize people who’d fought in open rebellion against the nation. No, I’m not sure I appreciated then how divided our country remained for many decades after the Civil War.

I also attended Robert E. Lee Elementary in Denton ISD,  and I never gave much thought to the curiosity that the leader of a rebel army would be honored in such a way. I knew who he was, but really his was just a name of a long-dead guy on the building where I went to class, as much thought as I ever gave it.

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Leading Off (7/20/2015)

Jordan Spieth Enters Final Round of The Open. There are only three players ahead of him. Nancy’s brother, Bill Nichols at the Dallas Morning News, can explain his positioning much better than I can. So just read this. And make sure your TV is properly tuned in by 8:20 am, when Spieth tees off.

Bernie Sanders Talks Progressive Issues In Dallas. Sanders, a Vermont independent running for president as a Democrat, brought out an estimated crowd of 7,000 for a rally on Sunday around topics like a $15 minimum wage and tax increases for the wealthy. According to the Texas Tribune, “the event appeared to be the largest held by any presidential candidate in Texas so far this election cycle.” Sanders also did some damage control, speaking out against police brutality after he stumbled in response to the “Black Lives Matter” protesters who overtook his Netroots Nation event with the former governor of Maryland on Saturday.

To Catch A Puppy Thief. A Siberian Husky puppy worth $2,850 (this is nuts) was stolen from a pet shop in North Dallas. A man walked out with the adorable little puppy Saturday night and jumped in a getaway car, but was caught fairly quickly.  The puppy was returned to the store. Stealing and reselling a puppy? Terrible. That puppy stuck in a pet shop? Also not a great feeling.

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Leading Off (7/17/15)

Immigrants Claim Discrimination in North Dallas. Tenants of apartments near Royal Lane and Central Expressway have been asked for U.S. identification cards when renewing their leases. Obtaining these is only possible for those who are citizens or who immigrated legally. Managers of the complex say their policy has always been to require a government-issued ID to meet their rental criteria.

Spend This Weekend With Bernie. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders will host a town hall meeting at the Sheraton downtown at 1 p.m. Sunday.

Driver Hits Bicyclist, Keeps Driving. The victim was stuck in the windshield of the car for about a half-mile before, police say, 19-year-old Silverio Alaniz dumped his body in an alley and drove away. Jimmie Sines was later found and taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Who Wants to Play Footgolf? You’ll never be as good as Jordan Spieth at the conventional variety, so you might as well get in on the ground floor of this new sport.

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Leading Off (7/15/15)

Farmersville Residents Do Not Want a Muslim Cemetery. This story basically sounds like a Daily Show bit waiting to happen. A choice quote: “We used to grow onions here. We sure enough don’t want to be growing bodies.” And this, from the same story: “Some are threatening to dump pigs blood and put pigs heads on a post so Muslims won’t buy the land.”

Australian Man Accused of Stalking, Raping Woman He Met in Uptown. The details of this case are pretty nightmarish. A woman says a man she met in an Uptown bar “started making unwanted advances,” then jumped into her Lyft ride before assaulting her. Police found him “unconscious” in her bed.

Local Parents Lose Custody After Waco Biker Incident. After he was arrested at Twin Peaks, Rob Bucy and his wife, Marilyn, lost custody of the 5-year-old girl they were in the process of adopting. Marilyn was ordered to pack the girl’s bags and toys and stuffed animals and deliver her to a stranger at the airport — and they are forbidden from contacting the girl. All because he was a member of a biker club that was involved in a massive shootout that left nine people dead.

Deron Williams Signs with the Mavs. No, he’s not a giant center that led the league in rebounding. But he’s from here, and he was really good not long ago, and he isn’t costing the team much. So there’s that.

Dez Bryant Says He’ll Hold Out If There’s No Deal Today. The reported offer is more than $12.8 million per year. Bryant is reportedly asking for a long-term deal worth closer to $16 million per year. He says that if a deal isn’t done by this afternoon, he could miss training camp and possibly regular season games, and the player’s association might file collusion charges. Apparently the Cowboys are skeptical.

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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.

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Leading Off (7/13/2015)

New Criminal History Monitoring Program Introduced at DFW Airport. The TSA has chosen DFW and Logan Airport in Boston to test an FBI pilot program called “Rap Back,” which is part of the Bureau’s massive biometric identification database. Rather than relying on just a one-time background check, the Rap Back program will use the fingerprints provided when an employee starts a job to continuously scan for future “felony-level” offenses. Per the Morning News, “other types of employees, such as teachers, doctors, nurses and even Little League coaches, may eventually be scrutinized by the program.”

Standoff At Omni Hotel Ends Peacefully. A man staying at the downtown hotel barricaded himself in a room Saturday afternoon, and allegedly told a friend who brought him a drink that it would be the last time that friend saw the man alive. The friend had noticed a gun in the hotel room, and alerted hotel security. SWAT was called, and streets surrounding the hotel blocked off. Happily, the man was taken into custody without incident.

Jordan Spieth Wins Again. He beat Tom Gillis at the John Deere Classic to go in to The Open in Scotland on an even higher note.

Greg Hardy’s Suspension Reduced To Four Games. The Cowboys’ defensive end had originally been suspended 10 games after the NFL found that choking and smacking his girlfriend was against the league’s personal conduct policy. But now his 10-game sentence has been reduced to four games, equal to the punishment of Tom Brady, who is suspended for deflating some footballs.

Jac Alder’s Memorial Is Tonight. Celebrate the life and work of the late founder of Theatre Three at Dallas City Performance Hall. The parking lot under the building with be free for the event. Doors open at 5:15, and the memorial starts at 6 pm.

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Leading Off (7/10/15)

Violent Crime Up in Dallas. Through the first half of 2015, the total number of murders, rapes, aggravated assaults, and robberies is up 10 percent. No one has a firm explanation for the spike, but police say they are flooding high-crime zones with more manpower to try to stem the tide.

Bush and Clinton Play Nice. Though former presidents George W. and Bill each have a family member vying to win the White House in 2016, they shared the stage last evening to celebrate the graduation of the first class of Presidential Leadership Scholars at the Bush Presidential Center:

“Last night my granddaughter spoke to me in Mandarin,” Bush said, before the crowd, and Clinton, erupted in laughter.

Sounds like it was an easy room.

Former Morning News Editor Takes UNT Gig. Bob Mong, who retired from our local daily newspaper in May, is apparently already sick of spending more time with his family. He’s been named the lone finalist for the presidency of the Dallas campus of the University of North Texas. The current president, Ronald Brown, is being promoted to run the university system’s health care programs, including the newly announced medical school in Fort Worth. I’ll always remember how Mong took the time to write me a short note of praise for a column I’d written for the group of community news sections I once ran at the DMN. He understood that it means a lot to know the guy in the big office on the other side of the building is actually reading your stuff, especially when it’s not the stuff on the front page. He was extremely kind and supportive of our team’s work — not to mention a surprisingly good softball player. Big congrats to him.

Blind Alligator Removed From the Trinity in Fort Worth. “Nuisance Alligator Hunter” is not a new Animal Planet series. It’s something someone can be licensed to do, someone like Chris Stevens, who was called in to catch a 10-foot-2-inch reptile that showed up in the river near the city’s downtown after heavy rains in June. The animal was safely moved to a nature preserve.

Lake Dallas Mayor Resigns Without Explanation. Tony Marino stepped down as the top elected official in the small Denton County city last night, just a few weeks after the shady shenanigans in which he and the city manager/police chief seemed to have engineered the ouster of a newly elected city council member who’d been critical of them. Marino’s replacement, Mike McCaleb, vowed to bring the “wounded” city back together, descending from the dais to address those in attendance:

McCaleb began to cry. “I’m a big baby, too,” he said. “My sister used to accuse me of having a bladder behind my eyes.”

Many residents laughed at his joke.

Sounds like it was an easy room.

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Ask John Neely Bryan: How to Fix Dysfunctional Dallas City Hall?

Question: It seems like many of our city council members have a hard time getting along. Office harmony at 1500 Marilla has to be near an all-time low. We have to fix this — city governance is too important to be bogged down by petty strife. Based on your history, how should we best resolve this? Mediation? Arbitration? Reconciliation? Duels? — Freddie M.

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