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Who Really Loses When the Uptown Sam’s Club Construction Starts on Sunday?

This Sunday, the Trammell Crow Company, on behalf of its clients Sam’s Club and the Metropolitan Life Corporation, the primary investor in the project, will blow up old Xerox building just off Central Expressway in order to make way for a big box store right in the heart of the fastest growing, highest tax base, densest area of Dallas.

It is utter madness.

And while I know you have heard the story in some form or fashion, on the eve of destruction, I believe it is worth recounting. There are many  lessons in the sorry tale of Uptown Sam’s, and the story should enrage you—not provoking the kind of idle anger where you throw up your hands and go, “Ah, there’s Dallas, yet again,” but rather provoking the kind of rage that makes you want to run down to city hall with pitchforks in your hands. Let’s get to it.

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Poll: Will You Vote in Local Elections?

In the February issue of D Magazine, Wick writes that this May’s Dallas council elections could revolutionize the city:

Because of term limits, six seats are open, the largest number in one election in memory. The ones giving up their seats are among the worst council members in the city’s history (Dwaine Caraway excepted). Luckily, the remaining council members are among the brightest and most thoughtful ever to serve. It would take only a few new members of the same caliber to tip the balance.

So this time the candidates do matter. Beware the guy who promises to fix the pothole on your street. That’s another go-along, get-along sort who will be easily co-opted by the city staff. Embrace instead the candidate who talks about growing the tax base as a whole so we can fix all the potholes and reduce your tax burden at the same time.

Is that enough to get you fired up about voting?

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What a ‘Lost’ 1967 Film Can Teach Us About How To Build Dallas’ Future

Yesterday evening the Dallas Chapter of the American Institute of Architects screened a lost film about Dallas entitled “The Walls Are Rising.” Originally produced in 1967 by the AIA, the film attempts to diagnose the city’s urban ills and suggests solutions. At the time of its production, it was screened all over Dallas to community groups and other organizations, and covered extensively in the Dallas Morning News. Nearly 50 years later, interest in the unearthed film is still strong. The event drew a crowd that approached 200 people to the seventh floor of the Sixth Floor Museum, an oddly appropriate setting for a film intimately tied to the civic reaction to the aftermath of the JFK assassination.

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Poll: Should Dallas Put Fluoride in Its Water?

It’s tough sometimes to know which “experts” we’re supposed to believe, especially when scientific consensus also has a way of changing its collective mind as researchers learn more. It can be confusing to mere lay-folk like you (most of you, anyway) and me.

For years we’ve heard that fluoride in our drinking water is an absolute good and has promoted dental health for decades. But now, as Tim noted last week, scientists have concerns about the chemical’s neurotoxic effects. These concerns have been raised to the Dallas City Council, which will vote Jan. 28 on a contract to continue fluoridating the city’s water supply. Should they continue the practice?

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Does Mike Rawlings Know He’s the Mayor of Dallas, Not Dallas-Fort Worth?

As Mike Rawlings told the Dallas Morning News editorial board recently, he’s “a numbers guy.” So anchoring all the puffery in his new mayor’s letter was one solid factoid: “According to a recent Forbes study, Dallas is now the fourth fastest-growing city in the country.” Wait, what? I mean, without even checking, I instinctively knew that wasn’t true, not by a long shot. What was this claim doing here? I had to get to the bottom of this.

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Leading Off (1/16/15)

South Dallas Residents Don’t Want New Toll Lanes. Wait, I thought opposing the construction of new pay-to-play roads was classist and racist and that folks south of Interstate 30 are clamoring for the opportunity to pay to drive their cars to points north? Then why were those who showed up to a Tuesday meeting at Methodist Dallas Medical Center to discuss the proposed Southern Gateway project — redoing Interstate 35E south of Colorado Boulevard — so upset about the idea to include managed toll lanes in the plans? Listen to this:

“We don’t want this. We don’t want these tollways here. Not in Oak Cliff,” said Juanita Lozano, drawing an “amen” and applause from the crowd.

And this:

“You’re creating a system where people with means can zip from one end of this area to the other while they wave at the rest of us on the sidelines,” said Michael Amonett.

And how about this?

“Where will you get the additional land you need?” asked Alicia Quintans, who lives near I-35E and observes its daily traffic flow.

“There’s maybe two hours of the day when traffic is jumbled up on I-35,” she said, “and I don’t understand why we’re building these toll lanes for two hours of the day.”

Oil Boom Headed For Bust? We’re all still enjoying the cheap gasoline, but as prices have dropped, drilling budgets have been slashed and industry layoffs have begun. Concern of a sustained downturn is growing.

Hipster Wedding Chapel Denied by City. The owners of the Bows and Arrows floral shop were fixing up an East Dallas mansion to host weddings, but their request to rezone the home for that purpose was denied last week by the Plan Commission.

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Mayor Mike Rawlings Says It’s ‘Classist’ Not To Give Poor People the Option To Pay Tolls

We run a leadership program called D Academy that is designed to educate our employees (and anyone else who would like to apply) about all matters related to the functions of our city. Yesterday, in a City Hall auditorium, Mayor Mike Rawlings was kind enough to field questions for the current class of fellows, and he said some things about the Trinity toll road and Adrian Peterson that give me pause. Such as:

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Clay and Mike: Bryan Burrough’s Tale of Two Dallas Leaders

As Tim alluded to yesterday, Dallas’ handling of the Ebola crisis has just been put into perspective for a national audience, thanks to Bryan Burrough’s thoroughly reported piece in the new Vanity Fair. Burrough’s lengthy story puts a generally heroic shine on the response by local officials. And it offers a refreshingly frank, behind-the-scenes look at the actions of two powerful local politicians, both Democrats, who someday may aspire to higher office. My initial impression was that the piece portrays County Judge Clay Jenkins as some sort of steely Superman, while Mayor Mike Rawlings comes off as, well, considerably less effective.

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Leading Off (1/9/15)

Dallas ISD Dropping Some Tests. Kindergarteners, first-graders, and second-graders in DISD will no longer have to take twice-a-year Assessments of Course Performance in music, art, and gym after changes announced by district administrators on Thursday. The move comes after a widespread community outcry about the number of exams students must face. Results from the December ACPs will still count toward students’ grades. In case you’re curious about what’s on a second-grade gym test, one part required the kids to “demonstrate mature form in skipping.” Pretty sure I’d fail.

Deputy Fire Chief to Retire After Line-of-Duty Death Investigation. Bobby Ross was the commander on the scene when Dallas firefighter Stanley Wilson died. An internal affairs complaint filed with the department indicated that Ross made a “false and evasive” explanation of the orders he’d given that day. He wasn’t officially punished but was reassigned to the communications section. His resignation is reportedly official on Tuesday.

Did Diabetes Cause Murder of Kaufman County DAs? Eric Williams was sentenced to death last month for killing Mike McLelland and his wife Cynthia. On Thursday he underwent a brain scan that his attorneys hope will show diabetes-caused brain damage that led to his rampage. Then they would argue he deserves a new trial or a reduction in punishment.

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New Task Force Will Study City’s Teardown Policy

There’s a new mayoral task force in town. Yes, we all know about the so-called “Dream Team” task force that is studying the Trinity River Toll Way. Today the mayor and City Councilmember Philip Kingston announced the creation of another task force to look at the city’s current historic preservation policy. The task force is being created in response to the recent demolition of a 19th century Romanesque Revival building on Main St. in Downtown Dallas. The Headington Company demolished 1611 Main Street back in September to make way for the construction of a new building that will house a Forty Five Ten boutique. At the time, there was much gnashing of teeth and confusion over the destruction of one of the oldest buildings in Dallas (even if those surprised by the event missed the long lead up). The Headington Company has said they tried to avoid demolition but couldn’t make the building work.

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Ask John Neely Bryan: Yes, Virginia, There Is a Zombie Toll Road

I take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below, sent to me via ask@dmagazine.com, expressing at the same time my great gratification that its author is numbered among the friends of FrontBurner:

 

Question: I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no way an eight-lane toll road can be built inside a levee flood zone. But the bullies say “sure it will fit, now shut up and don’t ask so many questions.”  Papa says, “If you see it in D Magazine, and it is written by the ghost of the long-dead city founder, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there going to be an eight-lane toll road inside the majestic Trinity? —Virginia

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Mike Rawlings Makes His Pitch

Jason already remarked on the interview given by Mike Rawlings to the DMN editorial board, as reported by Tod Robberson. The mayor seemed to be testing out his talking points in front of an editorial audience. I don’t think his handlers would have recommended the daily newspaper as the best audience to practice on, but one of the refreshing things about Mayor Mike is that he seems to pay little attention to his handlers.

He says he has spent months trying to understand the issues, and I believe him. He is a conscientious man. Moreover, it is quite clear that he has studied others’ opinions on the subject in order to understand them. (“I love contrarian points of view,” he says.) His stronger statements come across poorly in print, but in the recording of the interview the mayor’s tone is reasonable and respectful.

I have always considered it part of my job to straighten the ties and brush off the lint for mayors before they wander out in public, so in that spirit I will unpack a few of the mayor’s assertions to see how well they will fare in the upcoming public debate.

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Mayor Rawlings Implies Trinity Toll Road Opponents Don’t Respect Democracy

Tod Robberson just posted about a 90-minute meeting the Morning News editorial board had today with Mayor Mike Rawlings and city council members Vonciel Jones-Hill and Rick Callahan about the Trinity Parkway. Rawlings said he takes umbrage when people characterize his position on the road as unclear, so he wanted to leave no doubt where he stands: “The more I study it, the firmer my feet get in the concrete about this being an important thing for the city of Dallas.”

Rawlings repeated the oft-used argument of proponents that the votes of Dallas have twice approved this project, never minding the fact that many of those voters thought what they were going to get involved things like sailboats majestically traveling across picturesque lakes and other campaign images of the Trinity park project that will likely never be.

“What voters voted on has not changed. … The bigger question there is really respect for the rule of law and respect for democracy,” Rawlings said.

So toll road proponents are both anarchists and racists, apparently.

Meanwhile Robberson decries “scare tactics” on both sides of the debate. He buys the claims of Rawlings and other supporters that the road will yield positive economic benefits to the people of southern Dallas:

If Rawlings, Hill and other proponents stick to the basic arguments about economic impact and the positive impact on the lives of working people in southern Dallas, they will win the day. If they go that other route, this debate is going to get really nasty and threatens to widen this city’s already sizable racial gap. My advice: Just don’t go there.

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Leading Off (12/12/14)

OSHA to Investigate Thanksgiving Tower Fire. Thursday’s blaze beneath the downtown Dallas building’s parking garage claimed the lives of three men working in a thermal storage tank. The cause of the fire hasn’t been determined. Officials don’t know if the workers may have been welding or cutting even though the company that employed the men hasn’t had a valid permit for that sort of work since 2009.

10th Irving-Area Earthquake in 2 Months. Last night at 9:25 p.m., a 2.6-magnitude quake struck near Spur Road and the Trinity River northeast of the former Texas Stadium site.

Dallas DA’s Office Dismissed Cases Without Informing Victims. WFAA reports on two family violence cases dropped by the district attorney in violation of the Texas Bill of Rights, which states that crime victims are entitled to be told about all proceedings involving their cases.

Former Fort Worth Cop Not Indicted For Shooting Dog. Kenneth Wayne Flynn shot a neighbor’s German shepherd back in September after being led to believe the dog had killed his cat. A grand jury yesterday no-billed him on animal cruelty charges.

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Dallas Crime Down But Violent Assaults Up

The Dallas City Council’s Public Safety committee was presented with the latest crime statistics (through Nov. 11) for 2014 today. Overall, crime is down 12.7 percent as compared to 2013, and 45.38 percent from 10 years ago.

However, aggravated assaults are actually up 6.61 percent in the last year. (Though, it should be noted, that’s still down 56.85 percent from a decade back.)

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