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How Government Subsidies Are Hiding the Omni Convention Center Hotel’s Losses

A couple of weeks ago, I took a look at the financials of the Dallas Convention Center, prompted by Philip Jones’ announcement that he planned to borrow a quarter billion dollars in public money to expand the facility. To summarize, I discovered:

  • The city of Dallas is currently subsidizing the facility to the tune of roughly $53 million per annum; and
  • Three years and $500 million later, the construction of the adjacent convention center hotel hasn’t had any discernable impact on the convention center’s bottom line.

Today, I’m taking a look at the financial performance of the convention center hotel itself.

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Leading Off (11/24/2015)

Governor-Elect Promises Lawsuit Over Immigration Action. On behalf of all Texans, Greg Abbott will probably sue the Obama administration for his executive order lifting the threat of deportation for millions of immigrants living in the United States illegally. This is not new territory for Abbott, since he’s sued President Obama some 30 times in his previous life as Texas attorney general.

Two Earthquakes in Two Days. On Saturday, a 3.3 magnitude earthquake registered near the site of the old Texas Stadium. On Sunday, a 2.5 magnitude earthquake occurred south of Highway 183 beneath Loop 12. It’s too bad we don’t have any idea what might be causing these quakes, since there have been seven in the last two months.

After Crash Kills Five Family Members, Terrell Teen’s Ticket Dismissed. This sad story, first mentioned in this forum last week, does not get too much better. However, the teenage driver, a 16-year-old boy who apparently fell asleep at wheel of the family’s SUV while en route to Florida for a vacation, was originally ticketed for careless driving. The crash killed five of his relatives. The judge dismissed the misdemeanor charge, saying that the boy had been punished enough, and there was no need to add to his pain.

Cowboys Coach and Governor Chris Christie Make Friends. This photo of New Jersey governor Chris Christie and Cowboys coach Jason Garrett is great. Garrett might be smiling, or laughing—I can only tell so much from the crinkled eyes. Could this be Christie’s “lose or I’ll engineer a monster traffic jam and trap you here forever” face? The world may never know. Anyway, the Cowboys beat the Giants. I am pleased.

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SOPS Presents Draft of a Charter to Home Rule Commission

Last night, Support Our Public Schools, the organization that began this home rule movement early this year, presented its proposed charter to the Home Rule Commission. It contains several things I’ve been talking about on Learning Curve, including moving trustee elections to November, adding a student trustee, and starting the school year earlier. I’ll have a dissection of it on Learning Curve in the next few days, but here it is for your perusal.

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Anchia Announces Town Hall Meeting on Tollway

In the release announcing this, State Rep. Rafael Anchia says 93 percent of respondents to his poll were against the tollway. We’re aghast. The release is below, the release with pictures and sample quotes from respondents is here:

(Update note: I’ve been gone, so catching up on a lot, including that the town hall debate is not a surprise, as I learned from this Unfair Park post.)

(Dallas, TX) State Representative Rafael Anchia will host a town hall meeting on the Trinity Tollroad Project on Wednesday, December 3, 2014 at 6:30 p.m. The meeting will be held at the Chris Semos campus of Rosemont Elementary School. The town hall meeting is open to the public and does not require a pre-registration.

The town hall will feature a panel of supporters, as well as representation from the opposition. Among the panelists are Michael Morris from NCTCOG and Councilman Scott Griggs from the City of Dallas, District 1. Additional panelists will be announced prior to the meeting.

Mr. Anchia represents Texas House District 103, in which a large portion of the Trinity Tollroad would lie. “In talking with constituents about the Trinity Tollroad Project, I was hearing a constant message of dissatisfaction with the proposed road. I conducted a survey to gauge the climate in and around Dallas, and the respondents were startlingly opposed to the project,” Representative Anchia said. The results of the online survey, along with a sample of public comments, are attached for review.

In the interest of efficiency, the public is encouraged to submit questions for the panel in advance by email to info@rafaelanchia.com.

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Speaking of the Mayor and the Toll Road, Let’s All Hear Him Talk About It

The below email went out yesterday. I’m out of town, so I haven’t been able to determine if Mayor Mike typed “Citizens List: All of Dallas” into the “cc” field. But since this issue is “critical to the future of our city,” I’m going to assume everyone is invited. See you there!

Friend,

If the schedule goes as planned, work on the Trinity Parkway will begin in early 2015. The Environmental Impact Study (EIS) is in its final stages and is set to be completed soon, the Record of Decision will be signed soon after the study is finalized. We have teams in place that are working to complete the design on the Parkway in preparation for the construction phase. Currently, about 30% of the design work is done. This project is critical to the future of our city, and how the design is finalized is one of the most important things we can do. I believe this project should be studied and reviewed by recognized experts using the best urban design principles that exist as we move to our next phase.

I invite you to join me for breakfast at Babb Bros BBQ & Blues in Trinity Groves on November 19 at 8:15 a.m. to hear my thoughts on how we can accomplish this goal.

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Leading Off (11/14/14)

Feds Auditing DA’s Use of Forfeiture Funds. Craig Watkins may be on his way out, after suffering a defeat in last week’s election, but he’s still facing a federal investigation. Authorities stopped sending forfeiture money to the DA’s office in August after an auditor had a call with Watkins. “It was a contentious phone call during election season in which Mr. Watkins believed the inquiry was being driven by his opponent,” said Dallas County prosecutor Lincoln Monroe. “Craig thought it was a setup. It was not a good conversation that Craig had.” He added that the federal audit was prompted by a mix-up that will soon be rectified.

Frisco Homeowners Want Power Lines Buried. Brazos Electric is proposing a 2- to 4-mile stretch of overhead lines to increase capacity in the fast-growing city, but neighborhood residents are concerned about the impact on their home values. They want the lines placed underground, which Brazos says would cost $31.5 million, compared to $3.5 million for putting them overhead. Brazos plans to apply to the Public Utility Commission for its expansion in December, and the city and a homeowners’ group plan to challenge it.

Felony Lane Gang Strikes Again. Coppell police are looking into whether an organized group of professional thieves is responsible for a series of smash-and-grab car break-ins. The gang is known for cashing victims’ checks in the outside teller lane at various banks — which I guess is the “felony lane?”

Clayton Kershaw Hogging Baseball Awards. After winning his third Cy Young Award as the National League’s best pitcher on Wednesday, the Highland Park High School graduate and Los Angeles Dodgers hurler received Most Valuable Player honors on Thursday. He’s the first NL pitcher to take the MVP since 1968.

Mavs Score Most Lopsided Win in Team History. Dallas got off to a 45-10 lead in the first 15 minutes against the Philadelphia 76ers and finished with a 123-70 win. It’s their largest margin of victory ever.

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Ask John Neely Bryan Anything You Ever Were Too Lazy to Google

Greetings, friends, enemies, frenemies, trolls and troublemakers, hoodlums and saints, the blessed and the damned alike.

My name is John Neely Bryan. You may remember me from such things as having operated a ferry across the Trinity River ages before any of those new-fangled bridges were built, for being a log-cabin enthusiast, and also for having founded what is now the ninth-largest city in the United States of America. So, yeah, I’m kind of a big deal.

Though I have long since passed into the ether, I’ve kept a watchful eye on my beloved Dallas. The good folks at D Magazine, in their estimable wisdom, therefore knew I was best qualified to helm this new effort on their web log. In this space today and in the weeks to come, I shall address all manner of your questions and concerns. Need personal advice? Curious about some aspect of life in this city? Want a dispute adjudicated? Too lazy to Google something? Ask@dmagazine.com and ye shall receive. (Space and my patience permitting.)

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Poll: Why Don’t You Ride DART?

Last week over on StreetSmart, Bobby Abtahi wrote about the reasons he doesn’t ride DART regularly. Mostly he pointed to the infrequency of service — a 26-minute ride to the Apple Store from his house isn’t so bad, but the bus only swings by every hour. If he just happens to miss the bus on the way there and back, it’s potentially a three-hour trip.

Yesterday the Dallas City Council transportation committee voiced its support for a $983.4 million expansion of public transportation downtown, which would include another light-rail line and streetcar connections.

If you’re not already a regular rider, will moves like that win your business?

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Leading Off (11/7/14)

Ebola Watch 2014 Ends Today. Friday marks the finish of the 21-day period during which the last of those locally who may have come into contact with the virus — an unidentified hospital worker who handled medical waste on Oct. 17 — is being monitored. So we’re in the clear, Dallas.

Dallas to Consider a Ban on Smoking in Parks. The Dallas Park and Recreation Board has directed city staff to draft a proposed ordinance. Dallas and Phoenix are the only two of the nation’s 10 largest cities not to have some form of similar prohibition.

McKinney Man Accused of Bitcoin Ponzi Scheme. Wait, I thought all bitcoin were a Ponzi scheme. Trendon Shavers, 32, was charged with fraud by federal authorities. At one point, Shavers allegedly possessed 7 percent of all the virtual currency in public circulation.

74-Year-Old Man Shoots, Kill Robber. Thomas Lopez opened fire on two crooks who forced their way into his Dallas apartment. One of them was fatally wounded. “I don’t care if you’re 10, 15, 20 years old, you got no business being in my apartment, stealing from me,” Lopez told WFAA (Channel 8). “I’ll end your criminal career in a minute, if I can.”

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Why Do We Need to Spend a Quarter-Billion Dollars on the Dallas Convention Center?

Late last week, Philip Jones, president of the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau, tossed out his plan to seek up to $300 million to expand and fix up the convention center; you can read about it here ($200 – $250 million version), or here (up to $300 million version). Better yet, watch an over-the-top enthusiastic narration of the plan by recent WFAA hire Monica Hernandez here (up to $250 million version). This, on the heels of an announcement earlier in the week that the city of Dallas was spending $27 million on a high-end restaurant complex and parking garage adjacent to the convention center complex.

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Leading Off (10/31/14)

Last Day of Early Voting. Dallas County Republicans got off to a strong start, but Democrats are scrambling to close the gap. In the most closely watched county race, district attorney Craig Watkins has been outspent by GOP challenger Susan Hawk. If you care about the outcome, get to the polls.

Bentley to Reunite With Nina Pham. The former Ebola patient/nurse’s dog has tested negative for the virus, and will be returned to Pham on Saturday. He’s been kept in quarantine since Pham’s apartment was decontaminated by health officials.

Last Man Seen With Missing Woman Says He’s Being Harassed. Enrique Arochi made the rounds of the local newscasts to publicly state that he had nothing to do with the disappearance of Christina Morris. Arochi was the last person spotted with Morris, who has not been seen since Labor Day weekend at the Shops at Legacy in Plano. He says he’s lost his job as a result of the police investigation into the case and that he’s being harassed by friends and family of Morris, who have been protesting outside his parents’ home.

Kissing Bugs in North Texas Carry Deadly Disease. Welcome to your new nightmare: “Little did she know then, she had just met a kissing bug. So named because it attacks exposed skin — sometimes near the mouth or eyes — while you’re sleeping. You may get swelling at the site of the bite, or you may not know what happened. But the kissing bug can carry something called Chagas disease, a potentially deadly condition, which attacks the heart. It may be decades before the damage is done. But much like mosquitoes and West Nile, not every kissing bug carries Chagas disease, sometimes called the ‘silent killer.'”

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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.

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Poll: What Will the Trinity Lakes Look Like?

We all had a good laugh along with Wylie H. Dallas yesterday as he pointed out the absurdity of some of the depictions featured in the Trinity Lakes Amenities plan presented at a city committee meeting yesterday. But Dallas is going to do something with the river, eventually, right? So what’s most likely to become reality?

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