Find a back issue

Making Dallas Even Better

Leading Off (4/29/16)

Cowboys Select Ezekiel Elliott. With the fourth pick in this year’s NFL draft, Dallas took the Ohio State running back. Reviews of the decision are mixed, with some suggesting they should have gone with Florida State cornerback Jalen Ramsey instead. The Cowboys also tried — and failed — to trade up to get another first-round pick with which to select Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch as Tony Romo’s heir.

Dallas ISD Votes to Buy New Headquarters. The $46.5 million purchase was approved by board trustees in the earliest hour of Friday morning. The building, at 9400 N. Central Expressway, will consolidate the district’s headquarters and 15 other offices in one place. DISD anticipates the change will produce tens of millions of dollars in savings by 2021. Trustees were divided on the matter, which got the go-ahead on a 5-3 vote. Trustees Bernadette Nutall, Joyce Foreman, and Lew Blackburn opposed the purchase, expressing concerns about how it’s being funded and about the district headquarters moving six miles north of its current relatively central location. Some employees could be relocated to what’s being called the Dallas ISD Education by the end of the year, with the entire moving process taking about four years.

Blackie Sherrod, RIP. Sherrod, who died of natural causes at age 96 on Thursday afternoon, is being remembered as “the greatest Texas sportswriter of his generation.”

Read More

Let’s Talk About How to Fix Dallas Schools

Next Tuesday evening here at D Magazine World Headquarters, we’re hosting a happy hour/panel discussion on education in North Texas: More specifically, the question of how schools can find, reward, and retain the best teachers. Eric Celeste will moderate a talk among Dallas ISD trustee Miguel Solis, Stacy Hodge of education advocacy nonprofit Stand For Children, and Todd Williams of overly-punctuated education nonprofit Commit!

If you’re interested in attending, mosey on over this way.

As for myself, I was too excited about the issues to wait all the way until next week. So I asked John Hill, who writes and podcasts about education in Dallas on his blog Turn and Talks, to have a little chat with me (via instant messages) to further whet my appetite. Hill is a former DISD teacher and is now teaching 10th-grade world history at his alma mater, Jesuit Dallas.

Read More

City Council Gives Zale Corp. $450K to Sort-of Move to Dallas

The Dallas City Council just voted this morning to grant Zale Corporation up to $450,000 to move out of Irving. Luring a corporate headquarters to town is generally considered an accomplishment worth crowing about, but take a look (above) at where the company plans to build its new $45 million complex.

The dark gray line represents the city limits. You can see on the map that Zale’s plan is to move just a couple miles away to the little island territory of Dallas around North Lake, as part of the Cypress Waters development. It’s an area even farther from the center of Dallas than is Zale’s existing headquarters. Some of you may not even have realized that land was part of the city. It was annexed back in the 1950s when Dallas Power and Light (which became TXU) needed a cooling reservoir for a new electric plant.

In return for the city’s largesse, staff members estimate the economic impact to the city of $11.3 million over 10 years. Outlaying $450,000 for a return of $11.3 million obviously seems like a no-brainer.

However, when Councilman Mark Clayton probed for more information about the estimate during the council’s discussion period, it was disclosed that only about $800,00 would come back to the city as direct tax revenue. The vast majority of that $11.3 million is based on estimating the impact of the hundreds of new employees that will, according to the underlying logic, come to live, work, and play in Dallas (spending money all along the way).

Read More

Leading Off (4/22/16)

Ex-DISD Executive Sues District. Tonya Sadler Grayson, who was fired last July, claims in a lawsuit filed Thursday in federal court that she was wrongfully terminated, sexually harassed by trustee Lew Blackburn, and discriminated against because of her race. Grayson’s dismissal from her job came after an internal DISD audit determined she had taken part in a deception, lied about her criminal history, and bullied another employee.

Johnny Manziel Likely Indicted. The Dallas County district attorney’s office will announce indictments by the grand jury that was hearing the domestic violence charges against the former Texas A&M and Cleveland Browns quarterback on Monday. Prosecutors had previously said a decision not to indict Manziel would be announced on Thursday but a formal indictment would come Monday. So it’s not looking good for Johnny Football. (Are we still calling him that?)

Frisco Mother’s Death Ruled Suicide. Christine Woo was found dead — and her three young children alive — in an SUV in a Target parking lot earlier this month. She and her kids had apparently been in the vehicle a few days. Yesterday the medical examiner revealed that Woo had killed herself via a drug overdose. Furthermore, Frisco Police say their investigation determined that Woo had “no deliberate plan” to harm her own children with what she did. Deliberate or not, let’s hope there are no long-term repercussions for these kids.

Mavs Lose Game 3. A contingent of D Magazine staffers was on hand to witness the Mavericks’ 131-102 loss to Oklahoma City, which gave the Thunder a 2-1 lead in the first-round NBA playoff series. It was my first time attending a Mavs game in about 25 years. If they had to lose, I’m glad it was in a blowout because that led Tim (my ride) to leave the game early, which got me back to D Magazine World Headquarters in time to watch the bottom of the ninth as former Plano East Senior High School and TCU baseball player Jake Arrieta (now the ace of the Chicago Cubs) finished a no-hitter against the Cincinnati Reds. My apologies to the poor maintenance guy I frightened when I hooted and hollered in what he had assumed was an empty office.

The Texas Rangers saluted musical artist Prince, who died Thursday, on the video board at Globe Life Park as the team completed a sweep of the Houston Astros.

Read More

Poll: What Should We Rename the Continental Avenue Bridge?

Christiana mentioned in “Leading Off” the proposal to change the name of the Continental Avenue Bridge to honor former Dallas mayor Ron Kirk. The suggestion came from Mary McDermott Cook, who was slated to become the bridge’s namesake after a $10 million donation was made on her behalf in 2009.

Choosing Kirk instead strikes some critics as ironic, given his support for a toll road project that would necessitate the removal of about 9 percent of the bridge.

But what do you think we should call it?

Read More

Dallas Denies Ross Avenue Mechanic Permit to Keep Shop in Business

Despite a DC-based libertarian nonprofit drumming up national media attention for his cause, Ross Avenue mechanic Hinga Mbogo was denied a special-use permit to stay in business two more years at that location despite his 30-year-old auto shop operating outside zoning guidelines for the neighborhood that were set nearly 11 years ago.

A parade of neighbors, mostly residents of Bryan Place and mostly in opposition to Mbogo’s request, addressed the Dallas City Council before the vote this afternoon. Speaking on behalf of Mbogo were representatives of the Institute For Justice, who claimed to have collected 80,000 signatures in support of him. They also declared that the decision today was being watched by observers across the country, including the Wall Street Journal editorial board, which wrote today that Dallas is driving out long-time businesses to “make way for hipsters.”

Read More

Leading Off (4/8/16)

Mayor Blames Himself For Crime Wave. At a joint press conference with Dallas Police Chief David Brown, Mayor Mike Rawlings declared his support for Brown’s (significantly revised) plans to fight the disturbing uptick in violent crime in the city since the beginning of the year. “This is on my watch,” Rawlings said, striking his finest buck-stopping pose. The mayor said it’s time for the city council to consider hiring 50 more officers. Last week, Brown had to back off his initial plans to reassign hundreds of officers to new shifts and task forces, due to strong objections by the police unions (including calls for Brown’s resignation). Then Gov. Greg Abbott offered to have state troopers made available to assist the DPD. The chief said state and county law enforcers will help serve domestic violence and drug warrants that had piled up as cops were deployed elsewhere to address the surge. Dallas Police Association president Ron Pinkston was not impressed by what he heard at the press conference, which he referred to as a “dog-and-pony show.”

Stars Play For Conference No. 1 Seed Saturday. Both Dallas and the St. Louis Blues have 107 points on the season with one game left to play this weekend before the NHL playoffs begin. The Stars hold the tiebreaker, so either a Stars win against Nashville (7 p.m. tomorrow at the AAC) or a Blues loss will secure home-ice advantage throughout the conference playoffs for Dallas. I’d gladly jump on the bandwagon/zamboni if I could ever follow the damn puck whenever I try to watch a game on TV.

Jordan Spieth Leads at Masters. After the first round at this year’s tournament in Augusta, the impossibly good young Dallas golfer is at the top of the leaderboard, at 6-under with a two-stroke lead, as play resumes today. Spieth is aiming for his second straight green jacket.

Read More

Libertarian Nonprofit Stumps For Ross Avenue Mechanic

Hinga Mbogo has operated an auto repair shop on Ross Avenue just east of downtown Dallas for about 30 years. Eleven years ago the city of Dallas came up with a plan to redevelop that stretch of the road — with apartments, shops, restaurants, minus greasy-looking businesses like mechanics — as a more attractive gateway into the Arts District.

Using a process called “amortization” — which sounds like a rebranding of “eminent domain” — the city has granted Mbogo special-use permits that have allowed him to keep operating even as he’s out of step with the new zoning for the area, with the understanding that he will take that time to make arrangements to close his shop.

Mbogo went to the Plan Commission in February asking for another two years to stay in business. City staff recommended approval, but commissioners denied the request. Next week, Mbogo’s case is on the agenda for the Dallas City Council to decide.

Read More

Poll: Do You Care How the Trinity Toll Toad Affects Interstate 35E and I-30?

This week’s poll is dedicated to Michael Morris, transportation czar of the North Central Texas Council of Governments, who last week told the Dallas Morning News that he’s “unaware of anyone who has an interest” — other than reporter Brandon Formby — in the impact a potential Trinity toll road will have on the nearby existing highways.

What do you think about that?

Read More

Scot Miller Trinity Video Appears on CBS’ Sunday Morning

If you watch Sunday Morning, you know they end every episode with a moment of quiet video taken in a natural setting. Yesterday, that video came from none other than sometime D Magazine contributor Scot Miller. You can watch the full version of the video below. As you do, I’d like you to reflect on the duplicitous staff of the city of Dallas and the highway they are trying to build next to the Trinity River.

Read More

Leading Off (4/1/2016)

Kingston Vs. Dallas Police & Fire Pension. Last week, the pension board had planned to censure Dallas City Councilman Philip Kingston (also himself a board member) for speaking to WFAA about the possibility of a sale of the troubled Museum Tower. But that was prevented from happening when it was revealed that Kingston had not been properly notified in advance. A special board meeting is scheduled for this morning expressly for the purpose of taking action against Kingston. However, on Thursday afternoon Kingston took steps to forestall those efforts by filing a petition in Dallas County court saying that he has not received documents that he has requested from the pension system that are related to the claims other board members have made that Kingston breached his fiduciary duty by making comments to the media.

Frisco Woman Found Dead. Police located the body of Christine Woo, who’d been missing since Monday, inside her SUV in the parking lot of a Target store in McKinney on Thursday evening. Woo’s three children were in the car, severely dehydrated and reportedly having been in the vehicle for a few days. The Collin County Medical Examiner will determine her cause of death, but police have said there were no obvious signs of foul play. The Target is about 2 miles from Woo’s home.

American Airlines to Offer 24-Hour Refunds. Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport’s dominant carrier is bringing its ticketing policies in line with most other major competitors. Starting today it will offer passengers full refunds up to 24 hours after purchase. Previously American had permitted tickets to be placed on hold for 24 hours without requiring a purchase, which was the other of two options that a 2012 federal Department of Transportation rule gave airlines.

Denton Ranked 2nd-Best Place to Raise a Child If You Want Him to Amount to Nothing. Not sure what to make of this national publication’s assessment that my hometown is an “unsung haven for anyone whose kid has ‘underachiever’ written all over them.” Seriously, is this some sort of joke?

Dallas Police Chief Says His Crime-Fighting Plans ‘Not Sustainable’

Dallas Police Department Chief David Brown is already reversing course on his plans for fighting a spike in violent crime, which he laid out yesterday for the Dallas City Council’s Public Safety Committee. His announced strategy of changing the shift schedules of hundreds of officers, requiring more foot patrols, and having nearly as many officers take on additional service on task forces, proved so unpopular with police unions that there were calls for Brown’s resignation.

Today the city has issued a press release with statements by Brown and City Manager A.C. Gonzalez that announce a different plan will be employed to stop the rise in crime that Dallas has seen so far in 2016:

Read More

Black Police Association Calls For Chief David Brown to Resign

At the Dallas City Council’s Public Safety Committee meeting this morning, Chief David Brown revealed his plans for combatting a spike in violent crime that’s seen murders up 86 percent through March, compared to the same period last year.

Zac mentioned in “Leading Off” that some within the police department were already expressing displeasure with the chief’s plans even before he’d fully laid them out for the council. Now that he has, it’s easy to see why officers might react negatively, considering that Brown is making drastic changes to the shift schedules of hundreds, requiring them also to conduct many more foot patrols of troubled neighborhoods, and adding service on task forces to their regular duties.

“It all has to happen yesterday, because the summer is approaching,” the chief said, citing the fact that warmer temperatures generally bring with them an uptick in crime. (The practical non-existence of the usual winter weather the last couple months was among the explanations Brown offered for the alarming increases that have also seen assaults, robberies, and burglaries trending upward in the early going of 2016.)

Read More