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SAGA Pod/Learning Curve: Schutze on Ebola and DISD

I think the headline is pretty straightforward. A few other things you should know:

• Jim starts off the podcast by coughing. He is so old and broken.
• We record it in his house, because he forgot that he didn’t have a car that day.
• At one point he tries to silence one of his dogs. I don’t even want to get into how he did this.
• If you’re wondering where ALL the antiques are, they’re in Jim’s house. I think you hear eight different clocks clang and ring and cuckoo during our talk.
• About Ebola, we focus on our officials’ reaction, the question of whether Presby can recover from its bad PR, and Peter’s question about how many will be infected before we panic. On DISD, we talk about the proper role of school board trustees, why black trustees ignore those rules, and how the city’s racial history fits into all this.

Here is the embed:

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Leading Off (10/17/14)

The Latest on Ebola. Nurse Nina Pham was transferred to the National Institutes of Health in Maryland Thursday evening, with news copters following her trip every step of the way from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital to Love Field, onto the plane and then off the plane to the NIH clinic. Just before she left Dallas, a video of her speaking with her physician was recorded and released to the public at her request. In it, she expresses her love for the Presby staff. Meanwhile, Dallas County leaders didn’t declare an emergency situation during their meeting yesterday, but they are requiring all health care workers exposed to Ebola to sign a document promising to avoid public transit and public places. If the workers don’t sign the “voluntary” agreements, orders will be issued restricting their movement. And, at the national level, President Obama called Gov. Rick Perry and vowed to offer Texas and Dallas all the help it needs in confronting the disease.

Superintendent Urged to Apologize to Trustee. At a meeting during which Mike Miles was seeking to explain his actions in response to what he termed a “crisis” at Dade Middle School, some in attendance pushed for the super to say he was sorry for having had district trustee Bernadette Nutall removed from the Dade campus on Monday. He did not.

Housing Prices Continue to Rise. The supply of available Dallas homes remains absurdly low, so the market values keep rising sharply, and now I’m feeling pretty screwed for not having jumped on the bottoming out a few years back.

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Mayor Rawlings Learns How to Be Humble in the Face of Ebola

Jim Schutze and I recorded a podcast yesterday afternoon in which we discuss the city’s reaction to the Ebola crisis (and DISD stuff). It’s very timely. It’s also sitting in the trunk of my girlfriend’s car, somewhere in her office parking garage. Since I won’t be able to get the pod up until tomorrow, here’s an example of one item we discussed: How officials have learned to temper their confidence, and how doing so actually inspires more confidence in the public.

Remember what Mayor Mike Rawlings said eight days ago:

Rawlings said that he remains [..]

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Leading Off (10/13/14)

More About the Second Ebola Case: There’s more info about the Dallas healthcare worker diagnosed with Ebola here, here, and here. And you should be following the reporting of our Matt Goodman here. Among other things, we know that, unlike in the recent case in Spain, this Ebola patient’s dog will not be euthanized.

Wright Amendment Is No More: The 1980 law restricting flights to and from Love Field becomes history today. Southwest, Virgin, and Delta will have dozens of new direct routes heading to nine new airports. It’s been a long time coming, and under other circumstances, this would probably be the biggest news of the week. But these are strange days in Dallas.

Cowboys Win Big Game: Dallas defeated the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks in Seattle yesterday, marking only the second time the Seahawks have lost at home in the last three years. DeMarco Murray is almost certainly the leading candidate for league MVP at the moment, and he just tied a 56-year-old record held by Jim Brown. The win puts the Cowboys’ record at 5-1 and gives all Cowboys fans the sick agony of expectation.

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Toll Road Backers’ Strategy: Pretend to Re-evaluate Its Worth

My column in the current issue of D Magazine tries to answer the question of why the Trinity toll road advocates won’t let this unpopular boondoggle die. Because I write these columns five to six weeks before they appear in print and online, time will always cause some portions of my column to be wrong/irrelevant/laughable by the time it appears. In this case, it’s the portion where I describe the strategy of the toll roads’ backers — the coalition of the willing.

Well, it’s not wrong. I say they will try to fund the toll road in phases. That’s still probably true. But it’s not the most immediate, important part of their strategy.

That would instead be the scenario currently being promoted by said coalition to various business interests around town, which goes like this: [...]

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Leading Off (10/10/14)

Baylor Hospital Could Lose Hundreds of Millions in Federal Funds. Inspectors for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recently found several instances of psychiatric patients walking away from the emergency department at Baylor University Medical Center. The violations potentially could cost the hospital up to $300 million in annual revenue it receives from Medicare, though Baylor is devising a plan to fix its problems, which it will submit to Texas Department of State Health Services by Monday.

Judge Rules Texas Voter ID Law Unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos issued an opinion late Thursday holding that the 2011 bill requiring photo identification for anyone to cast a valid election ballot places an undue burden on the right to vote and has a discriminatory effect on Hispanics and African-Americans. Attorney general Greg Abbott, who is also running for governor (in case you haven’t heard), announced immediately that his office would appeal the decision. It’s not clear yet how the ruling will affect the election that’s only a few weeks away.

Dallas Stars Lose Season Opener. They played great against a great team, but fell to the Chicago Blackhawks in a shootout.

Scam Targets Morning News Subscribers. Do not send $600 to an Oregon post office box to get the newspaper.

Today is Double Tenth National Day in Taiwan. It commemorates the start of the 1911 uprising that led to the collapse of the Qing Dynasty and establishment of the Republic of China. It’s also an office holiday for D Magazine Partners, celebrated in lieu of Columbus Day this weekend because of the horrific crimes Christopher Columbus committed against the native peoples of the Americas. (To be honest, I think it’s just because we decided we preferred getting a Friday off to getting a Monday off.)

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Should a City’s Police Force Look Like Its Citizens?

Last week, FiveThirtyEight took another dive into the topic of the demographics of police forces. In the wake of the Ferguson, Mo., protests, they’d previously looked at what percentages of cops in the 75 biggest U.S. cities are residents of the municipalities that they serve.

The reason that would seem to matter is the notion that when officers live in the same communities in which they work, the public is better off. The cops have a greater personal investment in making the city a great place to live, and the residents feel like the cops aren’t separate from, an antagonistic to, them.

Some cities require their police to be residents, so FiveThirtyEight decided to examine what effect such rules have on the demographic makeup of a police force — whether they aid, or make more difficult, the supposed ideal of having a department that looks very much like the community it serves.

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Leading Off (10/3/14)

Storm Wreaks Havoc. The high winds, rain, and hail that blew through North Texas Thursday afternoon left hundreds of thousands without power during at least some portion of last night, temporarily halted DART train service, knocked down trees, collapsed a building in the Fort Worth Stockyards, and tore the roof off a dorm at Arlington Baptist College, among other widespread damage. Having lost power, UT-Arlington canceled all classes Friday, all Arlington ISD schools are closed, as well as 40 Dallas ISD campuses and some schools in Mesquite and Richardson. DART hopes to be fully operational by this morning rush hour, with red, orange, and green lines normal, but only bus service available on the eastern stretch of the blue line.

Ebola Patient’s Family Held Under Armed Guard. Those who shared a Vickery Meadow apartment with Thomas Eric Duncan, the man diagnosed with the virulent disease, are under an order not to leave their home or receive visitors. However, one of the family’s children attended a DISD school on Wednesday morning. In order to enforce compliance, a guard has been stationed on site. Meanwhile, Texas Health Presbyterian issued a release Thursday evening to explain that a failure of two of its record-keeping systems (one for nurses, another for doctors) to communicate resulted in key information about Duncan’s recent travels not being considered during his initial Sept. 25 visit to the hospital, which led to his release.

Texas Can Enact Strict Abortion Restrictions. A federal judge’s decision overturning legal requirements for abortion facilities is under appeal. On Thursday the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the state can go ahead and enforce those measures even as the appeal process is under way.

Trinity Toll Road Supporters Have Gone Silent. This follows reports that a) the road isn’t projected to significantly affect traffic congestion and b) that the city council is likely under no obligation to fund it. Councilman Scott Griggs, who opposes the $1.5 billion, 9-mile route, has a theory on why North Central Texas Council of Governments transportation director Michael Morris and others have been unavailable for weeks to make comments on the issue, “I imagine they’re trying to come up with a new reason for it,” he said.

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Are We Witnessing The Fall of the House of Michael Morris?

As Liz mentioned in Leading Off, a planned toll road connecting Garland to Greenville has sparked a statistical feud between the Texas Department of Transportation and the North Central Texas Council of Governments. Last week, when 1,500 people showed up at a public meeting in Rockwall in opposition to the proposed road, one citizen brought to light the fact that the numbers the NCTCOG used to justify their new toll road are dramatically larger than traffic predictions made by TxDOT. If you want to dig into how much larger they are and why, read the well-reported DMN story. What interests me is what this current standoff reveals about how our region’s transportation policy is made.

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Leading Off (9/26/14)

Wylys Must Pay More than $300M in SEC Case. In May, a jury found that brothers Sam and Charles Wyly, founders of Irving-based Michaels Stores Inc., were guilty of fraud. They were found to have hidden their holdings in offshore trusts and to have engaged in illegal trading. On Thursday, a federal judge ruled that Sam and the estate of Charles (who died in 2011) must pay $187.7 plus interest, which could bring their total obligation to between $300 million and $400 million. The Wylys had argued their total net worth is only $119 million and that any punishment greater than that amount would bankrupt them. Tough, said the judge.

Need to Borrow Millions? Gov. Perry Can Help. You don’t even need to ask. The Texas Enterprise Fund, which the governor’s office oversees, even awarded $170 million to recipients who never officially applied for it. That’s just one of a number of troubling findings in a state audit report released Thursday.

UT Dallas Repaid State $4.3 Million. The university’s calculation error related to employee benefits is similar to the same one recently discovered at UNT, which has to repay almost $76 million. Maybe the Texas Enterprise Fund can help them out?

Enterovirus-D68 Cases Confirmed in Dallas County. Ten cases of the respiratory illness have been detected in children, which has symptoms much like those of the flu or a cold. Wash your hands regularly. Hand sanitizer is powerless against it, apparently.

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Gay Couples in Texas Have Hard Time Getting Driver’s Licenses

You might have seen this story in the Morning News today. It’s about gays and lesbians who can’t get driver’s licenses because they took a same-sex spouse’s last name. One of the women featured in the story is named Amanda Rodenborg (nee Barbour). Our own Mike Mooney wrote about Rodenborg’s experience with conversion therapy in our September issue. The story got nods from Longreads and Longform. Give it a read, if you haven’t already.

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Leading Off (9/19/14)

Police-Fire Pension Fund Losses Total Almost $200M. The board that oversees the retirement money of Dallas cops and firefighters got details of the bad news in a report on Thursday. In venturing into speculative real estate investment, the fund lost $196 million in recent years. That figure includes $90 million on tracts in Arizona and Idaho, $46 million on Napa Valley resorts, and $60 million on luxury homes in Hawaii and elsewhere. Even as real estate values plummeted and the losses mounted, in 2012, fund administrator Richard Tettamant received $78,300 in incentive pay and a $25,000 bonus on top of his $270,000 salary. One consulting company on the failed Napa projects has also been paid $3.6 million. Tettamant, you might remember, was removed from his gig earlier this year.

Man Trapped Beneath DART Train. He fell onto the tracks just as the train was pulling into the station. Fortunately emergency workers were able to free him from where he was pinned, and he’d suffered only a broken arm and some cuts. It could’ve been much worse.

Report Places Blame For Firefighter’s Death. The widow of Stanley Wilson, the firefighter who perished in a six-alarm blaze last year, released the findings of the investigation into the incident. The state report faulted commanders’ assessment of the fire before sending several men, including Wilson, back into the collapsing condominium building.

Madison High Basketball Coach Officially Fired. Roderick Johnson was one of 15 coaches and administrators dismissed in June by Dallas ISD Superintendent Mike Miles following a recruiting scandal that caused the school to be stripped of its state championship. On Thursday, a hearing confirmed the termination. Meanwhile some of the others who lost their jobs have instead been given the option of resigning.

The Governors Rick Dine at Mi Cocina. Texas Gov. Perry and Gov. Rick Scott of Florida on Thursday both attended a fundraiser at the Highland Park Village offices of Republican Party national finance chairman Ray Washburne and then sauntered across the parking lot for some Tex-Mex.

Commie Logo Removed From Vietnamese Restaurant. Not sure how nobody at Yum! Brands wondered whether a big red star was the ideal symbol to feature on their new Banh Shop concept.

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Leading Off (9/12/14)

Planners Back Off Tolling Central. The Regional Transportation Council met Thursday, and its members indicated they’re not moving forward with plans to toll some lanes of U.S. Highway 75. Of course, the move comes only after the Texas Transportation Commission, which is in charge of state-owned highways, said it wouldn’t support tolling. And the RTC didn’t actually take any action Thursday and could still move to toll other highways as a funding mechanism to increase traffic capacity throughout North Texas.

Lawsuit Against Jerry Jones May Be Too Late. The statute of limitations on civil claims of sexual assault is five years. The incident at the center of Jana Weckerly’s suit against the Dallas Cowboys owner, which was filed this week, took place five years and 10 weeks ago. But legal experts say Weckerly’s attorneys could argue that she was of unsound mind for more than 10 weeks of that period, or that Jones was out of the state on business for longer than 10 weeks since the alleged crime occurred. Either finding would make it possible for a judge to decide that the case can proceed.

Mineral Wells is Thirsty. The home of Crazy Water is looking for new water sources, as its primary reservoir (Lake Palo Pinto) has dropped from 28 feet to 14 feet in the last six months. If drought conditions don’t improve, the town could run dry by May of next year.

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