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Who Can We Blame for This Garland Shooting?

Here’s what we know: A group called the American Freedom Defense Initiative held a “Draw Muhammad” event yesterday in Garland. Organizers offered more than $10,000 for people to draw cartoons of Islam’s prophet and invited a Dutch politician known for his anti-Muslim views. Just before 7 p.m., two armed men showed up and shot at a security guard, wounding him in the ankle. Then Garland police killed both gunmen, who appear to be from Arizona.

Before the bodies were moved, reporters from outlets both foreign and domestic were on planes headed this way. Local comment sections and social media feeds were almost immediately filled with people either celebrating the deaths — posts on Facebook joked that the best art at the exhibit were the chalk outlines on the sidewalk — or decrying the event and its organizers as “irresponsible.”

At a press conference last night, some conservative media outlets pressed Garland police spokesman Joe Harn on why there was additional security at the event — measures that may have saved countless lives.

“Because of free speech,” someone suggested.

“I didn’t see anything about free speech in there,” Harn replied.

So what was it then?

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Leading Off (5/1/15)

Mike Miles’ Job on the Line. Under a judge’s orders, the Dallas ISD board will convene at 4 p.m.today at district headquarters to discuss the superintendent’s job performance. Most of the City Council has expressed their support for Miles even as trustees Bernadette Nutall, Elizabeth Jones and Joyce Foreman seem determined to push for his ouster. While Miles appeared on Fox 4 and CBS 11 newscasts on Thursday to say he’s remaining focused on what’s best for the children, Brett Shipp at WFAA couldn’t get more than a written statement from Miles for his latest report about possible interference by the super and trustee Mike Morath into a district HR investigation. Friday’s meeting is a closed session, so you may not want to bother getting the popcorn ready.

Rival Protests Today Downtown. A rally and march, organized by Mothers Against Police Brutality, is scheduled for 5 p.m. at the Frank Crowley Courts Building to show support for the ongoing protests in response to the death of Freddie Gray in the Maryland city. Meanwhile a second demonstration called “Backing the Blue” has been announced ostensibly to “say ‘thank you'” to the Dallas Police Department, but really just seems designed to troll the other group’s event. And, according to Breitbart, a counter-protest by an open-carry group called Texans Against Gun Grabbers, is also happening at the same time and place. The TAGG organizer issued a statement about the event, with scary overtones: “My whole point is that this event has the potential to be extremely volatile very quickly. For your safety I would stay out of Dallas tomorrow night.”

Dallas Cowboys Pick Byron Jones in NFL Draft. With their first-round pick last night, the team selected a cornerback from Connecticut. Why do I find it funny to think of people playing football in Connecticut?

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Firefighter’s Widow to Mayor Mike: ‘Everything You Just Told Me Is a Load of Crap’

The Morning News reports on a phone call Mayor Mike Rawlings made yesterday to Jenny Wilson, whose husband Stanley died fighting a May 2013 fire at a Dallas condo. Wilson has — quite reasonably, given Dallas Fire-Rescue’s delays in releasing their investigation findings and the suspicious redactions made from early to final drafts of the official report — been quite critical of the city’s response to the death:

Rawlings called to assure her that proposed fixes to department procedures and training will be implemented “in memory of Stanley”:

But Wilson said she thought Rawlings was just parroting top fire officials, who she believes helped cover up for a commander who gave the fateful orders that led to her husband’s death.

“It felt like I was listening to Joel Lavender,” Wilson said, referring to a fire department spokesman. “So when he finally stopped talking, I said, ‘Everything you just told me is a load of crap.’”

She said Rawlings seemed taken aback.

“At that point, my blood was boiling because it sounded like everything I’ve heard from the fire department,” she said. “And like I’m just some small child, and they’re patting me on the head saying, ‘just be nice.’”

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Leading Off (4/24/15)

Early Dallas ISD STAAR Results Disappoint. District eighth-graders taking the state’s reading test performed worse than last year’s students, while the fifth-grade passing rate increased slightly.

3 DISD Trustees Really, Really Want to Fire Mike Miles. On Thursday, Joyce Foreman, Elizabeth Jones, and Bernadette Nutall tried, and failed, to replace board president Miguel Solis because they’re unhappy that Solis has put off scheduling a board meeting to discuss the performance of the district superintendent until after the May election.

What the Cluck, Arlington Council? The city, you’ll remember, helped foot the bill for JerryWorld and got its own suite in return. Over the past five years, at nearly every event, two-thirds of the tickets have been used by the mayor, council members, and their spouses — to the surprise of no one.

Molina High Teacher Arrested For Student Relationship. Mary Todd Lowrance, 49, had confided her indiscretion to a co-worker.

Million-Dollar Lake Palestine Home Collapsing. In the ongoing battle between man and nature, nature scores another win.

Ralph Strangis Quits Dallas Stars. The popular broadcaster has decided to move on to “new challenges” after a 25-year career with the team.

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Leading Off (4/22/15)

Poll Shows People Don’t Love the Toll Road. Of the people in the Dallas Morning News poll who have formed an opinion, only 23 percent favor putting a toll road between the levees. Among registered voters, 65 percent oppose the toll road. (Coincidentally, 65 percent of registered voters have been paying attention.) The graphics here have some pretty interesting breakdowns, too.

Mavs Lose Game Two. It was close for a while. Then it wasn’t. Then it was kind of terrible. “Playoff Rondo” wasn’t available, and regular Rondo spent a lot of the night on the bench. It’s going to be a long way back from here. Game three is Friday in Dallas.

Cowboys Schedule Released. The order of teams doesn’t tell us much, because, with the season still several months away, nobody knows who will be where yet. That week six bye is not an advantage, though. Stats show: the earlier the bye week, the better. Zac will be along at some point with a precise prediction of exactly how the season will play out.

Does Anyone Want a Donkey? The Humane Society of North Texas saved 32 donkeys from slaughter. Several were emaciated, all of them were suffering from respiratory and hoof problems, and 17 are pregnant. HSNT will house the donkeys until they are ready for adoption.

Stay Inside All Day. There will be a lot of bad weather later today, according to people who tend to know such things. If you believe in the dark arts of meteorology, prepare for severe storms for the rest of the week.

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Oil and Gas Wells to Blame For More North Texas Earthquakes

Today a new study was released in the journal Nature Communications that determined the causes of the unusual seismic activity (earthquakes) around Azle (northwest of Fort Worth) in November-December 2013, which Brantley Hargrove wrote about in the May 2014 issue of D Magazine.

Researchers from SMU, the University of Texas at Austin, and the U.S Geological Survey determined that activities related to oil and gas operations in the area, as the Morning News notes, are responsible for “shifting faults below Dallas-Fort Worth that have not budged in hundreds of millions of years”:

The scientists zeroed in on an unusual mechanism behind the quakes: workers pushing liquid into the ground on one side of a fault and sucking gas and groundwater from the other side of the fault.

“The combination of these activities seems to have triggered the earthquakes, and that was a real surprise to us,” said Matthew Hornbach, a geophysicist at SMU and a lead author of the paper.

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Will Texas Central Partners Manage to Quell Rural Opposition to the High-Speed Rail?

Last week Texas Central Partners, the company behind the effort to build a high-speed rail link between Houston and Dallas, announced a slate of open house informational meetings about the project. The locations of those meetings – Ennis, Corsicana, Mexia, Cypress, Jewett, Teague, and Waller – say everything about where opposition to the project originates.

After all, if you don’t live near either of the end terminus points of the rail, there’s not really much in the project for you outside of a new piece of infrastructure running through your county. Most of the concerns about the project that have come up in rural Texas relate to the impact the railway may have on the land, including interrupting deer hunting, the movement of livestock, potential for noise, and eminent domain.

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What Can We Learn About the Trinity River Project From Yesterday’s Dallas City Council Meeting?

Purely as a piece of political theater, yesterday’s Dallas City Council meeting had something for everyone. There were surprising plot twists, contentious debates, great dialogue, and even moments of hilarious buffoonery. What started as a presentation of the plan the mayor’s urban design “Dream Team” created for the Trinity River morphed into a workshopping of byzantine parliamentary procedure.

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Leading Off (4/17/15)

Trinity Wars, Episode VII: The Force Awakens, Is Quickly Sedated. Despite Tuesday’s declarations by consultants whom toll road proponents themselves commissioned  — namely that there’s no good reason for putting a highway through a potentially great park — support on the Dallas City Council for the federally-approved design known as Alternative 3C seems not to have softened. At a long work session on Thursday afternoon, toll road opponents moved to drop the massive project entirely and to seek federal approval instead for a low-speed, meandering road whose primary purpose would be to provide access to the adjacent park (just what Mayor Mike Rawlings’ dream team recommended.) But that proposal was roundly rejected, 10-4, and instead the same majority voted to proceed with planning for 3C. There was also an attempt by Councilman Philip Kingston to call a vote that would have forced each member to declare his or her support for (or opposition to) 3C. This irritated toll road proponents, who maneuvered around it with their own amendment to Kingston’s proposed amendment. Rawlings made another of his public pronouncements (about the Dream Team proposal) designed to sound like he’s keeping an open mind: “We have just met this beautiful, in my case, lady, and I’m not ready to get married today.” But he then seemed to show his cards when he put Vonciel Jones Hill — whose dedication to plopping a mega-highway next to the river is unwavering — in charge of seeking public input on the proposals under consideration. “It’s like putting the fox in charge of the hen house,” said former councilwoman Angela Hunt. Reminder: May 9 is Election Day.

 A Lot of Words About Dez Bryant. He recently fired one advisor, who had close ties to the Dallas Cowboys, and engaged the services of another management company. What does this mean for Bryant’s relationship with the team, which is still waiting for him to sign his contract for next season? Yeah, that’s the question.

Man Detained For Watauga Abduction Attempt. Police have found a person of interest in the failed kidnapping Mike mentioned in Wednesday’s “Leading Off.”

Sex Offender Escapes Fort Worth Halfway House. Charles Sprague is suspected in a kidnapping and robbery in North Richland Hills on Wednesday. He’s been added to the Texas 10 Most Wanted Sex Offenders list.

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SAGA Pod: Jim Schutze on Trinity Toll Roads New and Old; Also, DISD

It’s SAGA Pod After Dark! We stop by Schutze Manor to discuss the Trinity Toll Road, the Mayor, the people who really run this city, the group trying to get the Toll Road done at any cost, the Dream Team plan and more traffic noise. Then we go over the latest non-scandal scandals in DISD and wonder if the Bad Guys have finally won. Also, you can find it on iTunes here. As always, please listen with your ears.

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A D Magazine Guess-tigation: Is Mayor Rawlings Actually a 12-Year-Old Trapped In An Older Man’s Body, Just Like In Big or Vice Versa or Like Father Like Son?

I posed the question in the headline this morning in Leading Off, but after doing so, I started to worry if I’d given enough supporting evidence for my hypothesis. Could I base my entire conclusion on one “holy smokes” quote? Well, sure. I could. But …

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Leading Off (4/15/15)

Probation Officer Admits Role in Violent Drug Ring. Selena Ball pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute cocaine. Ball, 30, of DeSoto, was in what’s being described as a “romantic relationship” with an inmate she was assigned to monitor. If not reporting serious probation violations, and facing up to 20 years in prison as a result, is your idea of romance.

Double Murder Suspect Killed in DeSoto. Colby Robinson was wanted in connection with two murders in Portland. He was spotted at a 7-Eleven. Then there was a chase. Then Robinson was pronounced dead at the scene.

Watauga Girl Escapes Kidnapping. “I was screaming, trying to get out and everything,” the girl said. She apparently chipped her tooth on the car door as she got away. Police are still looking for the suspect.

Johnny Football Attends Local Baseball Game. Looks like Johnny Manziel is out of rehab and back to sitting in prominent seats at sporting events. And the Rangers won.

Pay Your Taxes. It’s that day. I’m sorry. Here’s some free stuff.

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Three Things That Must Happen if Mayor Rawlings Is Serious About His Dream Team’s Trinity Plan

I just got back from the Trinity Commons Foundation annual luncheon during which urban planner Larry Beasley revealed the details of the so-called urban design Dream Team’s plan for rethinking the controversial Trinity Toll Road. Details of the plans are now available online here. Tim will be along to fill in on some details of what went down at he luncheon, and I need a little time to digest it all.

But here’s a one line takeaway: What Beasley essentially presented was a reversion to — and, you could argue, improvement of — the Balanced Vision Plan. No highway. No trucks. No exit ramps flying in every direction. No ugly wall. Just a meandering parkway that provides access to the park and facilitates through-city traffic. Also, no details on how this vision will fit into any funding scheme, or how it meshes with the federal environmental review (Beasley claims it fits snugly, but I’m not immediately convinced), or how heartily Michael Morris chuckled with maniacal laughter when he saw such a quaint vision of a road paraded out in the place of massive highway he wants to fit into his massive regional highway system.

But leaving the luncheon, scratching my head a bit, and wondering with Tim if his initial assessment was correct, that there’s no way the mayor could have ever expected Beasley’s team to recommend Morris’ vision,  I couldn’t help but fixate on the fact that we’ve been here before.

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How City Staff and Toll Road-Backers Misled Mayor Mike Rawlings

As Tim pointed out in Leading Off, there is some tremendous reporting in the Dallas Morning News today from transportation writer Brandon Formby. In his article, Formby lays out the entire chronology of the efforts by former City Manager Mary Suhm and Trinity Commons Foundation Executive Director Craig Holcomb to save the Trinity Toll Road project in the face of mounting opposition. The report comes ahead of today’s private luncheon reveal of the so-called Dream Team’s reworked vision for the road.

The piece pulls back the curtain on just how power brokers have pressed their influence on the mayor, rallying financial support for the pro-road effort, editing his op-eds, counseling him with misinformation or half-truths about the essential features of the road, and coming up with the idea of the dream team and setting the parameters of that groups’ deliberations.

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Michael Morris: Flood Protection Is ‘Most Critical Benefit’ Of Trinity Toll Road

Michael Morris, the transportation director for the North Central Texas Council of Governments, is the latest to write an opinion piece about the Trinity toll road for the Morning News. He has previously written or said most of what the piece contains. It mostly notable because he is hitting the “OH MY GOD WHAT ABOUT FLOODS??!1?” part much harder than before.

First paragraph: “Three items about the Trinity Parkway project are critical to remember. First, it is part of the Balanced Vision Plan that has five parts — not four. Second, we are planning for the next 25-plus years, and the region has added, and will continue to add, 1 million people per decade. And third, the most critical benefit of the Trinity Parkway is flood protection.”

Second paragraph: “Eliminating transportation from the corridor would ignore demographic change and eliminate flood protection benefits, and therefore it would be a mistake.”

Third paragraph: “The Trinity Parkway project is a component of the Balanced Vision Plan that includes improvements for flood protection, recreation, environmental restoration, economic development and mobility. The roadway also is an important element that complements and enhances all other components.”

In other words: “Hm, now that everyone is aware of the fact that this road is completely unnecessary — and actually probably pretty harmful — as far as reducing congestion goes, maybe we need it because of flood protection? How does that sound?” Kind of like they’re making it up as they go along.

The rest of Morris’ piece is a master class in throwing out scary numbers with no sourcing and hoping those scary numbers scare you sufficiently. Anyway, while I’m here, I’d like to break down one other sentence.

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