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Making Dallas Even Better

It May Cost More to Remove the Dallas Wave Than to Fix It

I just happened to spend my morning hanging out at a meeting of the Parks and Recreation Board (always a good time, let me tell you), and got to sit in on the first public briefing on the Dallas Wave since the January 20 city council meeting. If your short term memory needs refreshing, the January 20 meeting was when the city council found out that they had 5 hours to respond to a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers request to finally figure out how to fix the whitewater feature on the Trinity, which has been closed since it opened in 2011.

There wasn’t much new revealed in the meeting that hasn’t been batted around to death. One of the most eyebrow-raising revelations was that most of the people on the parks board have never been briefed on the Dallas Wave, despite the fact that a power point presentation seemed to suggest that city staff spent much of 2015 trying to figure out what on earth to do with the thing. According to city staff, the city is looking at two options for fixing the wave problem. The first is to lengthen the bypass channel in order to decrease the grade, making it possible to navigate upstream. The second is to simply take the white water feature out altogether.

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Poll: Does Dallas Need to Pay Down Debt Before Fixing Roads?

UPDATE: The City Council has reportedly agreed that there will be a 2017 bond program, because “deferred maintenance is not an option.” But it looks like it may well be a smaller bond, in the $200 million to $500 million range, than the $1 billion initially discussed.

We learned last week that several members of the Dallas City Council are pushing to delay what had been discussed as a possible $1 billion bond election in 2017. The argument for doing so is based upon concerns that the city has substantial debt obligations already, as well as uncertainty over how shortfalls in the police and fire pension fund might affect future operations.

But with so many roads across Dallas pockmarked with potholes, opponents of a postponement say there are too many vital infrastructure needs now that would prove even costlier if further delayed. What do you think?

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Leading Off (2/3/15)

Cyclist Finds Skull in Plano. Police are investigating what appears to be a skull and human bones found in a creek behind an elementary school yesterday afternoon. The family of at least one missing woman has been notified, though police say it’s too early to connect the remains to anyone.

Fight Over Phone Leads to Fatal Shooting. Police say a 21-year-old man confessed to shooting 30-year-old Jamal Deshaylen Berry in the chest after an argument over a phone. Berry was found shot in the street outside a rec center in East Oak Cliff yesterday morning.

Whataburger Robbers Sentenced to 115 Years. Two men who were convicted of robbing four different Whataburgers and three different Jack-in-Box locations in 2014 were sentenced to more than a century each — 1384 months, specifically — in prison for the crimes.

Local Man Returns Home After Son Wins Iowa Caucus. Rafael Cruz was spotted in an Iowa airport yesterday, heading back to Texas. He said he wouldn’t be spending as much time campaigning for his son in New Hampshire because “There are not as many evangelicals.”

Why Yesterday Was Such an Important Day for Dallas History

As Tim mentions in Leading Off, the Dallas Landmark Commission voted in favor of pursuing protection for a number of important historic sites and structures yesterday, choosing preservation over lazy private interests in each case. The decision to move a 19th century home in the Cedars, rather than bulldoze it for a parking lot, and to move towards designating the Meadows Building on Central Expressway as a historic landmark, thus protecting it from its current owner’s planned demolition of a wing, demonstrates a rare and welcomed willingness from a city board to stand up to private developers in the name of the public’s interest. And the move to protect Big Spring also showed that the commission is willing to step in on behalf of Dallas’ dwindling natural resource, even in a case where the chief threat to the preservation of that natural resource is the city itself.

Mark Lamster runs through all of this in a column, and I don’t have much to add to his thoughts, though it is worth highlighting a few of them:

If the Meadows isn’t a landmark, than nothing is. The commission’s unanimous vote in favor of designation was a heartening indication of this reality, and a welcome validation of its own responsibility. A landmarks commission that cannot protect a building like the Meadows is not worth its name, and serves no purpose.

Yesterday, Dallas demonstrated that it has a Landmark Commission with a purpose. That should be an encouraging source of optimism. Perhaps we are transitioning into a new kind of Dallas, a city that bucks the character cliches of its ensconced business-first civic mentality that has historically devalued not just history and nature, but the public oversight of municipal government to boot.

Leading Off (2/2/16)

Joseph Randle Gambled on Sports. The former Cowboys running back was arrested Monday on a speeding warrant (making that his fourth arrest in 17 months), and the DMN is reporting that part of the reason the Cowboys released him last year was because he was betting on sports (though not, apparently, Cowboys games).

Dallas Landmark Commission Votes To Protect Big Spring. After so much bad news recently about city contractors bungling around in the Trinity Forest, it’s nice to hear this. The Landmark Commission has voted to protect Big Spring, one of the last artesian springs in North Texas. Surely the Plan Commission and the City Council will now do the right thing and approve the vote.

Meadows Building Might Get City Protection. Speaking of the Landmark Commission, it also voted yesterday to begin the lengthy process of giving the building on Greenville Avenue a historic designation (much to the new owner’s chagrin).

Dallas City Council To Discuss Bond Package. The Council is holding a retreat today. One of the topics they’ll discuss: putting off a $1 billion bond package till 2018. The mayor says he is concerned about the city’s financial stability. So enjoy your potholes, people.

Dallas May Wait Even Longer to Repair Its Streets

As the DMN notes, at a retreat next week the Dallas City Council will discuss the possibility of postponing until 2018 a $1 billion bond program initially planned to go before voters in 2017. The reason is that Mayor Mike Rawlings and some other council members want the city to pay down some of its outstanding debt before taking on any more:

As things stand, $235 million out of Dallas’ $3 billion budget will go toward debt service this fiscal year alone .

“That’s money that could be going toward other services,” said council member Lee Kleinman, who has advocated that the city pay for repairs only when it can afford to do so. “That’s money that could go toward streets.”

“We’re trying as a council to bring our credit card spending down,” Rawlings said.

Any delay could be a disappointment to residents eager to get repaired many streets that are now in a near-post-apocalyptic state. Councilman Philip Kingston sounds ready to serve as their champion on the horseshoe:

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Leading Off (1/29/16)

Dallas Schoolchildren Required to Play. The DISD board voted Thursday that all district elementary schools must give students 20 minutes of recess each day for the rest of this school year, increasing that to at least 30 minutes daily next year. Recess also can’t be withheld as a form of punishment in disciplinary matters. Trustee Dan Micciche, who brought the proposal to the board, cited studies indicating recess improves social and emotional health. Considering the gorgeous weather we’re expected to have today, I plan to make the same argument to Wick this afternoon.

Arlington Woman Awarded Millions For Awful Book. I haven’t read Fifty Shades of Grey, unless you count Buzzfeed’s abridged, illustrated version. But millions have bought author E.L. James’ book that began as fan fiction published through a website co-founded by Arlington woman Jennifer Pedroza. A jury last year found that Pedroza’s partner had cheated her out of her rightful share of royalties from the work, and on Thursday a judge awarded the Fort Worth schoolteacher $10.4 million in royalties plus $888,643 in pre-judgment interest, as well as $1.7 million in attorney’s fees. So Fifty Shades has made so much money that a woman who didn’t even write the thing, and is splitting her royalty share with the other partners who worked to publish it, still looks to make $11.5 million? Jeez, you people like your S&M.

Dallas Police Chief Doesn’t Need Your Resume. Testifying as part of a civil suit filed against the city, David Brown explained the process by which he decided whom to promote to the rank of major within the department. His “intricate vetting process” has “little need for resumes, job interviews, detailed personnel histories or opinions outside of his command staff.”

Kennedale Smells Like Old Rotted Fish. Parts of Arlington too. Residents there are blaming recent changes at a landfill run by the city of Fort Worth. If I were better acquainted with Kennedale, I’d insert a cutting punchline here. But for all I know it was previously a veritable Garden of Eden, redolent of lilac and baby powder.

Will the Knox Street Redo Move the Most Dangerous Valet Stand in Dallas?

Tomorrow the Dallas City Council is expected to approve the Complete Streets Design Manual, a long-gestating project that’s the result of a $400,000 federal grant received in 2010 that in turn spawned the city’s Complete Streets Initiative.

The resulting document (see it in the council’s posted agenda) is intended to serve as a “comprehensive policy guide for all public or private projects that impact the planning, design, construction, and operation of streets.”

You may recall that in September 2012, the city authorized an experiment — with the help of the Better Block Foundation — wherein Knox Street between Central Expressway and the Katy Trail was narrowed, with bike lanes added and street parking rearranged. That effort was part of the development of a vision of building “streets that are safe and comfortable for everyone: young and old; motorists and bicyclists; walker and wheelchair users; bus and train riders alike,” as the Complete Streets Design Manual puts it.

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This New Study Should End Downtown Dallas’ Parking Conversation

Anyone familiar with downtown Dallas knows about its parking paradox. According to many in the real estate community, there is simply not enough parking — such a lack, in fact, that it makes economic sense to build new parking garages to accommodate all of the cars that want to be downtown. On the other hand, take a walk through downtown and all you see is parking — huge expanses of lots, blocks and blocks of garages — so much so that parking is a major reason why downtown can feel so dead, vacant, and even dangerous.

I can appreciate why the real estate market responds to the issue of parking in the way it does. When you’re trying to fill up a giant skyscraper with office tenants, it is difficult to compete with buildings outside the central loop that can offer easy access to parking. The desire to add more parking downtown is part of a belief that if you make it easier to get to and park in downtown more people will come, and the area will thrive. But a new study shows just how backwards this thinking actually is.

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Why All the Secrecy About the Dallas Wave?

Jim Schutze has posted a humdinger of an account of what went down in a Dallas City Council emergency executive session on Wednesday, when city staff surprised the council with the news that they had only hours to commit to spending $3 million-$5 million to fix the dangerous Dallas Wave whitewater feature on the Trinity River.

If the city didn’t pony up, they were told, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers could shut down the entire drinking water system. Or, as Schutze puts it:

All of a sudden — bang! out of nowhere! — the lawyers lock the council up where the taxpayers can’t see them, shove a letter from the Corps in their faces and tell them if the council doesn’t agree to spend millions more on this already atrociously over-budget fiasco by 5 p.m. that day, the Corps is threatening to yank federal permits that could effectively shut down the city’s water supply.

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Leading Off (1/22/16)

HOA, Developer Fight Over Falling Slope. The Woodward family of Frisco has watched as the empty land behind their house has continued to erode away ever since the heavy rains last May. No one disputes that repairs to the collapsed land are necessary, but the homeowners association says it has been unable to do anything because the empty lot is still owned by Shaddock Developers. Meanwhile Shaddock says the Lone Star Ranch HOA has maintained the property for years, making the fix the HOA’s responsibility. The two sides of the dispute have pledged to resolve the matter before someone falls into what’s becoming a gaping pit, but it may be time to call in Leslie Knope.

Garland Tornado Victims Sue Over Looting. Residents of the Landmark at Lake Village West apartments were forced out following a deadly Dec. 26 tornado. But many of them say that when they returned to their homes days after the storm, they’d been burglarized. About a dozen tenants have joined a lawsuit against the property management company and the security company that was hired to protect the complex after the storm.

Mavs Center Almost Voted an All-Star Starter. Zaza Pachulia, who is having a career year after Dallas traded for him following the DeAndre Jordan debacle, fell just 14,000 votes short of the final starting spot on this year’s Western Conference team for the NBA All-Star Game.

Stars Stop Skid. A 3-2 victory over the Edmonton Oilers last night ended the team’s four-game losing streak.

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DFW Airport Has the Most Guns

Or, to be more precise, Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport caught the most people trying to take guns on planes in 2015. The Associated Press and KERA report today that the Transportation Security Administration says 2,653 firearms were found in carry-on bags last year:

Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport ranked No. 1, with 153 discoveries. Other airports with the most gun discoveries were Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta, 144; Houston George Bush, 100; Denver, 90, and Phoenix, 73.

Dallas Love Field ranked No. 8 with 57 guns found.

TSA screened 708 million passengers in 2015, 40 million more than in 2014.

Atlanta is a busier airport when it comes to passenger traffic, so D/FW is a bit of an overachiever. Love Field too, considering that much bigger O’Hare and LAX don’t even crack the top 10 on this list. (Either that, I guess, or the TSA agents in Chicago and Los Angeles are awful at their jobs.)

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If Democrats Can’t Turn Denton Blue, Can They Ever Turn Texas?

You may have heard that it’s been a while since a Democrat has won statewide office in Texas. Despite abundant speculation about demographic trends flipping the state from red to blue, the results of the last gubernatorial election proved Texas Monthly wise to have included a question mark on its August 2013 cover featuring Wendy Davis and the Castro brothers.

The last person to get a Democrat into the governor’s mansion was Mary Beth Rogers, who ran Ann Richards’ successful 1990 campaign (as well as her unsuccessful 1994 re-election bid). Today the Texas Observer has published an excerpt from Rogers’ new book, Turning Texas Blue, which lays out her blueprint for the party’s resurgence.

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New Trinity Parkway Advisory Committee Includes Vocal Critics

So reports the Morning News this afternoon:

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings today sent word to his fellow City Council members that the citizens advisory committee will include project champions Ron Kirk, a former Dallas mayor; Lee Jackson, a former Dallas County judge; and Mary Ceverha, a Trinity Commons Foundation board member. On the flip side, it will also include vocal project critics Rafael Anchia, a state representative from Dallas; Angela Hunt, a former council member; and Robert Meckfessel, another Trinity Commons board member.

Those six will join — and were collectively selected by — City Council member Sandy Greyson and former toll agency chairman Jere Thompson

It’ll be this committee’s task to decide whether whatever technical solution government staffers come up with to reconcile the proposed toll road with a park alongside the river fits the pictures the “dream team” got everybody all hot and bothered over last year.

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