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Making Dallas Even Better

Ahmed Mohamed’s Family Demands $15M From City of Irving and Irving ISD

The lawyers for the family of former Irving teenager Ahmed Mohamed sent a letter demanding $10 million from the city of Irving and $5 million from the Irving school district for how police and officials handled the clock controversy.

From the letter, via DMN:

He will continue for the rest of his days to experience pain and suffering. A large segment of potential employers will steer clear of Ahmed to avoid controversy, despite his many obvious talents. There is no other way to put it: his reputation in the global community is permanently scarred. One also that Ahmed, quite reasonably, will have a lifelong fear of the law enforcement and educational establishments that have let him down so terribly.

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Leading Off (11/20/15)

End-of-Course Exams Basically Meaningless. The class of 2015 was the first in the state public education system to be required to pass a battery of end-of-course exams in order to receive a high school diploma. However, the state legislature earlier this year provided an out. Students can apply to their districts for a waiver to be allowed to graduate anyway, and a new survey found that among Texas’ 100 largest ISDs, 71 percent of waivers are granted. In four districts in Dallas and Collin counties all applications were successful.

Oilman Gets Life For Killing Girlfriend’s Ex-Husband. Johnny Lloyd Patton Jr., 68, of Fort Worth, was sentenced on Thursday for shooting Richard Slatkin in October 2013. Slatkin was the former spouse of Patton’s live-in girlfriend, who had previously had an affair with — and been impregnated by — Patton’s son while she was married to Slatkin. Patton claimed self-defense in the incident, but the jury evidently didn’t buy his argument.

Denton Recall Petition Fails. Those looking to recall Joey Hawkins from his seat on the city council collected 125 signatures when they needed only 76 to force an election. Trouble is they filed their petition two days too early. The Denton city charter specifies that a council member must be allowed to serve his or her term for six months before such a petition can be submitted.

Freezing Temperatures Coming This Weekend. So says the National Weather Service.

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Ask John Neely Bryan: How Do I Get a New Street Light in Dallas?

Question: One portion of my street gets disconcertingly dark at night. How can I get a new street light installed? — Roberta H.

Let us first consider the double-edged sword that was Edison’s electric bulb. You know what we used to do when it got dark? We went to sleep, and we didn’t feel much inclined to arise until the sun peeked out again across the eastern horizon. Even a gentleman of my much-accomplished verbal dexterity is hard-pressed to communicate the fantastic mode of living this engendered.

Don’t misunderstand. Fire had been invented by the 19th century. We had access to torches and candles and lanterns, et cetera, and you would be amazed at how brightly the moon and the vast array of stars themselves can illuminate the landscape when their luminosity hasn’t been subsumed within the visual pollution cast skyward by your modern cities.

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Study Says 100,000+ Texas Women Have Attempted Their Own Abortions

Those were the findings released today by the University of Texas at Austin’s Texas Policy Evaluation Project, which used an online survey to conclude that between 100,000 and 240,000 woman in the state have attempted to induce their own abortions.

The study was attempting to assess the effects of the 2013 restrictions — which required clinic performing the procedure to be ambulatory surgical centers — passed by the state legislature that resulted in the number of legal abortion clinics falling from 41 in 2012 to 17 now.

Most of those are in the major cities — including two in Dallas and one in Fort Worth — which means women in counties hundreds of miles from the nearest clinic sometimes feel that they have no choice but to take matters into their own hands. From the study:

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Leading Off (11/13/15)

Dez Bryant Blasts the Media. The Dallas Cowboys receiver’s locker-room tirade on Thursday took issue with recent coverage by reporters, which led to a heated exchange with ESPN Dallas’ Jean-Jacques Taylor over a column Taylor had written. During the incident, Bryant claims that Taylor used the n-word in reference to him, while other reporters present say that Taylor didn’t. Cowboys spokesman Rich Dalrymple and head coach Jason Garrett had to step in to calm their player down. Bryant tweeted after the brouhaha:

Denton Voters File Recall Petition. Residents upset with Denton Councilman Joey Hawkins’ vote in June to repeal the city’s fracking ban — a step the city council took after the Texas Legislature nullified the ban — turned in 125 signatures calling for Hawkins’ removal from office. Because Hawkins was re-elected in May with only about 300 votes, petitioners need to certify only 76 signatures to force a recall election. A similar effort is also under way to remove another council member who voted to repeal the ban, Kevin Roden (aka the would-be Savior of Sriracha).

Planes Report Laser Strikes. For the second straight evening, three pilots reported that some jerk southeast of Love Field was pointing a laser at their aircraft. A Dallas Police helicopter was dispatched to try to find the offender, but that effort was unsuccessful.

First-Grader Brings Guns to School. Don’t worry, the Little Elm boy did it accidentally. See, he’d picked up his dad’s backpack in the morning instead of his own. Apparently the kid’s backpack is identical to his dad’s. And his dad’s backpack contained the guns in preparation for a hunting trip. And the dad’s backpack with guns was in a place readily accessible to his son. Yeah, so forget what I just said: You should worry. We all should.

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Leading Off (11/5/15)

Dallas county voter turnout down from last year. Tuesday’s Dallas County elections saw a 9 percent turnout: 108,607 ballots cast out of 1,199,726 registered voters. Last year’s midterm elections saw a 34 percent turnout. Let’s change that next time, shall we?

Stepbrother arrested in death of woman found in Oak Cliff dumpster. Police arrested Anthony Davis, 41, in the murder of his stepsister, Lashunda Richardson, 36. Richardson had been stabbed in the back several times and her body thrown into a dumpster outside their Oak Cliff apartment. After neighbors called 911, police came and arrested Davis. Richardson’s family remembers her as a loving sister. Police are still trying to determine a motive.

Weatherford woman charged with capital murder. After her newborn girl was found dead in the trunk of her car, 22-year-old Ashley Nicole Blades was arrested and charged with murder and abuse of a corpse. Blades told police she’d given birth Monday morning and covered the baby’s face “for a minute” to keep her from crying. She wrapped the infant in a towel inside a plastic bag and put her in the trunk of her car, and when she checked on the baby, the infant was dead. Autopsy results pending.

Expect flash floods, thunderstorms today. A flash flood watch is already underway. After an afternoon respite, the forecast is thunderstorms, hail, high winds for the fun commute home. Hello, fall.

Slate Tries to Explain the Park Cities

Slate today attempts to explain to a national audience the peculiarities of the Park Cities and the controversy sparked by ugly emails in the campaign against the Highland Park ISD bond package approved by voters yesterday. The messages attempted to stoke fears that Section 8 housing could come to the small pieces of the city of Dallas that sit within HPISD boundaries and that the district therefore would be welcoming less desirable sorts of students into its classrooms.

There’s nothing in the piece that well-informed Dallasites don’t already know, especially considering the writer tapped SMU political science professor Cal “Never Turn Down a Media Request” Jillson for several quotes.

But I figured I’d mention its linking to our sister newspaper, Park Cities People:

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Leading Off (10/30/15)

Belo Foundation Pledges $30M For Parks. The money is intended to fund 17 acres of new green space across four sites downtown that have been designated as high priorities by the city’s parks master plan. You can tell this is a HUGE deal because the Morning News broke out its long-form template to tell the story. Among the plans is the expansion of the existing Carpenter Plaza, on the east side of downtown between Live Oak Street and Pacific Avenue along Interstate 345, by removing several streets to “serve as a link between downtown and Deep Ellum, with recreational activities under the highway overpass.” Uh-oh. Did someone say “overpass”?

Deadly Shootout Temporarily Shuts Down I-635 in Mesquite. Police killed a suspect who opened fire on them after a chase and standoff that began shortly before midnight this morning. That northbound segment of the highway, near Town East Mall, reopened just after 6:30 a.m. this morning.

Police Investigating Oak Cliff Murder. Robert Shumway hasn’t been seen since April. Someone forged his signature on a document authorizing the sale of his house in June. Last month the new homeowner found human remains in the backyard.

Boy Accused of Plotting School Shooting. The 12-year-old was taken into custody at his charter school, Trinity Basin Prep, after allegedly asking for a friend’s help and showing him a diagram of his planned attack.

SMU President Denounces Racially Insensitive Party. The “Ice Age” event, thrown by two fraternities, was advertised on social media as the “most savage banger in SMU history” and urged attendees to wear “bling, throwback jerseys, and tall tees.” SMU’s Gerald Turner issued a statement on Thursday saying the school’s “students should know better than to engage in such irresponsible and insensitive conduct.” The party has been canceled.

It’s Gonna Rain a Bunch More. Friday and Saturday are expected to dump another couple inches of precipitation on North Texas, and El Niño is to blame. More importantly, it appears that the Morning News has outsourced its weather coverage today to the Star-Telegram. What happened? Is Wilonsky OK?

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Exclusive: DART Rolls Out New Fleet of ‘D-Link’ Buses to Deep Ellum

Well, here’s some incredible news coming out of DART this morning. Today, Dallas Area Rapid Transit, using powers granted exclusively to public transit entities that allow them to manipulate the very fabric of space and time, have announced not just a D-Link to Deep Ellum and the Farmers Market, but AN ENTIRE FLEET of D-Link buses that serve Deep Ellum and connect it to East Dallas, West Dallas, Oak Cliff, and South Dallas.

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Moody’s Downgrades City’s Bond Rating

The fiscal chickens are coming home to roost. Years of under-maintained infrastructure and a police and fire pension system suffering from incompetent management and terrible investments have resulted in a downgrading of the city’s bond rating from from Aa1 to Aa2. The downgrading came on the same day the council approved $227 million in bonds for capital improvement projects, including $3 million for the relocation of a concrete plant at the behest of real estate developers already profiting from public investments in the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge and new West Dallas infrastructure.

As a result, the city will wind up paying about $887,000 more in interest than it expected over the life of the debt stemming from the sale of the bonds approved Wednesday, said Jeanne Chipperfield, the city’s chief financial officer. Chipperfield said that will come out to an average of $46,700 a year over the next 19 years.

And while that’s a fraction of the city’s annual $3 billion budget, that’s still money that could have gone toward paying public safety officers and fixing streets, Mayor Mike Rawlings said Wednesday night.

And I would expect that bond rating to decrease before it improves considering the city has no real plan for improving the overall quality of its streets and the police and fire pension plan faces an FBI investigation as it stares down potential insolvency.

Here’s looking at you, A.C. Gonzalez.

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How We Can Still Save the Half-Built Trinity River Project

That photo above is a Google maps shot of a house that sits on the corner of Marlborough Ave. and Davis St. in Oak Cliff. It has more or less looked like that for the better part of five years. The house is the ultimate DIY project. As Rachel Stone reported in the Oak Cliff Advocate earlier this year, Ricardo Torres bought the house in 2008 and set about building his dream home. Torres is a crafty guy. He started from scratch with a plan for a two story home. Then he realized that if he added a third story, he could have a downtown view. You know what would also be cool? A game room. So he tacked on one of those, and the house grew like a drawing in a Dr. Seuss book.

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Leading Off (10/16/15)

Dallas City Hall Soap Opera. The city attorney pushes for the felony prosecution of a city council member for yelling at a city employee, even going so far as to gather evidence for the case himself, despite the police chief telling him to stop and the alleged victim saying she didn’t want to press charges.

Prestonwood Baptist to Host Presidential Candidates. Sen. Ted Cruz, former senator Rick Santorum, Carly Fiorina, former governors Mike Huckabee and Jeb Bush and Dr. Ben Carson are all confirmed to speak Sunday afternoon at the Plano megachurch.

North Texas Is Ablaze. Our recent unusually hot, dry weather has contributed to grass fires in Denton County, Navarro County, and Hunt County.

Albino Deer Haunts Denton. Turns out the mysterious creature sighted over the last few years isn’t a ghost. Or is it? (It isn’t.)

Cold Front Is Coming. After a record high of 95 yesterday, today’s weather is expected to top out at 87, with even cooler temperatures this weekend and next week.

Harry LaRosiliere Shows Suburbs How to Mayor

Following up on yesterday’s effusive Plano love fest, I wanted to point to some interesting points raised by Eric Nicholson on the blog formerly known as Unfair Park. Plano’s new comprehensive plan, which controversially calls for denser development along corridors and throughout the city, has drawn plenty of criticism from suburbanites who fear that more apartment dwellers in their communities could harm schools and property values. That hasn’t fazed Plano Mayor Harry LaRosiliere, who has been the champion of the Plano Tomorrow plan. Sure, he’s shown guts, dismissing opposition as “noise” and keeping the city focused and on track. But his leadership is all the more impressive considering the recent track record of suburban DFW mayors:

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Plano Just Showed Dallas How to Run a City

There is a battle raging in Plano, a healthy and necessary one, as the suburban city moves forward with its new comprehensive plan. The policy document was approved by Plano’s council yesterday, even though hundreds of residents showed up to oppose it. The contention is understandable. The new plan sets an ambitious course for a more urban future in the community that, through the 1980s and 1990s, served as DFW’s archetypal suburban community. The new land use proposals still call for reserving a little over 50 percent of Plano’s land for suburban neighborhoods. But the city that is running out of vacant land also hopes to add a lot of dense, mixed-use infill development.

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