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Leading Off (8/29/14)

Judge Rules School Finance System Unconstitutional. It’s the second time in 18 months that State District Judge John Dietz of Austin has decided in favor of the 600 local school districts that sued the state. Dietz ruled that, even after increasing school funding by $3.4 billion during the most recent session, the legislature has still left education statewide underfunded. He also cited inequities in the way state funds are distributed. The state (namely attorney general and GOP gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott) will appeal.

Dallas County Not Properly Tracking HIV. A state report found 209 adult cases and 139 pediatric cases went “unreported” by the county health department from 2009 to 2012. That’s the largest number of unreported cases in Texas. Failure to follow up to collect information makes it difficult to determine whether a patient’s contacts may have also been affected and means the department can miss out on federal funding to treat patients.

Cowboys Winless in Preseason. They fell to the Denver Broncos, 27-3, last night. It’s the fifth time in franchise history the team hasn’t bothered to win any of its meaningless practice games.

Bitcoin ATMs Open in Dallas. In case you want to exchange your money that’s backed by the full faith and credit of the United States for a crypto-currency backed by the self-assurance of libertarian utopians worldwide. Right now one Bitcoin will cost you about $507.

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Craig Watkins Needs a Chauffeur

By now, you’re aware that District Attorney Craig Watkins hit someone on the Tollway and then paid that someone to keep quiet about the accident. Read this Tod Robberson post from yesterday. The FBI is now looking into the matter. As Robberson points out, Watkins apparently did the old “Do you know who I am?” bit at the accident scene. Let’s go back to another accident involving Watkins, this one from 2007.

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Leading Off (8/22/14)

Another Shooting by a Dallas Cop. It’s the fourth involving the city’s police force in the last two weeks. Dallas officers have shot 10 people so far this year, and seven have died — one of those was unarmed. (Compare that number to 12 in all of 2013.) Thursday night’s incident took place near the Dallas VA Medical Center. The man who was shot reportedly had himself shot a woman in the jaw.

State Allows Waste Control Specialists to Bury More Radioactive Waste. Dallas’ most evil genius may no longer be in charge of the company, but his vision for bringing byproducts of nuclear power plants to a site in West Texas lives on. The Texas Commission of Environmental Quality has approved changes that will allow WCS to accept triple the amount they could previously.

TCEQ Cites XTO For Stealing Water. The state agency says the company, which is owned by Exxon Mobil, took almost 1.4 million gallons of water to which it was not entitled, which it used for fracking.

Cowboys Linebacker Suffers Career-Ending Injury. DeVonte Holloman left Saturday’s preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens with a spinal injury, and doctors are advising that he never again play football.

Cowboys to Break Ground on Frisco HQ. Construction will kick off Friday, and the team expects to officially move from Valley Ranch to its new home for the 2016 season.

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Only 19 Percent of Dallas Cops Live in Dallas

Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight site took the recent troubles in Ferguson, Mo., as a reason to look at how often police officers don’t live in the very community they’ve been hired to serve and protect.

Among the nation’s 75 cities with the largest police forces, on average 60 percent of cops live where they work. Laredo, Texas, has the highest percentage, with 94 percent of its officers Laredoans. On the other end of the spectrum, in Miami the number is only 7 percent.

Dallas is down near the bottom of the list, with 19 percent calling the big city home. In some cities there is a disparity between the numbers of white and non-white officers who are also residents, but that doesn’t seem to be a large gap in Dallas, which claims only 21 percent of black officers and 26 percent of Hispanic officers.

By contrast, Fort Worth can boast a higher percentage than Dallas of officers living within its limits, 43 percent, but it comes with a big difference among the races: 64 percent of black officers and 56 percent of Hispanic officers with only 31 percent of white officers.

I wonder what the breakdown would look like among all city employees.

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Leading Off (8/15/14)

DA’s Office Paid Secret Settlement Following Car Crash. In February 2013, Dallas County district attorney Craig Watkins was driving up the Dallas North Tollway “reading information” on his cell phone when he ran into the back of a truck. Watkins was in a county-owned vehicle at the time but failed to follow the proper reporting procedures. Eventually the DA’s office paid the man that Watkins hit more than $50,000 and had him sign a settlement stating that he would not talk to the press. The settlement money also came from asset forfeiture funds, which seems to be questionable legally, especially since the spending never went before the county commissioners court for approval.

DA’s Office to Investigate Police Shootings. In the wake of the recent string of officer-involved incidents in Dallas, and the events playing out in Ferguson, Mo., this week, Craig Watkins announced his plan to create an investigative unit to look into any shootings involving cops. “I think it would be somewhat irresponsible if we didn’t address the fact that there is a lack of trust with the police,” Watkins said.

Cheating School’s Test Scores Plunge. An investigation last fall determined that students at Dallas ISD’s Umphrey Lee Elementary were being fed exam answers. So what happened after five teachers and an instructional coach were forced out? STAAR passing rates fell significantly during the last school year.

Cowboys Erect Party Tent Outside Stadium. The Corral, which was a feature at Texas Stadium back in the team’s 1990s heyday, is being resurrected starting with this weekend’s preseason game. Because JerryWorld isn’t big enough, I guess.

Corinth Doesn’t Want Beaver Nuggets. A crowd packed the Corinth City Council meeting last night before a hearing on granting incentives to bring a Buc-ee’s truck stop to Interstate 35E. Neighbors were concerned by the amount of traffic it would attract. At about 1 a.m. this morning, the council voted against Buc-ee’s.

Future Serial Killer in Lewisville. Hard not to reach that conclusion after reading this creepy story about 20 rabbits found killed in a “ritualistic” manner in the Castle Hills neighborhood.

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Poll: Which is the ‘Coolest’ Dallas Suburb?

Last week, as Peter noted, Forbes released its ranking of America’s “coolest” cities. Dallas came in 10th, falling from 4th the year before. Never mind that their criteria seems bogus, given that Houston once against was higher up the list than Dallas. That’s not what I’m here about.

Forbes‘ list got me thinking about our own recent comparative list of the finest places to live (other than Dallas) in North Texas: the best Dallas suburbs. One criteria we used was something we termed “ambiance” score. You can read our explanation of it here, but I think I’m perfectly within my rights to conflate our notion of “ambiance” with Forbes‘ notion of “cool.”

To that end, I’m asking you today to pick the coolest Dallas suburb. Your options come from the 10 suburbs to which we gave higher ambiance scores than Dallas (which got an 84 out of 100). Highland Park was tops with a 96, but does that make it the coolest?

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Leading Off (8/8/14)

Why Businesses Aren’t Charged With Bribing John Wiley Price.  News 8′s Brett Shipp investigated why the companies named in the indictment of the county commissioner aren’t themselves having to facing possible punishment for their parts in the alleged crimes. And it turns out, well, maybe the federal prosecutors didn’t have enough evidence to charge the companies? Or maybe they just focused on the bigger target, a government official? Or somehow Bradley Cooper fouled the whole thing up by falling hard for one of his informants? Hard to say.

Cowboys Lose Meaningless Game. Quarterback Tony Romo didn’t play, so feel free to blame him for the 27-7 loss to the San Diego Chargers in the team’s preseason opener.

Family Sues DirecTV For Sending Sex Offender to Their Home. Wahren Scott Massey didn’t work for DirecTV, nor for the subcontractor sent to respond to a service call at a home in Murphy. But he did tag along with an installer in August 2012 and was caught taking photos of the family’s 12-year-old daughter while she was stretching. Massey has been a registered sex offender since 1998. The family believes DirecTV should be held accountable, while the company denies responsibility since Massey didn’t work for them and should never have been along on the call with the installer.

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Alice Murray, President of Dallas Citizens Council, Says She Thinks Trinity Tollroad Will Happen

This morning I had the pleasure of attending a breakfast discussion hosted by Urban Land Institute North Texas. After a keynote from the ULI’s Rachel MacCleery about the group’s most recent report on infrastructure and how it shapes competitive cities, Robert Wilonsky moderated a panel populated by MacCleery, Patrick Kennedy, Tom Rousakis, and Alice Murray, who is the president of the Dallas Citizens Council. At the risk of giving you the false impression that the morning was dull and nothing of note happened until the confab was nearly over and Councilwoman Sandy Greyson asked a question about the Trinity tollroad, I will say that the room did perk up a bit when Greyson raised her hand.

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Leading Off (8/1/14)

City and Klyde Warren Park Talk of Closing Olive. And they didn’t tell their neighbors yet. They swear they were going to. Why wasn’t that stretch of the street closed when they built the park?

Fort Worth Doctor With Ebola Returns to the U.S. Kent Brantly was in West Africa offering humanitarian aid when he contracted the deadly virus. CNN has used the pandemic as an opportunity to scare the bejesus out of its viewers by pointing out that Ebola is “only a plane ride away.”

Immigrant Kids Won’t be Housed in Dallas County. County Judge Clay Jenkins announced as much after the federal government said that the tide of refugee children from Central America has slowed significantly.

Dallas ISD Won’t Tell Investigator Why He’s Being Investigated. Jeremy Liebbe was placed on paid leave and escorted from his office two weeks ago, but his lawyer says he still doesn’t know why. Sources told the Morning News it’s because of the way he went about conducting an investigation of his own supervisor.

Toddler Falls Over Railing at the AAC. The 2-year-old was watching the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus with her family when she tumbled from the 200 level to the Plaza level below. She was hospitalized in critical condition.

Another Day With a High in the 80s. Yes, you still live in North Texas.

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SAGA Pod: Jim Schutze on JWP, Inland Ports, DISD, and Hippies

A JWP-heavy edition of the SAGA Pod. We talk to Dallas Observer columnist Jim Schutze about the biggest news story in Dallas in 2014: the indictment of County Commissioner John Wiley Price. Jim, who has covered JWP for three decades, talks about how JWP went from being a “ray of sunshine,” and “a very brave guy” — someone who “taught courage” to southern Dallas  — to a county official under indictment. Jim tells great stories from covering Price in the ’80s (the one about how Price would intentionally sweat on editors at the Dallas Times Herald is gold). He discusses about how the money for votes has always traveled form North to South, and how Price wanted his cut from the minster networks. He tells about the time Price told Jim the reason “Our Man Downtown” always aligned with downtown interests vs. progressive, East Dallas interests. (“Because you’re a bunch of hippies.”)

LONG DIGRESSION ALERT:

At one point, you’ll hear me consider talking about how the DMN covered the inland port stuff. Look, I’m just too tired to go back over this. Here’s all you need to know: [...]

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On the Removal of Our Story ‘Up in the Air’

“How the Commemorative Air Force Landed at Dallas Executive Airport,” a story written by Brendan McNally and printed on page 22 of the August issue under the headline “Up in the Air,” has been taken down from our website due to numerous factual errors. The Commemorative Air Force is part of an umbrella organization called the American Airpower Heritage Group. We treated CAF as a singular entity and misreported how much it had raised in 2011 and 2012. In both years, CAF raised about $5 million. Furthermore, for a more complete picture of their financial state, the whole organization should have been considered.

We apologize to our readers and to the Commemorative Air Force. We will also detail the corrections in the upcoming issue of D Magazine.

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Leading Off (7/28/14)

John Wiley Price Still at Work after Indictment. After corruption charges alleging Price accepted nearly $1 million in gifts, cars, stacks of $100 bills, etc., were filed Friday, the Dallas County commissioner headed back to work. He’s expected to do so today as well, and fellow commissioners believe he will show up at the Commissioner Court’s next meeting Aug. 5. Whether his influence can continue among calls for his resignation remains to be seen, but that’s not to say others aren’t firmly in his corner. Price attended Friendship West Baptist Church Sunday, for instance, where Rev. Frederick Haynes III voiced support for Price during the service and said he was excited to see him there.

Fort Worth Doctor Being Treated for Ebola in West Africa. Dr. Kent Brantly and his wife were in the middle of a two-year medical mission fellowship, caring for people who have contracted the Ebola virus, when the 33-year-old doctor contracted it himself. He’s being treated at a hospital in West Africa. This year’s outbreak is the biggest in history, and aid workers are notoriously at risk of infection. Another American aid worker has reportedly contracted it, and a prominent doctor from Liberia died over the weekend.

Fertilizer Companies Placing Blame on West Following Explosion. The companies allege that volunteer firefighters and first responders weren’t properly trained, and that insufficient protocols were in place for handling the fire that led to the explosion. The majority of the 15 who died were those responding to the call for help. At no time did responders retreat, even as the fire grew in size, and the companies also blame West for the city’s zoning, which allowed a nursing home and schools to exist near the plant. El Dorado Chemical Co. and CF Industries are now pushing for West to be designated a “responsible third party.”

Eric Nadel Honored at National Baseball Hall of Fame. Our Nancy Nichols was there to celebrate with the voice of the Texas Rangers because she’s about as cool as they come. Photos and details here. She also sent me a picture with Ernie Banks last night, so I’m about as jealous as they come. Mr. Cub?! Well done, Nichols. And, of course, Nadel, too.

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