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New Podcast: A Meaty Discussion With Chef Brian Luscher of the Grape and Luscher’s Red Hots

This week’s EarBurner guest is chef Brian Luscher of the Grape and Luscher’s Red Hots. At the Old Monk on Thursday he talked about his Deep Ellum hot dog joint (which also boasts one of the 20 best burgers in Dallas) and why the city’s business-friendliness doesn’t necessarily extend to small-scale operators. There’s also Chicago-accented talk of Joey Gallo’s recent heroics for the Texas Rangers and the end of the 5-cent bag fee.

Now to some corrections and notes to help you better enjoy the listening experience:

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Leading Off (6/5/15)

McKinney School Forbids Message of Tolerance. About 15 students at Faubion Middle School on Wednesday wore shirts sporting the phrase “Gay O.K” — in support of a seventh-grader who was being bullied — and were asked to change clothes. The district spokesman said administrators’ concerns had nothing to do with the specific content of the students’ message, but instead were regarding the potential for disruptions.

Flood Damages Cost Millions. Sewage has spilled into Lake Carolyn in Irving, and it can’t be cleaned up until the water recedes. Restoring Dallas parks and golf courses will likely cost more than $2.6 million, and the city has no insurance to cover it. On the other hand, marinas and other businesses on Lake Bridgeport are happy that water levels there have risen 27 feet in the last month.

Police Union Criticizes Department For Disciplining Officers. Fort Worth Police had reassigned one officer and placed another on leave as a result of their actions at the end of last week’s slow-speed chase. Their lawyer called these measures a “knee-jerk reaction.”

State Highway 360 Buckles. The southbound ramp to the road coming from the south exit of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport has raised 8 to 10 inches above the surrounding pavement in one section, creating a speed bump that sent cars airborne as they drove over it. It’s been closed until repairs can be made Friday.

Mark Cuban as the President of the United States: (see below.)

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Waitin’ Around For the Trinity Toll Road to Die

Over the next month or so, the City of Dallas will host numerous public meetings to present the Dream Team’s vision for the Trinity River Toll Road and receive community feedback about those plans.

I attended the second meeting, which was held in an area of Dallas about as far from the river as you can get and still technically be in the city of Dallas. Parkhill Junior High School is in the middle of a neighborhood of low slung 1970s ranch houses not too far from the Prestonwood Country Club and the city of Addison. It’s a staggeringly bucolic setting. Walking from the car to the school, the air was still and quiet — nearly silent — and the only sound was the chirping of birds and the muffled chattering of a few students far off by the sports fields.

Despite the distance between this part of Dallas and the center of the city, more than 60 people showed up to the meeting and many brought with them strong opinions about what should — or should not — happen in the floodway.

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Leading Off (5/29/15): Floods Submerge Dallas-Fort Worth

Dallas Under Water. Over night a huge, slow-moving storm dumped heavy rain across DFW, officially making this the wettest May on record in these parts. The previous high mark was 13.66 inches, and we’re likely still not done for the month. Don’t try to drive through flooded roads.

Much more, and other news, after the jump…

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Michael Morris Knows Which Way the Wind Is Blowing

In case you missed yesterday’s Dallas Morning News story:

North Central Texas Council of Governments transportation director Michael Morris told the Young Constructors Council of the TECO construction association last week that instead of an ever-extending transit network, the solution is dense infill developments where highway capacity and rail service already exist.

“The more development you can get to locate to areas that already have adequate transportation, the less you have to then build in the green-field areas,” Morris said in a subsequent interview.

And:

Frisco has $5 billion worth of mixed-use, high-density development planned along the Dallas North Tollway. But the city, like most of Collin County’s fastest growers, isn’t a member of one of the region’s three primary transit agencies.

But with political and financial barriers to fully joining Dallas Area Rapid Transit, it doesn’t appear that rail service is in those cities’ immediate future. That worries Morris, the regional transportation director, especially because Collin County is expected to double in population within a few decades.

The migration is expected to put the population center of the region along Dallas County’s borders with Denton and Collin counties.

“How are you going to move all those people without the benefits of rail transit?” he said.

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We Can’t Let Our Guard Down When it Comes to the Trinity Toll Road

Goodness, a bunch of dust has been kicked-up by a little bit of flooding. The past week’s rains have come just at the right time to spark a whole lot of silly talk about flooding and toll roads and Trinity River Project plans. Opponents of the road are circulating memes that use the floods as an excuse to dance on the road’s supposed watery grave — look, the floodway floods! Over at the Dallas Morning News, a couple of editorial writers try to throw water on the fires of panic and hyperbole. A couple of days ago, Rodger Jones made the somewhat obvious point that yes, we can build a road in a flood plain and make sure it doesn’t flood. Today, Rudy Bush chimes in, reiterating his support of the Beasley Plan and attempting to calm everyone down by saying that a road that occasionally floods isn’t the end of the world, let alone the end of plans for a road in the Trinity River watershed.

However, as I wrote earlier this week, I don’t think anyone believes that we can’t build a road that doesn’t flood. Surely the world has seen greater engineering marvels. The question is whether or not this particular road plan is a stupid idea.

Let’s leave that conversation for another day. Here’s the point I want to make: I’m a bit concerned by both Jones and Bush’s eagerness to call Alternative 3C – the engineering plans for a massive highway with high-five style exit ramps flying every which way – over and done.

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Leading Off (5/22/15)

Denton to Be Fracked Over. The day after Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill severely limiting local regulations of oil and natural gas drilling, Vantage Energy notified the city that it would resume its well operations. Denton made national headlines after banning hydraulic fracturing with a vote last November, but the new law undoes that.

It’s West Nile Virus Season. Batches of mosquitoes in Mesquite and Frisco have tested positive for local newscasts’ favorite bogeyman disease. I’m hoping Zac has already put in a call to his inside source on the insects’ summer plans. Developing.

Attempt to Kill Bullet Train Project Fails. A Texas Senate committee voted against a proposal to prohibit the use of state funds to support the effort to build a high-speed rail line between Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth.

Texas Legislature Legislates. Lawmakers in Austin have reached a deal to cut property and business taxes, instituted new regulations on the chemicals that caused the West explosion, and protected religious leaders and institutions from a problem that hasn’t been shown to actually exist.

Jordan Spieth Still Good at Golf. The Dallas PGA Tour pro, who won the Masters tournament earlier this year, sits tied with three others at the top of the leaderboard after the first round of the Colonial tournament in Fort Worth.

Wet Weekend Coming. North Texas has already received more rain so far this year than we got in all of 2014. And more and more is on the way.

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Ask John Neely Bryan: Can I Park For Free in Downtown Dallas?

Question: What’s the rule on parking your car on a public street downtown that has no such sign declaring it a no-parking zone or a commercial loading zone? I found a tiny block sandwiched between a pair of parking garages that has room for three cars along a curb and no such sign. I’m one of those stubborn downtown workers who refuses to shell out a monthly fee to have my own parking space, so finding areas like this is like finding a treasure. I’ve been parking there all week, and today a security guard for one of the two garages came out and told me I couldn’t park there. I asked him to show me a sign forbidding it, and he said, “You just can’t park here, man.” He then threatened to call DPD, which I welcomed before I realized I had no time to deal with it. So who’s right here? He mentioned that it would be difficult for large trucks to enter a loading bay on the opposite side of the curb, an argument I would certainly cede to if the city were to place a sign forbidding me from leaving my car on this public street. — Matt G.

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Help Wanted: Dallas City Hall Reporter/Blogger For D Magazine’s FrontBurner

Recent public discussions about removing elevated-highway barriers that sharply divide neighborhoods and the alternative futures envisioned for the Trinity River floodplain signal that Dallas is on the verge of an important transformation. Whether new ideas or the old guard come out on top in these fights remains to be seen, but it’s clear already just how much is at stake.

Those are a couple of the headline issues, the arguments that have sucked up so much of the oxygen in council debates and municipal elections. But in the ninth-largest city in the United States there are thousands upon thousands of smaller actions taken every day by officials and government staff that have significant effects on the people who live and work here.

D Magazine aims to bring greater attention to all these matters — both those the size of potholes and as big as signature bridges — by hiring a blogger/reporter keen to make a name for himself or herself with thoughtful, data-driven coverage of Dallas City Hall. It’s got to be someone who can spot the opportunities for inquiry in every council or committee agenda, who knows that public meetings usually aren’t where the decisions get made and can find and follow the paper trail to prove it. It’s got to be someone just as comfortable requesting and sorting through reams of data as he or she is talking with sources. We want to move past the political jargon, past the false balance of he said/she said reporting, to get to the facts.

In addition, we want a writer capable of tracking the daily coverage of other news sources throughout the week and offering commentary and aggregation of the best of what our readers need to know. This is an ideal gig for a smart recent graduate who is hungry to become part of the civic conversation. Interested applicants should send a resume and cover letter (including salary requirement) to jason.heid@dmagazine.com.

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Poll: Is It Too Easy to Graduate High School in Texas?

Yesterday Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law a measure that reduces the burden on Texas public high school students to pass exams before graduating. Instead of having to pass five end-of-course exams from the ninth grade on, they only have to pass three of the five. (They’ll still have to obtain a special waiver to do so.)

What do you think of this change?

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Will Mike Rawlings Protect the ‘Vision’ for the Trinity River Project?

After his sweeping victory to a second term in last Saturday’s mayoral election, Mayor Mike Rawlings declared that what residents voted for was a “vision for Dallas.”

In terms of the style and substance of Rawlings’ first term as mayor, it is difficult to argue with his assessment of his own appeal. More than anything, Rawlings is this city’s salesman-in-chief, and his first four years in office were spent mapping out visions of the future, from the promising—if still very inconclusive—Growth South campaign to the controversial re-vision of the Trinity Toll Road. Rawlings is bullish about his city’s future, and the part of his job he seems to enjoy the most is when he has the opportunity to spread the good news about this city’s growth and success.

The problem, however, is that Rawlings’ optimism and penchant for sales-pitching leads him to make sweeping proclamations and lean on ambiguities. And the difficulty with having a Mayor of Vision is that it has never been very clear what, outside of broad generalities, Mayor Mike Rawlings’ vision for the future of Dallas actually is.

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Why Voting This Saturday Is Not Enough

I received a mailer this week from the Trinity River Commons Foundation. It’s a four-panel fold-out brochure that is, for all intents and purposes, the real purpose and product of this entire Trinity River Parkway Dream Team design charrette garbage that we have been wading through for the past six months.

On the cover, there’s the now-familiar image of the revised “vision” for the Trinity River Project – the one with the parkway running through elevated berms as the sun sets against digital people who mill about under the shade of trees that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has already said cannot and will not be planted in the levee. Overlaid on the image in white italic font is a quote from Mayor Mike Rawlings in which he once again squawks the words “World Class” like some trained parrot sitting on Trinity Commons Foundation Executive Director Craig Holcombs’ shoulder.

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Dallas City Council Candidates Don’t Get Social Media

Remember when President Obama won in 2008 and the post-election analysis showed a significant emphasis on the social media connection by the Democratic campaign? Social media has never been stronger in its impact on the marketing of product and political candidates.

I started out thinking that I could do some analysis and projections of the upcoming Dallas City Council races based on each candidates’ social media presence. I don’t have the many commercially available tools available for social media analysis, such as HootSuite, nor do I have expensive and important polling tools. What I do have available is a bit of technical knowledge to scrape Facebook Likes, Twitter follows, and batch Google searches.

What I found is that the analysis is pretty much impossible. Why? Because the candidates and incumbents are, for the most part, completely disengaged from social media. These are the same folks who will guide millions of dollars into IT, who must read civil engineering documents, and who are completely clueless about such tools as Facebook and Twitter.

Swallow your morning coffee before you spit at your screen as I demonstrate the ineptness.

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Emails Shed Light on Inner Workings of Trinity River Project Funding Schemes

Brandon Formby reports on the latest bit of information to leak out of the trove of Trinity Toll Road-related emails that was released by the City of Dallas after council members Scott Griggs and Philip Kingston pushed to have access to communications between city staff and former City Manager Mary Suhm as well as Mayor Mike Rawlings’ so-called design Dream Team.

The nugget of the article suggests that a design firm — led by “Dream Team” member Ignacio Bunster-Ossa — was the beneficiary of a private grant of $105,000 that was donated to the city of Dallas by the Trinity Trust under the condition that said design company receive the contract for the work from the city.

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Why We Should Listen to Laura Miller’s Solution to the Scott Griggs Accusations

I was grateful that my weekend was mostly spent writing a story for the upcoming print edition about a good kid who catches a lucky break and makes the most of it. It was a rosier plot line than the one that unfolded over the weekend as city council member Scott Griggs was charged with a felony for threatening a public employee, bringing a possible sentence of upwards of 10 years in jail.

Jim Schutze offered an intriguing take on the whole ordeal yesterday, walking through the facts and suggesting that the charges are a form of retribution for exposing emails from city employees regarding the Mayor’s Trinity Toll Road “Dream Team.” I’m sure we’ll come back to those emails soon, but first, just a taste of what depressing realities they may reveal about how our city functions:

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