Poll: Development Around White Rock Lake?

In the June issue of D Magazine, Eric Celeste writes about the not-in-my-backyard attitude many East Dallas residents have about development around White Rock Lake. In discussing the debate over a proposed restaurant on Boy Scout Hill:

Given the area’s liberalism and strong sense of place, it’s understandable that lake-area residents protect White Rock as if it’s theirs and theirs alone. In 1986, it was the Arboretum that wanted to build a restaurant on the lake. Rejected! In 2005, a 25-story high-rise was proposed. Denied! The next year, developers floated the idea of turning a well-known building at the lake’s northeast corner, Big Thicket, into a restaurant. Not in my house! A parking lot at Winfrey Point (swatted into the stands) and even a floating boathouse for a rowing team (okay, but we’re not happy about it!) were dismissed for being environmentally insensitive plans of callous developers who didn’t understand the specialness of the lake.

The problem: with the Boy Scout Hill restaurant, that wasn’t the case. Burgin and Kopf were sincere and worked hard to address residents’ fears.

Their proposal was withdrawn, but it’s certain not to be the last such debate. Are residents of East Dallas standing in way of potentially great new places around the lake?

Full Story

Leading Off (5/21/14)

Dallas Legislative Race Expensive, Nasty: The runoff battle for House District 108 between Republicans Morgan Meyer and Chart Westcott has already cost more than $2 million, but the bitter tone of the campaign is now waging a personal toll. Yesterday, in the latest twist, Kevin M. Curley II quit in protest as chairman of a PAC that supported Westcott after the campaign sent an anti-Meyer flyer which included “a fake Meyer mug shot, a bottle of liquor and a roadway with a streak of blood.”

Could an Expensive Special Benefit Plan Bring Down Dallas Police-Fire Pension Fund? The Deferred Retirement Option Plan, or DROP, sounds like a pretty sweet deal. When a cop or firefighter hits retirement age, he or she can start collecting pension benefits while still earning a full salary. The pension is invested in a special account that earns 8-10 percent interest a year. The problem is, while intended as an incentive to keep experienced veterans on the job, DROP costs the pension fund more than $100 million a year. Pension fund officials told the Dallas city council yesterday that those costs have out-paced low interest rates and the fund’s under-performing real estate investments.

Allen Faces $600K to $1 Million in Repairs for Eagle Stadium: The $60 million dollar high school football stadium deemed “not safe” faces upwards of $1 million in repairs. Fans are bracing themselves for a season played on the road in Plano.

Man Missing at White Rock Lake: Dallas Fire-Rescue crews still haven’t located the body of a man who was seen jumping into White Rock Lake yesterday afternoon. Witnesses say the man struggled to tread water before going under and not coming up about 40 yards from the shoreline.

No, He’s Not Johnny Manziel, But Dallas QB Pick Still From A&M, Has Sideshow Appeal: TMZ doesn’t care about Dustin Vaughan, the Cowboys’ undrafted QB signing from West Texas A&M. But Vaughan, described as a “gym rat,” does have a workout parody video that has drummed up a few hundred thousand views on YouTube.

Full Story

Leading Off (5/20/14)

Dallas ISD Trustees Aren’t Happy About Home Rule. Eight of the nine school board members oppose the proposal to transform DISD into a home-rule district, but they are compelled by law to form a committee to draft a home-rule charter for voters to consider. That’s because more than 48,000 signatures were gathered by proponents of home rule. At Monday’s meeting the board outlined its plan for the process of appointing members to the committee, which they have 30 days to create.

Couple Accuses Mailman of Killing Their Dog. Allegedly the postal carrier hit their pet with a rock, shattering its skull and severely injuring its spine. The dog had to be euthanized. The post office is investigating the incident, but stated that in this instance the mailman was defending himself from a dog attack.

Naked Man Jumps Through Sunroof, Attacks Woman. Near the intersection of Zang Boulevard and Oakenwald Street in Oak Cliff, the nude guy dove through the opening on top of a car and started choking the driver and pulling at her hair. This was after he’d already attacked a woman jogging with her baby. Police responded quickly and arrested 23-year-old Nicholas Dyll.

Full Story

Leading Off (5/16/14)

Investigators Let Pig’s Blood Flow Into Trinity For 41 Days. After the guy with the drone spotted what Columbia Packing Co. was dumping in the river in Dec. 2011, investigators spent more than a month gathering samples and building a case before alerting the company. Dallas City Councilman Dwaine Caraway questioned why the county Health and Human Services Department didn’t act immediately to stop the pollution. But the head of the health department said they were following the advice of the district attorney’s office, and that the blood flow wasn’t considered a public health concern.

State May Shut Down Dallas County Sheriff’s Academy. Only 25 percent of last year’s recruits passed the state’s licensing exam for law enforcement officers on their first attempt. The state requires 80 percent of recruits pass on the first try. Every police academy in Texas did it last year, except Dallas County. The report on the poor performance was issued in November, but Sheriff Lupe Valdez says she only recently learned about the situation.

Report: West Firefighters Weren’t Properly Trained. Findings released Thursday by the Texas State Fire Marshal’s Office say that the firefighters killed in the April 2013 fertilizer plant explosion weren’t prepared for what the faced that day, a blaze that was too big to extinguish.

Full Story

Poll: Should We Bury Interstate 30?

The people have spoken about the future of Interstate 345, and the people (70% of them) agree with our May cover story: Interstate 345 should be torn down, and the street-scape along the eastern edge of downtown Dallas should be rebuilt.

Now we’d like to hear what you think of another of the proposals for which we’ve argued. As noted before, I’ll be surprised if we can’t reach an even greater level of consensus for burying a segment of Interstate 30. But some of you might have other ideas.

Full Story

Justice Dept.’s Letter to Dallas: It’s Settled. Virgin Gets the Love Field Gates

The letter that the Justice Department sent to the city manager and the city attorney yesterday is pretty definitive:

Having considered the proposals of Delta Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and Virgin America for the Love Field gates, we have concluded that divestiture to Virgin America, which has no existing presence at Love Field and will introduce a new competitor at that airport, accomplishes the goal of the Final Judgment. The other two proposed acquirers do not. Delta, a legacy carrier, is not an appropriate divestiture candidate for reasons the Antitrust Division has explained in its filings with the Court. We rejected the proposal by Southwest given its already significant presence at Love Field, an airport that is gate constrained pursuant to law. Southwest already controls 16 of the 20 Love Field gates. If it obtained the two American gates, it would then dominate 90% of Love Field gates, thereby denying consumers the benefits of meaningful competition at this facilities-constrained airport. We would also reject a proposal from the City of either of these two acquirers.

So the City Council can talk about it all they want tomorrow, but the matter appears settled.

Full Story

Can We All at Least Agree That Interstate 30 Should Be Buried?

We read the comments. We know that not all of you are yet on board with the notion of tearing out Interstate 345 in order to reunite downtown with Deep Ellum and reap the benefits of a development boom.

But what about the proposal to take Interstate 30 below the surface streets between Samuell Boulevard and Central Expressway? Throw a couple of nifty deck parks on top to create a grand entrance to Fair Park? As Zac writes in the May issue of D Magazine:

Burying I-30 would help restitch the city grid and, just as important, remove the visual impediment, the door we slammed shut on this area in the 1960s. It would pave the way for a return of the black and white middle class. People want to move back to the city. The development that has been moving down Henderson Avenue wants to keep going. Billions of investment dollars and millions in uncollected property tax revenue are
waiting.

Who can possible object to this idea? OK, OK, yeah, we don’t know how it’s getting paid for either. But we’ve got to start with the vision, don’t we?

Full Story

What’s the Best Route to Dallas’ Fair Park? Highways vs. Surface Streets

We’ve heard the hue and cry from those of you who insist that Interstate 345 can’t possibly be torn down because how on earth are drivers to get from Interstate 30 to U.S. Highway 75 without it. And, lord almighty, some have exclaimed, how do we expect anyone to get to the wonders of Fair Park without it?

Well, as has been pointed out on this blog before, I-345 isn’t even the best route to get to Fair Park from North Dallas, especially during the run of the State Fair each fall, when the highway is often backed up all the way from the 2nd Avenue exit of I-30 to Woodall Rodgers. And anyone who’s driven I-30 into or out of downtown during rush hour knows what a mess it usually is.

Full Story

Inside the May 2014 Issue of D Magazine

I’ve never seen a debate grow quite like this. When we started brainstorming our May cover package, “The Next Dallas Boom,” we were under the impression that tearing down Interstate 345 would still be a fairly foreign concept to many. After all, how many people really dive into a transportation story with vigor? It’s not necessarily a page-turner, unless, of course, you can explain the possibilities. Because, at the end of the day, the whole conversation is really about the possibilities. We’ve got the potential for $4 billion in development opportunity at stake, for starters. There’s a 94 percent occupancy rate downtown, which demonstrates a pretty solid demand for new development. Oh, and then there’s the chance to reunite neighborhoods and reinvigorate neglected parts of the city. And the best part of the whole situation? Other cities have already laid the groundwork. So, we thought, if we can show how successful other cities have been, we could provoke conversation and interest in the topic at home.

Full Story

Changing the DISD Board Briefing Time Makes No Sense

Late last night, the DISD Board voted 7-2 to change the time of its monthly “Board Briefing” (where a lot of the good policy work and discussion gets done) from 4 p.m. back to 11:30 a.m. This concern was not new, as Zac noted a few months ago, but still Nancy Bingham’s motion to change it came out of the blue yesterday (and, presumably, only after she knew she had the votes for it to pass).

You may say, why is that a big deal? Until this past year, the briefings were always at 11:30. And the idea that moving them later would cause them to be shorter than the normal seven-plus hours didn’t work that well, as the later time only shaved an hour or so off the average briefing-meeting time.

Yes, the meetings are still too long, but that’s not the issue here.

Full Story

Leading Off (4/25/14)

Some Still Want to Build Trinity Parkway. The Morning News characterizes the crowd at last night’s final public hearing on building a $1.4 billion road in a floodway as “divided.”

Park Board Members Don’t Want You to Email Them. A new website for the Dallas Park and Recreation Board is scheduled to go live today. It was to have a feature providing the public the ability to contact any of the members. But some board members pushed back, fearing that they’d receive as many as 50 additional emails each month. So the site is launching without it.

Virgin America Lands a Plane at Love Field. And the air carrier has announced a news conference for today. The speculation is that it has something to do with Virgin’s desire to take over the two gates at the airport that American Airlines has to give up as part of the deal that led the Justice Department to approve its merger with U.S. Airways. But the city of Dallas, which has to approve which airline gets the gates, said that no decision has been made.

Nobody Let Krista Read This Story. It’s about a deputy sheriff getting fired, and it involves a dog and a gun.

The Pollen Vortex Is Trying to Kill Me. Today’s pollen count. I hate spring.

Full Story

New Rules Could Break Yellow Cab’s Monopoly

WFAA has looked at a proposed new transportation-for-hire ordinance that will be discussed a meeting tomorrow morning at Dallas City Hall. The uproar last summer over regulations that make it difficult for other cab companies and car services like Uber and Lyft to operate seem to have led to proposed major overhaul. As Channel 8 noted, the changes could lessen the dominance of Yellow Cab, which has something like a 70 percent share of the market.

Among the changes would be an end to a cap on the total number of cabs allowed to operate in the city, changes to rules restricting the age and mileage allowed on vehicles, and allowing drivers to move from one company to another much more easily.

Here’s the ordinance.

Full Story

Leading Off (4/23/14)

Preliminary Findings Show a Lack of Oversight Contributed to the West Explosion. Five days after the one-year anniversary of the fertilizer plant explosion, the Chemical Safety Board released the initial findings of its investigation, stressing that the ammonium nitrate wasn’t handled properly and that this was a “preventable accident.” The federal agency has been criticized in the past for moving too slowly, and West Mayor Tommy Muska voiced disappointment in how long it’s taken to get “preliminary” results. The investigation is ongoing.

DISD’s School for the Talented and Gifted Ranked Best in the Country. That’s according to U.S. News and World Report’s latest ranking of the best high schools in the nation. At the Dallas magnet school, students must take 11 AP classes to graduate, and 100 percent of those graduates are ready for college.

Arlington Council: Leave Your Guns at Home (or in the Car). The council approved an ordinance Tuesday that bans weapons and “simulated weapons” in City Hall. Concealed handguns were already prohibited, but the new ordinance extends the ban to the antique black-power pistols, replica pistols, and long-barreled guns that can be openly carried in Texas.

Dallas Charter Review Commission in Favor of Raises for Mayor, Council Members. Eric Celeste recommended an even greater increase in the April issue of D Magazine, but the commission voted on a 20 percent pay hike for the mayor Tuesday night and a 32 percent increase for council members. That would take salaries to $71,864 and $49,530 respectively. A month remains before final recommendations must be submitted.

Plus, Holy Road Rage. Be careful out there.

Full Story

Leading Off (3/24/14)

I-345 Tear-Down Debate Continues. The Dallas Morning News ran this I-345 explainer on the front page of the Sunday paper. There’s no new news here, but it does provide a bit of I-345 history, namely that it was built in 1974 as suburbs like Irving took hold. There was also a nice traffic count graphic in the paper, but that didn’t make it online. To refresh, some 200,000 cars travel the 1.4-mile stretch on weekdays. Patrick Kennedy and co. want the 75-45 connector eliminated, but TxDOT is set to spend $100 million to renovate it instead. As is to be expected, and can be demonstrated here, debate persists, some of it well-reasoned, some … not.

Plastic Bag Ban Proposal Up For a Vote Wednesday. Dwaine Caraway has been working on this for a year and is expecting a partial ban, at the very least, to pass when City Council votes Wednesday. There are a number of options up for discussion, including a total citywide ban, a “responsible retailer” option that charges stores for distributing the bags, and an “environmental fee” that has customers paying for bags. Several council members are vehemently opposed to any change.

Bike Share Program a Possibility for Fair Park. The Dallas Park and Recreation Board has approved $125,000 for the project. If City Council passes it, some 15-20 bikes could appear in Fair Park by May. This is an impossibly small (yet expensive) program. For comparison, Fort Worth started with a $1 million grant, 300 bikes and 30 stations.

Full Story