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Leading Off (3/30/2015)

Meeting of Two Biker Gangs Turns Deadly. Two people were shot and killed at the scene Saturday evening in southeast Dallas, while a third shooting victim was dropped off at a police substation. Police are looking for witnesses, with no suspects in custody yet.

Sam Wyly Speaks. The Morning News has an interview with Wyly, former Dallas billionaire who has declared bankruptcy and is selling off his assets after a jury found in February that Wyly and his brother, Charles, had committed fraud by using offshore trusts to trade millions in securities. And while selling his indie bookstore in Aspen for $6.5 million, among many other things, might be “a disaster,” Wyly tells the News that it was worse to lose his state high school football championship.

Go Back To Dean Street. If you recall (and enjoyed) the Dallas Theater Center’s production of the new musical Fortress of Solitude last year, you will be pleased to note that the original cast recording, full of blues and funk and soul, with its recognizable homage to the real-life artists who refined the genres, is out on iTunes. I recommend it even if you didn’t get a chance to see it.

Republicans Want More Information About Minors Seeking Abortion Exemptions. Republicans in the Lege, including Ron Simmons from Carrollton and Matt Krause of Fort Worth, have taken a new tack this year by filing bills that would change how the legal exemption process for minors seeking an abortion works. Notably, these bills want to make public the names and identifying information of the judges who hear the exemption cases. I will leave you all to guess just why these lawmakers would like this information made public.

Homophobic Vandal Arrested, Charged. Excellent news here. A grand jury indicted outspoken anti-LGBT person Richard Sheridan, failed city council candidate who also apparently ran for mayor at one point, for painting “666” on the Legacy of Love monument in Oak Lawn and the Cathedral of Hope, the biggest gay and lesbian church in the world. (The Dallas Morning News building and the Dallas Observer building were also tagged.) Does this mean police got word of the theory posited by another former mayoral candidate who is “not a detective” but does work at D Magazine? Perhaps.

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Leading Off (3/27/15)

Dallas ISD Approves “Interim Bridge Plan.” At about 1 a.m., trustees voted for a measure that provides $129.5 million in funding for fast-tracked improvements at a number of schools, while expanding pre-kindergarten offerings and reopening several campuses. The final amount was less than the $134.7 million initially proposed after a number of amendments were made. Lakewood Elementary was among the big winners, as the school will get $12.6 million for an addition and renovations. All of this discussion is, of course, a prelude to voters later being asked to approve a comprehensive bond package totaling as much as $1.4 billion.

Bridge Collapse Kills Arlington Man. Yesterday’s accident in Central Texas along Interstate 35 in Salado, in which a tractor-trailer hit an overpass and caused a beam to fall onto the highway below, claimed the life of 32-year-old Clark Davis. I-35 was closed in both directions around the site until well into the night.

Rain May Ease Water Restrictions. The abundance of wet weather the last few months has resulted in some area lake levels rising dramatically and most of Dallas-Fort Worth shifting from darkest red to light red or orange on the U.S Drought Monitor map. Lake Lavon, one of the North Texas Municipal Water District’s reservoirs, has gone from 46.2 percent to 77.5 percent of capacity. If the trend continues this spring, the district may ease tough restrictions on watering that have been in place almost two years.

World War II Vet Recovers Empty Duffel Bag. Waymon Blundell, 94, certainly seemed tickled to be reunited with the bag, which he’d carelessly lost when he’d jumped onto the beach at Normandy as part of the D-Day invasion in 1944.

Keller Student Denied “Promposal.” Sixteen-year-old Casey Akers says her school wouldn’t let her stage a public invitation to the prom because she and her chosen date are gay. The school district issued a statement saying that it doesn’t allow any students to plan such elaborate invites, as they are disruptive. Anyway, when did it become an expectation for kids to treat a prom invite like a marriage proposal? Sounds like an excruciating burden for both straight and gay kids.

Derelict 1955 BelAir Wagon For Sale. It’s up for auction on eBay. You have until 10 a.m. today to make a bid. JFK assassination historian Farris Rookstool III (!) says the car is unique because a fellow named Lee Harvey Oswald once rode in it with his rifle.

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Leading Off (3/25/15)

Investigation Alleges “Reverse Robin Hood” Scheme at DISD: An investigation has revealed large discrepancies in per-student spending within DISD, suggesting that the district is reallocating funds — upwards of $70 million — intended for underprivileged students and spending them on pet projects and magnet schools. Expect a formal complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Education as soon as today. DISD has released an official response: “hogwash.”

Mother of Slain Basketball Star Sues DISD: Not a great day for the district. The mother of Troy Causey, the 18-year-old South Oak Cliff High basketball star who was beaten to death by teammates a year ago, has filed a wrongful death suit against DISD Superintendent Mike Miles and Terry Smith, head of Dallas County’s Juvenile Department. The suit accuses DISD officials of questionable athletic recruitment practices, including recruiting Causey out of juvenile detention and placing him in a special residence within South Oak Cliff’s attendance zone.

Is Dallas DA “Unstable” and “Overly Suspicious”?: We played a quick game in the office yesterday: power rank all the district attorneys in Dallas history. The department doesn’t exactly have a stellar history, and Susan Hawk looks more and more to fit the profile.

Highland Park High’s Racist Chant Leader Unveils Strategy Aimed at Salvaging His Ruined Name, Reputation: Levi Pettit, the Highland Park High School graduate who was captured in video leading racist fraternity chants in Oklahoma, will now attempt to become “a lifelong advocate for the African American community.”

AT&T Continues to Make Dallas’ Job Growth Look Great: The corporation looks to add 500 new positions throughout the region.

Texas Leg Silly Bill of the Day: Guns! We need to be able to carry them everywhere!

Paranoid Irving Mayor Follows Flapping Mouth to Promised Land of the Blow Hards: Beth Van Duyne has some hot sports opinions about religious communities in her city, and so, of course, Fox News comes calling.

Social Media Threats Responsible for More Public Dollars Spent Protecting Against Filter-less Crazies: It used to be that people would sit at a bar and say stupid things to their friends about stuff they didn’t like. Now they put it on Facebook, and as a result, security earns overtime for running extra details protecting people like Dallas Rep. Jason Villalba, the state legislature who introduced a bill that would make filming police all-but illegal.

Three North Texas Military Members on Creepy ISIS “Hit List”: Names, photos, and addresses of three North Texas members of the military personal surfaced on a website that asks sympathizers to target and kill 100 enemies of the so-called Islamic State.

Dallas Potholes Now So Big They Can Swallow Cars: Dear Dallas City Council: Quit talking toll roads, and fix our freaking streets already.

If You Like the Weather in Texas: Wait ten minutes.

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Trinity Toll Road Roundup: Why Are Dallas City Council Members Signing Up to Address the City Council?

The council campaign season is starting to really heat up, and the Trinity Toll Road is shaking out to be a central touchstone of the campaigning. Over the weekend, that potent mix set-off a series of developments. There’s a lot to catch up on, so let’s jump to it.

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Mayor Rawlings Reproaches Scott Griggs for Trinity Toll Road Tirade

The open microphone sessions of a couple of recent Dallas City Council meetings have provided some unexpected fodder for debate. The first instance came when Assistant City Manager Jill Jordan and Council Member Sandy Greyson tangled over the specifics of the engineering plans for the road that are currently under federal review. The second came when Scott Griggs responded to Yolanda Williams, Rick Callahan’s appointee to the Dallas Parks Board, who spoke to the council during the open microphone session about her love of all things Trinity Toll Road. Griggs got a little, well, impassioned, and then Philip Kingston joined in, while Callahan played defense.

It was all popcorn-ready entertainment, but don’t look for it to happen again anytime soon. The mayor released a memo rebuking the council members for speaking in violation of the Texas Open Meetings Act. According to a reading of the act by City Attorney Warren Ellis, during open microphone sessions elected officials’ responses must be limited to “statements of specific factual information” and a “recital of existing city policy.”

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Leading Off (3/20/15)

Thursday Was a Texas Basketball Massacre. All five teams from the state in the NCAA tournament lost. Baylor and SMU fans can argue about who suffered the more painful last-minute loss.

Irving Endorses Anti-Islamic Bill. Spurred by fears of nonbinding, voluntary mediation at a mosque, the city council, led by Mayor Beth Van Duyne, voted on Thursday to endorse a bill by State Rep. Jeff Leach of Plano that would forbid judges from using foreign law in their rulings. The bill’s language is nearly identical to a previous proposal by another lawmaker designed to limit the influence of “large populations of Middle Easterners.” Said Van Duyne, ““Why anyone would feel this is hatred or bigotry is absolutely beyond me.”

State to Audit DA’s Office. It’s the first time the state auditor’s office has used the authority the legislature gave it in 2011 to conduct such reviews. They’ll look into the alleged improper use of forfeiture funds during the tenure of former district attorney Craig Watkins. If violations of the law are found, the DA’s office and Watkins himself could be subject to a civil penalty up to $100,000.

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Our Salesman-In-Chief’s Sorry Case for the Trinity Toll Road

What’s left to say?

As Tim pointed out yesterday, the mayor of Dallas unleashed a full-frontal attack on good sense and truthfulness over the weekend in the form of an op-ed on the Trinity Toll Road. Tim says someone with patience needs to break down the argument and feed the lies back to the mayor. I think Wylie H. – curiously anticipating the appearance of the op-ed in the DMN – already did that with his long post last week.

For my part, I’m baffled, but not by the mayor’s op-ed. It is largely what he has been saying throughout, simply regurgitating talking points that have long been presented by toll road backers as fact even if they have been systematically exposed as fiction on numerous occasions. He claims to have listened to everyone’s opinion on the topic and has come up with his own, yet he avoids defending any of his individual justifications for the road, merely trotting out the same disproved notions carte blanche. The tone of the op-ed attempts to preclude any further debate; it also suggests a cynical form of dismal, characterizing further disagreement as dissent. What confuses me is how the mayor can continue to be so persuaded by erroneous information and so dismissive of the many civic leaders who have flipped their position on the road.

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Poll: Can Marcos Ronquillo Beat Mike Rawlings in the Dallas Mayor’s Race?

In the March issue of D Magazine, we ask whether attorney Marcos Ronquillo has a shot to unseat Mayor Mike Rawlings. As Tim noted in “Leading Off” this morning, the Morning News characterizes Ronqullo’s campaign as an “uphill battle.”

Meanwhile, on the most recent episode of our EarBurner podcast, our own Zac Crain shared some insight into just how he would govern if he were sitting at the top of the horseshoe each week.

So how should this play out?

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Federal Data Shows Traffic Volumes Have Not Risen With Population Growth

If you’ve ever sat through a presentation by NCTCOG Director of Transportation Michael Morris, there is one fundamental point he drives home continuously. The Dallas-Fort Worth region is set to grow exorbitantly in the coming decades, and because of this growth we need to ready our roadways to prepare for the massive influx of new traffic it will bring. That’s why we need new roads, wider roads, toll roads, and as many intersecting strips of highway as we can afford — or not afford — to build.

The only problem is that the correlation between traffic and population is not supported by the data.

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Philip Kingston Admits His Relationship to Wylie H. Dallas on EarBurner Podcast

The Dallas city councilman stopped by the Old Monk yesterday and managed to induce a podcast-audible laugh from me, just as Nancy did last week. He may not have had any stories about diarrhea or Martina Navratilova, but he turned out to be just as delightful a guest. He also was more familiar with the podcast’s regular segments than Zac, who served as primary host in place of the spring-breaking Tim. Filling in for Zac was our staff Civil War veteran.

Subscribe to our show via the iTunes store, through the Stitcher app, or using our RSS feed — — in your favorite podcatcher. Or just listen to it via the embedded player below.

And, yes, I’m completely overselling the tease with this post’s headline. But to what degree, exactly? You’ll have to listen to find out.

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Where Do the City Council Candidates Stand on the Trinity Toll Road?

This May’s council election is not a referendum on the Trinity Toll Road. That said, the Trinity Toll Road is far and away the most high profile issue in an election that sees six open seats up for grabs — enough to put together a block of votes on the council that could kill the Trinity Toll Road project for good. So, this council is very much about the Trinity Toll Road.

And as I wrote last week, the toll road is a touchstone, a symbol, and support for and against the project can tell you about a city council candidate’s general approach to a host of issues, from long-range transportation planning to sustainability and urban development to which backroom power brokers hold sway over their vote and opinions. And so when word dropped that the Dallas Green Alliance, a PAC that has formed to support candidates in the all-important May election, had published the results of detailed questionnaire they sent to all of the candidates who have filed for the race, I immediately clicked over to see how they responded to the Trinity Toll Road question.

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Mayor Mike Rawlings’ Strange Case for the Trinity Toll Road

Back in December, Mayor Rawlings met with the Dallas Morning News editorial board to make his case for the Trinity toll road. At the time, the story was reported by the DMN, with subsequent editorializing on FrontBurner by Jason Heid and Wick Allison. I was also tempted to write something about it at the time, but dropped the idea after the pieces by Jason and Wick appeared. Since then, however, I find myself going to back to re-listen to the audio recording over and over. It’s not that politicians don’t say crazy things at times. We all know they do. It’s the idea that someone, somewhere, thought the DMN editorial board would find this pitch persuasive.

What I’ve attempted to do below is step through the mayor’s case point by point.

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What Has Mike Rawlings Done As Mayor?

This is the concluding paragraph in a press release announcing the co-chairs of Mayor Rawlings’ re-election campaign:

Over the past three and a half years, Rawlings has led on boosting basics while protecting taxpayers, improving our public schools and creating jobs and growth in Southern Dallas. He’s also helped re-shape Dallas’ image on the world stage with his leadership not only with the JFK 50th Anniversary and as host of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, but also during the Ebola crisis, and in tackling ugly issues like domestic violence.

Let’s break that down.

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Analysis: How Many Big-Box Stores Does Dallas Really Need?

The whole kerfuffle about the CityPlace Sam’s Club got my curiosity up. I know what my internal emotions tell me about the construction of more box stores and their barren, concrete parking lots, but what does it really look like? What are the facts? It actually wasn’t the CityPlace Sam’s that drove me to put together the information that follows. Rather, it was responses to rumors about a Costco at the old Steakley Chevrolet location at Northwest Highway and Abrams Road. In a June 2014 Lakewood Advocate blog posting, a reader comments: “YES! this would be awesomeness to have our own Costco!”

But why? There’s a Target (at Medallion Shopping Center) within 1,000 feet of there, a Sam’s Club about 2,000 feet away, a Walmart sitting on top of that same Sam’s Club (at TimberCreek Crossing), and yet another SuperTarget about 3,000 feet down Abrams.

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Ask John Neely Bryan: How to Have a Midlife Crisis, Dallas-Style

Question: When I turned 40 about a year ago, I just thought it was another day. But lately I’ve been asking myself a lot more of those introspective questions you normally wouldn’t ask unless you are really drunk or going through a midlife crisis. But can you still be going through a midlife crisis if you’re still in love with your wife, feel fulfilled in your career, have a full head of hair and don’t have any impulses to make expensive material purchases? Why can’t I just be happy that I actually made it to 40? Thanks in advance — Looking for the Beer Tap of Youth in Lake Highlands

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