D Magazine’s 40 Greatest Stories: The Backyard Yacht of Highland Park

The 4000 block of Miramar Avenue looks pretty normal — if “normal” can ever appropriately be used to describe a row of homes in Highland Park. It sits just off Lakeside Drive, with easy access to sickeningly picturesque Lakeside Park and Exall Lake. It’s a block away from Beverly Drive and Dallas Country Club as well.

The homes are a mix of traditional and modern designs, most valued in the $3 million-$4 million range. On the corner, technically on Lakeside, sits the 60th most expensive home in Dallas. At 4004 Miramar, you’ll find one of D Home‘s 10 Most Beautiful Homes in Dallas for 2014. Across from that, at 4005, is a fairly unremarkable (by Highland Park standards) that’s valued at more than $3.1 million, with $2.5 million of that assessed for the land alone.

That lot looked very different 50 years ago.

Full Story

Poll: Is Mike Miles Underpaid?

Over on Learning Curve, Eric Celeste yesterday ran through some of the numbers relevant to a discussion about whether Mike Miles, superintendent of Dallas ISD, is being paid what he’s worth for the job he’s required to do.

Miles makes $306,000 a year. Eric, after comparing that base salary to other Texas school superintendents and to CEOs of similarly sized companies and nonprofits, reaches the conclusion that it’s perfectly reasonable for Miles to be seeking more money.

What do you think?

Full Story

Leading Off (7/7/14)

Dallas City Council Approved $2 Million for Floundering Bexar Street Project, Without Much Questioning. Part of a $29 million revitalization effort for the southern Dallas street sits Hailu Ejigu’s two-story, mixed-use building. The story goes something like this. An original cost of $700,000 doubles to $1.3 million when Ejigu changes the scope of the project, setting out to construct a building nearly twice the size. The city plays along, beginning the pattern of cutting him checks. By the end, that number reaches $2 million. Along the way, Ejigu is expected to produce some 75 percent of financing through equity of his own and a bank loan. When the loan doesn’t come through, he goes back to the city, which produces a loan. The city also reimburses Ejigu for all kinds of expenses, lawyer fees and the like. A dollar store opens in the building but is unsuccessful. Tenants, both residential and commercial, are hard to come by. Oh, and a second phase of the project remains. For the full story, read the Dallas Morning News’ two-part series here and here.

Grand Prairie Coming Around to Housing Undocumented Children. County Judge Clay Jenkins met with Grand Prairie city leaders Sunday after they voiced concerns about the former Lamar Alternative Education Center being considered as a housing option for some of the 2,000 children that have crossed into Texas from Mexico alone. D.A. Hulcy Middle School and a Parkland Memorial Hospital warehouse are also being considered. Grand Prairie may be more “at ease” with the idea, but strong opposition remains.

Chris Kyle Defamation Trial Starts Tomorrow. As we’ve reported before, former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura has been suing the Navy sniper since 2012 for defamation over an account in Kyle’s autobiography detailing a fight with a guy named “Scruff Face.” That guy was Ventura, and Ventura says the fight never happened. As a result of the book, Ventura says job offers stopped coming in. Kyle was killed in 2013. His widow, Tara Kyle, is the defendant in the suit, which is finally headed to court. For more on the legacy of Chris Kyle, read Michael J. Mooney’s story here.

Columbus Short Arrested in Dallas. So I’ve never seen Scandal, and I don’t know who Short is, but apparently he was on this television show. And apparently he’s also having a rough go of it these days. The actor was arrested around 2 a.m. Saturday at the Katy Trail Ice House for public intoxication. In March, he was accused of punching someone at a West Los Angeles restaurant, and in April, his wife said Short threatened to kill her. No word on why Short was in Dallas and why no one is mentioning that he also choreographed a Britney Spears tour.

Devin Harris Close to Signing 3-Year Contract with Mavericks. Sure, he sat much of last year with a toe injury, but he showed up in the playoffs, and he’s a Wisconsin Badger, and I have an embarrassing college picture with him in a box somewhere. Anyway, I’m totally on board with this.

Full Story

Vonciel Jones Hill Still Believes In the Trinity Parkway

The city councilwoman and chair of the council’s transportation committee has a piece in today’s Dallas Morning News urging citizens not to lose faith on the Trinity Parkway, even though more and more people have and everyone should.

In the first paragraph, Jones Hill says, “Dallas exists because of business, not because of lakes or rivers. Business needs a strong transportation system to be able to thrive.” In the last, she says, “Imagine what a fully realized Trinity — lakes, athletic fields, bridges, flood control, transportation improvements — can do.” Does she make an argument between those paragraphs that solves those seemingly contradictory statements? Not really. But maybe I’m just stupid. I’ll pull out a few sections for your perusal. Maybe you can help me.

Full Story

Leading Off (6/20/14)

Dallas ISD Board Names Home-Rule Commission. The 15-member panel includes the husband of trustee Carla Ranger and the son of trustee Lew Blackburn. I’ll leave the hot sports opinions to Eric over on Learning Curve, but, umm, seriously?

NorthPark Center Planning Major Expansion? Owners Nancy Nasher and her husband have sold a 60 percent stake in the mall for $362 million. The transaction has prompted speculation that big changes could be coming to the North Dallas shopping mecca, since the last time they took on an investment of this size was to finance the hugely successful addition of a fourth side to the building in 2006.

Police/Fire Pension Fund Lost $60M on Luxury Homes. The bad investments in Hawaii, Aspen, and other spots likely contributed to the decision by the fund’s board to dismiss administrator Richard Tettamant.

Report Details Structural Flaws in Allen’s $60M Stadium. The school district hopes to begin repairs this fall — during which time the Eagles’ football team will have to play its “home” games in Plano — and reopen it by graduation time in May 2015.

Full Story

FW’s Superintendent Resigns — Why This Means We Should Extend Miles’ Contract

If you haven’t seen this short video from Monday’s FWISD board meeting, do yourself a favor and watch. You might want to start screaming “NO!” as soon as it starts, just to get into the correct frame of mind. After that, head over to Learning Curve to read why I think Walter Dansby’s resignation as FWISD superintendent should signal to the DISD school board that it’s time to give Mike Miles a new contract.

Full Story

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