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Making Dallas Even Better

Leading Off (1/7/16)

State trooper indicted for perjury regarding arrest of Sandra Bland. Sandra Bland was arrested in July of last year during a traffic stop in Prairie View and was later found hanged in her Waller County jail cell. Brian Encinia, the Texas state trooper who arrested her, was indicted yesterday for perjury and will be fired. The grand jury believed Encinia issued a false statement as to why he made Bland get out of her car during the stop.

City Council considers pilot program for giving tickets for marijuana possession. Pretty soon, people in Dallas who are caught with four ounces or less of marijuana could be ticketed instead of arrested. Council members see the potential policy change as time-saving, as it would allow police to concentrate more on violent crimes. They also said it would be more in line with the national movement to legalize marijuana. The ticket would still include a court date, where a judge would ultimately make a decision. City council members will vote on the pilot program at an upcoming meeting.

Ethan Couch’s dog missing in Mexico. “Affluenza” teen Ethan Couch and his mother, Tonya Couch, may have been caught by police, but their dog, Virgil, is still missing in action. The Puerto Vallarta SPCA posted a missing-dog notice. Hopefully Virgil is found safe and sound.

Three hospitalized after Lewisville Starbucks crash. A car crashed into a Starbucks in Lewisville yesterday, and three people were taken to hospitals. A Subaru ran a red light, crashed into two other cars, and went through a window of the coffee shop, injuring three patrons.

Leading Off (1/6/16)

Two of Susan Hawk’s Former Top Employees Join Effort to Oust DA. The legal effort to oust Dallas County District Attorney Susan Hawk got a boost yesterday when two of her former top lawyers filed sworn affidavits that outlined her “bizarre behavior” and characterized her tenure as “paranoid and erratic.” The affidavits say the two lawyers even considered contacting the governor about their boss, a public official whose pupils sometimes “did not respond to light.”

Wyly Family Head to Court Today For Mega Bankruptcy Trial. Now that he has unloaded his personal art collection in a record-breaking sale, billionaire entrepreneur Sam Wyly and his sister-in-law Dee Wyly head to court today to begin what is shaping up to be one epic bankruptcy proceeding. Besides the high stakes – the Wylys are accused of owing $2 billion in back taxes, penalties and interest for hiding income in offshore trusts in the Isle of Man – the trial is expected to be incredibly long for a bankruptcy case (the judge has set aside four weeks). The IRS will introduce 1,270 exhibits in their effort to prove that Sam and his late-brother Charles masterminded one of the largest tax frauds in U.S. history.

Obama’s Gun Sale Surge. The president’s executive action on gun control has prompted a rush on gun stores, which have been selling weapons and ammunition like hot cakes according to a store owner in Garland.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly in Dallas Sports. Deron Williams hit a buzzer beater in the second overtime to push the Mavs over the Kings, and slumping superstars Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn were benched for the last 12 minutes of the skidding Dallas Stars’ loss to the New York Rangers. And here’s the latest solution to end the Cowboys’ misery from Jerry Jones, perhaps the greatest mind in the history of professional football general managers: “We need to draft another Troy Aikman.”

So This Explains That Talk About Texas Rangers Moving to Dallas

Over the weekend we learned that the Texas Rangers Baseball Club and the city of Arlington are working on a “public-private partnership” (read: $50 million in tax breaks) to spur a $200 million mixed-use development on land near Globe Life Park.

Of course, we’ve been down this road before when it comes to grand new pictures being drawn of shiny buildings at that location teeming with restaurants, shops and foot traffic. When George W. Bush and co. convinced Arlington voters to provide $200 million in public subsidies (not to mention permit the massive, government-sanctioned land grab that building the stadium necessitated), the promise was that much of the surrounding real estate would be developed. Didn’t happen.

In 2006, the next owner, Tom Hicks, drew up his own set of renderings for a project dubbed GloryPark. Didn’t happen.

Does it expose my skeptical, cynical heart that I assume this news explains why we had that spate of stories in October speculating that the Rangers might pull up stakes and move to Dallas? The team was just quietly laying the groundwork to get the best deal possible from Arlington?

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Podcast: Bobby Abtahi on How He Got Kicked Off a Virgin America Flight

Let’s make this crystal clear right from the start: Prominent Dallas lawyer Robert Abtahi, who goes by “Bobby,” no longer owns the URL www.bobbyfordallas.com. That much we know. And yet questions remain.

Primarily those questions center on the national-news-making incident in which Abtahi, an American of Persian descent, was denied his seat on a Virgin America flight from New York to Dallas last week. During our conversation at the Old Monk, Abtahi shared never-before-revealed details about what went down that day. #seaturtles

After that segment, stick around and behold Zac Crain unplugged. Listen to the full show below, or subscribe via iTunes or Stitcher.

But first, please note:

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Poll: Should Dallas Cops Issue Tickets, Not Arrests, For Marijuana Possession?

Dallas Police Chief David Brown sounds conflicted about a proposed change that would have officers issue citations, instead of arresting, those found in possession of marijuana. But he conceded to a city council committee today that the approach — which would save police time and money — is “just so damn practical.”

Meanwhile City Councilman Philip Kingston called it a “no brainer,” comparing marijuana possession to jaywalking. The issue was referred to the full city council.

What do you think?

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2015 Has Been ‘Banner Year For Hatred’ in Dallas-Fort Worth

I’d like to complain that this National Public Radio story — headlined “Deepening Anti-Islamic Mood In Texas Rivals Post-Sept. 11 Climate” — paints an unfair portrait of North Texas. But seeing its cataloging of incidents and public statements by local leaders, that’s hard to argue.

They trot out all the greatest hits of local Islamophobia:

Last month a group of protesters showed up on the sidewalk in front of the mosque, shouldering loaded rifles and holding a sign that said “Stop the Islamization of America.” Their spokesman is a man who identifies himself as David Wright and carries a tactical 12-guage shotgun to demonstrations.

“I can show up and protest unarmed and be a sitting duck for the next pair of ISIS members that decide to come along and blow our heads off like they did in California — or I can show up there prepared to defend myself,” Wright says in a telephone interview.

Then Ahmed Mohamed’s clock , the Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest in Garland, and the Rev. Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Dallas:

“Make no mistake about it,” he said from the pulpit in downtown Dallas, “Islam is just not another way to approach God. Islam is a false religion and it is inspired by Satan himself.”

At the end of the sermon, Jeffress received a standing ovation.

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Leading Off (12/4/15)

Grapevine Erects Massive Bronze Unicorn. The statue, unveiled last night, sits atop the Grapevine Convention & Visitors Bureau. It’s a winged unicorn as well, a sure sign that this piece of public art is intended as a challenge to the supremacy of Dallas’ iconic Pegasus. Obviously Phillip Jones and the Dallas CVB must prepare a counterstrike. Perhaps an armada of demonic Pegasi perched on every building in the central business district?

Board Discusses Pre-K For All DISD Students. Dallas ISD trustees generally agree that it’d be nice to provide classes for all 3- and 4-year-olds in the district, but uncertainty exists about how the proposal, which would be phased in through 2025, would be funded.

Petition Calls For Mandatory Recess. DISD trustees discussed the notion of requiring elementary schools to give a recess period to students each day. Though the whole matter kind of seemed like an excuse for trustee Miguel Solis to brag about his days as top dog on the playground. “It raised my ego because I was the best kid at playing tag,” he said. “I got my first kiss.”

Signatures Forged to Allow Aldredge House Weddings. Neighbors of the popular (and somewhat contentious) Swiss Avenue venue are claiming that their names were forged on city documents granting permission for large tents to be erected on the property. Dallas requires that anytime someone wants to put up a tent bigger than 400 square feet, every property owner within 100 feet has to agree to it. It’s unclear who’s responsible for the forgeries.

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Dallas City Council to Discuss ‘Travesty’ of the Police & Fire Pension Fund

Wednesday’s Dallas City Council briefing is chockfull of the sort of bad news and head-numbingly dense financial talk that makes you wonder why anyone would voluntarily serve in municipal government. They’ll discuss the city’s bond ratings. Those determine how much the city must pay for debt service, and one was recently downgraded.

While Dallas still rates as “high quality,” all of big three agencies cite unfunded pension liabilities as a major concern in the city’s future. Just how unfunded?

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Ahmed Mohamed’s Family Demands $15M From City of Irving and Irving ISD

The lawyers for the family of former Irving teenager Ahmed Mohamed sent a letter demanding $10 million from the city of Irving and $5 million from the Irving school district for how police and officials handled the clock controversy.

From the letter, via DMN:

He will continue for the rest of his days to experience pain and suffering. A large segment of potential employers will steer clear of Ahmed to avoid controversy, despite his many obvious talents. There is no other way to put it: his reputation in the global community is permanently scarred. One also that Ahmed, quite reasonably, will have a lifelong fear of the law enforcement and educational establishments that have let him down so terribly.

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Leading Off (11/20/15)

End-of-Course Exams Basically Meaningless. The class of 2015 was the first in the state public education system to be required to pass a battery of end-of-course exams in order to receive a high school diploma. However, the state legislature earlier this year provided an out. Students can apply to their districts for a waiver to be allowed to graduate anyway, and a new survey found that among Texas’ 100 largest ISDs, 71 percent of waivers are granted. In four districts in Dallas and Collin counties all applications were successful.

Oilman Gets Life For Killing Girlfriend’s Ex-Husband. Johnny Lloyd Patton Jr., 68, of Fort Worth, was sentenced on Thursday for shooting Richard Slatkin in October 2013. Slatkin was the former spouse of Patton’s live-in girlfriend, who had previously had an affair with — and been impregnated by — Patton’s son while she was married to Slatkin. Patton claimed self-defense in the incident, but the jury evidently didn’t buy his argument.

Denton Recall Petition Fails. Those looking to recall Joey Hawkins from his seat on the city council collected 125 signatures when they needed only 76 to force an election. Trouble is they filed their petition two days too early. The Denton city charter specifies that a council member must be allowed to serve his or her term for six months before such a petition can be submitted.

Freezing Temperatures Coming This Weekend. So says the National Weather Service.

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Ask John Neely Bryan: How Do I Get a New Street Light in Dallas?

Question: One portion of my street gets disconcertingly dark at night. How can I get a new street light installed? — Roberta H.

Let us first consider the double-edged sword that was Edison’s electric bulb. You know what we used to do when it got dark? We went to sleep, and we didn’t feel much inclined to arise until the sun peeked out again across the eastern horizon. Even a gentleman of my much-accomplished verbal dexterity is hard-pressed to communicate the fantastic mode of living this engendered.

Don’t misunderstand. Fire had been invented by the 19th century. We had access to torches and candles and lanterns, et cetera, and you would be amazed at how brightly the moon and the vast array of stars themselves can illuminate the landscape when their luminosity hasn’t been subsumed within the visual pollution cast skyward by your modern cities.

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Study Says 100,000+ Texas Women Have Attempted Their Own Abortions

Those were the findings released today by the University of Texas at Austin’s Texas Policy Evaluation Project, which used an online survey to conclude that between 100,000 and 240,000 woman in the state have attempted to induce their own abortions.

The study was attempting to assess the effects of the 2013 restrictions — which required clinic performing the procedure to be ambulatory surgical centers — passed by the state legislature that resulted in the number of legal abortion clinics falling from 41 in 2012 to 17 now.

Most of those are in the major cities — including two in Dallas and one in Fort Worth — which means women in counties hundreds of miles from the nearest clinic sometimes feel that they have no choice but to take matters into their own hands. From the study:

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Leading Off (11/13/15)

Dez Bryant Blasts the Media. The Dallas Cowboys receiver’s locker-room tirade on Thursday took issue with recent coverage by reporters, which led to a heated exchange with ESPN Dallas’ Jean-Jacques Taylor over a column Taylor had written. During the incident, Bryant claims that Taylor used the n-word in reference to him, while other reporters present say that Taylor didn’t. Cowboys spokesman Rich Dalrymple and head coach Jason Garrett had to step in to calm their player down. Bryant tweeted after the brouhaha:

Denton Voters File Recall Petition. Residents upset with Denton Councilman Joey Hawkins’ vote in June to repeal the city’s fracking ban — a step the city council took after the Texas Legislature nullified the ban — turned in 125 signatures calling for Hawkins’ removal from office. Because Hawkins was re-elected in May with only about 300 votes, petitioners need to certify only 76 signatures to force a recall election. A similar effort is also under way to remove another council member who voted to repeal the ban, Kevin Roden (aka the would-be Savior of Sriracha).

Planes Report Laser Strikes. For the second straight evening, three pilots reported that some jerk southeast of Love Field was pointing a laser at their aircraft. A Dallas Police helicopter was dispatched to try to find the offender, but that effort was unsuccessful.

First-Grader Brings Guns to School. Don’t worry, the Little Elm boy did it accidentally. See, he’d picked up his dad’s backpack in the morning instead of his own. Apparently the kid’s backpack is identical to his dad’s. And his dad’s backpack contained the guns in preparation for a hunting trip. And the dad’s backpack with guns was in a place readily accessible to his son. Yeah, so forget what I just said: You should worry. We all should.

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