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Making Dallas Even Better

Leading Off (6/3/16)

The Rains Keep Coming. Thursday brought inches more of precipitation to an already wet week. Areas to the west of Fort Worth, along the Brazos River, saw some of the worst flooding, prompting the need for evacuations in Granbury and flooded roads that some drivers unwisely attempted to cross. Five soldiers at Fort Hood died and four others (and their truck) were missing after the vehicle was swept away by fast-moving water. A highway in Eastland County (out towards Abilene) was washed out. In Dallas itself, rescue workers looked for someone reportedly swept away into Bachman Creek, but the search was called off after several hours when nothing was found. Rain is expected to continue to fall in North Texas on Friday and into Saturday, but come Sunday the forecast looks to be sunny throughout the week to come.

Texas Built Case Against Donald Trump. When Gov. Greg Abbott was still attorney general, the state’s consumer protection division, which he oversaw, in 2010 gathered evidence for a possible lawsuit against the New York billionaire who’s now the presumptive Republican Party presidential nominee. The claim would have been filed on behalf of $2.6 million allegedly bilked from Texas taxpayers by Trump’s Trump University programs. The former deputy director of the consumer protection division tells the Morning News that the decision not to move forward with the lawsuit was politically motivated and came from the top level of the AG’s office. A spokesman for Abbott contends that reading of what happened is “absurd” and that the legal action was no longer necessary after Trump University agreed to cease operations in Texas. State investigators had determined that hundreds of Texans had paid millions of dollars to Trump University for useless information, some of which didn’t even apply in Texas.

Gay Detention Officer Claims Discrimination. Derek Boyd is seeking money and a court order to stop further discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people by employees of the Collin County sheriff’s office. He’s also asking to be reassigned to a new position within the department, “deputy LGBT liaison.” Boyd, who started working for the sheriff in January, claims he has been harassed and intimidated because of his sexual orientation.

Fiancé Paid Men to Kill Rowlett Woman. A Dallas County grand jury indicted Ioannis “John” Makris on Thursday, along with one of the men he allegedly hired to kill Laura Grillo last November, just a week before she was scheduled to marry Makris.

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What Do You Think of the New Plan for the Trinity River?

A few weeks ago, the mayor hosted an event that unveiled a new, $250 million vision for the Trinity River Project. Before offering some reservations, Mark Lamster practically swooned over the initial designs, which, on the surface, seem to internalize some of the criticisms of previous incarnations of the plan. Like Lamster, when I looked at the latest Trinity River Project watercolors, I recognized what looks like a gesture towards compromise. The floodplain is depicted as a more dynamic, natural setting, designed to participate in — and not resist — the regular flooding events that are the heartbeat of the ecology of the river.

Now a website has been set up by the two nonprofits that have long been pushing forward the Trinity River Project, The Trinity Trust and the Trinity Commons Foundation. Reading the brief description of the new park on that site, I found the kind of language that should surround any attempt at re-imagining the Trinity River. I also saw some questionable assertions.

First, here’s the good:

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Three Things That A.C. Gonzalez’s Replacement Should Promise to Do

Dallas City Manager A.C. Gonzalez has promised to resign come January, a development that will not surprise D Magazine readers. In March I wrote the following:

Now that Gonzalez, 64, is nearing retirement age, he can leave with a pension tied to that high salary so long as he earns it for three years—meaning he has a year left before we start hearing rumblings that Gonzalez will want to hand his job to the next longtime Dallas employee waiting at the trough.

Now, I was wrong in that I thought he’d wait until nearer that date to turn in his notice. I thought he wouldn’t want to look like a short-timer making a play for the most coin. My bad. I underestimated the zero effs Gonzalez has left to give. Still, in that column, I called on the city council to fire Gonzalez so we wouldn’t get to this point, but they did not listen and we are going to suffer for their inaction. The lesson: always do what I say.

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Leading Off (5/31/16)

City manager A.C. gonzalez to resign. 64-year-old Gonzalez plans to leave in January, following three years as Dallas’ city manager. He informed City Council of his plan yesterday. Council members Philip Kingston and Scott Griggs would prefer Gonzalez to leave sooner, but they did not have enough support from other members to accomplish that. Gonzalez has been one of the highest-paid city managers in the country, and now intends to make the switch to the private sector.

Rangers beat indians on memorial day. The Rangers celebrated Memorial Day right with a decisive 9-2 win yesterday over Cleveland, during which rookie Nomar Mazara hit a three-run homer. The Rangers are leading the AL West.

Man arrested in stabbing death of girlfriend. 45-year-old Kenneth Alan Amyx was arrested yesterday after his girlfriend, Jennifer Streit-Spears, was found stabbed to death at her apartment in Plano. After police received a disturbance call, they found Streit-Spears to be dead, as well as Amyx with knife wounds. A nearby hospital determined his wounds to be possibly self-inflicted, and Amyx is now being held in the Collin County jail after being charged with murder.

City Council Renames Bridge For Ron Kirk

The Dallas City Council just voted to rename the Continental Avenue Pedestrian Bridge for former Mayor Ron Kirk.

Every council member expressed admiration for Kirk’s leadership in the city and acknowledged the appropriateness of renaming something to honor him. The disagreement was whether the bridge was fitting for that purpose, since Kirk is a supporter of building a toll road along the Trinity River that would require removing almost 10 percent of the very structure that will become his namesake.

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Leading Off (5/25/16)

ARLINGTON CITY COUNCIL SIGNS OFF ON A NEW BALLPARK. The council approved the $1 billion plan that would give the Texas Rangers a new stadium. However, the next step is to convince voters to spend $500 million to keep the team in Arlington. Opponents have asked why the current stadium, which opened in 1994, needs to be replaced.

POLICE FIND AN ALLIGATOR BEHIND A SOUTH DALLAS MIDDLE SCHOOL. The nearly 7-foot-long reptile was captured near Steam Middle School around 2 a.m. Wednesday morning. An officer, who was patrolling the area, stopped after spotting what he thought was a log. It’s possible the alligator came from one of the area’s nearby creeks.

THE BATHROOM SAGA CONTINUES. State Attorney General Ken Paxton may file a legal challenge to President Barack Obama’s directive that instructs schools to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms that match their gender identity. This could affect Fort Worth ISD’s newly established guidelines that would accommodate transgender students. Paxton has scheduled a 2 p.m. news conference in Austin.

STATE SCHOOL BOARD CANDIDATE WHO THINKS OBAMA IS A FORMER GAY PROSTITUTE LOSES. Thankfully, Mary Lou Bruner, a retired teacher who suggested Obama might have been a “gay prostitute” in his youth, lost the Republican nomination last night by more than 10,000 votes. Bruner drew national attention earlier this year for her Facebook commentary which included claims such as “Islam is not a religion” and that Noah’s ark carried baby dinosaurs. Lufkin school board President Keven Ellis won the nomination and will face Democratic candidate Amanda Rudolph in the fall.

DALLAS ZOO WELCOMES ELEPHANT CALF. The calf was born May 14 to one of the five Swaziland elephants that arrived in Dallas in March and is the first African elephant calf born in the United States in nearly two years. The 3-foot, 175-pound calf hasn’t been named yet but is bonding with his mother. In January, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service granted the zoo a permit allowing the zoo to bring over the elephants from Swaziland–a move that was contested by animal advocacy groups. It’ll be a few months before the public can meet the calf so–until then– this video will have to suffice.

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Leading Off (5/18/16)

Protesters crash Farmers Branch city council meeting. About 200 protestors gathered at the Farmers Branch city hall last night to calling for justice over the death of Jose Cruz, a teenager shot dead by an off-duty police officer in March. The protestors were asking that the city pay for Cruz’s funeral bills instead of putting money toward the officer’s defense as he faces a murder charge. Mayor Bob Phelps slipped past the crowd, later saying, “I don’t have anything to do with it.”

Dallas police can’t find enough new recruits. The department has had to cancel two academy classes due to low attendance. The lack of interest might have something to do with the city’s low salary, which is $10,000 to $15,000 under what is offered in surrounding departments.

Man (almost) cleared of murder after 19 years in prison. Tarrant inmate John Nolley was freed yesterday after nearly two decades behind bars. The Innocence Project has been investigating his conviction for ten years, finding that DNA evidence in the Bedford murder case did not come from Nolley. Nolley has yet to be fully exonerated, but his defense team expects to wrap up all legal issues within a few months.

Dallas County leaves first responders in the lurch. Dallas County sherriff’s deputies’ and firefighters’ county-issued credit cards were getting declined at the fuel pump in February due to nonpyament. The county’s first responders had to dig in their own pockets to fill up for a few days. NBC Investigates has the story.

Odor is going on time out for a while. Do we push people? Nooo. Do we punch people? Nooo. Do we make potentially-fibula-snapping slides into second to break up a double play? Noooooooooo. This is the convo I had with my kid when he caught coverage of the now-infamous Rangers brawl. And it’s essentially what MLB said to the coaches and players while handing out punishments yesterday. Bautista’s nasty slide earned him a one-game suspension. Rougned Odor got hit the hardest with an eight-game suspension, though the 22-year-old will continue playing as he appeals the decision. Rangers say they have Odor’s back 100-percent. The Frisco RoughRiders are showing their solidarity by selling Rougie’s Red PUNCH, an adult bevy made of fruit punch, an energy drink, and “a secret ingredient from Odor’s native Venezuela.”

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Leading Off (5/13/16)

Dallas ISD to Cut Jobs. A proposed budget for 2016-2017 would eliminate about 260 positions to offset a $24 million drop in revenue (most of that reduction is due to a decrease in state revenue.) DISD is aiming to have a balanced budget of about $1.42 billion developed by the end of June. The plan would also give stipends to high-performing teachers who haven’t had their pay increased for the current school year. Most district hourly workers would meanwhile receive 2-percent raises.

DISD Expands Magnet School Enrollment. The school district has added 107 students to the popular programs at William B. Travis Academy, cutting its wait list in half. The plan is to increase the number of available slots at other campuses with similarly high demand as well. Meanwhile, district trustees are still considering the elimination of the controversial sibling rule, which gives preferential placement at magnets to kids who meet minimum admission standards just because they already have a brother or sister enrolled at the same school.

GOP Leaders Grandstand on Bathroom Debate. Because there’s no more pressing issue to deal with than deciding who can use which toilets? Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Greg Abbott appeared at the Republican Party of Texas Convention in Dallas on Thursday, and both decried what they perceive to be outrageous federal government overreach that dares to suggest that transgender people ought to be able to use the bathroom consistent with their own gender identities. The convention continues through Saturday, when Sen. Ted Cruz will deliver his first formal remarks since he suspended his presidential campaign.

Frisco Hospice Overmedicated Patients. According to a Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services report, Novus Health Services gave excessive doses of morphine and other drugs to those in its care. In addition, the FBI is investigating whether the company ordered nurses to end the lives of some. Novus says it treated patients properly and committed no violations.

House-Broken Bison For Sale. If you’re interested in purchasing Bullet, a 1,000-pound bison that routinely walks around inside the Schoeve family’s home in Argyle, the Craigslist ad is right here. She’ll cost you a little less than $6,000, and she won’t poop in your house.

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All Clichés Are Bigger in Texas Award Nominee: Friday Night Lights Edition

Last weekend, voters in McKinney approved a bond that will fund a nearly $63 million high school football stadium, and national press outlets have taken note. At that price, it would be the most expensive in the country, supplanting the troubled Allen ISD ball yard.

Today’s nomination goes to a Forbes contributor, Maury Brown. He writes:

This all gets back to keeping up with the Jones’. McKinney may be the biggest Taj Mahal high school football stadium now, but only a fool would think that there isn’t already boosters from other areas trying to mount a charge to get theirs built. Everything is bigger in Texas… including stadium envy.

Pray this newfound trend doesn’t gain a foothold outside the state. Imagine what the response from the state that prides itself on saying, “don’t mess with Texas” might be.

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Dallas City Council Approves $3 Million to Lure Costco

After a long debate during which nearly every member of the Dallas City Council expressed a desire to do more to help underdeveloped southern Dallas, a 10-5 vote granted $3 million to multi-billion-dollar big-box retailer Costco to bring a new store to North Dallas.

The discussion centered on whether the city’s finite economic development resources should be spent on recruiting Costco to its proposed site along Coit Road near the High Five interchange, which is hardly in the sort of “food deserts” found in other parts of the city.

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