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Leading Off (7/14/2015)

The Barnett Shale is Off-Gassing More Greenhouse Gasses Than Previous Thought: The EPA botched its initial estimates, and as it turns out, fracking in the Barnett Shale is responsible for 64 percent of all methane in our local atmosphere. The good news: most of those emissions are the result of human errors and mechanical failures.

Let’s Put Those Increased Violent Crime Numbers in Perspective: The Dallas Morning News breaks down the much-reported 10 percent increase in violent crime. The takeaway? Glass half-full, glass half-empty. You could argue the increase reflects a return to a historical norm. And if violent crime continues at pace through the end of the year, murders will be at the same level they were 2013 and 2012, while aggravated assaults would only see a 0.4 percent increase over last year.

When Will We Finally Run Craig Holcomb Out of Town? Read Eric Nicholson’s look into the laughable bike share program in Fair Park. I mean, it couldn’t be more stupidly designed, so it will come as no surprise that the usage numbers are equally laughable. But here’s the important bit: when Nicholson tried to get the usage numbers through an open records request, he was stonewalled by the Friends of Fair Park, which operates the program. That decision to not to release the bike share numbers was then upheld in a ruling by the Texas AG.

I mean, seriously? Bike share numbers? We’re keeping those under lock-and-key? Why? Because Friends of Fair Park – which is run by Craig Holcomb, who also heads the Trinity Commons Foundation – doesn’t want more mud on his face for a program that anyone who has any idea about anything looks at for two seconds and thinks, “Good God, that is the sorriest excuse for a bike share program I have ever seen in my entire life.” I mean, seriously? How long are we going to let Holcomb meddle in the city’s business? How long are we going to let him lord over his two little fiefdoms, which happen to involve two of Dallas’ greatest civic assets – Dallas and Fair Park – both of which have languished for decades under the weight of curiously stupid ideas? For the love of all things good, Criag Holcomb, will you please just drift off into a quiet retirement and leave Dallas alone? Please. Thank you for your service. Now go away.

New Designer Drug in Town: It’s called Flakka, and it doesn’t sound like too much fun. Effects include “murderous rage, paranoia, ultra-violence, and running around screaming.” Or basically what it feels like to read about Craig Holcomb’s meddling in Dallas affairs.

It’s Finally Texas Hot: After cool temps and so much rain, we can’t really complain about DFW finally flirting with 100 degrees (heat index popped up to 109 in some places yesterday). Well, unless the AC goes out in your entire apartment complex. Then you can complain.

Dallas State Rep Wants to Turn ‘Cop Watchers’ Into Criminals

One of the legacies of Michael Brown and Eric Garner is a network of so-called “cop watchers,” volunteer groups who police the police with video cameras. Locally, there are a few networks, including Cop Watch Dallas and Dallas Cop Block who have caught instances of questionable use of force by area police on camera. Needless to say, cop watchers make cops uncomfortable. Last year, Arlington police arrested three citizens whose only offense was filming officers. This was after the cop watchers rolled up on Arlington police arresting a man. As soon as the cops saw the camera, they let the man go, according to the Dallas Observer.

Some police departments and municipalities argue that filming police interferes with officers’ police work, while cop watchers say their actions are protected by the first amendment, an argument that was backed up last year by a ruling by a Texas judge. But if State Representative Jason Villalba (R-Dallas) has his way, “cop watching” will become illegal. Enter House Bill 2918, which amends the state’s penal code, making filming within 25 feet of an officer “performing a duty or exercising authority imposed or granted by law” a class B misdemeanor. Video taping of police is allowed if you are a member of the news media, but as The Free Thought Project points out, the bill also defines the media in such a way that it excludes internet sites — not to mention documentary filmmakers. If this bill is passed, in Texas you would have to be a member of a law enforcement agency, or an employee of a radio station, television station, weekly or daily newspaper, or magazine in order to turn on a camera within 25 feet of a police officer.

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Dallas Police Water Rescue Caught on Body Camera

Last August, the Dallas Police Association pushed for the department and the district attorney’s office to provide all uniformed cops with body cameras. The DPD field-tested lapel cameras in 2014, with an original plan to equip up to 2,500 cops. These cameras have already proved useful in officer-involved shootings. But here we have something different.

According to the DPD blog, a man lost control of his car last Friday night near 5800 Military Parkway and plummeted 50 feet into a creek. As his vehicle flooded with water, officers from the department’s Southeast Crime Response Team (CRT) Unit were able to pull him out through the window. The body cam video was released as part to the DPD’s efforts to “enhance public safety and transparency.” Fortunately, the cops were nearby and able to respond when a witness called it in.

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Downtown and the Homeless: Is It Time to Consider Relocating The Bridge?

Last week I was invited by the Dallas Homeowners League to moderate a panel which included representatives from four central Dallas neighborhoods: The Farmers Market, Deep Ellum, The Cedars, and downtown. There was plenty to talk about, from connectivity, to public safety, to development, to schools, to highways, to greenspace, and on and on. We probably could have jabbered on for hours and hours, but the DHL folks run a tight ship and the pug was pulled promptly at 8 p.m.

The last topic we discussed was probably the one most residents in those four areas were most concerned about: homelessness.

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Huey P. Newton Gun Club Marches in Dallas To Protest Police Shootings

An alert FrontBurnervian points us to a Reason post about the Huey P. Newton Gun Club and its open-carry protest march through South Dallas. The group went into a restaurant carrying rifles, shotguns, and AR-15s. Some Dallas cops were eating there.

Naming a gun club after a co-founder of the Black Panthers and marching with long guns to protest police shootings struck me as — counterproductive? Is that the word? Needlessly confrontational?

But then I followed a link in that post to the cellphone video of two St. Louis cops gunning down 25-year-old Kajieme Powell on Tuesday. And I thought, My God, what is happening in our country? How can this happen? Naming a gun club after a co-founder of the Black Panthers and marching with long guns to protest police shootings starts to look reasonable. Necessary even.

Watch the video. Force yourself to do it.

Dallas Cop: ‘The Ideal Police Response to a Protest Is No Response at All’

The sad events in Ferguson, Missouri, are echoing all over Dallas today. The DMN offers an editorial criticizing the actions of the police there. Our own police chief has written an op-ed wherein he talks about how he handled a similar police shooting in 2012. You should read it. And then you should read this Washington Post story written by Radley Balko. Balko is the expert on the militarization of our nation’s police. Eric talked to Balko for a story he wrote for us in January about North Texas’ SWAT teams. Here’s the most interesting, most Dallas-centric part of Balko’s WaPo story:

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Are Dallas Cops Really Disgruntled?

The Dallas Police Association put out a release this morning about a morale survey that was conducted among its membership. As the DMN has pointed out, the results do not look good. Eighty percent of respondents said morale in the department was “low” or “the lowest its ever been.” No question that Chief David Brown has a situation on his hands that needs addressing. But a few words about the limitations of this survey before anyone thinks the sky is falling:

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DMN Headline Says Former Police Chiefs Against New Plan, Except Kunkle Isn’t

I admit I missed this when I read the story today, because I got through about half of it and thought, “Okay, all the former Dallas police chiefs think the civilian-hiring plan by current Chief David Brown is politically problematic.”

As councilman Philip Kingston realized: Nuh-uh. You have to wade through about half the article, but our most recent former chief, David Kunkle, says that even though the civilian-hiring plan has real-world problems, it’s worth moving forward and trying to implement it again.

Kunkle said he remains a firm believer that putting civilians in as many jobs as possible is a good plan. Officers should be out on the street, he said, and keeping civilians around should be part of any long-term plan.

Just so we’re clear.

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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.

Leading Off (8/26/13)

T.D. Jakes Is More Popular Than Jesus: The bishop is expected to draw 50,000 to the first Mega-Fest he has hosted in DFW. No word on how many loaves and fishes have been ordered. DFW Is Thirsty: Yeah, we get it, the region consumes a lot of water. Can’t we just ban the St. Augustine […]

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Leading Off (8/19/13)

Dallas Resident Killed After Being Deported to Mexico, And Other Tales From the Immigration Front: If you are looking for a poster family to represent the tangled mess of immigration legalities and illegalities which destroy lives and families, take the Carreras. Rosa Hilda Carrera came to the states illegally as a mature adult. She brought with […]

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Leading Off (6/17/13)

Kingston and Callahan Win Dallas City Council Runoffs: Philip Kingston and Rick Callahan won their runoff campaigns this past Saturday. Kingston was the choice of outgoing council member Angela Hunt for her seat. Callahan becomes the representative for Pleasant Grove. With the victories, the Hispanic representation on the city council drops from three to two. […]

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Leading Off (5/13/13)

Where Do Saturday’s Elections Leave Hispanic Dallas City Council Representation? The answer, in short, is not in a good way. In a newly drawn district that is 74 percent Hispanic, incumbent Scott Griggs defeated Hispanic incumbent Delia Jasso. In another new district drawn to give Pleasant Grove single representation at the horseshoe (the neighborhood was […]

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