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Leading Off (7/31/15)

AG’s Ties to McKinney Tech Company Probed. Ken Paxton’s relationship with Severgy, a self-proclaimed “innovation engine,” appears to be under investigation as part of the Collin County grand jury’s look at whether the Texas attorney general should be indicted on felony charges over his admitted securities violations. Severgy has been involved in its own legal troubles in the past, accused of fraud by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Paxton owns at least 10,000 shares of the company.

Fort Worth Bike Cop Kills Man. In the early morning hours of Friday, the policeman shot a guy who was brandishing a handgun during an altercation between two large groups outside the Ojos Locos Sports Cantina in the city’s downtown. The man later died at a nearby hospital, and the officer has been placed on routine administrative leave while the incident is investigated.

Parkland Sues Four Builders. A lawsuit filed earlier this week claims that contractors delivered faulty work in the construction of its new central utility plant. The project is intended to provide water and emergency power for the new $1.3 billion county hospital that opens in August. Reps for the builders say that Parkland’s legal team is just providing cover for the leadership failures of Parkland officials.

Dog Missing in Ellis County. Yes, this story got actual airtime on a local newscast in the country’s fourth-largest television market last night.

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Podcast: Laura Miller on Preston Center, John Wiley Price, Sacred Cows, and Clean Coal

Former Dallas mayor, as well as former Dallas Morning News/D Magazine/Dallas Observer reporter, Laura Miller stopped by the Old Monk yesterday to talk about why she now spends her days fighting for clean coal and against major new Preston Center development. Plus, in this week’s episode of Ear Burner, she tells the story behind her classic March 1991 D Magazine story on John Wiley Price.

A few notes before you listen:

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Anti-Trump Jihad Spills Over to DMN News Pages

Even casual readers of the Dallas Morning News know the paper’s editorial board is freaking out over Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. But now some of that virulent anti-Trump sentiment seems to be leaking over to the news side. In story after story, for example, reporter Sylvan Lane has written that Trump said “most Hispanic immigrants were rapists and criminals.” But, that’s not what Trump said.

In his campaign announcement speech—as CNN’s Anderson Cooper and others have acknowledged—Trump was referring to illegal immigration across the Mexican border when he said: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best. They’re not sending you, they’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems. They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime. They’re rapists and some, I assume, are good people, but I speak to border guards and they’re telling us what we’re getting.”

Lane ups the anti-Trump ante in a Page One story today, whose first sentence reads: “How do you deal with a bully like Donald Trump?” A photo caption with the story then doubles down on the misquoting, saying Trump has “famously said most Hispanics immigrants were rapists and criminals.” I know the DMN recently laid off at least one of its best veteran political editors, but surely they have somebody on staff who knows a little bit about fairness and accuracy.

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Ask John Neely Bryan: Why Can’t Businesses Place Signs on Downtown Sidewalks?

Question: Why aren’t businesses allowed to put signs on the street downtown? How are people supposed to know they exist if they cannot? (For example, Hospitality Sweet in 400 N. Ervay; Serj across the street from them.) — David H.

What luck! Just last night, during my habitual bedtime reading, I finished Article VII of Chapter 51A of the Dallas City Code, which governs signage and other signage-related activities. It was among the most riveting passages so far of my trip through the regulations of local municipal governance. I am continuously awed by the ability of lawyers to take the language of Shakespeare and Keats, Twain and Hemingway, and fashion it into the verbal equivalent of pouring out a medium-sized container of thumb tacks and jamming them one by one into the back of your hand. A taste:

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Is Donald Trump the New Ross Perot?

The Wall Street Journal’s professional opiners express fears that bloviating billionaire Donald Trump could — if he loses out on the GOP nomination for president — run a third-party campaign that makes it tough for the Republicans to win in 2016.

And that’s not the only parallel they draw between Trump now and Ross Perot’s 1992 campaign:

Like Trump, Perot was a businessman turned amateur politician who capitalized on voter dissatisfaction with the professionals. He was ideologically heterodox.

Like Trump, he had an admirer in Kevin Phillips, who in 1993 told the Philadelphia Inquirer: “He surged in the polls in his role as national watchdog.” After the election, Perot’s opposition to the North American Free Trade Agreement put him at odds with the Clinton administration, though these days it would find him a home on the Democratic left.

Perot was known for rhetorical intemperance. “James Ragland, a former city hall reporter with the Dallas Morning News now with The Washington Post, recalls being at a meeting with Dallas police officers at which Perot suggested the police ‘ought to just go in there [high-crime neighborhoods], cordon off the whole area, going block by block, looking for guns and drugs,’ ” the Post’s Michael Isikoffreported in 1992. That’s somewhat reminiscent of Trump’s recent harangue about illegal aliens from Mexico—though we should note that in the 1993 Nafta debate with Al Gore, Perot was careful to praise the skill and industriousness of Mexican workers.

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Poll: Should We Stop Honoring the Confederacy?

A memorial to Confederate soldiers was vandalized over the weekend in Denton, sparking another conversation about whether in 2015 we should continue to honor those who fought in open rebellion against the United States. What do you think?

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Denton Confederate Memorial Vandalized

I moved to Denton from Illinois in second grade and did most of the rest of my growing up there. I remember during one of my earliest visits to the Courthouse Square, still a child, I noticed the monument to Confederate soldiers, which was vandalized last night. I remember thinking it was curious that a city in the United States would memorialize people who’d fought in open rebellion against the nation. No, I’m not sure I appreciated then how divided our country remained for many decades after the Civil War.

I also attended Robert E. Lee Elementary in Denton ISD,  and I never gave much thought to the curiosity that the leader of a rebel army would be honored in such a way. I knew who he was, but really his was just a name of a long-dead guy on the building where I went to class, as much thought as I ever gave it.

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Leading Off (7/17/15)

Immigrants Claim Discrimination in North Dallas. Tenants of apartments near Royal Lane and Central Expressway have been asked for U.S. identification cards when renewing their leases. Obtaining these is only possible for those who are citizens or who immigrated legally. Managers of the complex say their policy has always been to require a government-issued ID to meet their rental criteria.

Spend This Weekend With Bernie. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders will host a town hall meeting at the Sheraton downtown at 1 p.m. Sunday.

Driver Hits Bicyclist, Keeps Driving. The victim was stuck in the windshield of the car for about a half-mile before, police say, 19-year-old Silverio Alaniz dumped his body in an alley and drove away. Jimmie Sines was later found and taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Who Wants to Play Footgolf? You’ll never be as good as Jordan Spieth at the conventional variety, so you might as well get in on the ground floor of this new sport.

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Leading Off (7/15/15)

Farmersville Residents Do Not Want a Muslim Cemetery. This story basically sounds like a Daily Show bit waiting to happen. A choice quote: “We used to grow onions here. We sure enough don’t want to be growing bodies.” And this, from the same story: “Some are threatening to dump pigs blood and put pigs heads on a post so Muslims won’t buy the land.”

Australian Man Accused of Stalking, Raping Woman He Met in Uptown. The details of this case are pretty nightmarish. A woman says a man she met in an Uptown bar “started making unwanted advances,” then jumped into her Lyft ride before assaulting her. Police found him “unconscious” in her bed.

Local Parents Lose Custody After Waco Biker Incident. After he was arrested at Twin Peaks, Rob Bucy and his wife, Marilyn, lost custody of the 5-year-old girl they were in the process of adopting. Marilyn was ordered to pack the girl’s bags and toys and stuffed animals and deliver her to a stranger at the airport — and they are forbidden from contacting the girl. All because he was a member of a biker club that was involved in a massive shootout that left nine people dead.

Deron Williams Signs with the Mavs. No, he’s not a giant center that led the league in rebounding. But he’s from here, and he was really good not long ago, and he isn’t costing the team much. So there’s that.

Dez Bryant Says He’ll Hold Out If There’s No Deal Today. The reported offer is more than $12.8 million per year. Bryant is reportedly asking for a long-term deal worth closer to $16 million per year. He says that if a deal isn’t done by this afternoon, he could miss training camp and possibly regular season games, and the player’s association might file collusion charges. Apparently the Cowboys are skeptical.

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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.

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Leading Off (7/10/15)

Violent Crime Up in Dallas. Through the first half of 2015, the total number of murders, rapes, aggravated assaults, and robberies is up 10 percent. No one has a firm explanation for the spike, but police say they are flooding high-crime zones with more manpower to try to stem the tide.

Bush and Clinton Play Nice. Though former presidents George W. and Bill each have a family member vying to win the White House in 2016, they shared the stage last evening to celebrate the graduation of the first class of Presidential Leadership Scholars at the Bush Presidential Center:

“Last night my granddaughter spoke to me in Mandarin,” Bush said, before the crowd, and Clinton, erupted in laughter.

Sounds like it was an easy room.

Former Morning News Editor Takes UNT Gig. Bob Mong, who retired from our local daily newspaper in May, is apparently already sick of spending more time with his family. He’s been named the lone finalist for the presidency of the Dallas campus of the University of North Texas. The current president, Ronald Brown, is being promoted to run the university system’s health care programs, including the newly announced medical school in Fort Worth. I’ll always remember how Mong took the time to write me a short note of praise for a column I’d written for the group of community news sections I once ran at the DMN. He understood that it means a lot to know the guy in the big office on the other side of the building is actually reading your stuff, especially when it’s not the stuff on the front page. He was extremely kind and supportive of our team’s work — not to mention a surprisingly good softball player. Big congrats to him.

Blind Alligator Removed From the Trinity in Fort Worth. “Nuisance Alligator Hunter” is not a new Animal Planet series. It’s something someone can be licensed to do, someone like Chris Stevens, who was called in to catch a 10-foot-2-inch reptile that showed up in the river near the city’s downtown after heavy rains in June. The animal was safely moved to a nature preserve.

Lake Dallas Mayor Resigns Without Explanation. Tony Marino stepped down as the top elected official in the small Denton County city last night, just a few weeks after the shady shenanigans in which he and the city manager/police chief seemed to have engineered the ouster of a newly elected city council member who’d been critical of them. Marino’s replacement, Mike McCaleb, vowed to bring the “wounded” city back together, descending from the dais to address those in attendance:

McCaleb began to cry. “I’m a big baby, too,” he said. “My sister used to accuse me of having a bladder behind my eyes.”

Many residents laughed at his joke.

Sounds like it was an easy room.

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The New York Times on the Federally Subsidized Dallas Exodus

The New York Times reports on the success of an experimental housing policy the federal government rolled out in Dallas. In short, the new program offers vouchers to people who qualify for housing subsidies. That’s not new. Here’s the new bit: if the person receiving the voucher wants to move to a more expensive neighborhood, the government will give that person more money.

The thought is that by helping families move into better neighborhoods, they will have a better chance of breaking the cycles of poverty that persist in poorer parts of town. Better schools, safer neighborhoods, short commutes: in the long run it all translates into lower costs for everyone, those receiving the subsidies and the government. So far, this strategy has been proven successful, even if the program is not perfect:

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The Canaries are Yelling in the City Hall Coal Mine

Elizabeth Findell has a story in the Dallas Morning News that is ostensibly about council members yelling at city staff members and a general loss of decorum at Dallas City Hall. Throughout the piece, various subjects offer their thoughts on why things have gotten testy down at city hall. Council member Sandy Greyson blames it on social media. Council member Lee Kleinman says many elected officials don’t have much experience as managers. The article ends with the suggestion that what has happened is a generational culture shift.

But you have to read between the lines of the article to get at the real story, which is not so much about manners in governance as it is about a city government whose very structure creates a contentious relationship between elected officials and city staff.

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Leading Off (7/3/15)

Hood County Threatened With Gay-Marriage Lawsuit. Two men in Granbury want to exercise the right to which the Supreme Court last week affirmed they are entitled, but the men so far have been denied. They’ve now moved towards taking legal action against the county government for not issuing them a license. Meanwhile dueling rallies converged upon the courthouse Thursday to express their support for, or opposition to, the county clerk’s refusal to comply with the law.

UNT, TCU to Partner on Medical School. It’d be only the second program in Dallas-Fort Worth to confer M.D. degrees. Though neither university has confirmed the news, sources told the Fort Worth Business Press that the board of trustees for the UNT Health Science Center in Fort Worth is expected to vote on the plan Monday. UNT already operates the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine there, and the school’s previously announced intention to add a medical school has been opposed in the past by osteopaths. TCU would provide much of the funding that the state has so far declined to contribute to the effort.

Murder Rate Up in June. Dallas saw 20 homicides during the month — the most since August 2013 — and police don’t have a solid explanation for the uptick.

Interim DISD Chief Supports Teacher Evaluation System. Dallas teachers who had hoped the departure of district superintendent Mike Miles would spell the end of a controversial means of determining which classroom educators are getting the job done may be disappointed to hear Miles’ temporary replacement, Michael Hinojosa tell WFAA, “We need to support the teachers but also they need to realize these initiatives are going to move forward.”

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