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Leading Off (10/31/14)

Last Day of Early Voting. Dallas County Republicans got off to a strong start, but Democrats are scrambling to close the gap. In the most closely watched county race, district attorney Craig Watkins has been outspent by GOP challenger Susan Hawk. If you care about the outcome, get to the polls.

Bentley to Reunite With Nina Pham. The former Ebola patient/nurse’s dog has tested negative for the virus, and will be returned to Pham on Saturday. He’s been kept in quarantine since Pham’s apartment was decontaminated by health officials.

Last Man Seen With Missing Woman Says He’s Being Harassed. Enrique Arochi made the rounds of the local newscasts to publicly state that he had nothing to do with the disappearance of Christina Morris. Arochi was the last person spotted with Morris, who has not been seen since Labor Day weekend at the Shops at Legacy in Plano. He says he’s lost his job as a result of the police investigation into the case and that he’s being harassed by friends and family of Morris, who have been protesting outside his parents’ home.

Kissing Bugs in North Texas Carry Deadly Disease. Welcome to your new nightmare: “Little did she know then, she had just met a kissing bug. So named because it attacks exposed skin — sometimes near the mouth or eyes — while you’re sleeping. You may get swelling at the site of the bite, or you may not know what happened. But the kissing bug can carry something called Chagas disease, a potentially deadly condition, which attacks the heart. It may be decades before the damage is done. But much like mosquitoes and West Nile, not every kissing bug carries Chagas disease, sometimes called the ‘silent killer.'”

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Poll: When Will Texas Have a Blue Governor?

Wendy Davis very likely will not be elected governor of Texas on November 4. Greg Abbott, the Republican candidate, leads significantly in most the polls. For all the hopes of Democrats of eventually turning our state blue, it’s not going to happen in 2014. So will the GOP ever lose its residency in the governor’s mansion?

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The Daily Show Bashes Dallas to Play to Austin Audience

The Daily Show is taping a week of programs down in Austin, and on their first night Monday, they went out of their way to play to the audience there by bashing Dallas. Firstly they appropriated the classic Dallas TV show intro and made it about Austin instead. Here are a couple of their other insults:

“Dallas is still a steaming concrete wasteland of traffic jams, big hair, and stupid belt buckles.”

And when Jon Stewart asked correspondent Jessica Williams whether the people of Austin were concerned about catching Ebola from nearby Dallas, she responded sarcastically:

“Oh, yeah, Jon, Austin is going to pick up something after Dallas.” (Pauses for laughter and cheers.) “No, Jon, Austin sets the trends, and Dallas finds out about them five years later.”

Also Democratic gubernatorial candidate, and Fort Worth State Senator, Wendy Davis was the guest on the show. She was full of all the sort of banal statements you expect to hear from a politician a week before the election. You can watch an extended version of the interview here.

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Leading Off (10/24/14)

Porsche at Center of New Allegations Against DA’s Office. The car was parked for months at the courthouse parking garage before Ace Parking (which manages the garage) asked United Tows to haul it away. Thing is it was a vehicle belonging to the county government and intended to be used in drug stings. The owners of United Tows says Craig Watkins’ staff accused them of car theft, even though it appears the company followed all the legal procedures required of it. The Morning News sought records detailing the process by which the DA’s office bought back the car from United Tows, but has had to file a lawsuit to get those details released.

It’s Going to be in the 90s This Weekend. Yes, we’re getting to the later part of October, when things would — you’d expect — be cooling down a bit. But instead the forecast calls for unusually high temperatures for the season. Meanwhile the continued drought is prompting more significant watering restrictions, and we have an unusually cold winter to look forward to.

SMU Makes Offer to Mack Brown. The school’s football team is looking for new leadership after former coach June Jones bolted after the second game of what’s been a dreadful season for the Mustangs. They’ve reportedly had “preliminary discussions” with Brown, the former University of Texas at Austin head coach who led the Longhorns to a national title for the 2005 season. The dollar figures they’ve discussed are $4 million a year for eight years.

Lawn Care Company Flying Too Many Flags. If you’ve ever trekked up to my hometown of Denton and exited onto Dallas Drive on your way to the Courthouse Square, after you descended the hill along which I received the first two speeding tickets of my life, you saw a fleet of orange trucks sitting along the right side of the road, usually adorned with letters spelling out some community announcement about a Knights of Columbus pancake breakfast or a VFW barbecue or somesuch.  And you saw a whole lot of American flags.  The orange trucks belong to Frenchy’s Lawn Care, which is owned by Vietnam vet Andre “Frenchy” Rheault. Well, after many years of displaying as many Old Glories as he likes, the city’s code enforcement department has told Rheault that the flags have to come down. Only one American flag, one Texas flag, and one miscellaneous flag are allowed on any one property. Rheault plans to fight.

Topless Cheerleaders Use Drugs. Photos of the Lamar High School students engaging in naughty behavior made the rounds of social media and have caused quite a ruckus in Arlington.

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I Also Have a Wish List of Unfunded Amenities

Gail Thomas, director of the Trinity Trust, presented the City Council with an unfunded list of possible amenities in a briefing yesterday: spray parks, fire rings, a climbing wall, kayaks, a zip line, a disc golf course. Jugglers! It all adds up to $76 million, none of which has actually been raised. And it will have to be raised, because the city doesn’t have the cash to pay for any of it. But whatever!

“So many things in the corridor are possible once we allow our imagination to go there,” Thomas said.

EXACTLY. With that in mind, here is a list of some possible improvements to our city. They are also unfunded. Why worry about that? Just dream with me, people.

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Poll: What Will the Trinity Lakes Look Like?

We all had a good laugh along with Wylie H. Dallas yesterday as he pointed out the absurdity of some of the depictions featured in the Trinity Lakes Amenities plan presented at a city committee meeting yesterday. But Dallas is going to do something with the river, eventually, right? So what’s most likely to become reality?

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SAGA Pod/Learning Curve: Schutze on Ebola and DISD

I think the headline is pretty straightforward. A few other things you should know:

• Jim starts off the podcast by coughing. He is so old and broken.
• We record it in his house, because he forgot that he didn’t have a car that day.
• At one point he tries to silence one of his dogs. I don’t even want to get into how he did this.
• If you’re wondering where ALL the antiques are, they’re in Jim’s house. I think you hear eight different clocks clang and ring and cuckoo during our talk.
• About Ebola, we focus on our officials’ reaction, the question of whether Presby can recover from its bad PR, and Peter’s question about how many will be infected before we panic. On DISD, we talk about the proper role of school board trustees, why black trustees ignore those rules, and how the city’s racial history fits into all this.

Here is the embed:

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Leading Off (10/17/14)

The Latest on Ebola. Nurse Nina Pham was transferred to the National Institutes of Health in Maryland Thursday evening, with news copters following her trip every step of the way from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital to Love Field, onto the plane and then off the plane to the NIH clinic. Just before she left Dallas, a video of her speaking with her physician was recorded and released to the public at her request. In it, she expresses her love for the Presby staff. Meanwhile, Dallas County leaders didn’t declare an emergency situation during their meeting yesterday, but they are requiring all health care workers exposed to Ebola to sign a document promising to avoid public transit and public places. If the workers don’t sign the “voluntary” agreements, orders will be issued restricting their movement. And, at the national level, President Obama called Gov. Rick Perry and vowed to offer Texas and Dallas all the help it needs in confronting the disease.

Superintendent Urged to Apologize to Trustee. At a meeting during which Mike Miles was seeking to explain his actions in response to what he termed a “crisis” at Dade Middle School, some in attendance pushed for the super to say he was sorry for having had district trustee Bernadette Nutall removed from the Dade campus on Monday. He did not.

Housing Prices Continue to Rise. The supply of available Dallas homes remains absurdly low, so the market values keep rising sharply, and now I’m feeling pretty screwed for not having jumped on the bottoming out a few years back.

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Mayor Rawlings Learns How to Be Humble in the Face of Ebola

Jim Schutze and I recorded a podcast yesterday afternoon in which we discuss the city’s reaction to the Ebola crisis (and DISD stuff). It’s very timely. It’s also sitting in the trunk of my girlfriend’s car, somewhere in her office parking garage. Since I won’t be able to get the pod up until tomorrow, here’s an example of one item we discussed: How officials have learned to temper their confidence, and how doing so actually inspires more confidence in the public.

Remember what Mayor Mike Rawlings said eight days ago:

Rawlings said that he remains [..]

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Leading Off (10/13/14)

More About the Second Ebola Case: There’s more info about the Dallas healthcare worker diagnosed with Ebola here, here, and here. And you should be following the reporting of our Matt Goodman here. Among other things, we know that, unlike in the recent case in Spain, this Ebola patient’s dog will not be euthanized.

Wright Amendment Is No More: The 1980 law restricting flights to and from Love Field becomes history today. Southwest, Virgin, and Delta will have dozens of new direct routes heading to nine new airports. It’s been a long time coming, and under other circumstances, this would probably be the biggest news of the week. But these are strange days in Dallas.

Cowboys Win Big Game: Dallas defeated the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks in Seattle yesterday, marking only the second time the Seahawks have lost at home in the last three years. DeMarco Murray is almost certainly the leading candidate for league MVP at the moment, and he just tied a 56-year-old record held by Jim Brown. The win puts the Cowboys’ record at 5-1 and gives all Cowboys fans the sick agony of expectation.

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Toll Road Backers’ Strategy: Pretend to Re-evaluate Its Worth

My column in the current issue of D Magazine tries to answer the question of why the Trinity toll road advocates won’t let this unpopular boondoggle die. Because I write these columns five to six weeks before they appear in print and online, time will always cause some portions of my column to be wrong/irrelevant/laughable by the time it appears. In this case, it’s the portion where I describe the strategy of the toll roads’ backers — the coalition of the willing.

Well, it’s not wrong. I say they will try to fund the toll road in phases. That’s still probably true. But it’s not the most immediate, important part of their strategy.

That would instead be the scenario currently being promoted by said coalition to various business interests around town, which goes like this: [...]

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Leading Off (10/10/14)

Baylor Hospital Could Lose Hundreds of Millions in Federal Funds. Inspectors for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recently found several instances of psychiatric patients walking away from the emergency department at Baylor University Medical Center. The violations potentially could cost the hospital up to $300 million in annual revenue it receives from Medicare, though Baylor is devising a plan to fix its problems, which it will submit to Texas Department of State Health Services by Monday.

Judge Rules Texas Voter ID Law Unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos issued an opinion late Thursday holding that the 2011 bill requiring photo identification for anyone to cast a valid election ballot places an undue burden on the right to vote and has a discriminatory effect on Hispanics and African-Americans. Attorney general Greg Abbott, who is also running for governor (in case you haven’t heard), announced immediately that his office would appeal the decision. It’s not clear yet how the ruling will affect the election that’s only a few weeks away.

Dallas Stars Lose Season Opener. They played great against a great team, but fell to the Chicago Blackhawks in a shootout.

Scam Targets Morning News Subscribers. Do not send $600 to an Oregon post office box to get the newspaper.

Today is Double Tenth National Day in Taiwan. It commemorates the start of the 1911 uprising that led to the collapse of the Qing Dynasty and establishment of the Republic of China. It’s also an office holiday for D Magazine Partners, celebrated in lieu of Columbus Day this weekend because of the horrific crimes Christopher Columbus committed against the native peoples of the Americas. (To be honest, I think it’s just because we decided we preferred getting a Friday off to getting a Monday off.)

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Should a City’s Police Force Look Like Its Citizens?

Last week, FiveThirtyEight took another dive into the topic of the demographics of police forces. In the wake of the Ferguson, Mo., protests, they’d previously looked at what percentages of cops in the 75 biggest U.S. cities are residents of the municipalities that they serve.

The reason that would seem to matter is the notion that when officers live in the same communities in which they work, the public is better off. The cops have a greater personal investment in making the city a great place to live, and the residents feel like the cops aren’t separate from, an antagonistic to, them.

Some cities require their police to be residents, so FiveThirtyEight decided to examine what effect such rules have on the demographic makeup of a police force — whether they aid, or make more difficult, the supposed ideal of having a department that looks very much like the community it serves.

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Leading Off (10/3/14)

Storm Wreaks Havoc. The high winds, rain, and hail that blew through North Texas Thursday afternoon left hundreds of thousands without power during at least some portion of last night, temporarily halted DART train service, knocked down trees, collapsed a building in the Fort Worth Stockyards, and tore the roof off a dorm at Arlington Baptist College, among other widespread damage. Having lost power, UT-Arlington canceled all classes Friday, all Arlington ISD schools are closed, as well as 40 Dallas ISD campuses and some schools in Mesquite and Richardson. DART hopes to be fully operational by this morning rush hour, with red, orange, and green lines normal, but only bus service available on the eastern stretch of the blue line.

Ebola Patient’s Family Held Under Armed Guard. Those who shared a Vickery Meadow apartment with Thomas Eric Duncan, the man diagnosed with the virulent disease, are under an order not to leave their home or receive visitors. However, one of the family’s children attended a DISD school on Wednesday morning. In order to enforce compliance, a guard has been stationed on site. Meanwhile, Texas Health Presbyterian issued a release Thursday evening to explain that a failure of two of its record-keeping systems (one for nurses, another for doctors) to communicate resulted in key information about Duncan’s recent travels not being considered during his initial Sept. 25 visit to the hospital, which led to his release.

Texas Can Enact Strict Abortion Restrictions. A federal judge’s decision overturning legal requirements for abortion facilities is under appeal. On Thursday the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the state can go ahead and enforce those measures even as the appeal process is under way.

Trinity Toll Road Supporters Have Gone Silent. This follows reports that a) the road isn’t projected to significantly affect traffic congestion and b) that the city council is likely under no obligation to fund it. Councilman Scott Griggs, who opposes the $1.5 billion, 9-mile route, has a theory on why North Central Texas Council of Governments transportation director Michael Morris and others have been unavailable for weeks to make comments on the issue, “I imagine they’re trying to come up with a new reason for it,” he said.

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