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Making Dallas Even Better

Why It Is Not Enough for Fair Park Leadership to Merely ‘Cheer’ for South Dallas

Amidst all the hubbub over homelessness that has erupted over the past few days, I feel like an important article by Robert Wilonsky about Fair Park hasn’t received the attention it deserves. On Tuesday, Wilonsky wrote about the many parcels of land that the State Fair of Texas owns outside the boundaries of Fair Park. These lots are dispersed through the community of South Dallas. Some are unkempt, others vacant, and others used to enforce arbitrary parking restrictions. Like the moats of parking around Fair Park, these lots remain a real, active agent of disinvestment in a community that has been the victim of a bully neighbor for decades:

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Irving and Dallas Feud Over Cypress Waters

Despite today’s aforementioned rah-rah cries of regionalism, it would appear that what’s good for Dallas isn’t necessarily good for Irving, and vice versa.

NBC 5 reports on a “feud” (Side Note: How dumb are NBC 5 viewers?) between Dallas and Irving over which city will provide utility and fire service to the Cypress Waters development that sits in that island territory of the city of Dallas around North Lake, into which the Dallas City Council last week bribed Zale Corp. to move its headquarters:

“Governments need to work together,” Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said. “We’ve got to be able to break down silos and say what’s good for citizens of Irving and what’s good for citizens of Dallas.”

Rawlings said Irving would be paid a fair rate by Dallas for its services. But Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne says it’s not enough:

“We fully understand being regional and we’re supportive of that,” she said. “We just want to be sure that we have the resources to take care of our own residents.”

Van Duyne swears the fact that Zale will be moving out of Irving when it goes to Cypress Waters has nothing to do with her objections.

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Attorney General’s Office Accuses Morning News Reporter of ‘Stalking’

Yes, I am highly skeptical of the complaints reported by right-wing news site Breitbart, that Dallas Morning News reporter Lauren McGaughy is “stalking” staffers of the state attorney general’s office and their families in pursuit of her work on how AG Ken Paxton continued to pay a couple of ex-staffers months after they left their government jobs.

I am highly skeptical, but these claims go so over-the-top that they veer into the realm of pure entertainment, and so I pass them on:

“ This is insane. It’s like she is stalking us. She is waiting outside of both public and private buildings to demand that we answer her questions,” said the high level staffer who spoke with Breitbart Texas on the condition of remaining unnamed. “We feel stalked by her.”

Indeed, a quick search of the writer’s name and her coverage of the Texas Attorney General shows that she forced a cancer survivor to reveal private personal health information when she went after former First Assistant Attorney General Chip Roy for being on leave.

The staffer went further and told Breitbart Texas, “The Dallas Morning News reporter has called spouses of AG staff, the offspring of AG staff, and a sibling of AG staff. In one instance, another top level staff member was outside of the Attorney General’s office building on a phone call with someone who had just lost their spouse. The reporter came up yelling and demanding that he speak with her. He was on a private phone call.”

Several sources in the office gave the impression that they are fully expecting to get home and have a rabbit boiling in a pot on their stoves at some point. Another source in the office told Breitbart Texas, “Is this reporter going to start showing up at our homes? At the schools where we pick up our children? How far will the Dallas Morning News allow her to go?”

State Rep. Jason Villalba Denounces Donald Trump, His Party’s Nominee

Today over on the Texas Tribune’s TribTalk op-ed site, State Rep. Jason Villalba of Dallas is beside himself at the thought that his party will be represented on the 2016 presidential ticket by Donald J. Trump:

Tonight, the political party that I have cherished and revered for all of my life has chosen as its standard bearer a buffoonish, clownish, orange, carnival barking snake oil salesman to represent me and my family in front of the entire world.

The political party that I have affirmed and have aligned myself with for the past three decades has nominated a man who has soiled the sacred honor of our armed forces by belittling and besmirching the good name of our military heroes. He has denigrated and misogynistically maligned every woman in America. He has ridiculed and made sport of those with physical and mental infirmities. And he has categorically attacked and savaged those who share a Hispanic heritage with my children by claiming that they are rapists and murderers.

And that’s just the beginning of his denunciation. Still, I can’t help wonder if politicians like Villalba — who we once described in the pages of D Magazine as “the future of the Texas GOP” and who now finds it hard to fathom how his party could have been trumped by Trumpism — recognize their own complicity in laying the framework for the divisive campaign that Trump has successfully run, by doing things (as Villalba did) like comparing Democrats to Nazis.

Trump didn’t come out of nowhere.

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Leading Off (5/4/16)

Ciao, Ted Cruz. Your senator, the man whose father, a Carrollton preacher, believed that God himself ordained his son’s White House bid, lost the Indiana primary to Donald Trump yesterday, prompting Cruz to withdraw from the race for the Republican nomination. Cruz’s announcement came in the form of an insult-laden speech (Update: this particular speech came earlier in the day. H/T: the comments) in which Cruz called Trump a “pathological liar” and “utterly amoral.” That kind of language feels tame in an election year that has also seen Cruz compared to “Lucifer” and Trump accusing Cruz’s dad of involvement in the JFK assassination. Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, one of the many intellectual luminaries who occupy positions of power in state government, suggested Trump nominate Cruz to the Supreme Court. At this point, you could follow the rest of the 2016 election year, or you could just watch Robert Altman’s Nashville on repeat. Your choice.

The Mayor Thinks He’s Helping Dallas Grow South. During a Grow South update, regional marketer-in-chief Mike Rawlings gave his southern Dallas development initiative straight A’s, but also admitted that he wished Grow South could happen faster, better, and cheaper. I read about his perceived accomplishments, thought about the people who actually helped realize many of them, and wondered if what makes Mike Rawlings a poor mayor is the precisely the fact that he thinks of mayoring in terms of “faster,” better,” and “cheaper.” Does our mayor have the patience, vision, or political seriousness to actual plant seeds of substantial change in the impoverished, historically segregated city south of I-30? Or, as a developer rather acutely commented to me recently, is he merely “a quarterly returns guy?”

Susan Hawk Back in the Hot Seat. The DA’s department is under fire once again after an innocent man accused of heinous crimes and sent to prison for two years may have been convicted because prosecutors deliberately withheld evidence.

Suspect in Gruesome Church Murder Still At Large. Police in Midlothian are looking for help identifying a man caught on surveillance camera at Creekside Church of Christ on April 18. He was wearing a black helmet, balaclava, and vest with the word “police” on it, and he is seen brandishing a hammer and breaking windows while going through an office. Moments after the footage was taken, a fitness instructor arriving for an early morning class was bludgeoned to death.

Southlake Murder-For-Hire Trial Continues to Shed Light on Drug Cartel’s Inner Workings. The murder was cold, methodical, and it wasn’t supposed to happen in Southlake.

Time to Pine for Seguin. It’s not just that the Blues are up 2-1, it’s that after a gutsy comeback in a game 2 they eventually lost, the Stars fell to pieces in a 6-1 rout in St. Louis last night. Prediction: the Stars somehow scrape together a few wins and force a game seven. Then, a still half-injured Tyler Seguin enters the game in overtime and scores a goal that is likened to the hockey version of Kirk Gibson’s walk-off.

Burger Baron Jack Keller Dead at 88. “The secret of this business,” Keller told the Dallas Morning News last year, “is a good, consistent product, year in and year out, at a reasonable price.” Keller delivered that product at his classic, throw-back burger joint on Northwest Highway for 50-plus years. R.I.P.

Don’t Worry, There is Hope and Goodness in the World. Watch a motorcycle cop rescue a stray dog caught in traffic on I-30, and read about the dogs that were rescued from a Korean dog-meat farm that are now safe in a Dallas shelter.

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Is Anyone Else a Little Creeped Out By the Idea of a Homeless Concentration Camp?

Let’s get this out straight away: I don’t really know anything about homelessness. I haven’t read much of the literature. I haven’t studied initiatives in various cities around the country. And I tend to trust that most of the people who are engaged in all aspects of the fight against homelessness have their hearts in the right place. I think that places like City Square, Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance, and others are doing good work. I’d like to think the Bridge, which downtown residents love to hate, is also trying to do good work, even if it is easy to point to all of the problems Bridge residents create and see the Bridge as a magnet for trouble.

I also respect the neighbors downtown and in the Cedars who are faced with the brunt of what homelessness brings to a neighborhood: crime, petty theft, vagrancy, drugs, prostitution, irritating panhandling, and random ridiculousness like guys throwing rocks off overpasses. Those are the kinds of little crimes that can kill large scale, long term efforts to revitalize neighborhoods. And  I appreciate that neighbors can often feel at war with the very people who are trying to alleviate homelessness, like church-run soup kitchens that draw people through neighborhoods, creating makeshift pedestrian highways characterized by trash, petty theft, or worse.

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Dallas Street Stories Hopes to Give Voice to the City’s Homeless

Yasef was the first person we spoke to. After meeting him, I scribbled in my notes: “sad guy; red hat.” He was soft-spoken, downtrodden, and defeated. When I asked what he needed, the 6-foot-8-inch man said one thing: “clothes that fit me.”

We visited with a handful of other people in Tent City that day. And, when we left, Yasef and his group of friends called to us as we walked away. “Are you leaving?” one of the guys asked. “Yeah, but we’ll be back,” we promised. And then they all waved as we walked out.

I’ve lived and worked downtown for nearly six years. Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of social media chatter about the homeless in my neighborhood. The homeless have been called aggressive, carpetbaggers, and freeloaders. This all led to a crackdown on panhandling.

That hasn’t been my experience with the homeless downtown.

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‘There Is a 100 Percent Chance Mark Cuban Becomes President’

That’s what Silicon Valley investor Chris Sacca, a former Google employee and sometimes co-star of Cuban’s on ABC’s Shark Tank, told CNBC this week:

Sacca noted that Cuban could be at least as successful as Trump were he were to campaign for leader of the free world.

“The minute you’re coined a billionaire in this country, everyone just takes everything you say as gospel. You can say no wrong,” Sacca said. “And that’s why we see Trump skating in. He says asinine things and everyone says ‘well, he’s a successful business guy.’ Cuban has all of that, but is not an idiot.”

So if we factor in a massive Trump flop this fall, and the Republican Party still trying to stitch itself together in the aftermath come 2020, then we’ll get two terms of Hillary Clinton.

Cuban 2024?

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Leading Off (4/29/16)

Cowboys Select Ezekiel Elliott. With the fourth pick in this year’s NFL draft, Dallas took the Ohio State running back. Reviews of the decision are mixed, with some suggesting they should have gone with Florida State cornerback Jalen Ramsey instead. The Cowboys also tried — and failed — to trade up to get another first-round pick with which to select Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch as Tony Romo’s heir.

Dallas ISD Votes to Buy New Headquarters. The $46.5 million purchase was approved by board trustees in the earliest hour of Friday morning. The building, at 9400 N. Central Expressway, will consolidate the district’s headquarters and 15 other offices in one place. DISD anticipates the change will produce tens of millions of dollars in savings by 2021. Trustees were divided on the matter, which got the go-ahead on a 5-3 vote. Trustees Bernadette Nutall, Joyce Foreman, and Lew Blackburn opposed the purchase, expressing concerns about how it’s being funded and about the district headquarters moving six miles north of its current relatively central location. Some employees could be relocated to what’s being called the Dallas ISD Education by the end of the year, with the entire moving process taking about four years.

Blackie Sherrod, RIP. Sherrod, who died of natural causes at age 96 on Thursday afternoon, is being remembered as “the greatest Texas sportswriter of his generation.”

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The Oak Cliff DISD Trustee Race Has Turned Ugly

Early voting has begun for the May 7 joint elections, which feature many ISD races. As I wrote about in my May column in D Magazine, this is an especially crucial vote for Dallas ISD, with four seats up for grabs. I point out that, contrary to popular opinion, the school board has overcome status quo efforts to maintain the status quo, putting in place important reforms that will help poor kids throughout the district. (Which, in turn, will help the city at large.)

Since I wrote that column about six weeks ago, one race has become awash in nastiness. Which happens, right? It’s local politics.

Except this time, that nastiness includes not just political operatives but also City Council members. In fact, the council members have become political operatives in these ISD races in ways that make me very queasy, in part because the folks doing this include people I admire and consider friends. Which means this is not going to be fun. Let’s do a little FAQ to get you caught up:

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Let’s Talk About How to Fix Dallas Schools

Next Tuesday evening here at D Magazine World Headquarters, we’re hosting a happy hour/panel discussion on education in North Texas: More specifically, the question of how schools can find, reward, and retain the best teachers. Eric Celeste will moderate a talk among Dallas ISD trustee Miguel Solis, Stacy Hodge of education advocacy nonprofit Stand For Children, and Todd Williams of overly-punctuated education nonprofit Commit!

If you’re interested in attending, mosey on over this way.

As for myself, I was too excited about the issues to wait all the way until next week. So I asked John Hill, who writes and podcasts about education in Dallas on his blog Turn and Talks, to have a little chat with me (via instant messages) to further whet my appetite. Hill is a former DISD teacher and is now teaching 10th-grade world history at his alma mater, Jesuit Dallas.

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City Council Gives Zale Corp. $450K to Sort-of Move to Dallas

The Dallas City Council just voted this morning to grant Zale Corporation up to $450,000 to move out of Irving. Luring a corporate headquarters to town is generally considered an accomplishment worth crowing about, but take a look (above) at where the company plans to build its new $45 million complex.

The dark gray line represents the city limits. You can see on the map that Zale’s plan is to move just a couple miles away to the little island territory of Dallas around North Lake, as part of the Cypress Waters development. It’s an area even farther from the center of Dallas than is Zale’s existing headquarters. Some of you may not even have realized that land was part of the city. It was annexed back in the 1950s when Dallas Power and Light (which became TXU) needed a cooling reservoir for a new electric plant.

In return for the city’s largesse, staff members estimate the economic impact to the city of $11.3 million over 10 years. Outlaying $450,000 for a return of $11.3 million obviously seems like a no-brainer.

However, when Councilman Mark Clayton probed for more information about the estimate during the council’s discussion period, it was disclosed that only about $800,00 would come back to the city as direct tax revenue. The vast majority of that $11.3 million is based on estimating the impact of the hundreds of new employees that will, according to the underlying logic, come to live, work, and play in Dallas (spending money all along the way).

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An Absurd $4.6 Million Bridge Is Going Up Over Harry Hines

The DMN takes a look at why the city, county, state, and federal governments are pitching in to build a pedestrian path over Harry Hines Boulevard at Walnut Hill Lane, an area of town known for its strip clubs and other adult-oriented establishments:

Even the guy whose business is a few steps from the base of the bridge has no idea what the heck the thing’s doing there.

“I thought it was for the DART station,” said Song Kim, owner of Just for Play, the lingerie shop in Ravi’s Wholesale Plaza. Kim said Monday that he’d been in this spot for two years, and never once has anyone explained the point of this bridge.

The DART station’s a good guess. Dallas Area Rapid Transit has the Walnut Hill Green Line station on the other side of Harry Hines. But the bridge doesn’t connect to it. Denton Drive separates the light-rail station from the bridge.

The bridge’s backstory hides in plain sight: The fall 2014 issue of Utility Newsletter, the must-read published by the Dallas County Department of Public Works, tells us the bridge “will allow safer pedestrian and bicycle traffic along Harry Hines Boulevard and serve as an example of the modern transportation principles of sustainable and multimodal infrastructure.” There’s also a 2014 map from the North Central Texas Council of Governments that shows the pedestrian bridge as part of a much larger “Northwest Dallas Multimodal Connectivity” project built for the Asian Trade District.

Wishful thinking? Bureaucratic planning run amok?

D Magazine HQ to Host American Conservative Talk on U.S. Foreign Policy

Former FrontBurner contributor Wick Allison, chairman of D Magazine Partners, is also chairman of the American Ideas Institute, a D.C.-based nonprofit that publishes The American Conservative magazine in print and online.

In that capacity, he’s asked that I let D Magazine readers know about an event being hosted here at our downtown office this Wednesday. Four editors from TAC will have a discussion about what impact the 2016 presidential campaign will have on U.S. foreign policy.

If that sounds like your jam, click right here to RSVP, space permitting.