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Barrett Brown Sentenced to 63 Months in Prison, Looks Horrible in Mustard Yellow Jail Togs

Yesterday at the Earle Cabell Federal Building, in the fine city of Dallas, Texas, a fellow named Andrew Blake wore a curious t-shirt to Judge Sam Lindsay’s court for a hearing to determine how much longer Barrett Brown ought to stay in prison. Blake got his shirt while covering the trial of Chelsea Manning. It was black, with one word, in white, printed across its chest: “truth.” Before things got started yesterday, a federal marshal approached Blake and told him he had to cover up the word. In case you missed that: he had to cover up “truth.” In a courtroom. That’s how it went for much of yesterday, like a script for a bad movie that any reasonable studio executive would read and reject because no way could the plot transpire in real life.

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Poll: Should Dallas Put Fluoride in Its Water?

It’s tough sometimes to know which “experts” we’re supposed to believe, especially when scientific consensus also has a way of changing its collective mind as researchers learn more. It can be confusing to mere lay-folk like you (most of you, anyway) and me.

For years we’ve heard that fluoride in our drinking water is an absolute good and has promoted dental health for decades. But now, as Tim noted last week, scientists have concerns about the chemical’s neurotoxic effects. These concerns have been raised to the Dallas City Council, which will vote Jan. 28 on a contract to continue fluoridating the city’s water supply. Should they continue the practice?

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Does Mike Rawlings Know He’s the Mayor of Dallas, Not Dallas-Fort Worth?

As Mike Rawlings told the Dallas Morning News editorial board recently, he’s “a numbers guy.” So anchoring all the puffery in his new mayor’s letter was one solid factoid: “According to a recent Forbes study, Dallas is now the fourth fastest-growing city in the country.” Wait, what? I mean, without even checking, I instinctively knew that wasn’t true, not by a long shot. What was this claim doing here? I had to get to the bottom of this.

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Ladar Levison Calls David Cameron’s Encryption Ideas ‘Insane’

British Prime Minister David Cameron today called on U.S. internet companies to give intelligence agencies greater access to their members’ communications so that authorities can better fight terrorism. He has in mind something like a back door that law enforcement could use to step around encryption. Our friend Ladar Levison doesn’t much care for the idea, which he called “insane.” Here’s what he told the Guardian:

“The rallying cry is that we have to stop terrorism. Everyone hates terrorism. The only thing we hate more than terrorism is hurting children. Whenever they want additional authorities, these are the issues they put on parade.”

“It reminds me of that quote from Benjamin Franklin: ‘Those who surrender freedom for security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.’”

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Leading Off (1/16/15)

South Dallas Residents Don’t Want New Toll Lanes. Wait, I thought opposing the construction of new pay-to-play roads was classist and racist and that folks south of Interstate 30 are clamoring for the opportunity to pay to drive their cars to points north? Then why were those who showed up to a Tuesday meeting at Methodist Dallas Medical Center to discuss the proposed Southern Gateway project — redoing Interstate 35E south of Colorado Boulevard — so upset about the idea to include managed toll lanes in the plans? Listen to this:

“We don’t want this. We don’t want these tollways here. Not in Oak Cliff,” said Juanita Lozano, drawing an “amen” and applause from the crowd.

And this:

“You’re creating a system where people with means can zip from one end of this area to the other while they wave at the rest of us on the sidelines,” said Michael Amonett.

And how about this?

“Where will you get the additional land you need?” asked Alicia Quintans, who lives near I-35E and observes its daily traffic flow.

“There’s maybe two hours of the day when traffic is jumbled up on I-35,” she said, “and I don’t understand why we’re building these toll lanes for two hours of the day.”

Oil Boom Headed For Bust? We’re all still enjoying the cheap gasoline, but as prices have dropped, drilling budgets have been slashed and industry layoffs have begun. Concern of a sustained downturn is growing.

Hipster Wedding Chapel Denied by City. The owners of the Bows and Arrows floral shop were fixing up an East Dallas mansion to host weddings, but their request to rezone the home for that purpose was denied last week by the Plan Commission.

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Ray Washburne Signs On To Be a Bundler for Chris Christie

The New York Observer is reporting that Ray Washburne will end his run as RNC finance chairman and become a bundler for Chris Christie. I love that the story mentions that Washburne is tall and handsome yet somehow overlooked that he is beloved by children and a friend to all creatures, great and small. But why, pray tell, would Washburne raise cash for Christie and not one of the hopefuls closer to home? Says the Observer: “According to a source inside the Christie campaign, Mr. Washburne was willing to buck the Texas-tied hopefuls because ‘He feels poo-pooed by the Bush family in Texas.’ ” I’m sure that will go over well next time Washburne runs into George W. at Mi Cocina.

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Leading Off (1/9/15)

Dallas ISD Dropping Some Tests. Kindergarteners, first-graders, and second-graders in DISD will no longer have to take twice-a-year Assessments of Course Performance in music, art, and gym after changes announced by district administrators on Thursday. The move comes after a widespread community outcry about the number of exams students must face. Results from the December ACPs will still count toward students’ grades. In case you’re curious about what’s on a second-grade gym test, one part required the kids to “demonstrate mature form in skipping.” Pretty sure I’d fail.

Deputy Fire Chief to Retire After Line-of-Duty Death Investigation. Bobby Ross was the commander on the scene when Dallas firefighter Stanley Wilson died. An internal affairs complaint filed with the department indicated that Ross made a “false and evasive” explanation of the orders he’d given that day. He wasn’t officially punished but was reassigned to the communications section. His resignation is reportedly official on Tuesday.

Did Diabetes Cause Murder of Kaufman County DAs? Eric Williams was sentenced to death last month for killing Mike McLelland and his wife Cynthia. On Thursday he underwent a brain scan that his attorneys hope will show diabetes-caused brain damage that led to his rampage. Then they would argue he deserves a new trial or a reduction in punishment.

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Important Correction To My Dwaine Caraway Story

As you may recall, last year I spent a day with “the most trill councilman ever,” District 4’s Dwaine Caraway. We spent way too much time together and Caraway said and did way too many most-trill-councilman-ever things to fit everything into that story. But one thing I did include in that piece was the detail that Caraway has five phones. Now, I strive for my stories to be 100-percent factual, down to the last detail, and it pains me when I get something wrong. Today, while observing a panel discussion between Caraway, and his fellow council members Jennifer Staubach Gates and Philip Kingston, I found out I had gotten something wrong. Dwaine Caraway DOES NOT have five phones.

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New Task Force Will Study City’s Teardown Policy

There’s a new mayoral task force in town. Yes, we all know about the so-called “Dream Team” task force that is studying the Trinity River Toll Way. Today the mayor and City Councilmember Philip Kingston announced the creation of another task force to look at the city’s current historic preservation policy. The task force is being created in response to the recent demolition of a 19th century Romanesque Revival building on Main St. in Downtown Dallas. The Headington Company demolished 1611 Main Street back in September to make way for the construction of a new building that will house a Forty Five Ten boutique. At the time, there was much gnashing of teeth and confusion over the destruction of one of the oldest buildings in Dallas (even if those surprised by the event missed the long lead up). The Headington Company has said they tried to avoid demolition but couldn’t make the building work.

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Tea Party-Supported Giovanni Capriglione Called ‘Turncoat’ By Local Tea Party

Giovanni Capriglione is a State Representative from Southlake. In 2012 he was elected with heavy Tea Party support. Now he’s being called a “turncoat” by the president of the Arlington Tea Party. In this video, you’ll hear just how mad Capriglione has made Joshua Finkenbinder. (The definition of “turncoat” is printed across the bottom of the screen.)

This is because Capriglione said he’d vote for Joe Straus, a Republican from San Antonio, to become Speaker of the House, and not Scott Turner, a Tea Party favorite from Rockwall. Straus has been called “The Harry Reid of Texas.”

Capriglione has said in the past that he’s worked with Turner, “broken bread” with him, and thinks of him as a brother, but that Turner “doesn’t have the depth on policy.”

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Ask John Neely Bryan: Yes, Virginia, There Is a Zombie Toll Road

I take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below, sent to me via, expressing at the same time my great gratification that its author is numbered among the friends of FrontBurner:


Question: I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no way an eight-lane toll road can be built inside a levee flood zone. But the bullies say “sure it will fit, now shut up and don’t ask so many questions.”  Papa says, “If you see it in D Magazine, and it is written by the ghost of the long-dead city founder, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there going to be an eight-lane toll road inside the majestic Trinity? —Virginia

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Mayor Rawlings Implies Trinity Toll Road Opponents Don’t Respect Democracy

Tod Robberson just posted about a 90-minute meeting the Morning News editorial board had today with Mayor Mike Rawlings and city council members Vonciel Jones-Hill and Rick Callahan about the Trinity Parkway. Rawlings said he takes umbrage when people characterize his position on the road as unclear, so he wanted to leave no doubt where he stands: “The more I study it, the firmer my feet get in the concrete about this being an important thing for the city of Dallas.”

Rawlings repeated the oft-used argument of proponents that the votes of Dallas have twice approved this project, never minding the fact that many of those voters thought what they were going to get involved things like sailboats majestically traveling across picturesque lakes and other campaign images of the Trinity park project that will likely never be.

“What voters voted on has not changed. … The bigger question there is really respect for the rule of law and respect for democracy,” Rawlings said.

So toll road proponents are both anarchists and racists, apparently.

Meanwhile Robberson decries “scare tactics” on both sides of the debate. He buys the claims of Rawlings and other supporters that the road will yield positive economic benefits to the people of southern Dallas:

If Rawlings, Hill and other proponents stick to the basic arguments about economic impact and the positive impact on the lives of working people in southern Dallas, they will win the day. If they go that other route, this debate is going to get really nasty and threatens to widen this city’s already sizable racial gap. My advice: Just don’t go there.

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Potable Groundwater and the Excruciating Business of City Bureaucracy

This morning a St. Paul Place corner-office-dwelling FrontBurnervian passed along a public meeting notice he received at his Uptown condo. It concerns a request by a McKinney Avenue landowner to have the city officially prohibit the use of groundwater found below property between Leonard and Fairmount streets.

You see, about 28-30 feet down is a “perched shallow groundwater unit” that’s been affected by the chemical compound benzene at an unsafe level, so the water shouldn’t be considered potable. The contamination apparently was slowly released over time from the tank system of the Shell gas station right across Leonard.

Because this magazine-founding FrontBurnervian lives within a half-mile of the site, he had to be invited to a public hearing scheduled for December 29 at Reverchon Recreation Center. It amused him that such a formality was necessary since who in the neighborhood was going to argue that the water should be considered potable? Who’s going to want to drill a well in Uptown Dallas anyway?

I shared in his amusement, so I set about trying to determine what possible sense there could be in such municipal requirements.

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Why Dallas Is Allowed to Ruin a Park With a Highway

In an Unfair Park post this morning explaining why it’s difficult for him to trust Trinity toll road proponents because of all the lies that have been told about the proposed highway and the adjacent park, Schutze recounts how our elected officials (most prominently former Mayor Tom Leppert and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison) created a special exemption just to make the project possible:

In 2010 when Republicans were filibustering President Obama’s defense spending bills — when defense bills were hard-fought battles in the congress, in other words — Leppert persuaded Hutchison to do some last-minute legislative sleight-of-hand with a defense spending bill that was about to finally get passed. She stuck two “riders” on that bill, provisions of little interest to anybody outside of Dallas, which received scant news coverage even here except in this newspaper.

Those riders said the Trinity River in Dallas was exempt from Section 4(f) of the act. A current U.S. Department of Transportation online publication explains that the FHWA is required by Section 4(f) to put “a thumb on the scale” in favor of park land wherever a highway touches a park, either by running along its edge or by cutting through its middle. Proponents can’t merely argue that a route that harms park land is the cheapest alternative, and, in fact, the FHWA must seriously consider any alternative that would spare the park.

That is the law everywhere in America but in Dallas and along the Trinity River, thanks to Hutchison and Leppert. At the time, Dallas City Manager Mary Suhm said the exemption was only for impacts to historic sites (as if that were a good thing). But we quoted people saying her statement was untrue, that the effect of the riders was so broad that they denuded the toll road project of all of the protective requirements of Section 4(f).

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