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Leading Off (3/27/15)

Dallas ISD Approves “Interim Bridge Plan.” At about 1 a.m., trustees voted for a measure that provides $129.5 million in funding for fast-tracked improvements at a number of schools, while expanding pre-kindergarten offerings and reopening several campuses. The final amount was less than the $134.7 million initially proposed after a number of amendments were made. Lakewood Elementary was among the big winners, as the school will get $12.6 million for an addition and renovations. All of this discussion is, of course, a prelude to voters later being asked to approve a comprehensive bond package totaling as much as $1.4 billion.

Bridge Collapse Kills Arlington Man. Yesterday’s accident in Central Texas along Interstate 35 in Salado, in which a tractor-trailer hit an overpass and caused a beam to fall onto the highway below, claimed the life of 32-year-old Clark Davis. I-35 was closed in both directions around the site until well into the night.

Rain May Ease Water Restrictions. The abundance of wet weather the last few months has resulted in some area lake levels rising dramatically and most of Dallas-Fort Worth shifting from darkest red to light red or orange on the U.S Drought Monitor map. Lake Lavon, one of the North Texas Municipal Water District’s reservoirs, has gone from 46.2 percent to 77.5 percent of capacity. If the trend continues this spring, the district may ease tough restrictions on watering that have been in place almost two years.

World War II Vet Recovers Empty Duffel Bag. Waymon Blundell, 94, certainly seemed tickled to be reunited with the bag, which he’d carelessly lost when he’d jumped onto the beach at Normandy as part of the D-Day invasion in 1944.

Keller Student Denied “Promposal.” Sixteen-year-old Casey Akers says her school wouldn’t let her stage a public invitation to the prom because she and her chosen date are gay. The school district issued a statement saying that it doesn’t allow any students to plan such elaborate invites, as they are disruptive. Anyway, when did it become an expectation for kids to treat a prom invite like a marriage proposal? Sounds like an excruciating burden for both straight and gay kids.

Derelict 1955 BelAir Wagon For Sale. It’s up for auction on eBay. You have until 10 a.m. today to make a bid. JFK assassination historian Farris Rookstool III (!) says the car is unique because a fellow named Lee Harvey Oswald once rode in it with his rifle.

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Leading Off (3/25/15)

Investigation Alleges “Reverse Robin Hood” Scheme at DISD: An investigation has revealed large discrepancies in per-student spending within DISD, suggesting that the district is reallocating funds — upwards of $70 million — intended for underprivileged students and spending them on pet projects and magnet schools. Expect a formal complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Education as soon as today. DISD has released an official response: “hogwash.”

Mother of Slain Basketball Star Sues DISD: Not a great day for the district. The mother of Troy Causey, the 18-year-old South Oak Cliff High basketball star who was beaten to death by teammates a year ago, has filed a wrongful death suit against DISD Superintendent Mike Miles and Terry Smith, head of Dallas County’s Juvenile Department. The suit accuses DISD officials of questionable athletic recruitment practices, including recruiting Causey out of juvenile detention and placing him in a special residence within South Oak Cliff’s attendance zone.

Is Dallas DA “Unstable” and “Overly Suspicious”?: We played a quick game in the office yesterday: power rank all the district attorneys in Dallas history. The department doesn’t exactly have a stellar history, and Susan Hawk looks more and more to fit the profile.

Highland Park High’s Racist Chant Leader Unveils Strategy Aimed at Salvaging His Ruined Name, Reputation: Levi Pettit, the Highland Park High School graduate who was captured in video leading racist fraternity chants in Oklahoma, will now attempt to become “a lifelong advocate for the African American community.”

AT&T Continues to Make Dallas’ Job Growth Look Great: The corporation looks to add 500 new positions throughout the region.

Texas Leg Silly Bill of the Day: Guns! We need to be able to carry them everywhere!

Paranoid Irving Mayor Follows Flapping Mouth to Promised Land of the Blow Hards: Beth Van Duyne has some hot sports opinions about religious communities in her city, and so, of course, Fox News comes calling.

Social Media Threats Responsible for More Public Dollars Spent Protecting Against Filter-less Crazies: It used to be that people would sit at a bar and say stupid things to their friends about stuff they didn’t like. Now they put it on Facebook, and as a result, security earns overtime for running extra details protecting people like Dallas Rep. Jason Villalba, the state legislature who introduced a bill that would make filming police all-but illegal.

Three North Texas Military Members on Creepy ISIS “Hit List”: Names, photos, and addresses of three North Texas members of the military personal surfaced on a website that asks sympathizers to target and kill 100 enemies of the so-called Islamic State.

Dallas Potholes Now So Big They Can Swallow Cars: Dear Dallas City Council: Quit talking toll roads, and fix our freaking streets already.

If You Like the Weather in Texas: Wait ten minutes.

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Poll: Will You Root For the Dallas Cowboys?

Last week the Dallas Cowboys signed Greg Hardy, a noted football player suspended last season for having beaten up his girlfriend. As discussed on our most recent EarBurner podcast, the move prompted WFAA sports anchor Dale Hansen to go “unplugged,” and Mayor Mike Rawlings (an outspoken crusader against domestic violence) called it a “shot in the gut.” But then, yesterday, Rawlings said he’ll still be rooting for America’s Team this season.

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Trinity Toll Road Roundup: Why Are Dallas City Council Members Signing Up to Address the City Council?

The council campaign season is starting to really heat up, and the Trinity Toll Road is shaking out to be a central touchstone of the campaigning. Over the weekend, that potent mix set-off a series of developments. There’s a lot to catch up on, so let’s jump to it.

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Leading Off (3/20/15)

Thursday Was a Texas Basketball Massacre. All five teams from the state in the NCAA tournament lost. Baylor and SMU fans can argue about who suffered the more painful last-minute loss.

Irving Endorses Anti-Islamic Bill. Spurred by fears of nonbinding, voluntary mediation at a mosque, the city council, led by Mayor Beth Van Duyne, voted on Thursday to endorse a bill by State Rep. Jeff Leach of Plano that would forbid judges from using foreign law in their rulings. The bill’s language is nearly identical to a previous proposal by another lawmaker designed to limit the influence of “large populations of Middle Easterners.” Said Van Duyne, ““Why anyone would feel this is hatred or bigotry is absolutely beyond me.”

State to Audit DA’s Office. It’s the first time the state auditor’s office has used the authority the legislature gave it in 2011 to conduct such reviews. They’ll look into the alleged improper use of forfeiture funds during the tenure of former district attorney Craig Watkins. If violations of the law are found, the DA’s office and Watkins himself could be subject to a civil penalty up to $100,000.

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If Only Dallas Could be More Like…Minneapolis

Yesterday John Neely Bryan fielded a question about transplants coming to Dallas and wanting to make this city more like the place they came from. But this comparative disconnect works both ways. Too often I’ve heard people from Dallas comparing this city to New York, or San Francisco, or some other coastal metropolis with a larger population, older history, completely different geography, or any other number of factors that makes a comparison with Dallas a little silly. Case in point: we built a suspension bridge over our drainage ditch of a river because, you know, amazing big cities have suspension bridges.

But what if we had more modest ambitions. What if we put all of our hopes and dreams into becoming the next — that’s right — Minneapolis?

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Leading Off (3/18/15)

Crazy Kidnapping Drama Ends in Haslet. Nathanial Tillery allegedly assaulted Kevin Garcia, a 55-year-old convenience store clerk in College Station, then stole Garcia’s truck — after loading Garcia’s unconscious body into the bed. The saga ended just before 1:30 p.m. yesterday when Police and Texas Rangers arrested Tillery in Tarrant County.

Lying Officer Could Be a Problem for Prosecutors. This is a bizarre story. A self-proclaimed “resident expert” on DWIs, Sgt. Stephen “Tiny” Baker of the Dallas Police Department, insists he pulled over a car in 2012 because he saw the car run a red light. This, despite video evidence that it was, in fact, Baker, who ran the red light. Experts say this could put at risk other cases in which Baker testified. He’s on administrative leave pending investigation.

Oswald Cutout Bothers People at JFK Memorial. Yep. It’s a cutout.

The Cowboys Could Sign Greg Hardy. Here is a story about how the Cowboys might soon finalize a deal with defensive end Greg Hardy, who had 26 sacks in his last two full seasons in Carolina. Here is an excerpt from a protective order filed by Hardy’s ex-girlfriend:

“On May 13, 2014, Greg Hardy attacked me in his apartment. Hardy picked me up and threw me into the tile tub area in his bathroom. I have bruises from head to toe, including my head, neck, back, shoulders arms, legs, elbow and feet. Hardy pulled me from the tub by my hair, screaming at me that he was going to kill me, break my arms and other threats that I completely believe. He drug me across the bathroom and out into the bedroom. Hardy choked me with both hands around my throat while I was lying on the floor. Hardy picked me up over his head and threw me onto a couch covered in assault rifles and/or shotguns. I landed on those weapons. Hardy bragged that all of those assault rifles were loaded.”

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Poll: Can Marcos Ronquillo Beat Mike Rawlings in the Dallas Mayor’s Race?

In the March issue of D Magazine, we ask whether attorney Marcos Ronquillo has a shot to unseat Mayor Mike Rawlings. As Tim noted in “Leading Off” this morning, the Morning News characterizes Ronqullo’s campaign as an “uphill battle.”

Meanwhile, on the most recent episode of our EarBurner podcast, our own Zac Crain shared some insight into just how he would govern if he were sitting at the top of the horseshoe each week.

So how should this play out?

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Rep. Jonathan Stickland Continues Run of Buffoonery

Jonathan Stickland (R-You Kidding) keeps making Bedford proud during this Lege session, coming off as the husky human embodiment of both the red 100 emoji and the #TCOT hashtag. Previously, he was putting up a sign referring to himself as a “Former Fetus.” Which, if you look like a baby that has somehow gone through puberty, is a bad idea. It’s like pulling the goalie in hockey. Aggressive, and leaves you open to being EASILY scored upon.

Now my dude is filing insane, pointless, time-wasting legislation. Like so.

Keep being you, champ.

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Federal Data Shows Traffic Volumes Have Not Risen With Population Growth

If you’ve ever sat through a presentation by NCTCOG Director of Transportation Michael Morris, there is one fundamental point he drives home continuously. The Dallas-Fort Worth region is set to grow exorbitantly in the coming decades, and because of this growth we need to ready our roadways to prepare for the massive influx of new traffic it will bring. That’s why we need new roads, wider roads, toll roads, and as many intersecting strips of highway as we can afford — or not afford — to build.

The only problem is that the correlation between traffic and population is not supported by the data.

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State Rep. Rafael Anchia Is Trying To Make It Impossible To Build The Trinity Toll Road

Rep. Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas) filed two bills today. One would disallow TxDOT from funding projects like the Trinity Toll Toad. The other would require the toll road to undergo an environmental analysis by the state.

“I’ve told everyone that you should be able to act in the best interest of your district,” Anchia said. “My district hates the toll road.”

Even if you don’t think Anchia’s bills will pass, read the rest of that story. Here, I will link it again. Because it lays out the case for why this road is a terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible idea that is also terrible.

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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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Philip Kingston Admits His Relationship to Wylie H. Dallas on EarBurner Podcast

The Dallas city councilman stopped by the Old Monk yesterday and managed to induce a podcast-audible laugh from me, just as Nancy did last week. He may not have had any stories about diarrhea or Martina Navratilova, but he turned out to be just as delightful a guest. He also was more familiar with the podcast’s regular segments than Zac, who served as primary host in place of the spring-breaking Tim. Filling in for Zac was our staff Civil War veteran.

Subscribe to our show via the iTunes store, through the Stitcher app, or using our RSS feed — http://dmagazine.libsyn.com/rss — in your favorite podcatcher. Or just listen to it via the embedded player below.

And, yes, I’m completely overselling the tease with this post’s headline. But to what degree, exactly? You’ll have to listen to find out.

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Leading Off (3/13/15)

Legislators Argue Over Letter Grades For Schools. Some in Austin believe a switch to annual evaluations of all campuses in the state on a familiar A to F scale would “drive innovation.” But others, like Dallas’ own Sen. Royce West, are concerned the system would “stigmatize” lower-performing schools. West says additional funding should be provided to those that receive a D or F.

Garland Wants to Supersize Its Side of LBJ. The city’s leaders are pushing for the stretch of the freeway between U.S. Highway 75 and Interstate 30 to get many additional lanes, just as the road west of 75 has with the LBJ Express project. Bills have been filed to authorize the expansion, though it’s not known how the $1.3-billion cost will be funded.

Volcanic Eruption Sends Plane Back to D/FW. Thirty minutes into its flight to Costa Rica, American Airlines Flight 2442 had to return to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport because a noxious cloud was making landings in San Jose impossible.

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Where Do the City Council Candidates Stand on the Trinity Toll Road?

This May’s council election is not a referendum on the Trinity Toll Road. That said, the Trinity Toll Road is far and away the most high profile issue in an election that sees six open seats up for grabs — enough to put together a block of votes on the council that could kill the Trinity Toll Road project for good. So, this council is very much about the Trinity Toll Road.

And as I wrote last week, the toll road is a touchstone, a symbol, and support for and against the project can tell you about a city council candidate’s general approach to a host of issues, from long-range transportation planning to sustainability and urban development to which backroom power brokers hold sway over their vote and opinions. And so when word dropped that the Dallas Green Alliance, a PAC that has formed to support candidates in the all-important May election, had published the results of detailed questionnaire they sent to all of the candidates who have filed for the race, I immediately clicked over to see how they responded to the Trinity Toll Road question.

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