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Making Dallas Even Better

Bernie Sanders’ Warning for Billionaires: ‘Your Greed is Destroying America, and We Are Going to End Your Greed!’

They started letting people into the big Sheraton Dallas Hotel ballroom at 11:30 a.m. yesterday, 90 minutes before Bernie Sanders, the independent Vermont senator and Democratic presidential candidate, was scheduled to show up for a campaign rally. Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World” blared from the sound system as they poured in: a young white guy wearing an Obama t-shirt, a 50ish Hispanic woman in a pink cowboy hat, older Anglo men with long gray ponytails, a middle-aged black woman in a business suit. Among the early-arriving crowd near the makeshift stage was Denton-born Roy Holcomb, a 57-year-old real estate investor who’d come with his daughter Jessie Pike and her husband, David Pike, both 26-year-old Lewisville schoolteachers.

“I’ve been reading Bernie pretty hard for five years,” Holcomb said. “What got me stirred up was Citizens United. Money has just taken over, and he’s the only one calling out the banks, the Koch brothers, the corporations. The corporations do one thing: make money and eat everything in their wake. I’m the cowboy, and the Indians—the Republicans—are all around me, everywhere. My wife is a nut Fox News-hound, and I started watching Fox and thought, ‘This is propaganda.’ ” Holcomb, who said Sanders’ chief rival Hillary Clinton is “bought and paid for by the corporations—just like Jeb Bush,” added with a laugh that he had to talk his daughter and her husband into accompanying him today. Said David, choosing his words carefully: “We’re still trying to figure it out.”

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Dallas Police and Fire Pension Fund Could Run Out of Money by 2038

That’s according to credit rating agency Moody’s, as the Observer reported earlier today:

On July 9, a revised audit of the system revealed it had about $3 billion in assets, 6 percent less than was reported to the pension fund’s board in May, according to Moody’s. The asset revision was the second for the plan in 2015, which highlights the risk the fund poses to the city’s credit. As the pension system’s unfunded liabilities grow, so does the weight on the city, which is on the hook for its police and firefighters pensions.

Because of the audit revision, earlier this month the pension’s board reduced how much it expects to earn from investments in the future from from 8.5 percent to 7.25 percent. At a rate of 7 percent, Moody’s projects the pension system could be out of money by 2038.

Remember that the city is on the hook for the unfunded liability. Says Wylie H. Dallas:

The good news is that all the dirty laundry is now being aired… the bad news is that the problem is so huge that the City’s financial stability is now at risk (something else I also predicted).

We are very, very fortunate to have Lee Kleinman for Dallas, Scott Griggs and Philip Kingston working hard to address the issues. If it weren’t for their continued pressure, we would likely still be in the dark about the magnitude of the problems.

D CEO noted back in April that the city is fortunate that its other public pension fund — the Employees Retirement Fund of the City of Dallas — seems well run, favoring traditional stocks and bonds over flashy real estate:

Connecticut-born [Cheryl] Alston, who’s 49, has been executive director and chief investment officer for the fund, which covers the city’s civilian employees, since 2004. During those 10 or so years the fund has posted average returns of 8 percent a year, putting it in the top 13th percentile of 408 U.S. public pension funds, according to data compiled by research firm Wilshire Associates.

Alston says credit for that should go to her board, whose seven members all have financial expertise and support an investment approach that she describes as conservative and opportunistic. “We look at risk, return, and liquidity,” Alston explains. “A lot of investors like illiquid investments and in [the financial crisis of] ’08, that hurt them. They had to sell assets to make their payout.”

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Where Are the Jobs in Dallas?

An alert FrontBurnervian (as they all are) points us to a cool, time-sucking interactive map that lets you look at every single job in the United States with a color code (you’ll have to navigate your way to Dallas). A guy named Robert Manduca, a Harvard Ph.D. student and mapmaker, put it together. Each dot that you see represents one job in Dallas. Blue dots are professional services. Green is healthcare, education, and government. Yellow is retail, hospitality, and other services. Go here to read a little about how you can interpret the data. One obvious conclusion is that downtowns are where the jobs are, not the suburbs. Here in North Texas, southern Dallas looks as barren as Prosper.

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Scrambling for Face Time With a Writer From The Economist

A few weeks ago, Terrell and Jim Falk hosted a dinner for columnist Adrian Wooldridge of The Economist magazine at their home in Dallas’ Briarwood neighborhood. Many of the 25 or so guests of the Falks—he’s president and CEO of the World Affairs Council of Dallas/Fort Worth—were eager to get some face time with Wooldridge, who was gathering material for a column about the North Texas economy.

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Forest City Sues Headington Companies

The writing’s been on the wall for a while now, but today it’s official: Forest City has sued Headington Companies. As I told you a couple weeks ago, the new Forty Five Ten will be very close to its neighbor, the Wilson Building (where I live). The new building’s height and proximity will block the windows in eight of the units facing west.

Both companies have spent a lot of money and a lot of time developing the core of the city (Headington with his work along Main; Forest City with its residential buildings). I guess it was only a matter of time until the two giants clashed.

The video above, prepared by Forest City’s team, shows their reasoning behind the lawsuit and the possible impact of the new building.

You can read the lawsuit here.

UPDATE 4:40 p.m.: Headington’s people respond.

“Our client believes the lawsuit grossly mischaracterizes the facts related to this project,” says William A. Brewer III, partner at Brewer, Attorneys & Counselors and lead counsel for Headington. “The project, which has enjoyed widespread support from many city leaders and community stakeholders, brings a significant new business to the downtown district.”

Brewer continued, “Although our client has attempted to work cooperatively with Forest City, they have rebuffed those efforts and instead chosen to file a lawsuit which we believe lacks merit. We believe the release by Forest City of a professional video in conjunction with the filing of the lawsuit should be viewed as what it is – a desperate attempt to disparage Headington and to extract value to which Forest City is not entitled.”

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Leading Off (7/7/2015)

Rangers designated hitter Prince Fielder is the only Ranger going to the 2015 All-Star Game. A few weeks ago I had to run 14 miles on the treadmill. During that time, I watched parts of The Fab Five and I Hate Christian Laettner, so I’m pretty much all about sports now. Anyway, back to baseball—Fielder will head to Cincinnati for the game which will happen on July 14. And he will go alone. Actually, I don’t know that. Maybe he will bring a loved one. But apparently, this is the first time the Rangers haven’t sent a pitcher to an All-Star game since 2009.

Construction on a super huge Facebook data center begins today in North Fort Worth. Everyone was very secretive about the whole project until Governor Abbott’s office finally confirmed what it was on Monday afternoon. The building will start out at 250,000 square feet and eventually triple in size. Tell your mom to take a break from posting all the inspirational slogans for a minute and freak her out with various theories about the need for all the data centers Facebook is building around the country.

Garden of Eden owners sue the City of Arlington and the Arlington Police. In 2013, a SWAT team executed a search warrant on a Kennedale commune in search of guns and drugs. Guess what they didn’t find? Guns or drugs. But eight people were handcuffed and detained, and they didn’t like it one bit. They say there was no probable cause, and five of them are seeking damages for mental anguish.

Former basketball star pleads guilty to manslaughter; gets probation. Jonathan Turner killed his friend and basketball rival, Troy Causey Jr., in a street fight over a video game. The whole thing is just sad and depressing. Anyway, if Turner stays out of trouble for the next seven years, he will avoid any formal conviction. His attorney says that he would like to go to school and maybe play basketball. Causey’s mother is understandably very unhappy about all of this.

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Did Bass Pro Shops Steal a T-shirt Idea From The Lodge?

Michael Precker, the writer-in-residence (and manager) at The Lodge, sent me the two images you see here. One is a t-shirt that Bass Pro Shops sells. The other is a t-shirt The Lodge, one of our city’s most well-known gentleman’s clubs, has been selling for four or five years. Precker says his boss, Dawn Rizos, the generous owner of The Lodge, came up with the original concept and a bartender named Bryan drew it.

I called and emailed the media relations people at the Bass Pro Shops headquarters, in Springfield, Missouri, to ask when they started selling their version of the shirt. So far I haven’t heard back. The company website says it’s “new.” Here’s the description:

Is your wife or girlfriend nagging you again about your “honey do” list? We can help. Pick up our Bass Pro Shops® Problem Solved Fishing T-Shirt. This short-sleeve funny T-shirt sports front screen-printed graphics with a 2-panel story. In the first, a woman yells and shakes her finger at her man. In the second, the man sits in his boat, fishing and smiling. Problem solved!

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D CEO Again Named Best Regional Business Magazine in U.S.

For the third straight year, D CEO was named the country’s best regional business magazine in The Alliance of Area Business Publishers’ annual Editorial Excellence awards. The “gold” or first-place award for Best Magazine was one of D CEO’s nine awards in the annual competition, which honors excellence in journalism, photography, and design. In all […]

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Welcome to ‘Five Flags Over Texas. Plus One We Don’t Really Want to Talk About.’

Given the current move to eliminate all things Confederate, isn’t it just a matter of time before the history rewriters set their sights on Six Flags Over Texas? After all, the flag of the Confederate States of America (1861-1865) is one of six referenced by the theme park name. While the CSA flag is not the “battle flag” that’s under fire these days, even statues and other memorials associated with the Confederacy have become prime targets for eradication recently.

“At one time, the park had a themed section called The Confederacy, and the Confederate Battle Flag was used as part of the theming and a civil war re-enactment,” says Six Flags spokeswoman Sharon Parker. “The name of that section of the park was changed to The Old South in the mid-1990s and all Confederate Battle Flags were removed. Six Flags Over Texas continues to fly the Confederate States of America Flag, but does not fly or sell any variation of the Confederate Battle Flag.”

Chances are, that explanation won’t cut it with the rewrite crowd. So get ready for, “Welcome to ‘Five Flags Over Texas. Plus One We Don’t Really Want To Talk About.’ “

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How Will the City Council Settle the Preston Center Skybridge Battle?

In case you haven’t noticed, Preston Center basically sucks. If you want to know why, read this piece by the Dallas Observer‘s Eric Nicholson. Long story short, the decrepit parking garage in the middle of the development is owned by the city of Dallas, and all of the 70-odd property owners in the vicinity have usage rights. This highly fragmented ownership also impedes the area’s redevelopment.

Enter Harlan Crow.

Earlier this year, Crow proposed building a skybridge at Preston Center West to connect a new Tom Thumb grocery store to the adjacent parking garage. Even better, Crow proposed spending more than $1 million to renovate the garage and make it handicap accessible. As with every other new development proposed in the vicinity within the last year, however, it quickly became mired in controversy, with former mayor Laura Miller leading the charge, stating that a new grocery store “would only add to congestion,” and that “the oversized sky bridge … will cast a big shadow over an area that will now have obstructions in the sidewalk…”

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Leading Off (6/12/15)

Dallas High School to be Redeveloped. Jack Matthews, the developer behind the Omni Convention Center Hotel and active in the South Side neighborhood, has announced plans to purchase and convert to other uses the 6-acre school complex on the east side of downtown that’s been empty since 1995. The first phase is expected to create office space.

Big Shots Sign the McBridge. Margaret McDermott, the 103-year-old widow of the founder of Texas Instruments, was among those on hand Thursday for a ceremonial placing of signatures onto pieces of steel that will be used in the arches of her namesake bridge. The structure, which will replace the existing Interstate 30 bridge when it’s completed in 2017, is the second so-called “signature bridge” for Dallas designed by Santiago Calatrava. Which is why they held a signing ceremony, I guess?

Football Players Quit After Coach Makes Son QB. Nine members of the Mineral Wells High School team complained to the school board Tuesday that head coach Gerald Perry tapped his son Tristan to be quarterback without allowing another student a shot at earning the role. The next day the coaching staff reversed the decision, and the students agreed to put their pads back on, though they’d maybe be better off clinging to their outrage until after two-a-days.

Creepy Letters From “Jesus” Spook East Dallas Residents. The hand-scrawled notes, which use Bible references to preach that the end of the world is near, were left at several homes.

Black Bear Wanders Around Corinth. Some bright guy thought it was a good idea to bring the young wild animal home with him from Oklahoma. After it was spotted running about his neighborhood, the cub is being transferred to a ranch in Pilot Point.

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Bunch O Balloons Files Patent Suit Against Balloon Bonanza

Nearly a year ago, we told you about Josh Malone, the super genius from Plano who invented a way to make 100 water balloons in 60 seconds. Malone used Kickstarter to raise $1 million and launch his Bunch O Balloons invention. Just last week, the missus was asking me to buy four units of Bunch O Balloons in preparation for an upcoming family gathering, and I was dawdling because four unites of Bunch O Balloons, with processing and handling, will set you back $80. Then, on Monday, I saw a TV commercial for something called Balloon Bonanza, which was offering a buy-one-get-three deal for just under $20. “That’s curious,” I said aloud, because I often talk to myself when I watch TV. “That water-balloon contraption looks an awful lot like that other water-balloon contraption.”

Guess what? That’s exactly what Josh Malone from Plano thinks. He sent word this morning that his Tinnus Enterprises, along with its partner Zuru, have filed a patent infringement suit against Telebrands Corp. and Bed Bath & Beyond. “It was a real bummer last weekend when the kids and I went to our local retailers to see our product on the shelf, and found a copy in its place,” Malone told me. “I got a patent, now we are going to enforce it.”

I have only one wish. I don’t think it’s asking too much. It is this: the parties refuse to settle. The case goes to trial. In a federal courtroom, Malone uses a garden hose to demonstrate how his invention works — and a water balloon fight ensues. Please?

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