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Leading Off (5/20/15)

Storms Bring Floods and Tornadoes. There were dozens of reported tornadoes across North Texas and Oklahoma last night. At least one building in Mineral Wells collapsed. And there was “significant damage” reported in Runaway Bay.

Five Dead Bikers Were From North Texas. The dead men range in age from 19 to 47. It will likely be weeks before we know who may have been killed in the original fight and who may have been killed by police. You can see all 171 mug shots of the men arrested here. Zac will be along later with a list of his favorite biker nicknames. (My choice: “Gimmi Jimmy.”)

Former Birdville ISD Student Sues District Over Christian Prayers. Isaiah Smith, 20, claims he suffered years of bullying in the North Richland Hills school district, including anti-gay slurs and having baseballs thrown at him. He says it’s related to the Christian invocations used to start every school board meeting.

That Controversial Black Rhino Hunt Is Over. You’ll recall a few years ago the Dallas Safari Club auctioned off the chance to kill an endangered black rhino. The winner, Corey Knowlton, bid $350,000. (Stephen Colbert mocked the whole thing pretty viciously.) Well, Knowlton eventually got his rhino. And CNN’s Ed Lavandera was along for the trip.

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Museum Tower May Be Covered in Reflective Film

Is this the end of the Nasher’s dispute with its condo tower neighbor? Says the DMN:

Three years after the Nasher Sculpture Center first complained that it was blinded by the light coming off Museum Tower, the condo tower’s owner — the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System — has voted to cover the 42-story luxury high-rise in a reflective film, which is currently being tested.

“It isn’t a done deal,” says Dallas City Council member Philip Kingston, one of four council reps on the pension system’s board of trustees. “But the board had do to do something to continue with the testing.”

Kingston’s council colleague Lee Kleinman says the fix, which was proposed by Texas-based international development firm Hines, will not “take out 100 percent of the reflectivity” that led to the three-year-long dispute with the Nasher. But, he says, “it will reduce it by 50 percent, and that’s significant.” He says he’s “optimistic” this solution will satisfy the Nasher, which has yet to return calls concerning the board’s vote on Thursday.

UPDATE, 4 p.m.: David Dunnigan of PR firm Allison Partners, which represents the pension system, just sent me a note to clarify that the lede of Wilonsky’s post about yesterday’s vote isn’t precisely right. He says the resolution voted on was:

“Authorize the Executive Director to meet with the Nasher and Museum Tower homeowners and negotiate an agreement to be brought back to the Board in 90 days”

So they haven’t exactly voted in favor of covering the building just yet.

UPDATE, Sunday afternoon: Just now seeing a statement from Nasher director Jeremy Strick:

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Fearon to Business Community: Early Childhood Education Will Impact Labor Force

Educator and philanthropist Regen Horchow Fearon had a warning for the Dallas business community Tuesday: If children aren’t nourished and stimulated during the first five years of their lives—when 90 percent of human brain growth occurs—there could be dire consequences for business and society down the road.

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Rick Perry 2.0

More than three years after Rick Perry’s presidential hopes were dashed in his famous “Oops” moment, the former Texas governor is said to have boned up on the issues and seems revved to go for it again, this time with a new twist or two. At Dallas’ Tower Club yesterday, Perry implied before delivering a real stem-winder that Gov. Greg Abbott was giving in to the conspiracy crowd on the Jade Helm 15 military exercises. In a Q&A he also defended the so-called Texas Dream Act, which lets illegal immigrants apply for in-state tuition. “Rick Perry, the unlikely voice of reason!” someone said, skeptically, later in the day.

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New Podcast: Need’s Matt Alexander on Men’s Fashion and His Brief Pro Rollerblading Career

On Thursday, Matt Alexander, whom D CEO called one of the “New Faces of Dallas Tech” in its January-February issue, stopped by the Old Monk to talk about his online fashion ventures and to berate American youth for their lack of proper knowledge of English soccer. Alexander is an SMU grad who grew up in London, but he’s also an American citizen, so Zac decided to put that citizenship to the test. Listen to find out how.

First, a few notes on the episode:

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Rates Doubling at ‘Twilight Zone of Parking Garages’ in Arts District

Matthew Fields, who manages parking at Trammell Crow Center in the Dallas Arts District, is suddenly a very popular guy. “My phone’s been ringing off the hook,” Fields says, adding that his email’s been blowing up, too–all from people who want to park in his underground garage. The reason: the nearby Hall Arts Parking facility is jacking up its monthly rates a whopping 100 percent, effectively doubling monthly rents as of June 1, from $75 to $150 or $65 to $140 for unreserved parking spots.

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The Most Dangerous Book In Dallas Is Also The Most Lucrative

In the May issue, Peter Simek wrote about The Accommodation, Dallas Observer columnist Jim Schutze’s out-of-print book about the city’s racial divide that has seen a surge in black-market popularity among the young and civic-minded. You should read Peter’s story, and not just because it is both timely and contains a fascinating aside on how a certain embattled county commissioner came to possess the book’s copyright.

You should read it because it could make you rich. Well, richer. And only if you happen to have a copy of The Accommodation already in your possession, and only if you feel like divesting yourself of that copy. As we were finishing up the issue, I happened to mention to a longtime Dallasite and FrontBurnervian that the cheapest copy was selling online for $989. This Dallasite owned a copy in good condition. And because I am a triple threat of nice person, shrewd businesslady, and believer in the free market, I suggested she list it on Amazon. Yesterday, it sold to someone in the Park Cities for $599. She emails that “two other people posted books for about the price I’d listed when the issue came out—and they sold too.”

I can’t tell you where the copy that was in our office went. No clue. I am just saying that if I did know, drinks would be on me.

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Leading Off-ish (4/23/15): The Zac-is-on-Vacation Edition

Dallas-Fort Worth Earthquake Risk Has Tripled.  That’s just since 2008, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Granted, the risk is still pretty low, and we have yet to experience any catastrophic seismic activity. Yes, the energy production business — pumping chemicals and wastewater into the faults — is to blame.

Central Expressway in McKinney Temporarily Closed Due to Flooding. St. Delkus promised us a deluge, but thing were pretty light around my place in Oak Lawn. Meanwhile, the Collin County suburbs are being punished by our creator for their insolence?

Dallas Cop Fired For Sex With Teen, Prostitutes. Jorge Guzman had an inappropriate relationship with a teenager in the Dallas Police Explorer Program.

Plano ISD Will Stop Locking Unruly Children Away. Sounds like a sensible policy change.

We Should All Just Go Work For Southwest Airlines. The carrier has posted a record $453-million first-quarter profit.

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Oil and Gas Wells to Blame For More North Texas Earthquakes

Today a new study was released in the journal Nature Communications that determined the causes of the unusual seismic activity (earthquakes) around Azle (northwest of Fort Worth) in November-December 2013, which Brantley Hargrove wrote about in the May 2014 issue of D Magazine.

Researchers from SMU, the University of Texas at Austin, and the U.S Geological Survey determined that activities related to oil and gas operations in the area, as the Morning News notes, are responsible for “shifting faults below Dallas-Fort Worth that have not budged in hundreds of millions of years”:

The scientists zeroed in on an unusual mechanism behind the quakes: workers pushing liquid into the ground on one side of a fault and sucking gas and groundwater from the other side of the fault.

“The combination of these activities seems to have triggered the earthquakes, and that was a real surprise to us,” said Matthew Hornbach, a geophysicist at SMU and a lead author of the paper.

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Reaction to Art Ball Video is Over-the-Top and Ridiculous

Can you say s-t-r-e-t-c-h? Yesterday, our colleague Peter posted Saturday night’s Art Ball video, a knock-off spoof of the song “Uptown Funk” starring the likes of Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, DMA director Maxwell Anderson, Deedie Rose, Cindy and Howard Rachofsky, and other art-crowd bigwigs. Peter also recalled a previous (admittedly tone-deaf) ball video spoofing “Downton Abbey.” Then he proceeded to rip Rawlings, throw a bouquet to mayoral contender Marcus Ronquillo, and somehow relate it all to the Trinity River tollroad debate. That opened the floodgates for commenters (here and elsewhere), who variously accused the video cast of elitism, racism, ripping off taxpayers, and making a “mockery” of … something or other.

Give me a break. Please. This blowback is so over-the-top and ridiculous, it’s embarrassing. First off, the “Funk” takeoff was a sponsor video, intended to thank the sponsors of Saturday’s fundraiser in a light-hearted and creative manner. (The sponsors are those who help pay for the event.) Second, the video was actually entertaining, imagined and edited with a deft touch. Third, the people in the video were making fun of themselves as much as anything (Rawlings in hair curlers? The usually buttoned-down Anderson looking like Nathan Lane in “The Birdcage”?) Last, the racism charge is offensive. Leaving aside that the video cast was not all-white, the fact is that it’s people with money—regardless of the color of their skin—who bankroll institutions like the DMA, which has been able to offer free admission and free membership to all comers precisely because of events like Saturday night’s. Welcome to the real world, people.

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Glenn Beck Now Sells Women’s Clothing

If you’ll recall, last year I spent some time with Glenn Beck. We talked about a lot of things, including the empire of businesses he’s building in North Texas. And while he was already making movies, producing radio and television shows, writing and publishing books, and selling clothes (and accessories) to men, one thing he wasn’t doing — not until now anyway — was making women’s clothes.

According to a press release, the clothes are manufactured in Texas, with Beck “overseeing every step of the clothing design process including fabric selection, stitching, buttons, etc.” The nice people at The Blaze sent over a few shots from the new all-denim line.

Judge for yourself:

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Shopping for Dallas Investors for a Texas-Set Western

With its fast-growing population of wealthy people, Dallas has been a magnet for filmmakers looking for investment cash for awhile. Movies financed by North Texans include the 2008 Ben Stein documentary “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed,” Rob Allyn’s “Java Heat” starring Mickey Rourke, and several from Gary Cogill’s (now-shuttered) Lascaux Films, a company that was basically bankrolled by local doctors.

The latest moviemaker to come knocking seeking Dallas dough is Chris Ekstein, an award-winning cinematographer from Venice, Calif., who’s shopping a Western project set in Texas called “The Last Duane.” Inspired by the writings of author Zane (“Riders of the Purple Sage”) Grey, the flick’s a straight-up oater about a gunfighter and outlaw who eventually sees the light and “gives himself over to service in the Texas Rangers.”

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What Did We Learn From Last Week’s Fair Park Poll?

If you haven’t noticed, my post last week that asked readers how they would react to the idea of moving the State Fair of Texas out of Fair Park got a wee bit of attention. So much, in fact, that I now keep a bag packed and ready to go by my front door so I can flee the state when the angry mobs arrive in the middle of the night with pitchforks and torches ready to tar and feather me. One thing I’ve learned: admitting you’re a Yankee and then saying anything about Big Tex is the online equivalent of suicide by cop.

Regardless, the amount of feedback that post received does seem to warrant a revisit, at least to sort through the noise. So, what have we really learned?

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Why It’s So Hard to Buy a House in Dallas

It’s a great time to be selling a house in Dallas, in that demand is so great that you can make some serious bank on your investment. But what then? As Bloomberg notes today:

Last year, Rick Smith put his family’s house in suburban Dallas on the market, hoping to find a new home close to better schools and the city’s downtown. Selling the old house was a snap; buying a new one wasn’t. In January the family moved to a town home in a rental community, and quickly found they weren’t the only family forced into renting. “If you drive around our community, you’ll see moving boxes stacked up in the garages,” he said. “No one wants to unpack, because they think they’ll be moving again soon.”

Welcome to Dallas in 2015, a city whose bustling economy is attracting new residents at a rapid pace—and making it increasingly difficult to buy a house. New listings get multiple offers in mere days, said Steve Habgood, president of the MetroTex Association of Realtors. Homeowners are increasingly reluctant to sell lest they wind up in Smith’s situation. “People are saying, ‘Great, I can get a premium on the price I paid, but where am I going to live once I sell?'” said Habgood. “The options are pretty limited.”

It’s become a vicious cycle.

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How Mike Ullman is Trying to Fix the ‘Stupid Mistakes’ That Were Made at JCPenney

By most accounts, Myron “Mike” Ullman has done a good job stopping the bleeding since returning to the CEO’s office at JCPenney in 2013, following the disastrous, short-lived tenure of former chief executive Ron Johnson. How exactly has he done it, though? That’s what we wanted to know during a recent interview and audience Q&A with Ullman at the Dallas Friday Group, a luncheon forum for businesspeople. Although Ullman graciously avoided mentioning Johnson by name during our conversation, he wasn’t shy about assessing the problems caused by the one-time Apple savant. Ullman, who led Plano-based Penney from 2004 to 2012 before making way for Johnson in 2012, was asked whether coming back to the company wasn’t hard and stressful. “No! Hard and stressful is when you’re building something that people don’t like,” he replied. “Satisfying is when you’re fixing some stupid mistakes that somebody else made. So that’s what we’re doing.”

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