Find a back issue

Leading Off (12/18/14)

Eric Williams Sentenced to Death For Murders. Williams, a former justice of the peace, was convicted of killing Kaufman County DA Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia, and prosecutor Mark Hasse. “You made yourself out to be some sort of Charles Bronson ‘Death Wish’ vigilante in this case,” said District Judge Michael Snipes. “I never bought that … You murdered a little old lady, and you would have murdered two other innocent people if you would have had the opportunity. That puts you right there with Charles Manson and Jeffrey Dahmer and Richard Speck.”

Mavericks Reportedly in Talks To Acquire Rajon Rondo. A deal for the enigmatic Boston Celtics point guard would involve a 2015 first-round pick and Brandan Wright, plus some other players to make the numbers work. Rondo would be an upgrade over current starter Jameer Nelson, but would he fit in? And would the team be desperately thin up front if they made this trade? I’ll take your calls after the break. You’re listening to The Whooping Crain.

Reminder: Plastic Bag Ordinance Goes Into Effect January 1. Unless you bring your own reusable bag, it’ll be an extra nickel. Unrelated: I always want to type “ordnance” instead of “ordinance,” which really changes the sentence.

Full Story

Barrett Brown Will Just Have To Wait for That Sentence

“Lots of bench conferences and long recesses — this hearing has it all!” That was the sarcastic assessment yesterday of Tom Korosec, who was covering Barrett Brown’s sentencing hearing for Bloomberg. Tom and I know each other. He has written for both D Magazine and D CEO. We were standing around during an afternoon recess, marveling at how little Tom would have to work with when it came time to file his story. Before lunch, Judge Sam Lindsay had already warned everyone that things were moving so slowly that he wouldn’t issue his sentence until January 22.

Full Story

Dallas ISD Climate Survey Mostly Good News for District

The fall 2014 DISD “campus climate” survey was just released, and as you can see from the chart above (click to embiggen), the top-line numbers reveal mostly good news for the district. A whopping 85 percent of teachers filled it out. I know this isn’t what you’d expect if you subscribe to the local media narrative, but it doesn’t surprise me that much. A friend was talking to two DISD assistant principals yesterday, and both said that Miles had been much better this year about communicating with and listening to campus leadership. But, you know, you can choose to ignore this and wallow in the status-quo muck if you so desire. Free country. Here are the full results, btw.

Full Story

Leading Off (12/17/14)

Former Dallas U.S. Attorney Named ICE Head: Senate Republicans—including our own illustrious John Cornyn—tried a bunch of shenanigans to keep Sarah Saldaña from the post, but in the end it was Ted Cruz (and his bizarre, maybe-I-didn’t-think-this-through shenanigans) that actually allowed the Senate to vote on Saldaña’s appointment.

Oak Cliff Native Stevie Ray Vaughan Voted Into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: Green Day was also voted in, which means that previous sentence holds absolutely no worth.

After Kaufman Killings, Eric Williams Went to a Barbecue: And that’s not even the most bizarre stuff to come out of his sentencing, which has been extended to today. “…Williams planned to use a crossbow to kill him. Kim Williams said he also planned to cut a hole in the judge’s stomach and pour in the homemade napalm he made as an extra coup de grace.” The death penalty is on the table, so the delay is understandable.

Barrett Brown Not Sentenced: Meanwhile, someone who should be out of prison is not. It’s been delayed until late January.

Full Story

Key to Cowboys Victory: Ignoring Andrew Luck’s Compliments

With that wonderful win Sunday night, the Cowboys have put themselves in position to win the division, and possibly even earn a bye in the first week of the playoffs — or to completely rip the hearts out of fans who could resist hope until only recently.

This week’s game against the Colts will be the biggest challenge. And the Cowboys have a lot to deal with. In addition to DeMarco “Spray Tan” Murray’s surgically repaired hand, and Orlando Scandrick’s seems-like-a-real-life-Chappelle Show-sketch desire to run up the score on hospitalized children who dare play him in Madden, this week the team has to face the unrelenting kindness of Colts quarterback Andrew Luck.

The Wall Street Journal has a great story about just how jarring Luck’s niceties can be. Apparently, any time he’s knocked down he retaliates with love. From the WSJ:

Luck has become famous for congratulating—sincerely and enthusiastically—any player to hit him hard. Any sack is met with a hearty congratulations, such as ”great job” or “what a hit!” He yells it after hard hits that don’t result in sacks, too. It is, players say, just about the weirdest thing any quarterback does in the NFL.

When New England pass rusher Rob Ninkovich pulverized Luck last month in a Patriots’ 42-20 win, he got the customary congratulations. As Ninkovich tells it, he found himself paralyzed with confusion by the well-wishes, so he blurted out “Thanks for…uh…accepting that hit?” before running back to the huddle.

Also, Dallas is 3-4 at home this year. So there’s that.

Full Story

Museum Tower Designer Insists Nasher Needs to Yield in Reflectivity Dispute

In a piece earlier this month for the Architect’s Newspaper, Scott Johnson of Fain Johnson, the principal designer of Museum Tower, says the only possible solution to the Nasher Sculpture Center’s demands to be free of the light reflected upon its building and garden lies in the proposed alterations to its roof — changes which the museum has refused to make:

In the meantime, the Dallas Police & Fire Pension Fund, after exhaustive technical studies, has recommended recalibrating the clerestory cells in the ceiling without touching any other elements of the Nasher’s architecture. It is my understanding that they will turn their engineering research over to the Nasher design team to vet, design, and install the recalibration, and they will pay for it. The Nasher, I understand, has declined this solution, however, the original charge to “eliminate all reflection and do it all on Museum Tower,” given what we know, seems frankly unachievable.

I remain hopeful that new participants in the process will look beyond entrenched positions and a consensual and effective solution will be agreed upon. Dallas is a beautiful city and I hope that a resolution for this difficult issue between Museum Tower and the Nasher can be found soon.

Full Story

Leading Off (12/16/14)

Pay No Attention to Those Black Helicopters. A tweet from our own Catherine Downes is included in this report about those black helicopters that were flying low and with their lights last night. Where exactly? Not supposed to say. The choppers are U.S. Special Operations Forces training in “realistic urban sites.” (New slogan for Dallas: “A realistic urban site!”) The helicopters will be flying around for the next two weeks. We’re just supposed to ignore them and go about our business because they certainly aren’t spying on us, watching our every movement, or putting fluoride in our water so they can control our thoughts.

DeMarco Murray Had Surgery Yesterday. Here’s everything you need to know about his broken hand. If the black helicopters aren’t disturbing you too much, will you take a moment today to say a prayer for Murray’s fourth metacarpal?

Barrett Brown Will Be Sentenced Today. As long as you’re on your knees, say one for Barrett Brown, too. Our favorite prison pen pal will learn his fate today.

Full Story

Fair Park Fire Displaces Nearly 40

In 2000, you might recall a tornado ripping through Fort Worth. I was at my aunt’s house that evening, had gone to bed early, and snoozed through the whole thing.

Somewhat closer to home, last night I had the strange experience of sleeping next door to a five-alarm fire. I live in Fair Park. I went to sleep at 2 am, which is why when I woke up at a little past 3 am because my bed was shaking and sirens were wailing and my neighbor was pounding on my door, it felt like I was in some sort of weird red and orange and blue dream. That’s also possibly why, after poking my head out in to the hall and not really seeing anything, I went back to sleep. In retrospect, I should have done a little more investigating. When I woke up again, my power was out, my building smelled like badly burnt toast, and I couldn’t leave to get to work—firefighters were still parked outside my garage and the air was thick with smoke. The fire started at a warehouse, 4100 Commerce, and spread toward my building, which, thankfully, is fine. My neighbors in 4130 Commerce are not so lucky. The units are uninhabitable.

Justin Terveen, cityscape photographer extraordinaire who apparently lives nearby, got a photo of the fire—it’s huge. Anyway, what I am saying is, I’m glad everyone made it out alive. Firefighters are awesome and brave and I’m crazy grateful they contained the fire. And I need to rethink my sleeping patterns.

Full Story

Barrett Brown To Be Sentenced Tomorrow

Tim is the resident Barrett Brown expert, but we are all busy trying to make sure we have Christmas around here, which has led to about eight fires, and Tim is directly involved in putting out at least four or five of them. So, it falls to me to tell you that tomorrow morning Barrett will find out if he’s got to spend any more time in the joint. I hope the answer is no, but I also enjoy his writing about prison life. So — no, I hope he gets out ASAP. #freebarrettbrown

Full Story

Yawn, Another Earthquake in Irving

A 2.7-magnitude earthquake shook Irving at about 6 a.m. this morning. These minor events, none of which have caused significant damage or injuries, have been so common in the area (it’s the 12th since the beginning of October) that I’ve begun to feel downright Californian in my lack of excitement in hearing news of another.

The Morning News has a map showing the close proximity of the epicenters of each of these quakes to a natural gas well. Fracking, and more specifically the injection of wastewater from fracking being injected into the ground, has been found in some studies to be correlated with greater seismic activity.

A FrontBurnervian in the oil and gas business sent me a note with a map from a drilling industry information site showing the horizontal track of the well’s drilling bores was in the opposite direction from where the quakes are clustered. He argued that because of this, and because the well hasn’t been active since 2012, it’s likely not responsible for the tremors.

I ran this claim by Brian Stump, a seismologist at SMU.

Full Story

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).

Full Story

The 500 Most Famous Dallasites — Poorly Ranked

Over at Central Track, they did something a couple days ago that I find amusing. They attempted to rank the 500 most famous Dallasites, alive and dead. “We don’t always list at Central Track,” they said. “But, when we do, we like to list longer and harder than anyone else in town.” Pretty funny. But the list stinks. Kourtney Kardashian at No. 11, ahead of Dirk and Romo? And ahead of Lee Harvey Oswald? Laughable.

More than a decade ago, we ranked 100 Dallas celebrities. Only 100, yes. But we consulted with an SMU professor to create a formula with which to rank the people. That formula relied on no fewer than 13 variables. It was quite an undertaking.

All this I bring to you right now because it is Friday and our office Christmas party is tonight, which means we are all skating with a defensive posture, trying to kill the penalty without letting in a goal.

Full Story

Stop by Booker T on Saturday To Tell a Story About Your Favorite Teacher

Maybe you saw this DMN blog post last week about a cool program tied to the Extra Yard for Teachers Summit, to be held in Dallas on January 10. Pretty cool deal: Teachers tell their story “about their life as an educator” in an attempt to win a speaking spot at the summit. (The event is designed to support and cheer North Texas teaches as they head into the second half of the school year.)

On Saturday, the summit’s organizers are staging a pretty cool event where you, normal non-teacher Frontburner person, can tell your story about a teacher who made a difference in your life. There will be a video booth outside of Booker T. Washington HSVPA at Flora and Jack Evans Streets in the Arts District tomorrow from 1 to 5 p.m. Some of the footage will/may be used for the summit.

I will be out of town this weekend, so I can’t make it. But here’s the story I would have told, which I call, “The Second Best Memory I Have That Involves A Teacher”: […]

Full Story

No, The Guy in That Fight Video Is Probably Not Mike Brown

A video has been circulating recently that purports to show Mike Brown, the 18-year-old shot and killed by Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, beating an older man over a backpack. I’ve seen this video passed around on Facebook in the last few days, mostly by people working backward from the notion that Brown was a menace to society who deserved to die. Some of the individuals sharing the video without skepticism are local journalists — because the industry just hasn’t had a hard enough time of late.

The footage is brutal and disturbing, and you probably shouldn’t watch it. Especially since the person in that video almost certainly is not Mike Brown. The rumor-debunking site Snopes looked into the matter and has determined that the video has been mislabeled. (It was also taken off of Facebook at one point, not because of the content or label or any policy of the social network, but because the person who first shared it removed the post and that’s how that works.)

Turns out, this footage was shot two years ago, when Brown would have been 15 or 16. Also, it was shot in Dallas, in the Woodland City Apartments (the original video is titled “Only in Woodland City”), and there is no indication Brown ever spent time in North Texas.

Full Story

New Websites for Morning News and Star-Telegram

Both of our metropolitan region’s major daily newspapers have recently unveiled revamped web designs. The new Dallas Morning News, in fact,  launched yesterday. Seeing as (given my job title here) it could be said that I live in a glass house myself, I’m going to refrain from detailed critiques of their new looks.

I won’t refrain, however, from saying that I like what the Star-T has cooked up a little better at this point. It appears to be in use by the rest of the McClatchy newspaper chain as well. I find its homepage more pleasant to look at, and easier to navigate, thanks largely to the use of those blue directional tags (like “Politics & Government,” “Crime”) that help to visually separate stories from one another. The overabundance of white space on the Morning News, by contrast, leaves me unsure where I’m supposed to be looking as I scroll down. Its headlines seems to bleed into one another.

I also much prefer the Star-T‘s mega-menus to the white-text-on-blue-background of the simplistic Morning News navigation bar. All that said, word is that this is just step one for the Morning News, and there could be more changes coming. I’ve heard, for instance, that the DMN homepage was supposed to have a wallpaper ad yesterday (one of those annoying ads that runs on either side and above the content, like we have on some of our site too) on it, but I couldn’t see it on my small laptop screen. With any launch, there are bound to be bugs.

Full Story