Leading Off (4/11/14)

WFAA Frames DISD Home-Rule Debate as Race War. Mayor Mike Rawlings and Dallas ISD trustee Mike Morath are both supporting the effort to create a new charter to change how the school district is governed. They’re white, and they’ve implied that some elements of the school board  are standing in the way of DISD making important changes. Those three board members are African-American, and they accuse home-rule proponents of trying to erode minority representation. Morath fans the flames by saying things like ”this is not to say that race is not a factor … But to say that race is a dominant factor is missing the forest for the trees.”

The Watchers Don’t Like Being Watched. Dallas Police staff are putting out a warning to the city’s cops about a dangerous new threat to their safety: citizens on patrol with video cameras. Concerns were raised recently after a woman affiliated with a group called Cop Rock Cop Block was found to be following and taping an officer. Ron Pinkston, president of the Dallas Police Association says such behavior could be a threat because police “don’t know who it is pulling behind us. We don’t know they’re there to videotape, they might be part of… if that guy has has just done a kidnapping they could be part of the kidnapping. You don’t know.” I also don’t know what he’s talking about, even if, yeah, I’m sure some of the folks recording the cops are just being jerks.

Man Sues Perot Museum After Accident. According to the suit, 74-year-old Myung Oh of Carrollton was leaving the museum in June 2013 when he fell on the steps and was left a quadriplegic.

Full Story

Louis Bedford, Dallas County’s First Black Judge, Loses Battle With Prostate Cancer

Bedford, a graduate of Booker T. Washington High School, became the first black judge in Dallas when he served on the municipal court in 1966. He spent most of his adult life mentoring other black lawyers, including Dallas County DA Craig Watkins, who he swore into office. Watkins remembered that moment in this profile I wrote of him in 2009:

“I was looking at him when he was swearing me in, and he was trembling and he was almost teary-eyed,” Watkins says. “I was like, why is he so emotional for me? And then I realized: all the struggles that he had been through were really for me to have this opportunity. He said at the end of his little thing, ‘You’re the first. Let’s make sure that you’re not the last.’ I really didn’t understand at the time what he was talking about, but I understand it now. Any little thing you do will jeopardize someone else that may be different—a woman, Hispanic, whatever—to be put in this position. Whatever you do, if you make the smallest mistake, it will shine a disparaging light on everybody else that comes.”

Bedford was 88.

Full Story

How Badly Does TxDOT Want the North Texas Vote?

The controversy over I-345 — and how TxDOT and its local partner, Michael Morris have handled it — could not come at a worse time for the highway agency. On the ballot in November is a constitutional amendment to increase the agency’s funding by $1.25 billion a year by drawing down on the state’s Rainy Day Fund.

The Legislature only granted this small amount after considerable wrangling. The agency by its own account needs an additional $4.5 billion a year just to keep up with the state’s population growth. But legislators are just as wary of the agency’s obfuscations, wild estimates, changing stories, alarmist traffic simulations, and bungling public relations as Dallas leaders in the last two months have learned to be.

Yet those same Dallas leaders say the agency needs every dollar it can get. Texas is exploding in population, roads are already inadequate, and cutbacks to maintenance could have severe economic consequences. So why is TxDOT — like a lumbering elephant — walking all over Dallas right when it needs our votes?

Now might be a good time for the Texas Transportation Commission, whose five members are probably more politically astute than highway engineers, to get that elephant under control. TxDOT seems to have a talent for alienating legislators. If it alienates North Texas, it could lose its only chance for new funding. That would be tragedy not just for the agency but for Texas.

Full Story

Leading Off (4/10/14)

Michael Morris Apologizes To Wick Allison And Other Dallas Leaders. In advance of today’s meeting of the Regional Transportation Council, the (deep breath) North Central Texas Regional (almost there) Council of Governments transportation director apologized for throwing down the race card last week regarding the efforts to tear down I-345.

Dallas ISD Trustees Consider Hiring Education Lawyer To Advise Them On Home-Rule Push. I’m sure that will make this whole thing go so much smoother.

Dwaine Caraway Asks City Staff To Begin Process of Renaming Lancaster Road After Nelson Mandela. Specifically, the portion between I-20 and Corinth and Illinois. This seems like a fine idea, though, as usual with Caraway, a little bit out of nowhere. I’d love to sit in on a brainstorming session with him sometime.

Full Story

First Look at the Proposed Boy Scout Hill Restaurant Overlooking White Rock Lake

Jim Schutze has written something that you should read. It’s about the proposed restaurant at White Rock Lake. The hopeful developers are Lyle Burgin and Rick Kopf. I’ve had lunch with these guys, and I like them. Kopf rides his bike at the lake, and he seems to appreciate the beauty of the place, which is why, he told me, he wants to build a restaurant there. But I’m afraid Kopf and his friend are a bit like Lennie in Of Mice and Men. They don’t know their own strength. They just might crush the thing they love. And Schutze is right. Opposition seems to be building steadily in the neighborhoods around the lake (I live in one of them).

Full Story

D Magazine’s 40 Greatest Stories: Happy 100th Birthday, Hockaday

All through the 2013-2014 academic year, the Hockaday School in North Dallas has been celebrating its 100th anniversary. The prestigious institution for girls held its first classes on September 25, 1913. Some of the city’s leading citizens had summoned Miss Ela Hockaday to Dallas to establish a college preparatory school for young ladies.

Sixty-five years later, Prudence Mackintosh (who’d earlier taught at Hockaday) wrote about the history of the school, which opened first in a small house on Haskell Avenue, soon moved to a campus on Greenville Avenue at Belmont (then part of the Caruth farm on the outskirts of Dallas), and later to its current home on Welch Road along Forest Lane. Her story is one D Magazine’s 40 greatest ever.

Full Story

Leading Off (4/9/14)

Garland ISD Corruption Scandal Leaves Teachers In The Lurch: An internal investigation revealed that a former human resources manager recruited hundreds of teachers from overseas by promising them green cards, then allegedly funneled them to residences owned by his stepson and required them to seek legal advice at a firm where his stepdaughter works. On overseas teacher recruiting trips, Victor Leos allegedly spent none of his own money, and sometimes hired up to 30 teachers during a trip. The teachers came in on H1-B visas, some of which are set to expire soon. Astounding statistic alert: over a decade, Garland ISD filed 642 H1-B applications on behalf of prospective teachers. Peer districts Grand Prairie ISD and Mesquite ISD filed 17 and 23, respectively.

25 Arrested in Dallas Child Prostitution Sting: Kindly show yourselves to hell.

Hutchins Mayor, Nine Others Indicted: The charges allege that Mayor Artis Johnson and eight former and current city public works employees cooked up a scheme where they stole scrap from the city, then sold it to recyclers. The $25,000 scam—yes, that’s all—was topped off when one of the employees went to pick up payment from the recycler in his city uniform. You read that entire sentence correctly. That ninth city employee? She was indicted because she used city credit cards to buy “various food items” for herself.

Dirk Joins NBA All-Time Scoring Top Ten: With a midrange jumper over Jazz forward Jeremy Evans, Nowitzki passed Oscar Robertson for tenth all-time on the NBA’s scoring list. He’s now 250 points away from ninth-place Hakeem Olajuwon, the only foreign-born player to have a greater career—so far–than Dirk. Barring anything crazy in the next couple seasons, he’ll probably finish his career sixth on that list, between Wilt Chamberlain and Shaquille O’Neal. Also last night, former Mav Steve Nash (you should click that link) passed Mark Jackson for third on the all-time assists list. This all makes for a pretty decent “What If?” conversation.

Full Story

Why Is Arlington, Texas, Sports Capital of the U.S.?

Grantland writer Bryan Curtis spent a few days in A-Town, over Final Four Weekend, to learn more about this strange place that’s hosted the Super Bowl, two World Series, the NBA All-Star Game, among other major sports events, in the last few years, and which next year will host the college football national championship:

Yet no one raised outside “North Texas” knows much of Arlington — nor do they seem eager to find out. The NCAA’s parties during March Madness took place 20 miles east of Arlington, in Dallas. ESPN built its open-air set in Fort Worth, 15 miles west. These slights activated Arlington’s inferiority complex, as if the city were a puny referee throwing a tipoff between two all-conference centers. A former Arlington mayor once declared, “We’re nobody’s damn suburb.”

Full Story

Why You Should Pay Attention as the Charter Review Commission Tackles Redistricting

There’s another meeting of the city charter redistricting committee this evening, and you should start paying attention. Even though the ongoing effort to rework Dallas’ charter is not as sexy/controversial/batcrap-crazy as the leading civic spectacles of the day (345 teardown, DISD home-rule debate), it’s every bit as important.

It’s not because of the issue I wrote about, council pay, in which I advocate $100,000 annual salaries for council members. (The commission is largely in favor of a council pay raise, but no one thinks they can get close to that number, because OUTRAGE!) No, the big issue they’re beginning to tackle in earnest is changing the redistricting process — and getting rid of the borderline-sleazy backroom dealing that went on in the 2011 redistricting battle is priority No. 1.

How will they do that? Who knows, because they first have to come to a consensus, and then the council has to approve the plan. Tall order. But I have some pretty good guesses as to the solutions they will/should explore that include and go beyond this fine DMN editorial on the subject.
How will they do that? Who knows, because they first have to come to a consensus, and then the council has to approve the plan. Tall order. But I have some pretty good guesses as to the solutions they will/should explore that include and go beyond this fine DMN editorial on the subject.

Full Story

Leading Off (4/8/14)

Basketball Happened. Not gonna lie. I started compiling this morning’s Leading Off shortly after the UConn-Kentucky game. At 11 o’clock, the UConn student paper still hadn’t published the news. Too busy getting drunk, burning cars? Dunno. But the Kentucky student paper was on top of it. Also this: the UConn paper is called the Daily Campus. The Kentucky paper is called the Kernal. So explain to me again how Kentucky lost?

An Article About the Proposed Bullet Train Between Dallas and Houston! Our analytics tell us that people are pumped about this topic. So get pumped. Executive summary: who doesn’t loves trains? But bullet trains are expensive!

North Texas Likes To Lick Fingers, Eat Fried (And Other Sorts Of) Chicken. Yum Brands owns KFC and sells wings via WingStreet. It will try a new concept called Super Chix. Right now, there’s only one location, at West Park Row Drive and South Cooper Street, in Arlington. So I just told you that because. Um, chicken?

Sky Mirror Demands Sacrifice. You know all about the 80 concerts planned for the American Country Music Awards next year at the Death Star. Cool. If you like country music and large crowds of strangers touching you and having loud conversations on their cellphones when someone is performing and those conversating people ought to be paying attention to said performer. (Me, I’d rather stay home and eat chicken. Or even seitan, which my wife is now pushing at the house.)

Is There a Cancer Cluster in Flower Mound? The Texas Department of State Health Services is having another look at the data.

Full Story

Michael Morris Changes His Mind About I-345

On Friday, we discussed Michael Morris, who is the transportation director of the North Texas Council of Governments. Morris has played the race card, intimating that everyone in support of tearing down I-345 is rich and white and not concerned with poor people. Morris said he attended a meeting about the future of I-345 and noticed the following about those who want to tear it down:

“They were all white, they were very wealthy and I don’t think any of them live in the neighborhood.”

Now Morris, along with another road guy, Bill Hale, TxDOT’s Dallas District Engineer, has offered another argument for why we shouldn’t tear down I-345:

Full Story