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Leading Off (8/27/15)

The Susan Hawk Saga Continues. You know by now that Dallas County District Attorney Susan Hawk is taking a four-week leave of absence to battle an episode of depression. And now we know that she will be staying at an in-state treatment facility, somewhere that is not in Dallas. It’s not certain when Hawk will be back in Dallas, but she will supposedly return to work late next month. Hawk’s neighbor, lawyer Bob Hinton, said he had observed stints of paranoia since Hawk became DA at the beginning of the year and that he is glad she’s finally seeking help.

SPCA Retrieves More Than 150 Mistreated Animals From Home. Yesterday, the SPCA of Texas removed quite a few neglected and dead animals from a home in Balch Springs. There had been multiple complaints of suspected animal cruelty. After animal control picked up several dead animals, the SPCA obtained a search warrant and, along with the police department’s animal services, “retrieved 107 cats, five of which were dead, 40 dogs, three doves, two chickens, one finch, one dead parakeet and one guinea pig.” As you can probably imagine, the conditions of the home and these animals were…not good. Thoroughly sickening. Let’s hope these furry friends find new loving homes soon.

No More Stop Signs For Now. The Dallas City Council voted yesterday to not make it easier for dense neighborhoods in Dallas to put up extra stop signs. Who cares about driving safety, anyway?

D/FW Airport’s ‘Welcome Mat’ for Uber and Lyft

The recent news that Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport is finally going to stop prohibiting arriving passengers from using Uber & Lyft was greeted with great fanfare by long-suffering victims of the taxicab cartel. As promised by D/FW Airport CEO Sean Donohue earlier this year, the new procedure was going to be simple: “1. book your ride; 2. take your ride.” As long as the driver held a sticker issued by either Dallas or Fort Worth (the two cities that own and theoretically control the $7.5 billion nation-state), he or she would be good to go.

Although I hoped it was really this simple, knowing the time-honored North Texas tradition of protecting incumbent transportation monopolists (Exhibit A: Wright Amendment, Exhibit B: City of Dallas’ vice cops issuing questionable citations to Uber drivers, Exhibit C: City Manager A.C. Gonzalez’ secret effort to kill Uber, Exhibit D: City of Dallas attempting to kick Delta out of Love Field), I was a bit skeptical.

Sure enough, a closer look reveals the “new procedure” is anything but simple.

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A Case For Removing All Traffic Lights, Stop Signs

About a month ago a pedestrian was killed crossing Travis St. near Knox and the Katy Trail. Almost immediately, reports placed the fault on the pedestrian. She was looking at her phone. She didn’t look both ways. I found that reaction curious. After all, the pedestrian wasn’t the one operating the fast-moving, multi-ton machine responsible for killing more than 30,000 people a year. Rudy Bush tried to leverage a little reason to the tragedy. It is unfair to lay blame on the driver or the pedestrian, he argued, the problem is with how we design our streets.

I thought Bush made an important point. Travis is supposedly one of Dallas’ most “walkable” areas, and drivers should anticipate the presence of pedestrians there just as pedestrians should take care when crossing the street. But if you want to see how irrationality guides our conversations and assumptions about road safety and responsibility, spend a few minutes poking through the comments to Bush’s post. Many of the reactions were seemingly penned by people who believe that even the quietest city street should function according to the rules governing the the Daytona speedway.

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Leading Off (8/14/15)

Police and Fire Pension Fund Faces FBI Inquiry. More precisely, Brett Shipp of WFAA reported that G-Men have “made contact with” members of the organization’s board and staff, but he’s doesn’t know the nature of the investigation.

DART, Dallas Weigh 2nd Downtown Line. A decision is expected soon about the city’s and transit agency’s preferred second downtown light-rail route. Ten options remain under consideration, with all of those running to, or near, the existing Convention Center station. Cost of construction could run between $493 million and $1.1 billion, depending on which route it chosen. Recently, over on StreetSmart, Patrick Kennedy indicated his preference for Alternative 3C, though he’s also sympathetic to those who wish the city was ready to put a subway below Commerce Street.

Cowboys Drop Preseason Opener. The San Diego Chargers defeated Dallas in the first official practice game of the new season, by a score of 17-7. I’m sure the city’s call-in sports radio hosts and guests are being cautious and measured in their responses to the meaningless outcome.

Dallas Ranks High For Cop-INduced Fatalities. That’s according to a Chicago-based group that looked at data for the years 2010-2014 and concluded that only the cities of Phoenix and Philadelphia saw more deaths per capita at the hands of police during that period. Dallas officers shot and killed 34 people, which translates to 2.7 fatal shootings for every 100,000 people.

Family Erects SignS In Clash With Neighbor. A Farmers Branch family and the man who lives next door have clashed over barking dogs. So much so that the family is ready to get out. They’ve placed signs in their front and back yards announcing why:

Will their tactic work in this seller's market?  (still: CBS DFW) Will their tactic work in this seller’s market? (still: CBS DFW)

Day Care Leaves Boy at AT&T Stadium. The 5-year-old was found wandering alone on the field at the House That Jerry Built after a special “Kids Day” event. His mother retrieved him from Arlington Police hours after Jeanette’s Little Haven Christian Academy misplaced him.

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Adam McGough Proposes Trinity Parkway Compromise

UPDATE: After taking those hours to digest, the council approved the compromise in the afternoon. So officially their support is for the four-lane park road instead of the traffic reliever. However, since the bench is still being built, and since the amount of money they’re withholding from being spent on a larger tollway is but a pittance compared to the overall cost of that project anyway, it’s far from a guarantee that 3C will never get built.

 

Original post: This morning at the Dallas City Council meeting, freshman Councilman Adam McGough made a motion that the council declare that none of the remaining $47.7 million from the 1998 Trinity Lakes and Trinity Parkway bond be used to fund any road through the park of greater size than the four-lane meandering park-access road envisioned in the Beasley Plan.

In other words: let’s kill 3C, the high-speed toll road. (Though the “bench” that could accommodate something like 3C would still be constructed.)

Councilman Philip Kingston called it a great compromise. “I can’t wait to vote in favor of this motion,” he said.

Then Councilman Rick Callahan spoke up, asking that new members respect the ghosts of councils past, not discarding the “25 years of planning” that have gone towards developing 3C as a traffic reliever route.

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Poll: Do Uber and Lyft Belong at D/FW Airport?

As Tim mentioned in Leading Off this morning, Dallas taxi operators have sued to prevent Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport from allowing drivers for app-based services like Uber and Lyft from picking up passengers there. Cabbies argue that “the entire culture that has developed at the airport taxicab queue is one based on the American dream.” By implication, D/FW officials hate the American dream.

What do you think?

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Should DFW Airport Be Renamed For Writer David Foster Wallace?

Of course not. But some Brooklynite writer clickbaitingly makes the case for rechristening Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport:

DFW is there like a gift from the literary gods, held in place by two great American cities with downright fantastic-working initials.

Some people would say such a change is outside of the realm of possibility — we know; we ran this idea past them, and they used that exact phrase in a bit of a huff. But then, logical validity is not a guarantee of truth. The IATA usually doesn’t change airport codes, due to inertia. Switching codes confuses employees and travelers alike. Such is not the case with DFW. The real hurdle is convincing the airport’s board of directors of the merits of sharing the name with an American author. That seems, to us, quite surmountable.

John Tilton of Dallas’ own Lucky Dog Books humors the writer by pretending to the take the proposal seriously:

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Why Urban Areas Should Tear Down Elevated Highways

Over at Politico, they’ve got a piece titled “Knock ’Em Down.” The subhead: “Even Ike was disappointed by what highways did to cities. Here’s a conservative case for fewer overpasses.” If you’ve never thought about this topic before, then this must be the first time you’ve visited FrontBurner. In any case, you should read it. But I’m going to deprive you of the delight of stumbling across this passage as I did when I read it:

To a true fiscal conservative, the notion of removing urban highways to control costs, and letting scarce real estate attain its full value, should hold immense appeal. This may explain why Wick Allison, president of the non-profit that publishes The American Conservative, is a huge backer of the movement to replace a highway in downtown Dallas with a street grid and walkable development.

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Dallas’ Jason Roberts on How to Build a Better City

The New York Times this week hosted a two-day conference on the future of cities, and among the invited speakers was Dallas’ own Jason Roberts. You’ve likely heard of Roberts as the driving force behind bringing a streetcar back to Oak Cliff and the Better Block movement.

In the video above (H/T DMN) you can watch him explain how temporarily putting potted plants along sidewalks and painting your own lines on the street — in violation of municipal ordinances — can help transform a city.

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Leading Off (7/14/2015)

The Barnett Shale is Off-Gassing More Greenhouse Gasses Than Previous Thought: The EPA botched its initial estimates, and as it turns out, fracking in the Barnett Shale is responsible for 64 percent of all methane in our local atmosphere. The good news: most of those emissions are the result of human errors and mechanical failures.

Let’s Put Those Increased Violent Crime Numbers in Perspective: The Dallas Morning News breaks down the much-reported 10 percent increase in violent crime. The takeaway? Glass half-full, glass half-empty. You could argue the increase reflects a return to a historical norm. And if violent crime continues at pace through the end of the year, murders will be at the same level they were 2013 and 2012, while aggravated assaults would only see a 0.4 percent increase over last year.

When Will We Finally Run Craig Holcomb Out of Town? Read Eric Nicholson’s look into the laughable bike share program in Fair Park. I mean, it couldn’t be more stupidly designed, so it will come as no surprise that the usage numbers are equally laughable. But here’s the important bit: when Nicholson tried to get the usage numbers through an open records request, he was stonewalled by the Friends of Fair Park, which operates the program. That decision to not to release the bike share numbers was then upheld in a ruling by the Texas AG.

I mean, seriously? Bike share numbers? We’re keeping those under lock-and-key? Why? Because Friends of Fair Park – which is run by Craig Holcomb, who also heads the Trinity Commons Foundation – doesn’t want more mud on his face for a program that anyone who has any idea about anything looks at for two seconds and thinks, “Good God, that is the sorriest excuse for a bike share program I have ever seen in my entire life.” I mean, seriously? How long are we going to let Holcomb meddle in the city’s business? How long are we going to let him lord over his two little fiefdoms, which happen to involve two of Dallas’ greatest civic assets – Dallas and Fair Park – both of which have languished for decades under the weight of curiously stupid ideas? For the love of all things good, Criag Holcomb, will you please just drift off into a quiet retirement and leave Dallas alone? Please. Thank you for your service. Now go away.

New Designer Drug in Town: It’s called Flakka, and it doesn’t sound like too much fun. Effects include “murderous rage, paranoia, ultra-violence, and running around screaming.” Or basically what it feels like to read about Craig Holcomb’s meddling in Dallas affairs.

It’s Finally Texas Hot: After cool temps and so much rain, we can’t really complain about DFW finally flirting with 100 degrees (heat index popped up to 109 in some places yesterday). Well, unless the AC goes out in your entire apartment complex. Then you can complain.

Troy Aikman Hates Potholes. So Does, It Turns Out, Every Other American

Over the weekend, Dallas Cowboys legend (and former auto dealership owner) Troy Aikman was driving in Dallas. Presumably his car hit a pothole. Or maybe he spotted a pothole ahead of him in the road and swerved to avoid it. Maybe he hit a few potholes in a row, or maybe his entire trip felt like he was dodging potholes like Giants linebackers. Whatever the case, Dallas Cowboys legend Tory Aikman was fed up with the damned potholes, and so he got mad. So mad, in fact, he did what all Americans do these days when we’re mad. We Tweet:

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Let’s Take the NCTCOG’s Mobility 2040 Transportation Survey!

The North Central Texas Council of Governments has launched a survey to help gather information from the public and inform the completion of their Mobility 2040 transportation plan. Always willing to throw in my two cents about things like like transportation master plans, I clicked through the link in the email I received eager to click some boxes and hit submit. The survey is simple enough, just 6 little questions. Only when I went to answer them I noticed that the answers I wanted to submit weren’t options. Bah. Oh well. I figured I’d just post my survey on FrontBurner instead so that I can add-in the answers I want to send to the COG. Here we go:

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Leading Off (6/19/15)

Lake Grapevine Flooding May Force Evacuations. Leaders in Grapevine, Flower Mound, and Coppell have warned some residents they may need to leave their homes as the overflowing lake is expected to crest at more than 563 feet tonight. Part of FM 2499 was shut down yesterday as water had spilled over into Denton Creek, which rose to cover portions of the road near Grapevine Mills Mall.

TCU Advances in College World Series. The Horned Frogs topped LSU for the second time, by a score of 8-4, on Thursday. But they’ll have to beat defending champ Vanderbilt — a team they lost to earlier in the double-elimination tournament — twice to advance to the best-of-3 finals. They play tonight at 7 p.m. in Omaha.

Lake Dallas Ousts Muckraking Councilwoman. Some shady goings-on in the small town north of Lewisville Lake this week. Julie Matthews had won election to the Lake Dallas City Council with 69 percent of the vote and only took her seat on June 11. Previously she’d operated a Facebook page on which she’d posted documents about Mayor Anthony Marino’s firing from Lewisville ISD for having been involved in the harassment of a gay student, images of him using city dumpsters to get rid of his own commercial waste, and a video of him drunkenly wielding a weapon at a banquet. Matthews had also complained that Nick Ristagno is in violation of state law by serving as both the city manager and police chief. So, based on what sounds like transparently thin charges, Marino and the three other members of the council voted to remove Matthews from her position.

Tennell Atkins Guilty of Assault. The soon-to-be former Dallas city councilman must pay a $166 fine for what he did to a city employee who wouldn’t let him into City Hall through a secured door last December.

Former UNT-Dallas President Owes Child Support. John Ellis Price quit as the head of the school in summer 2013 after reports of inappropriate relationships with employees. But he had still been teaching accounting classes at the school — at a salary of $191,000 a year — since then. On Thursday he resigned from that post as well, following news of a lawsuit against him by a 33-year-old former UNT student. Price is 63 and the father of a son the woman gave birth to in 2008.

Don’t Go to Oklahoma City. Maybe good advice at any time <rimshot>, but especially today as a 4-mile stretch of northbound Interstate 35 between Ardmore and Davis in Oklahoma has been shut down while officials try to figure out what to do about boulders that collapsed off a hillside onto the highway following the heavy rains of Tropical Storm Bill.

Rangers Lose on Balk-Off. Is the balk the lamest rule in sports? Discuss.

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Leading Off (6/5/15)

McKinney School Forbids Message of Tolerance. About 15 students at Faubion Middle School on Wednesday wore shirts sporting the phrase “Gay O.K” — in support of a seventh-grader who was being bullied — and were asked to change clothes. The district spokesman said administrators’ concerns had nothing to do with the specific content of the students’ message, but instead were regarding the potential for disruptions.

Flood Damages Cost Millions. Sewage has spilled into Lake Carolyn in Irving, and it can’t be cleaned up until the water recedes. Restoring Dallas parks and golf courses will likely cost more than $2.6 million, and the city has no insurance to cover it. On the other hand, marinas and other businesses on Lake Bridgeport are happy that water levels there have risen 27 feet in the last month.

Police Union Criticizes Department For Disciplining Officers. Fort Worth Police had reassigned one officer and placed another on leave as a result of their actions at the end of last week’s slow-speed chase. Their lawyer called these measures a “knee-jerk reaction.”

State Highway 360 Buckles. The southbound ramp to the road coming from the south exit of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport has raised 8 to 10 inches above the surrounding pavement in one section, creating a speed bump that sent cars airborne as they drove over it. It’s been closed until repairs can be made Friday.

Mark Cuban as the President of the United States: (see below.)

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