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Making Dallas Even Better

Ask John Neely Bryan: Decluttering Mockingbird, the Ugliest Street in Dallas

Question: What the holy heck happened with those pendant lights on Mockingbird? A few years ago, Patrick Kennedy wrote about the eyesores. A few months later, most of the broken lights were fixed. But then they started going out again. And now most of the poles have been removed — but not all of them. So did the city just give up or what? — Joe C.

Whoa there, boy. I can read the barely disguised resentment hidden between the lines of your message. You’re right to feel angry, embarrassed, even a little ashamed, about how deeply hurt you were that last week I didn’t see fit to communicate with my public in this space as per usual.

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Historic Buildings Are Now a Little Safer in Dallas (Sort of)

Dallas has a brand spanking new ordinance designed to help prevent the midnight demolition of the city’s historic buildings. The Dallas City Council passed a demolition delay ordinance which will force a mandatory review period after a developer files for a demolition permit that will allow the city to double check to make sure that the building is not, well, historic. Here’s how it will work, via the Dallas Wilonsky News report:

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Is Prosper On a Path to Prosperity, Or Is it Lost in Suburban Limbo?

There was an interesting article in Monday’s Dallas Morning News that seemed to unintentionally make a case against the suburbs even though it was optimistic with regards to reporting on the suburbs’ success. The story is about the little town of Prosper, TX just north of Frisco on the Dallas North Tollway.

Prosper is the latest exurb to experience an incredible development boom thanks to our prevailing macroeconomic strategy for growth in North Texas, which entails extending and widening roads as a means of attracting increased investment to undeveloped areas of our land-rich, sprawling region-city. In the last decade, thousands of people have moved to Prosper for its relatively affordable luxury-style homes, proximity to workforce centers in the northern sector, and quality public schools. In fact, to attract homeowners, real estate investors helped build those schools, places like Light Farm Elementary, for which Republic Property Group of Dallas provided both land and $2 million to build.

However, Prosper is a victim of its own rapid prosperity.

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No, Love Field Isn’t Worse Than LaGuardia Airport

Southwest Airlines is fighting to protect its virtual monopoly over the operations at Love Field, where it controls 18 of the 20 available gates. Delta Airlines is arguing in court that two gates should be taken from Southwest and made available for all airlines to use.

Meanwhile the CEO of Virgin America, which leases Love’s other two gates, earlier this week seemed to be angling to get more access, saying that with its current operational limitations, the airport is its “least-dependable” in the country. He added that even New York’s LaGuardia — which has the worst on-time departure rate in the U.S. — works better for Virgin.

But is that true?

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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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