Dallas, Houston, and Fort Worth Mayors Announce Support For High-Speed Rail

“This innovative project is a game changer for transportation between the two engines that drive job creation throughout Texas,” Mayor Mike Rawlings said. “Not only will high-speed rail significantly reduce travel times and traffic congestion for Dallas and Houston area residents, but it will also create new, high-paying jobs and stimulate economic growth.”

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I-345 Panel Discussion Set for Thursday

Now First United Methodist Church is getting in on the act. On Thursday, Patrick Kennedy from A New Dallas will lead a panel discussion on “bringing investment to downtown and the surrounding disadvantaged areas.” Translation: tearing down I-345. Other panelists include the Dallas Morning News‘ architecture critic Mark Lamster, CitySquare’s Larry James and Gerald Britt, and BC Workshop’s Mark Lea. The “Let’s Do Lunch!” event runs from 11:30-1. Pompeii and Cup Cakin’ Machine food trucks will be on site, and the conversation will take place in the Fiedler Atrium.

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Leading Off (3/24/14)

I-345 Tear-Down Debate Continues. The Dallas Morning News ran this I-345 explainer on the front page of the Sunday paper. There’s no new news here, but it does provide a bit of I-345 history, namely that it was built in 1974 as suburbs like Irving took hold. There was also a nice traffic count graphic in the paper, but that didn’t make it online. To refresh, some 200,000 cars travel the 1.4-mile stretch on weekdays. Patrick Kennedy and co. want the 75-45 connector eliminated, but TxDOT is set to spend $100 million to renovate it instead. As is to be expected, and can be demonstrated here, debate persists, some of it well-reasoned, some … not.

Plastic Bag Ban Proposal Up For a Vote Wednesday. Dwaine Caraway has been working on this for a year and is expecting a partial ban, at the very least, to pass when City Council votes Wednesday. There are a number of options up for discussion, including a total citywide ban, a “responsible retailer” option that charges stores for distributing the bags, and an “environmental fee” that has customers paying for bags. Several council members are vehemently opposed to any change.

Bike Share Program a Possibility for Fair Park. The Dallas Park and Recreation Board has approved $125,000 for the project. If City Council passes it, some 15-20 bikes could appear in Fair Park by May. This is an impossibly small (yet expensive) program. For comparison, Fort Worth started with a $1 million grant, 300 bikes and 30 stations.

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Leading Off (3/17/14)

City Council Members Upset Mayor Rawlings Doesn’t Consult Them. Alternative headlines: “Mayor Mike Rawlings Hard at Work on Several Initiatives” or “Mayor in Desperate Need of Better PR Team.” Tip: Inform council members of plans before media inquiries, avoid much of these issues.

SMU Not Headed to NCAA Tournament. Some 1,000 people gathered in Moody Coliseum for Selection Sunday, anticipating SMU’s entrance into the tournament for the first time in two decades. But the 23-9 Mustangs never got called. There’s all kinds of speculation as to why they won’t appear (bad losses at the end of the season, their American Athletic Conference affiliation), but the team will be a No. 1 seed in the NIT.

TxDOT Officials Claim They Spend More on Repairing Roads than Study States. A report released this month from Smart Growth America and Taxpayers for Common Sense alleges that the Texas Department of Transportation spent 82 percent of its $3.4 billion budget between 2009 and 2011 on expanding roads rather than maintaining them. Another Smart Growth report has TxDOT spending just 11 percent of its budget between 2004 and 2008 on maintenance and repair, but officials maintain that number was closer to 35 percent.

Trimble Tech Group Holds Vigil for Local SXSW Victims. Tech senior Curtisha Davis and her boyfriend, 2013 Tech grad Deandre Tatum, both remain hospitalized in Austin after sustaining injuries in the crash that killed two and injured more than 20. A small group of parents, friends, and Tech alumni gathered on the school’s steps Sunday night to pray for the victims.

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Leading Off (3/10/14)

Wylie Teens Found “Burying a Body.” Two 16-year-old Wylie East High School students were charged with first-degree murder Sunday in the killing of  Ivan Mejia, a fellow Wylie classmate. Mejia was 17. Police claim the two juveniles killed Mejia Saturday and were found near the woods in Garland around 9:30 p.m. When asked what they were doing, they allegedly responded, “burying a body.” Police say the murder was planned, though no motive has been released.

Keller Man on Missing Malaysian Airlines Flight. Philip Wood, an IBM exec who was moving to Kuala Lumpur from Beijing, was one of 239 aboard the flight. He had recently visited family in North Texas. There is still little understanding of what happened to the plane, and according to the New York Times, the mysteries are multiplying.

Grand Prairie Park-and-Ride Lot Under Construction, No Public Transportation Nearby. Soon, Grand Prairie will unveil a $14.7 million facility for … carpoolers. Because, yes, in a city that loves its cars what everyone will want to do is commute together. There’s even talk of developing an app to connect complete strangers who would like to share their ride. That’s often called a bus. Or Lyft. But hey, best of luck!

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Leading Off (3/3/14)

Can Dallas ISD Turn Into a Home-Rule District? Technically, yes, because of a 1995 state law. And the group Support Our Public Schools is trying to do it. On Tuesday, petitioners will meet Dallasites at the primary polls, looking to collect nearly 25,000 signatures. With the necessary signatures, the proposal could get on the ballot as early as November. No specific changes are on the table yet beyond the home-rule proposal, which would allow DISD to largely operate separate of state control. It would be the first district in the state to do so.

Part of Sylvan Thirty Burns Down. The West Dallas project was engulfed in flames (video) Saturday afternoon, setting off a two-alarm fire allegedly started by someone welding inside. The two-story building, the remnants of which will now be torn down, was going to house a yoga studio and a restaurant as one part of the $50 million project.

Steve Blow: Stop It. Just Stop It. It looks like he’s talking to us, all of you in the comments section, and certainly Patrick Kennedy. We all need to stop talking about tearing down I-345 because, “It’s never, ever, not-in-a-million-years going to happen.” Okay then.

Today Could Be the Coldest Day of the Season. That’s according to meteorologist Jesse Moore. Schools are closed, there’s a wind chill advisory until 8 a.m., and it’s cold. Very cold. Stay safe out there. More updates here.

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Leading Off (2/24/14)

DART Contract Up For Extension. MV Transportation’s two-year pilot period will come to an end in September, but some DART staffers insist the contract should be re-opened for other bids. MV operates a fleet of paratransit vehicles that service the elderly and disabled. Some allege that since MV took over from Veolia Transportation in 2012, there have been problems. MV has even been fined some $335,000 for performance issues. Still, some board members insist there isn’t enough time to accept new bids. The contract is expected to be extended Tuesday.

Despite Felony, Constable Running For His Old Job. Who says a felony holds you back? Not this guy. Derick Evans is actively campaigning for his former Dallas County constable Precinct 1 position, the one he was removed from after he was convicted of running illegal raffles. Two federal lawsuits are also pending against the county from when Evans held the constable position, and he was accused of a vehicle-towing scam.

The Fascinating Tale of Eric Brauss. It’s not so fascinating for those who say he scammed them out of millions, but the Dallas Morning News details the rise and fall of the Dallas-based developer who eventually fled to Brazil and died last late last year, though some believe that’s just another part of his scheme to evade prosecution.

Times Criticized for Wendy Davis Cover.  Last week, I pointed you to The New York Times Magazine’s profile of Wendy Davis. This week, the Times’ public editor responds to complaints alleging sexism in the story.

Westbound Lanes of LBJ Closed After Fatal A.M. Accident. Be careful out there during your morning commute.

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Too Late to Find Another Architect For the Margaret McDermott Bridge?

We’re probably too far along in the process of the creation of the new Interstate 30 bridge over the Trinity River (aka Large Marge‘s little sister, the McBridge) to back out of this deal now. Especially since parts of it are already being manufactured in Tampa. So the bridge, slated to open in 2016, is pretty much a sunk cost at this point.

But the bad news about architect Santiago Calatrava keeps coming.

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Leading Off (12/23/13)

Judge Jean Boyd Sentenced Previous Teen Drunk Driver to 20 Years. Plus, More Angry Op-Eds in the New York Times. Twenty years is quite a bit different than the 10 years of probation that Ethan Couch received. In 2004, Eric Bradlee Miller, then 16, stole a truck and crashed it into a car, killing a 19-year-old man. His BAC was .11. He was sentenced to 20 years. Couch, also 16, with a BAC of .24, crashed his pickup into an accident scene, killing four people. He received 10 years probation. Of course, there are differences between the stories of Miller and Couch, mainly the felony charge for stealing the pickup. But it’s an interesting, and devastating, comparison nonetheless. Also, James McAuley, who brought us that lovely JFK op-ed in the New York Times back in November, is back with some more venom for DFW on the Couch matter, specifically the “affluenza” diagnosis.

This Is a Story About an Apology. Dallas Police Department second-in-command Charlie Cato is sorry. He messed up (and by messed up he means never investigated) a shady account about a drug bust. The officers have since been fired, two others were disciplined, and Cato was put into the role of interim assistant city manager. Yes, that makes sense. But, according to the Morning News, he’s returning to his previous post next year.

Fort Worth Battling Drillers for Royalties. And it’s not alone. Arlington, Arlington ISD, and Fort Worth investor Ed Bass are all suing as well.  They claim that drillers, including Chesapeake Energy, have been using the money to cover post-drilling costs. Fort Worth alone alleges it’s been short-changed millions.

A “New” Trolley Car Will Hit the Streets This Week. The McKinney Avenue trolley system is adding Betty, an 80-year-old car that hasn’t been used since the 1950s, to its ranks. Betty will be out for tests this week and, hopefully, fully operational by February.

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Leading Off (12/16/13)

New Tolls on LBJ Freeway Open. More than 240,000 vehicles use LBJ daily. Now they’ll be contending with a new toll structure on the 3.2-mile stretch between Preston Road and Greenville Avenue. And they’ll pay for it. Depending on the time of day and traffic level, the price to use certain lanes will rise or fall. For now, it won’t cost more than $.95 to drive that section, but down the line, there won’t be a ceiling in place. In Virginia’s Fairfax County, an area with a similar system, drivers have paid nearly $10 to drive 14 miles.

Two Men Scoop Up Land Next to I-35E, Sell It to the City For a Pretty Penny. Business partners Kevin Bollman and Wade Blackburn are in the real estate business. More specifically, they’ve been buying land in areas where Texas is looking to widen I-35E. Then when the state comes calling, they sell. For, what we can assume, is a nice profit. They’ve been open about their method, too: use public information about the expansion project and buy along the highway corridor. Over five months in 2011, Denton County doled out more than $22.million to the duo. Over four months in 2012, the state paid for another four acres along Riverfront Boulevard in Dallas County, but records don’t communicate the price. As perhaps could be expected, folks are calling foul, asking how this could be legal.

Another Woman Pulled Over By a Fake Cop. A woman driving in Denton at 2:30 a.m. Friday saw flashing lights in her rearview mirror and pulled over. While she was getting her license and registration, the fake police officer tried to assault her. So what are you supposed to do when someone pulls you over at 2:30 in the morning? One of the tips listed in the article is making sure the vehicle is properly marked as a police car. But how can you do that? End of story: This is one of my worst nightmares. If people have tips beyond the obvious stay off the road always, I’d love to hear them.

Dog Debate Brewing in Plano. Whether pups can accompany their owners on patios in Plano is up for discussion, with a vote coming as soon as Tuesday. Allowing dogs to dine (or sit while their owners dine) al fresco is common practice in Dallas and other cities across the country. But when the Katy Trail Ice House Outpost opened this summer, that part of their patio mission got rejected. Plano Mayor Harry LaRosilliere called the opinionated “very passionate” on both sides of the argument.

 

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Leading Off (12/9/13)

Dallas Still Battling Icepocalypse. Some 14,000 are without power this morning, Dallas ISD is closed for another day, and roads remain dicey. But there’s good news, too. The brief Sunday temperature increase enabled DART to get some trains up and running this morning. These eager runners ran a marathon anyway. And just be happy you’re not on this highway in Parker County. But please be safe out there.

The Chanel Show Must Go On. The valet parker at the Rosewood Crescent Hotel asked me yesterday if I was there for Chanel (I wasn’t), but that must mean folks are starting to appear for Tuesday’s show at Fair Park. And buzz is building in the Twitterverse, as StyleSheet reports. Let’s just hope everyone can catch a flight in. I’d hate for all of these celebs to not see Dallas in its ice-covered glory.

American Airlines and US Airways Set to Merge Today. There was one last effort to block the merger over the weekend, but the Supreme Court rejected the attempt. Now, the two airlines will become one. And not just any one. But the LARGEST AIRLINE IN THE WORLD. The first bit of changes will happen in January as frequent fliers will be able to use miles on both airlines, but other than that, things will look pretty much the same until 2015 when the FAA gives the airline a single operating certificate.

Oh, One More Thing: GO BEARS. Rogers and I still don’t have a wager, but I suspect that will be determined today. Or maybe he’ll forget about it and we can just watch the game separately and in peace. Right.

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Do Southwest Airlines’ Nice-Guy Tactics Cost It Millions of Dollars in Profit?

Ryanair is famous for its extremely cheap fares accompanied by exorbitant fees, like charging $115 to print your boarding pass for you. The airline even once proposed charging passengers to use the onboard toilet. By contrast, Southwest has resisted the industry trend to charge bag fees. Ryanair’s profits last year were 40% higher than Southwest’s. Says travel-planning website Flightfox:

In the league that Ryanair plays in, Southwest is simply too nice. Southwest maintains wholesome traditional values that when added together, end up costing them millions.

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Leading Off (11/25/13)

Weather Leads to 300 Flight Cancellations at DFW. Although Sunday remained pretty well devoid of any of the winter weather meteorologists have been forecasting, DFW canceled hundreds of flights, nearly a third of its daily volume, according to NBC. Weather did wreak havoc elsewhere in the state, as the bus carrying Willie Nelson’s band crashed […]

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