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Leading Off (5/20/15)

Storms Bring Floods and Tornadoes. There were dozens of reported tornadoes across North Texas and Oklahoma last night. At least one building in Mineral Wells collapsed. And there was “significant damage” reported in Runaway Bay.

Five Dead Bikers Were From North Texas. The dead men range in age from 19 to 47. It will likely be weeks before we know who may have been killed in the original fight and who may have been killed by police. You can see all 171 mug shots of the men arrested here. Zac will be along later with a list of his favorite biker nicknames. (My choice: “Gimmi Jimmy.”)

Former Birdville ISD Student Sues District Over Christian Prayers. Isaiah Smith, 20, claims he suffered years of bullying in the North Richland Hills school district, including anti-gay slurs and having baseballs thrown at him. He says it’s related to the Christian invocations used to start every school board meeting.

That Controversial Black Rhino Hunt Is Over. You’ll recall a few years ago the Dallas Safari Club auctioned off the chance to kill an endangered black rhino. The winner, Corey Knowlton, bid $350,000. (Stephen Colbert mocked the whole thing pretty viciously.) Well, Knowlton eventually got his rhino. And CNN’s Ed Lavandera was along for the trip.

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The Barrett Brown Review of Arts and Letters and Jail: This Prison Is Kind of Corrupt

Last time I noted that the prison administration here at Federal Correctional Institution Fort Worth had cut off my access to the inmate email system shortly after I sent a message to another journalist about wrongdoing by Bureau of Prisons staff, thus providing us with a fine opportunity by which to see how the BOP really operates as I take my case up through the agency ranks via a charmingly baroque complaint procedure known as the Administrative Remedy Process. There have been some telling new developments on that front that I’ll relate by and by, but it would be remiss of me not to first say a few words about the prison itself, and fuck if I’m going to leave myself open to accusations of being remiss.

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Did You Miss the Annual Congress for the New Urbanism in Dallas? Well, Watch it Online.

You may recall that the Congress for the New Urbanism held its annual conference in Dallas this year, which was a treat for local urban wonks. For those of you who, like me, didn’t catch as much of the conference as you would have otherwise liked to, you’re in luck. The CNU has uploaded 16 sessions onto YouTube. That’s a lot of hours of urban chatter to sift through, and it may be difficult to figure out where to start. How about with
“Walkable Urban Premiums & Gentrification: Good News or Bad?”

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Things To Do In Dallas Tonight: May 19

Choose what to do tonight responsibly. Look at your options, write down the pros and cons of each choice, and have a reasoned discussion about what to do with friends and family before you commit to any one choice of action. You’re allowed to play fast and loose on weekends, but this is no reckless Friday night. This is Tuesday. It happens to be an action-packed Tuesday, with a new mural going up at the Amon Carter and Toro Y Moi and Paramore playing gigs in town, but it’s still Tuesday. You have to make tonight count.

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Should We Really Be Trying to Build a Park in the Trinity?

I was out of town last week so I missed much of the rainfall that has now transformed the Trinity River flood plain into a broad, fast-flowing, messy river. It’s a lovely sight: passing over the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge on the way into the office and seeing water running from bank to bank underneath the series of bridges that for too much of the year look like exaggerated spans traversing a tiny creek.

There’s something beautiful but also terrifying about the swollen Trinity. Its snarling, brown waters smother trees up to their spindly tops. The floodwaters push out against the long ridges that funnel water past the city. A hundred or so years ago, that water would be lapping up against downtown buildings and sweeping away the foundations of homes.

These occasional floods are good for the city. We certainly need the rain. But perhaps as important is the reminder they offer that Dallas exists within a particular natural environment, and that nature isn’t always friendly.

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Who Will Be the Next Managing Editor of the Morning News?

My guess is that Stephen Buckley will get the gig. Check out his bona fides. Duke, Washington Post reporter, Tampa Bay Times world editor, managing editor, publisher of its website. Now at Poynter. DMN editor Mike Wilson told the staff that Buckley will be the first one interviewed to replace George Rodrigue; he’s coming in next week. Wilson knows Buckley because he worked for him in Tampa. Wilson told the newsroom staff at the DMN that about a dozen people have applied for the job and that all the applicants are on equal footing. But with zero precincts reporting, FrontBurner is calling the election now. Welcome to Dallas, Stephen Buckley.

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Leading Off (5/19/15)

UT Southwestern Given $36 Million Gift. Edith and Peter O’Donnell Jr.’s foundation gave the money to create a new brain institute. That’s good news. Because there are some people on the City Council who could use one. [rimshot!] A brain. They could use a brain. Was that joke not clear?

Two Losing Dallas City Council Candidates Allege Tomfoolery. Subrina Brenham and Eric Williams filed the election challenge in District 8. Here’s my favorite sentence from the DMN story: “[Williams] said he ‘absolutely’ believes voting machines may have been rigged.” I love that kind of certainty about a possibility. Similarly, I am definitely sure that Williams could possibly maybe win this challenge.

Trinity River Crests at 38 Feet. Yesterday it hit its greatest depth and started receding. NBC Channel 5 has some good video from its chopper. You can dork out on the USGS site that monitors river flow in real time. And, of course, there is more rain on the way.

Allen ISD Gets $2.5 Million for Stadium Screwup. Remember that $60 million stadium that turned out to have structural problems? The contractor and architect responsible are paying for their mistakes. It should be ready for graduation on June 6.

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Joe Tone Steps Down as Editor of the Dallas Observer

Too much change! It scares me! First they went and got rid of all Robert Wilonsky’s cute names for blogs (Unfair Park is now just “news,” City of Ate has become “restaurants”), and now the Observer has gone and lost its editor, Joe Tone. Here’s his announcement. He’s got a book project to focus on. So bully for him.

Now then. This gives us an opportunity to check in with Vegas for the odds on his replacement. Here’s what’s on the board:

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Grapevine Releases Dash Cam Video of Police Shooting

On February 20, Rubén García Villalpando was shot and killed on the side of Highway 121 by a Grapevine police officer named Robert Clark. For months, activists and family members of the dead man have asked that the dash cam video from that night be released to the public.

Now that a grand jury has declined to indict Clark, the video has been released. Sort of.

Grapevine police put together this video, with footage from the dash cam mixed with the Grapevine police chief explaining what happened, from the perspective of law enforcement. It appears that Villalpando drove away from the officer despite sirens and lights, including weaving through cars on the highway. Then once he did pull over, he disobeys the officer’s orders to stay in the car. He tells the officer, in English, to kill him. Then approaches the officer despite at least 20 orders to move back and stay by the car.

The actual shooting takes place just out of frame. It seems like non-lethal force could have been an option, and other officers have made news by not killing people in similar circumstances. But by most standards, this looks justified. When Villalpando started moving toward Clark, the officer was probably too far away to use a Taser and already had his gun drawn. When Villalpando got close enough, Clark fired twice.

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Should Addison Leave DART?

Since joining Dallas Area Rapid Transit as one of its original member cities in 1983, Addison has contributed $238 million into the region’s public transit system. What does it have to show for that investment? Not enough, according to some city officials.

As plans to extend DART’s light rail service to the suburban city continue to look like pies-in-the-sky, some council members are wondering if they should pull out of DART. After all, Addison has long hoped to connect to DART’s light rail system via an added Cotton Belt corridor line, but possible funding for the project wouldn’t be available for a good 20 years at the earliest. Grumbling about the lack of service has transportation officials scrambling to come up with ways to speed up the process, possibly by introducing Bus Rapid Transit into the Cotton Belt right-of-way as a substitution for light rail service.

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Things To Do In Dallas Tonight: May 18

How was your weekend, Dallas? Ours was pretty good. We went and saw St. Vincent and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra put on an awesome show at the Winspear, and did some other things we hadn’t written about yet at the time of this post.

The weekend afterglow is going to wear off soon. Any minute now, the harsh, cold light of Monday will take hold. But you have a lot to look forward to tonight: Rush is at the AAC, Hop Along is at Club Dada, and the few geeks in Dallas who aren’t at the Rush show will be drinking and playing trivia elsewhere.

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Help Wanted: Dallas City Hall Reporter/Blogger For D Magazine’s FrontBurner

Recent public discussions about removing elevated-highway barriers that sharply divide neighborhoods and the alternative futures envisioned for the Trinity River floodplain signal that Dallas is on the verge of an important transformation. Whether new ideas or the old guard come out on top in these fights remains to be seen, but it’s clear already just how much is at stake.

Those are a couple of the headline issues, the arguments that have sucked up so much of the oxygen in council debates and municipal elections. But in the ninth-largest city in the United States there are thousands upon thousands of smaller actions taken every day by officials and government staff that have significant effects on the people who live and work here.

D Magazine aims to bring greater attention to all these matters — both those the size of potholes and as big as signature bridges — by hiring a blogger/reporter keen to make a name for himself or herself with thoughtful, data-driven coverage of Dallas City Hall. It’s got to be someone who can spot the opportunities for inquiry in every council or committee agenda, who knows that public meetings usually aren’t where the decisions get made and can find and follow the paper trail to prove it. It’s got to be someone just as comfortable requesting and sorting through reams of data as he or she is talking with sources. We want to move past the political jargon, past the false balance of he said/she said reporting, to get to the facts.

In addition, we want a writer capable of tracking the daily coverage of other news sources throughout the week and offering commentary and aggregation of the best of what our readers need to know. This is an ideal gig for a smart recent graduate who is hungry to become part of the civic conversation. Interested applicants should send a resume and cover letter (including salary requirement) to

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What Color Is the Trinity?

This was the view yesterday from the Sylvan Bridge at about 6:30 in the evening. Quite a sight. Times like these, you really appreciate that it’s not so much a river as it is a floodplain. But standing on the bridge, it occurred to me: the pretty Trinity renderings always show blue water. I hereby move that anyone who wants to be taken seriously should show us the river and the lakes as they will really look. Blue is fantasy. Greenish brown is the color of truth.

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