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Making Dallas Even Better

Leading Off (4/8/16)

Mayor Blames Himself For Crime Wave. At a joint press conference with Dallas Police Chief David Brown, Mayor Mike Rawlings declared his support for Brown’s (significantly revised) plans to fight the disturbing uptick in violent crime in the city since the beginning of the year. “This is on my watch,” Rawlings said, striking his finest buck-stopping pose. The mayor said it’s time for the city council to consider hiring 50 more officers. Last week, Brown had to back off his initial plans to reassign hundreds of officers to new shifts and task forces, due to strong objections by the police unions (including calls for Brown’s resignation). Then Gov. Greg Abbott offered to have state troopers made available to assist the DPD. The chief said state and county law enforcers will help serve domestic violence and drug warrants that had piled up as cops were deployed elsewhere to address the surge. Dallas Police Association president Ron Pinkston was not impressed by what he heard at the press conference, which he referred to as a “dog-and-pony show.”

Stars Play For Conference No. 1 Seed Saturday. Both Dallas and the St. Louis Blues have 107 points on the season with one game left to play this weekend before the NHL playoffs begin. The Stars hold the tiebreaker, so either a Stars win against Nashville (7 p.m. tomorrow at the AAC) or a Blues loss will secure home-ice advantage throughout the conference playoffs for Dallas. I’d gladly jump on the bandwagon/zamboni if I could ever follow the damn puck whenever I try to watch a game on TV.

Jordan Spieth Leads at Masters. After the first round at this year’s tournament in Augusta, the impossibly good young Dallas golfer is at the top of the leaderboard, at 6-under with a two-stroke lead, as play resumes today. Spieth is aiming for his second straight green jacket.

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Can Dallas Really Escape the Downside of Lower Oil Prices?

As Jason mentioned this morning, Mayor Rawlings apparently agrees with the conventional wisdom that plummeting oil prices aren’t all that worrisome for Dallas because we’re more diversified now, etc., etc. (Hey, that’s Houston’s problem.) But, the reality may be more sobering. Some of Big D’s leading business people—the ones who buy the Chanel handbags and the private jets and the weekend ranches and pony up tens of thousands of dollars for soup kitchens and inner-city education—made piles of dough off the shale boom, either directly or through investments. Now they’re either tightening their belts or at least starting to get jittery.

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Mayor Rawlings Tells Bloomberg Oil’s Drop Doesn’t Worry Dallas, But Poverty Rate Does

Yesterday Mayor Mike Rawlings sat for an interview with Bloomberg. He described himself as a “middle-of-the-road” leader in terms of where he falls on the left-right political spectrum and boasted (as it’s one of his chief duties to do) about the “very good” state of the Dallas economy.

He was careful to draw a distinction between the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area and the city itself, underlining that each of the positive indicators he was citing was related to what’s happening strictly within the municipal boundaries. Apparently he’s heard the complaints about his office’s past conflation of the two.

Rawlings explained that, unlike much of the rest of Texas, Dallas’ more diversified economy protects it somewhat from the precipitous drop in oil prices. It’s the city’s unenviable spot on the list of big cities with high childhood poverty rates and poor economic mobility that concerns him more.

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Correction: Di Mambro Plan Did Not Come From Mayor’s Task Force

Got a really sweet e-mail yesterday from the mayor’s PR chief, Scott Goldstein, that called my attention to a mistake in my September column in D Magazine (not online yet). Helpfully, Goldstein cc’ed the mayor (because, duh, his boss) and Wick (because, duh, actually runs the city). The e-mail:

Good evening, Eric,

Your piece on Fair Park in the September magazine was brought to our attention today. You wrote: “Recently, Mayor Mike Rawlings commissioned a task force that came up with a radical new blueprint to fix the State Fair and reinvigorate Fair Park and its neighborhoods. In short, it would restrict the Fair’s footprint at the park. Unofficially it is called the Di Mambro Plan, named for its lead architect, Antonio Di Mambro….”

This is totally, unequivocally false.

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Larry Beasley Just Killed the Trinity Toll Road

At the Trinity Commons Foundation luncheon today (where Jim Schutze ate a fancy $150 lunch while Peter and I sat in the back, in the media section, foodless), Larry Beasley took the mic and spent 40 minutes showing everyone how and why the Trinity toll road, as it is envisioned now, awaiting final federal approval, should be scrapped. Honestly, it was shocking. The head of the mayor’s Dream Team walked the audience of about 360 people through 10 specific recommendations that would radically reshape the road, effectively killing the the high-speed, six- to eight-lane monster we’ve been debating these many months. You can peruse the Dream Team’s full report, but here are the basics and what I’m guessing it all means.

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Reaction to Art Ball Video is Over-the-Top and Ridiculous

Can you say s-t-r-e-t-c-h? Yesterday, our colleague Peter posted Saturday night’s Art Ball video, a knock-off spoof of the song “Uptown Funk” starring the likes of Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, DMA director Maxwell Anderson, Deedie Rose, Cindy and Howard Rachofsky, and other art-crowd bigwigs. Peter also recalled a previous (admittedly tone-deaf) ball video spoofing “Downton Abbey.” Then he proceeded to rip Rawlings, throw a bouquet to mayoral contender Marcus Ronquillo, and somehow relate it all to the Trinity River tollroad debate. That opened the floodgates for commenters (here and elsewhere), who variously accused the video cast of elitism, racism, ripping off taxpayers, and making a “mockery” of … something or other.

Give me a break. Please. This blowback is so over-the-top and ridiculous, it’s embarrassing. First off, the “Funk” takeoff was a sponsor video, intended to thank the sponsors of Saturday’s fundraiser in a light-hearted and creative manner. (The sponsors are those who help pay for the event.) Second, the video was actually entertaining, imagined and edited with a deft touch. Third, the people in the video were making fun of themselves as much as anything (Rawlings in hair curlers? The usually buttoned-down Anderson looking like Nathan Lane in “The Birdcage”?) Last, the racism charge is offensive. Leaving aside that the video cast was not all-white, the fact is that it’s people with money—regardless of the color of their skin—who bankroll institutions like the DMA, which has been able to offer free admission and free membership to all comers precisely because of events like Saturday night’s. Welcome to the real world, people.

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Poll: Will You Root For the Dallas Cowboys?

Last week the Dallas Cowboys signed Greg Hardy, a noted football player suspended last season for having beaten up his girlfriend. As discussed on our most recent EarBurner podcast, the move prompted WFAA sports anchor Dale Hansen to go “unplugged,” and Mayor Mike Rawlings (an outspoken crusader against domestic violence) called it a “shot in the gut.” But then, yesterday, Rawlings said he’ll still be rooting for America’s Team this season.

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Poll: Can Marcos Ronquillo Beat Mike Rawlings in the Dallas Mayor’s Race?

In the March issue of D Magazine, we ask whether attorney Marcos Ronquillo has a shot to unseat Mayor Mike Rawlings. As Tim noted in “Leading Off” this morning, the Morning News characterizes Ronqullo’s campaign as an “uphill battle.”

Meanwhile, on the most recent episode of our EarBurner podcast, our own Zac Crain shared some insight into just how he would govern if he were sitting at the top of the horseshoe each week.

So how should this play out?

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Mayor Mike Rawlings Spins and Spins on the Trinity Toll Road

On Sunday, the DMN published in print this op-ed written by Mayor Mike Rawlings. I was on spring break with my children (Padre, beer bongs, you know the story), so you’ll forgive me for not reading it till now. The piece has driven me insane with its misinformation and spin. Someone with more patience than I needs to step up and tear the thing apart. Here I’ll just pick at two points.

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Ask John Neely Bryan: How to Have a Midlife Crisis, Dallas-Style

Question: When I turned 40 about a year ago, I just thought it was another day. But lately I’ve been asking myself a lot more of those introspective questions you normally wouldn’t ask unless you are really drunk or going through a midlife crisis. But can you still be going through a midlife crisis if you’re still in love with your wife, feel fulfilled in your career, have a full head of hair and don’t have any impulses to make expensive material purchases? Why can’t I just be happy that I actually made it to 40? Thanks in advance — Looking for the Beer Tap of Youth in Lake Highlands

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Mayor Mike Rawlings: ‘I Didn’t Back Out of Tuesday’s Debate’

Marcos Ronquillo’s campaign has issued a release saying they are “disappointed as Rawlings pulls out of Tuesday’s debate.” You can read the full thing, below. I caught Rawlings at his personal office a bit ago. He was headed in to City Hall. He assured me that he is insane and that only insane people should be on the road right now. “Tim!” he said. “Please don’t leave your kitchen in East Dallas! You’d be a fool to try to drive to your office!” I swear to you, Wick, that’s exactly what he said. In any case, Rawlings said he never agreed to participate in tomorrow’s debate. His position all along, he said, has been that he won’t do any of these events until we know exactly who is running; the filing deadline is February 27. He called the release from Ronquillo’s camp “just politics.”

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Mayor Mike Rawlings Dodges Topic of Trinity Toll Road

Take a minute to read this post by Jim Schutze. It’s about Councilman Philip Kingston getting kicked out of a breakfast meeting because, it appears, Mayor Mike Rawlings didn’t want him asking questions about the proposed Trinity toll road. Here’s the upshot: Rawlings has decided that he is not going to debate anyone on the toll road. He told Schutze: “I have made it real clear to people who have asked me that I am not going to debate the tollway situation.” And: “There is nothing on the ballot that the citizens are voting about.” So he’s not going to debate anyone on the toll road because we’re not voting on the issue. He couldn’t be more wrong.

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Mayor Mike Rawlings Says It’s ‘Classist’ Not To Give Poor People the Option To Pay Tolls

We run a leadership program called D Academy that is designed to educate our employees (and anyone else who would like to apply) about all matters related to the functions of our city. Yesterday, in a City Hall auditorium, Mayor Mike Rawlings was kind enough to field questions for the current class of fellows, and he said some things about the Trinity toll road and Adrian Peterson that give me pause. Such as:

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Clay and Mike: Bryan Burrough’s Tale of Two Dallas Leaders

As Tim alluded to yesterday, Dallas’ handling of the Ebola crisis has just been put into perspective for a national audience, thanks to Bryan Burrough’s thoroughly reported piece in the new Vanity Fair. Burrough’s lengthy story puts a generally heroic shine on the response by local officials. And it offers a refreshingly frank, behind-the-scenes look at the actions of two powerful local politicians, both Democrats, who someday may aspire to higher office. My initial impression was that the piece portrays County Judge Clay Jenkins as some sort of steely Superman, while Mayor Mike Rawlings comes off as, well, considerably less effective.

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