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Good Public Transit

Dallas City Council Names Patrick Kennedy to the DART Board

| 29 mins ago

In the end, there wasn’t much of a conversation around the horseshoe. At the start of its busy Wednesday briefing, the Dallas City Council voted to overturn the recommendation of its transportation committee and name Patrick Kennedy to the Dallas Area Rapid Transit board.

I wrote yesterday about what a big deal it would be to have Kennedy represent the city at DART. There are few people in Dallas more qualified to tackle the difficult challenges this city’s public transit system faces, from decisions about how to expand the rail network to ways to re-think the functioning of the agency’s bus system. With Kennedy representing Dallas, we have an expert voice who can help push DART towards a future that focuses on the kind of mobility, access, and transportation equality that will generate sustainable economic growth and opportunity for the city — and the region.

In November, the council’s transportation committee voted to recommend environmental lawyer Howard Gilberg. But during this morning’s vote, two members of that committee, Monica Alonzo and Casey Thomas, flipped their vote and backed Kennedy. In other words, even though the transportation committee originally supported Gilberg, at the full council, a majority of members of the transportation committee voted for Kennedy.

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Arts & Entertainment

Things To Do In Dallas Tonight: Dec. 7

| 45 mins ago

If you listen to the lamestream media, Adam Sandler is an insultingly lazy, maddeningly unfunny comedian, a man with too little shame and too much money. But the people have spoken. Sandler’s 2015 Western, The Ridiculous Six, threw up a culturally insensitive middle finger at its zero percent Rotten Tomatoes rating on its way to becoming one of Netflix’s most-watched films. Sandler, we suspect, sleeps happily on a water bed filled with the tears of losers who didn’t like Jack and Jill, using sheets sewn from hundred dollar bills.

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Local News

Leading Off (12/7/16)

| 5 hours ago

Pension System Withdrawals Spike After Rawlings Sues. The Dallas Police and Fire Pension System gets an average of 115 withdrawal requests a week. On Monday, the day citizen Mike Rawlings filed a lawsuit against the system, there were 160 withdrawal requests. A pension board meeting or hearing with Judge Tonya Parker later this week could stop the bleed, but for now, this situation is looking grim.

Richard Spencer Spoke at Texas A&M Last Night. The St. Mark’s grad and alt-right leader was met with protests outside the Memorial Student Center. He spoke to a crowd of 400. Some hissed through his speech, some stood with fists raised, and one dressed like clown with a sign saying “he’s the real bozo.” At one point Spencer, who made the news for that “Hail Trump” bit in November, said he was concerned the President-elect would become “just another Republican.” Let’s all just hope Spencer ends up reeeeally hating the Trump presidency.

Denton to Drivers: Put Your Cell Down. The ban on hand held devices while driving goes into effect in six months. But go ahead and make your Bluetooth arrangements now, Denton drivers. Hands-free chatting will still be legal.

Kid Killer Avoids Another Execution. This is the second time John Battaglia, the man who shot his two daughters while they were speaking to their mother on the phone, has delayed execution with an argument over his competency.

Eight North Texans Can Now Add “Grammy-Nominated” to Their Resume. Congrats, folks.

Tomorrow Will Frosty. Brrrr. Don’t forget to buy your three-year-old a new puffer jacket today! (This is really just a reminder for my husband.)

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Dallas Lawyers Don’t Have a High Opinion of Our New DA, Faith Johnson

| 20 hours ago

As Zac Crain mentioned earlier, Governor Greg Abbott has appointed a new district attorney for Dallas County. Her name is Faith Johnson. So what if the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct once admonished her for “cast[ing] public discredit upon the judiciary”? It’s local lawyers that really matter. I popped over the the Dallas Bar’s site to see what they think — or what they thought. The Bar conducts anonymous polls of its members every year to evaluate our judges. Johnson has been in private practice for about a decade, so I had to go back a few years.

In 2003, when she was running the 363rd District Court, Johnson did not impress the lawyers who voted. To the question “Does this judge correctly apply the law?” only 41 percent said “yes.” Next question: “Do you approve of this judge’s overall performance?” Just 49 percent said “yes.” Those numbers are pretty consistent over the years, as you look at older polls.

Numbers like that in isolation are hard to interpret. How did the other criminal court judges fare in that poll? Great question. Well, in 2003, on those same two questions, Judge John Creuzot got 85 and 87 percent “yes.” Manny Alvarez, 80 and 76. Vickers L. Cunningham Sr., 71 and 68. Keith Dean, 78 and 78. Robert W. Francis, 78 and 77. Karen Green, 61 and 56. Lana McDaniel, 90 and 89. Mark Nancarrow, 61 and 61. John Nelms, 82 and 82. Henry Wade Jr., 56 and 56. Janice Warder, 71 and 71.

Of the 12 criminal district court judges, that year Johnson scored the lowest. That’s the judge that Abbott picked for us. 

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Good Public Transit

How You Can Help Shape the Future of Public Transit in Dallas

| 22 hours ago

Tomorrow the Dallas City Council will choose the city’s new representative on the board of Dallas Area Rapid Transit. The vote comes at a crucial time in the history of both Dallas and the region’s public transit authority.

It is not just that DART is currently balancing a handful of large-scale transit projects that will shape the system for a generation. How DART prioritizes those projects will dictate whether or not DART will continue to pursue a public transit philosophy that mimics the model of highway expansion — building more and more miles of rail to low density suburbs in an effort to drive economic development – or refocus on improving its bus system, streetcar expansion, and downtown subway in a way which could transform DART into something that resembles the kind of well-functioning transit system that most large, competitive cities take for granted.

This is not a question of urban vs. suburban, urbanist activists vs. regional boosters. Yesterday, I wrote about Dallas dismal poverty epidemic. Here’s one date point from that post that really sticks out: Less than 20 percent of jobs in Dallas are accessible by transit in less than 90 minutes and more than 70 percent of HUD assisted properties are unaffordable when housing and transportation costs are combined.

In other words, Dallas’ terrible public transit system is part of Dallas’ terrible poverty problem.

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Politics & Government

Dallas Finally Has a New District Attorney

| 23 hours ago

Governor Greg Abbott finally appointed someone to finish out the perpetually troubled Susan Hawk’s term today: Faith Johnson, former district judge and prosecutor. Johnson, a Republican who has been in private practice for the past decade or so, becomes the first black woman to be Dallas’ district attorney; she’ll hold the post through 2017. Tough break for Messina Madson, who has been running the office pretty much for the last year.

As for what kind of DA Johnson will be, she was not exactly soft on crime as a judge:

When Johnson was a judge, the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct raised questions after she threw a party in her courtroom with cake and balloons to mark the capture of a prisoner who fled during his trial. The commission publicly admonished Johnson.

“The commission concludes that Judge Johnson failed to maintain order and decorum in the courtroom … when she celebrated Billy Ray Williams’ apprehension with balloons, streamers, cake and ice cream, and when she promoted the event by inviting the media to capture Williams’ bewildered expression as he entered the courtroom and observed the celebration,” the commission concluded in April 2005. “The judge’s actions in this case were willful and cast public discredit upon the judiciary.”

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Required Reading on the Case

| 1 day ago

On December 9, the guys behind Dallas-based — Mike Lacey, Jim Larkin, and Carl Ferrer — will face their next hearing, in a California court, on charges of pimping. If you’ve been following the case, you’ll want to read this Ringer story about it. It clearly lays out the legal hurdles that will make it difficult to prosecute these men. 

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Short Story Inspired by Robot That Was Used to Kill Downtown Dallas Shooter

| 1 day ago
The robot used to kill the downtown shooter
The robot used to kill the downtown shooter

The third act of the most recent episode of This American Life is a short story written by Scott Brown and read by actor Jeremy Shamos. The story is about a police robot named MILES that is tasked with delivering a payload of C4 to blow up a bad guy who has killed a cop. You’ll recall that this scenario played out in real life, for the first time on U.S. soil, right here in Dallas. In the early morning hours of July 8, DPD used a Remotec Andros Mark V-A1 to take out the shooter who had killed five officers and wounded seven others. Brown’s story was clearly inspired by what happened here. You should listen to “You Had One Job.” It’ll get you thinking. 

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Local News

Leading Off (12/6/16)

| 1 day ago

Wilshire Baptist Gets Support From Other Churches. Last month, Wilshire Baptist Church voted to grant full membership to LGBT folks. As you can imagine, that caused a stink. Some members left. But the church has also attracted new members, and it has received letters of support from churches around the country.

Blue Cross Blue Shield to Drop Texas Health Resources From Network. Contract negotiations broke down yesterday. Looks like Texas Health will be out of network come January 1.

Memorial Service Set for Brian Loncar. The service will happen at 1 p.m. on Friday at Munger Place Church. We still don’t know how he died. 

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