A Daily Conversation
About Dallas


UTA Receives $7.7 Million to Study Transportation Equity

| 2 hours ago

In the October issue, I wrote about Nan Ellin, the dean of the University of Texas at Arlington’s new College of Architecture, Planning and Public Affairs (or CAPPA), and her plans to transform the school into a major research center for urban development. The impetus, according to UTA president Vistasp Karbhari, is to prepare DFW for that challenges that will inevitably arise with the region’s continuing growth:

“We will be at mega-city status of 10 million people very quickly,” says UTA President Vistasp Karbhari, an Indian-born structural engineer who was the main architect of the strategic plan. “One of the challenges of a mega-city is looking at built environments as well as public policy. The concept was that if we were truly going to make an impact on how Dallas prepares to become a mega-city, there was a need, in my mind, to try to do much more to shape it in the best way possible.”

One of the biggest issues the region faces (as we have been talking a lot about lately) is transportation, and, in particular, transportation equity.

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Leading Off

Leading Off (12/8/16)

| 5 hours ago

City Council Wants Austin to Come to the Rescue Over Pension Crisis and Lawsuits. The council wrested with the much-talked-about pension crisis and police pay lawsuits that could be financially disastrous for the city of Dallas yesterday. Now, they think their best bet is to call on the state legislature to change a 2005 law that made suing the city over goods and services easier. This will get worse before it gets better.

Fort Worth Symphony Strike Over. The first strike in the history of the orchestra, which had gone on for three months, ended last night after musicians came to an agreement with management. They now have a new four-year deal that runs through July 31, 2020. An anonymous donor gave the symphony $700,000, the amount of the budget deficit that had resulted in proposed pay cuts for musicians.

Laura Miller Faces New Battle with Breast Cancer. The former Dallas mayor announced that she’s been diagnosed again with breast cancer after beating it in 1998. She had a double mastectomy a few weeks ago and begins chemotherapy next Wednesday.

Duncanville Officer Shoot Person in Downtown Dallas. Officials were serving a warrant yesterday afternoon on Commerce Street when the Duncanville officer shot the suspect, who died at the scene. The shooting is being investigated.

It’s Officially Winter in Dallas. It’s in the mid-30s now and will stay that way throughout the day. The weekend will be a bit warmer, but for today you’ll need some extra layers.

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Will Our Neiman Marcus Nostalgia Ever Get Old?

| 22 hours ago
Image via Dfwcre8tive
Image via Dfwcre8tive

An alert FrontBurnervian (more commonly known around the office as Wick Allison) forwarded me an essay about Stanley Marcus entitled “The Man Who Brought Paris to Dallas” that appeared in T Magazine this past Sunday. In it, Dallas-bred writer James McAuley gives a brief yet poetic sweep of Marcus’ life, including the retailer impresario’s odd position as a liberal Jew in a conservative city, and reminisces about the last time he himself had a face-to-face with “our city’s de facto mayor.”

It’s not the first time McAuley has written about Stanley Marcus. In 2013, he wrote an essay about Marcus’ relationship with Coco Chanel, and her relationship with Nazi collaborators. Yet, I find the timing of Sunday’s piece, a sort-of love letter to the department store’s former CEO, particularly interesting. There’s no real peg, that I can see. Rumors surrounding Neiman’s debt and layoffs continue to swirl, though an October report on the store’s credit agreement downgraded a gossipy snowstorm to a freezing rain. Not to mention, this comes just two weeks after Forty Five Ten, the biggest downtown-Dallas retail build in decades, opened its doors.

It could be that McAuley’s essay was a favor for a PR contact or a personal hope to give the retailer a boost, but perhaps, Stanley Marcus and his luxury store left such a nostalgic mark on so many of us, that it’s a story that never needs a reason. Give the piece a look. It also comes with some cool Mad Men-era photos through which to click.

Editor’s note: I should also mention that I put together a spread on Neiman’s Christmas books in our December issue—another entertaining trip down NM memory lane. The truth is, my request to produce the article was also fueled by nostalgia. My grandmother, Nancy, was such a die-hard Neimans customer, that when my aunt called to tell her personal shopper that Nancy had passed, Betsy’s reaction was an emphatic “Dammit!” A few days later, at Nancy’s wake, everyone in my family left a momento in her coffin. My contribution: A Neiman Marcus catalogue.

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Good Public Transit

Dallas City Council Names Patrick Kennedy to the DART Board

| 1 day 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

| 1 day 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)

| 1 day 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

| 2 days 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

| 2 days 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

| 2 days 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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