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Meditations on a March

| 8 hours ago
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Self-Portrait With Pussyhat

My first job out of law school was as a Legal Aid attorney in rural Ohio. My girlfriend Melissa (now wife) and I had bought a house in Columbus after she first got a job with a big fancy pants law firm. But my proletarian union job had a residency requirement, which meant that I had to get an apartment in Hillsboro. So I rented out the upstairs of an old home across the street from the Legal Aid office. It was beautifully redone, with a big fireplace and giant windows. But all I had to furnish it with was a futon, a dresser, and a folding table and chairs.

There wasn’t much to do in the evenings. There was a movie theater that I would frequent on hot nights as an escape from my air-conditionless apartment. Sometimes I would rent videos. And by rent videos I mean, walk down the street to the video rental store, peruse the racks, and pick out a VHS tape that I would watch, rewind, and return. Or, I could watch the teenagers cruise the downtown square every night around 7 p.m. And by cruise I mean, pile into pickup trucks and drive around and around and around the same block while hooting and hollering at each other and tossing beer cans out the tailgate. If Melissa came to visit, we would make a big night of it and go get surf and turf at the sole steakhouse. It was Melissa’s favorite place because, somehow, they had scored the last stash of Teem in the country, which Pepsi-Co had stopped making more than a decade earlier in 1984.

I needed a hobby if I was going to survive my two years of a long-distance relationship. One afternoon I saw Paulette, the office manager, knitting over the lunch hour. “Would you teach me?” I asked. “Sure,” she said.

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Politics & Government

City Council Report: It’s Open Mic Time!

| 8 hours ago

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Dallas City Council sessions generally begin and end with “Open Microphone Speakers,” with these being comprised of any citizens who’ve signed up by the deadline of 5 p.m. on the previous day. Each speaker is given three minutes, and though these sessions begin with a quick admonition by a staffer to follow certain vague rules of propriety, in practice there’s no clear mechanism by which to enforce them. A police officer stands off to the side, behind the speaker’s podium, ready to move them along if he gets the signal from the mayor pro tem or some other responsible party, but so long as the speaker remains below a certain threshold of potentially violent derangement, the Council is reluctant to interrupt. The result is a rather intriguing ongoing spectacle in which the city’s highest officials routinely start off their working day by being admonished in harsh and often mysterious terms by an ever-shifting medley of odd locals, ranging from homeless people suffering from chronic mental illness to basically functional political cranks and religious zealots.

Wednesday morning’s speaker session, for instance, began with a monologue by an abrasive Yankee who gave his name as Robert Chicarelli. He said: “Please! Let me have your attention! I was very ticked off last week when I saw in the paper that — I already knew about how you don’t pay attention to the regulars. Please, pay attention, very much, right now. Please. Value Options. I’m with Value Options.”

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Local News

Here is the Sermon Robert Jeffress Delivered to Trump and Pence

| 10 hours ago

It’s probably not surprising that Robert Jeffress, downtown Dallas’ loudest pastor, chose to zero in on the Book of Nehemiah for now-President Donald Trump’s pre-inauguration sermon this morning. The book is written in first person, essentially a memoir describing how this builder, chosen by God, would go about erecting a wall to protect Jerusalem from its enemies.

Jeffress, the First Baptist Church senior pastor who has tossed off Trump’s recorded comments about sexually assaulting women, also peppers that sermon with digs at the press (Nehemiah’s “chief antagonists” were “the mainstream media of their day” who “continued to hound and heckle Nehemiah and spread false rumors” during the building of said wall) and links the book’s namesake’s ability to shrug off criticism to his new president’s: “I’m doing a great work,” he quotes Nehemiah as saying while Building That Wall, “why should I stop the work and come down to you?”

The Washington Post published the full sermon Friday afternoon, which includes references to Wendy’s hamburgers, jet trips above Iowa, Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton, and Ronald Reagan. Major takeaway is in the story’s headline: “God is not against building walls!” It should be noted that Jeffress is a member of Trump’s faith advisory council, has laid hands on the man in Trump Tower more than a year ago, has titled a sermon “Why Gay is Not OK,” and has declared Islam and Mormon teachings as heresies coming “from the pit of hell.”

And if you’re wondering, the marquee outside of First Baptist on Friday reads “Finishing Well.”

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Local News

Leading Off (1/20/17)

| 18 hours ago

Rick Perry’s Confirmation Hearing. Still gunning for energy secretary, the former Texas governor appeared before the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on Thursday. In addition to an awkward exchange with Sen. Al Franken, Perry vowed to “protect all of the science” from budget cuts.  Zac had an efficient recap, too.

Planned Parenthood Will Remain Part of Medicaid For Now. U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks paused the move to oust Planned Parenthood from the program. Had Sparks not intervened, the organization would have lost funding Saturday. Sparks postponed the decision until Feb. 21, giving him more time to consider the issue. If Planned Parenthood were to be removed, the impact would reach more than two dozen clinics that serve about 11,000 low-income women.

The Man Accused of Killing a Little Elm Officer Had a History of Mental Health Issues. Rudy Garcia, who fatally shot Little Elm Police Det. Jerry Walker earlier this week, was taking medication for his Schizophrenia, family members say.

Controversial Landlord May Sell 130 Lots to Habitat for Humanity. The lots, owned by Khraish Khraish of HMK, Ltd., are located in South Dallas and West Dallas. Through this agreement, Habitat for Humanity can purchase properties HMK deems are no longer useful as rental properties. Khraish is known for his public clash with city leaders, alleging they are attempting to force him out of business in an effort to gentrify West Dallas.

It’s Inauguration Day. You can listen live through KERA. If you don’t care to watch, Keller ISD won’t force you. But if you do, maybe you’ll spot Tony Romo somewhere in the crowd.

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Politics & Government

City Council Report: What Does the Word ‘Citywide’ Actually Mean?

| 1 day ago

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As expected, this week’s City Council meeting was jam-packed with actual city business and policy discussion both broad and nuanced — too much so for the liking of Councilman Lee Kleinman, who started off yesterday’s scheduled afternoon briefing on the crucial capital bond program by moving to postpone the presentation until “after recess,” meaning after the Council’s July vacation. The staffer who had been brought in to provide the bulk of the report explained why this wasn’t a particularly sound idea. “A November election requires that we call the election in August, right when you come back from the July break,” the staffer said. “That means that we’re really going to need to get the citywide projects selected in May. This briefing could wait until maybe after your spring break, but waiting until August is going to be really problematic.”

Councilman Philip Kingston added that the people of Dallas might prefer that the Council begin discussing the material to be presented then rather than right before the election so that, for instance, there would be sufficient time for public debate and input.

Councilwoman Sandy Greyson asked Kleinman to explain why he felt the need to postpone a presentation that had already been scheduled for yesterday.

“Because I’m exhausted from the bond stuff,” Kleinman actually replied.

His motion to delay was defeated 13 to 2.

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Politics & Government

Meet the Freshman State Rep. Who Organized The Dallas Women’s March

| 1 day ago

Freshman state Rep. Victoria Neave, a Democrat of Dallas, wanted her city included in a national conversation. And so she organized a local branch of the D.C. Women’s March,  a protest that’s expected to draw thousands to the nation’s capitol the day after President-elect Donald J. Trump drops the “elect” from his title.

Neave, who represents portions of East Dallas and Mesquite in House District 107, hopes to bring that same energy to the steps of City Hall. Marchers will leave from 1500 Marilla St. at 10 a.m. and march through downtown and into East Dallas, ending at the CWA Hall at Bryan Street and Washington Avenue.

“I think some folks were disappointed in the political process,” says Neave. “We don’t want anyone to be discouraged. There is power in numbers, and that’s what we’re going to show. Not everyone may agree with that we have to say, but we’re trying to keep this positive.”

Neave’s main concern is showing women that she has their best interests in mind. In preparation for the march, Neave and her office have been joined by various organizations such as Texas Young Democrats, Moms Demand Action, and Planned Parenthood. And after the march, they’ll take to the phones. Part of Neave’s motivation, as you’ll read below, is to keep women involved in the political process.

“It really just has snowballed,” she says. “And we’re really excited about that.”

With the march two days away, Neave discussed that power in numbers, her focus this legislative session, and being an advocate for women. It’s been edited for length and clarity.

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Local News

Attorney Brian Loncar’s Death Ruled Cocaine Overdose

| 2 days ago

Known as “The Strong Arm,” lawyer Brian Loncar was found in the front seat of his Rolls-Royce Wraith in front of his downtown office on December 4. The Dallas County medical examiner’s office now says he died of an accidental cocaine overdose; heart disease was a contributing factor. The 56-year-old had struggled with addiction for years and the days after his daughter Grace took her own life had brought that battle back to the foreground. This story doesn’t get any less sad.

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Medicine

Fort Worth State Senator Takes On Surprise Medical Billing

| 2 days ago

Figuring out what hospital your insurance company will actually pay for is tough enough. But determining ahead of time which of the physicians that practice at said hospital are in-network with your carrier is almost cruel. This is how balance billing happens—those surprise medical bills show up separate from your insurance statement after receiving care in a hospital or a surgery center and stick you with the difference.

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Leading Off

Leading Off (1/19/17)

| 2 days ago

City Hall Proposes Not to Save the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System. CFO Elizabeth Reich came up with the idea of creating a new system called the Public Safety Employees Retirement Fund, wherein young active employees could transfer to the new system (among other stipulations). However, Reich said this is an alternative, and the city is still trying to save the current pension system. Clearly, there are lots of unresolved issues either way.

Delaying the Bond Election Means Lots of Streets Won’t See Repairs. Because the City Council is holding off on the bond package until November (because of the above pension system debacle), 105 miles of deteriorating roads won’t be fixed. That’s because the delay takes $27 million from the street budget. So the street mileage to be fixed will go from 568 miles to 463 miles. We’ll see if council members can come up with the elusive $27 million.

More on Target Theater Director Attack. Derek Whitener, who was beaten outside the Target on Haskell over the weekend, is still in critical condition. Now his attorney says it looks like Whitener was beaten because he reported suspicious behavior to store security. Apparently he reported these two men, who seemed to be searching for unlocked cars, and when he left the Target, the men ambushed him. His attorney wants answers from Target as to why he wasn’t escorted after making the complaint.

Jewish Community Center Evacuated Due to Bomb Threats. Among other such centers throughout the country recently, the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center in North Dallas was evacuated yesterday morning after a bomb threat was made. No bombs were found, and everyone was allowed back inside. The FBI said yesterday that it’s investigating “possible civil rights violations in connection with threats.”

“Pudge” Rodriguez Selected for Hall of Fame. Yesterday, Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez became the second catcher in MLB history to earn Hall of Fame induction on the first attempt. He was always my mom’s favorite player during his 13 years with the Rangers. She’s going to be very happy about this.

Take Uber Today, Get Free Fitness Goodies. Today, starting at 11 a.m., you can get free products if you take Uber in certain city areas. Uber has partnered with Snap Kitchen and Outdoor Voices, among other health-centric companies, to create free Fit Kits with products and gift cards. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me.

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Arts & Entertainment

The Annual WELD Show Is Tomorrow

| 2 days ago

If you don’t know what WELD is, it’s a creative community and workspace in the Design District where photographers, designers, filmmakers, and other creative types work and collaborate. The space is open and bright, just as you’d expect. And every year, WELD hosts a celebration that showcases the art created by the people who work there. I’ve attended for the past few years and seen some pretty incredible work. Disclaimer: my friend is a very talented photographer who also happens to put this event together. But I’d go regardless. The artistry speaks for itself.

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