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Leading Off (1/20/17)

| 58 mins 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?

| 17 hours ago

dallas_city_hall

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

| 17 hours 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

| 19 hours 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

| 20 hours 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)

| 24 hours 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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Business

The Pension Fund Crisis: How Should You Invest Your Money?

| 2 days ago

Compare and contrast. Here’s a DMN personal finance column from last summer advocating investment in municipal bonds.

[I]nvestment grade municipal bonds are relatively safe because the cities, counties, school districts, hospital districts and airports that issue this debt have the financial wherewithal — mainly tax revenue — to pay it back. It is true that there have been some high-profile municipal bond defaults in recent years, such as in Stockton, California, and Detroit, but overall the default rate for munis is exceedingly low.

Now here’s a column from ValueWalk yesterday that argues the Dallas fire and cop pension fiasco is a canary in coal mine and that municipalities across the country — heck, even states — will in coming years have to file for bankruptcy:

The next substantial fall in asset prices will sharpen the focus on budget deficits and pension underfunding, with the most indebted and underfunded states likely to find they are unable to rollover their debts at any price. Remaining residents will be negatively impacted, pensioners will see their payments slashed, and bondholders will recover little, if any, of their debt. As there is virtually no political will to take action to avoid these problems, investors should position their portfolios in expectation that these events will happen.

What’s in your wallet?

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Media

KVIL Is Dead. Long Live Amp 103.7?

| 2 days ago

Amp

First we lost The Edge. Now KVIL is dead. God, 2017 is the worst year ever! Says Brian Purdy, CBS Radio market manager: “KVIL has a rich legacy in Dallas-Fort Worth, but it’s not your mother’s radio station anymore — unless, of course, your mom is super cool.” Here’s your new Amp 103.7. Expect to hear Ariana Grande, The Chainsmokers, Maroon 5, and Rihanna. Zac is going to love this.

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Media

Voice Media Group To Sell LA Weekly

| 2 days ago

Observer

Voice Media Group, the parent company of the Dallas Observer is selling one of its largest remaining assets, the LA Weekly. You can read the full press release below, from the M&A firm that was hired to do the deal. Since 2013, Voice Media Group has sold six of its papers; this would be the seventh. I can’t help but wonder when the Observer’s turn will come. 

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