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Politics & Government

Bobby Abtahi (Almost Certainly) to Replace Max Wells as President of the Park Board

| 1 hour ago

Bobby Abtahi, onetime City Council candidate and suspicious traveler, will almost certainly be appointed today to the Dallas Park and Recreation Board and assume the role of president, replacing the outgoing Max Wells. First the City Council has to approve the mayor’s appointment, but I’m assuming he has already counted the votes.

Reached while traveling out of the country this morning, Abtahi told me that he was surprised when the mayor asked him to take the role. He was also surprised by the timing of the vote; he had expected it wouldn’t come for another three weeks. “I would say I’m humbled, but that would be a lie,” Abtahi said. (That’s a joke. He was referring to a pet peeve of mine, when people misuse the word “humble.”) When I said that this appointment sets him up nicely to run later for City Council, Abtahi said, “I don’t know about that. The mayor and I didn’t even talk about that.”

Now would be a good time to listen to our podcast with Abtahi from September, if you haven’t already. We asked Park Board member Paul Sims to debate with Abtahi the merits of Walt Humann’s plan for Fair Park.

UPDATE (9:43) Against Councilman Philip Kingston’s protestations, Abtahi just got approval from Council.

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Local News

Leading Off (3/1/17)

| 2 hours ago


It’s too complicated to explain. I was working on a story for our April issue and was deep in the weeds. Holland was nice enough to trade Leading Off days with me, and then I dropped the ball. It turns out not to be too complicated to explain. Anyway, read this story about Mack Beggs, the Euless Trinity junior who became a national story because he’s transgender and won a state wrestling title competing against girls. It’s his first lengthy interview, and it’s worth your time.

Oh, and Trump happened last night. That’s not local. I probably shouldn’t have even mentioned it.

Okay! Back on track!

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Local News

Leading Off (2/28/17)

| 1 day ago

North Texas High Schools in the News. Last week, Highland Park High School students trolled bestselling author Jamie Ford during a speaking engagement. Then, yesterday, Plano West High School students arrived to find racial slurs, profanity, and “Plano East Rules” spray painted all over their campus. Also, yesterday: Texas Senator Don Huffines got irrationally testy when a group of Richardson ISD high school students questioned the private school voucher system (he later apologized). All the while, Decatur High School students have been building a monster truck and crushing it.

The Two Sides of Price. Attorneys made their opening statements yesterday in the John Wiley Price corruption trial. The prosecution asked jurors to “follow the money,” the bulk of which came from political consultant Kathy Nealy who allegedly collected it from companies angling for approvals and county contracts. The defense argued that federal agents have been sitting on this info for more than a decade, criticized the indictment for being too wordy and biased, and said the government has misconstrued normal exchanges between buddies into shady business dealings.

Drone Nearly Clocks a CareFlite Helicopter. Yowza. Keep it under 400 feet, folks.

Collecting Whataburger Order Numbers is a Thing. Denton County police delivered a warning, but apparently this is not a new phenomenon (I moved to Texas when I was 12 and no one ever told me).

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How Big is the Pension Fund Crisis? New DART Bailout Proposal Offers Perspective.

| 2 days ago

The dominoes keep falling in the ongoing saga over the Dallas Police and Fire Pension Fund. Late last week, the Dallas Morning News reported on the latest idea to fix the troubled Dallas Police and Fire Pension Fund, and it is a whopper of a proposal.

In short, Dallas City Council member Scott Griggs has drafted a resolution that would take one-eighth of the sales tax Dallas currently contributes to Dallas Area Rapid Transit and use it to shore up the sinking fund. That would generate around $32 million-per-year for the police and fire pension, though it would leave an already financially challenged DART with a big budget gap.

How big?

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Nature & Environment

Blackland Prairie Folks Are Excited About Re-Wilding the Trinity

| 2 days ago


I had no idea that there was a group of folks so dedicated to grass. I’m talking about the Blackland Prairie Chapter of the Native Prairies Association of Texas. Most press releases that come through my email don’t get much attention. This one caught my eye. For reasons that will become obvious:

It was with great excitement that the Blackland Prairie Chapter of the Native Prairies Association of Texas learned of the upcoming March 8 symposium sponsored by D Magazine, “Envisioning the Trinity: Theme Park or Natural Wonder.” We support all efforts to create a Trinity River park system that works with this magnificent Blackland Prairie river and its native grasses, and not against it. The ideas outlined in D’s March “Wild Dallas” section on the Trinity have great merit and need vigorous exploration and support. We welcome the Blackland Prairie’s return and offer our resources in service to the prairie.

Before settlers reached North Texas, the Trinity River floodplain was thick with big bluestem, switchgrass, Indian grass, eastern gamagrass, and other natives. Rabbits and deer roamed amid the long strappy leaves soaring six feet tall or more. At the approach of a bobcat or coyote, large flocks of quail, doves and other birds fluttered into the sky.

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Hundreds of Dallas Bridges Are ‘Functionally Obsolete’

| 2 days ago

The numbers on Dallas’ deteriorating streets are grim, and anecdotal evidence from drivers paints an even more dire picture, of tires blown out and tongues accidentally bit on especially bumpy roads. It often seems we’re only a few weeks of infrastructure decline away from seeing potholes that swallow beloved family pets and belch out clouds of subterranean gas.

But our bridges, at least compared to the rest of the country, aren’t in terrible shape. They’re still not great, though: of the nearly 3,000 bridges in Dallas County, 17 are considered structurally deficient, and 941 are functionally obsolete. This is according to data from the 2015 National Bridge Inventory, compiled by the Federal Highway Administration and packaged in a user-friendly interactive feature by The Washington Post.

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