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Politics & Government

Politico: UT Dallas Professor May Be Trump’s Pick to Head Census

| 5 hours ago

Thomas Brunell is a professor at the University of Texas at Dallas who once wrote a book titled “Redistricting and Representation: Why Competitive Elections Are Bad for America.” In its pages, he argues against having a healthy mix of Democrats and Republicans in a voting district—packing the politically like-minded into their own voting districts would lead to higher approval ratings and happier voters. It is a stance opposite that of many preeminent political scientists, and Brunell has taken his beliefs to court as an expert witness in a dozen cases. Most were related to gerrymandering, which Brunell has criticized. However, he has testified on behalf of Republican legislatures that have been challenged over the redrawing of districts.

Why tell you all this: According to Politico, Brunell is also the man who President Donald Trump is “leaning toward” appointing to be the deputy director of the U.S. Census Bureau. It does not require a Senate confirmation, and, because the census currently lacks a permanent director, he will be its highest ranking member. As you can imagine, there is suddenly a lot of concern about what this could mean for the agency that counts the citizenry in order to determine voting districts:

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Transportation

Arlington Gets New Public Transit Next Month. Kind Of.

| 5 hours ago
A screenshot from Via’s website.

For years, Arlington had the unfortunate distinction of being the biggest American city without a public transportation system. That changed with the introduction of the Metro Arlington Express in 2013. However, the MAX bus and its single route never drew many riders, raising this awkwardly worded spin on the old thought experiment: if a city gets a bus and no one is there to ride it, does the city really have public transit?

The Arlington City Council voted earlier this month to scrap the MAX by the end of the year, to the consternation of its devotees, mostly UT Arlington students. But the city will still have public transit. Kind of.

Beginning Dec. 11, you’ll be able to get around Arlington via a ridesharing service, Via, that is being subsidized by the city for a one-year pilot project. The service operates up to 10 vans with room for six passengers apiece, and will run from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. six days a week. Riders will use the Via app to summon a mini-shuttle, shared with other riders, to a nearby corner. Riders pay a $3 flat rate for each trip in the service area, which will at first include the TRE rail station near DFW Airport, downtown Arlington, Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital, and entertainment options in the eastern-central part of the city. The service area will later expand to include UTA and the Parks Mall.

This is, in the parlance of startups, what they call “microtransit.” Via is already in Chicago and New York, and similar companies have footprints in places like San Fransisco and Austin. Elsewhere, public transit agencies have struck up limited partnerships with ridesharing services. DART, for example, just launched a pilot program that enlists Lyft to supply first and last mile paratransit for elderly and disabled riders. Arlington, though, will be the first city in the country to convert its (admittedly very meager) mass transit completely into microtransit.

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Urbanism

There Sure Are A Lot of Specials on Uptown’s Expensive Apartment Stock

| 10 hours ago

If you’re a Realtor, your expanding waistline has already told you there’s something going on in the apartment world. Almost any day of the week, some apartment complex is hosting lunch for Realtors and apartment referral agents. The goal isn’t Christmas cheer; it’s snagging tenants for their empty apartments. The current building cycle is slowing down.

The cranes aren’t silent, but there is a curbing of new construction as banks begin to restrict financing. What makes this cycle odd is that overall demand, the typical signal of a slowdown, is not waning. No, in this case it’s an affordability problem. Little has been built that’s affordable to vast numbers of people. Apartment owners are doubling down on move-in specials; high-end complexes are offering as much as three months of free rent. The coming pause is all about waiting until salaries catch up.

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Local News

Leading Off (11/21/17)

| 14 hours ago

DOJ Sues to Stop AT&T Merger With Time Warner. Did this happen because President Trump hates CNN, which is owned by Time Warner? Well, AT&T’s lawyer points out that the feds haven’t sued to stop a vertical merger since the Carter administration. David McAtee called the lawsuit “radical and inexplicable departure from decades of antitrust precedent.” (Side note: if you aren’t already using Playstation Vue to watch TV, then I’m looking at you with pity and also with an air of superiority.)

Idle Rich Pub Will Close in January. An Uptown stalwart that has been in business for 14 years will close its doors early next year to make way for an 18-story apartment complex that will serve far fewer pints of beer. I played a small role in naming the Idle Rich. The owners of the apartment complex have not yet sought my help in naming their new building.

First Woman Elected to Lead Dallas County Republicans. Missy Shorey replaced Phillip Huffines, who resigned as the chairman of the party to run for the Senate. Shorey is a resident of Lake Highlands and CEO of Shorey Public Relations, whose website notes: “On the most fundamental level, Shorey PR makes advantage by transforming disadvantages into advantages.” Good stuff.

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Arts & Entertainment

Philip Kingston Calls For Transparency From the Dallas Museum of Art

| 1 day ago

In case you missed it sneak through the news cycle the Saturday before Thanksgiving, Dallas Museum of Art senior curator Gavin Delahunty resigned, leaving only a vague statement released by the museum.

In it, Delahunty seemed to admit inappropriate behavior with an apology — nature of behavior not specified — yet pointed to allegations of said behavior as the reason for his stepping down. No one from the museum will talk, and the statement itself is causing concern for its capacity to silence those who’ve experienced “inappropriate behavior.” It is not clear whether there has been an investigation, although the trade publication ARTnews cited an anonymous source saying there was. Here’s the statement and my original post from Saturday on that part.

In an email Monday afternoon, DMA Communications Director Jill Bernstein declined to elaborate: “The Museum does not disclose information regarding personnel matters. We take any allegation of misconduct very seriously, and draw in legal and other specialized counsel to work with us as needed.”

A few hours later, museum staffers received this email from Brenda Barry, the chief financial officer: “We wanted to follow-up to the announcement of Gavin Delahunty’s resignation on Saturday. Per Museum policy, we are not permitted to discuss personnel matters. As a reminder, it is important that we all refrain from gossip and speculation. If you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.”

Councilman Philip Kingston oversees District 14 and the DMA. He learned of Delahunty’s resignation on Facebook and shared there that he “wasn’t thrilled with the secrecy.” Though he was quick to say he appreciates the DMA’s contributions to the city on the phone with me this morning, he said the scant information released will be insufficient for the council as it decides how to allocate funds in future budget talks. The city of Dallas helps pay to maintain the building and chips in for conservation of the museum’s art. The museum was the largest city-owned cultural benefactor of bond funds in the recent proposition; it received an additional $6 million to go toward rehabilitation projects.

“The statement they released did not inspire confidence,” he says. “I’m not saying I need to know everything right now. To say, ‘We’re conducting an investigation,’– it’s important to give Gavin Delahunty a chance to contest the allegations, if he were contesting them—that would have been fine. But there’s a tone of finality that’s inappropriate.”

Come to think of it, Kingston said, there was no official communication before the departure of the museum’s former director Maxwell Anderson, either.   

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Local News

Leading Off (11/20/17)

| 2 days ago

Cowboys Lose to Eagles. There was a moment when, even as trash as they had been playing, it looked like the Cowboys might pull off an ugly win. But then halftime came, and that was all over, as the Eagles scored 30 unanswered points. (I’ll be honest. I stopped watching and started writing tweets that involve complicated scenarios that end with me saying “Fellas,” that basically one person laughs at.) Not much else to discuss. Oh, why do coaches wear visors at night? Sub-point: has there ever been a white man who has worn a visor that has hair worth exposing to the elements?

Gavin Delahunty Leaves DMA, Citing “Allegations Regarding Inappropriate Behavior.” The senior curator of contemporary art resigned Saturday, and, as our Lyndsay Knecht writes, the museum’s statement regarding the matter is a bit disingenuous.

One Dies in Downtown Crash. The driver of a speeding 2017 Lexus lost control late Saturday night and rammed into the triple underpass by Dealey Plaza, ejecting a 31-year-old passenger. The passenger was taken to Parkland in critical condition with multiple head lacerations. The driver died at the scene. The photo of the car makes me never want to drive again.

Mavs … Win? Dallas blew out Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks, behind a team-record-tying 19 three-pointers. Tonight they play [squints] the Celtics? Well. Let’s get ready to catch that L.

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Commercial Real Estate

Turns Out, The Drever Has Been Posted for Foreclosure

| 4 days ago

After news broke on Monday that Drever Capital Management was in default for a $55 million loan to renovate the 1401 Elm building downtown, it turns out, the building has been posted for foreclosure.

Public filings show that the 52-story former First National Bank tower will be sold at auction on Dec. 5, following default of its loan from GCP Income Opportunities in April. This foreclosure record was filed Monday, the same day as a public record stating that the loan’s original trustee had been replaced with a substitute, an administrative step often indicating foreclosure is on the horizon. D CEO obtained the notice of foreclosure document on Friday.

From the notice of substitute trustee’s sale record: “Notice is hereby given that on Tuesday, December 5, 2017 … the substitute trustees will commence the sale of the property, in parcels or as a whole, at public auction to the highest bidder …”

Though Drever Capital Management statement on Monday did not directly address the foreclosure, a Drever spokesperson reiterated that same statement on Friday in regards to the foreclosure.

“We remain in ongoing discussions with the lender. While we are on track in closing new financing, construction continues and we are looking forward to completing construction on schedule in 2019,” the statement said.

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Politics & Government

No, Really, Mike Rawlings Does Not Want Pete Sessions’ Job

| 4 days ago

Because he’s either a masochist or painfully committed to the idea of bipartisan overtures, Mayor Mike Rawlings appeared this morning on conservative commentator and occasional Dallas Morning News columnist Mark Davis’ radio program.

After some aggressively jocular talk about the recently rescued downtown Holiday Parade—or “Christmas parade,” as Davis is contractually obligated, as a conservative radio host, to call it—and the secret of its as-yet-unnamed new corporate sponsor, there are maybe 10 minutes of chatter about Dallas’ Confederate statues. Skip it. Davis thumps his chest and airs his grievances. Nothing you haven’t heard before. But for a shining 30 seconds, starting at 14:30 in the 8 a.m. hour, we get something interesting.

Davis: Your level of interest, 0-10, in running for Congress against Pete Sessions.

Rawlings: Oh, zero. I talk to Pete. I talked to Pete the other day. I think Pete’s doing a good job for the city of Dallas. I’m a Democrat. I think the Republicans are off-point in many, many areas, so I’m going to be a Democrat. But my first job is being mayor of the city of Dallas, and Pete’s really been a great partner in that.

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Arts & Entertainment

At the MAC, Citizens of the World Get Played In A Golf Game

| 4 days ago

If your pockets aren’t deep enough to land a tee time at the new Trinity Forest Golf Club, let another South Dallas location quell your desires. This weekend, in conjunction with Cedars Open Studios, the MAC opens its latest exhibition, A-Hole in One by El Paso-based artist Angel Cabrales. The interactive outdoor golf-inspired exhibition engages viewers both politically and socially as they knock out a quick nine.

The course sprawls out on a portion of the MAC’s grassy courtyard. Participants “tee-off” from the top of a small hill looking down onto a series of inviting global greens with challenging hole locations. On Cabrales’ course, however, keeping score goes beyond simple birdies and pars and delves into international politics, the military industrial complex, gun culture, and the President’s penchant for Twitter.

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Business

A Nonprofit News Org Is Trying to Track Down Every Amazon HQ2 Bid

| 4 days ago

About a week ago, Muckrock, which describes itself as “a non-profit, collaborative news site that brings together journalists, researchers, activists, and regular citizens to request, analyze, and share government documents, making politics more transparent and democracies more informed,” launched an ambitious project. They would like to get their hands on every city’s bid for Amazon’s second headquarters. Why? Well, while only one of the estimated 238 bids submitted to the Seattle-based company will be chosen, the news site believes the precedent set by the bidding process will have a big impact on the future of corporate subsidies.

We’ve touched on this topic before, and I speculated that, perhaps, the subsidy math doesn’t pencil out — that the billions of dollars cities are expected to offer corporations are never returned in the form of increased tax revenue. Regardless, local governments around the country appear more than willing to shell out billions in tax dollars to lure a big-name corporate grab. Is this the best way to grow urban economies? Is this the best use of public resources? What message will this frenzy of bidding send other corporations? How long can subsidies grow until the entire racket is baldly absurd? Can you put a dollar figure on that tipping point?

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