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Good Public Transit

Why Tomorrow’s DART Board Appointment Vote Is About More than Cities and Suburbs

| 13 hours ago

In the aftermath of last week’s Dallas Area Rapid Transit board vote, which kept DART from taking out a $1 billion loan to build the Cotton Belt rail line from Plano to DFW Airport, the debate over the future of the transit agency has been framed as the city versus the suburbs.

This is somewhat understandable. After all, DART was sold as a regional network, and the cornerstone of that regional network is a light-rail system that is designed as a regional commuter rail service. By sheer geographic necessity, the first 30 years of construction of the network required building lots of miles of rails in Dallas. Now, having poured their sales tax dollars into that construction, the suburbs are impatient to see their portion of the rail finally delivered.

In a recent Dallas Morning News op-ed, former Addison city manager Ron Whitehead restates the terms of this mutual trust.

“We know the promises that were made and that Dallas could not have built the system that exists inside Dallas in a timely manner without the commitment of the suburbs,” Whitehead writes. “Dallas has already been well-served by its membership in DART. … Where now is the leadership that will talk about the region?”

However logical Whitehead’s argument may seem to appear at first glance, it is a dangerous perspective. This is not because DART and Dallas don’t have a commitment to think regionally about transit but rather because it is the expression of a political perspective that has long obscured the very mission, goals, and measures of success of the regional transit agency. Whitehead’s comments reflect an attitude that equates DART with its light-rail network, and it doubles down on a long-term transportation planning strategy that was questionable 30 years ago when it was first devised and is today demonstrably a failure.

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Dallas Lags Behind in Median Family Incomes

| 14 hours ago

Incomes vary for any number of reasonseducation, skills and talent, type of job, productivity, work effort, wealth, industries’ ups and downs, bad or good luck. The simple truth about the labor market goes a long way toward explaining the wide and persistent income gaps among Dallas-Fort Worth cities.

In 2015, median family incomes ranged from a high of $211,847 in University Park to a low of $28,427 in Wilmer, a small suburb to Dallas’ southeast. With median family income of $46,902, Dallas ranks fourth from the bottom, behind Wilmer, Hutchins, and Seagoville.

Median Income in Four North Texas Cities

Percent of families

Some other large North Texas cities:  $124,794 in Frisco, $101,750 in Plano, $78,682 in Arlington, $62,345 in Fort Worth, $57,926 in Irving, and $55,417 in Garland. Overall, the median for the DFW metropolitan area was $70,673. For the nation, it was $66,011.

Dallas generates a tremendous amount of wealth—the product of all those gleaming downtown skyscrapers, a vibrant financial sector, the booming real-estate sector, and the retail and services industries spread across the city. So why do the city’s incomes trail all but a handful of suburbs and the nation as a whole?

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Real Estate

I Researched the Best Dallas Neighborhoods and You’ll Never Believe What Happened

| 15 hours ago

When my wife and I first moved to Dallas 13 years ago, the directive to our real estate agent was simple: we want old, we want trees, we want easy access to DFW Airport (where my wife was going to work), we don’t want to spend a lot of money, and we never want to move again. Oh, and we’ve got one week to look.

The real estate agent took us to one neighborhood, Oak Cliff. We looked at three houses on Saturday; we made an offer on the third home, a 1924 bungalow, the following day. It was a for-sale-by-owner, so things got dicey for a minute when the artsy owner insisted on moving into the guest house for a month or two after we closed, but ultimately we didn’t care. We had old, we had trees, and we were never going to move again.

Thirteen years later, we have to use an upholstery clip remover to jimmy the front door so that it will lock because the foundation has shifted. The window blinds have started to fall apart on the living room window where rain leaks in, which in the big scheme of things doesn’t matter so much because we rarely sit in the living room due to the gale-force winds that blow through the original single-pane pulley windows. The rear screen door resembles a bear attack after the neighborhood stray cats decided to use it to sharpen their claws. And yet, our house has nearly doubled in value.

So when the editorial team was researching the city’s best neighborhoods for our Great Places to Live feature, I was sorely tempted.

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Local News

Leading Off (6/27/17)

| 18 hours ago

Dirk Nowitzki Wins Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year Award. I guess that’s a thing. The most important part of his acceptance speech is that he thanked his wife and family for letting him “stumble up and down the court for a couple more years.” Two more years? I’ll take it. As a certain someone I know would say: I see you, big German.

The Rangers Suck. After going up 7-1 on the Indians, they wound up losing yesterday 15-9. Every Indian in the lineup had a hit. That’s not good.

Zeke Poses Nude. He did it for ESPN The Magazine’s “Body Issue.” As Channel 8 explained: “Zeke is one of 23 athletes featured in this summer’s ESPN ‘Body Issue,’ a magazine featuring nude — but not X-rated — photos of some of the biggest stars in sports.” Whew. Thanks for the clarification.

Body of Sailor Recovered From White Rock Lake. Conrad Callicoatte was 80. He’d been sailing for 40 years. For some reason, after his boat capsized Sunday — even though he was talking to people as he waited for a rescue boat — he went under and didn’t resurface

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State Fair of Texas

Dallas Has Business to Settle with the State Fair of Texas

| 1 day ago

I’m going to steal and modify a metaphor that Jim Schutze uses in his column today about the latest shenanigans involving Fair Park and the State Fair of Texas:

Imagine you own a business and you rent an office in a building. Every month you pay rent, and the cost of that rent includes a portion of the building’s overall common area operating expenses, a pretty standard condition in commercial office leases. But what if you decide you didn’t want to pay your portion of the operating expenses? What if, in fact, over the course of a ten-year lease, you never paid those operating expenses? What do you think the landlord would do?

Simple: you’d get kicked out of your space — and probably a lot sooner than the time it took to rack up ten years-worth of unpaid rent. And after you got evicted, you’d probably get sued by the landlord, who, understandably, would want the back rent you failed to pay as part of the terms of the lease.

Now let’s translate that situation to Fair Park and the State Fair.

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D CEO Named Country’s Top Regional Business Magazine … Again

| 2 days ago

For the fifth straight year, D CEO has been named the best regional business magazine in the country. The D Magazine Partners publication snagged the honor again on Saturday at Dallas’ Fairmont Hotel, where the national Alliance of Area Business Publishers met for its annual summer conference and gave its Editorial Excellence Awards to newspaper and magazine business periodicals. D CEO won a total of seven, including four gold awards.

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Real Estate

Is Dallas’ Housing Market Cooling Off?

| 2 days ago

They are workers relocating from Southern California, following employers like Toyota and Jacobs Engineering. They are college graduates moving from the Midwest to start careers in what is, reportedly, the country’s best city in which to find work. They are highly skilled immigrants from India capitalizing on a demand for tech workers. They are people from the East Coast who are simply tired of schlepping through slush every winter. They keep coming to Dallas, waves and waves of them, all looking for places to live. Looking and buying and boosting prices.

Almost 800,000 people have come to the Dallas area since 2010, more people than live in Washington, D.C. Almost 86,000 moved here last year alone. Add the deaths and births, and last year the Dallas area’s population increased by 143,000. That made Dallas the No. 1 place in the nation for population growth in 2016.

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Local Government

Anna Casey Dominates Another Dallas Election

| 2 days ago

Anna Casey, the longtime Dallas-area political consultant, looked at the group of City Council candidates assembled before her in Councilman Philip Kingston’s house, near Lower Greenville. She told them that she saw greatness in each. “As you guys know, you’re all my candidates. Everyone in here is my candidate,” she said. It was spring, before the May election, and Casey was addressing four incumbents (Kingston, Scott Griggs, Mark Clayton, and Adam Medrano) and three challengers (Candy Evans, Omar Narvaez, and Dominique Torres). “And I wouldn’t pick you if I didn’t see a winner in you, if I didn’t see that visionary leadership that you can and have brought or will bring to the city.”

Then Casey made a slight pivot, toward herself. “And, you know, quite frankly, there’s some things that I believe in,” she told the group. “I would like to see a Dallas—I grew up in Dallas, this is my hometown—I would like to see a Dallas for its people, governance that’s enlightened, and for us to be the greatest place in Texas, one of the greatest places in the world.” Although light on specifics, she concluded that it was this shared vision that made this group one worth belonging to. “We’re a natural team.”

In this past election, much was written about the “shadowy Super PAC” (D Magazine’s words) named For Our Community, which is overseen by another longtime Dallas-area political consultant, Mari Woodlief. The attention was understandable. FOC raised nearly $200,000 and spent heavily trying to unseat Kingston, failing spectacularly. I wrote about Woodlief and FOC in August 2015 (“The Most Powerful Woman in Dallas Politics”) and said in that piece that Woodlief’s power-brokering raised three important questions: who is she, why is she so powerful, and why do so many people think this is a bad thing?

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