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Local News

Leading Off (3/24/17)

| 3 hours ago

DISD’s IT and Procurement Departments Wasted $1 Million. Staff bypassed competitive bidding for data analysis software and used approved vendors as a “pass-through” for services from an unapproved company, according to an external investigation. These actions dodged the district’s purchasing policies as well as state law. Although seven district employees have been disciplined, the district is not naming those involved at this time. 

Aaron Family Jewish Community Center Evacuated. The North Dallas center was “temporarily closed to access” for about 35 minutes Thursday afternoon. Employees did not share details as to why the center was temporarily closed. Earlier this month, the JCC received threatening phone calls and emails.

Richardson Man Accused of Supporting ISIS. A federal grand jury in Dallas indicted 40-year-old Said Azzam Mohamad Rahim, who is charged with six counts of making false statements to federal agents investigating his alleged support of the terrorist group. The charges stem from comments he made to federal officials earlier this month during a terrorism investigation.

Bikers Accuse Keller’s Drive-In of Discrimination. The restaurant chain is bringing back an old policy that prohibits motorcyclists from eating on the premises. The decision has upset bikers and motorcycle enthusiasts, who have long used the restaurants’ parking lots as destinations for bike and car shows.

Dallas Zoo Welcomes Two New Hippos. The large mammals will be part of the zoo’s $14 million Simmons Hippo Outpost, which is scheduled to open in April. The animals arrived earlier this week, with one coming from Los Angeles and the other from Albuquerque.

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Politics & Government

City Council Report: Just Who the Heck Is Dick Zinnendorf?

| 17 hours ago

dallas_city_hall

Each time some citizen comes up to the podium for the three-minute “open mic” speeches that every Dallasite is entitled to deliver before the Dallas City Council at the beginning of its weekly meetings, a little mystery-drama unfolds as observers look for early clues as to which of several categories the speaker will fall under. The most common of these are Well-Informed Citizen; Obvious Political Crank; Here to Make Goofy, Good-Natured Announcement; and Mentally Ill Homeless Person, with the latter divided into further sub-categories such as Angry Over Vague Recent Incident or About to Accuse Mayor Pro Tem Monica Alonzo of Running Underground Prostitution Ring. Generally you can figure out which is which within 20 seconds; some defy categorization for up to a minute. But the first speaker on Wednesday morning conducted himself with such extraordinary thematic ambiguity that it remained unclear as to what he was about and even whether he really existed at all, at least until after some further digging. And then things got strange.

Dick Zinnendorf strode to the podium in a camo t-shirt to announce, “I’m here to defend the people of Dallas from the menace of Bobby Abtahi!” This was ambiguous enough. Abtahi is the newly appointed Parks Board head and one of several associates of developer and Rawlings backer Walt Humann that the mayor has managed to place on the board in recent months. Zinnendorf, then, could be a Well-Informed Citizen, but without further clues, one couldn’t rule out Crank or Mentally Ill. Presumably whatever he said next would narrow things down. But it didn’t.

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Transportation

These Are the Noisiest Places in Dallas

| 18 hours ago

The U.S. Department of Transportation this week released a national “noise map,” tracking decibel levels in cities around the country. The map focuses exclusively on noise caused by transportation, which explains why there is not an angry red splotch around my downstairs neighbor’s apartment and his expensive speakers.

Unsurprisingly, the most transportation-related noise in Dallas stems from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, a giant purple streak on the relatively low-decibel orange coating of the region’s many surface streets. Love Field, similarly, brings the noise. Those pink lines crossing the map would be our highways.

Airports and highways, it turns out, are loud.

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Good Public Transit

Why Dallas Needs to take the Lead on Downtown Subway, Streetcar, and Highway Plans

| 21 hours ago

After a year of debate over how and where to build the much-needed second downtown Dallas DART light rail alignment, there is a chance that any dreams of downtown subway will have to wait for a new presidential administration. That’s because the preliminary budget the Trump administration presented Congress includes some blanket language that wholesale precludes the federal government from implementing any new infrastructure funding—a problem for DART since the billion-dollar D2 project is contingent on receiving federal funds from an Obama-era “Core Capacity” transit grant program.

Nonetheless, at  a stakeholder meeting yesterday, DART officials said they would continue to move ahead with the plans for D2 presuming that once the raw meat of Trump’s budget gets filtered through Congress, the sausage that comes out the other end will include pork for subway building.

Let’s hope so.

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Politics & Government

Watch Barrett Brown Smoke in Video Produced by Reason

| 22 hours ago

Barrett Brown will be along in a bit with a report from yesterday’s City Council meeting. To tide you over, I offer the below video, posted yesterday to Reason’s site. It’s about 19 minutes long. If you don’t have the time right now to watch the entire thing, do yourself the favor and watch the first few minutes. You will get to see Barrett thoughtfully smoking his robot cigarette while he loiters outside City Hall. Then there’s a good shot of him loitering in the D Magazine lobby, which is followed by a shot of him thoughtfully drinking coffee at his desk (which desk he was recently booted from, forced to relocate to the area of the office where the women from D Home make their magazine (I’ve yet to hear complaints from them, but one never knows; they might just be too afraid to complain)).

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Leading Off

Leading Off (3/23/17)

| 1 day ago

Former Baylor Tight End Charged with Sexual Assault. Tre’Von Armstead, who had been accused of gang raping a woman in 2013, was arrested yesterday—four years later. McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna said this was due to newly discovered evidence as well as Baylor finally showing some cooperation. Armstead faces three felony counts of sexual assault.

City Council Approves Ethics Rules Overhaul. Yesterday, after months of debate, the vote was unanimous to change the city’s ethics rules in order to spare City Hall from some political influence. “You’ve done something remarkable. This is an amazing thing for the city,” Mayor Mike Rawlings said. This overhaul includes barring successful campaign managers from lobbying officials for a year post-campaign and barring council members from appointing their staff to boards. These and other changes will go into effect July 1.

Dallas Getting Another Downtown Park. The city council approved yesterday a development called Pacific Plaza Park, which will be mostly funded by a $15 million donation and located between St. Paul Street and Harwood Street, north of Pacific Avenue. A parking lot will be unpaved to make this park happen, and construction is set to begin by early next year.

Teen Loses Suit Against Lewisville ISD. A ninth-grade girl, who had accused two football players of rape in 2012, lost the case that she brought against Lewisville ISD, which she says retaliated against her and favored the football players over her. This happened even though district officials testified that they didn’t completely adhere to Title IX rules during investigation of the allegations.

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Politics & Government

Meet the Shadowy Super PAC Behind the Attack Campaign on Philip Kingston

| 2 days ago

For Our Community, the political action committee run by the woman who helped get Mike Rawlings elected mayor, is doing its best to paint incumbent Councilman Philip Kingston as an ineffective bully. That’s the “disturbing truth” in the lengthy URL of its new attack ad campaign, disturbingtruthaboutphilip.com, which proclaims that Kingston is “unfit to serve our community” due, presumably, to his “track record of contempt, disdain, and outright bullying as a Dallas City Councilman.” It then offers three quotes, excerpted from council minutes and news reports, as proof.

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Sports & Leisure

Harrison Barnes Just Might Be the Most Awesome Maverick Ever

| 2 days ago

Harrison Barnes came to Dallas just as the city was dealing with the downtown shootings last summer. What an introduction to a new home. As he writes is this fine essay for The Players’ Tribune, he almost turned around at the airport and left. But not for the reason you might guess. Read the whole thing. It’s worth your time, and it’ll make you realize how lucky the team is to have him. 

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Nature

Welcome to Bobcat City U.S.A.

| 2 days ago

Perhaps by now you’ve perused our March issue, which is titled “Wild Dallas.” Maybe you saw it on the newsstand, looked at the pretty picture on the front cover and thought, “Huh, I wonder where that is.” After all, the shot (a “secret bird pond” near the Audubon Center) doesn’t look like what most of us experience during our day-to-day travels and travails through Dallas. Concrete, intersections, manicured lawns, maybe a park with a playground: these are the normal landscapes we encounter in Dallas.

But Dallas has a wild side.

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