Dallas City Council candidate Jesse Moreno recently found himself in an interesting predicament. He is running to represent District 2, an oddly shaped swath of the city that sweeps from Love Field, the Medical District, south of downtown, and into the Cedars and Deep Ellum. From January 1 through March 22, he raised more than $36,000 in contributions, but a D Magazine analysis revealed that nearly a third of the money appeared to come from limited partnerships that were governed by a single person. Election law limits contributions in Dallas municipal races to just $1,000 per individual and certain businesses.
When asked last week about the origins of the money, Moreno pointed out—correctly—that everything was aboveboard. This week, though, he has returned all $11,000, saying that he wants to avoid even the whiff of funny business. The episode illustrates an interesting gray area in election law that it appears few local campaigns have taken advantage of, particularly during this cycle.
The contributions, each in the amount of $1,000, were made by 11 limited partnerships all registered to the developer Scott Rohrman, whose purchase of many buildings in Deep Ellum almost a decade ago helped begin the neighborhood’s latest resurgence. Rohrman says each limited partnership has varying interests “in or near” the district and wanted to support Moreno. And that is, without question, legal. The state’s election code allows individuals and certain businesses (e.g., limited partnerships, limited liability corporations) to give to political candidates; the city’s election code limits each to a maximum $1,000. But what happens when one individual controls multiple partnerships?
“Is this the sign of someone who’s putting his toe right on the ethical line, or, alternatively, is this the sign of a shrewd businessperson who knows how to get things done?” asked Dallas appellate attorney Chad Ruback, who has experience with election law. He was speaking generally about the situation after hearing a description of it. “I think two different voters can interpret it two different ways.”
Rohrman says even raising that question was enough for him.
“We determined that everything is aboveboard, but I did not want anyone questioning my intent,” he said. “The donations have been sent back.”Read More
COVID Update. Dallas County yesterday reported 416 new cases and nine deaths. (As always, bear in mind that Monday’s numbers are a two-day total, because the county doesn’t report numbers on Sunday.) Twenty-five percent of the state’s population 16 and older is now fully vaccinated. Get yours, if you haven’t already. County Judge Clay Jenkins says there is no longer a wait; you just need to get registered and get jabbed.
DISD Students Still Not Going to Class. Yesterday was the first day of the district’s final nine-week grading period for the year, and it asked all of its 8,800 seniors to go to school in person. Only 43 percent did. As you might imagine, a bunch of kids are not on pace to graduate on time.
Lakewood Elementary Teacher Arrested for Child Porn. Kevin Rayo, 25, a first-grade teacher, was booked into jail yesterday on one count of possession of child pornography. Those were the only details the DMN had as of last night.
Residential Builders Are Busy in North Texas. In the first three months of this year, new home starts rose 40 percent, with 15,063 single-family homes under construction. And that’s with a shortage of building materials and the freeze in February. Good job, builders.
Tinder Scores With New Marketing Officer. George Felix used to work for Yum Brands, where he jazzed up Plano-based Pizza Hut and KFC. Now he’s the chief marketing officer for Tinder, which is owned by Dallas-based Match Group, and whose new slogan will be “Nobody out-pizzas the Tinder.”Read More
We editors get pitched story ideas from writers and publicists all the time. But you’d be surprised at how ineffective most of the pitches are. They are long-winded. Or they contain next to no information. Or they include links and attachments without any sort of enticing summary about what might be found there. Nobody’s got time for that.
And then, every once in a while, we get a pitch delivered on our doorstep prettily wrapped and tied with a bow. The one that makes you go, “I want to know more about that guy.”
Dallas-based author Alex Temblador sent me one such pitch at the end of last year. It started like this:
“Sometimes the most talented of people are hidden right under your nose — that’s the case with Scott Tixier. Born in France, Tixier is a Grammy Award-winning jazz violinist who teaches at UNT’s renowned jazz program.” She want on to (briefly) note that he has performed with the likes of Stevie Wonder and John Legend, has contributed to the soundtracks of The Lion King and John Wick, and has performed in house bands on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon and America’s Got Talent.
She closed with: “I’d like to guide the conversation toward a few points that are timely right now — like how he continues to record during a pandemic, his perspective as a Frenchman on the DFW music scene, and what it’s like to be a successful Black man in the classical music industry, which is still not as diverse as it could be (his perspective as a young Black man in America during the Black Lives Matter resurgence could be an interesting take, too!).”
She didn’t even have to mention that he looks like a young Lenny Kravitz, has an identical twin jazz pianist brother, and is related to royalty. I was in. You can read her resulting profile here. It’s online today.Read More
The last two weekends, hundreds of volunteers went to work at Dallas ISD elementary schools. They renovated teachers’ lounges with some help from El Centro design students. They built up outdoor learning spaces, installing shade sails and planting gardens, even varnishing tree stumps to serve as seats. Indoors, hallways and classrooms were transformed with artwork and positive messaging.
“From the moment a student walks in the classroom they can see and feel that they are valued and their education is important,” says Abigail Williams, the CEO of United to Learn, a nonprofit that supports schools by investing in teacher training, student tutoring, and campus improvement projects. The nonprofit works with 47 underfunded Dallas ISD elementary schools, where 90 percent of students are living in poverty — United to Learn steps in where public dollars stop, Williams says.
This is the fourth year that volunteers have blanketed elementary school campuses as part of the nonprofit’s Community Campus Day. This time it feels especially meaningful, Williams says. The winter storms in February left behind damage at schools across the district. The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted education at every level, requiring adjustments to physical learning environments and putting unprecedented stress on teachers and students.
Fixing up aging buildings and installing affirmative messaging can inspire students, letting them know they – and their education – matter. And it’s a good way to give back. “It’s hard to think of a time when being out in the community is more important,” Williams says.Read More
On Friday, Deep Vellum publisher Will Evans posted to Twitter a shot of himself with County Commissioner John Wiley Price. The two are standing in Price’s office, holding copies of The Accommodation, which D Magazine called “the most dangerous book in Dallas.” If you don’t know about the book, you can read about it here. Short version: Jim Schutze wrote it, Price owns the rights, and it has been out of print for a long time. The book comes out in September. If you pre-order it through Deep Vellum, yours will be a signed copy.
All of which I tell you by way of setup for our discussion about who should read the hypothetical audio version of the book. Former council member Philip Kingston replied to Evans’ tweet saying that he wants to do the reading and that he has support from Jim. I attempted to confirm this by texting Jim. My laziness didn’t get me very far, because all Jim did was text back a joke about how Kingston was also standing in for him for the naked pictures.
So I would just like to state here, for the record, that Kingston’s participation on both fronts would be a bad idea. For obvious reasons, Jim’s body double should be Post Malone. As for the reading, I can’t immediately think of a worse choice than Kingston. This has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with Kingston’s nasally, irritating voice. No disrespect.
Here, then, are my picks to do the audio book version The Accommodation:Read More
A lot of Michael Sorrell’s story involves basketball. It took him from Chicago to Oberlin College in Ohio, where he was a two-time captain and high-scoring forward for the school’s basketball team, fifth on the the Ohio college’s all-time scoring list when he graduated. It brought him to Paul Quinn College, after he met alums from the school playing in the competitive runs at the downtown YMCA, and he decided he wanted to repay the kindness shown to a newcomer in Dallas by getting involved. And it almost took him in a different direction, when he was involved in an attempt to buy the Memphis Grizzlies in 2007, as part of a group headed by former Duke standouts Christian Laettner and Brian Davis. In fact, the deal was so close that Sorrell was on his way to scout Kevin Durant.
It ultimately fell through, and, instead, Sorrell is the longest-serving president in the history of Paul Quinn College. And based on his success there over these past 14 years, I have no doubt that if he was the team president of the Grizzlies right now instead, they would be fighting for a top seed in the Western Conference playoff standings. If he could take a school that was on the verge of losing its accreditation and hemorrhaging students, on a campus that was literally crumbling, and turn it into a model for a new way of thinking about and approaching higher education, I can’t imagine what Sorrell would do with Ja Morant and millions of dollars to play with.
I spoke to Sorrell over Zoom in February, on the coldest day in Texas in a century, and this story is the result.Read More