A Daily Conversation
About Dallas

Local News

A Refugee Crisis Reaches Dallas

| 10 mins ago

As director of the Human Rights Initiative of North Texas, Bill Holston has been flooded in recent days with calls and emails from people trying to find out how they can help those families separated at the border under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” enforcement policy on illegal immigration.

The first thing I say to everybody is, ‘We’ve been representing asylum-seekers from Central America for 18 years. Children from Central America for the last 12 years. And we’ve been seeking volunteers to help us do that the whole time,'” Holston says.

As a practical matter, there hasn’t been much impact from the border crisis here in Dallas, even as images of children pulled away from their parents continue to dominate local and national news coverage. Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins and the heads of other North Texas organizations have made it known they’re open to housing migrant children, but the only shelter in the area presently welcoming an undisclosed number of those children is in Fort Worth, where that city’s Catholic Charities branch has opened a 26-bed facility. Parents arrested at the border are being sent to federal detention centers elsewhere, while most of the children are being housed at short-term shelters in El Paso and in South Texas. Holston is pointing well-meaning volunteers toward the appropriate agencies on the border, including RAICES, a nonprofit providing legal support to immigrants and refugees in Texas.

Although President Trump said this morning that he would sign an order ending the family separations at the border without stopping the zero tolerance criminal enforcement, he provided few details. Holston is skeptical of how that will work: “The zero tolerance policy goes hand in hand with family separation. Because you can’t house children in a jail.” Family detention centers, of the sort that predate the Trump administration, won’t address the root of the issue.

Holston worries that uproar over the thousands of families separated at the border, as justified as that uproar may be and as much as he shares in the outrage, is missing the bigger point. For one thing, this is “just the latest and grossest” way the federal government is hurting refugees, Holston says. (Today, coincidentally, is World Refugee Day.) There was Trump’s travel ban, which included war-torn Syria. This year, there were steep cuts made to the United States’ refugee resettlement program. And that’s important, because most of the people now being detained at the border are not migrants looking for American jobs, but refugees and asylum-seekers looking for a peaceful place to live.

“I think that’s the problem with the current framing of this issue. The problem is that we have a refugee crisis on our border, with tens of thousands of people fleeing violence in Central America,” Holston says. “The problem is that we’ve treated them as migrants, rather than refugees. Until we face this as a humanitarian issue, we’re going to continue to have this problem.”

Read More

Natural Disasters

When a Roomba Meets Cat Poo, Just Run

| 3 hours ago
As George Orwell once said, cats sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough women stand ready to do violence on their behalf. Or something like that.

I have two friends. Let’s call them Maeve and Dolores. They are married, live near Bachman Lake in an adorable house inside the recent gas leak evacuation area, and have two cats and a Roomba that they bought on Amazon a few months ago. (To clarify: they bought the Roomba on Amazon. Fat Baby and Bad Baby, the cats, were acquired through other, non-Bezos-related means.)

Last night, while folding laundry in the bedroom, they set the Roomba to start vacuuming the guest room. I imagine them watching Westworld as they paired socks and debated the meaning of aspect ratios, Manifest Destiny, and free will, enjoying a quiet moment of domestic bliss. Until Maeve smelled what she would later describe as a “nightmare cat poop.” Only she didn’t say poop. And it was more of a descriptive exclamation that started with “What the” and ended with something unprintable.

At almost the exact same moment, Dolores leapt to grab the remote as Maeve yelled, “Grab the remote and TURN IT OFF!”

Read More


What Justin Henry’s Election Means for DISD

| 4 hours ago

Tomorrow, the Dallas ISD school board meets for the first time since Justin Henry defeated longtime trustee Bernadette Nutall for the District 9 seat. Late Saturday evening, my phone was blowing up with joyful texts, emojis, Bitmojis, and GIFs. Why? Partly because people are very happy Nutall is gone. She was a divisive trustee who formed — with Audrey Pinkerton, Joyce Foreman, and Lew Blackburn — a strong status-quo bloc on the board, one that cloaked itself in the language of fiscal responsibility but that really worked for special interests unrelated to student outcomes. That’s why many see Henry’s election as a catalytic event, one that is sure to help kids in the short and long terms.

I should point out that Henry is no yes man. From the time I met him years ago, to the point at which I heard his shaky voice deliver the first draft of his stump speech in his campaign manager’s living room, all the way up to election night, he has been a thoughtful and independent candidate. Henry has spent years thinking about the best policy for kids, debating policy questions with people from all sides of the education table. He has come to his conclusions organically. Anyone, even his allies, who thinks otherwise will be in for a unpleasant surprise.

That said, here are a few predictions about the ways in which Henry’s election will change the board dynamics:

Read More

Leading Off

Leading Off (6/20/18)

| 7 hours ago

Dallas Oil Firm Sued by SEC. Dallas’ Texas Coastal Energy Company was accused of fraud in a lawsuit filed by the SEC yesterday. It claims that the firm committed fraud against 80 oil investors to the tune of more than $8 million. The company was also compared to The Wolf of Wall Street in a suit by a former employee.

Plano Councilman Sues to Halt Recall Vote. You may remember that Plano council member Tom Harrison shared an anti-Islam video on Facebook back in February. He is now suing to get the option to recall him taken off the November ballot. The mayor of Plano and other people had called for him to resign, but he wouldn’t. Just do the right thing, Tom.

Anti-Gay Vandalism in Denton Causes People to Support LGBTQ Charity. Lena Glover and Robert White came home to find their house vandalized—their pride flag destroyed and a slur spray-painted on the garage. One of their other roommates created a GoFundMe asking for donations to a Denton charity supporting LGBTQ residents, which has so far raised $1,500.

Man’s Arm in Peril after He Was Mauled by Dogs. 57-year-old Ronald Bell was attacked by three dogs in southern Dallas near his home. His arm was hurt so badly that it may need to be amputated. Two of the dogs were taken by Dallas Animal Services, who cited their owner for not vaccinating or spaying or neutering the animals.

Security Guard Wounded in Bar Shooting Near Love Field. While investigating a suspicious person early this morning, a security guard was shot and then taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

Read More


Billy Can Can Coverage Did Did Come Come From Leslie Brenner Brenner

| 22 hours ago

This is a small thing. I should leave it alone. But I can’t.

Today the Morning News published a 2,700-word story about a restaurant that’s not open yet. The restaurant is called Billy Can Can. Read the story yourself, and tell me if you disagree when I call it a bit, oh, exuberant. Billy Can Can is the product of a Tristan Simon-owned company called Rebees, described in its press material as “a development firm engaged in experiential place creation — the development of real estate projects and other brick-and-mortar concepts that conjure a special reality of their own and resonate with people emotionally.” The italics are theirs, perhaps added by the firm’s PR person, Leslie Brenner. The 2,700-word story in the DMN rightly notes that Brenner, until not long ago, was the dining critic for the paper.

Long story. Hugely positive. Restaurant not open yet. Former critic. PR. That’s all I wanted to say. Oh, and one more thing:

Thanks, Tristan!

(If you get that callback, it means you’ve been reading FrontBurner for too many years.)

Read More

Doing Good

DISD Trustee Writes Children’s Book About Daughter’s Heart Transplant

| 24 hours ago

Olivia Solis, the daughter of Dallas ISD trustee Miguel Solis and his wife Jacqueline, is going home today after spending the first four months of her life in intensive care at Children’s Health. It was there last month that Olivia underwent a heart transplant, a big procedure for anyone, and especially rare for an infant.

The Solis family has been publicly documenting Olivia’s journey, a story that’s been alternately heartbreaking, inspiring, and moving. Now Olivia, born with a congenital heart defect just four months ago, will be able to begin the next chapter of her life.

But Miguel has said from the start that he hopes by sharing his daughter’s story, he’ll be able to do some good for the other children, many of whom never get to go home, and their families in the heart center at Children’s Health. Miguel and Jacqueline are living up to that promise by authoring a children’s book, Olivia’s New Heart. The book, created with the Dallas graphic designer Skyler Thiot, is meant for those children and their families, and for anyone who could stand to learn about the important and life-saving work being done in the hospital’s cardiac intensive care unit. Proceeds from the book will go toward Children’s Health’s and its heart center.

You can pre-order a copy for $15 now.

Read More

Doing Good

This Man Will Mow Your Lawn for Free Today in Dallas

| 1 day ago

The country’s most charitable lawn service is in town today. Rodney Smith Jr., a native Bermudan who founded his Raising Men Lawn Care Service in Alabama several years ago, has made it his life’s work to mow the lawns of the elderly, the disabled, veterans, and single mothers, free of charge. He’s now about midway through a journey to mow lawns in all 50 states. It’s all very kind and heartwarming.

So if you know anyone who meets the criteria and could benefit from Smith’s lawn service, he’s open to suggestions:

Smith is also open to volunteers willing to mow some lawns today. You already missed the morning meet-up, but keep an eye on his Facebook page, where Smith says he’ll post another gathering location early this evening.

Read More

Local News

Leading Off (6/19/18)

| 1 day ago

Robert Jeffress Billboard Taken Down. The billboard along the Tollway said, “America is a Christian nation,” and with Jeffress’ smiling mug it promoted some sort of foolishness at First Baptist. Outfront Media, the billboard company, said it removed the message after getting a bunch of complaints. Jeffress is blaming the media and Mayor Mike Rawlings. Good job all around, people. Let’s call this one a win.

Tristan Simon Returns With New Restaurant. The Victory Park joint is called Billy Can Can, and the DMN spent a lot of time poking around behind the scenes to see what it’s all about. It’s probably too early to call this one a win, but I’ll go ahead and call it a win anyway because Victory Park desperately needs a win.

Clay Jenkins Tries to Bring Immigrant Children to Dallas. The county judge is working to set up shelters here for some of the kids who’ve been separated from their parents at the border. This is another win, if it happens, but it’s made possible only because, as a nation, we appear to be losing.

Read More


Setting the Record Straight on Chief Reneé Hall

| 2 days ago

Over the weekend, I got a call from Tristan Hallman at the Morning News seeking a response to some claims made by Chief Reneé Hall about how we handled a profile of her in the May issue of D Magazine. You can read what Hallman wrote here. Hall has two beefs with D Magazine. The first concerns the photograph you see with this post. Hall said:

“It was my thought that it was more of a fun shot and not going to be used in that matter, and that was one that was actually used. That’s the thing about art. It’s different things to different people.”

First, on behalf of our staff photographer, Elizabeth Lavin, I would like to thank the chief for her assessment of the photograph’s merits. I, too, see it as art. It’s a great shot. But I have no idea what she means by saying she thought it was “more of a fun shot and not going to be used in that matter.”

Read More


A Look Back at Dallas’ 1978 ‘Texas Gay Conference’

| 2 days ago

Dallas may host its parade in the relatively temperate month of September, but it’s Pride Month here too, as evidenced by the rainbow skyline we enjoyed a few weeks back.

So here’s a timely find from UNT Special Collections, which is digitizing old TV news clips from Channel 5, with a special shout-out to the sharp eye that recognized an uncredited Harvey Milk being interviewed at the “Texas Gay Conference V” at Dallas’ Royal Coach Inn on June 10, 1978.

The California politician and gay civil rights activist, who would be assassinated later that year, imagines a world where LGBT men and women at a conference in Dallas won’t have to hide their faces from TV news cameras. America’s highest ideals demand equal rights for LGBT people, Milk says. It’s the country where anyone can make it.

“In this country, if gay people can make it, then it’s putting a green light that the system works, that you’re wanted,” Milk says. “And also it tells all those other people—the minorities, the disenfranchised, the poor… ‘Hey, if a gay person can make it, I can make it.’ And it tells people to get into the system and work within the system instead of being shoved aside.”

The first clip below is what aired on Dallas television in 1978. The second is B-roll, including more of the Milk interview. From the second clip, this quote’s a keeper: “Young gay people (should know) that there’s hope that they can become doctors and lawyers and politicians, God forbid, and businesspeople.” Credit to UNT Special Collections, the Resource Center LGBT Collection, and KXAS-TV.

[News Clip: Gay (Rights conference)] on The Portal to Texas History.

[News Clip: Gay (Rights conference)] on The Portal to Texas History.

Read More

Pop Music

The Cover Art For Nas’ New Album Was Taken in South Dallas

| 2 days ago

The photo used for the cover of Nasir, Nas’ new album, is a striking one. It was taken in South Dallas for a 1988 feature in Texas Monthly, which covered how the crack epidemic was tearing apart the neighborhood. The photographer, Mary Ellen Mark, spent much of her career documenting the people and the parts of town that society too often neglects. More of Mark’s photo work is currently featured in a yearlong exhibition downtown at the Museum of Street Culture, a new and important program we wrote about earlier this year.

Read More