A Daily Conversation About Dallas

Local News

Dallas ISD Wants To Open Three New Schools Downtown

| 1 day ago

The Dallas Independent School District is planning to pursue bond funding to pay for three new downtown campuses, a longtime wish for neighborhood boosters.

As it stands, the only public schools downtown are hyper-focused on subject matter: Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts and CityLab High School, which trains students on urban planning, architecture, and community development.

In 2017, Downtown Dallas Inc. submitted a proposal through the district to put a Montessori school for kids in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade in downtown. As The Dallas Morning News reported at the time, the decision came after six years of research found, among other things, that families were fleeing the core after their children hit elementary age.

DDI recognized that there probably weren’t enough families downtown to fill an entire school, but the group zoomed in on the almost 140,000 people who worked among its high-rises. DDI floated the idea of including those workers’ children as potential students, something unseen in Dallas ISD. The initial pitch called for a lottery system with preference weighted toward downtown’s residents and workforce. But Dallas ISD was wary about enrollment—CityLab hadn’t yet hit its numbers, and Ben Milam and Sam Houston in Oak Lawn had been losing students.

In two years, those concerns have apparently waned. Workforce development became a buzzword during the last mayoral race, the wound still fresh after Amazon chose a better-educated tech workforce along the East Coast as the location for its second headquarters. Dallas ISD has entered into partnerships with big corporations downtown like AT&T, getting students in the door earlier than ever. Partnerships with the community college and with UNT Dallas have matured in recent years, creating more of a local education pipeline that’s ever existed here.

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Local News

Dallas’ Robert E. Lee Statue Has Landed at Black Jack’s Crossing Near Terlingua

| 1 day ago

Dallas’ Robert E. Lee statue has a new home.

A private buyer shipped it to a Lajitas golf course owned by oil and gas billionaire Kelcy Warren almost exactly two years since the Confederate General was pulled from its perch in what was then Lee Park. On Monday, the sculpture completed a 600-mile journey to Black Jack’s Crossing near the border, about a dozen miles from Terlingua. It was mounted on a pediment in the middle of the golf course’s putting green on Thursday, according to Scott Beasley, who manages the course for Dallas-based WSB Resorts and Clubs.

“I’m standing here on the putting green looking at it right now,” Beasley said Friday morning. “It’s just spectacular.”

The private owner is Addison-based attorney Ronald Holmes of Holmes Firm PC, a friend of the course who was down in Terlingua for Thursday’s dedication. According to Beasley, the monument is a gift. Holmes did not return a call about the donation. We also have an email out to Warren.

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Local News

Leading Off (9/20/19)

| 2 days ago

Judge Allows Pecan Grove to Stay Put Near Methodist. Yesterday, State District Judge Bonnie Goldstein invalidated a City Council vote that allowed Methodist Dallas Medical Center to whack down a grove of 11 pecan trees that separated the hospital from the surrounding neighborhood. The hospital wanted to build a new gym there, but residents wanted the buffer. This is the weird vote that happened in a southern Dallas gym during an off-site Council meeting. The Council allowed landlord Ralph Isenberg to pull an affidavit his wife signed that sided with the neighbors. He was incredibly disparaging to his wife, who wasn’t present at the meeting, and the Council allowed him to submit a new affidavit claiming the opposite of her original claim. He said her English wasn’t good enough to understand such a thing. That, the judge found, shouldn’t have happened; his new affidavit was entered too late. And so she spiked the vote.

Expect Scattered Rain Today. We get the table scraps of Imelda, which hammered southeast Texas yesterday. But it won’t be anything more than scattered showers.

Another Record For North Texas Giving Day. You all gave $50 million this year to area nonprofits, a full $2 million more than 2018. That is worth celebrating.

Developer Ruel Hamilton Says Those Bribes Were Really Charitable Donations. This is the low-income developer who the feds say paid the late Councilwoman Carolyn Davis for her support of tax credits for a decrepit apartment in Oak Cliff. He says that money went to pay for kids to go on Freedom Ride tours, which “retrace the Rides of the 1960s and teach children about the civil rights movement.” His court filing doesn’t mention the $7,000 bribe he allegedly paid Dwaine Caraway.

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Philanthropy & Nonprofits

Jessica Nowitzki Talks Nonprofits, Hygge, and Dirk’s Favorite Children’s Book

| 2 days ago

It’s North Texas Giving Day, so I spent a few minutes chatting with Jessica Nowitzki about the Dirk Nowitzki Foundation, starting with how the Dirk Nowitzki Pro Celebrity Tennis Tournament went on Sunday with Luka Doncic’s first appearance.

D: How did Luka do?

Jessica: He did good! I hadn’t seen him play before the event, but I was happily surprised. And he looked like he enjoyed it, too.

D: So you originally met Dirk at a charity event for the Sports for Education and Economic Development Project (SEED) back in 2010. How did your interest in nonprofits get started?

Jessica: I used to work for Kenny Goss and George Michael and was in the art world for many years. They did a lot of charitable work, and they always made sure there was an open door if we wanted to be part of any of their endeavors. I always tried to be involved as much as I could with some of the organizations that spoke to me. I got involved in a couple of organizations in terms of just sort of assisting and volunteering. I was part of the host committee for SEED. And, yeah, the evening of the event, Dirk and I have some mutual friends. We got introduced, and that was that.

D: So what’s happening with the Dirk Nowitzki Foundation for the upcoming year?

Jessica: So, you know, the foundation has been around for quite some time. We as a board take in grants from children’s organizations in North Texas and throughout the country, and even outside the United States. In fact, the deadline for this year is coming up September 30 for grant applications. So then we review those grants and narrow them down and decide which programs and projects we want to support for the year.

D: I noticed all of the board members are women except for Dirk.

Jessica: Oh yeah, I hadn’t actually thought about that. That wasn’t on purpose, but I guess that’s good, right? We have a solid foundation, I think.

D: I was on the website and it looks like you’ve done some new things with it. Is the FortyOne magazine something new?

Jessica: It is new. As you may know, Dirk has a foundation here in Dallas, of course. And there’s one in Germany that his sister runs. We’re trying to streamline so we’re all on the same page and have the same look. FortyOne just gives you a little bit more of an in-depth, kind of behind-the-scenes look at the foundation and community work that Dirk has going on.

D: I have a Swedish friend who practices hygge, the Scandinavian sort of philosophy of living a life of contentment and well-being by enjoying the simpler things in life. How do you find that happiness and balance in your life while juggling the foundation, your kids, and Dirk?

Jessica: I think the foundation for us is kind of the catalyst for getting everybody on the same page as far as being happy and living a peaceful life. Because, you know, you’re giving back and at the same time you’re involved with these organizations on a one-on-one basis where you actually get that instant feedback and you can see the change. To me, that’s the most valuable thing. And it transfers back to our children and becomes a part of our family. I don’t really call it work–it’s just part of our lives.

D: OK, time for the speed round. Ad side or deuce side?

Jessica: Ad side.

D: Wham or George Michael?

Jessica: I have to say George.

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Philanthropy & Nonprofits

A Reminder: Today Is North Texas Giving Day

| 2 days ago

Last week, our Shawn Shinneman chatted with Matthew Randazzo, the head of the Dallas Foundation. That’s the first community foundation ever established in Texas, which helps connect donors to the nonprofits that match their preferred causes. If you missed it, read it here. Today is North Texas Giving Day, which is sort of like a hyperdrive version of Randazzo’s day job. It’s run by the Communities Foundation of Texas. You give to your favorite local charity, and that charity then becomes eligible for matching funds and various bonus donations. Your dollar is no longer just a dollar.

Right now, just after 10:45 a.m., the live ticker shows that somewhere around $15 million has already been given to Dallas-area nonprofits. Last year, a record $48 million was donated. I think there is a new giving record every year. You don’t want to see that stop, do you?

I’m going to excerpt a piece of that Randazzo interview, which helps sum up a bit why this day is so important for our nonprofits.

As a sector, community philanthropy—for the past several generations—has operated largely as a nonprofit bank or a philanthropic back office for well-intentioned, high-net-worth individuals who want to quote-unquote do good in their community. Increasingly, the 21st century model of community philanthropy and what we’re leaning into is how do we hold, on equal grounds, donor impact and donor intent with community impact.

So a big part of our role is to really understand some of the on-the-ground realities. One in three kids in this community live in poverty. There are between 3,000 and 6,000 kids every single night who don’t have a safe place to lay their head, who are couch surfing, in hotels, in cars, or in homeless shelters. We know that if you are low-income or are a student of color, your access to youth mental health services is critically low and it just sets those kiddos on a trajectory to not be able to reach their full potential.

Those are the sorts of organizations you can help.

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Arts & Entertainment

Programming Note: Dallas Blues History at the Texas Theatre Tonight

| 2 days ago

As I wrote in my column in the September issue, we should take this weekend’s big blues bru-ha-ha at the American Airlines Center, helmed by Eric Clapton, as something of a history lesson. There is a reason the greatest blues guitarists are descending on Dallas. This city’s musical heritage runs deep, and its role in the development of the blues—from Blind Lemon Jefferson to T Bone Walker to Freddie King to Stevie Ray and so many more—is particularly significant. But it is a history that is often overlooked and under-documented. In addition to big concerts like Clapton’s Crossroads fest, what we need are more champions of that history, more people like Alan Govenar, to help record it, interpret it, and champion it.

And just as I say that, enter stage left: Kirby Warnock, who will be screening his latest Dallas-centric music documentary, From Nowhere: The Story of the Vaughan Brothers, at the Texas Theatre tonight.

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The Bizarre Story of How DPD Thwarted Our Requests for Chief Hall’s Emails and Texts

| 3 days ago

On August 1, Councilman Adam Bazaldua made reference to Police Chief U. Reneé Hall’s ongoing participation in police activity. Bazaldua was calling for state troopers to exit his South Dallas council district. He said the chief had been “responsive and on top of the situation.” At that point, she’d been out on medical leave since the week of July 15.

That little admission—Bazaldua hasn’t spoken publicly about it since—made us and others wonder about Hall’s involvement during her time away. On August 2, I filed a couple of open records requests asking, separately, for her text messages and emails beginning on July 8. D Magazine was not interested in publishing her messages without discretion, but we felt it was important to glimpse the goings-on of one of the city’s most important leaders during a time she was out of the office (Hall returned on August 26). This was particularly important given the scant details surrounding her absence—a silence that continues to today—as well as the crucial period in which Dallas PD finds itself. Violent crime is at a peak not seen for more than a decade. A recent audit found DPD needs to rethink the way it deploys resources.

Over the course of the next six weeks, my requests hit a series of roadblocks, each one more confounding than the last. At one point, I was issued an invoice for 522 pages of text messages at an estimated cost of $97.20. I was later told a mistake had been made, that Chief Hall hadn’t sent a single text during the time frame of my request. Instead, I was told, the 522 pages were actually emails. But when the invoice came for Hall’s inbox, DPD made just 16 pages of emails available, saying Hall’s office itself cut down the total.

If the city indeed shaved 506 emails from the batch, its actions illegally skip a crucial step in the open records process. To claim emails are exempt from disclosure, public entities have to cite specific pieces of the state’s open records law—and then throw the documents to Texas’ Office of the Attorney General for a ruling. DPD says it took on that role on its own.

That’s the short version of events. The longer version contains more bizarre turns.

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Leading Off

Leading Off (9/19/19)

| 3 days ago

Medical Examiner Says Injuries in 1988 Assault Led to Katherine Bascone’s Death. In the capital murder charge case against George Guo, who’s accused of raping Bascone when she was 28, medical examiner Jeremy Shelton testified yesterday that her death last year should be classified as a homicide due to traumatic brain injuries from the assault. Prosecutors finish presenting their case today.

Plano’s Collin Creek Mall Is Being Demolished. That’ll take up to four months. After that, the space will be turned into a $1 billion mixed-use project.

Cop Injured By Suspected Drunk Driver. The driver crashed into the officer’s squad car last night in northwest Dallas. The cop was taken to Parkland, and the driver faces a DWI charge.

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Sports & Leisure

Tennis Star Coco Gauff Is Coming to Dallas!

| 3 days ago

Remember when I said Oracle was bringing a new pro tennis series to town in October? And that the women’s portion of the event would be at SMU October 20-27 (the men are at TCU)? Well, today they announced that there’s going to be a one-night, special exhibition with Coco Gauff, Andy Roddick, Jim Courier, and Christina McHale on Friday, October 25. I’m only telling you this because I already secured my tickets.

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