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Politics

Huffines Brothers Set to Become First Twins in the Texas Senate

| 2 days ago

With Plano representative Matt Shaheen opting to drop his bid for the Texas Senate and seek re-election in the House, the lane is clear for businessman Phillip Huffines to join his brother, Don, in the Senate chambers.

A betting man would put Phillip in that seat, so let’s do just that before going further. They’ll be the first brothers in Texas history to serve as senators at the same time. Which, obviously, also would make them the first twin senators. Don Huffines said as much in March, when his brother announced that he’d lent himself $1.5 million to run for Van Taylor’s seat. Taylor’s expected to make a go at a congressional seat, so he’s out of the way. According to the Texas Legislative Reference Library, Don Huffines is right. The closest we’ve come to that rarefied air is Ross and Doss Hardin, the former of whom served in the House from 1935 to 1941, the latter in the Senate from 1938 to 1940. 

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Local News

Council Members Lend Support to Task Force on Confederate Statues

| 2 days ago

Dallas’ four black City Council members gave their support to a task force, proposed this week by the mayor, that will study the issue of Confederate monuments erected in public places. Speaking at a press conference early Friday afternoon, Dwaine Caraway, Casey Thomas, Tennell Atkins, and Kevin Felder were unequivocal in saying that the statues must eventually come down, but only as part of a discussion that addresses broader problems of racism afflicting the city.

Caraway stressed one point: Trust the process.

“Who’s going to pay for it, who’s going to do it, where’s it going to be stored,” the mayor pro tem said. “Those are concerns that we must take a look at, and to make sure that we reach deeper into the effect that racism is having on our city.”

Each of the council members echoed that call for a more thorough examination of the institutional barriers erected against the city’s black communities, and of the legacy of racism in Dallas, going beyond the symbolic weight of the statues.

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Transportation

Dallas-Houston Bullet Train Closer to Leaving the Station

| 2 days ago

It’s been percolating for years and still has a long ways to go, but development of the Texas bullet train connecting Houston and Dallas just rolled past a significant milestone.

On Thursday, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner inked an agreement with Texas Central, the company plotting the privately-funded 240-mile line, which would transport passengers between the two cities in about 90 minutes. This got a lot of press in Houston. The memorandum of understanding signals the city’s support for the project, although any major agreements must still get full approval from city council members. The Dallas City Council approved a similar memo regarding the high-speed train last year.

Texas Central hopes to start turning dirt in late 2018, and two contractors signed on this week to help design and build the project, which would cost up to $15 billion and will take about four to five years to finish. The bullet train has been generally welcomed in Dallas, where speed, size, and glitz are part of our civic creed. It’s met with slightly more opposition in Houston, although a promise that the line will avoid many residential neighborhoods and end about 10 miles outside of downtown has put much of that to rest. (Plans call for the Dallas stop to be placed closer to the city center, in the Cedars.) Texas Central still has some reckoning to do with the rural landowners in between, unimpressed as they are by the prospect of a bullet train roaring through their property. There are regulatory hurdles that remain to be cleared, and of course, money that needs to be raised.

Still, it looks more and more like this — with all the jobs and development and tax revenue Texas Central is advertising, not to mention the futuristic cool — is happening, sooner rather than later. Choo choo.

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Podcasts

New Podcast: Exploring Ezekiel Elliott’s Domestic Violence Allegations With D Magazine’s Kathy Wise

| 2 days ago

For the past year or so, since the domestic violence allegations against Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott became public, the prevailing narrative has focused on a single incident that occurred in a car outside a club. The district attorney decided not to pursue formal charges, citing a sort of he-said-she-said contradictory back and forth. We all, I think, attributed the domestic abuse claims to that one incident.

But hiding in plain sight on the Columbus city attorney’s website are police reports, intake interviews, photographs, and more that broadens the picture. We all should have found it sooner. It includes disturbing allegations of days and nights during which the accuser says Elliott choked her, beat her, and held her against her will in an apartment that his father had rented. Our Kathy Wise spent the beginning of the week poring through those documents and put together, for the first time, this lengthy report that gave a voice to Tiffany Thompson.

Elliott’s camp spent the time since the NFL announced a six-game suspension disparaging Thompson’s character, painting her as a liar and as a spurned lover who was trying to take advantage of Elliott. Reading the other side of it makes it more difficult to accept that narrative and leaves you with at least an understanding of why the NFL acted as it did when the district attorney chose not to pursue a case. As the headline of Kathy’s story says, even a liar can be choked and beaten.

Before her media blitz began (The Ticket and Fox 4 on Thursday, I Heart Radio in Houston on Friday), Kathy sat down at Table No. 1 at the Old Monk to record an episode of EarBurner. Show notes and streaming player for the episode, as always, are after the jump.

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News

Leading Off (8/18/17)

| 2 days ago

Dallas School Board Talks Taxes. Dallas ISD needs more money. How much more money? Trustees will decide today which of three tax plans should go to voters this fall. Or, as was the case last year, they’ll fail to get anything on the ballot at all. Here’s a cogent analysis of what’s at stake for 158,000 schoolchildren.

Some Lawmakers Want to See Dallas’ Confederate Statues Gone. State Sen. Royce West and four Democratic state representatives from Dallas told Mayor Mike Rawlings in a letter that they support his plan for a task force to study the issue, as long as it ultimately results in the removal of the controversial monuments. Sen. Ted Cruz, speaking Thursday in Addison, said we should not “sanitize history” by taking down the statues, but that the decision should be left to individual communities.

Doctor Accused of Serial Drive-By Flashing, Definitely Guilty of Having Terrible Vanity Plate. A Keller doctor suspected of sharing too much of himself with people in Deep Ellum and the parking lot of the Cityplace Target faces a misdemeanor charge of indecent exposure. Police said the vanity license plate on Dr. Reginald James Newsome’s BMW, “ISPINE,” also the name of the pain control clinic he works at, helped ID the alleged exhibitionist.

Police Try to Ease Concerns About SB4. Cops in Grand Prairie and elsewhere in North Texas are “waging a public relations campaign” and holding public meetings over the new immigration law, which goes into effect Sept. 1.

Your Texas Rangers Beat the White Sox, 9-8. And get back to .500. Still in this thing, baby. Keep hope alive.

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Education

Tomorrow DISD Trustees Decide Their Legacy

| 3 days ago

The Verdict is one of my favorite movies. Everyone loves the final courtroom summation given by the beaten-but-not-broken lawyer played by Paul Newman. (“You know, so much of the time, we’re lost.”) It’s wonderful, but I’m partial to a speech he gives early in the film, when he’s trying to woo a woman in a bar, both of them a little drunk. He’s telling her why a jury doesn’t guarantee justice for the politically or culturally vulnerable — only a chance at justice. “Will they get it with your jury?” she asks him.

“They might,” Newman says. “Yes. That’s the point … is that they might … you see, the jury wants to believe. They’re all cynics, sure, because they want to believe. I have to go in there tomorrow to find 12 people to hear this case. I’m going to see a hundred people and pick 12. And every one of them, it’s written on their face, ‘This is a sham. There is no justice …’ but in their heart they’re saying, ‘Maybe, maybe.’”

Maybe what?

“Maybe I can do something right.”

Tomorrow, Dallas ISD trustees are going to take a vote. There are nine of them, not 12. This is not one person who needs help overcoming long odds; it’s 158,000 of them, all kids. The majority of them are brown, a lot of them are black, and almost all of them are poor. And tomorrow we find out if we chose a just jury to decide the fate of those children. Tomorrow, their legacy will be written. We will know if they want to do something right.

Here is what’s at stake:

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News

Trump, Trump Jr. Visiting North Texas This Fall

| 3 days ago

President Donald Trump will be in Dallas Sept. 27 to drum up cash for the Republican National Committee and his own campaign, the Texas Tribune reports, about a month before his oldest son is set to deliver an address as part of a University of North Texas speaker series.

UNT’s website gives the date for Donald Trump Jr.’s speech as Oct. 24, and the North Texas Daily, the university’s student newspaper, tweeted that the executive vice president of the Trump Organization will appear at AT&T Stadium. Past speakers in the series include former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and oilman T. Boone Pickens, although Trump Jr. appears to be the first guest to warrant a forum the size of Jerry World. No word yet on tickets.

Trump the Elder’s event will be a more exclusive affair, with tickets to the fundraiser — no location has been publicly announced — ranging from $2,700 to $100,000. North Texas donors were major contributors to Trump’s 2016 war chest, so it makes sense the president would return to fundraise as his party warms up for the 2018 midterms.

To relive all of your favorite hits of the 2016 presidential campaign here in North Texas, tickets to see the Clintons speak at the Irving Music Factory in November go on sale Friday.

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Media

Mark Davis Is an Intellectually Dishonest Fearmonger

| 3 days ago

Yesterday, radio host and Dallas Morning News op-ed columnist Mark Davis tweeted this to his 29,000 followers:

He retweeted a fellow named Andrew Mullins, who wrote: “There are actual people out there that want to change the name of Washington, DC, because George Washington owned slaves.” On Twitter, unlike the embedded graphic here, you can see that Mullins tweet. Mullins posted a screen grab of a 2015 Newsweek opinion piece by Richard Gunderman that bore the headline: “Should We Change the Name of Washington, D.C., Because He Owned Slaves?” But Mullins didn’t link to that article. And neither did Davis. So Davis’ followers just saw the headline. I imagine more than a few of them took it at face value.

The Newsweek article, though, is about Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson and how we are to appraise them today, given that the former owned slaves and the latter abused Native Americans. At no point in his piece did Gunderman address any actual proposal to rename D.C. No one was talking about renaming D.C. He merely raised a rhetorical question about renaming the city, and the headline writer seized on that outlandish concept. Nothing more.

With this tweet, Mark Davis shows his hand. He is a fearmonger who trades on people’s basest instincts. Each time that Mike Wilson, the editor of the Dallas Morning News, publishes Davis’ work, he undermines his paper’s credibility and insults the citizens of Dallas. It needs to stop.

[Ed: this post was edited to correct an error about Gunderson’s rhetorical question.]

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History

A Civil Rights Worker Reflects on the Confederate Statues

| 3 days ago

News of the Charlottesville killing of an anti-racism demonstrator woke me from a long hibernation. I’d have preferred to have remained undisturbed.

The death of Heather Heyer made me think back to the two summers I spent as a civil rights worker in Demopolis, Alabama, from 1965 to 1966. The first of those was a hard year for the movement. At least four civil rights workers, three white and one black, were murdered in Alabama that year. Even their names are now nearly forgotten: James Reeb, Viola Liuzzo, Jimmie Lee Jackson, and Johnathan Daniels.

My first response was to check my closet to see if I still had my old “freedom suit,” the overalls-and-collared-shirt get-up that by 1965 had become the uniform of civil rights field staffers in Dixie. But then I realized something. The times I’ve seen aging WWII veterans in their uniforms I’ve felt sorry for them. They seem withered. And for all I know, maybe they are just as withered within as without, as I am today. In Alabama I never hesitated before the possibility death. Like nearly all young people, I felt invincible. And I also figured that if any of us were killed, our movement would ultimately triumph and make our martyrs into eternal heroes.

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Pop Music

Plano Dumps the Starfest Music Festival

| 3 days ago

Update (8/17/17, 3:15 p.m.): The Observer got its hands on Starfest’s contract with Plano and emails between the two parties, which shed some more light on the situation. In short, Starfest organizers failed to share artists’ contracts with the city and did not get a special events permit. This festival was indeed as shoddily put together as everybody suspected.

In a brief statement, the city of Plano announced Thursday morning that it is terminating its contract with the Starfest Music Festival, which was scheduled for Sept. 8 and 9 at Oak Point Park. Here it is:

The City of Plano has decided to terminate our contract with the promoters of the Starfest Music Festival, planned for September 8-9 at Oak Point Park and Nature Preserve. We believe the cancellation of this contract is in the best interest of the City and our community.

Unless organizers can come up with a new location for what they have billed grandiosely as “North Texas’ premier music festival” in the next couple weeks, this appears to be the end of the road for the comedy of errors that has been the Starfest Music Festival.

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