A Daily Conversation About Dallas

Local News

To Reduce Homelessness, Dallas Plans To Give People Somewhere To Live

| 12 hours ago

A handful of North Texas governmental bodies and agencies are pooling together about $70 million to pay for a rapid rehousing initiative that leaders say will provide shelter to more than 2,600 homeless people.

Most of the money for the initiative is coming from federal funds and housing vouchers provided by the COVID-19 economic stimulus package passed by U.S. Congress in March. The city of Dallas and Dallas County are each contributing about $25 million of their respective stimulus dollars. The county, the city of Mesquite, and DHA Housing Solutions for North Texas are throwing in housing vouchers worth roughly $10 million, and the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance will drum up another $10 million from private donors.

The plan is to first provide permanent housing to “domestic violence survivors, families and individuals with more significant health issues,” according to the city. Another 2,000 people will have their rent paid for a year while they are connected to other social services to help them get back on their feet and find more long-term housing. The most recent point-in-time count found that more than 4,500 people were experiencing homelessness in Dallas and Collin counties, so if this initiative is successful it could go a long way toward reducing that number.

The Dallas Real Time Rapid Rehousing initiative was announced at a press conference this morning, but all of these partners will still have to individually sign off. And the logistics and specifics of how all this money will be administered is unclear. The program won’t formally get underway until at least August. We’ll look to have more details on the initiative by then.

A lot of factors contribute to homelessness, but many experts will tell you that addressing the problem boils down to one thing: housing. People need a place to live. Everything in a person’s life depends first and foremost on stable, long-term housing. Without knowing the specifics of this particular program, there is ample evidence that rapid rehousing—a model that keeps people off the street and out of emergency shelters, putting them in paid-for rental housing until they can afford a more permanent home—can be effective in reducing homelessness.

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Visual Arts

Dallas Museum of Art Acquires Basquiat Painting

| 13 hours ago

ARTnews broke the story that the DMA has become one of the few U.S. museums to add a Basquiat to its collection. You can see the full painting if you follow that link. Basquiat was friends with a local couple named Helga and Sam Feldman, who, through their foundation, gave the painting to the museum. The artist painted Sam F in 1985 on a door while staying in Dallas with the Feldmans. It will be on view at the DMA starting July 4.

Sam, who is no longer with us, used a wheelchair. That’s him in the painting, obviously. Helga died just a couple months ago. Check out her obituary for a cool story about how Sam tricked Helga into going on their first date. Clever fellow.

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Local News

Clean Up the Toxic Chemicals, and Hensley Field Is a Huge Opportunity for Dallas

| 19 hours ago

Hensley Field, 738 acres of city-owned land on the far western edge of southern Dallas, has existed for years in a state of limbo. It is many things at once.

You can see it as a storage facility, where Dallas has temporarily stashed everything from Confederate statues to pets. Look at the site and you can’t miss the view of Mountain Creek Lake—this is waterfront property in North Texas, a developer’s dream. Yet vestigial signs of its history as a Naval Air Station remain in evidence, and some see Hensley Field as a toxic waste dump. It’s true that years as a military site left contaminants behind in the soil of Hensley Field, and the Navy has been slow to finish the cleanup it promised when it sold the land to the city.

Dallas officials look at Hensley Field, and they see a blank slate bigger than downtown.

“This site represents a huge opportunity for creating what would really amount to a small town, where you can create a new job center, new mixed-income housing opportunities that are accessible to jobs,” says Peer Chacko, the city’s director of planning and urban design. “It’s very central to the region, so it has a lot of potential to become an economic engine for southern Dallas. I don’t think its potential can be overstated. For southern Dallas, which has been under-invested in for decades, this represents a huge opportunity if the city plays its cards right.”

Realizing that potential is a project that could take decades, but the city is starting by putting together a new master plan for the site. A few weeks ago, residents were invited to tour the location. Advisory groups have been convened, online surveys posted. A timeline calls for a “preferred scenario” to be delivered this summer, with the full plan due next spring.

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Leading Off

Leading Off (6/23/21)

| 21 hours ago

No Indictments for Collin County Jailers. A grand jury declined to hand down charges related to the death of Marvin Scott III. Grand jurors instead issued a statement, a rarity, recommending the county form a working group that would study “the best solutions for the treatment of individuals with mental illness who come into contact with the criminal justice system.” Jailers in March pepper-sprayed, restrained, and placed a spit hood over Scott’s face while the 26-year-old man was having what his family’s attorney later described as a mental health crisis. Scott’s death was ruled a homicide by the county’s medical examiner. Seven jailers were fired, and another resigned.

Man Charged in Shooting Death of 20-Year-Old Woman. Curtis Everett Jeter II, 24, has been charged with murder in the killing of 20-year-old Hope Hensley, who was with her three children at her apartment in South Dallas when she was shot. Friends and family members remembered Hensley as a “loyal and loving” woman who “lit up any room she walked in.”

Who Will Be the Mavericks’ Next GM? Former Mavs great Michael Finley, currently the team’s vice president of basketball operations, seems to be the odds-on favorite. Marc Stein says Dallas is not interested in Raptors GM Masai Ujiri or retired Celtics executive Danny Ainge.

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Living in McCities: A Map of Chain Restaurants in Dallas

| 2 days ago

Bloomberg CityLab today points us to a fun little map measuring the prevalence of chain restaurants in U.S. cities. Developed by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology, the map was built using data on hundreds of thousands of restaurants. Taking the bird’s eye view, about 40 to 45 percent of restaurants in the Dallas-Fort Worth area are chains, according to this project. Look a little closer, and we can see where they are. The red dots are chains, yellow dots independent restaurants.

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Rachel Maddow Drags Jovan Philyaw

| 2 days ago

An alert FrontBurnervian draws our attention to yesterday’s installment of The Rachel Maddow Show, whose namesake riffed for a bit on the insanity of the Arizona audit and the grandiose names of several individuals associated with it. You can watch here at about the 21:00 mark, when a FrontBurner post (pictured above) becomes part of the MSNBC broadcast.

I could spend 5,000 words trying to unravel this deal. Here’s the TL;DR version: a group with no experience called Cyber Ninjas is auditing Arizona’s votes in the 2020 presidential election. A local GOP elections official there called the effort “insane just from a competence standpoint.” A Dallas guy named Jovan Philyaw is in the mix. Philyaw, who now goes by the name J. Hutton Pulitzer, takes credit for inventing the CueCat. In the January FrontBurner post that wound up on MSNBC, I tried to explain how Philyaw — pardon, Pulitzer — came to be involved in Georgia’s recount of votes cast in the presidential election, back when Gizmodo wrote, “Pulitzer has emerged like a shit-covered phoenix to cash in on yet another doomed misadventure: Trump’s increasingly desperate attempts to prove he didn’t lose the 2020 presidential election fair and square.”

Oh, dear. I’m afraid I’ve only made this more confusing. Let me try again: an interesting Dallas guy was recently in the news. The end.

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Health Systems

Hospital Bill Mark-Ups: This Dallas Hospital Is In the Top 10

| 2 days ago

According to a joint study between Axios and Johns Hopkins University, Medical City Dallas marks up its prices more than almost every other large hospital in the country. 

On average, the largest 100 hospitals in the country mark up their prices seven times the cost of service. For-profit hospitals, such as Medical City, mark prices up around 12 times the cost of service on average. The study calculated these figures from the American Hospital Directory’s cost-to-charge ratio.

Federal legislation requires hospitals to post their prices for most procedures and tests, though those prices rarely reflect what patients actually pay. Hospitals use those prices as negotiating tactics with insurance companies, which work out reimbursement rates based on posted prices. For example, if a hospital marks up a cost 10 times what it requires, then the insurance company negotiates the price down to seven times the cost. The insurance company can then tout their “cost savings,” while the hospital still makes a significant cut from the cost. But, with rising deductibles, the patient is often left carrying the weight of increased prices. A 2017 study from Health Affairs says that for every dollar the price rises, patients pay 15 to 20 more cents after the negotiated rate. 

The median markups for both non-profit and government hospitals is around five percent, according to Axios. But for-profit hospitals’ median markup is 12 percent. Of the largest 100 hospitals in the country, Medical City Dallas had the ninth-highest markup for its prices, at 10.6 times the cost of the service of procedure. There are four Texas hospitals in the top 10 for bill markups, with other facilities in El Paso, San Antonio, and Kingwood high on the list as well.

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Local News

Leading Off (6/22/21)

| 2 days ago

COVID Update. Dallas County reported two deaths and 106 new cases yesterday (a two-day total). The average number of new daily cases for the last two-week period is 104; for the previous two-week period, it was 100. Encourage your friends to get vaccinated. In the United States, we’re now up to six “variants of concern”: alpha, delta, beta, gamma, B.1.427 epsilon, and B.1.429 epsilon. With a drop in demand for the vaccine(s), the county plans to close its Fair Park vaccination site July 17.

American Airlines Cancels Flights. The carrier is canceling about 72 flights a day through mid-July (only about 1 percent of its flights) because high demand and “unprecedented” weather are straining the system.

North Texas Hotels Struggle to Staff Up. Vacationers are coming, and our hotels are understaffed. Local hotels are running right now at about 30 to 45 percent of their pre-pandemic staffing levels.

No Olympics for Michelle Carter. The defending Olympic shot put champ, who is from Red Oak, had a surgery that wound up being more complicated than anticipated. As a result, she can’t compete in the Olympic trials. If you’ve never heard of Carter, read this story. She’s pretty cool.

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Local News

Is Dallas Ready for Summer Blackouts?

| 2 days ago

A recent study shows how power outages coupled with extreme heat pose a major risk to unprepared cities across the country. The research, published in May in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, found that both heat waves and blackouts are becoming more frequent. Combine the two, and indoor temperatures skyrocket alongside outdoor temperatures. And then people will die, according to the study’s authors.

Researchers in this case looked at three specific places—Atlanta, Detroit, and Phoenix—and found that heat waves-slash-blackouts in those cities could expose about 68 percent of residents to “an elevated risk of heat exhaustion and/or stroke.” But the study is especially relevant to us here in Texas, where it gets very hot and not even a week ago the operator of our state’s extremely fallible power grid asked Texans to turn down their thermostats and conserve energy to prevent rolling blackouts.

Summer is just getting started. State leaders’ assurances that our power grid is ready for the demand that will accompany Texas’ hottest temperatures have, understandably, been met with some skepticism. In February, when at least 150 and as many as 700 Texans died amid freezing temperatures and widespread power outages, cities scrambled to open warming stations at rec centers and libraries.

If there are widespread power outages in Dallas this summer, does the city have a plan in place? Will it open cooling stations? Does it have backup power generators ready? Bottled water to distribute? A strategy to reach residents at high risk of heat stroke? I asked a city spokesperson, who responded with a link to a page that, as of Monday afternoon, registered a 404 error. (Its URL indicates it is supposed to contain tips on beating the heat.) The spokesperson also noted that air-conditioned recreation centers are open to the public Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., and on Fridays from 2 to 7 p.m.

I emailed back to ask whether any of the city’s rec centers had backup power generators, and to ask again whether there was any sort of plan in place to keep residents cool in the specific event of widespread power outages this summer. I hadn’t gotten a response by Monday evening. Update: The city sent this response Tuesday morning.

Rec centers and libraries do not have generators at the moment. Our Office of Emergency Management is working to procure generators, due to the size of the project we do not expect to have or rely on generators this summer.

The City is currently operating Libraries and Rec Centers as places to escape the heat. If we do experience widespread power outages, we do have a plan in place. As we did during the winter storm, the City would identify rec centers, libraries and other City facilities not impacted by the power outage and designate as emergency facilities.

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Arts & Entertainment

Sha’Carri Richardson Is Taking Dallas Worldwide

| 3 days ago

On Juneteenth, Sha’Carri Richardson secured her spot on the U.S. Olympic Team after winning the women’s 100 meter dash in Eugene, Oregon. Brooklee Han profiled Richardson’s journey toward the Olympic trials last week for D Magazine. I, like many Black Dallasites, feel an immense sense of pride and kinship toward Richardson. She represents the beauty of Black Dallas. She’s our Miss Juneteenth.

She carries and embodies the often overlooked and neglected culture of South Dallas and Oak Cliff, the two predominantly Black communities that raised her. It’s divine alignment that a young Black queer woman from Oak Cliff captivated the world’s attention on the first “federal” celebration of Juneteenth, a Black Texan holiday. I’ve never felt prouder to be Black, to be from Dallas, to be Texan, and to be Queer, than seeing Richardson make history on Saturday. To our Miss Juneteenth, thank you for taking Dallas with you worldwide. The city has your back when you make history in Tokyo.

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Sports & Leisure

Where in Dallas to Watch the European Football Championship

| 3 days ago

Maybe you don’t much care for soccer, which, for the remainder of this post, I will call football. You think it’s a slow game without enough scoring, and you don’t like how often the players feign injury. That’s fine. I mean, you are wrong and you are dumb, but that’s fine. I’m not going to try to change your mind. And I’m not going to try to get you excited about the UEFA European Football Championship, aka the Euros, the massive 24-team tournament now underway, the one that will wrap up with a final match in London on July 11. Similarly, I am not going to point you to Jonathan Thompson’s article from the July issue of D Magazine, his guide to the best footie pubs in Dallas, which went online today — or, rather, I am not going to point you to the article with the idea in mind that you’ll use it to enhance your football-watching experience.

A quick story:

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