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A Daily Conversation About Dallas

Nature & Environment

Shingle Mountain May Not Be Long for this World, After All

| 5 hours ago

The city manager has apparently selected a vendor to remove Shingle Mountain, pending City Council approval. Councilman Tennell Atkins, who represents the southern Dallas district that houses the 70,000-ton pile of shingles, sent an email on Tuesday afternoon announcing that City Manager T.C. Broadnax is “recommending the lowest responsible bidder.” At $450,000, it’s about a quarter what the Council thought it would cost to haul away. It is typical for the lowest responsible bid to get the nod from the city manager, per a spokesperson.

The pile of shingles has been there for about three years, blowing tiny shards of fiberglass around Marsha Jackson’s adjacent property.

“They have told us so many times that it will be removed,” says Jackson, who says she now suffers respiratory ailments and rashes because of the particles that get blown around her home. “I try to be excited, but I can’t see it.”

Atkins says the City Council will vote on the matter on October 13. There is no timeline yet for removing the dump, which has been there since January of 2018. Atkins had said it would cost $2.1 million to haul it away. It’s not clear why this bid is so comparatively low; it might bypass the nearby city dump and its tipping fees altogether. We’ve asked the city for more information. Previously, the city had wanted the landowner to pitch in to help with removal.

Jackson in July sued the city to remove the illegal shingle dump and rezone the land so that other industrial uses can’t go in next to her home or nearby the other 22 that are in her neighborhood. City Council and staff have been careful in what they’ve said regarding the matter since the lawsuit was filed. Jackson says she hasn’t been contacted by any city officials and was unaware of the bid until former Dallas Morning News columnist Robert Wilonsky tagged her in a Facebook post.

In unveiling the budget in mid-August, Broadnax said there was no line item for its removal, but “I know we are committed to resolving that issue both in court and, once that is completed, to determine how in fact we go about cleaning up that particular nuisance in our community.”

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Media

Mike Wilson Resigns as Editor of the Dallas Morning News

| 12 hours ago

Mike Wilson, who has served as editor of the Dallas Morning News for almost six years, told the staff in an email today that he is resigning at the end of the year. His letter notes a desire to “write, edit, lead, teach, learn,” and is “having conversations about where that might be.” His departure comes as some of the newsroom seeks to unionize.

Wilson says he’s handing newsroom operations over to managing editor Keith Campbell as reporters and editors “need and deserve fully engaged leaders.” In the meantime, he’ll help with the transition process and finish out a few projects with Grant Moise, the paper’s publisher. It’s not clear what the plans are for a permanent replacement. In his own note to staff, Moise writes that “we will continue to operate under this structure for the foreseeable future.”

Wilson was the first outside editor hire for the company in more than 30 years, coming from tours at FiveThirtyEight, the Tampa Bay Times, and the Miami Herald. He followed longtime editor Bob Mong, who retired in 2015 after 14 years leading the newsroom. Wilson led the paper’s digital-first strategy, implementing policies that required stories to be published online before they ran in the print edition.

He was also the first editor to oversee the paper’s paywall and digital subscription model, which now has about 40,000 digital-only subscribers. Getting that number up will surely be a priority for whoever comes after him.

The News has finished as a Pulitzer finalist in three of the past five years. In 2017, the paper’s coverage of the downtown Dallas police ambush was a finalist for breaking news. The next year, columnist Sharon Grigsby was a finalist for her series on sexual assaults at Baylor University that dug into how the school’s leadership failed the victims. The most recent Pulitzer nod was for photojournalist Tom Fox, who bravely photographed a gunman who fired his rifle outside the Earle Cabell Federal Building last year.

Upon his hiring, Wilson’s bonafides centered on his editing of narrative nonfiction and his eye for talent. And, indeed, the paper in recent years has lost many reporters to outlets like the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Boston Globe, and ProPublica, among others. The paper recently published Mark Lamster’s deeply reported piece on the Joppa neighborhood, which could very well be the last long-term editorial project to publish under Wilson’s tenure. The Newspiece on his departure also notes “more than 400 awards for journalistic excellence.”

In a text, Wilson says he’s “feeling great about the decision and my time at DMN” and would “like my note to the staff to do the talking.” The letters staff received this morning are after the jump.

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Local News

Mark Cuban Working to Help Delonte West; He’s Now in Rehab

| 13 hours ago

Photos and sightings of former Mavs (and Celtics and Cavs and Texas Legends) guard Delonte West have popped up over the past couple of years, in Houston and other cities — on the street, apparently homeless, usually in some level of distress (unsurprisingly). The first I remember was maybe a couple of years ago, and he was clearly off Central, somewhere north of 635. I went looking but couldn’t find him. Another one turned up a few days ago, again in Dallas, and apparently Mavs owner Mark Cuban went looking for him, too.

He found him.

TMZ first reported Cuban convinced West to meet and and ESPN’s Tim MacMahon confirmed that Cuban picked him up and put him in a hotel while he works with West’s family on next steps. I hope he is able to get back up on his feet.

UPDATE: The Athletic’s Shams Charania just reported that West reunited with his mother in Dallas yesterday and he has checked into rehab in Florida.

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Local News

I Almost Predicted Exactly When Uber Would (Partially) Pull Out of Deep Ellum

| 13 hours ago

Late last night/early this morning, I saw via Twitter that Uber was going to sublease 117,000 square feet of its office space at The Epic development in Deep Ellum, leaving it with just two floors of the building (around 50K sf). Which, I suppose, wouldn’t be the biggest deal, if Uber hadn’t already been planning to build out a second tower — Epic II — to serve as its regional hub. This story says it still will and plans a 2022 move-in date, but [wide eyes emoji].

ANYWAY, I say all this to say I jokingly almost nailed this exact scenario a year ago (the date says November 2019, but given magazine lead times I was writing it basically right now).

September 7, 2020
Uber officially canceled plans to move into the larger 22-story tower at The Epic, an announcement that has been rumored for months. “Would I call it a belt tightening? No,” said new Uber spokeswoman Tamara Katz. “We felt like a scaled-back office was more in keeping with our roots. Lean and mean, right? We pride ourselves on being a company that is able to quickly react to any given situation and this is no different. We still love being in Deep Ellum, and I think, if I may, this move is very much in line with our neighborhood’s rock-and-roll past.” She declined to elaborate. “I think it speaks for itself. But I can tell you that we have 50 very happy employees. Almost 50. I just saw a few of them kicking a ball back and forth under the highway if you want to ask them yourself.”   

More TK.

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Crime

How the Death Sentence Was Commuted for the Killer of a Dallas Police Officer

| 14 hours ago

On October 9, 2007, Juan Lizcano was convicted by a jury and sentenced to death for the capital murder of 28-year-old Dallas police officer Brian Jackson during a domestic violence call. But earlier this month, after serving nearly 13 years on death row, Lizcano received a new sentence: life in prison without parole.

Haynes and Boone partners Stephanie Sivinski and Debbie McComas, with associate Jason Jordan, had been working as pro bono habeas counsel on Lizcano’s appeal since 2012, challenging the constitutionality of his death sentence on the grounds of intellectual disability (he had IQ scores as low as 48).

After a series of federal and state habeas petitions, they caught a break in 2017, when the U.S. Supreme Court in Moore v. Texas invalidated the state’s former ad hoc methods for determining intellectual disability. On September 16, 2020, after reconsidering Lizcano’s appeal in light of the new ruling, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals removed Lizcano from death row, determining he was ineligible for execution due to his intellectual disability.

The facts of the case aren’t pretty. According to the original account of events from the Court of Criminal Appeals, Lizcano and a friend, Jose Fernandez, went to a Dallas dance club on the evening of November 13, 2005. They had a few beers and left a few hours later. On the drive home, Lizcano called his girlfriend, Marta Cruz, and told her that if he came home and found her with another person, he would kill them both.

Lizcano stopped by his uncle’s apartment, where he lived, and took his uncle’s revolver. He then drove to Cruz’s house. At around 2 a.m., he knocked on the door. When Cruz let him in, Lizcano pointed the gun at her head and then fired a warning shot into the ceiling. Lizcano told Cruz the next bullet was for her. He left a few minutes later, and Cruz immediately called the police.

A police officer showed up but was unable to find Lizcano on the property. After the officer left, Lizcano showed back up and started to kick in the front door. Cruz called 911 again, this time while hiding in the closet. When police arrived, they saw Lizcano run into an alley behind the house. Four officers scrambled for cover as Lizcano shot at them from behind a tree.

Officer Brian Jackson took an AR-15 rifle from his vehicle and took a position at the front of the house. When Lizcano ran around to the front, officers said they could hear one shot from Lizcano’s revolver followed by three shots from Officer Jackson’s rifle. The Chief Medical Examiner later determined that Lizcano’s single shot had traveled through Officer Jackson’s right arm and into his heart, bypassing his Kevlar vest and killing him within seconds.

That account, though tragic, only tells part of the story. Last week, I called Sivinski and McComas to find out more. What follows is an edited version of our conversation.

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Local News

Leading Off (9/29/20)

| 16 hours ago

Stars Lose. From the Tampa Bay Times: “We’re going to be Stanley Cup champs forever,” Victor Hedman said after the 2-0 win in Game 6 at Edmonton’s Rogers Place. “It’s going to be in the history. Our kids, our grandkids, if they look at the Stanley Cup, they’re going to see our names.” The bandwagon hit a wall that looks a whole lot like a 6-foot-6 Swede. I wasn’t wearing my seatbelt and was thrown from the vehicle. I need a hug. And a body cast.

COVID Update. Yesterday Dallas County reported 197 additional cases and one death. “County Judge Clay Jenkins said in a written statement that people need to continue taking precautions against the virus as its downward trend has stalled. ‘Our numbers remain flat but our progress has stopped and we may begin to see a tick up,’ he said.” Collin County reported 233 cases and one death.

‘Undead Bandit’ Sentenced. This happened Friday. And it was just a sentencing. But I felt it deserved mention. Because “Undead Bandit” is a damn cool nom de robbery.

SEC Accuses Cedar Hill Man of $1.1 Million Scam. In a complaint filed yesterday, the commission called Clifton Curtis Sneed Jr. a “recidivist securities law violator.” They got a name for people like Sneed. That name is called “recidivism.” Not a pretty name, is it?

Remember Botham Jean. Today would have been his 29th birthday. Mayor Eric Johnson has proclaimed it #BeLikeBo Day.

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Local News

Programming Note: Tomorrow, Hear From Legislators About Police Reform

| 1 day ago

Each year, we try to pop into the Belo Mansion for the annual daylong symposium organized by Unlocking DOORS, the Dallas-based reentry advocacy nonprofit that helps people get on their feet after they are released from prison. This year, it feels even more relevant as calls for police reform grow louder. Even the city of Dallas included funding for a reentry program of its own in next year’s budget.

There is always something interesting at these symposiums, showing the machinations that power our criminal justice system. Like in 2017, when a panel between Chief U. Reneé Hall, then-DA Faith Johnson, then-Sheriff Lupe Valdez, and Public Defender Lynn Pride Richardson got a little testy when Richardson noted the more than 4-to-1 discrepancy between investigators in the district attorney’s office to investigators in the public defender’s office . That year, public defenders took on 45,000 cases with only 116 attorneys and 17 investigators compared to the 81 investigators that worked along with the county’s prosecutors.

It has also been a chance to hear policymakers have frank discussions about bail reform, the shuttering of jails, and ways to help people who have served their time and are eager to get back into the community. This year’s edition takes place tomorrow, September 29, and you already know where this is going. The coronavirus spiked the possibility of meeting in person, so the event will be held online from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. This year, it’s free for you to watch from wherever you are.

I’m curious about tomorrow’s legislative panel. WFAA’s Jason Whitely will moderate a chat between Bryan Collier, the executive director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice; state Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Quitman, who sits on the Texas Senate Committee on Criminal Justice; and state Reps. Carl Sherman, D-DeSoto, and James White, R-Hillister, both of whom serve on the Texas House Committee on Corrections.

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Business

Neiman Marcus CEO Shows Off His Mansion, Really Steps in It

| 1 day ago

Geoffroy van Raemdonck has a great name. The CEO of Neiman’s also has a great house. He and his husband, Alvise Orsini, share an Italianate-style Lakewood pad that’s on the tax rolls for almost $2.3 million. Nothing wrong with that. If the CEO of Neiman’s lived in a $250,000 ranch in Garland, then we’d have a problem. What’s wrong here is that Neiman’s is just emerging from bankruptcy. People have been laid off and taken pay cuts. In that context, it’s not wise to invite PaperCity into your house for a photo shoot, which is what van Raemdonck did. Looks great. But totally tone deaf. And the New York Post is just loving it:

One guest bathroom, adorned with a dreamscape mural and “silver and mirrored cabinets from the 1930s,” is described as “the most glamorous guest loo ever.” Outside, near the pool and pool house, is a chicken coop so elaborate, the author describes it as “more Versailles than farmhouse.”

Van Raemdonck and Orsini are shown in the glossy spread lounging atop a “custom sofa . . . upholstered in silk velvet.” Above them are two prints from Warhol’s “Reigning Queens” series.

Neiman staffers were flabbergasted.

“He either doesn’t care or he’s tone-deaf,” one employee griped to The Post. “Everyone is wondering why [he] agreed to show off the house while health care, bankruptcy and layoffs are the main topics for Neiman Marcus.”

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Books

Catch Jamie Thompson on KERA’s Think Today

| 2 days ago

If you missed my Zoom conversation last week with Jamie Thompson about her new book, Standoff, it really was magic. Special stuff. Groundbreaking. Today at noon, Krys Boyd has the unenviable task of following that up with her own interview with Jamie on KERA’s Think show. You should tune in, and you should buy the book. Here’s an excerpt we ran. It centers on Larry Gordon, a SWAT crisis negotiator. (And, in all seriousness, here’s how I imagine Boyd will treat me after she finishes her interview with Jamie.)

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Books

Children’s Book About Blind Willie Johnson Has a Big Dallas Tie

| 2 days ago

Last month a notable children’s book was published with a strong connection to a bit of Deep Ellum history, and yet nary a mention was made by any media in town. This is what we get for letting Robert Wilonsky step down from the Dallas Morning News. Maybe he covered this on Intentional Grounding. Not sure.

In any case, Dark Was the Night was written by New York Times-bestselling author Gary Golio and illustrated Caldecott winner E.B. Lewis. The book centers on the blues singer and guitarist Blind Willie Johnson. The title of the book comes from a Blind Willie song of the same title that was recorded on a gold record and shot into space in 1977 on the Voyager probe. And that song, “Dark Was the Night,” was recorded for Columbia records in 1927 in Deep Ellum.

Here’s some more about the book and Blind Willie. And here’s a great way to start your week:

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Local News

Leading Off (09/28/2020)

| 2 days ago

Stars Win. After losing in overtime the night before, the Stars took Game 5 with a goal in double OT. They’re still down 3-2 in the Stanley Cup Finals but could force a Game 7 with a win tonight.

Cowboys Lose. Yet another wild and dumb game, this time against the Seahawks, with a botched kickoff return, two missed extra points, a fumble on the goal line after a long bomb, and a safety all in the first half. This is going to be the most chaotic 8-8 season you’ll ever see.

COVID. Sunday count: 197 cases, three deaths.

Fake Fall Is Here. It’s cooler, yes, but I have a feeling that Extra Summer is coming soon.

Read This. Mark Lamster’s big piece on Joppa is worth your time.

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Page Cached: 2020-09-30 04:40:01 on http://www02.dmagazine.com