Friday, January 28, 2022 Jan 28, 2022
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A Daily Conversation About Dallas

Like a lot of people who find themselves driving around East Dallas a lot, I’m a great admirer of the lawn art at Abrams and Trammel: the rainbow velociraptor, the Kip’s Big Boy, the big Dairy Queen sign.

I’ve been impressed by the most recent addition to the collection, this unicorn-Pegasus statue with the purple mane.

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The Dallas City Council voted Wednesday to curb the operating hours for sexually oriented businesses, setting a 2 a.m. closing time for the 18 licensed strip clubs that now stay open into the wee hours.

The unanimous vote doesn’t totally reflect the debate that came beforehand. A few council members said they worried about how quickly the closing time ordinance rolled through—it was first presented to elected officials last month—and about the effect it could have on strip club workers who make most of their money between the hours of 2 and 6 a.m.

An emotional Councilman Omar Narvaez, whose district includes many of these strip clubs, said that he was raised by a single mother, and he apologized to the strip club workers at City Hall for “not doing enough.” Then he voted for the ordinance.

The Dallas Police Department pushed for the earlier closing time. It’s usually the case at City Hall that the Dallas Police Department gets what it wants, and that elected officials who offer even mild resistance never hear the end of it. Suggestions that the ordinance could include exceptions for businesses demonstrating their ability to operate late at night without a lot of criminal activity were largely dismissed. A motion to add an appeal process, which Police Chief Eddie Garcia said he wouldn’t support, failed.

Police described the new ordinance as a crime-fighting measure, sharing data that says about a third of the 2,100 arrests made at sexually oriented businesses between 2019 and 2021 occurred after 2 a.m.

Some council members, pointing to the positive early returns on the police department’s new crime plan, said this would further reduce crime in the city. Bianca Davis, the CEO of a Dallas nonprofit supporting women and girls who have been sex trafficked, told the City Council that “sexually oriented businesses have proven to be fertile ground for sex trafficking along with other violent crimes.”

Part Two of the popular podcast Freaknomics Radio’s visit to North Texas asks, “How Did a Hayfield Become One of America’s Hottest Cities?” Part One, you’ll recall, attempted to find out why everyone is moving to Dallas. (Even though the population of Dallas proper has been just about flat over the last five years; the county only added 44,000 people in that time, a growth rate of about 3.4 percent.)

The hayfield in question is Frisco, where host Stephen J. Dubner visits Dallas Cowboys World HQ and talks to boosters about the city’s explosive growth, its suburban county’s red but increasingly purple politics, and its “frenemy” relationship with Dallas. While the city of Dallas grew 9 percent over last decade, its northern neighbors outpaced it at 36 percent.

Dubner identifies that one of the biggest stories behind “why everyone is moving to Dallas” is this competition between Dallas and its suburbs. He returns to economist Cullum Clark on the subject of corporate relocations, in which this competition often and most obviously manifests.

It’s a competition that Dallas has often lost in recent years: Mayor Eric Johnson, who is featured again as an interviewee in this episode and again does not ferry the Freakonomics folks to or from the airport, has recently emphasized a need for the city of Dallas to assert itself as the alpha dog in the region. He touts the city’s landing of a Uber as a major corporate tenant—before Dubner points out the ride-sharing company backed out of its plans for a major new office.

Businesses, no surprise, like so-called “business-friendly” policies and giant tax breaks. They also like being able to do business, something Dallas’ dysfunctional city government (explored in Episode One) doesn’t always make easy. Affordability, jobs, and schools are important—maybe the most important—factors for the people moving here. But here’s a long quote from Clark in which he says that places like Frisco also win this battle by, in some ways, becoming more like the cities they’re competing with:

Leading Off

Leading Off (1/27/22)

Alex Macon
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Dallas Passes Ordinance Closing Strip Clubs at 2 a.m. The City That Is Home In Bed Early And Gets Its Full Eight Hours Every Night, Thank You Very Much, now faces a lawsuit from several of the affected businesses, whose attorneys argue the new rules are unconstitutional. Workers from some of the 18 topless or fully nude strip clubs previously licensed to stay open past 2 a.m. were at City Hall to protest the new ordinance, saying it endangered their livelihoods. A few council members put on a show for the crowd or questioned how quickly the ordinance went from concept to application—the police department began pushing this to the City Council in December, saying it would cut back on late-night crime—but the rules were approved unanimously.

Plano ISD Superintendent Sara Bonser Plans To Retire. She joins the other 100 (not an exact number) area superintendents to decide in the last several months that (I’m speculating) they’ve already heard enough screaming about masks and critical race theory to last them a lifetime.

Man Charged With Selling Gun to Colleyville Hostage Taker. Federal authorities say that Henry “Michael” Dwight Williams, 32, met Malik Faisal Akram at a South Dallas intersection and sold him a gun days before Akram, who was later killed by law enforcement, took four hostages at a synagogue in Colleyville.

Urban Design

If You’re on Foot, Keep Avoiding the ‘3G’ Intersection

Matt Goodman
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The work at the Garland-Grand-Gaston intersection is not great for pedestrians.

Earlier this month, we caught sight of a pedestrian attempting to cross the always-treacherous Grand-Garland-Gaston intersection in East Dallas. Construction crews had removed the median and left a pit, forcing walkers to stand in it while waiting for traffic to pass. She’s waiting to cross the southbound lanes of traffic; meanwhile, cars turning right on Gaston can merge without having to stop. She has taken refuge in the pit.

This is a Texas Department of Transportation job that began in early December and will continue through the spring of 2023. That project includes the construction of “new access points for pedestrians and cycling traffic to safely cross through the intersection.”

The median as it existed prior to this project was hardly safe and more like a reprieve from human Frogger. TxDOT spokesperson Kenna Mitchell notes that this portion of northbound State Highway 78 doesn’t have a stop or a light heading toward White Rock Lake. There were some “inadequate” pedestrian markings in the center of the interchange, which forced pedestrians to cross active lanes of traffic only to find areas without sidewalks on the other side.

“This project will address those needs by reconfiguring the traffic patterns at the interchange and constructing safe and accessible pedestrian crossings across the entire interchange including the highway lanes,” Mitchell says.

Humor

My Secret to Getting Into the Swing of the New Year

Tim Rogers
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Hole 3 at Tenison Highlands. The author mid-swing.

I wrote the following seven paragraphs for the editor’s note in the January issue of D Magazine. I’ve got an update for you. But first, the copy as we printed it:


One of my friends on staff here asked me what I planned to do in 2022. We were talking about this month’s cover story, “52 Things to Do in Dallas.” (It’s online right now, by the way.) This was in early December. I said, “There’s only one thing I know with certainty that I’m doing in 2022. I’m playing golf on New Year’s Day.”

I don’t remember when the tradition started, but one year I decided to keep my powder dry on New Year’s Eve and get up early the next morning to be the first person on the course. My preferred neighborhood track is Tenison Highlands. It was bitterly cold that year, and I couldn’t muster any interest from my usual playing partners, so I teed off alone at daybreak, bundled up in a down jacket. It turned out to be one of the best rounds of my life, but not because of the score.

Local News

Leading Off (1/26/22)

Peter Simek
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Two More Men Arrested in Connection to Colleyville Siege. That’s about all we know. The men were arrested by the Greater Manchester police who believe they have some connection to the Colleyville synagogue hostage situation, but police have not released any other details.

City May Buy Abandoned Hospital for Homeless. The council will vote today on whether to spend $6.5 million in bond money to purchase the former University General Hospital, near Kiest Park in Oak Cliff, which would be turned into housing for the homeless.

Elton John Cancels Dallas Farewell Tour Shows Due to Covid. The singer was set to play two concerts at the AAC last night and tonight, but he contracted the virus. Fully vaccinated and boosted, John’s symptoms are mild. Fans tickets will be honored at rescheduled dates.

Snow Possible Today. But only northwest of DFW.

Television

An Englishman’s Appreciation of King of the Hill

Richard Patterson
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King of the Hill on FOX followed the Hill family and various residents of Arlen, a fictional Texas town reportedly modeled on the suburbs of Dallas.

Editor’s note: Richard Patterson is a painter who wrote in the November issue of D Magazine about (among other things) being an expat in Dallas. The article was titled “The Unbearable Lightness of Being Wlodek Malowanczyk.”

I’m pleased to read that King of the Hill is returning. It’s a genius show. It was how I learned Texan. When I first came here, I couldn’t understand a word anyone said or why they drove funny or why they used tractors to mow their lawns or why four men stood around in the street next to a truck for no apparent reason or why housewives in Casa Linda drove 350 Hemi pickups in order to pick up muffins and a pack of 24 hotdog buns from the nearby Albertsons. I guess 24 is quite a lot. I guess you need a pretty powerful truck for that. 

It was only when I thought back to watching King of the Hill from my 31st-floor Barbican apartment in central London in the late ’90s, that I had a eureka moment. Back in London, I thought the whole thing was hyperbole, but once I’d bought a house in East Dallas, I came to realize that King of the Hill is not really a satire; it’s just how people are in Garlington. 

Coronavirus

Dallas Doc to Joe Rogan: Physicians and World Leaders Have ‘Mass Formation Psychosis’

Will Maddox
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Residents line up outside Jerry's Supermarket to sign up through the county's portal for the coronavirus vaccine on Friday, January 22, 2021.

When I listened to The Joe Rogan Experience episode featuring Dallas physician Dr. Peter McCullough, there was one data point he brought up that stuck with me. He spoke about Bangladesh, which at the time had almost no COVID-19 cases. McCullough and Rogan discussed oral drugs like Ivermectin, the anti-parasitic used worldwide to treat COVID-19, despite nearly all medical authorities saying it shouldn’t be used.

But it seemed Bangladesh was doing something right. While omicron was raging in the U.S. and leading to record case numbers, almost no cases were there. Considering the density, living conditions, and medical care in the southeast Asian nation, Bangladesh should have been ripe spreading ground for this very contagious variant. McCullough mentioned Peru, Mexico, and Japan as countries where Ivermectin was helping to “crush the curves,” despite what medical authorities were saying.

As it turns out, the lack of cases in Bangladesh had nothing to do with its use of Ivermectin. It hadn’t cracked the code and flouted medical best practice to stop the virus. It was just behind schedule. The omicron wave hadn’t yet hit Bangladesh when the podcast was recorded, but, as of this writing, cases are spiking just like they did here in the U.S. In almost every country where Ivermectin was commonly used and thought to have controlled COVID-19 (many in Latin America), they are now experiencing record highs in case numbers.

McCullough is a Dallas cardiologist at The Heart Place, a local cardiologist group. He has over 1,000 publications to his name, and has been the co-editor of Reviews in Cardiovascular Medicine and the chair of the National Kidney Foundation’s KIdney Early Evaluation Program. He is no stranger to the spotlight and has testified before the Texas Senate’s Health and Human Services Committee, sticking to his arguments doubting the medical establishment’s approach to the pandemic. He questions the vaccine’s efficacy for certain groups, the existence of reinfection, and argues that the push for vaccination is evidence of mass psychosis. His thoughts have found an audience on the internet, if not with health systems.

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban’s online pharmacy, which launched last week, does not accept health insurance. What the Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drug Company does offer, however, is prescription drugs at such steeply discounted prices that it says you’ll still wind up paying less than you would at a typical pharmacy.

That’s because Cuban’s online pharmacy is selling generic drugs at manufacturers’ prices plus a flat 15 percent markup. So mesalamine, a medication that is used to treat ulcerative colitis and retails for more than $950, can be had for $36.90. The antidepressant fluoxetine (brand name: Zoloft; retail price: $22.94) is sold for $3.90. And so on.

Cuban, businessman that he is, surely saw there was a demand for more affordable drugs. Almost everybody agrees that prescription drug prices are, to borrow a phrase, too damn high. (This is despite the fact that surveys show the pharmaceutical industry—long a go-to villain in American life—is more popular than it’s been in years, at least in part because of Big Pharma’s role in the swift development of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines.) There isn’t such widespread agreement on who or what is at fault for these high prices.

Cuban unsurprisingly (and somewhat convincingly) blames the middlemen. His pharmacy sets prices directly with manufacturers, leaving out the so-called “pharmacy-benefit management” companies that usually do the negotiating and, critics argue, pocket a more than reasonable share of the savings.

Local News

Leading Off (1/25/22)

Tim Rogers
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Good Omicron News! UT Southwestern updated their COVID forecast yesterday, and they think we may have hit seen the peak in Dallas County. (Tarrant County is a different story; numbers are still headed up there.) The president and CEO of the DFW Hospital Council said, “[W]e are cautiously optimistic on today’s report.” Still, though, Lewisville ISD will cancel all classes starting tomorrow because of COVID-related staffing shortages.

DART Rejiggering Leads to Some Confusion. DART redesigned its entire bus system, putting the changes in place yesterday. No surprise, but the DMN found some riders who were struggling to adjust. To help with the transition, all rides are free till Sunday, and DART has stationed reps at busy hubs to guide passengers.

Oath Keeper Wants out of Jail. Elmer Stuart Rhodes, of Granbury, is a former Army paratrooper and a Yale Law School graduate. He is also a founder of the Oath Keepers and is charged with seditious conspiracy in connection with the January 6 Capitol riot. His lawyers argued yesterday that he should be a free man while he awaits trial; a judge will decide the matter tomorrow.

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