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Local News

West Dallas Rises Up Against the GAF Shingle Manufacturer

| 5 hours ago

It’s time for one of the largest polluters in Dallas to renew its operating permit and its neighbors have had enough. On Thursday night, more than 42 West Dallas community members and advocates spoke out against GAF, the asphalt shingle manufacturer on Singleton that has spewed chemicals into the neighborhood since the 1940s.

With the help of state Rep. Jasmine Crockett, D-Dallas, West Dallas 1—a coalition of community organizers—successfully requested a hearing with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to challenge GAF’s permit renewal, which happens once every five years.

At the beginning of the hearing’s informal discussion period, GAF spokesman Tommy Richardson announced that the plant’s Title V permit would be identical to its current one. Under the federal 1990 Clean Air Act, major industrial operators must obtain a Title V permit in order to operate. Among other things, it dictates the amount of emissions a plant can produce.

“We’re here today renewing the Title V permit with no changes; it’s a standard renewal. And it’s required every five years,” he said.

For many West Dallas residents, a “standard renewal” is unacceptable. Despite the constraints of the EPA’s permit, they argue that GAF is still polluting the neighborhood. The plant has yet to install a sulfur dioxide scrubber, which would filter out much of the putrid gas. Stephanie Champion, an attorney with Legal Aid of Northwest Texas who is representing West Dallas 1, believes the permit violates both the Clean Air Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In her prepared remarks, Champion argued that the neighborhood is disproportionately populated by people of color and that allowing the plant to operate there is discriminatory. Legal Aid is asking the TCEQ to deny the permit.

Located on Singleton Boulevard about four miles west of downtown, GAF’s plant is within a quarter mile of community centers, churches, daycares, schools, and both public and private housing. Neighbor Esther Villarreal’s family has “changed the way [they] run about town and enjoy the public facilities such as the Dallas West Branch Library,” she says. “We no longer attend programs in the morning, when I have heard from my neighbors and experienced myself the strong noxious odors coming from the plant. We now attend the library quickly, in and out. Short trips. We do not linger.”

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Politics & Government

Texas Redistricting Could Be Bad News for Fair Representation in Dallas

| 8 hours ago

The question of who gets counted in population estimates remains of critical importance as a messy redistricting process looms ahead for state lawmakers in Austin right now — and those who will likely return to Austin sooner or later.

A GOP push to get a citizenship question included on documents for the 2020 Census stalled out last year. That’s good for Dallas, which would lose significant representation if legislative maps were drawn using population numbers that discount a large number of the people who live here, according to a new report from the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice.

Legislative districts are now drawn based on total population, including children and non-citizens. Many Republicans, who will once again steer the redistricting process in Texas, have in recent years instead gotten behind the idea of determining representation by “citizen voting-age populations,” meaning only adults over the age of 18. This would disadvantage Latino communities and Texas’ large urban areas, which tend to be younger and bluer than more sparsely populated parts of the state.

Says the Brennan Center:

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Local News

Leading Off (7/30/21)

| 9 hours ago

Methodist Requires Vaccinations. Baylor Scott & White earlier this week became the first major North Texas employer to require its employees to be vaccinated. Methodist Health System is now doing the same, mandating that its 10,000 employees get the jab. It’s not a surprise we’re seeing healthcare organizations make the requirement; I’m curious as to which other Dallas-area employers take the plunge and when.

Gov. Greg Abbott Again Limits Localities. The governor rewrote his executive order yesterday, which now bars any local government or school district from requiring mask wearing. This is his weird “personal responsibility” kick that’s being echoed among his colleagues. It also bars any private entity that receives any sort of state government funding from requiring vaccines, which makes the entry above this one pretty interesting.

SWAT Cop Who Punched Man Also Shot Protesters in the Eye. WFAA reports that the off-duty cop who was caught on video punching a man during a brawl is SWAT Ofc. Melvin Williams. He was working security at Off the Cuff in Deep Ellum when the fight broke out. A guy approached him, and the officer slammed him into a pole then began punching him in the face. Williams is also the officer who is under investigation for shooting two protesters in the eye during last summer’s protests. One of those, Brandon Saez, had to have his eye removed. The police department is commending his colleagues for intervening when he was punching the man, but the attorney for the other victims questioned why he was allowed to be working in the first place.

The Heat Will Be ‘Oppressive’ This Weekend. Don’t look for any relief from the high temperatures this weekend. Highs are in the upper 90s; it’ll be bright and sunny and muggy, too. 

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Local News

Mysterious Far North Dallas Compound Is a Case of Zillow Gone Wild

| 1 day ago

It looks like a normal enough house from the outside. Maybe a little big when compared to other properties in its Far North Dallas neighborhood. It gets stranger the farther you scroll down the listing, which this week caught the attention of Zillow Gone Wild, an Instagram account chronicling eye-popping real estate listings around the country.

Zero beds, one bath. Square feet: 5,768. Listing price: $989,000. In a residential neighborhood where most of the homes range between 1,200 and 2,500 square feet, respectively, with listings in the range of $350,000.

You look at the photos of the interior—of large fluorescent-lit spaces that call to mind dull corporate offices, chemical laboratories, and county jails—and only feel more confused. What exactly is this facility doing here, looking from the outside like every other generic two-story house in suburban Dallas?

The description on the Zillow listing doesn’t exactly clear things up:

A property unlike any other! With walls, flooring, and ceiling made of concrete, this property can serve as the perfect storage spot for large wine collections, art collections, multiple cars, as well as serving as the ultimate safe house. The building is connected to two electrical grids and also features a natural gas generator that has is powered by two diesel fuel tanks in the event of a natural gas failure, making the chance of power loss a very rare. With office space as well as warehouse space and large outdoor area, there are many ways this property can be utilized.

I couldn’t get the property’s real estate agent to pick up the phone. The owner, who runs an outfit that leases commercial space in the Dallas area, didn’t return a voicemail.

But the owner’s listing offering to lease the building sheds a little light on the situation, calling it a “Former AT&T Data Center House.” Tax records show AT&T owned the property until 2011. The “for lease” listing also says the property can “only be used as a Data House,” so you may have to temper those dreams of stashing your wine collection or multiple cars here.

I asked AT&T about it. The company says:

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Local News

As Dallas’ COVID Vaccinations Stall, a Push to Convince the ‘Moveable Middle’

| 1 day ago

A stagnant vaccination rate and the more contagious delta variant of COVID-19 are putting anything resembling an “end” to the pandemic further and further out of reach. COVID cases and hospitalizations are again ticking up in North Texas. According to UT Southwestern’s most recent forecasting, hospital volume has doubled over the past two weeks and is up 230 percent over the past month. This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance that everyone, including people who have already been vaccinated, should wear masks indoors in places with a high amount of community spread. That applies to Dallas. (Following rules set by Gov. Greg Abbott, there are no government-imposed mask mandates in Texas.)

The vast majority of serious illnesses and deaths from COVID-19 are now among unvaccinated people. Getting the jab remains the best way to prevent the spread of the virus, and to protect yourself and others. Only about 52 percent of Dallas County residents over the age of 12 have been fully vaccinated; children younger than that are not yet permitted to receive the vaccine, making them particularly vulnerable to infection.

That’s why health and government officials are increasingly asking themselves the question: How do we convince people to go get the jab? Dallas County has held pop-up clinics. Mayor Eric Johnson has raffled off Cowboys tickets and airline flights to people who get vaccinated. UT Southwestern has put out a guide with talking points to help convince your patients or your friends and family members that getting the vaccine is the safe and responsible thing to do.

Steve Miff, CEO of the Parkland Center for Clinical Innovation, told D CEO this week that area businesses and employers will be key. “Employers are going to put mandates, create meaningful and strong incentives, or penalties for the employees,” he said. “That’s likely the biggest bump that we’ll get in vaccinations.”

Sure enough, Baylor Scott & White said Wednesday that it was requiring all of its 40,000 full-time workers to get vaccinated.

Private sector businesses have been slower to adopt such measures. Others may follow with similar incentives, but regardless, many of Dallas’ employers are already playing a role in pushing the shot. The Dallas Regional Chamber, the area’s largest chamber of commerce, earlier this year launched a $1 million pro-vaccination campaign. As early as January, the chamber began developing an initiative with the Boston Consulting Group.

“We [wanted to] put together a program that would help this community learn how to get vaccinated so that we would get the economy back to life, and really help the small businesses, many of them restaurants and dry cleaners and other places that require face-to-face interaction,” says Dale Petroskey, the chamber’s president and CEO. “When you’re a sole proprietor, your livelihood and your business are one and the same. If your business goes down, basically your life goes down.”

According to the chamber, the pandemic drove small business revenue in Dallas down by 31 percent, and about one in three small businesses in North Texas have been forced to close their doors. While a vaccination campaign may seem out of the typical purview of a chamber of commerce, Dallas businesses have skin in the game when it comes to ending the pandemic. There is a high cost to North Texas’ low vaccination rate.

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Leading Off

Leading Off (7/29/21)

| 1 day ago

COVID. Dallas hospitals are preparing for another surge of hospitalized patients, while Baylor Scott & White Health is now requiring all of its employees to get vaccinated. (Yes, your employer can do that.) Cases are shooting back up. Not good. If you’ve got any tips on convincing that anti-vax friend of yours to do the right thing, please share. I’ve tried challenging mine to a heads-up match of the classic 2004 first-person shooter Halo 2; winner would call the “shot.” But no dice. I think he’s chicken.

Dallas Police Officer On Leave Over Video. An officer who was filmed punching a man on the ground in Deep Ellum is being investigated and may face a criminal inquiry. Channel 8 says the officer, who has not been named, “already has two pending use of force investigations against him.”

Shoulder Injury Could Keep Dak Prescott Out for Couple Weeks. “Couple” in this case does seem to mean only “two,” and the team didn’t seem too concerned about the seriousness of an apparent strain in the Cowboys quarterback’s throwing arm. Still, nobody wants to see Garrett Gilbert starting for the Dallas Cowboys except for Garrett Gilbert.

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Music

R.I.P. Dusty Hill, ZZ Top Bassist and East Dallas Legend

| 2 days ago

Dusty Hill, bassist for ZZ Top, one of the all-time great rock and roll bands and about as Texas as a band could ever dream of being, has died at the age of 72.

Bandmates Billy Gibbons and Frank Beard said in a statement:

We are saddened by the news today that our Compadre, Dusty Hill, has passed away in his sleep at home in Houston, TX. We, along with legions of ZZ Top fans around the world, will miss your steadfast presence, your good nature and enduring commitment to providing that monumental bottom to the ‘Top’. We will forever be connected to that “Blues Shuffle in C.”

You will be missed greatly, amigo.

Frank & Billy

Hill grew up in East Dallas and went to Woodrow Wilson High School, joining ZZ Top shortly before the band put out its first album. He stuck with the trio for the next five decades, although there was a late ’70s hiatus where Hill worked at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, a fact I just learned in this Rolling Stone obit. This was pre-beard, and pre-superstardom. From that obit:

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Local News

Wedding Dress Found on Dallas North Tollway in Frisco

| 2 days ago

Have you heard the one about the runaway wedding dress?

On Friday night, service crews picking up debris scattered on the Dallas North Tollway found a surprise: a wedding dress, which was recovered on the southbound side of the tollway near the Gaylord exit in Frisco. It was boxed up and in pretty good shape.

“It wasn’t Sally Field in the old Smokey and the Bandit movie,” says Michael Rey, media relations manager for the North Texas Tollway Authority.

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Local News

Leading Off (7/28/21)

| 2 days ago

As COVID Cases Surge, CDC Says Mask Up. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday that vaccinated individuals should begin wearing masks indoors again in areas with high community spread. North Texas meets that description as Dallas County reports 1,453 new cases in its latest 3-day totals. County Judge Clay Jenkins says most of the area’s hospital beds for COVID patients are mostly occupied by people in their 20s, 30s, and 40s. UT Southwestern released a guide for speaking with friends and family members who are still reluctant to take the vaccine.

COVID Surge Threatens Hope for Normal School Reopening. The CDC and the Texas Teachers Association requested that Gov. Greg Abbott lift his ban on school districts requiring face coverings in schools, but the governor has refused. Some parents want to continue to have a virtual learning option, but state lawmakers haven’t funded virtual school for the upcoming year. Parents with children too young to be vaccinated and vulnerable family members at home are scared. “My husband has cancer,” Wallis Johnston told the Fort Worth ISD’s board. “I had to look at my 10-year-old with tears streaming down his face when he said, ‘Mommy what if I get COVID from someone at school and bring it home to dad.’”

Jake Ellzey Beats Trump-Backed Susan Wright in Congressional Runoff. Both candidates vying to replace Wright’s late-husband Ron Wright in the U.S. Congress have similar stances on many issues, but Donald Trump’s support of Susan Wright turned the race into a bellwether for the former president’s influence within GOP party politics.

UT, Oklahoma Officially Request SEC Membership. It’s all but a done deal. After the two Big 12 powers jump ship to the SEC, they might as well rename the conference the National U-22 Football League, pay players a salary, drop the requirement that athletes attend college classes, and stop pretending this isn’t just another pro sports league.

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