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A Daily Conversation About Dallas

Local News

Dallas Approves Tax Breaks for Kroger and Apartments Near Downtown

| 15 hours ago

The Dallas City Council on Wednesday approved about $2 million in tax breaks for developers planning to build a Kroger grocery store and apartments at 1823 North Hall St., just northeast of downtown Dallas.

The incentives will effectively halve the property taxes due on the land for 10 years. (It’s a better figure for the city than was presented several weeks ago, when the City Council punted a previously scheduled vote on a 90 percent abatement that would have foregone about $4 million in tax revenue.)

Plans for the One City View development call for 375 apartment units to be built, with 75 of them (or 20 percent) set aside for residents making 60 percent of the Dallas area’s median family income, which comes out to $36,000 for a one-person household and $51,000 total for four people. Council members who supported the tax breaks say it’s the affordable housing—and not the grocery store—that the city is subsidizing here.

Councilwoman Carolyn King Arnold, who represents District 4 in Oak Cliff and southern Dallas and voted against the incentives, noted that there are parts of town in much greater need of a grocery store. “Kroger has not done the southern sector well,” she said.

But most of the debate before the 11-3 vote—Mayor Eric Johnson, who tested positive for COVID-19 this week, was absent—hinged largely on the affordable housing, and on a hypothetical: What would Georgia-based Southeastern Development and Kroger do without the city incentives? 

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Halloween

Swiss Avenue’s Enormous Trick-or-Treating Bash Is Back

| 16 hours ago

Last year, the Swiss Avenue Historic District did something it hasn’t done in at least 35 years: it canceled Halloween. Or, at least, it canceled trick-or-treating. Each year, somewhere between 3,000 and 5,000 kids pour into the East Dallas neighborhood from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

That didn’t happen, for obvious reasons, in 2020. Some neighbors didn’t decorate. They put up signs along the street announcing the event was off. But now, with vaccines available—and, honestly, I’m not sure how you could tell your kids they have to go to school but can’t go trick-or-treating—the event is back on.

“There’s just something about it,” says Christine Reagan Loh, the president of the Swiss Avenue Historic District. “There are all these little ones running up and down the street, it’s just such a fun time. And coming out of COVID, I think people are ready to get back to normal and have fun.”

I dialed Loh on Tuesday to talk about the return of the event.

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Media

Pete Delkus Still Has His Fastball

| 18 hours ago

The playful banter between WFAA’s lead weatherman, Pete Delkus, and its (now retired) sports anchor, Dale Hansen, was always pretty good. The reason: they are funny guys, they respect each other, and they weren’t afraid to bring it. (Also, they didn’t completely leave it to improv; the two usually communicated prior to the newscast about their planned japes.) Now that Joe Trahan has taken over for Hansen, how’s that all going to work out? Here’s the exchange from last night’s 10 o’clock, as Delkus threw it from weather to sports:

DELKUS: “That’s it for the weather. Next up sports, with Joe, who smells like a brewery.”

TRAHAN: “Honest to God, I was at the Mavs game, and a fan spilled beer on me.”

DELKUS: “Yeah, Dale used that excuse for 39 years. We aren’t buying it, Joe.”

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Local News

Dallas Adopts Paid Parental Leave for City Employees

| 18 hours ago

City of Dallas employees who become parents can now take up to six weeks of paid time off after the City Council unanimously approved a paid parental leave policy Wednesday.

The policy applies to all of the city’s 13,000 employees. Previously, they could either take up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off under federal law, or burn through sick days and vacation days.

Parents of newborn children and parents who have recently adopted a child are eligible for paid time off under the new policy.

Efforts to give city employees’ paid parental leave picked up steam earlier this year after Mayor Eric Johnson and his wife had their third child. The new policy doesn’t apply to elected officials—that would require voters to OK a change to the city charter—but “it is important to me, as the first mayor in Dallas history to have a child born while in office, that the City Council have the chance to consider whether to offer such a benefit for our employees,” Johnson wrote in a memo urging council members to consider such a policy. In May, he directed the council’s Government Performance and Financial Management committee to study the issue. It came together quickly after.

“Dallas should strive to be a top city for families, and I believe paid parental leave could contribute to a stronger work environment and set an excellent example for our residents and other employers.”

Fort Worth beat Dallas to the punch: in August of 2020, the city to our west approved up to six weeks of paid time off, similar to the city of Dallas’ decision on Wednesday.

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Local News

Leading Off (10/27/21)

| 22 hours ago

Faced With Shortage, Some Districts Rely on Virtual Teachers. A nationwide teacher shortage has forced districts to get creative, sometimes hiring teachers who remain out-of-state and teach remotely. For example, some students in Lancaster ISD attend class with a streamed-in teacher the district hired through a private virtual learning provider. This should be a wakeup call that we need to pay our teachers more, but it will likely result in more districts outsourcing teaching to new private companies that employ sweatshops of virtual teachers who teach multiple classes across the country at the same time via Zoom.

Dallas County to Receive $2.3 Million Opioid Settlement. The payout is part of a whooping $26 billion settlement with Johnson & Johnson. Three of the nation’s largest drug distributors for our country’s legal drug cartels’ role in fueling the opioid epidemic. Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said the money will be used to pay for mental health and addiction recovery services. The county may receive an additional $70 million from a larger portion of the settlement that will be paid to the state of Texas.

Gearing Up for Campaigns, Texas Lawmakers Get Goofy. It’s dog whistle season. Rep. Matt Krause, who is running for attorney general, wants to know what kinds of sexy books are in Texas schools. Rep. James White, who is running for Texas Agriculture Commissioner, wants to know if ordinary Texans can pretend like their married gay neighbors are not really married.

Dallas Zoo Offers Halloween Candy Recommendations. In short, cut out the candy made with palm oil. In fact, try to avoid palm oil altogether. It’s not easy. We live in a world that claims to operate within a free market and yet our consumer decisions are often constricted by an industrialized global economy that bakes environmental devastation into the bottom line, and the only real way to help the orangutans, as the Dallas Zoo is asking us to do, is to regulate the multi-national corporations that monopolize the production chain. But laying off palm oil candy this Halloween is a nice way to be mindful of the unintended impacts of our holiday traditions that have come to be defined by gratuitous consumption.

It’s Wet Out There. Later It Will Be Chilly. Showers are expected to continue through the morning. Skies will clear up later this afternoon as cold wind moves in from the north.

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Brunch

Introducing the Dallas Restaurants Reimagining Brunch

| 2 days ago

Hollandaise-drenched benedicts, Bloody Marys so strong they could wake the namesake queen right out of her English grave, yolky eggs on everything—brunch is not for the faint of cholesterol. That’s not to say that it isn’t the only weekend meal that matters. (But it kind of really is.) Or that sleuthing out the most interesting brunches in Dallas isn’t a thrill. (It definitely is.) But believe when I say I had to take a break from toasts and eggs after doing the legwork for our latest brunch feature, “The New Way to Brunch in Dallas,” which goes live today.

This particular brunch feature has an interesting origin story. It was actually my first service piece that I worked on at the start of 2020, not long after D hired me. I had popped the yolk of many eggy dishes. I had sussed out the biscuits. I had drunk many an espresso cocktail. Then the world shut down, essentially. Which is to say, much of the brunches I enjoyed were put on indefinite hold and this story was shelved.

That is, until this year, when it time to revive and revisit it. As dining critic Eve Hill-Agnus and I delved back into this research, we found a brunch scene very much alive and very much different. Some brunches, sadly, never came back. But as new restaurants opened, interesting takes on what brunch even is emerged.

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Politics & Government

Mayor Eric Johnson Has COVID

| 2 days ago

Mayor Eric Johnson sent a statement a few moments ago announcing that he has a breakthrough infection. Earlier this month, Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker also tested positive. This is a reminder, y’all. Encourage your friends to get vaccinated. Johnson’s illness is so far mild, a likely result of his having gotten vaccinated. We wish him a speedy recovery. Here’s his full statement:

“This morning, I tested positive for COVID-19. Thankfully, I am fully vaccinated, and I am only experiencing mild symptoms. My wife Nikki, who is also fully vaccinated, has tested negative.

“Our primary concern at this time is the health of our children, who are not yet eligible to receive a vaccine.

“I have notified my recent close contacts about my positive test, and we have alerted our boys’ schools. After I first began to feel ill late Monday, I also canceled my Tuesday events to ensure that I did not put anyone at risk. Now that I have confirmation of my status, I will be unable to preside over Wednesday’s Dallas City Council meeting and will unfortunately have to miss other engagements this week.

“I appreciate your thoughts and prayers on behalf of my family, and I look forward to a speedy recovery so I can get back to work with my colleagues on behalf of the people of Dallas.

“In addition, I want to take this opportunity to again encourage residents of Dallas to get vaccinated if they have not yet done so — and to receive a booster shot when they are eligible. The vaccines have saved lives and can make breakthrough cases, like mine, far less severe.”

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Local News

Did You Know There Is an Election Happening? Here Is What’s on the Ballot

| 2 days ago

The polls are open for early voting ahead of the November 2 election, which asks voters to weigh in on changing eight laws in the bulbous state constitution. As of Monday afternoon, just 10,581 people have cast a ballot. For context, there are 1,382,054 registered voters in Dallas County, which brings our turnout to a pretty rough .76 percent.

These are always low-turnout affairs—no candidate is up for reelection—which makes approval likely. As Texas Monthly rightly noted, these are all mostly “niche interests,” even some that stand to benefit the families of military members who die during the course of their service. Find your polling place here, and remember, you can vote anywhere in Dallas County. Not just your precinct. I bet it will take you less than one minute to cast your ballot.

Here is a rundown on what you’re being asked to vote on:

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Local News

Leading Off (10/26/21)

| 2 days ago

COVID Update. The average number of new daily cases in Dallas County for the last two-week period is 502; for the previous two-week period, it was 811. The state of Texas is already ordering Pfizer vaccine with the expectation that the CDC will green-light shots for kids aged 8-11; that should begin in early November.

Severe Weather Possible Tonight. The National Weather Service in Fort Worth says large hail and tornadoes are possible tonight. They advise folks to secure loose objects.

JFK Assassination Files Kept Under Wraps. The FBI and CIA documents were supposed to be released today, but the Biden administration blamed the pandemic for missing the deadline. A few of the records will be released in December, and the rest will follow next year. Some in the Kennedy clan aren’t happy about the delay.

Toilet Paper, Tissue, Diapers Getting Expensive. Irving-based Kimberly-Clark, which makes tons of paper products, said yesterday that inflation and supply-chain issues aren’t letting up. Consider stockpiling Huggies even if you don’t own a baby.

Dallas Zoo Loses Second Giraffe in a Month. Auggie was 19 years old and died from age-related health issues that led to liver failure. The zoo dumped all its bad news at once by also announcing how 3-month-old Marekani was injured earlier this month, leading keepers to euthanize the animal. The calf was running with other giraffes and planted a hoof awkwardly. Another giraffe couldn’t pull up quickly enough and ran into Marekani.

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Local News

Hope Comes to Floral Farms: Visions of a Park Where Shingle Mountain Once Stood

| 3 days ago

Marsha Jackson was happy to see her neighborhood last week. About 50 people sat on folding chairs in a building on her neighbor’s property to see their vision for a park presented in renderings. It has taken years to get to this point, years of fighting to get the city to pay attention to the pile of shingles that grew to six stories and sat adjacent to her property. Jackson became a spokesperson for her neighborhood of Floral Farms and later a plaintiff, trying to get the courts to force someone to do something.

Eventually, they did. The city acquired the property and hired a contractor to haul off 70,000 tons of shingle detritus to the dump. The mountain is gone, but its remnants — lead in the soil “above expected background levels,” the presence of arsenic — can still be found in the dirt. After the city issued its first environmental assessment, Jackson told us that she wanted the city to “pay as much attention to the people as the property.”

One fight after another. But Jackson and her partners haven’t stopped working: they want this land to be a park. Once the shingles started piling up, it’s been tough to go outside in this part of southern Dallas, not far from the city’s southmost boundary. Jackson has had health problems, black gunk in her lungs, shortness of breath, skin rashes. Her neighbors, particularly the kids, stayed inside to try to avoid whatever was in the air.

Now they have something to look forward to. Jackson and her partners — the neighborhood association Neighbors United/Vecinos Unidos, Paul Quinn College’s Urban Research Initiative, the Inclusive Communities Project, the nonprofit environmental activists Downwinders at Risk — teamed with the Dallas-based international architecture and design firm HKS, which began planning for a park as part of its charity arm, Citizen HKS.

They spent most of the year organizing community meetings (in English and Spanish) to learn what the neighbors wanted in a park. Thursday was the community’s first chance to see their priorities visualized in renderings.

“The biggest joy was just to see the neighbors yesterday, the smiles on their faces. Usually they’re kind of quiet and shy, but it’s just different,” Jackson said Friday. “Matt, you’ve been down here. You can just see the difference. We’re a big family, and they’re finally coming out of their shell.”

The park’s renderings depicted a community garden and a soccer field. A trail runs the length of the 4.3-acre space, accented by benches and surfaces for skateboarding and shady spots to relax. There is a playground and an area for food trucks and another space for where the community can actually gather. Jackson reminded me that they don’t have sidewalks, so it’s tough to walk here, particularly considering her home on Choate Road is a tight turn off the busy State Highway 310. The proposed trail would help. HKS’ plans also include a 14-foot-tall grassy mound with seating at the bottom, representative of both the past and future.

HKS Design Researcher Erin Peavey, who led the design team, said she knew this had to be a project that healed. “You can develop beautiful renderings, but if the community wasn’t involved in making them, how do you know that’s what they’re wanting?” she said. “The power had been taken out of their hands for so long that this was about giving it back.”

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Nature & Environment

America Needs to Kick Its Car Dependency. Are Local Investments in Urban Design the Answer?

| 3 days ago

We write about the shortcoming of North Texas’ car-centric urban design a lot. Last week, I pointed out how Dallas lags behind other American cities when it comes to bike infrastructure. This morning, Matt reminded us that the city still makes life for pedestrians difficult. We’ve spilled a lot of real and digital ink pushing for things like converting urban highways into boulevards and investing in better and more useful transit.

We devote so much attention to how to make our region’s cities less car-dominated because of all the benefits that come with addressing North Texas’ car-centric design. A less car dependent city would improve neighborhoods’ safety and quality of life, help regenerate inner-city growth and create new jobs, reduce the costs of transportation that contribute to inequality, and lessen the burden on taxpayers for funding a never-ending infrastructure Ponzi Scheme. One benefit we don’t focus on too often is the way in which a shift away from car-centric urban design, particularly in sprawling metros like Dallas, could play an outsized role in the effort to bring global carbon emissions in line with the goals outlined in the Paris Climate Agreement.

The BBC has a new report that looks at the role the United States’ car-centric infrastructure plays in the ongoing effort to reduce global carbon emissions. To drive home how car-centric American culture is, the BBC piece opens by dropping into Arlington, which—as we all know very well—is the largest city in the United States without any public transportation. The BBC isn’t picking on Arlington; it makes the case that the North Texas city is by no means an outlier. No matter where you live in the United States you are likely dependent on cars for all your transportation needs. Since 2017, driving has been the single largest source of greenhouse emissions in the U.S.

In 2019, more than three-quarters of American workers drove alone to work. The vast majority of their cars burn petrol, each emitting an average of 4.6 tonnes of CO2 per year – equivalent to the total yearly emissions of someone living in France. The US also lags behind China and Northern European countries in electric car sales – electric vehicles made up only 2% of all new cars sold in 2020 (75% of cars sold in Norway the same year were electric).

The BBC also reports that the U.S. was responsible for about a quarter of global passenger aviation emissions in 2019. Taken together it becomes clear that any attempt to substantially reduce the United States’ contribution to climate change will need to address the fact that we drive and fly virtually everywhere.

That’s not going to be easy because, as the BBC points out, since the end of World War II we’ve built a country in which it is all but impossible to use a form of transportation that isn’t a car or truck. In other words, it is not drivers who are at fault for all those emissions. Even if you wanted to give up the car and begin using other, less-impactful means of transit, in places like North Texas, the option just isn’t there. The irony, the BBC points out, is that the car has come to symbolize American freedom, and yet it has also made us slaves to a single form of transit.

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Urbanism

Dallas: The City That Hates Pedestrians, Pt. 44

| 3 days ago

It’s time we brought this series back (…for the second time). The city is buzzing and the sidewalks aren’t always accommodating. We’re back this week in Deep Ellum and both of the below images are along Main Street, the first at Trunk Avenue and the following at 2nd Avenue. Construction has torn up the sidewalks, pushing walkers into the street. And considering how walkable Deep Ellum should be, it’s a shame that there aren’t safe alternatives for pedestrians who are looking to get past this stuff.

Let’s take a look:

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