Tuesday, August 9, 2022 Aug 9, 2022
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A Daily Conversation About Dallas
Summer Fiction

Dallas Summer Reading Series: Les Poissons

Mag Gabbert
By Mag Gabbert |
Tatjana Junker

That evening would be Gillian’s first trip inside “the ball,” as people with weaker imaginations usually called it, despite the fact that it clearly resembled a giant microphone. One of her fifth-grade classmates had described the building’s interior a few months before, after attending a party there with her parents, and ever since then Gillian had tumbled over the details in her mind: a room encased by polished glass walls, floor spinning like a slow cloud, waiters whizzing past cupping petal-blue flames. It all sounded kind of—what was that new spelling bee word? “Extraterrestrial”?

As usual, she and her family were running late. And throughout the drive over, 4-year-old Lizzie kept chirping the same handful of off-pitch lyrics in a never-ending loop, ruining the otherwise hushed atmosphere inside their Suburban. I’ll bet she spent the whole afternoon watching The Little Mermaid for the twentieth time and sucking on Goldfish, Gillian thought. How fricking “obsolete.” But her annoyance was soon interrupted by the sight of the huge microphone finally looming nearby. She rested her head against the window and pretended she was moving the car closer to it with her mind. 

As they rounded the last corner and pulled up toward the valet stand, her dad suddenly smacked the side of the steering wheel. “I think I left my wallet in my other coat,” he huffed. “Do you guys want to head up there and order me a rum and Pepsi?” He glanced toward his wife in the passenger seat. “I guess I need to run back and grab it.”

“Um, sure,” Gillian’s mom said, smiling in a way that meant she was tired. “Just give us a minute to get our things together.”

Once they’d managed to locate several of Lizzie’s toys, snacks, ponytail holders, and picture books—all of which were now artfully balanced along one of their mom’s arms—the three of them made their way past a row of fancy cars parked by the entrance and into the base of the building. From there, they waited in line for an elevator that would take them up through the long, slender column into the large sphere perched at the top. Gillian followed her mother’s instructions when they got in and pressed a button labeled “GeO-Deck.” It would take her dad a little while to return, so they would spend a few minutes exploring the observation area before heading to the restaurant above. 

Last week, Dallas County declared monkeypox a health emergency as the disease continues to spread while officials scramble to meet increased demand for vaccines. Now, imagine you could pick a disease or condition and see its prevalence mapped in your community, county, state, or country.

Where is the spread? Who is most vulnerable? Where is there the most protection against the disease? Which communities have complicating factors that could make the condition more impactful?

These questions run through our heads whenever we hear about a new infectious disease or another COVID-19 variant. This information would be necessary for targeting resources for public health officials and policymakers. Now, a locally developed dashboard may serve as a template to transform how we visualize and address disease in our communities.

Local News

Leading Off (8/8/22)

Zac Crain
By |

Drunk Driver Crashes Into White Settlement House, Kills Teen Girl. Her father was also taken to the hospital in serious condition.

CPAC Dallas Straw Poll Shows Republicans Want Trump to Be Their Candidate in 2024. No real surprise. I guess it would be more of a surprise if this was not the case. Trump gave the keynote speech. You can find quote somewhere.

Andre Emmett’s Jersey Retired by BIG3. The Carter High and Texas Tech standout was shot and killed during a robbery outside his East Dallas home.

Man Attacks Thief Trying to Take His Catalytic Converter. I don’t condone violence, but as someone who has had two catalytic converters stolen, one while I was at a memorial service, I certainly feel this.

100-Degree Day Streak Stops. The sixth-longest streak was broken Saturday, though it did not really feel like it.

When Michael Hinojosa announced in January that he planned to resign as superintendent of Dallas ISD, he had run the state’s second-largest school district for 13 years over two stints. By most accounts, he’d done it well. Before the pandemic hit, the Dallas Morning News editorial board said DISD was “poised to be the best urban district in the country,” and a year later H-E-B named it the top large district in the state. Finding the next superintendent would be critical to continuing that success. And pretty much everyone in town who follows education thought they knew who would get the job. Hinojosa himself had hired her. 

Hinojosa’s last contract, negotiated in 2019, contained a clause that required him to make his “best reasonable efforts to identify and mentor one or more qualified individuals” who could be considered by the board of trustees as his replacement—or, as he’d later say, someone “who could take over in case I got run over by a DART bus.”

In November 2020, he hired Susana Cordova away from the top job at Denver Public Schools to serve as his deputy superintendent. A News headline a few months later called her a “ ‘rock star’ who might well be Dallas ISD’s next superintendent.” In that story, Hinojosa said, “I love this job, but while I’ve never felt comfortable leaving for another opportunity, now it’s different because of Susana.”

So that was that. Right? Susana Cordova, second in command, former superintendent. She would take over when Hinojosa formally stepped down. 

Apparently the nine trustees on DISD’s board don’t read the paper. Four months after Hinojosa made his announcement, the board revealed that it had chosen a lone finalist for the job, and—surprise!—it wasn’t Cordova. That finalist must have been, if not surprised, a bit dizzied by how quickly everything had happened. 


This Bug Wants to Eat Your Trees: How to Stop the Emerald Ash Borer

Tim Rogers
By |
Agrilus planipennis emarld ash borer
The Enemy: Don’t freak. EABs aren’t really this big. Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Commons

Native to Asia, the emerald ash borer 20 years ago found its way to North America, where it was first spotted in Michigan. In May, Texas A&M Forest Service sounded the alarm that its monitoring traps in Dallas had for the first time caught the sucker. The beetle has arrived.

The EAB, as it is known by tree people, tunnels under the bark of every ash species and gobbles the part of the tree that moves water and nutrients up the trunk, thereby starving it. If a tree goes untreated, it will die in two to three years. 

In 2015, the nonprofit Texas Trees Foundation conducted a survey of the city of Dallas’ entire tree population. It found that 13 percent—about 2 million trees—are some variety of ash. In the 6,000-acre Great Trinity Forest, what has been called the lungs of the city, the percentage is even higher, about 23 percent. We could lose all of it. Based on environmental impact, Texas Trees puts the value of the city’s ash population at $890 million. 

Trees are essential to a healthy urban environment. They clean the air, reduce the heat island effect created by concrete, and help prevent flooding. Studies have shown that just looking at trees lowers people’s blood pressure and improves mood. So let’s talk about how to save them.

Best of Big D

How We Brought You the ‘Best of Big D’

Tim Rogers
By Tim Rogers |

People enjoy making me feel ignorant with regularity, and I don’t much appreciate it. They’ll learn what it is that I do for a living, and they’ll ask, “Oooh, where’s the best ramen in town?” Or, “Where’s a good place with a DJ to go dancing?” Which would be like if I asked my 16-year-old daughter, “Where does TikTok keep your data?” My daughter is really good at TikTok. I promise you, though: she has no clue it’s a spy tool of the Chinese government that will bring our great nation to its knees, probably with an irresistible challenge we all love, like trying to keep a mouthful of water while slapping a family member with a tortilla.

Point is, I’m really good at magazines. But I absolutely have no idea which is the best kitchen accessories store in town. Or I didn’t until Jessica Otte, the editor of our sister publication D Home, dropped some knowledge on me in the shopping section of “Best of Big D” package, which is online today. And thank goodness Taylor Crumpton, our online arts editor, knows a thing or two about dance parties, and our dining critic, Brian Reinhart, is all over the noodles situation.

And Kathy Wise, Zac Crain, Lesley Busby, Elizabeth Lavin, Aileen Jimenez, Matt Goodman, Bethany Erickson, and Catherine Wendlandt—each one of them is younger than I am and apparently leaves the house to go do stuff and drink stuff and do the stanky leg, which is a dance popularized by a 2009 song by the GS Boyz, who hail from Arlington. Why do I know that? I read it somewhere at some point and committed it to memory because I thought it might one day make for a funny reference in a Dallas-based magazine. But I can’t do the stanky leg. And if I could, I wouldn’t know where to do it. But our staff knows. They know everything.

If I’m in the mood to make excuses, partly it’s a hangover from the pandemic lockdown. Mostly, though, it’s because I’m 52 years old. I’ve grown terribly comfortable just being at home. Or, when I do venture out, I too often stick to the small handful of haunts I always hit before heading home at a reasonable hour so I can watch part of a movie.

Hey, listen. Even if you’re not like me, even if you don’t have one wheel riding in a middle-age rut, even if current events haven’t kept you on the couch, I invite you—nay, I challenge you—to use this year’s “Best of Big D” as your inspiration to further explore this vast place we so lovingly call North Texas. Let’s head out and have some fun. You can read it right here.

Local News

Leading Off (8/5/22)

Matt Goodman
By |

CPAC CPACs. The Conservative Political Action Conference kicked off yesterday at the Hilton Anatole, which featured Gov. Greg Abbott sticking to his familiar talking points. Earlier in the day, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán— fresh off another speech denouncing racial integration and blaming the Holocaust on Europe abandoning “Christian values”— delivered a speech with, as the New York Times described, “standing ovations, glad-handing and roaring approval for a defiant message opposing immigration and gay marriage.”

Monkeypox Is a Public Health Emergency. This allows the federal government to spend more money to bolster vaccine production and other resources needed to fight the virus. Dallas County accounts for about 40 percent of the state’s 454 cases.

Former Richardson Mayor Guilty. Mayor Laura Maczka and Mark Jordan, a developer who she married after being indicted, were both sentenced to six years in prison for bribery and tax fraud. Maczka pushed through zoning changes that allowed for new apartments in return for money and home renovations. Prosecutors also say Jordan paid for “luxury hotel stays” in return for sex.

Oncor Loves the Heat. The North Texas utility has brought in $229 million in profits this summer, a $60 million increase over the same period in 2021. The company delivers the electricity purchased by consumers and charges the electricity providers. The profits were “driven by increases in revenues from higher customer consumption attributable primarily to significantly warmer weather in the second quarter of 2022.” It will again be above 100 degrees this weekend.

The city of Dallas is currently rewriting its land use plan, which, in its simplest terms, governs what can be built and where.

A few months ago, I began looking at what had changed since 2006, when the city first adopted what it called ForwardDallas. How were other cities similar in size to Dallas handling development? How were they addressing historic inequities in their land use policies and zoning, like where industry is allowed to operate and which neighborhoods can densify?

I came across a piece in The Atlantic with a curious title: “Cancel Zoning.”

The author, M. Nolan Gray, makes the argument that zoning exacerbates inequality, housing affordability issues, sprawl, and segregation. In some cities, almost 90 percent of its housing is zoned single-family. Zoning in Dallas is a curious patchwork. According to an analysis by the nonprofit Child Poverty Action Lab, about 48 percent of the city is zoned for single-family homes with detached garages.

Another 17 percent—about 65 square miles—are made up of what’s known as planned development districts. That’s when a developer wants to do something that the code doesn’t allow, so they request a zoning change that carves out a certain area from its surroundings. That could mean using fewer parking spots outside a retail store, adding a patio to a restaurant, or modifying height requirements to try and build something higher than what is allowed by-right.

Gray would like American urban planners to look to Houston, a city that has largely eschewed zoning in favor of addressing specific behaviors and nuisances. It allows neighborhoods to sort of opt-in to zoning through deed restrictions. 

“Houston builds housing at 14 times the rate of peers like San Jose. And it isn’t just sprawl: In 2019, Houston built roughly the same number of apartments as Los Angeles, despite being half its size,” Gray writes. “Since reforms to minimum-lot-size rules were put in place in 1998, more than 25,000 townhouses have been built, overwhelmingly in existing urban areas.”

Land is increasingly expensive, and it’s putting home ownership (and even renting) out of reach for a lot of people. Density allows builders to take the same plot of land and build up, creating more places for people to live. 

Pushes to get rid of zoning aren’t just happening on the local level. In 2019, four federal bills were authored that would have tied federal funding for other projects to zoning reform. 

But I was even more curious about Gray’s thoughts after reading his book, Arbitrary Lines: How Zoning Broke the American City and How to Fix It. I spoke with him last month at length about everything from zoning and environmental concerns like Shingle Mountain, to what zoning was originally used for.

Part of our conversation follows. It has been edited for length and clarity.

Summer Fiction

Dallas Summer Reading Series: Fading In

Mike Soto
By Mike Soto |
Tatjana Junker

Lalo peers past the midmorning gloss on the window of Victor’s barbershop on Jefferson Boulevard and utters a deep “fuuuuck” to himself. He walks away, pauses for a moment, rubs the back of his head, and then reverses course, pushing the door open to let the flat “ding” punctuate his resignation.   

It is not Lalo’s normal day to get a fade, but here he is. Saturday, 8 in the morning, and Victor’s is already humming. The talc smell is already thick; piles of hair already blot the floor. It’s not just the people inside the barbershop but also the ones waiting in their cars rattling with bass, coming out to check their place in line and slide quarters into the parking meters as far away as El Ranchito. When Victor’s opens at 6 in the morning, there is always a line of people waiting. He knew he would be deeply fucked at this hour, and he was.

He walks up to Victor, who has already noted the oddness of his presence on a Saturday. Victor is middle-aged, still of the generation of Latino men that wear guayaberas with aplomb. (Today he wears a baby blue one.)  

Buenas tardes, Victor, cuántos tiene en línea?”

Unos … veintitrés.” 


Lalo usually waits a while longer because can’t afford to get his haircut more often. But Letty’s quinceañera is today, and all the finest girls are going to be there. He has to come correct. And to come correct, he has to look correct. No choice in the matter. It’s not just a matter of the girls who are going to be there but also his close friends and of course the haters waiting to pounce. Having a fresh fade was crucial. He can not be wolfing. He can already hear his friends howling, “Oooowwwwwwww,” when they noticed the shaggy sides of his head. If you can pinch any hair in your hands, you are starting to wolf. He has gone past that and is officially wolfing. No way. 

Local News

Leading Off (8/4/22)

Matt Goodman
By |

Fires Continue to Plague North Texas. More fires have broken out in Wise and Hood counties. More than 100 acres had burned near Rhome after a car fire transferred onto grass Wednesday evening. Three volunteer firefighters suffered burns in Hood County and at least one had to be flown to Parkland. That fire has swallowed an estimated 450 acres north of Tolar.

Commissioners Might Cut Judges Salaries Over Backlog. The criminal case backlog in Dallas County is so large that commissioners are considering withholding $18,000 in “supplemental” funds that the county throws in. District judges are paid between $158,000 and $194,000.

Retired NBA Player Iman Shumpert Arrested for Weed at DFW. Airport officers found about six ounces of marijuana and a Glock magazine with 14 nine-millimeter rounds in his backpack “during a secondary screening process.” No word yet on charges.

Arlington Man Burned to Death at Gas Station. Authorities say 25-year-old Ricky Doyle’s girlfriend poured gasoline on him while he sat in the backseat of their Jeep at a convenience store in the 1900 block of Mayfield Road and set him aflame. Breana Johnson, 24, was charged with murder.

The novelist Harry Hunsicker first wrote about the Whitmar for D Magazine in 2006. At that point, a guy named Jim Benge had been building his dream sailboat for about eight years. He had no previous boat building experience, which is maybe why he started building a 56-foot sailboat inside an East Dallas warehouse whose door wasn’t big enough to accommodate the vessel.

Harry returned in 2019 to write about a launch party of sorts for the Whitmar. The boat wasn’t finished. But it was close. Close enough that it needed to be pulled out of its building. It got stuck.


Photo Dump (8/3/22)

Zac Crain
By |

You more than likely have noticed a carryover effect from the lockdown in 2020 in your daily life. Or maybe you did and it has passed. You had trouble keeping up with a mindless stop-and-chat, for instance. I have noticed plenty, and most of them fall under the heading of “almost everyone is selfish now.” The sort of things we once took for granted—passengers on an airplane would wait their turn to get off, drivers would stop at stoplights—can no longer be assumed.

The change that impacts my day-to-day the most involves, unsurprisingly, walking. I walk to the extreme right edge almost always, leaving plenty of room on the sidewalk for people moving in the other direction. But at least once a day, and I am not exaggerating, I end up coming face to face with someone. A lot of the time, it is a group of work colleagues who have decided to walk four or five abreast, taking up the entire sidewalk. Sometimes, it is one solitary person, usually looking down at their phone (no judgements, just reporting the news) but not always.

I never move, and I’m not going to apologize. Be courteous. Think of others. OK! Monologue over! Photos!


A Pedestrian’s Continuing History of Dallas, Pt. 4

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