Friday, September 29, 2023 Sep 29, 2023
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A Daily Conversation About Dallas

KERA will move from its Uptown headquarters, but not far, and not for long. The news organization announced Thursday that it has made a deal with Kaizen Development Partners to turn part of its campus into new residential and office towers, along with a new headquarters.

The station will sell about 2.4 acres of its property, which is located on Harry Hines Boulevard near the Dallas North Tollway and the Harwood District. Kaizen says the new project, called Chalk Hill, will include a 400,000 square-foot office tower; a 270-unit 25-story residential high-rise; and restaurant and retail space, all opening around 2027. Thanks to its proximity to the Katy Trail and the Hi-Line Connector, it will also offer residents fairly easy access to the LOOP, a 50-mile paved trail that circles Dallas. Kaizen is promoting the access on the project’s website.

The terms of Kaizen’s purchase of the southern end of KERA’s property include an agreement that it will oversee the development of the entire 3.75-acre site, including the broadcaster’s new building on the north end of the property. No purchase price was provided in the joint press release.

Local News

LeadingOff (9/28/23)

Bethany Erickson
By |

Jury Finds Officer Used Excessive Force in Timpa Death. A federal civil jury found that Dallas officer Dustin Dillard used excessive force and violated the late Tony Timpa’s rights when he knelt on his back for about 14 minutes in 2016. Timpa, who had called 911 for help during a mental health crisis, died. The jury also found that two of the other three officers at the scene—Danny Vasquez and Raymond Dominguez, failed to intervene. Timpa’s 15-year-old son was awarded $1 million damages, but since the jury did not feel the officers acted in malice, no other damages were awarded. 

SMU Student Dies in Crash. Dallas police said Wednesday that Honor Elizabeth Wallace, an SMU student, and a female passenger were driving near Monticello Avenue and the North Central Expressway service road Sunday when Lynlee Pollis allegedly ran a red light. All three were sent to a local hospital, where Wallace died of her injuries. Pollis was arrested and charged with intoxication manslaughter and intoxication assault.

Abbott Says October Special Session Will Address Border Security. During an appearance on Fox News, Gov. Greg Abbott said he was adding border security to the list of tasks for an upcoming special session in October. He cited unsubstantiated reports about an alleged housing development for undocumented immigrants near Houston as the impetus. The session was originally supposed to address school funding, teacher raises, and vouchers—the latter is expected to get significant pushback. Abbott still hasn’t given a date for when the session will start.

Good Samaritans Rescue Stolen Dogs. Two dogs were rescued from a median at Forest Lane and Hillcrest Road this week, and a microchip revealed that the two pit bulls belonged to owners in Little Rock, Arkansas, so they drove them to Texarkana to meet the owner and his son.  One of the dogs was being trained to be a service dog, and both had been stolen. Volunteer Amie Rogers said: “And I said where do you live? And he said Arkansas. And I was like Arkansas Street? And he said, Little Rock, Arkansas. And I thought holy be-jiminy. How did these dogs get to Dallas?” Did I pick this story because of this quote? Holy be-jiminy yes.


Takeaways: The Ticket’s Parent Company Drops Lawsuit Against Jake Kemp and Dan McDowell

Bethany Erickson
By |
Jake Kemp, left, and Dan McDowell, right, left The Ticket after contract negotiations fell through. Their former employer sued them for breach of contract, but dropped the effort Tuesday night. The Dumb Zone/Youtube

Not quite two months after Jake Kemp and Dan McDowell—former midday hosts on sports radio station The Ticket—were sued by their previous employer, both sides say they’ve agreed to drop the matter entirely. (Disclosure: Kemp works as a freelancer writing for StrongSide, our sports section.)

“They each appreciate one another’s sincere efforts to resolve their differences so that everyone involved can move forward,” read a statement shared Tuesday night on The Ticket’s social media accounts and on Kemp and McDowell’s podcast The Dumb Zone. “The parties wish each other well.”

When we talked to the two in early August, the lawsuit was fresh. Susquehanna Radio, the parent company of Cumulus Radio and The Ticket, had filed for a temporary restraining order to prevent Kemp and McDowell from recording The Dumb Zone. Susquehanna’s suit alleged the two breached the non-compete clauses of their contracts. 

Since then, a series of events may have led to the abrupt resolution of the dispute. 

Monday, the Washington Post wrote about how Kemp and McDowell’s case could be the test for the National Labor Relations Board’s new guidance on non-compete clauses.

On September 15, U.S. District Judge Karen Gren Scholer denied Susquehanna’s request for a temporary restraining order, finding that the company did not meet the requirements for a TRO. By Tuesday, court documents indicated that the two sides wished to drop the litigation, and Scholer dismissed the case.

And while Scholer’s ruling on the TRO wasn’t on the merits of the suit itself, the transcript of the hearing shared on social media and verified independently by D Magazine reveals several things that likely led to the sudden about-face.

Here are five takeaways from that transcript:

Here’s what you don’t want if you’re a suburb of Dallas: you don’t want NBC News Studios to do a podcast with a title that is your town’s name.

In 2021, reporters Mike Hixenbaugh and Antonia Hylton brought us the excellent Southlake, a podcast about racial tensions in that city. It won a Peabody award, and it was a finalist for a Pulitzer. It did not cast Southlake in the best light.

So I suggest that everyone in Grapevine buckle up. Because on October 4, Hixenbaugh and Hylton and their NBC buddies are dropping Grapevine, a six-parter that “tells the story of one family broken apart in the midst of a new anti-LGBTQ culture war, and the high school English teacher caught in the middle.” You can listen to a trailer here.

Just wait until NBC hears that we’ve got a suburb called White Settlement.


Dallas Lands $2.5 Billion Federal Biotech and Life Science Hub

Will Maddox
By |
Pegasus Park, home to a major U.S. biotech initiative. Pegasus Park

Dallas will be home to one of three regional hubs for the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, a new federal agency established by the Biden administration to accelerate health outcomes by developing high-impact solutions to challenging health issues. The announcement reflects North Texas’ growing reputation as a national biotech and life science development leader.

Earlier this year, the agency announced it would choose three locations to serve as regional hubs, and ARPA-H announced Tuesday that Dallas would be home to the Customer Experience Hub to support the $2.5 billion independent federal agency. The announcement comes after two years of statewide collaboration between universities, industries, and other partners in Dallas, Austin, Houston, and San Antonio to bring biomedical science and research opportunities to the Lone Star State. Advanced Technology International will operate the space as the hub’s consortium management firm.

Pegasus Park will host the agency, turning ARPA-H investment and research into real-world adoption and clinical trials in the name of improving health outcomes. “This will put Dallas on the map as an alternative to Boston and Silicon Valley and help grow the industry to diversify the Texas economy,” said Tom Luce, the Lyda Hill Philanthropies CEO for Biotech Initiatives, who helped lead the effort to bring the agency to Dallas. “The agency will be working to turn research into changing health outcomes.”

Local News

Leading Off (9/27/23)

Matt Goodman
By |

Federal Judge Rules Drag Show Ban Unconstitutional. Senate Bill 12, passed by the Texas Legislature during its most recent session, banned performers from wearing certain types of clothes and dancing in certain types of ways in front of children. Opponents sued, alleging that it violated the First Amendment, and U.S. District Judge David Hittner—a Reagan appointee—agreed, finding that it “impermissibly infringes on the First Amendment and chills free speech.”

Dallas County Democrats Want Eric Johnson to Resign. The party chair says voters feel “deceived” after the mayor “knowingly portrayed himself as a lifelong Democratic voter and representative throughout his re-election campaign for mayor” and should relinquish his seat. The mayor’s colleagues have definitely jabbed at him, but most say the nonpartisan nature of the seat is no reason for theatrics.

Judge Reinstates Paramedic Who Kicked Man in the Face. Brad Cox was demoted a rank and won’t get any back pay, but can return to work. Cox challenged his firing to an administrative law judge. He argued that he kicked a man named Kyle Vess only after he was attacked. Bodycam footage shows Cox kicking Vess in the face while officers take him into custody.

Police Investigating Woman’s Death in Downtown Apartment as Homicide. Police were called to an apartment in the 1400 block of Elm Street a little after 1 p.m. on Monday. They found Jenean Chapman, 46, dead inside. The medical examiner’s office ruled her death a homicide, but have not released further details.


Harold Simmons Park Changes Plans

Tim Rogers
By |
Forget all those beautiful renderings from Michael Van Valkenburgh Architecture.

This is exhausting. If you’re new to town, it would take me about 7,000 words to explain the history of the park we were supposedly going to build along the Trinity River, between the levees. Here’s the short version:

We straightened and moved the river in the early 1900s. Then, in 1998, we approved a $246 million bond program to do all sorts of things between the levees: run a tollroad through there, build a huge park with lakes that had solar-powered water taxis, and hire jugglers to work under overpasses. Then, in 2007, we had a referendum on the whole deal, and we voted to stay the course—except the tollroad became a parkway. Then, in 2016, Annette Simmons said, “You want $50 million?” And Mayor Mike Rawlings was like, “Hell, yes! We can build a great park down in that floodway. Hire some fancy architects!” In 2017, we officially killed the tollroad-parkway. Then, in 2018, Michael Van Valkenburgh Architecture unveiled the drawing you see at the top of this post, a plan for a 200-acre park between the levees.

Except now, not so much. The Trinity Park Conservancy, the group charged with leading the effort to build the Harold Simmons Park, has decided to leave the river alone. The plans for the park have shifted to outside the levees.

“The specific plan of putting the park proper in the levees, in terms of brick and mortar, has changed,” said Tony Moore, CEO of the Trinity Park Conservancy. “And, quite frankly, that changed just because the flooding cycles, with the sand and the silt and the debris that gets washed down, will just really make that design problematic.”

This is a huge shift. When Moore took the job, in 2021, I did a Q&A with him. Let’s revisit part of it:

Food & Drink

Who Is DoorDashing Unwanted McDonald’s Orders to This Denton Neighborhood?

Nataly Keomoungkhoun
By |
A DoorDash delivery that was sent unsolicited to Lyssa Kittelson's home in early September. Courtesy of Lyssa Kittelson

Carly Swim was working from home on September 8 when she ordered lunch to be delivered to her doorstep in Idiot’s Hill, a residential neighborhood in Denton. She picked it up from her front porch like she always does when she orders from DoorDash.

A few hours later, a man making some repairs to her house told Swim that more food was waiting on her porch. It was a DoorDash order from McDonald’s: a Quarter Pounder with cheese, fries, and a drink. The bag was still sealed.

This wasn’t hers, she thought. She already had lunch. Swim posted on her neighborhood’s Facebook group to ask if the food arrived on her doorstep by mistake.

Two hours later, the same worker let Swim know she had another DoorDash delivery. It was the same meal, but with a different drink. She went to Facebook again to let her neighbors know she got a second, unsolicited meal.

“The worker must have thought I was really hungry,” she says.

In the weeks since Swim’s surprise deliveries, there have been unwanted deliveries of McDonald’s bags from DoorDash filled with cheeseburgers, fries, Quarter Pounders, and Egg McMuffins. Idiot’s Hill is a neighborhood bound by Sherman, Windsor, University, and Nottingham drives in Denton. (The Morning News has a story about the name of the neighborhood, which is either a joke because of the college professors who moved there in the 1980s, or that its sandy soil meant that anyone who purchased a home there was an “idiot.”)

The meals usually include an entrée, fries, and a drink. The neighborhood and its Facebook group can’t make sense of it. Swim estimates there have been about 20 or so this month, with the most recent delivery on September 21. That one had an Egg McMuffin.

“We’re all kind of laughing at each other,” Swim says. “But I guess there’s a little part of you that’s hoping you’re not laughing at somebody getting scammed.”

Earlier this month, a small movement by some school districts to withhold their property tax “recapture” payments to the state seemed to be taking hold. At least three North Texas districts were considering the idea, but two have put the idea on hold.

As of two weeks ago, two districts had voted to withhold their payments—nearby Keller ISD and the Houston-adjacent district of Spring Branch. Carroll ISD and Grapevine-Colleyville ISD then placed a discussion about the prospect on their respective school board agendas. After Gov. Greg Abbott announced his plan to call a special session focused on school funding, those districts are now walking back the idea.

Recapture is a way the state distributes the part of property tax bills that is collected by local school districts. “Property-rich” schools that collect more in property taxes pay a portion of their tax revenue to the state, where it is placed in the general fund to be redistributed to property-poor schools. 

When a district’s property values per student exceed the threshold set by the Texas Legislature, school districts are required to “equalize” their wealth. They typically do that by purchasing attendance credits. But many of these districts are running short on cash.

Last week, Grapevine-Colleyville school board president Shannon Braun said the district would be postponing its decision in favor of a more “diplomatic” approach. Carroll also punted. They plan to use the coming October special session in Austin to speak with lawmakers before putting the idea to a vote.

“I just want to make sure that if we’re gonna make a punch that it’s effective and it’s the right time,” she said.

Local News

Leading Off (9/26/23)

Tim Rogers
By |

AAC Gets Refresh. They spent $20 million on a new LED video board and 19,134 seats with “more ergonomic cushions.” But the Stars’ and Mavericks’ leases end in 2031, and Mark Cuban wants to build a new arena.

Cornyn Hosts Round Table on Fentanyl. Sen. John Cornyn spent some time in Old East Dallas talking about the need to legalize fentanyl test strips, which are considered drug paraphernalia. He also criticized President Biden for a “failure to deal with the border in a realistic and appropriate way.”

Rangers Beat Angels. Three consecutive batters hit homers in the 5-1 win. With six games to play, the Rangers will win the AL West with any combination of Rangers wins and Astros losses that totals four.

Local News

East of Eden: Harwood Park’s Opening Is a Bright Look at Downtown’s Future

Christopher Mosley
By Christopher Mosley |
The 4-acre Harwood Park opened on the east side of downtown on September 23. Thomas Garza Photography

Harwood Park opened Saturday morning and its first visitors awaited official remarks during a ceremony that felt at times more solemn than celebratory. The dreaded term “concrete jungle” was used to describe the previous sorry state of the area. As with many public transformations in this city, there were dichotomies in full focus: public and private; Democrat and Republican; green space and concrete; basketball and pickleball; all-access and VIP.

Some of these contrasts bore mention in the chuckling remarks delivered by the officials, not the least from Mayor Eric Johnson, who attended the ceremony less than 24 hours after announcing he had switched his party affiliation. People clapped as hard as they could, like divorced parents grinning through a birthday party. After four years of planning and construction, it was showtime. Public ceremony waits for no one and no thing.

Harwood Park is the fourth and final “neighborhood park” opened by the Downtown Dallas Parks Conservancy, the nonprofit that recently rebranded from Parks for Downtown Dallas and shifted its purpose from builder and fundraiser to maintenance and operations.

The shadow thrown by the building at 312 South Harwood Street was the only relief from the sun for the well-dressed and well-connected crowd who were eager for this immense step forward in the evolution of the city’s park system. At the cost of only a handful of veteran buildings and at least one tree that refused to die, four new acres are now open to the public on the east side of downtown. The space includes two dog parks, a splash pad with shooting fountains, and a gated court. There is plenty of green grass. Harwood Park includes an arts and entertainment stage for performances. In the middle of what was once excessive parking lot blight, Harwood Park is jarringly nice, new, and gleaming.


A $10 Million Video Board and New Seats: Cynt Marshall and Brad Alberts Talk AAC’s Face Lift

Ben Swanger
By |
Brad Alberts, CEO of the Dallas Stars, and Matt Goodman, COO of the Dallas Mavericks, look upward at the new video board. Courtesy of Tony Fay PR and American Airlines Center

The American Airlines Center is unveiling a new video board as part of a $20 million face lift, the most significant upgrade to the AAC since its 2000 opening. The renovations also include new seating for the stands and inside the suites, new digital video boards on each end of the stadium, and upgrades to the famously leaky roof.

The new 360-degree display, LED video board cost $10 million and is 44 feet long, 31 feet wide, and 26 feet high—30 percent larger than its predecessor. All 19,134 seats in the arena were replaced with ergonomically enhanced chairs for improved cushioning. Two new interior video boards measuring 21 feet high by 72 feet wide were installed on each end of the arena.

“We’ve been working on this for a few years and we just started asking, ‘Okay, what is the budget going to look like? What do we want to invest? What are the owners willing to invest?” said Cynt Marshall, the CEO of the Dallas Mavericks. “And so this year, we went all out, and we decided we had to get a new video board and install new seats. Everybody knows we needed an updated roof, so we worked on that last year, and we added more improvements to it this offseason.”

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