Monday, January 24, 2022 Jan 24, 2022
46° F Dallas, TX


A Daily Conversation About Dallas

Dallas Area Rapid Transit may soon offer free rides to students.

The transit agency’s not out on too much of a limb here by considering a “K-12 Student Pass Program,” which came up for discussion with the DART board’s budget committee last week and will be debated over several months’ worth of meetings and public hearings. (DART has tapped June 1 as a potential start date for the program, if the agency does commit to it.)

Austin’s Capital Metro recently made its free student transit program, launched as a pilot in 2018, permanent. Seattle, Boston, and Minneapolis are among the other places that have seen the benefits of giving at least some kids access to free public transit.

Early returns show that giving students free rides improves school attendance and academic performance. It saves time for families and money for schools. It gets more people to use public transit. It reduces inequality, giving poor students better access to the extracurricular opportunities as students from wealthier families. Outside of the classroom, where you live and whether your parents own a car shouldn’t limit your ability to see what North Texas has to offer.

“It’s one thing to get a ticket to the Dallas Museum of Art, but if you have no way to get there, it’s like telling me I’ve got a free condo on the moon,” says Jon-Betrell Killen, vice chair of DART’s budget and finance committee and a city of Dallas appointee to the agency’s board of directors.

Free transit could make a difference in the lives of a lot of students: A DART presentation identified eight public school districts, 26 public charter schools, and 107 private schools in the agency’s service area. But it wouldn’t make much of a difference at all to DART’s bottom line.

The revenue from school and student ticket purchases add up to between $1 to $2 million, or just 0.3% of DART’s $580 million operating budget. (The vast majority of DART’s revenue comes from sales taxes collected by its member cities.) DART already offers half-off fares to student riders.


Four Seasons to Step Away From Las Colinas Resort

Brandon J. Call
By  |
Courtesy of Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas at Las Colinas

The Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas at Las Colinas will be dropping its Four Seasons affiliation later this year. 

In an e-mail from general manager David Bernand sent to members last night, the Four Seasons announced it will conclude its management of the property on December 31, 2022.

“It has been a privilege to manage Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas at Las Colinas since the club opened in 1983 and the Resort in 1986, and we will continue to work collaboratively as we transition to new management,” the e-mail read.

Scottsdale, Arizona-based golf management company Troon will assume management of the golf course and sports club portion of the property. A new hotel management company will be announced later in the year, according to the e-mail.

To commemorate its 150th anniversary, Paul Quinn College, the oldest historically Black university in the state, wanted to do something on a similarly momentous scale. The school has endured generations of anti-Black public policies, particularly during Reconstruction and the Jim Crow era, and, more recently, its leadership has watched as state and local policy makers seek to limit how that history is taught and recognized.

Looking back at these years, Paul Quinn President Dr. Michael Sorrell wanted to find a way to highlight this story, to remind people that it wasn’t that long ago that Black Americans were not welcome in downtown Dallas.

Sorrell found a perfect canvas: the school’s basketball court in its new gym.

Local News

Leading Off (1/21/22)

Matt Goodman
By  |

Synagogue Hostage Taker Called His Brother During Standoff. London’s Jewish Chronicle obtained a recording of a conversation Malik Faisal Akram had with his brother shortly after he took four hostages at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville. He said he was prepared to die and “bombed up” and had “every ammunition.” His brother tried to convince him to stop, but Akram instead ranted about American intervention overseas.

COVID Update. We will almost certainly set a hospitalization record for COVID-19 patients today; North Texas is one away from the most in the history of the pandemic, 4,171. Good question here for people like me: if you test positive on an at-home kit, do you need to tell public health officials? That’s actually a “suspected” case, and you only should tell your primary care physician. The CDC wants lab results before it adds it to the official count, meaning the true infections are almost certainly far larger than what’s being reported.

Dallas Police Searching for 11-Year-Old Boy. Traveon Michael Allen Griffin disappeared from the 5900 block of Naravista Drive yesterday, in Mountain Creek. He was shirtless in white socks and black shorts, no way dressed for the freezing temperatures that settled in overnight.

“air cold.” That’s from the great WFAA meteorologist Jesse Hawila, who is incredibly difficult to argue with. We’re waking up to temperatures in the high teens and lower-20s, so cold that the old Coors Lite waterfall billboard off Interstate 35 partially froze. (It’s now advertising Topo Chico’s hard seltzer.) Warming centers are open across North Texas. The highest it’s going to get will be 37, around 4 p.m., with temperatures dipping back into the 20s as evening arrives. Tomorrow’s high is 50 and Sunday’s is 64.


Law Man Walking: Nature Treks With Bill Holston

Bill Holston
By  |
The author with some of his staff

I got up at the usual time last Saturday. As I drove in the gathering dawn, I started streaming music, drinking Cultivar Coffee from an old mug. The coffee and the tunes together got me energized for the hike. I’ve just discovered some of the rising Black Nashville Country artists and was listening to Joy Oladokun, a Nashville-based Nigerian American singer. The lyrics of her song “I See America” are powerful.  

I saw God out on the block today He was darker than the preachers say
With a teardrop tattooed on His face and dirt in His fingers
I heard angels when He laughed the way
That people do when they have known true pain

We bought tickets to see her at Club Dada. The show requires proof of vaccine! Check it out.

Ben and Scott had suggested we meet at 7 a.m. in Joppa to walk the Lower Chain of Wetlands. It was a very blustery morning. I was happy to have a new fleece and the wonderful warm scarf my friend Maryam had brought me from Pakistan. I drove past the streets named after WWII battles: Cherbourg, Corregidor, Burma, and Luzon, in honor of the veterans who lived in this neighborhood, and turned down Fellows Lane to where it dead ends. I parked in the parking area for Joppa Park, which is a really pretty spot. It sits up on a wooded bluff filled with Post Oak Trees that are older than our city.

Urban Design

The Most Important Part of Dismantling an Urban Freeway

Peter Simek
By  |
Google image of I-345's bottom.

When I first read this op-ed about I-345 that appeared in last Sunday’s Dallas Morning News, I was flummoxed. Blame it on I-345 fatigue, which breeds a kind of paranoid defensiveness similar to Trinity River Corridor Project PTSD. Mention either of these projects, particularly within the pages of the DMN, and my back instinctively spikes up like a porcupine.

The piece is by Michael Grace, the assistant city manager and chief operating officer for the city of Ferris, and he writes that I-345 is a “very important regional transportation corridor” and that “removing this transportation connection, within a competitive, polycentric, still maturing urban region, would have a wide ranging impact that would reverberate across the entire city.”

Polycentric urban region? Very important corridor? Urbanism blasphemy!

But by the time I got to the end of Grace’s piece, the more I saw that he was trying to call out some aspects of the I-345 removal that truly do need more attention. Grace seems to agree that there are a lot of benefits to removing I-345 and replacing it with a boulevard and a reconstructed urban street grid. But he also offers a warning. Tearing down an urban highway is one thing. Making sure what replaces it is worthy of the effort is something else entirely.

“Simply removing this bit of highway, as some have proposed, will not bring those neighborhoods back to life nor magically create equitable and sustainable development,” he writes.


Job Opening: D Magazine Seeks Managing Editor

Tim Rogers
By  |
Stock image!

You see that picture at the top of this post? The one of the two people exchanging a world-class high-five in an office environment? That’s a stock photo. But that could be you and me if you worked at D Magazine. Or it could be you and Zac Crain or you and Kathy Wise. If you want to high-five Peter Simek, you’ll need to find him first; he’s never in the office.

OK, anyway, the point is: we’ve got a job opening for a managing editor. If you’ve got a decade of experience, this gig’s probably not for you. But if you’re smart and you have an eye for detail and you want to work at one of the best general-interest magazines in the country, then head over to the official job listing (you might also check out the posting there for a senior digital editor), and let’s make this happen.

Up top!

Local News

Freakonomics Radio Tries to Find Out Why Everyone Is Moving to Dallas

Alex Macon
By  |
Sitting atop Dallas' iconic 560-foot Reunion Tower, Five Sixty by Wolfgang Puck features 360-degree, floor-to-ceiling window views of the city.

Freakonomics Radio podcast host Stephen Dubner is the latest member of the national media’s coastal elite to visit North Texas in search of an answer to the question: Why is everyone moving to Dallas?

The podcast is done in the spirit of Dubner’s 2005 book, Freakonomics, a snappy look at socioeconomic issues. Its two-part Dallas series (Part One dropped last night) takes off from a City Journal article calling North Texas “the de facto capital of America’s Heartland,” and opens with Dubner at the airport on a rainy day.

Dubner says he and his producer were expecting to get a ride from Mayor Eric Johnson, who is recorded telling the podcaster as much. The mayor apparently stood them up at the last minute because of an “urgent family matter,” so the New Yorkers instead grab an Uber and head to Sonny Bryan’s, where Dubner drops his first “everything is bigger in Texas” line less than 5-and-a-half minutes into the podcast.

If you want to groan and turn it off at this point, I wouldn’t blame you: The “out-of-town journalist parachuting into Texas to marvel at the size of the onion rings and note that this place sure is different than New York or California” thing is pretty tiresome at this point, and people who do live here are already writing funnier or deeper explorations of our state and region’s growing popularity.

But if you keep listening, you’ll note that Dubner does a better job than most of distinguishing between the city of Dallas and its suburbs, where much of the region’s growth is actually taking place. He talks to the mayor about what his remarkable personal history says about Dallas, and to former Mayor Laura Miller about the dysfunction of our city’s government and its weak-mayor system. (“So the huge disconnect in Dallas is you have one person, one, who’s elected citywide, and they have ideas and they’re ready to go, and they can’t execute,” Miller says. “I get an email almost every day from Eric Johnson, the current mayor, just as a constituent, saying, ‘Oh, the council is doing the wrong thing, and the city manager won’t call me back,’ and I’m like, ‘Oh my God.’ And he’s baring it all out there that it’s dysfunctional.”)

Dubner talks to economists about the role of taxes and Texas’ relative affordability in driving population growth. Dallas Museum of Art executive director Agustin Arteaga and chief curator Nicole Myers are tapped to demonstrate that North Texas is not completely devoid of culture. Dubner, to his credit, also doesn’t ignore how the region’s boom has too often left behind people in southern Dallas, or how a history of racist policies has shaped the city.

All of which makes it worth listening. Or skimming the transcript, at least.

Leading Off

Leading Off (1/20/22)

Alex Macon
By  |

Cold. An “arctic front” will keep us chilly through the weekend.

COVID. Grapevine-Colleyville, Richardson, and Mansfield were among the North Texas school districts that closed campuses as COVID-related teacher shortages and case counts mounted, with the area setting a new record for COVID-19 hospitalizations Tuesday (before the numbers ticked back down Wednesday). Dallas County reported its 500,00th case in two years.

Cowboys. Troy Aikman joined the well-deserved pile-on, calling out Dallas’ game plan and noting that football is “not that difficult.”

Court. (Like a Basketball Court. I Don’t Know.) Luka Doncic scored 41 points and the Mavericks beat the Raptors 102-98 and, actually, being a Dallas sports fan is really great.

Local News

The City’s New Environmental Commission Will Not Be Working Quietly

Matt Goodman
By  |
Latino’s Ready Mix, one of 20 concrete batch plants located in West Dallas’ District 6.

Kathryn Bazan recently noticed a sign from the city announcing roadway repairs near her home in East Dallas. A company called Heritage Materials would be providing concrete for the job.

Bazan—a former Texas Commission of Environmental Quality staffer, organizer, and Sierra Club member—knew that Heritage planned to operate a concrete batch plant near the Dixon Circle neighborhood in southeast Dallas. This is also near Parkdale Lake, which Oncor recently donated to the city of Dallas so it could develop a 110-acre park and a connection to the 50-mile Loop Trail. And because this area is zoned as an Industrial Manufacturing district, the batch plant was permitted to operate there without so much as a public hearing.

“I don’t want street repairs if it comes at the price of health and well-being of my neighbors and their families,” Bazan told me last week.

Bazan on Friday was named the chair of the city’s brand-new environmental commission, a body made up of volunteer residents and advisory experts charged with making sure the city is implementing its climate action plan, which was approved by the City Council in 2020. It also funnels complaints from the public to city staff.

During Friday’s meeting, the city presented the commission a solution: amend the zoning code to require batch plants in these areas to acquire a Specific Use Permit, or SUP, which would open the operation to vetting by the city’s planners and Council.  

Batch plants are not new, but the fight against them has become louder and more organized in the past year. These operations can be enormously disruptive to nearby residents. One recent proposal from an operator asked the city for permission to run 18 to 20 trucks up to 75 times each day. Batching towers, called silos, can spew chemicals and particulate matter. Wind whips up piles of sand and aggregate. They often work into the night, blasting the property with high-wattage LED bulbs.

You can see how you might not want to live near one of these. And yet, West Dallas’ District 6 is home to 20 such batch plants.

“There is power in data,” said West Dallas resident Janie Cisneros during public comment. “I have an air quality monitor connected to my house. These monitors provide empirical evidence that our air is far from clean.”

When real estate developers talk about their projects, they often focus on size, location, amenities, and other physical details. Mike Ablon, principal of PegasusAblon, talks about connection points. Armed with engineering and architecture degrees from The University of Texas at Austin and a master’s degree from Harvard University, he studied in Paris and once worked as an apprentice under noted theorist Robert Venturi, an architect who helped shape the way people think about the built environment. 

These things nurtured Ablon’s thirst for knowledge and influenced his visionary, experiential approach. Even his company website will tell you the firm’s strategies are built around “the idea that cities and developments are made up of layer upon layer of the interconnections and functions of its inhabitants, telling the stories, ideologies, and mythologies of its history.”

After bringing his unique approach to Preston Center, the Dallas Design District, and other high-profile neighborhoods, Ablon is now focused on Oak Lawn—in what could be his most ambitious project yet. Last May, he won approval to build two residential towers on land he purchased along Cedar Springs from Caven Enterprises. (Caven will continue to operate bars that occupy four buildings Ablon acquired—J.R.’s Bar & Grill, Sue Ellen’s, Station 4, and The Mining Co.—as a tenant with long-term leases.) 

In Oak Lawn, Ablon hopes to create a sense of place. “It’s the ‘there’ there,” he explains. “It’s a place of familiarity. Allegorically, say we’re in New York City, and I tell you, ‘Let’s meet at the train station.’ You’d know I meant Grand Central Station, and you’d look for me at the clock in the center of the terminal.” 

Ablon’s goal is to create an urban connection point that will fortify the neighborhood’s permanence in the longer arc of time. “When you go to the Cedar Springs District, where do you gather?” Ablon asks.

Local News

Leading Off (1/19/22)

Peter Simek
By  |

COVID Hospitalizations Expected to Hit Record High. UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers now expect the omicron peak to hit towards the end of January but not before hospitalizations top North Texas’ all-time high. Early research shows omicron cases are less severe than other variants, particularly among the vaccinated, but it’s the rapid spread of the virus that poses the threat of overwhelming the healthcare system.

Megachurch Founder Faces Sexual Abuse Accusations. Around a dozen individuals have come forward accusing Inspiring Body of Christ Church founder Rickie Rush of sexual or physical abuse when they were teenagers or younger. After a year-long investigation, Dallas Police have forwarded the case to the district attorney’s office.

Facing Teacher Shortage, Fort Worth ISD Looks South of the Border. The school district will hold a virtual job fair in hopes of recruiting qualified teachers who currently live in Mexico City. “We have to think outside the box when it comes to our recruitment efforts,” Fort Worth ISD Chief Talent Officer Raúl Peña said in a release. “If they are motivated and passionate about teaching, we want those prospective teachers residing in Mexico City to know FWISD is hiring.”

5G Battle Leads to Service Cuts at DFW Airport. A year ago, the federal government auctioned off use of a the C-band spectrum frequency to telecommunications companies looking to expand 5G services. The only problem: some airplanes use frequencies close to that range to operate sensitive equipment, like automatic landing systems. That has sparked a standoff between airlines and the carriers, causing both delays in 5G expansion near airports and some flight cancelations, including at DFW airport.

Hunker Down. It’s gonna get cold.

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