A Daily Conversation About Dallas


Dallas Bar’s Philbin Awards Get Scaled Way Back

| 10 hours ago

Stephen Philbin was, by all accounts, a great First Amendment lawyer who died way too early. He was 34. Since 1983, the Dallas Bar Association has annually held a luncheon to give out seven awards honoring him, along with some proper cash, to print and broadcast outlets that did a great job with legal reporting. D Magazine over the years has won a few of these, the most recent honoree being Matt Goodman, in 2017. (I don’t think he ever bought a round of drinks for the staff, as promised.) I recall the 2006 luncheon, when presidential hopeful John Edwards was the keynote. Kind of a big deal.

The speakers in recent years, all due respect, haven’t had hair nearly as perfect as Edwards did. Attendance at the Belo Mansion has waned. So today’s news doesn’t come as a surprise. While I await official word from the Dallas Bar, I can tell you this: the luncheon is no longer, and, going forward, there will be just a single (or possibly two) Philbin Award(s). It (they) will be presented next year at the Dallas Bar fellows luncheon.

For the 30 or so local media people who give a flip about this development, I can’t help but harken back to the defunct Katie Awards. There’s no scandal this time around, which in some ways makes it sadder. In 2019, it’s hard to imagine someone caring enough about a local journalism award to game the system.

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How I Found Myself in Krishna’s Dressing Room

| 12 hours ago

When I was a little girl, the school that I attended took a field trip to the Hare Krishna temple in Laguna Beach in Southern California. The day’s most striking impression was the lifelike bald figure on a dais, seated under a baldaquin, two streaks on his forehead over a tunic in shades of marigold.

We were there to learn a bit about Hinduism; we were studying the deities. The lesson ended with lunch at the vegetarian restaurant that served dal and halvah. It would stay in my mind. And when, decades later, I moved to Dallas, I was not surprised to find that the city’s most beloved vegetarian restaurant was the one ensconced in the tranquil courtyard of another Hare Krishna temple.

The devotees of what is officially known as the International Society of Krishna Consciousness who founded Dallas’s temple came in 1970, purchased an old church— Mount Auburn Christian Church—in East Dallas, and bought up houses around it. And this is no doubt how you know it: an amalgam of architecture, turrets and lotus petal-framed domes overlaid like piped icing on a squarish brick façade, like a frosted cupcake. In a neighborhood of crumbling houses on buckling foundations, Kalachandji’s temple is an island.

Something rather extraordinary happens there—something you’ll miss if you’re just there for tamarind tea. Once I realized it, I was drawn farther in. Which is how I found myself in the closet of a deity. And writing this feature, out this month in the magazine and online today. Jonathan Zizzo’s photography captured the Technicolor extravagance beautifully. Take a look.

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Local Government

This Is How Engineers Ruin Cities

| 12 hours ago

On Friday, Tim wrote about the latest shenanigans coming from the North Central Texas Council of Governments and its transportation director Michael Morris, and the absurd plan to funnel millions of federal transportation dollars to prop up an idiotic, and wildly conflicted, idea of building soccer fields under I-345. The incident offers yet another example of how a governmental organization with little actual public oversight is able to advance large-scale public projects without much of a public process. “This isn’t really all transportation related,” Morris admits, almost flaunting the way he can deploy millions in public funds at his own personal discretion. So much for democracy.

This shouldn’t be surprising—this kind of thing happens all the time. How does it happen? Across the country, civil engineers have built up a solid strategy of thwarting public will by relying on a few rhetorical and procedural tricks of the trade. Over on Strong Towns, Charles Marohn breaks down the playbook. As a jumping off point, Marohn’s article uses a letter that traffic engineers in Springfield, Massachusetts, sent in response to three city council members’ request for a new signaled crosswalk near the New England town’s library. In the letter, Marohn, an engineer himself, finds all four of the typical obfuscations that thwart the public process. If you follow city politics, each of these four general strategies will sound all too familiar. Here are some highlights.

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Local News

Leading Off (09/16/19)

| 18 hours ago

Cowboys Win. Dak Prescott, through two games, has completed 82.2 percent of his passes and thrown for 7 TDs and just one interception, and I’d argue that one was not even really his fault since it hit Randall Cobb square in the paws. He also had a 42-yard run. And Zeke Elliott had 111 yards, very quietly. Anyway, Pokes are 2-0 and neither one has really been in doubt. People are about to lose their minds.

Two Child Shootings in Arlington, One in Fort Worth. A 6-year-old was shot in the head by his preteen brother; he is in the hospital in grave condition. An 8-year-old girl was shot in the buttocks, it looks like while friends and family were messing around with a gun; she is probably going to be fine. That was in Arlington. And in Fort Worth, yesterday morning, a 4-year-old was shot and killed by a sibling. I’m sorry if I made a mistake here. There were so many I was having trouble keeping them straight.

Review of the New Holocaust Museum. I thought it was very good.

Implosion on Turtle Creek Boulevard. Implosion. Implosion. IMPLOSION.

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Michael Morris: Soccer Fields Under I-345 Will Help Bring the World Cup to Dallas

| 3 days ago

Yesterday at a meeting of the Regional Transportation Council, something quite spectacular came out of director Michael Morris’ mouth. You can watch it for yourself. Fast forward to the 4:00 mark of the video for item No. 5. But first let me set this up for you.

Earlier this year, news broke that Roddrick West, son of State Sen. Royce West, was close to signing a deal that would allow him to build soccer fields under I-345. Royce, it should be noted, is very much opposed to tearing down I-345. This soccer field deal would seem to make it much harder to tear down the highway, and all this had been going on without any public debate about it. No matter. Robert Wilonsky at the Morning News said there was nothing to worry about. Everything was on the up and up.

The Texas Scorecard disagrees. That’s the Michael Quinn Sullivan joint, so read this knowing their agenda, but today they posted, for the first time that I’ve seen, Roddrick’s schematic of where he wants to put the fields. Oh, also, as a result of Royce’s run for the U.S. Senate, new information has come to light showing his appetite for conflict of interest (short version: if it makes him richer, he’s hungry for it).

OK. That brings me back to yesterday’s meeting of the Regional Transportation Council. Now you’re ready to appreciate what Morris said. He was asking for (and got) $10 million to $15 million to help spruce up the neighborhood around Uber’s new Deep Ellum headquarters. (And, please, don’t get distracted by news of yet another round of layoffs at Uber.) Morris wants to use the RTC money to do the following: give the first wave of Uber employees transit passes; improve the sidewalks and make bicycle connections; work on the traffic signals; fire up an electric shuttle that will take Uber employees from Deep Ellum to someplace, maybe the Farmers Market; and, finally, to help Roddrick build soccer fields under I-345. Morris’ exact words:

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The Time a Radio Legend Brought a Taste of Hollywood to Town

| 3 days ago

Gordon McLendon moved to Dallas in 1947 and started a radio station the same year—KLIF, the Mighty 1190, broadcasting out of Oak Cliff. In the early 1950s, he turned KLIF into one of the first Top 40 stations in the country and developed a reputation as one of the more creative programmers radio had ever seen. But that wasn’t enough for McLendon. Along with his father, Barton, he began branching out into other areas. They bought movie houses and drive-ins and land to build more of both. Eventually, they owned more than 40 theaters. 

That wasn’t enough for McLendon, either. Noting the occasional foray of Hollywood into Texas—Giant, for example, had been filmed near Marfa—and with his now-vested interest in the medium, he decided it was time to establish the first movie studio between New York and California. His new studio’s debut project would actually be a pair of films: The Giant Gila Monster and The Killer Shrews. 

It was in 1958—20 years before camera crews rolled through the gates of oilman Cloyce Box’s ranch to begin filming the exterior scenes for Dallas—and excitement was racing through the city that not one but two movies were going to be made here. And by an honest-to-God local studio, no less!

I was attending St. Mark’s at the time. Since the parents of several of my classmates were friends with the McLendons, campus hummed with chatter about the films. The main topic: that some of us would likely be excused from class to act as extras, particularly when the big teen dance scene in The Giant Gila Monster was filmed. I, for sure, planned to be first in the line of volunteers.

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Claire Buhrfeind Is Climbing Her Way to the 2020 Olympics

| 4 days ago

How does a 21-year-old from Plano, where there are no mountains, end up being one of the best rock climbers in the world?
I’ve always loved climbing things in general. I got kicked out of a Mommy and Me gymnastics class when I was 3 because I climbed the rope to the ceiling. When I was 5, I think my parents probably got tired of me climbing the refrigerator and stuff like that. Life Time Fitness had just opened in Plano near my house, and my dad would drop me off at the climbing area when he went to work out. I fell in love with it.

When did you start competing?
A coach told me that there was this amazing youth climbing team based out of Carrollton. I went and tried out with my now coach, Kyle Clinkscales, when I was 10. I did my first national championship that year, in 2009, and competed with Team Texas youth climbing until I was 18. I started competing for the adult U.S. team when I was 15, and I still compete on the adult team today. Typically I’ll climb five days a week—and usually three of those days are twice a day.

Most climbers specialize in sport climbing, speed climbing, or bouldering. But one specialty wasn’t enough for you?
Kyle always encouraged us to compete in all three disciplines. I honestly am competitive in pretty much everything I do, so doing all three was a fun challenge for me. And now, there’s climbing in the Olympics for the first time, in 2020, and it’s a combined format, meaning you’ll have to do all three disciplines to participate. For some people I think it was pretty disappointing, but for me it’s really exciting.

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Local News

Leading Off (9/13/19), the Tardy Version

| 4 days ago

Emeralds to Coconuts Is Closing. The women’s boutique has been on Henderson for 40 years. Owner Lulie Scott says the doors will close at the end of this month. This fall, though, she’ll launch an online version.

Woman Dies in House Fire. It happened early this morning on Elsie Faye Heggins Street. The fire is under investigation.

Jury Selection Continues in Amber Guyger Case. They are at it again this morning, with testimony expected to begin September 23.

You Can Buy Lee Kleinman’s House. The councilman’s 7,154-square-foot house sits on two wooded acres in North Dallas. It was recently on the market for $3.5 million. Later this month, he’ll put it up for auction.

Dirk Is Pumped for North Texas Giving Day. The big day is next week, and the Nowitzkis helped kick things off at an event yesterday that my wife’s firm may or may not have helped organize.

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Local News

Casey Thomas Faces Ethics Case Over Use of the VisitDallas Suite at AAC

| 4 days ago

Casey Thomas faces an ethics complaint over his use of VisitDallas’ American Airlines suite. The complaint, filed by a retired attorney, targets his failure to report the free tickets and continued participation in VisitDallas business.

The southern Dallas Councilman went to six events at the suite between 2016 and 2018, as we first reported back in July. The use of VisitDallas’ suite became a topic of discussion in February, when the organization’s then CEO Phillip Jones faced a Council committee over that blistering city audit. Scott Griggs, who was on the Council at the time, claimed that with so many events each year, VisitDallas didn’t have enough people to wine and dine, and the extra tickets spilled out to VisitDallas’ board, to its employees, and to Council members.

We went looking for a list of people who used the suite, particularly interested in the Council members. But the city was reluctant to give it up. It appealed to the Attorney General to keep the list under wraps but lost, and after a delay, it released the list in mid-July. On it were two Council members, only one of them current. Former West Dallas representative Monica Alonzo went to two events in 2017. Thomas went to five events in 2018 and another in 2016.

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Pop Music

This Weekend in Dallas: See M3CCA at Girls Club

| 4 days ago

There are a few fun things cookin’ in Dallas this weekend. It’s your last chance to see Monet at the Kimbell, which has a late night event on Saturday. It’s your first chance to see new exhibitions at the Nasher, the DMA, Dallas Contemporary, Sean Horton Presents, Conduit, and Galleri Urbane. We have a few out-of-town visitors, like experimental star Flying Lotus and electro duo Phantogram. There are many marvelous Things To Do in Dallas This Weekend, but I’m here to talk about just one of them. 

Granada Theater is hosting Girls Club Dallas on Friday night, a concert and marketplace driven by female creatives. A few local gems will headline the show—singer Sam Lao and “bubblegum punk” band The Bralettes, along with experimental R&B artist M3CCA. Tickets are $10.

The latter is set to release a complex new single titled “WTR pHiles” (pronounced “water feels”) on the same day.

The 10-minute ballad encompasses a few songs within itself, moving through an a capella-like beginning to funkier spaces as it goes. We called up Mecca Tauheedah to talk about the new drop ahead of her performance on Friday.

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Criminal Justice

With DFW-based Securus Making Headlines, the County Prepares to Rid Inmates of Excessive Call Fees

| 4 days ago

A week ago, the Los Angeles Times published a deep dive into the background of a business move by Platinum Equity founder Tom Gores, who owns the Detroit Pistons. It’s a fascinating read, with a distinct tie to North Texas. The aforementioned move is Platinum’s acquisition of Carrollton-based Securus Technologies. Gores is getting hammered for it.

Criminal justice reform advocates know the name Securus all too well. It has become rich from charging inordinate amounts of money for telephone calls between inmates and the outside world, sometimes more than a dollar a minute. Even more, it has gotten jail systems across the country to buy into the scheme by offering a slice of the pie. This has been true in Dallas County, where just last year Securus funneled more than $2 million in easy money to the county coffers.

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