A Daily Conversation About Dallas

Politics of Food

Dallas Council Candidates Discuss Food Insecurity at Town Hall with Food Justice Orgs

| 8 hours ago

Volunteers at the Dallas Farmers Market on Tuesday night arranged water bottles and snacks on spaced-out picnic tables in front of a stage. Salsa music bounced through the open-air pavilion of the Dallas Farmers Market. The scene was rather still at 7:30 p.m. and only one of the five candidates running to represent this district had shown up on time.

They were all supposed to be here for the event, titled A Food Justice Conversation: What Side of the Table Are You On?, but only Jennifer Cortez was present. Another 30 minutes went by while organizers texted and called the rest of the city council hopefuls for District 2: Jesse Moreno, Dr. Sana Syed, Raha Assadi, and Michael Fetzer.

“We have confirmed candidates when we texted, emailed, sent messages through social media,” said a frustrated Danaë Gutiérrez, founder of Harvest Project Food Rescue (HPFR), one of the orgs behind the event. “So my question, and what I see is, is that the way they’re going to treat our community, too, that they’re not gonna end up showing up to these things?”

The frustration was palpable, and it stems from a perspective that the city isn’t doing enough to meet the needs of residents who don’t have access to healthy food. HPFR has witnessed the consistent need for food in Dallas. The organization has, in the last year, provided over a million meals or vegetable boxes in Dallas by redirecting produce destined for the landfill—bruised bananas, bags of lettuce, overripe pineapple, onions, cucumbers, berries—and redistributing it to families in need. During the winter storms, when some food pantries weren’t able to open, they delivered water. As we reported back in February, small collectives like these make a big impact. Even GOODR, an Atlanta-based food recovery and distribution company has planned a pop-up grocery store at Fair Park this Saturday to help bridge the gap of food insecure families. These fast-moving initiatives are important because of how long it takes for things happen at City Hall. The City Council’s recent approval of $1.3 million for an El Rio Grande Latin Market to a part of Far East Dallas that desperately needs it was in the works since at least 2019.

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Politics & Government

Dallas Council Members (Still) Don’t Want to Defund the Police

| 11 hours ago

If there is one issue driving Dallas City Council candidates this election season, it’s public safety. That’s fitting. More than 60 percent of the city budget’s general fund is typically spent on public safety, including the police and fire departments, emergency management operations, and court and jail services. Spending on police alone accounts for about a third of that general fund. On May 1, voters will choose the 14 people who have the power to shape that budget—Mayor Eric Johnson is in the middle of his first term, but every other council seat is being contested.

Candidates also focus on public safety because they know it’s a subject voters care about. As they should. Violent crime in Dallas is up, although nobody really knows why or what to do about it, and crime statistics in general are notoriously difficult to interpret and apply. Regardless, people have a right to feel safe no matter where they live. Meanwhile, protests sparked last summer by the killings of Black men and women by police officers have brought renewed national attention to police violence and to long-standing racial inequality in the criminal justice system. This inequality shows in Dallas as much as anywhere else. To take one example of many, Black people in this city have long been disproportionately arrested for nonviolent misdemeanors like marijuana possession. That’s as much a public safety issue as the crime rate.

Is that what City Council candidates talk about when they talk about public safety? Sometimes. Bust most candidates this cycle are referring to the council’s vote last year on the city budget, and to a supposed effort by a group of council members to “defund the police.” This is disingenuous, and the hangover from that vote is driving a lot of the politicking going on right now. It’s worth quickly recapping what happened last year, when activists and residents called on the city council to divert up to $200 million from the police budget to fund other city services.

Although a few council members initially showed a little more appetite for reallocating a small amount of police overtime funding toward things like bike lanes and affordable housing, what they wound up deciding in a 9-6 vote was to use about $7 million from the overtime budget for other public safety measures, like hiring more civilian workers for the department. The approved overall police budget of well over $500 million was actually up from the prior year. Nobody on either side of the debate was much thrilled about all this. Regardless, it was hardly a major cut to police funding.

Yet that’s the picture painted by figures including Gov. Greg Abbott as well as political groups of unknown origin.

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What Should Be the New Name of the Belo Mansion?

| 11 hours ago

The Dallas Bar Association has announced that it will change the name of the Belo Mansion, its downtown headquarters, because its namesake, A.H. Belo, was a prominent officer in the Confederate Army. You might recall that last month A.H. Belo Corporation, owner of the Morning News, announced it would change its name to Dallas News Corporation for the same reason. You can check out the full press release after the jump. But right now we need a new name. The Dallas Bar hasn’t yet picked one. They clearly need our help. My first thoughts (each of which I have already trademarked):

Tim’s Mansion (feat. Tim)
Cracker Barrel
Matt Goodman Won $1,000 Here Once Mansion
The J.L. Turner Sr. Mansion
The Rooms To Go Lounge
The Accommodation on Ross
The Dallas Bar
The Attractive Nuisance
House of Jactitations

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Local News

Satellite Image Timelapse Shows Dallas’ Growth Over the Last 35 Years

| 13 hours ago

Somebody over on Reddit this week linked to a Google Earth Timelapse showing more than 35 years of satellite imagery taken above Dallas-Fort Worth. It functions as a pretty effective short film about the region’s suburban expansion over the last few decades. Call it Concrete: The Movie. It’s also a reminder of the limits of this kind of sprawling growth, and of the need for smart, focused development. Just building a lot of infrastructure doesn’t necessarily create a sustainable system that serves all North Texas residents. This happens to be related to what people are talking about right now at an online symposium hosted by the Coalition for a New Dallas. The bit about tearing down I-345 starts in 15 minutes.

Before (1984):

And after (2020):

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Local News

Leading Off (4/16/21)

| 16 hours ago

A Cold Front Is Chasing This Rain. I’m leading with the weather like I’m Jesus Jiménez. Here’s what we have: expect widespread showers across Dallas through the morning. The rain will precede a cold front that will push the lows into the 40s. NBC 5’s forecast hesitates to suggest the likelihood of quarter-size hail, but gusty winds are certainly in the cards. The storms should stop this evening and the weekend will be dry. Saturday, you have some clouds with your sun. Sunday, it’ll be back up to 80 like none of this ever happened. The Coalition for a New Dallas is holding an online symposium today, exploring the tear-out of I-345 and establishing transportation priorities for the upcoming City Council races. The cool thing about that happening on a rainy day when you’re working inside your home? You can still stream it without getting your nice clothes wet.

Jaime Resendez Takes the Gloves Off. Speaking of municipal politics, Councilman Jaime Resendez, who represents southeast Dallas, did not care for Mayor Eric Johnson formally wading into his race. The mayor endorsed former Park Board member Yolanda Faye Williams over Resendez, even letting her put him on her fliers. Resendez was asked about all this by the Dallas Morning News. He provided this quote: “Eric Johnson is the most divisive and combative political figure in city politics in a generation,” Resendez said. “I believe his ineffective leadership and inability to garner support for his nonexistent agenda during a tenure marked by dysfunction has led to this latest lapse in judgement.”

House Republicans Vote to Loosen Gun Law. This one would allow you to carry a handgun without a license, which the bill’s Republican sponsor, Tyler’s Matt Schaefer, says is needed because it … costs people money to get said license. The vote was along party lines, outside of Rep. Morgan Meyer, the Republican from Dallas who voted against it, and Rep. Angie Chen-Button, a Republican from Richardson who was present but didn’t vote. Seven Democrats also voted for the bill. The bill allows open or concealed carry of a handgun without a license, just like long guns. It now heads to the Senate.

One In Five Texans Is Fully Vaccinated Against COVID-19. An average of more than 280,000 doses were given last week as the state reached 21.1 percent immunity against the virus. Dallas County, meanwhile, recorded 202 new cases and 21 deaths yesterday. 

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Hockaday Kiboshes Boarding Program

| 1 day ago

The Hockaday School has announced that it will discontinue its boarding program after the class of 2025 graduates. You can read about their decision here. Our sister publication People Newspapers reported it first last night. Here is Bethany Erickson’s report. Wow, this surprises me. Far as I know, Hockaday is the only school in Dallas that has (had) boarders. In the late ’80s, when I was a lad at Cistercian, the Hockaday boarders I knew were a wonderful, wild bunch. They had money. They were on their own and maybe a little mad at their parents. They were a riot. I shouldn’t say too much more. For now, maybe I’ll just revisit Prudence Mackintosh’s classic 1978 story for D Magazine titled “Why Hockaday Girls Are Different.”

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A New Plan for Tearing Down I-345

| 1 day ago

Tearing down highways is long and difficult work, particularly in a city with a culture that is so wedded to the automobile. Consider this: it has been five years since the Texas Department of Transportation released the CityMAP study, which analyzed the implications and logistics around tearing down Interstate 345, that little strip of connective concrete that cuts off Deep Ellum from downtown. D Magazine devoted an issue of the magazine to the I-345 removal idea way back in 2014. And can you believe it has been nearly eight years since urban planner Patrick Kennedy proposed the then-radical concept in a column in D? Since then, highway removal efforts have gone mainstream. The country’s new transportation secretary is even using them as policy talking points.

Enter a new study that attempts to kick Dallas’ highway removal project into a new gear. It refines some of the plans outlined in CityMAP. This 90-plus page report is being called the I-345/45 Framework Plan (admittedly not as catchy a title as CityMAP), and it was developed by the Toole Design Group, LLC, an engineering and urban design firm that helped plan the I-375 highway removal in Detroit. It attracted an extensive list of partner organizations and individuals and produced the report following a substantial amount of public input. This plan refines the CityMAP study in three key ways:

  1. It provides a more holistic view of the reasons for removing I-345.
  2. It dives more deeply into how such a removal would affect mobility, including a fascinating analysis of how a reconstituted street grid could handle traffic.
  3. It offers a land use vision for how to maximize the potential benefits of the highway removal.

Now, full disclosure: the report is also dedicated to the memory of the late Wick Allison, the founder of D Magazine, who had been a champion of the I-345 project since Kennedy first raised the possibility in our pages. The Coalition for a New Dallas, an organization co-founded by Wick, is also a driving force behind the completion of the “Framework Plan,” and tomorrow the Coalition is hosting an online symposium that will both present this new plan and outline its policy priorities heading into this May’s city council elections.

The timing of the report’s release is significant for another reason. There is a lot of transportation planning happening in and around downtown Dallas right now, and top city and regional planning officials want to plan all three major downtown projects—Dallas Area Rapid Transit’s D2 downtown subway connection, the I-30 canyon rebuild, and I-345—in tandem. At a recent council briefing, Michael Morris, the transportation director of the North Central Texas Council of Governments, said that TxDOT expects to complete a I-345 traffic study sometime soon.

The Toole study—which I will refer to as the Framework Plan for the rest of this piece—offers an important counterpoint to that TxDOT study. It provides broader vision and technical comparisons to help check whatever TxDOT’s assumptions turn out to be.

Let’s dive into some of the details:

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Politics & Government

City Council Candidate Got Into Kerfuffle at East Dallas Bar

| 1 day ago

Under normal circumstances, this sort of thing wouldn’t rise to the level of justifying a post here on this august blog. But we’ve got ourselves some unusual circumstances, so here we go with a tale about two guys getting into a kerfuffle one night in 2019 at the Lakewood Landing.

Our players in this drama are the previously mentioned District 9 city council candidate and chiropractor John Botefuhr, and a lawyer and political activist named Barry Jacobs. Before we get to the story from the bar, you need some context. Let’s start with Botefuhr.

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Sports & Leisure

Seagoville’s LaMarcus Aldridge Announces His Retirement From the NBA

| 2 days ago

When LaMarcus Aldridge was a senior at Seagoville High School, players could still jump straight to the NBA. I think I had seen a short piece on him in the Morning News, and being new to full-time feature writing after a long stint being the music editor at the Dallas Observer, I got the idea to follow him through that season, leading up to him deciding whether to go to college or enter the NBA draft.

I went to as many games as I could and interviewed him a few times. I remember introducing him to The Grey Album, since I knew he was a huge Jay-Z fan and I was a huge dork, I guess. I remember talking to him in his coach’s office a couple of days after Chris Bosh’s brother Joel hit a last-second shot at SMU’s Moody Coliseum to knock Seagoville out of the playoffs. Talking at him mostly—he was still gutted, could barely do more than mumble a few words. I remember him struggling in the McDonald’s All-Star Game and feeling bad for him, knowing that performance more or less making his decision for him.

Here is the story that resulted from all that, which I think about fairly regularly, not just because I see LaMarcus on TV but because I wrote it in the weeks after my son was born.

LaMarcus went on to the University of Texas and then the Portland Trail Blazers, where he excelled. I thought when he became a free agent, LaMarcus might have an inclination to come back to Dallas to team up with Dirk Nowitzki. But it was never close. He went to San Antonio to play with and then replace Tim Duncan, and then, earlier this season, after he fell out of the Spurs’ plans, he signed with the Brooklyn Nets.

And now, today, after seven All-Star appearances, five All-NBA teams, and what feels like tens of thousands of 20-foot jumpers, LaMarcus has announced his retirement from the NBA, following a scare with an irregular heart beat. Is he a Hall of Famer? Who knows, and that’s a discussion for another time. He did just about everything he set out to do, and that’s more than enough. I hope the next stage goes as well for him.

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Real Estate

West Dallas Is Getting a Huge Lagoon and a Lot of New Housing

| 2 days ago

The Dallas City Council on Wednesday gave the OK for developers to get going on a 31-acre mixed-use project in West Dallas, about a mile west of Trinity Groves off Singleton Boulevard. The vote was basically unanimous (one council member was absent, and another recused herself because of a conflict of interest) and occasioned some good-natured back-slapping and congratulations.

And why not? This will bring a lot of housing to a formerly industrial site that was otherwise sitting mostly abandoned. The development will include about 2,100 apartments, 15 percent of them meant to be affordable to residents making less than the median income. It’s the latest in a wave of redevelopment in the area, which began with the construction of the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge last decade. (Although that same redevelopment has sometimes gone hand-in-hand with displacement, and what’s happened in West Dallas in the past has too often illustrated the twin crises of affordable housing and poverty in the city.)

Right next door to the proposed development is a townhome community from the homebuilding outfit Megatel, which is also behind this project. The Trinity Green apartments and park are nearby. Along with the five-story apartment buildings, plans call for restaurants, retail, and a spa. Oh, and a giant manmade lagoon.

“What is a lagoon — exactly, technically?” asked Mayor Eric Johnson at roughly the same time I was having that thought during Wednesday’s city council meeting. He mentioned the 1980 film The Blue Lagoon. I haven’t seen it, but it looks awful, and doesn’t seem to have much to do with the kind of lagoons we’re interested in.

A lagoon is “a fancy pond,” according to council member Omar Narvaez. More helpful.

Webster’s has it as “a shallow sound, channel, pond, or lake, especially one into which the sea flows; as, the lagoons of Venice,” which gets us closer.

An “ARTIFICIAL SWIMMING LAGOON means commercial amusement (outside) use that includes at least 1.5 acres of continuous open water area and regulated by State of Texas Department of Health and Human Services and House Bill 1468. This use is limited to water events and activities and accessory beach,” according to zoning documents from the city. Even better.

A lagoon is also a must-have for any self-respecting “world-class destination,” according to Rowlett city officials, who have spent years trying to get a lagoon to call their own near Lake Ray Hubbard.

They are “large, aquatic amenities being incorporated into master-planned communities across Texas and the U.S.,” and are either a “fad” or the source of “long-lasting value to residential communities and the homes that surround them,” according to Channel 8 in a 2019 story about the company Crystal Lagoons, which has built a lot of these. Now we’re getting somewhere.

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Leading Off

Leading Off (4/15/21)

| 2 days ago

Dallas Has Plenty of COVID Vaccines. Dallas County reported 20 deaths and 285 cases on Wednesday. The good news is that there’s plenty of COVID-19 vaccine to go around, and the county’s now offering same- or next-day vaccination appointments at Fair Park. If you’re 55 or older, you don’t even need the appointment. With the distribution of Johnson and Johnson’s vaccine suspended, homebound Dallas residents enrolled in Meals on Wheels can start getting Moderna doses delivered next week.

David Dewhurst Out of Jail. The former lieutenant governor, arrested late Tuesday night at a hotel near Love Field and charged with domestic violence, was released on a $1,000 bond Wednesday. A police affidavit says Dewhurst pushed a woman to the ground and held her head down near the outdoor entryway of the hotel.

Mean Green Pitcher Talks About Striking Out 21 Batters. University of North Texas senior Hope Trautwein pitched the perfect softball game Sunday when UNT beat Arkansas Pine Bluff 3-0. She says she’s glad her no-hitter is bringing attention to the sport. Making history will do that. CAW!

Mavs Beat Grizzlies 114-113. I am finding it hard to write about the last few seconds of the game without swearing or typing in all caps or collapsing into laughter, so let’s just watch “that shot” on repeat. Wild, absolutely fantastic stuff.

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The Problem With Running Collin College Like a Business

| 2 days ago

A few weeks ago, I wrote about a continuing dustup at Collin College. Three professors at the community college say they’re losing their jobs in retaliation — for their opposition to the school’s reopening plan during COVID-19, for their political speech, for their labor organizing, for some of all the above. Many of their colleagues have been joined by free speech and labor advocates in calling for the professors’ reinstatement, and in decrying what they describe as a “culture of fear” driven by conservative politics at the college. At the center of it all has been the college’s president, Neil Matkin. Critics have attacked his seemingly cavalier approach to the pandemic as much as his overall approach to education.

The Chronicle of Higher Education went long this week on what’s going on at Collin College. It’s a good story, well worth reading in full. (There’s a soft paywall; you get two free stories if you sign up.) Some of it will be familiar to anyone who’s watched this play out over the last 12 months. But there’s a lot of valuable detail on Matkin’s background and leadership record at the college, and several (as far as I can tell) previously unreported accounts of the president making tasteless and insensitive comments.

Collin College employees told The Chronicle that Matkin made “penis-related jokes” at a faculty orientation in 2019. Matkin denies this happened. Others told The Chronicle that Matkin had on a separate occasion joked about being unable to tell apart two Black deans. The president said he couldn’t recall saying that. He did admit to a third story:

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