A Daily Conversation About Dallas

Local Government

At His Inauguration, Mayor Eric Johnson Charts His Vision for Dallas’ Next Four Years

| 14 hours ago

Dallas met its new mayor and City Council on Monday. At the Winspear, seven new faces and seven returning ones—with one absence—took their oaths and swore to faithfully execute the duties of the office.

Former Mayor Mike Rawlings earned a standing ovation. He told the packed Winspear Opera House that today was a day for thank yous and for welcomes.

“Our city is special. It will face harsh winds at times, but we are made of something unique,” he said, and then referenced the city’s response after literal harsh winds took power from hundreds of thousands of Dallasites over the last two weekends and did much worse to residents of an apartment complex in Old East Dallas.

But more than anything, Monday was about one man, Eric Johnson, who officially became Dallas’ 60th mayor at about 10:40 a.m. Later in the day, Johnson and his colleagues took their seats around the horseshoe for the first time and unanimously selected Adam Medrano as mayor pro tem.

The new Council then voted down a motion to make fourth-term Council member Jennifer Staubach Gates the deputy mayor pro tem. Johnson and Gates voted for it along with Cara Mendelsohn, Chad West, and Carolyn King Arnold. The Council then unanimously selected Adam McGough for the role instead, meaning three men will again occupy the horseshoe’s highest seats. (The mayor pro tem and deputy mayor pro tem titles have traditionally gone to black and Latino council members when there is a white mayor, to ensure diversity among the leadership roles. Johnson is black, Medrano is Latino, and McGough is white. The mayor pro tem assumes the mayor’s duties should the mayor step down, and also runs meetings in his absence.)

But back at the morning’s inauguration, Johnson took the microphone, declared campaign season dead, and delivered his vision for his next four years. That vision carries distinct similarities to his campaign priorities. It also ventures into new territory and digs deeper into areas he’d only touched on during debates. He did not address the shooting outside the Earle Cabell Federal Building about two hours earlier.

Those who closely followed the race won’t be surprised to see the inclusion of Johnson’s goals to bring greater civility to City Hall, eradicate corruption, and develop Dallas’ workforce. He delivered those as three prongs of his five-part agenda.

Often as an indictment of his opponent, the term-limited Councilman Scott Griggs, civility and divisiveness became some of Johnson’s biggest talking points on the campaign trail. During one debate, he went so far as to say the tactics of former Councilman Philip Kingston, a Griggs ally, helped motivate his run for Dallas mayor. On Monday, Johnson said he’d be keeping an open door and an open mind, and asked that Council members treat each other “with a spirit of grace, a tone of civility, and we need to be coming from a posture of friendship.”

He said he’d work with that Council to solve the city’s well-documented ethics problems. And on workforce development, which he called his No. 1 priority while campaigning, he brought into focus his plan. He will create a new City Council committee focused on education and workforce needs and appoint a “czar or czarina” with the same aim.

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Why Do We Accept Traffic Deaths as Part of Life?

| 18 hours ago

If you’ve turned on the news at any point in the last couple of months, you’ll know that airplane manufacturer Boeing is in hot water. Early this year, a couple of its new 737 Max 8 aircraft crashed likely because a malfunction in the plane’s anti-stall system. A total of 346 people were killed in the two incidents, a death toll frightening enough to “traumatize” the airline industry.

Meanwhile, in Texas, an average of 3,609.4 people have died every year on state roads between 2013 and 2017. The reaction? Celebration. After all, state transportation agencies were shooting to limit the number of deaths to 3,791.

How is this okay? How is it that traffic deaths are routine and cause little concern or worry? How are they accepted as simply a part of life? How come we build our cities and economies around a form of transportation in which death is one of several costs of doing business?

One possible answer: the statistics themselves are to blame.

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Dallas: The City That Hates Pedestrians, Pt. 27

| 18 hours ago

Last week, a commenter on an encouraging post about the presence of scaffolding noted the mess of construction along Knox Street. As it just so happens, our founder Wick Allison was there over the weekend and took a photo.

On Knox Street, just west of Cole, where RH has taken over the world, pedestrians be damned. (Photo by Wick Allison)

This is work for Restoration Hardware’s new “RH Gallery,” we believe, which combined eight lots into a 2.2-acre tract of land. RH hasn’t said exactly what will go there, but the city has certainly allowed their contractors to run wild. The sidewalk that was present has vanished, but the parking spaces remain.

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Local News

Federal Building Shooter Killed By Authorities, Avoid the Area

| 20 hours ago

Update: The shooter, 22-year-old Brian Clyde, has died. The FBI hasn’t released a motive yet.

Original: Dallas police have a suspect in custody who apparently opened fire Monday morning with an assault rifle outside the Earle Cabell Federal Courthouse.

Here is video from WFAA’s Jason Whitely, in which you can hear a drumbeat of gunshots.


Here’s another from a Fox 4 viewer, where you can see the guy in a black mask running across the street into a parking lot.

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Local News

Leading Off (06/17/19)

| 24 hours ago

We Were Hit With Another (More) Crazy Storm(s). It seemed like it rained extremely hard all early Sunday morning, then it was nice, and then came another deluge and a tornado warning. When I was driving home yesterday — after holing up in a Target for about an hour, after hanging out in the meditation room at Cosmic Cafe for half an hour or so after lunch — Garland Road was almost impassable. Based on my tracking, in three years, I’ll be writing about this kind of freak weather in July, should I still be employed or above the water line.

Fallen Crane Remains At Elan City Lights Apartment Complex. The crane that killed Kiersten Smith and injured five others is still there, with no set date for its removal.

Get to Know Adam Bazaldua. I’m already getting a bit more familiar with typing the name.

Uber Wants to Bring the Future to Dallas. “When Uber envisions the future, it not only wants to put urban air taxis and drones in the skies. It also wants to transform how people navigate cities and how they live in them.” No, you know what, I’m sure absolutely nothing could go wrong with this. Nope. Do not see a problem.

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Henderson Avenue Eyes a More Walkable Future

| 4 days ago

Dallasites who commute or live near Henderson Avenue, between Central Expressway and Ross, will be familiar with the recent onset of construction. The craters are a little too close for comfort along one westbound stretch of the road. Reasonable minds could assume the city is doing routine street work on a badly potholed thoroughfare. What they’re actually seeing is the result of years of planning—your 2012 bond dollars finally coming to life with an aim to slow the flow of traffic and make the area more walkable.

By February 2020, the city will install curbs that “bump-out” further, add parallel parking, improve the cracked and broken sidewalks, add new sidewalks, repaint, and put in a new stoplight at the pedestrian nightmare that is the intersection of Henderson and Willis, outside the Old Monk. It’s the latest iteration in Dallas’ “complete streets” program, which counts Lowest Greenville as its greatest achievement.

Cities have long emphasized traffic flow at the detriment of pedestrians, but Lowest Greenville became foot-friendly through city improvements that widened sidewalks, took four lanes of traffic down to two, added parallel parking, and installed touches like decorative pavement that signal to drivers they’re in a pedestrian realm.

Henderson is tricky in part because of the more limited right of way, which means the city won’t be able to widen the sidewalks in many portions of the project. Bike lanes, mulled over, were also axed due to space. But the city hopes to spur more foot traffic by repaving sidewalks that had long ago fallen into disrepair and by closing mostly unexplained blatant gaps in paving. Parallel parking will be protected by curb “bump-outs.” That will reduce the width of the traffic lanes considerably, slowing traffic.

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Local News

DART Will Replace a Parking Lot Near Victory with a Plaza Park

| 4 days ago
Very early plans for DART’s Victory Plaza. (Photo courtesy DART)

DART is replacing a parking lot with a pocket park between the American Airlines Center and its Victory Station.

Victory Plaza, as it will be known, will be a one-acre space that abuts an upcoming 350,000 square foot office building. It’s a great move for DART. Victory is one of the best stops in the system, putting you in the heart of amenities and, on certain nights, attracting the ridership that makes the line feel vibrant. The problem was always that parking lot across the street. You were dropped off into an expanse of concrete, and that was your welcoming to the American Airlines Center.

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Local News

Major Tree Donation Coming to Dallas Parks After Sunday’s Storms

| 4 days ago

After the storm came the cleanup. Dallas city staffers took to the streets this week to get trees and other debris removed from the roadway after a brief but brutal wind battered most of the city. Residents dealt with it on their properties. And private companies, both well-intentioned and not-so, went to work. It was a half hour of 70 mph winds, but it was enough to spark a nearly citywide response. And the City Council picked a rather inopportune time to vote on a longtime plan to limit the city’s bulk trash collection program.

The city’s Sanitation Services department hired 20 contract crews to help collect debris from neighborhoods, not unlike how the city deploys its own employees to corral bulk waste pickups. City spokeswoman Anastasia Reed said that City Hall is in contact with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to grind down the debris at temporary sites and expedite gathering all of it.

Reed said the city is looking to turn the waste into something that can be reused: mulch, compost, landfill ground material. Public works was in charge of clearing the public right-of-way. They pass the mess along to Sanitation to process. If the trees were down in a park, they’re also getting turned into mulch or compost.

It’s not clear how many trees we lost. But Parks Board President Bobby Abtahi says Dallas parks are down 641, with 255 of those at White Rock Lake alone. “We do go out and assess the damage,” he said. “We prioritize safety and clearing roads and trails first. We keep track of what we remove and we keep track of man hours.”

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Local News

Leading Off (6/14/19)

| 4 days ago

No Motive Yet in Muhlaysia Booker’s Slaying. But police say her alleged killer had her cell phone. The suspect is Kendrell Lavar Lyles, a 33-year-old man who a witness said was known to frequent the 2800 block of Lagow Street in South Dallas “to meet with transgender prostitutes.” Booker’s phone was still on after her death, and police were able to find it in West Dallas, the same general area where Lyles’ champagne-colored Lincoln LS was parked in front of an apartment complex. He had been arrested earlier in suspicion with the killing of 35-year-old Leticia Grant in Far North Dallas. He is also accused of killing Kenneth Cichocki, whom Lyles had allegedly been speaking with about a Xanax buy before he was found shot in the neck. Lyles is also a person of interest in the killing of Chynal Lindsey, a 26-year-old transgender woman whose body was found in White Rock Lake.

There Is Maybe a Plan to Re-Do the Khalita Humphreys Theatre. The City Council yesterday agreed to lease the decaying Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece to the Dallas Theater Center for the next five years. The DTC will come up with a 13-member “steering committee”—apparently not a task force?—to review a master plan for the theatre that architect Ann Abernathy came up with in 2010. That group will also hire an outside consultant to review the plan. There are requirements to plan for “equitable access” for smaller and more diverse theater groups, as well. The restoration is expected to cost somewhere above $10 million. An underrated aspect of this story is the minor Twitter beef between The News‘ architecture critic Mark Lamster and the columnist Robert Wilonsky. Lamster believes this is “more kicking the can down the road,” as the DTC is the organization that allowed the building fall into such disrepair.

Fort Worth Hiker Reflects on Being Saved from the Arkansas Wilderness. Joshua McClatchy was rescued six days after taking off on a hike in Arkansas and getting lost. He spoke to WFAA about his experience. (I am sorry in advance for the bombardment of pop-ups that that link will deliver. It may not crash your browser, but it will give you a headache. It is a nice story, though.)

Congratulations to All You Displaced Toronto Folks. Like my friend Jason Hackett, who seemed more stunned than anything last night that the Raptors won the NBA championship. What a game.

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Urban Design

Dallas: The City That Is Gradually Moving Away From Hating Pedestrians

| 5 days ago

In many other cities, the photo above this post would be a shoulder shrug. But that corner of San Jacinto and Harwood hasn’t had a sidewalk in at least a year. It’s the edge of the new garage adjacent to the Trammell Crow Center, and construction has eaten up that side of San Jacinto in a way that has managed to inconvenience both drivers and walkers. Here is a narrative about what it was like to walk this part of downtown. And here is what it looked like before.

The result of Trammell Crow’s new tower. (Photo by Matt Goodman)
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Local News

Months After a Difficult Debate, Council Quietly Amends the City’s Housing Policy

| 5 days ago

The City Council on Wednesday approved amendments to the part of its 1-year-old Comprehensive Housing Policy that deals with how the city evaluates housing projects seeking federal tax credits. The changes aim at striking a balance between new construction and renovations and install tweaks that allow developers to overcome geographic shortcomings by adding on-site services like childcare and exercise classes.

This is not the first time the Council has considered amending the policy. Back in October, residents of the dilapidated Oak Cliff apartment complex Ridgecrest Terrace packed Council chambers in an attempt to spur an amendment that would’ve cleared the way for much-needed renovations to their property just west of Oak Cliff.

But changing the policy so soon after it passed didn’t sit well with some folks around the horseshoe. They felt Denver-based Steele Properties’ plans for Ridgecrest amounted to yet another “Band-Aid” renovation that wouldn’t help address low income housing in the long-term. The housing policy aims to encourage development in areas that have sufficient access to services and jobs. Ridgecrest and other low-income housing apartments that are located in areas of concentrated poverty were not intended to receive public dollars that could be allocated to other projects with better access to healthy food and work. But that doesn’t do anything for the people already living in these dilapidated complexes. The Council had an incredibly difficult decision to make.

Outgoing Councilman Scott Griggs called it a “litmus test” for whether the Council would adhere to the policy’s goals and funnel already limited resources toward areas of opportunity in an effort to stop the concentration of poverty. Others felt turning away a ready developer represented a betrayal of the residents watching their debate. After much contentious and confusing back and forth, a bleary-eyed Council turned down the amendment on the table and directed staff to dig into possible policy tweaks over the next six months. “This whole conversation has been a conversation between the heart and the brain,” North Dallas Councilman Lee Kleinman said then.

Wednesday looked much different. There was no debate. The Housing Policy Taskforce spent those six months hard at work. The amendments were placed on the Council’s consent agenda, the portion where things get passed in bulk. And Council pushed them through without discussion.

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