A Daily Conversation About Dallas


Why the Dallas ISD Bond Election Won’t Really Increase Property Taxes

| 18 hours ago

A commenter in Leading Off this morning asks an important question: Why do ballots claim that the Dallas ISD bond election represents a vote to increase property taxes while supporters of the bond say it will not?

The short answer is that regardless of the details of this particular bond election, the property tax language is a new blanket requirement of any school bond election that was included in the Texas school finance reform bill that passed during the last legislative session. In a video urging for the passage of the DISD bond, state Rep. Rafael Anchia says that the inclusion of the language in the bill was part of a legislative compromise that helped get the lege’s large school finance bill passed. But even so, is the language correct – is the DISD bond vote a vote to raise taxes?

Well, not really. And here’s why.

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Local News

Leading Off (10/27/20)

| 1 day ago

COVID Update. Dallas County reported 498 new cases yesterday and two deaths. Tarrant County added the same number, Collin County added 78, and Denton added 219, its highest number in almost three weeks. Mask up, and stay distant.

Good Job Voting! North Texas counties have been turning out to vote early. For example, with four days of early voting left, 620,000 people in Dallas County have voted, topping the 2016 early voting record of 549,643. Still, though, that’s only 44 percent of registers voters. So keep at it, folks.

Filmmaker Indicted. We’ve written about Adam Donaghey. He is a movie producer who helped refurbish the Oak Cliff Theatre. He was arrested in April after being accused of sexually assaulting a child. Now a grand jury has handed down an indictment. His lawyer says Donaghey looks forward to his day in court.

DISD Bond Ballot Language Is Bunk. The Morning News published an editorial today supporting the DISD bond election and pointing out that the ballot language calling it a tax increase is simply misleading. It’s not a tax increase.

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Local News

The Most Interesting Part of Dallas ISD’s Bond Is One of Its Smallest

| 2 days ago

The most interesting portion of Dallas ISD’s historic bond is a speck of the $3.7 billion it is asking for. Proposition A allocates $3.27 billion for fixing up many of its campuses, which are an average of 52 years old. Inside that is $41 million that will provide wraparound services to communities that need them, using data and community input to guide the investments.

Its funding mechanism—a bond approved by voters—is, by most accounts, a unique way to pay for such an option. Because it is a bond, the district is obligated to build something. There will be physical structures housing critical services that communities lack, whether that be healthy food or mental health services. It will start with four such structures that will operate in school feeder patterns in West Dallas, Pleasant Grove, South Dallas, and Oak Cliff. The determination of where to spend this bond money was based on something called a Community Resource Index.

We have written about this Community Resource Index before, but now we can look at the data that was used to formulate the index. You can play with the tool here: it draws a 2-mile radius around each of the schools and allows you to see how they stack up. What are the neighborhood’s graduation rates? Can you easily access childcare? What is the eviction rate? How many families are cost-burdened by what they pay in rent compared to what they earn? Uninsured rate? Incarceration rate? Which neighborhoods need the most help?

The bond designates $41 million to create community hubs in four feeder patterns: Spruce in Pleasant Grove, Lincoln in South Dallas, West Dallas’ Pinkston, and Oak Cliff’s Roosevelt, based on the stories the data tell. DISD will update its tool each year and the district is hopeful that increased investments will allow for more communities as the years go forward.

The district hopes this hard data will attract investment from nonprofits and other public agencies, like the city of Dallas, Dallas County, and DART. DISD chose these schools based on the Community Resource Index score and the age of its facilities, but also “the history of segregation and redlining in Dallas.”

“Although need exists across Dallas ISD, the Administration recognized that need is particularly acute in neighborhoods that have faced decades of disinvestment and unfair distribution of financial, educational, and material resources,” reads a report about the item. The goal is “to address myriad inequities that exist outside of school but impact students’ experiences in school.”

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Daniel Macdonald Wants to Know What You Do for a Living

| 2 days ago

An alert FrontBurnervian pointed me today to Daniel Macdonald’s TikTok account. Last month, the guy started walking up to people in Dallas who were driving expensive cars and asking them what they do for a living. Highland Park Village appears to be fertile hunting ground. Now he has 2 million followers. This TikTok he posted October 3 has been viewed 34 million times. Of all media outlets, KLUV appears to have first written about Macdonald. So props to them. And props to Macdonald for finding a solid side hustle.

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The Old Monk Is Now a Coffee Shop (and a Pub)

| 2 days ago

Would you like to hear a funny story? A while back, I sent an email to Feargal McKinney, the owner of the Old Monk. Here’s what I wrote:

A friend of mine has an idea. Wrap your Irish brain around this.

The Monk makes you no money till 4 p.m. most days. It just sits there. The Pearl Cup right down the street is swamped every day. So: we put an analog clock outside the Monk. It has a big letter “W” in the center that rotates. At 4 o’clock, it becomes an “M.” So after 4, you’ve got the Old Monk. But before 4, you’ve got the Old Wonk. It’s a coffee/breakfast taco place with wifi.

Genius, no?

I sent that email in April of 2010. A decade ago. On Saturday, I finally got a response from Feargal. He wrote:

Sorry I am just now getting back to you. You know how things can get stacked up in your inbox.

But in general, yeah, I like it. Thanks for the idea.

We will start serving coffee at The Monk, Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. until 1 p.m. At 3 p.m., we are the same Old Monk you have known for years. I have hired Kendal Kohlman to manage the coffee day part. She is a Dallas-area native recently returned from New York, where she managed for Intelligentsia coffee group. We are aiming to be open Tuesday.

The custom clock/Old Wonk part will take longer to get to, even longer than it took me to reply to your e-mail, maybe twice as long, to be honest. So for now just Old Monk coffee.

Two things: first, the coffee itself will be a custom single-origin roast from Cultivar. Second, I can’t remember who came up with the Old Wonk coffee shop idea a decade ago. I asked a couple of my friends. None would take responsibility. So whoever deserves credit, please step up in the comments.

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Local News

Leading Off (10/26/2020)

| 2 days ago

Cowboys Lose. In the process of getting run by a not very good Washington team, the Cowboys lost quarterback Andy Dalton to a concussion on an illegal hit, paving the way for Ben DiNucci. It’s a fun name to say. I like to blur it all together like it’s one name: Bendinucci. Like, Joey Bendinucci. Really lean into it. Make it musical; that’s my secret. Anyway, Cowboys are terrible, season is probably over, and now I’m gonna have to really stretch these items.

COVID. Dallas County reported 703 new cases on Sunday and one new death. Mask up. It’s easy and you can hide a lot of facial expressions.

County Sees Record Number of Early Voters. Is SMU political science professor Cal Jillson quoted in this piece? [winks broadly at camera] I guess you’re just going to have to click on that link to find out. But, I mean, yes, obviously he is.

Cold Front! It’s about time. These beautiful jackets in my closet are not going to wear themselves.

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Politics & Government

Voting Is Safe. You Should Do It. Also, Most Poll Workers Are Wonderful.

| 5 days ago

Last weekend, two workers at the University Park United Methodist Church polling location were fired because they refused to wear masks. Toni Pippins-Poole, Dallas County’s elections administrator, has pointed out that poll workers must wear masks, per an order issued by the County Commissioners Court. The maskless poll workers point out that Gov. Greg Abbott has issued an executive order saying that while poll workers are encouraged to wear masks, they are not legally required to do so.

Similar disagreements have popped up at other polling locations. The Dallas Observer wrote about a deal up in Denton where some folks feel like maskless Republican poll workers were engaged in voter intimidation. But the only outlet that has so far reported on the UP incident has been the Texas Scorecard. That’s the right-wing outfit run by Michael Quinn Sullivan’s Empower Texans. When the mayor of Southlake reversed course on requiring voters to wear masks, the Texas Scorecard called it a “victory against coronavirus tyranny.” That’s how they roll. Bear that in mind.

So what’s going on here? I called Lynn Davenport — one of the UP poll workers who was fired, a onetime Richardson ISD school board candidate, and a singer-songwriter — to see if I could get some clarity on the issue.

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The Mountain Goats Return to Dallas On the New Getting Into Knives

| 5 days ago

I was hoping to speak to John Darnielle this morning, the singer-songwriter behind the long-running, cult-favorite, Colbert-approved band the Mountain Goats. But seeing as it is release day for the band’s latest, Getting Into Knives, I suppose he was otherwise occupied. Among other questions, I specifically wanted to ask Darnielle about this lyric from “Picture of My Dress”: “I’m in the bathroom of a Dallas, Texas Burger King/And Mr. Steven Tyler is on the overhead speaker/He doesn’t want to miss a thing.”

The song itself has an interesting back story. It began with a tweet from the poet Maggie Smith, talking about a hypothetical photo essay involving a wedding dress. Darnielle responded that it would be a song titled “Picture of My Dress.” Eventually, he sat down and wrote it.

“Picture of My Dress,” of course, is not the Mountain Goats’ first foray into North Texas. Most notably, there is 2002’s All Hail West Texas, which featured songs such as “Blues in Dallas” and “The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton.” The latter served as the inspiration for Kimberly King Parsons’ entry into our annual summer fiction package a few months ago.

TL;DR Listen to the Mountain Goats.

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Nature and Environment

Local Eagle Dares You to Peer at Him With Live Cam

| 5 days ago

In the September 2019 issue of D Magazine, Tara Nieuwesteeg wrote a story about the John Bunker Sands Wetland Center, located 30 minutes southeast of Dallas. The piece focused on the great lengths taken to preserve the nesting area of a pair of bald eagles. Well, lookee here. Tara sends word that a couple weeks ago the folks at JBSWC got a new eagle live cam up and running. As I type this, 10 of us are watching nothing happen. The eagles must be off doing eagle things, terrifying fish and small rodents. You know what, though? It doesn’t matter. Just the sound of the live cam — crickets, wind, the occasional crow caw — is a soothing background track to play during the workday. Highly recommended.

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Local News

Leading Off (10/23/20)

| 5 days ago

Attorney General Ken Paxton Kept Intervening In Donor’s Legal Affairs. The Dallas Morning News got an interview with one of Paxton’s former deputies who resigned after suspecting their boss’ behavior had grown criminal. The report finds that Paxton stepped in “at least four times on a range of legal matters” that were centered on the Austin developer and campaign donor Nate Paul. In 2019, Paul had his home and business raided by the FBI. Paxton was getting involved in small matters, like records requests. Others were larger, like a dispute with a nonprofit where Paxton’s office seemed like it was representing Paul. It tried to get that nonprofit to settle the $10.5 million lawsuit for “pennies on the dollar.” Meanwhile, the attorney general fired a second whistleblower just yesterday.

Murder Suspect Killed His Girlfriend, But Got Out On Bond. Andrew Beard was booked into the Lew Sterrett Justice Center with a $1 million bond after he shot and stabbed the mother of his child. Family members say he stalked her. Police believe he wore dark brown makeup to disguise himself, which obviously didn’t work. But he was able to post bond and is back on house arrest, which has the victim’s family fearful. Family violence advocates believe the bond was too low and are calling for reform of the arraignment process.

Hospital Capacity Is At Risk Because of New COVID Surge. Statewide and local hospitalizations for the disease are now at levels we haven’t seen since August, when we were coming down off a peak from July. The 1,374 people hospitalized in the 13-county North Texas region is higher than anywhere in the state; it’s double that of Houston. Yesterday, Dallas County added 435 new infections. The 7-day average is 482, up from 380 a week ago. Wear your mask and stay away from others.

Another Debate for Collins and Allred. Genevieve Collins, the Republican hopeful trying to unseat incumbent Colin Allred, said during a debate last night that highways like Central Expressway should be expanded to meet transit needs. Not only is this a backwards thinking that doesn’t account for the surge of vehicles that come with every highway expansion, it would also require seizing land along the highway in some of Dallas’ most prosperous neighborhoods. The other subjects were more down the party line, with Collins calling for a replacement of Obamacare.

Cold Front Today. It’ll get down in the 50s tonight, hang out in the 60s on Saturday, and warm back up on Sunday. Enjoy it

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COVID-19 Long-Haulers: ‘The Second Time, They Got Sicker’

| 6 days ago

The Centers for Disease Control has released a report showing COVID-19 resulted in about 300,000 more deaths than would be expected in a typical year. Nearly two-thirds of those died from COVID-19. The death tally does include deaths from the regular seasonal flu and other causes, though these medical events rarely overwhelm hospitals like COVID-19 has threatened at various points in this pandemic. This is no ordinary flu. 

COVID-19 symptoms are not only more severe than the regular flu, but they also last longer. The fever, sweating, coughing, and fatigue are common with the flu, but diarrhea is a symptom that wouldn’t usually be associated with the flu. The loss of smell and taste are unique symptoms, appear more widely than fever, and last for months. Patients with those symptoms are now eligible to be screened for the disease.  

But these symptoms can become severe, resulting in hospitalization, oxygen, and even intubation. If a patient becomes so sick that they can no longer take in oxygen, they must be put on a ventilator, where a machine pumps in oxygen into the lungs. While many eventually improve enough to get off the ventilator and leave the hospital, symptoms can remain for months. 

“We’re learning this as we go because we’re seeing that first wave of fully recovered patients coming through from March,” says Dr. Mohanakrishnan Sathyamoorthy, professor and chair of the department of medicine at the TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine as well as an invasive cardiologist. “The fatigue, lethargy, and cough can be persistent for many months after the initial hospitalized phase.”

Heart disease is another lasting effect of the virus, says Dr. Fahmi Farah of Bentley Heart Medical Center in Fort Worth. She is a cardiologist who has treated several COVID-19 patients in the hospital and follow-up visits and has noticed younger patients coming in with heart conditions they never had before. She has found inflammation of the heart muscle, or myocarditis, in some post-COVID-19 patients. This can lead to heart failure, shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, a debilitating swelling of legs, and a severe drop in quality of life. 

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Local News

Dallas School Board Shows Guts, Not Corruption, in Tornado Recovery

| 6 days ago

No very visible organized opposition to next month’s Dallas public school bond election has shown up, but a two-part, vote-no argument is bubbling along beneath the surface on social media. The first part argues that, even though voters have authorized big bond issues in the recent past, the Dallas Independent School District still has too many lousy buildings.

The second argument is that something crooked is going on with the bond money and the proof is Thomas Jefferson High School in northwest Dallas, still battered and unrestored a year after it was devastated by a string of tornadoes.

The first argument — too much money spent already, too many bad buildings left — is the easy one. DISD is a city unto itself, with more than 150,000 students and 20,000 staff. Its wants and physical deficiencies are indeed staggering, with almost $6 billion in unmet needs in the physical plant alone.

The proposed bond for Dallas is the biggest ever — $3.7 billion. But on a per-student basis, this year’s bond proposal in San Antonio — not a rich city — is 12 percent more than what Dallas is asking its voters to approve. A bond approved in the affluent Highland Park school district five years ago was 131 percent more per student.

People opposed to the Dallas bond may argue that DISD still has a lot of bad buildings, but the people in favor of the bond are saying the same thing. So fix them. And the thing the crazy Texas Legislature stuck on the ballot in all caps saying it’s a tax hike is flat not true. Nobody’s taxes go up when this passes.

The piece I personally am more drawn to, however, is the charge of corruption and conspiracy, because — I just am. And I didn’t get why Thomas Jefferson was still a fly-blown hulk when I thought the district had said it was putting TJ on some kind of super speeded-up fix-erator program that I never really understood. We’re a year away from the tornado, and, if anything, TJ looks like it got hit by another tornado.

So I have been asking around. Most of the people I talked to — with one notable and very welcome exception — would only talk to me on a not-for-attribution basis, meaning I can say what they told me, but I can’t name them. And I think when we get into it, you will see why they’re so goosey.

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