A Daily Conversation About Dallas


New EarBurner: Mike Rhyner Risks It All at Main Street Garden

| 4 days ago

For the second week in a row, Tim Rogers, Zac Crain, and I braved the outdoors to record an EarBurner podcast. We were joined this time at Main Street Garden by a radio legend, Mike Rhyner, whom Zac profiled in the April issue (online soon, P1s!). This podcast will get you excited to read the story, because Rhyner is effusive about it. You’ll hear that.

What you’ll also hear: how a “real Type A guy” feels sitting on the sidelines as COVID-19 changes everything, unable to broadcast his opinion or talk about the 1986 Mets-Red Sox game he caught on MLB Network the other night. (He’s perfectly OK with that, by the way.) He’s still walking downtown regularly despite the shutdown (did you know it has a west-to-east incline?); he sees his daughter, who moved here from California in December; he has to remind himself not to shake hands. Just like all of us.

Rhyner may not be on the Ticket, but he has listened to Bob Sturm enough to do the best impression of him you’ll ever hear. So press play.

“You don’t look back,” Rhyner says. “You move on.”

He moved on to EarBurner, the longest-running socially distant podcast in Dallas, which is still in production, even in the midst of a pandemic. Give it a listen below or on Spotify or your favorite podcatcher.

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New EarBurner: Councilwoman Paula Blackmon, Co-Chair of COVID-19 Task Force

| 6 days ago

Councilwoman Paula Blackmon represents the White Rock Lake area of East Dallas. And she’s the co-chair of the city’s COVID-19 task force. In full city parlance, that’s the Ad Hoc Committee on COVID-19 Human and Social Recovery and Assistance. Tim had the idea of recording an EarBurner in the parking lot of the Lakewood Growler. Blackmon agreed. We came really close to the 10-person gathering threshold because Tim invited his friends. (We maintained appropriate social distancing.)

But anyway. Interesting things are discussed. The ad hoc committee met last night for the first time. They tried to parse the language of the county’s shelter-in-place order, which County Judge Clay Jenkins announced about an hour before. I say that because the podcast was recorded prior to the order and prior to that initial meeting.

Blackmon spoke with us most about the economic recovery that will be so critical to so many Dallasites. Local officials will need to ask the state government for relief on things like the small business tax, sales tax, and property taxes. Could we suspend the sales tax? Can we freeze property taxes? That’s what Councilman Lee Kleinman will be charged with finding out. Councilman Adam Bazaldua will be working with hotels and restaurants and bars to figure out the relief that works for them and their people. Also on the committee? North Oak Cliff’s Chad West, who’s working with the chambers of commerce; southern Dallas’ Tennell Atkins, who’s also the chair of the economic development committee.

The task force is chaired by Councilman Casey Thomas, of southern Dallas. Blackmon is anticipating unemployment to shoot up to around 20 percent, which is in line with federal estimates. This thing came on fast at City Hall. She said March 1 was the date on which it was “in everyone’s mind, then it got real fast and we were thinking about the parades.” Those got shut down, of course.

But that was the easy part. Now comes something much more difficult. How are you going to provide a safety net for Dallasites who are sheltering in place to protect one another? And figure that out while managing a regular Council agenda: the scooter pilot is expiring, for instance. The Council will need to address that. And what does Blackmon think about neighboring counties not following the same rules that Dallas is? (Looking at you, Tarrant. And you, city of Frisco.)

“Our region has to work together on this,” she said, diplomatically.

Sound interesting? It is! Listen below.

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New EarBurner: Dave Raymond, Voice of the Texas Rangers

| 4 weeks ago

Dave Raymond has been the voice of the Texas Rangers since the 2016 season, after doing some time with the Houston Astros. It was a bumpy trip to get to the booth in Arlington: the Astros basically let him walk, sending him wandering in the sports desert for about four years. Before that, he’d clawed his way through minor league ball. He was somewhat famously (Sports Illustrated wrote about it, at least) traded from the Charleston RiverDogs to the St. Paul Saints for a case of crab cakes, a wind machine, and a blind color commentator. He found a job in Iowa, at the Triple A squad Cubs, and didn’t report to Minnesota.

Oh, and, in the summers, he worked as a fact checker at Forbes, which led to an opportunity to write. In 2000, he blew the lid off the accounting irregularities at MicroStrategy, a stock plunge that brought about the bursting of the dot-com bubble. And—can’t forget this one—he shares a name with the guy who created the Phillie Phanatic, which actually helped open a door or two for him professionally.

So, yeah. That’s why we asked Dave to drive all the way from his Flower Mound home to the Old Monk in East Dallas to chat. We got into all that and more, like the new stadium and the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal. (My take: get better signs. How do teams broadcast such an integral part of the sport so publicly and not expect your competition to try to find ways to break your code and capitalize? This isn’t the first time it’s happened, but everyone’s so up-in-arms because the Astros—and the Red Sox, another buncha techno-cheaters—actually won. And, yeah, they used tech to do it. The Astros are a symptom of a league that’s too long coasted on handshake and gentleman’s agreements, and when technology floods these stadiums, teams and the league need to adjust.)

ANYWAY. Listen below or on Spotify. After the jump, Dave talks about the new stadium.

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New EarBurner: Ex-CIA, FBI Agent Tracy Walder Talks About Her New Memoir

| 1 month ago

Today is a big day for Tracy Walder. The ex-CIA, ex-FBI, ex-Hockaday teacher is now a published author. Her book, The Unexpected Spy, is now available. And to honor the event, we had her on EarBurner. If you haven’t read our Zac Crain’s profile of her in the February issue, you should absolutely do so here. An excerpt:

It is up to Walder to explain how a blond Jewish sorority girl from California ended up hunting terrorists in Afghanistan in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, and how that same woman ended up here, teaching at an all-girls school in a city she had no real reason to move to, married to an orthodontist. It’s a LinkedIn page that reads like an episode of The Americans.

She was on Good Morning America today. She’s been on NPR. Ellen Pompeo, the Grey’s Anatomy star, bought the rights to her story and is producing an ABC series for her Calamity Jane production company.

Now she can add EarBurner guest to her resume. She joined Zac and Tim to explore more of her story. Buy her book and get to know her.

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New EarBurner: SideDish Editor Rosin Saez Has Some Enchilada Takes

| 1 month ago

The first time I met Rosin Saez was near the end of last year during her job interview. She’d applied to be our online dining editor and had an impressive set of credentials: associate editor and style editor at Seattle Met magazine, where she oversaw complex features like this guide to the city’s ferries and smart, thorough shorter pieces, like this one on Filipino desserts. Our dining critic, Eve Hill-Agnus, was working on a Filipino feature at that very time. She was over the moon. After that interview, the three of us drank mezcal in the shadow of Fair Park. Hours later, I was out over my skis as they discussed the buckwheat content of the soba noodles at Tei-An. I knew we had to get her to Dallas.

In the past month, she’s fully immersed herself in our fine city. Rosin’s filed smart, timely pieces on the stresses delivery apps put on restaurants that may not have consented to their inclusion. She’s found restaurant opening scoops. And she’s helped Eve navigate this wild rash of retirements and chef changes that seemed to pick up right when she arrived. Welcome to Dallas! Rosin’s also working on a couple of big stories that I can’t wait to read. And she’s rethinking our print and online bar coverage.

We’re thrilled she’s here. Or, at least, we were. Until she said what she said about enchiladas. Listen for yourself, and allow her to introduce herself on EarBurner with Tim Rogers and Zac Crain. Follow her on Twitter. And, of course, stay hungry. There’s much to come.

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New EarBurner: Author Alex Temblador on Her Efforts to Make Dallas a Literary Town

| 2 months ago

Alex Temblador wants Dallas to be known as a literary city. So, in addition to her own writing, she’s doing the hard work of networking: linking authors with editors while getting our indie bookstores and our more arts-minded bars and venues to provide homes for panels and readings and Q&As. The goal is to help the creators connect with readers. She focused this energy into LitTalk, a quarterly event with partner Interabang Books that you can read about in our February issue.

There are two literary events this week. Tomorrow’s LitNight is at Chocolate Secrets on Oak Lawn, where you can hear six authors read their own work. On Wednesday, the new Lovers Lane location of Interabang will host a Temblador’s LitTalk panel featuring authors Julie Murphy, who wrote Dumplin’, which was turned into a movie for Netflix; Rebecca Balcárcel, the author of Junior Library Guild-endorsed The Other Half of Happy; and Sanderia Faye, the author of Mourner’s Bench. Temblador is the author of Secrets of the Casa Rosada, which you can purchase right here.

We invited Alex to come on EarBurner and chat about LitTalk and the state of Dallas literature. Listen below, and head to the jump for an excerpt.

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New EarBurner: Sgt. Mike Mata, Head of Dallas Police Association, Talks Chief Hall, Vice Investigation, and More

| 2 months ago

Sgt. Mike Mata is effectively the (non-anonymous) voice of Dallas police officers. He’s the head of the Dallas Police Association, which counts about 83 percent of the force among its ranks. He’s the one navigating city politics and negotiating with elected representatives. He shows up at police-involved shootings and, somewhat controversially, advises officers until their attorneys arrive. And when reporters need a quote reflecting the rank and file, it’s usually Mata’s name you’ll find in print.

With all the public safety news as of late—an alarming increase in murders and violent crime, hiring issues, the long-awaited results of an investigation into the vice unit, and concern about the chief’s performance—we wanted to kick off our year of EarBurner podcasts with someone who can speak to the status of the department. So Mata joined us at Table No. 1 at the Old Monk to talk about all this and more. In lieu of show notes, I’ve transcribed the podcast and will put highlights after the jump.

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New EarBurner: Dallas Morning News’ Mark Lamster Hates the Mavs Uniforms, Too

| 4 months ago

Mark Lamster has been The Dallas Morning News’ architecture critic for the past six years. In that time, he’s challenged architects and residents alike, forcing readers to better understand how buildings shape the way in which we move about the city. He’s written a book about the architect Philip Johnson, the controversial figure behind the Crescent development, Thanks-Giving Square, and Fort Worth’s Water Gardens, among others.

But that’s not why we invited Lamster to come on EarBurner. No, he got into a Twitter tiff with Mark Cuban over the Mavericks’ obviously hideous city jerseys. And, as Lamster put it, “good design is good business.” So we had him pick up a microphone. Show notes after the jump.

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New EarBurner: Evelyn Mayo Knows How to Prevent Another Shingle Mountain

| 5 months ago

Over the summer, as I was reporting a column on Shingle Mountain, I met Evelyn Mayo for coffee. We talked zoning and land use. I was curious as to how a multi-story tall pile of shingles had come to be located next to the home of an incredibly kind woman named Marsha Jackson. Mayo had been investigating this very thing. Southern Dallas, her team found, is zoned for a patchwork of industrial uses. In some cases, these are next to homes, which exist on land that may not be zoned residential at all. A paralegal with Legal Aid of Northwest Texas, Mayo was in the process of researching all of this for a report she titled “In Plain Sight.”

It uses Shingle Mountain as a lodestar, arguing that the city’s land use policies and zoning created far more vulnerabilities than just the lot next to Marsha Jackson’s home. Mayo and her team went looking for violations of zoning regulations and found a path that basically takes you along the banks of the Trinity River, from West Dallas—former home of lead smelters—all the way down to the city’s southern border near Hutchins, not far from Shingle Mountain. Another hot spot exists further east, in Pleasant Grove. These violations include everything from lacking a certificate of occupancy to industrial activity being too close to homes.

This report, which was published last month, is being offered to neighborhood associations around these vulnerable areas. Some include pockets of homes that aren’t correctly zoned residential. That means, say, a shingle recycling operation could open up next door and the homeowner would not have the same sort of protections as someone who lived in an area zoned single family. That’s Marsha Jackson’s conundrum: her home is zoned agricultural. So she didn’t get a formal review process before the industrial use began. The company behind this, Blue Star Recycling, told a judge that it ran out of money and can’t afford to quickly remove the pile. So now there’s something of a stand-off, and Marsha Jackson is stuck breathing in the particulate matter from the shingles that’s flowing in through her vents.

Evelyn Mayo, a paralegal with Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas. (Photo courtesy Downwinders at Risk)

The report gives the neighborhood associations something of a toolkit. It encourages residents to call 311 when they think they see a violation near them. (Bizarrely, however, the report notes that “it is up to the discretion of the inspector as to what extent the background research is conducted on the site.” Which means they’re not always aware of current zoning when they show up. That’s a policy fix.) It’s also asking the City Council to re-zone some of the areas to prevent such establishments in the future, and, in particular, eliminate the patchwork zoning that creates opportunities for things like Shingle Mountain.

This is why we asked Mayo to come onto EarBurner. And then we wound up talking about Roller Derby and James Harden. Listen below.

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New EarBurner: Cora Jakes Coleman Is a Ferocious Warrior

| 8 months ago

Cora Jakes Coleman’s time with us at the Old Monk was her fifth interview of the day. You wouldn’t have guessed it. She was far more animated than anyone else in the bar, gleefully sharing stories of growing up in the Potter’s House, the megachurch run by her father, Bishop T.D. Jakes. She also spoke of car crashes, infertility, adoption, gladiator flicks, and how no family is safe from the stressors and challenges of the world—not even her own. There is a lot stuffed into half an hour.

Jakes Coleman has just published her second book, Ferocious Warrior: Dismantle Your Enemy and Rise. (Spoiler: the sword on the cover is not real.) It goes into far more detail about the above than the podcast, but this will give you an idea of her voice. You won’t soon forget it. Show notes after the jump.


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New EarBurner: Bobby Abtahi Quits the Park Board, Talks About It

| 9 months ago

Last week, Bobby Abtahi walked into Mayor Eric Johnson’s office a little after 4 p.m. and tendered his resignation as the president of the Park and Recreation Board. It was something of a surprise; Abtahi was one of many public officials who backed Johnson against former Councilman Scott Griggs in the mayor’s race.

He said it was the right time to exit the stage, especially after seeing his friend Mike Rawlings relax after eight years as mayor. And so after two and a half years heading the Park Board—and $262 million in public funding for new parks, upgraded recreation centers, programming to keep kids off the streets, a privatization deal for Fair park, and a parkland dedication fund—the 37-year-old decided he wanted to spend more time with his family and in his day job as an attorney.

Robert Wilonsky broke that news in The Dallas Morning News last week. We invited Abtahi to come on the podcast and reflect on his tenure (and, yes, embarrass himself guessing quotes from Parks and Rec characters). Programming note: There are show notes after the jump, but I’ve also transcribed the interview and pulled out some interesting portions. Let me know what you think of that.

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New EarBurner: Eric Celeste Tells You Who Will Be the Next Mayor of Dallas

| 10 months ago

There is a runoff election on Saturday.

We’ve written plenty on this in the last few months, and with Election Day now, oh, 40something hours away, it’s time to dive into some highly scientific predictions. To do so, we wrangled our own local political Nostradamus, Eric Celeste (our former city columnist), to the Old Monk to share how he pretty much nailed the general election, when nine candidates were in the running for mayor.

We talk about David Blewett’s challenge to Philip Kingston and whether the former’s impressive general election results (47 percent! So close!) will stick. Will Tiffinni Young return to the horseshoe to represent Fair Park and South Dallas? How will the race between Erin Moore and Paula Blackmon shake out over in District 9, which is down a council member after Mark Clayton decided not to have another go? Will Carolyn King Arnold continue her reign over District 4, a seat she won after it was vacated by the felon Dwaine Caraway? We talk about early voting turnout a bit, which you can read about in more detail right here. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the return of Zac Crain, who found a microphone in his hand for the first time in three months. He brought his son to bear witness. It was fun to be in that spot while it lasted, even if we were never able to get state representative and mayoral hopeful Eric Johnson across from us. At least Mayor Mike Rawlings showed up.

Please go vote. The city’s future depends on you. You don’t want to let your city down, do you?

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