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Policy

Frisco, Allen, Flower Mound Among Most Prosperous Small and Mid-Sized U.S. Cities

| 2 weeks ago

A group called the Economic Innovation Group has released its 2017 Distressed Communities Index, which looks at disparities in the economies of cities and regions and the impacts those disparities have on other factors, such as health, public assistance spending, and education. One of the interesting insights to come out of the report is that some smaller American cities have yet to escape the impact of the 2007 housing crash — and may never recover. But in Texas — or, at least, in Texas suburbs — the news is mostly rosy.

Frisco, Allen, and Flower Mount all rank among the most prosperous small and mid-sized cities. And Plano ranks No. 2 on the study’s list of the 10 most prosperous of the country’s 100 largest cities (which appears to mean cities with at least 200,000 people). One of the reasons for this localized prosperity is that suburban communities are self-selective, and their residents can prosper off the economic opportunity offered by major metropolitan hubs while keeping the challenges posed by large urban communities outside of their boundaries:

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Politics

Victoria Neave Had a Great First Year in the Texas Lege*

| 2 weeks ago

Constituents and friends had come from every part of Victoria Neave’s district—most of Mesquite, part of Lakewood, and south Garland—to kick off her run for reelection. The hall at Winfrey Point on White Rock Lake was packed with supporters on a night in early November, and the mood was festive. The aesthetic was more “small-town prom” than “fundraiser for a young political star.” On the stage, a DJ in a snap-brim hat and “Tejanos jam” t-shirt spun “Boogie Shoes.” The crowd, majority Hispanic, noshed on homemade quesadillas and sipped from cans of Coke kept on ice in a large Coleman.

The music stopped, and a parade of North Texas politicians made its way to the stage to praise Neave, a state representative voted “Freshman of the Year” by House Democrats. State Representative Rafael Anchia, for whom Neave served as an intern more than a decade ago, noted they did not vote in lockstep because Neave has a diverse district (increasingly working-class Hispanic; overall about 45 percent white, 55 percent minority), and she works to serve all her constituents. State Representative Nicole Collier from Fort Worth said Neave wasn’t afraid to “speak up and speak out” on women’s issues. State Representative Ramon Romero Jr. told a joke in Spanish that, from all indications, was very funny.

It was Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, though, who addressed the reality of what Neave was up against. “It will be a dirty campaign,” he said. The crowd booed. “Not on our part, but on their part.” More boos. “They will talk about things in her past!” Booooooo!

That reads sillier than it played in the room. Because of course Neave’s Republican challengers will talk about her past, as Neave will talk about theirs. But everyone in the hall knew what Jenkins meant. They will talk about it. The night. The incident. The drunken driving arrest in June that made a rising young political star suddenly vulnerable in the eyes of Republicans who desperately want to reclaim Texas House District 107.

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Transportation

Has the Texas Central Bullet Train Gone Off the Rails?

| 1 month ago

It’s been a busy year for the much-anticipated Texas bullet train. The project emerged as a contentious issue in the state legislative session leading to legislation that intends to protect tax payers from any potential cost of the project. Houston officially signed on in support of the high-speed rail line, and contractors have been hired to design and build the rail link.

The project, however, is still drawing skepticism. Travis Korson, a senior fellow with Frontiers of Freedom, a conservative Washington think tank, believes the numbers don’t pencil out Texas’ bullet train. In a column for the The Hill , he argues that a growing budget and inflated ridership projects suggest the privately funded rail project may not be profitable: 

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Local News

UT-Arlington Professor: ‘What’s the Big Deal’ About Adult Men Dating Underage Girls?

| 2 months ago

Earlier this month, UT-Arlington philosophy professor Keith Burgess-Jackson posed a question on his blog: “What’s the big deal about a 32-year-old man courting a 14-year-old girl?”

Burgess-Jackson’s take on the age of consent and changing cultural norms—he notes that his grandmother was 15 when she married a 41-year-old man—comes in response to sexual abuse allegations made against Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore. The Nov. 11 blog post seems to have gone mostly unnoticed until this morning, when it was quoted in a Federalist column arguing that Alabama voters should support Moore even if the accusations against him are true.

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Local Government

Will Sheriff Lupe Valdez Be the Next Texas Governor?

| 2 months ago

Or, will Sheriff Lupe Valdez even run for governor? That might be the real question. That’s because last night, after a flurry of reports that Valdez had stepped down from her position as Dallas County Sheriff to announce her candidacy in the 2018 primary, it all turned out to be a false alarm. The Dallas Morning News was among the outlets that reported that Valdez had already resigned, but then retracted their report. The Houston Chronicle, citing state party officials, is still pretty sure the resignation is coming any day. The Texas Tribune reported that Valedez is still “considering the next stage in her career.”

So why all the erroneous reports? According to the Tribune, they seem to trace their way back to Dallas Country Democratic Party Chair Carol Donavan, who leaked the, er, fake news. That the local Democratic party somehow bungled the rollout of a campaign announcement for one if its prized candidates – one who even had a prime time speaking slot at last year’s Democratic National Convention – isn’t that surprising.

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WTF

U.S. Rep. Joe Barton Is Sorry About The Naked Photo

| 2 months ago

U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, the Ennis congressman whose district includes parts of Tarrant County, didn’t intend for his naked body to wind up on Twitter the week of Thanksgiving. But that’s what happened, his nether regions edited out with blue, the photo posted next to a screenshot of a text message sent from a “Joe B.” that read “I want u soo bad. Right now” and a couple other words that I’ll let you Google for yourself.

Barton apologized immediately, saying that the photo was sent to someone with whom he had a consensual sexual relationship while separated from his second wife. And because we live in a time when a man accused of initiating sexual encounters with underage girls is still very much in a Senate race, Barton emphasized that the person in question was one of the “other mature adult women” that he’s had relations with. He is twice divorced, first in 2003 and then again in 2015 (he married for the second time in 2004). He says the photo occurred after the second divorce. 

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Sports & Leisure

Mark Cuban 2020 Watch: What Do the Mavs Owner and Steve Bannon Talk About?

| 2 months ago

The Daily Beast reported today on Mavericks owner and simulated stair climber Mark Cuban’s chatty relationship with Steve Bannon, the former chief strategist of President Donald Trump and chief of the far-right conservative website Breitbart. It confirms what has been plainly obvious, that Cuban is thinking about—or at least wants us to think he’s thinking about—a presidential run in 2020, and regurgitates something TMZ covered last month, when Bannon told the gossip news site that Cuban should run as a Democrat.

Cuban, rolling today on Twitter soliciting hot takes on “tribalism in our country,” says that Bannon has only encouraged him to run as a Democrat indirectly, via media interviews, and that most of their conversations have been limited to incomplete sentences in text messages. (Which makes sense. Among the many things we learned in a BuzzFeed feature that connected Breitbart to white nationalist ideas and included a cameo appearance by white supremacists at a Dallas bar: Bannon texts like a teenager with a short attention span.) Unclear what Cuban and Bannon discussed meeting in person at a New York City hotel two weeks after Trump’s election last year.

Most stories about Cuban’s 2020 odds position him as an independent centrist, mentioning his social liberalism along with his more conservative and libertarian policy ideas. Cuban, for example, isn’t likely to support any kind of bathroom bill. But the Shark Tank host is apparently a devotee of Ayn Rand (also a favorite of U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan), the late writer whose Objectivist philosophy idealizes extreme individual self-interest and idolizes wealthy self-made capitalists in the vein of, say, a Mark Cuban.

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Transportation

Join Us Wednesday to Discuss the Future of I-345

| 3 months ago

Most people who drive on it probably don’t even know the road’s name: I-345, that sliver of connective concrete tissue between Interstate 45 and Central Expressway. Way back in 2013, Patrick Kennedy wrote an article in D Magazine that argued that the little stretch of highway was costing Dallas somewhere around $4 billion in potential investment. Why? Because, if removed, the ring of highways around downtown would be broken, and the city center and neighborhoods to the east could be reconnected. But wouldn’t this hurt traffic, you might ask? Well, no. And in 2014, D Magazine dedicated an entire issue to examining the issue, finding out that taking down the highway would be better for Dallas neighborhoods, job growth, and long-range transportation planning.

That idea has snowballed over the years. Last year, TxDOT released CityMap, which proposed three options for dealing with the nuisance highway. Next week, the Dallas city Council is set to vote on commissioning an economic development study that will complement the CityMap study and look at the unleashed potential tearing down I-345.

What does this all mean for Dallas? That’s what we will discuss here at the D Magazine Headquarters this coming Wednesday evening. Here are the details:

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History

Here’s What Researchers May Find in Those JFK Files Released Today

| 3 months ago

It’s a date that changed Dallas forever: November 22, 1963. And yet more than 50 years later, there is still confusion clouding exactly what happened when President John F. Kennedy took his ill-fated trip though Dealey Plaza. Today, tens of thousands of previously classified records related to the assassination will become public record. The question everyone wants to know: what’s left to find? If 54 years of official and unofficial investigations, countless books, and so many movies have failed to settle the details on the events that came together on that day to rewrite the course of history with the punctuation of a single bullet, what will?

After all, 90 percent of the files related to the assassination are already public. The remaining 30,000 to 40,000 pages of documents that have been secret (and will now be opened) have already been reviewed by the Assassination Records Review Board in the nineties. Most were classified as “Not Believed Relevant.” But of course, with a conspiracy as thick as the JFK assassination, who’s going to take some official government review board’s word for it?

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Good Public Transit

Bombshell Report Reveals DART’s System-Wide Inadequacy

| 3 months ago

At this afternoon’s meeting of the Dallas City Council’s Mobility Solutions, Infrastructure & Sustainability committee, researchers from the University of Texas at Arlington’s Institute of Urban Studies will brief the members on a new and groundbreaking study that, for the first time, comprehensively reveals the failures of Dallas Area Rapid Transit to provide adequate public transit to its member cities. The analysis exposes a failure that is contributing greatly to lingering issues of poverty, inequality, and a lack of upward mobility in the region.

You can read the report briefing here, but here are some key statistics that reveal how DART really functions:

  • Transportation is unaffordable to 97.44 percent of the population of Dallas.
  • More than 65 percent of residents who are dependent on transit have access to less than 4 percent of regional jobs.
  • More than 73 percent of Section 8 Multifamily Affordable Housing properties in Dallas are unaffordable when transportation costs are factored in.
  • About a third of Dallas residents and transit-dependent residents do not have walking access to a transit station.
  • On average, just 18 to 22 percent of the population has access to high frequency service during morning and afternoon peak hours; but during off peak hours, that number drops to just 9 percent of the population. In the late evening, half the population must wait 30 minutes or more for transit or has no transit at all.
  • Even though DART boasts the nation’s longest light rail network, DART Ranks 23 out of 29 for large- and medium-sized transit agencies in the U.S. in terms of bus passenger miles per capita
  • Since 2000, poverty in the city of Dallas has increased 22 percent, while the city’s total population has only increased by 9.7 percent.
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Trinity River

Harvey Offers Stark Warning: Dallas Should Build a Trinity River Preserve, Not Park

| 3 months ago

In the lead-up to the unveiling of the grand plans for a future Trinity River Floodway designed by renowned landscape architect Michael van Valkenburgh, the project’s designers and backers weren’t shy about their inspirations. They traveled around the country, looked at examples around the world, and found that a great model for how to turn a muddy Texas river prone to flooding into a grand urban park lay only a few hundred miles south of Dallas.

Houston’s Buffalo Bayou is the most obvious model for the current iteration of a 285-acre park with a $250 million price tag currently planned for a strip of floodway between the downtown bridges. Leading up to the unveiling of the van Valkenburgh plan, the Dallas Morning News’ architecture critic Mark Lamster practically gushed over what Houston accomplished in its floodway:

The centerpiece of that project, the $58-million, 160-acre Buffalo Bayou Park, will be completed over the summer, bringing a wonderland of verdant landscapes, scenic bridges, bike and pedestrian trails, restaurants and cafes, watersport facilities, a skate park and performance and art spaces to Houston’s downtown.

If it seems like a bit of nirvana, that’s because it is. Dallasites may rightly wonder how their neighbor to the south has managed to achieve so much, so quickly, while plans in their own city have stagnated.

Oh, what a difference a trillion gallons of rain makes.

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Politics & Government

Amazon HQ Bid Could Boil Down to Dallas vs. Fort Worth Brawl

| 3 months ago

Just for fun, let’s put the cart before the horse. Let’s say that, after October 19, when Amazon gets all the headquarters relocation bids metropolitan regions around the country have been busily preparing, they look at the Dallas-Fort Worth regional bid and start quoting their Davy Crockett: “You may all go to Hell, and I will go to Texas.”

What will attract the company to North Texas? Speaking about the ongoing going effort to organize the regional bid for the headquarters, Mayor Mike Rawlings says the various chambers, cities, and officials in North Texas who are participating in the process are selling the region’s central location, its strong tech employee base, the market’s livability, and the area’s role as a logistics center. They are also marketing its business friendly, low-regulation environment, while attempting to overcome some of the more Crockett-esque aspects of the Texas brand, like its state government.

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