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A Daily Conversation About Dallas

If you weren’t aware, Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson traveled to Davos, Switzerland, last week to attend the World Economic Forum. He served as a panelist in a session titled “Decongesting Cities.” You can watch the entire thing right here. If you’re pressed for time, though, here’s my three-point executive summary:

First, the mayor said, “Every mayor’s job, whether they know it or not, is to make their city as fun as possible without making it unsafe for people. We want to keep people safe and let them enjoy themselves. That’s the goal.”

Second, just as the mayor began his remarks, an audience member was violently mauled by the sleep monster. When he initially appeared over the mayor’s right shoulder, the man was fighting the monster as best he could. He remained upright for several long seconds. But then he listed and eventually succumbed, slumping forward as you see him in the photo at the top of this post. Go to the 3:40 mark of the video if you want to see for yourself and if you have a strong stomach. Warning: it’s grisly. The man’s lanyard clearly displays his name, but I am not using it here because it is D Magazine’s policy not to name victims of such horrific attacks.

Third, Mayor Johnson wore pea-soup green Allbirds sneakers with his suit.

Tradition dictates that at the last City Council meeting of the year, our elected representatives abandon decorum and their fashion sense to wear Christmas sweaters to work. Since 2017, I have passed judgment on these sweaters (and, in some cases, on our council members’ eternal souls). This year is no different. Well, except that Christmas Sweater Day was Wednesday, meaning I’m tardy by two days. It’s the season of reason. You’ll forgive me.

Before we get to the Wick Allison Memorial Most Christmasy Christmas Sweater Worn on Dallas City Council Christmas Sweater Day AwardTM, I have some further ado. It has come to my attention that the Oak Cliff Advocate has brazenly ripped off my Christmas sweater-rating gig. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. As anyone who works with me will tell you, I don’t deserve flattery. Oak Cliff Advocate, y’all need to get your priorities in check.

Now! On with the judgmentalism that will ensure several council members will continue to not return my calls!

Politics

Is Mark Cuban Going to Run for President?

Tim Rogers
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Mark Cuban with Tim (left) and Zac in 2019 Photo by Elizabeth Lavin

In 2019, Zac and I interviewed Mark Cuban at the Old Monk for the 100th episode of our EarBurner podcast. It was a pretty good little chat. I think my favorite part was when Cuban himself brought up the time, many years ago, that he threatened to slice off part of my anatomy. (Listen at the 43:20 mark in the player below.) But in light of recent news, I dove back into the podcast this morning to see if he’d said anything about selling the team or, you know, about doing a deal with the devil to get himself a casino. Nope, not in there. In 2019, I don’t think anyone could have imagined he’d want to sell the team. But we did talk about Cuban possibly running for president. (Listen at 36:19.) Here’s the transcript:

A week ago, Mayor Eric Johnson launched the Republican Mayors Association. I dig the logo. Is that Batman in the bottom of the “M”? But when you click the “about” page, it looks like there is just one member of the association. So if any of y’all out there are a mayor of a major American city, or even a medium or small city, hit him up. Johnson needs some company.

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Election Day is today, which will task Texas voters with deciding 14 constitutional amendments. It is the most amendments on a ballot since 2007, when voters considered 16.

The amendments this year include property tax cuts, creating a water fund to address Texas’ growing need for water, cost-of-living adjustments for retired teachers, funds to maintain and create new state parks, and raising the mandatory retirement age for state judges. 

Today, the polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Dallas County has also made it easy to find an early voting location close to your home or office and even gauge how busy it is. (Spoiler: It will not be very busy. These are historically low turnout elections.)

Here’s a brief explainer about each amendment.

Politics

Mayor Eric Johnson Makes False Claim in Radio Interview

Tim Rogers
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The mayor at the Council's June 20 inauguration

Yesterday Bethany broke down a recent survey of Dallas citizens to gauge how they feel about their city and the services it provides. For nuance, you need to go read her post. But I want to share just one slide from the survey, which is conducted every two years by the ETC Institute.

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Look at the second entry: “I am pleased with the overall direction that the city of Dallas is taking.” It’s just one statement. Who knows what the 1,475 respondents this year were thinking when they gave their responses? But the trend is terrible. In 2014, 53 percent of respondents agreed (some strongly) with the statement. Mayor Eric Johnson was first elected in 2019. That year, something like 40 percent of respondents thought we were headed in the right direction. Since then, the percentage has dropped to 28.

With that terrible trend in mind, I’d like to take you to an interview Johnson did yesterday on The Mark Davis Show, on 660 The Truth. You can listen to it with the player below. The part I’ll focus on begins at around the 11-minute mark.

Politics

Why Dallas Surgeon Dr. Brian Williams Is Running for Congress

Will Maddox
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Dr. Brian Williams at Dallas Police Memorial following the July 7 shooting. Courtesy: Dr. Brian Williams

Dr. Brian Williams came to Dallas in 2010 because he felt patients at the county’s safety net hospital deserved the best possible care. He didn’t think he would stick around. He had no prior connections to the city, but his family has never left North Texas. Now he is running to represent Texas’ 32nd District in Congress.

Williams is bringing decades of experience working in public hospitals as a trauma surgeon. He spent time in Washington, D.C. in a policy role prior to announcing his candidacy. He made headlines in 2016 as the surgeon in charge of the emergency room trauma team on the evening of July 7, when Micah Xavier Johnson shot and killed five Dallas police officers, injured nine others, and wounded two civilians during a downtown protest about past police shootings. Three of the officers died at Parkland that night.

The July 7 shooting came after the deaths of Philando Castile in Minnesota and Alton Sterling in Louisiana. Journalist Jamie Thompson wrote about Williams in an engaging feature about the doctor and his confrontation of racism for D Magazine in 2016. “You realize that no matter what you do—your accomplishments, your accolades, your titles—that you can easily be dehumanized based on the color of your skin,” he told her.

He hadn’t planned on speaking during the press conference after the shooting. But as the only Black trauma surgeon on staff, he felt he needed to. “This is much more complicated for me, personally,” Williams said then. “I understand the anger and frustration with law enforcement. But they are not the problem. I want the Dallas police officers to see me, a Black man. I support you. I will defend you. I will care for you. That doesn’t mean I do not fear you.”

The event set him on his current trajectory. “July 7 was the moment that ignited that feeling in me that there was something more,” he says.

The last glimpse into the donor pool for Dallas City Council and school board elections arrived over the weekend. The spending and fundraising ahead of Saturday’s election happened at a rapid clip in nearly every race.

Candidates had a combined nearly $1 million sitting in their coffers. Some raised six digits in campaign donations, while others without a deep contact list struggled to pull in enough for yard signs and campaign literature.

In one race, though, money is being spent by an entity whose name does not appear on the ballot.

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Politics & Government

Know Before You Vote: A Primer to Dallas and Dallas ISD Candidates Ahead of Election Day

Bethany Erickson
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Early voting began April 24 for municipal and school board elections across Dallas. Rachel Snyder

This story originally published on 4/25/23, and was updated at 5:15 p.m. on 5/5/23.

In the 2021 May election, fewer than 10 percent of Dallas County’s registered voters cast a ballot. That means a great deal of the councils and boards of trustees in cities and districts inside Dallas County were picked by very few people. 

Expect more of the same during this year’s cycle. Mayor Eric Johnson drew no official challengers, but Jrmar Jefferson is protesting his disqualification and Kendal Richardson is running as a write-in candidate. In the absence of a true mayoral race as a sort of title-card, will turnout be better this time? Odds are likely not—in 2019, with interest in the election seemingly at an all-time high with nine candidates for Dallas mayor, countywide turnout was still less than 10 percent.

On April 24, the first day of the early voting period, 6,082 registered Dallas County voters cast their ballots—less than 0.5 percent. At the end of early voting on Tuesday, 66,797 people had voted in Dallas County, fewer than 5 percent of the almost 1.4 million registered voters in the county.

On May 6, Election Day, polls will open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m., and once again, you can vote at any polling location in the county. 

If candidates in any race do not receive at least 50 percent of the vote, there will be a runoff election in June.

If you are registered to vote and need more information about candidates, we’re providing this comprehensive guide to information about each candidate, including the two Dallas ISD races. 

Note: Dallas ISD District 8 incumbent trustee Joe Carreon did not have a challenger, and in Dallas City Council District 12, which represents Far North Dallas, incumbent Cara Mendelsohn did not draw a challenger either. So you won’t see those races listed below. 

And speaking of elections, you’re probably getting bombarded by campaign mailers and texts, some positive and some intensely negative. We’d love to hear from you about how you feel about those mailers and what you’re looking for in a city council candidate or school board candidate.

At today’s Dallas City Council briefing, a parade of citizen speakers is currently letting the Council know what they think of short-term rentals. Summary: not a fan!

Way more interesting is what Mayor Eric Johnson chose to wear today. Check out that sweet leather jacket! The mayor is definitely giving off a hey-ladies-this-divorced-dad-is-back-on-the-market vibe. I mean, it looks to me like any minute he’s going to light up a Menthol Kool. I endorse this look.

Note: the mayor is still married. That was a joke. Ladies, please stand down.

Podcasts

Podcast: Mayor Eric Johnson’s Twitter Game

Tim Rogers
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Johnson tweets with "Big Dallas Energy."

We didn’t have a guest for this episode of EarBurner. It was too spicy. Zac and I talked about why this FrontBurner post got so many clicks and generated so much vitriol. Then we got to the main course: why does Mayor Eric Johnson post stuff on Twitter that makes him sound like a fifth-round NFL draft pick with a grudge against the other 31 teams in the league? Also, related: should the mayor of the ninth-largest city in America take so much pleasure referring to “Big Dallas Energy”?

Things to know and see before you listen: here’s the origin of the BDE meme; here’s the mayor’s BDE tweet about Reunion Tower; here’s the episode of EarBurner we did with Mel Kyle, where we talked about the Dallas origins of Black guys calling each other “bro”; and it was Cowboys cornerback Anthony Brown who got an actual potato chip tattooed on his shoulder.

Use your favorite podcatcher to subscribe to EarBurner, or just press play below.

Local News

An Election Postmortem: How Turnout and Apathy Shaped Tuesday’s Outcome

Bethany Erickson
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Gloria Lane and Ollie Brown walk back to their car after voting Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, at the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center. Jeffrey McWhorter

A big red wave was more like a trickle across the country on Tuesday, but in Texas, the margins of victory for statewide Republican candidates were much larger than anticipated.

Winning a statewide race was always going to be difficult for the Democrats—the party hasn’t won one since 1994. However, aside from Dallas County and other urban counties, the GOP clawed back some of the ground it lost to suburban areas like Collin, Denton, and Tarrant counties. Those wins weren’t the same margins the party enjoyed prior to the Trump presidency, however. For instance, in Collin County, Republicans could reliably count on at least a 30-point margin of victory until 2016. On Tuesday, Gov. Greg Abbott won by 10 points. He won by just 4 points in Tarrant County.

In a memo obtained by the Texas Tribune, Jamarr Brown, the executive director of the Texas Democrats, outlined the gains the party made and what impeded the party’s progress in this election. He also addressed the frustrating losses on the statewide level, saying that “a loss is still a loss…and it’s frustrating not to be able to see the fruits of our labors more immediately.

“But massive political change in a state as big as Texas can only be made incrementally,” he continued, acknowledging that “it’s exasperating to hear.”

Matt Rinaldi, chairman of the Texas GOP, broke his impressions of the election down in a Twitter thread Wednesday. One takeaway? “But the lesson is, the GOP can’t rest on Dem incompetence & 70% of voters believing America is on the wrong track to win elections. It needs a positive message and governing agenda. It needs to stand for something,” he said.

For local and statewide perspectives, we talked to Democratic strategist Jay Pritchard and campaign finance expert Chris Tackett—who you can also catch in the CNN documentary “Deep in the Pockets of Texas“—about the election.

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