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A Daily Conversation About Dallas

After Tuesday’s primary runoffs, the general election ballot is set. But your ballot was determined by not quite 105,000 voters in Dallas County, which is actually an improvement over the primary elections in March, where a little more than 92,000 voted.

That’s not a lot of people deciding everyone’s choices for midterm elections.

Here’s how some of the bigger races on that ballot will shape up after yesterday’s election (you can find statewide results here). 

Local races

Incumbent Dallas County Commissioner District 2 Commissioner J.J. Koch will face Democratic opponent Andrew Sommerman in November. Sommerman is also part of the team of lawyers representing Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins in a lawsuit over mask mandates filed by Koch. 

Incumbent Dallas County Clerk John Warren gets to keep his seat after beating opponent Ann Cruz in the Democratic primary. There were no Republican challengers.

Former U.S. Rep. John Bryant beat attorney Alexandra Guio and will face Republican Mark Hajdu in November for the Texas House District 114 seat that is being vacated by John Turner, who opted not to run again.

Former Dallas City Council member Sandra Crenshaw lost her bid for the District 100 seat to Democrat Venton Jones, CEO of the Southern Black Policy and Advocacy Network, which means he’ll be replacing Jasmine Crockett (more on that in a minute), since there was no Republican challenger for that race.

With all of those races now firmed up, voters will also decide between Lauren Davis and incumbent Clay Jenkins for Dallas County Judge; Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot and Republican Faith Johnson (who was his predecessor); Dallas County Treasurer Pauline Medrano and Republican Shelly Akerly; District 108 State Rep. Morgan Meyer and Democrat Elizabeth Ginsberg; Texas Senate District 16 incumbent Nathan Johnson and Republican Brandon Copeland; and State Board of Education, District 12, Republican incumbent Pam Little will face Democrat Alex Cornwallis and Libertarian Christy Mowrey.

Local News

The Difficult Conversation I Had With My Fifth-Grader

Bethany Erickson
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May 24, 2022; Uvalde, TX, USA; Law enforcement investigates the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas on Tuesday, May 24, 2022. The shooting killed 18 children and 2 adults.

Yesterday was hard. And I, like every parent, had to figure out how to explain to my fifth-grader what happened in a school just like his, while still processing it myself.

The whole drive to the carpool lane yesterday, I thought about my son’s typical school day. I thought about the video his music teacher, who only sees them once a week, sent parents on Monday: his class proudly played “Beauty and the Beast” on keyboards as she recorded their remarkably not terrible final performances of the year.

I was also keenly aware that this wasn’t the first time we’ve talked about gun violence at school. In fact, as I prepared to write this, I went back through my old files and found a note from seven or so years ago.

“My 4-year-old knows how to hide from a shooter. He learned it at school,” I wrote. “My tiny person knows that if a ‘bad stranger’ comes, ‘teacher locks the door and we play statues in the closet.’”

He told me last night he’s gotten better at hiding since preschool.

This is the second time this year alone that we have talked about it, and each time it is just a little more devastating.

Earlier this year, a student brought a gun on the bus that transports both middle school and elementary students. It was briefly at my son’s school, since the bus drops off there.

I read the letter from the school as my incredibly tense child sat on the couch next to me. We talked about what to do if someone had a gun at his school, about listening to his teacher and following her instructions carefully.

Local News

Leading Off (5/25/22)

Matt Goodman
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The Latest on Uvalde. Twenty-one are confirmed dead. Nineteen of those are children who were attending school at Robb Elementary. The shooter was an 18-year-old, who, according to Austin-based KVUE reporter Tony Plohetski, had last week purchased a pair of AR platform rifles legally from a “local federal firearms licensee.” He bought 375 rounds of ammunition on May 18.

Mavs Make It Sorta Interesting. But likely this is just setting up a gentlemen’s sweep. As Iztok Franko writes over on StrongSide, “this game was probably more a show of pride than a momentum changer.” The Mavericks dominated the whole night, coming away with a 119-109 win, even after a rain delay from a leaky roof. They head back to San Francisco on Thursday for Game 5, which tips off at 8 p.m.

Paxton Cruises for Republican AG. The state’s attorney general, who remains under indictment, easily beat George P. Bush and will face Rochelle Garza, who won the Democratic side by about 15 points. Venton Jones beat former Dallas Council member Sandra Crenshaw for House District 100 in the Legislature. Up in Collin County, Mihaela Plesa easily won House District 70 over Cassandra Garcia and Dallas Police Association Vice President Frederick Frazier beat Paul Chabot in McKinney for House District 61. Here’s the Morning News’ Gromer Jeffers on the election results. Our Bethany Erickson will have something later in the day.

Local News

TxDOT’s Official Recommendation for I-345: Don’t Remove It, Bury It

Matt Goodman
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I-345 shown from near Deep Ellum. (photo by Scott Womack)

The Texas Department of Transportation believes the elevated I-345 highway should be buried in a trench between downtown and Deep Ellum, restoring connectivity by way of the existing at-grade city streets; the agency didn’t go so far as to recommend replacing the freeway with a boulevard.

TxDOT unveiled this “preferred alternative” during a public meeting Tuesday evening at the St. Philips School and Community Center after winnowing down five construction options to one. The winner is called the “hybrid alternative,” which the state believes is a compromise between groups that wanted to tear out the freeway and others who argued for a status quo repair of an aging traffic corridor that connects interstates 30, 45, 35, Central Expressway, and Woodall Rodgers. The trench will be about 65 feet deep.

But that traffic corridor occupies 1.4 miles in the core of the city, on the east side of downtown. The highway opened to traffic in 1974 and is nearing the end of its life, presenting the city with a unique opportunity to rethink the enormous spread of concrete that occupies land that could otherwise support development. When it was constructed, the highway gashed Deep Ellum and cut it off from downtown.

This magazine sparked a conversation about removing the highway in 2014, when the urban planner and current DART board member Patrick Kennedy wrote a story titled “Why We Must Tear Down I-345.”

“People are clamoring to move to an urban neighborhood, but an elevated highway stands in their way,” read the subhead of that story.

Under the hybrid plan, the “urban neighborhood” would sprout on decks over the freeway similar to the infrastructure of Klyde Warren Park. TxDOT has identified 11 areas over I-345 that could be decked at-grade and would be able to house buildings or “deck plazas.” Those areas total about 8.5 acres, stretching from Canton Street past the exit to Woodall Rodgers Freeway. The hybrid plan will also create 7 acres of surplus right of way aside the buried highway.

Here’s the lede from Forbes: “An alleged ISIS-linked operative in the U.S. was plotting to kill George W. Bush, going so far as to travel to Dallas in November to take video around the former president’s home and recruiting help from a team of compatriots he hoped to smuggle into the country over the Mexican border, according to an FBI search-warrant application filed March 23 and unsealed this week in the Southern District of Ohio.”

The bad guy used WhatsApp for his comms. More details here.

Media

D Magazine Kills It at Awards Ceremony

Tim Rogers
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D staffers have a plaque problem.

You’ll allow us a bit of back patting here. City magazines like D all over the country belong to an organization called the City and Regional Magazine Association, which last night held its 46th annual awards shindig, in St. Louis. Your hometown kids fared well. Without bogging down in circulation stuff (we don’t compete with Texas Monthly in certain categories because they are so much larger), we took home more awards than any other magazine in the country—except TxMo. We as a company won six awards, including the big one, General Excellence. The folks at TxMo won seven. Zac Crain and Matt Goodman both won individual awards for their writing. So did Rosin Saez, who recently left us to take a job at something called Thrillist.

The contest is managed on behalf of CRMA by the University of Missouri School of Journalism, which recruits judges from publications such as Esquire, The Atlantic, The New York Times, and many other national publications. Here’s what those judges had to say:

D Magazine’s six wins included Excellence in Writing for its November issue, and judges described the writing as ‘smart and honest throughout, with imaginative service and witty gossip.’ Zac Crain’s first-place Civic Journalism story, ‘The Fair Park Lie,’ shed light on a tragic story of racism and how ‘Dallas failed Black families by taking their land to build a seldom-used parking lot.’ D Magazine received two awards for online categories, including Online Column for Matt Goodman’s ‘Local News’ and E-Newsletter for SideDish. D Magazine won Ancillary: Weddings with a summer issue that ‘was comprehensive, diverse and filled with ideas and well-reported personal stories that touched the heart.’ General Excellence 2 judges praised D Magazine and wrote: ‘John Steinbeck once described Texas as a State of Mind. That State of Mind is on full display on the pages of D Magazine.'”

Those of us who stayed behind in Dallas kept up with the proceedings last night in a monster Teams chat that would be funny to cut and paste into this post because it included lots of GIFs and references to Prince lyrics that would confuse you. I’ll just end with a communication I had this morning with one of people in attendance. Knowing this person had an early flight back to Dallas, I texted the colleague and asked how the winner was feeling. The response: “That terrifying middle where you can’t tell if you snuck away without a hangover or if you’re still drunk.” That sounds about right.

On a personal note, I am not humbled to be part of this gifted, hardworking team. Congrats to everyone involved—and there are a lot of people involved, from the sales folks who make the money we spend on manuscripts and photography, to the production crew that gets the pages printed, to the crafty IT department that kept us connected and plugging away in a pandemic.

And, finally, thank you to everyone in North Texas who gives us time and attention. We do it all with you in mind, guys, to make Dallas even better.

Cheers.

Local News

Leading Off (5/24/22)

Tim Rogers
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Dig the Adolphus. No news here, just a great bit of history. In collaboration with the local publisher Deep Vellum, the Morning News’ architecture critic, Mark Lamster, is writing about the buildings that made Dallas. Today brings us his piece on the Adolphus Hotel. Definitely worth your time.

Taekwondo Pill Trial Continues. Jaqueline Galloway won a bronze medal at the 2016 Olympic Games. Then she tested positive for a banned substance after taking a vitamin supplement she’d bought at a Central Market in Plano, and her taekwondo career was cut short. She sued H-E-B. The trial continues today in a Collin County courtroom.

Dallas Hates Pedestrians. An audit of the city’s Transportation Department was released yesterday. It’s all about pedestrian safety. And it doesn’t look good. The short version: in Dallas in 2020, we had 4.91 pedestrian deaths per 100,000 residents, putting us at the top of a list of large American cities. Houston, by contrast, had 3.28 deaths, and Chicago had 2.02. And Dallas is basically doing nothing to fix it.

Dallas Might Give Neiman Marcus $5.25 Million. This week the City Council will decide whether to give the retailer millions in economic incentives to keep its headquarters and its flagship store in downtown Dallas. Feels like maybe D Magazine should figure out how to jump on this gravy train.

Y’all, Go Vote. Git informed and git er done. Today is runoff day. Here’s a breakdown.

So, you’re going to need to go vote again tomorrow. I know it seems like you just did, and that’s because you did just vote. But now we’re going to go vote in primary runoff elections, and that is also important because of *waves hand* everything.

If you voted in the primaries in March, you’re going to vote in the primary runoff for the party you voted for then (so if you voted in the Democratic primary, you’ll do that again, for instance). If you forgot (I’m going to assume you had something better to do in March, like a rare guppy splenectomy or two-week intensive spelunking venture to find a rare crystal that is the cure for cancer) and didn’t vote at all in the primary, you can pick any runoff and go vote.

Just in case you need a refresher on who you might see on your ballot, because it’s been a minute and we’ve had a whole municipal election in between, we’ve compiled a quick rundown.

Local races 

The Democratic opponent for Dallas County Commissioner District 2 will either be Andrew Sommerman or Michelle Ocker, who will then face incumbent J.J. Koch.

Incumbent Dallas County Clerk John Warren will appear on the Democratic runoff ballot with Ann Cruz. The winner of that race will have the job, since there were no Republican challengers.

Both former U.S. Rep. John Bryant or Alexandra Guio are on the Democratic runoff ballot for Texas House of Representatives, District 114. The winner will face Republican Mark Hajdu in November. 

Former McKinney City Council member Frederick Frazier and retired law enforcement officer Paul Chabot are in the GOP runoff for Texas House of Representatives, District 61.

Flower Mound City Council member Ben Bumgarner and small-business owner Jeff Younger are on the Republican ballot for Texas House of Representatives, District 63.

Jamee Jolly, the executive director of the Plano ISD Education Foundation, and Eric J. Bowlin, an investment professional, are on the GOP ballot for Texas House of Representatives, District 70, which was vacated by Republican Scott Sanford. Cassandra Garcia Hernandez and Mihaela Plesa are on the Democratic runoff ballot.

In Texas House of Representatives, District 91, which contains most of Richland Hills and North Richland Hills, Republican incumbent Stephanie Klick has found herself in a runoff with David Lowe.

Southlake’s first female mayor, Laura Hill, will face Nate Schatzline once again on the GOP primary ballot for Texas House of Representatives, District 93.

Former Dallas City Council member Sandra Crenshaw will face fellow Democrat Venton Jones, CEO of the Southern Black Policy and Advocacy Network, for the District 100 seat in the state legislature. There is no Republican challenger for that race.

Congressional races

Democratic Congressional District 24 challengers Jan McDowell and Derrik Gay garnered 39 percent and 33 percent of the primary vote. The winner will face U.S. Rep. Beth Van Duyne for a district that somehow now covers both east Dallas and Watauga.

Congressional District 30 has runoffs on both sides of the aisle, with democrats Jasmine Crockett and Jane Hope Hamilton and republicans James Rodgers and James Harris hoping to fill the seat of Eddy Bernice Johnson, who is retiring.

In the GOP runoff, Antonio Swad and Justin Webb are vying to be on a Congressional District 32 general election ballot that includes U.S. Rep. Colin Allred and Libertarian Nathan Bosley.

Statewide races

The big race on your ballot will be the lieutenant governor’s race, where democrats Michelle Beckley and Mike Collier will eventually find out who will face incumbent Dan Patrick in the general election.

The next biggest race is, undoubtedly, the attorney general’s race. On the Republican runoff ballot, current Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush is facing off against incumbent Ken Paxton. Former Galveston Mayor Joe Jaworski and ACLU attorney Rochelle Garza will be on the Democratic runoff ballot.

That brings us to Bush’s current job and who will replace him. Eight Republicans ran in the primary, and with that many, you’re almost guaranteed a runoff. State Sen. Dawn Buckingham and Tim Westley will find out tomorrow night (maybe, hopefully, probably) which of them will appear on the GOP side of the general election ballot, while Sandragrace Martinez and Jay Kleberg’s runoff will determine who is on the Democratic side.

Railroad commission chairman Wayne Christian and oil and gas attorney Sarah Stogner are on the GOP primary ballot for Railroad Commissioner, where the winner will face Democrat Luke Warford in the general election.

There are plenty of polling locations in Dallas County, Collin County, Denton County, and Tarrant County, and in Dallas County, you can vote at any location on Tuesday (you’ll need to look up your polling locations in the other counties). Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. 

Local News

Leading Off (5/23/22)

Zac Crain
By  |

Mavs Go Down 3-0. I am an insane Mavs fan, and even I have to say it does not look good for your boys after losing their first home game and third game in the series, despite another 40 point game from Luka Doncic. I was hoping this was 2011, but it looks like it might be 2003. But Luka is on such an accelerated timeline, maybe we get to 2011 quicker. Mike and Iztok will have more on StrongSide. Game 4 is tomorrow, at the same time as my son’s high school graduation, which is awesome.

Reggie Bullock Wins Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion Award. The Mavericks guard was honored for his work promoting LGBTQ equity.

Missing Man Found Dead After Silver Alert. Sabino Hernandez had been missing since May 19.

City Manager T.C. Broadnax briefed Council this week on how he plans to finally fix Dallas’ broken permitting process, which has been in various stages of disarray for over two years. Residential builders say it’s still taking eight to 10 weeks to get needed approvals. Phil Crone, the president of the Dallas Builders Association, says that every other city in North Texas processes those same permits in two to three weeks.

Commercial developers are harder to pin down because of the variety of their projects, but Linda McMahon, the head of the The Real Estate Council, says she receives “a daily barrage of emails” from brokers and smaller developers who can’t figure out why their permits aren’t moving quicker.

Broadnax’s presentation on Wednesday was supposed to bring clarity on what is to come. And he did present a plan. But that solution contained no metrics by which to gauge success. It is still not clear what the city believes is an appropriate amount of time for processing commercial and residential permits so builders can get to work.   

Broadnax also argued that the issue had been overblown by the media and the development community. He says people now approach him at parties to ask when the permitting problem is going to be fixed—something that used to be an in-house complaint among the developer community has now gone public. “That’s not a good party feeling,” he said.

The city manager estimated that processing times would be back to normal—“the good old bad days,” as he called it, which came accompanied with no numbers or timeline to define what those “gold old bad days” really entailed—early next year. In the conversations I’ve had with builders, consultants, and council members, they took his attitude like this: little to see here, we’re on top of it, and why are we even talking about this?

Why are we talking about this? Here is an anecdote from one homeowner I spoke to.

First, I’d like to make it clear that I am in no way suggesting that I’m an American hero who deserves a statue erected on the Santa Fe Trail and probably even a namesake burger at the soon-to-open Casa Linda Rodeo Goat. Nothing of the sort. I am just a humble journalist with a pricey All-City bicycle, a roll of duct tape, and a strong desire to make Dallas an even better place.

On Monday, I strapped my phone to my helmet and road the Santa Fe Trail bicycle and pedestrian detour, near the south end of White Rock Lake. Tuesday, I posted a video that showed how dangerous the detour was. Today, TxDOT sent out a press release and a map (above) announcing that they’d changed the route, taking it up Tucker Street.

Did I save a life? Of course it’s impossible to say. But if I’m being honest, I probably saved the life of a 6-year-old girl who will grow up to cure cancer. So, yes, it was worth it.

(OK, kidding aside: I wasn’t the only one who made noise about this. Folks were writing to City Council members. There was significant chatter on social media. This was a group effort. Kudos all around. And the Tim Rogers should be a turkey burger on wheat with Yellowbird sriracha.)

Podcasts

EarBurner Podcast: Joaquin Zihuatanejo, the First Poet Laureate of Dallas

Matt Goodman
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Joaquin Zihuatanejo, Dallas’ first-ever poet laureate.

Come June, Dallas poets—young, old, whoever you are, so long as you have a tie to Dallas proper—will be able to schedule a time to sit down with the city’s first-ever poet laureate. Joaquin Zihuatanejo plans to have two spaces at the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library: one, “an open-air community table”; the other, an enclosed office.

Poetry can be intensely personal, and sometimes the words aren’t ready for others. But, Zihuatanejo says, “the real secret to poetry is revision.” That is where he comes in, and he believes the city stands to benefit greatly from it.

He joined us at the Old Monk to discuss what it means to be the first poet laureate of the city of Dallas. The program was spearheaded by Deep Vellum Publishing’s Will Evans, who couldn’t believe that McAllen had a poet laureate and Dallas didn’t. (Plus, we had to beat Fort Worth.) Soon, he attracted interest from the Dallas Public Library and the city’s Office of Cultural Affairs.

Zihuatanejo was one of 21 applicants. His pitch stood out because of his vision for uplifting the poetry scene here. He wants local poems on buses and at schools and businesses. He calls this “poetry on the go,” but it’s really a way to expose more of the public to work that’s being done in the community. Those poems would include the poet’s name and the neighborhood they most identify with.

He wants kids from South Oak Cliff to see their neighborhood next to the words. Maybe it sparks a possibility.  

Zihuatanejo grew up in Old East Dallas. He’s had a long history in the Dallas poetry scene, attending slam nights at Club Clearview where he’d have to shout over the band in the other room. He won the 2008 World Poetry Slam in Charlotte, which booked him a trip to the World Cup of Poetry Slam in Paris. He beat poets from 13 other countries. His final work, which also used sign language, earned him a perfect score—besting the runner-up by a tenth of a percentage point.

He argues that North Texas has a rich poetry history. UNT is one of only about a dozen or so colleges in the country that offer a master’s program with a concentration in poetry. “People are dedicating years and years of their lives studying poetry and then settling in Dallas,” he said.

He views his role as a connector, bringing poetry into the everyday lives of the people who live here. He’s completely at home belting out a poem in the bar—as you’ll hear—and making it feel like the exact setting in which that should happen.

Listen below, and stick around after his reading to hear all of our thoughts on how the Mavericks can claw their way back in Game 2 tonight.

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