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A Daily Conversation About Dallas

Business

Phillip Jones’ Debt to VisitDallas Has Grown to $225,000

| 13 hours ago

If you haven’t been following along to this point, you’ve got some catching up to do. VisitDallas, the nonprofit convention and visitors bureau for Dallas, did not fare well in a recent audit. Commingling taxpayer funds, slipshod accounting of expenses, spendthrift CEO, violating state law — that sort of thing. I began a week ago drilling down into a $35,000 loan made by the nonprofit to that CEO, Phillip Jones. It has been difficult, because VisitDallas’ media guy, Frank Librio, won’t return my phone calls and emails. I tried him again this morning. No luck. But Librio did tell real estate blogger Candy Evans that the loan, made in 2015, was “tied to a private family issue” with the Joneses’ adult son, who is disabled either because he has Lyme disease or in addition to having Lyme disease, an illness that Jones feels so passionate about curing that he traveled to Hawaii to compete in the Ironman World Championship, presented by GoPro.

It’s exhausting. Not the Ironman World Championship. I mean, I’m sure that is exhausting. But I’m talking about trying to figure out what’s going on over at VisitDallas without help from Frank Librio. And I’m not done yet. Yesterday I got some new information.

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Transportation

Dallas’ Bike Share Experiment Seems To Have Increased Bike Deaths

| 14 hours ago

If there was not enough evidence already to illustrate the disaster of Dallas’ brief experiment with share bikes, let us submit one more point. Below, courtesy of a tweet from Dr. Rob Rasmussen, a resident at UT Southwestern Medical Center, we see a spike in fatal bike crashes last year.

The chart might look slightly more daunting than it is—we are talking about a jump from about one death a year to eight. But that’s of 17 total fatalities since 2010. Not nothing.

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Business

Will Ray Washburne Become World Bank President?

| 14 hours ago

Ray Washburne is among the finalists being considered for president of the World Bank, according to finance industry media sources.

The prominent Dallas businessman, who owns Highland Park Village and leads Charter Holdings real estate investment company, is also the co-founder and co-owner of M Crowd Restaurant Group, which operates three restaurant concepts: Mi Cocina, Taco Diner and The Mercury.

A former finance chairman of the Republican National Committee, Washburne was a 2017 appointment by President Donald Trump to head up the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, leading foreign investment capital and policy.

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Urban Design

Pedestrians Finally Get a Win In Lakewood

| 14 hours ago

Frequent readers of our Dallas Hates Pedestrians series may recall the AT&T utility box that was enjoying its life while completely blocking a sidewalk in Lakewood. Councilman Lee Kleinman, the chair of the Council’s Mobility Solutions, Infrastructure, and Sustainability Committee, I think got tired of seeing our ongoing string of photographs and pithy quips about Dallas’ propensity to hand over public right of way to any entity that wants it. He emailed over a photo of a tangle of wires that he took in Vietnam; he likes to joke about that being the future of 5G infrastructure if we don’t manage it right.

Anyway, Kleinman sent a photo of that utility box to city staff. And city staff got to work. In AT&T’s defense, the utility cabinet was installed before any sidewalks were built north of it. It’s been there at least since 2001, and the sidewalks went in around 2007. The city, I guess, just worked around the thing.

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Leading Off

Leading Off (1/17/19)

| 18 hours ago

State Rep. Rafael Anchia Is Keeping Natural Gas Companies Accountable. Yesterday he filed a reform package of 11 bills to help protect people from gas leak explosions. “A 12-year-old girl was blown up while sleeping in her home. An entire community is grieving and we must never let this happen again. My proposals would increase transparency and public safety and hold bad actors accountable,” Anchia said.

DFW Airport’s Federal and TSA Employees Reel from Government Shutdown. Yesterday was the shutdown’s 25th day. DFW federal security screener Johnny Jones can’t afford to keep his daughter in daycare anymore. He and other federal workers gathered outside Terminal D yesterday to protest the shutdown.

Frisco’s Hall Park Will Get 2,000 Residential Units. Frisco’s city council approved the additions to the development near the Dallas North Tollway. There will also be new hotels, retail, and a public park.

Councilman Medrano Wants to Shut Down XTC Cabaret. The deputy mayor pro tem called attention to the shootings and stabbing that have occurred at the club off of I-35E. He wants to label it a “habitual criminal property,” and eventually try to get it shut down.

Person Shot at DART’s Cityplace Station. An altercation yesterday evening led to one person being shot and wounded. The victim is recovering and DART service has resumed. Police are still searching for the shooter.

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Local News

DART Has a Plan For Its Electric Buses if D-Link Is Killed

| 1 day ago

Earlier today, Peter Simek wrote about how DART is likely to kill its free D-Link service, which acts as a bridge between the streetcars in Oak Cliff and Uptown and travels around to various sites in downtown. Part of D-Link’s fleet are seven electric buses that were paid for with a $7.6 million federal grant. DART was one of 10 transit agencies to receive said grant. In the comments, Jim Schermbeck, the environmentalist and head of Downwinders at Risk, asked about what would happen to those buses. It was a good question. 

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Nonprofits

Did Phillip Jones Borrow $35,000 From VisitDallas to Go to Hawaii?

| 2 days ago

It has now been a week since I first called and emailed Frank Librio at VisitDallas to ask him some questions about a $35,000 “pay advance” that CEO Phillip Jones received in 2015, a year in which his compensation totaled $670,000. I tried Librio again yesterday. And this morning. He has answered questions from real estate blogger Candy Evans. But he hasn’t called me back. This hurts my feelings. It also leaves me with yet more questions about his boss.

First, to recap: according to VisitDallas’ 990 form filed for 2015, the most recent available, Jones borrowed $35,000 from the nonprofit of which he is CEO. His balance due, however, was listed as $135,000. Librio told Evans that the $35,000 loan was “tied to a private family issue” with the Joneses’ adult son, who is disabled and prefers to live in a Southlake house owned by Jones and his wife, while Jones himself lives in a downtown Dallas condo. And, as I reported yesterday, state law allows nonprofits to loan their officers money only if the loan “may reasonably be expected to directly or indirectly benefit the [nonprofit].”

That’s what we know so far. Now here’s some new stuff about the Joneses’ disabled adult son and the year 2015, which was a big one indeed for Jones:

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Good Public Transit

Don’t Mourn D-Link. Its Failure Offers More Proof Bus System Needs a Rehaul.

| 2 days ago

Dallas Area Rapid Transit’s D-Link service has been withering on the vine for a while now. Last fall, DART staff told the board that the ridership has not been what it should be, and that the $1 million subsidy for the free bus ride downtown, which is provided by a partnership between DART and Downtown Dallas Inc., amounts to about $11 per rider. That’s a lot to cough up in an era when most people get around the CBD on scooters or in Lyfts.

Now it looks like D-Link will likely be eliminated, with the service potentially replaced with an app-based, on-demand shuttle service.

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Local News

Leading Off (1/16/19)

| 2 days ago

Police Firings in Dallas and Fort Worth. Chief Hall fired an officer who had been investigated many times over the years for such issues as unnecessary use of force and fake doctor’s notes. Over in Fort Worth, an internal investigation into a death in the back of a squad car has led to the termination of five officers.

Arrest Warrant Issued for Edmundo Paredes. A new accuser has emerged, but the Oak Cliff priest has been missing for months.

‘God’ Took Police On an Hourlong Chase Through Garland and Dallas. When he finally stopped at the 7-Eleven at Abrams and Northwest Highway, they found a machete strapped to his side.

Dallas County Struggling to Make Bail System Redo Deadline. In September, a federal judge ruled the fixed cash-bail system unconstitutional.

Job Opps for Furloughed Workers. The owner of Dallas Flooring Warehouse and Peek’s Floor Co. is taking on temps. Hopefully more of these pop up if this shutdown continues; food pantries are starting to feel the effects.

You Know About the Arts District’s Free D-Link Shuttle? Probably not, which is why it’s likely to go away at the end of March.

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Politics & Government

Former State Rep. Villalba Pumps Family and Community at Campaign Launch

| 2 days ago

You’d need be blind and deaf not to catch onto the underlying message in Jason Villalba’s campaign launch event, during which he announced his mayoral run on Tuesday morning. When it was time to begin, Villalba brought his grandmother, Celia Villalba, out the front door of the house she’s lived in for 60 years, which was the venue for the announcement. “This is where it all started,” she said. His mother did one introduction, and his wife did another, and the couple then stood at a small podium surrounded by their three Dallas ISD-enrolled children. A successful lawyer, former state representative, and Republican, Villalba was adhering himself to the every man. The word “community” was said many times.

“I’m a product of our community, so I believe in the power of community,” he said.

Villalba made official his rumored run, joining a now nine-headed race for mayor of Dallas. Those heads are Oak Cliff businessman Albert Black, who was first to announce; Design District developer Mike Ablon; former city attorney Larry Casto; term-limited North Oak Cliff Councilman Scott Griggs; volunteer and fundraiser Lynn McBee; lawyer and former Hillary Clinton aide Regina Montoya; Dallas ISD trustee Miguel Solis; and Alyson Kennedy, a Socialist Workers Party candidate in the 2016 presidential election who earned 12,467 votes.

Some 40 or 50 people crowded around Villalba’s grandma’s house in South Oak Cliff. Before proceedings kicked off, they ate donuts and drank orange juice while Villalba mingled through, discussing the setting and hinting at his platform. He told guests that politically, he is toward the middle of his Republican tag. This made his stint in Austin challenging. It came to an end in March 2018, when Villalba lost in the primary to challenger Lisa Luby Ryan, who battered him on the campaign trail for voting in favor of a bill that sought to protect LGBTQ Texans from housing discrimination.

The crowd filed through an iron fence into the front yard, forming something of a diamond around the podium, which stood on the sidewalk. Villalba brought out his grandmother and helped her into a grandmotherly chair, wooden with a worn cushion. The first introducer was Poncho Nevarez, a state representative who flew in from his district in far southwest Texas.

“For those of you who don’t know, I’m a Democrat, and that’s not a bad word,” he said. “Neither is Republican.”

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