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A Daily Conversation About Dallas

Transportation

DART Adjusts Planned Subway Line So It Won’t Surface in Deep Ellum

| 3 days ago

The city of Dallas and DART have devised an alternative for the east side of the planned downtown subway that will no longer surface in Deep Ellum.

The previous alignment of the subway, called D2, was to emerge from below ground along Good Latimer just east of the elevated IH-345 and travel a few blocks north until it reached Swiss Avenue. There, DART would build a Y-shaped confluence of the rail lines called a “wye” junction that would require a significant amount of land and potentially damage one of the primary ways in and out of Deep Ellum.

After pushback from the nonprofit Deep Ellum Foundation and other neighborhood stakeholders, the city asked DART to reconfigure this portion of the subway. The western portion, which extends south from Victory Park into downtown and then east along Commerce Street, remains unchanged.

The transit agency and its partners considered 17 different alignments, 16 of which ran into some sort of problem. Some required seizing land, others caused too much disruption along existing streets, and some just flat-out cost too much. The alignment recommended by DART and city staff would create a subway station under the existing bus transfer center, just west of IH-345 above Pacific Ave. The subway would then continue onto the existing CityPlace station. The new alignment also won’t interfere with plans for I-345, whether it be depressed or removed altogether. And any effects to neighboring Carpenter Park will be minimal.

One problem: there is no way to orient the existing Green Line train onto the D2 track if the alignment doesn’t go through Deep Ellum. That means riders coming from Pleasant Grove and South Dallas won’t be able to get to the Medical District or UNT Dallas, as they would in the original plan. Kay Shelton, a DART project manager, told the council’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee that this would affect about 20 percent of riders departing from that part of town.

They would need to transfer at the new subway stop by walking up to the street and marching a quarter mile north to the Pearl/Arts District Station. That didn’t go over well with some, particularly South Dallas/Fair Park Councilman Adam Bazaldua.

“I’m not going to support this with such a substantial impact to service when it comes to southeast Dallasites,” he said. “I’d like for DART to come with a more equitable option for us to explore so we can make sure we don’t see that impact.”

DART argued that it has that very option. The transit agency could increase frequency on Green Line trains that would be direct lines north to Bachman Lake, hitting the Medical District job center on the way, and south to UNT Dallas and the Lancaster/VA Hospital corridor. Doing so would cost about $8 million a year, which the transportation committee directed staff to include in its resolution approving the new alignment.

“If they can tell me with confidence that we will be making adjustments to the current lines to accomplish what it is they would like to see accomplished yet still providing the same opportunity that exists now for the riders, then that’s something I can get behind,” Bazaldua said in an interview after the meeting. (In March, Bazaldua spoke in support of the previous alignment outright.)

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Visual Arts

What You Need To Know About Saturday’s Wild West Mural Fest

| 3 days ago

Take a minute to reflect on your past, present, and future.

Who were you in the past? Does your present self reflect your past self’s aspirations and dreams? How do you envision yourself in the future?

Those questions landed in my head after an enriching conversation with Will Heron, artist and founder of this weekend’s Wild West Mural Fest and Art Walk West. Heron explained this year’s theme —FUTURE/PAST—to me earlier today as his team finished preparation for this weekend’s events, which will take over the warehouses just east of Sylvan Avenue below Singleton. You can’t miss them if you’re driving down Sylvan.

This is the seventh annual event, where 25 artists transform multiple walls and other surfaces throughout Trinity Groves’ and West Dallas’ Tin District into a public art festival to commemorate the community’s rich artistic and cultural scene. Art Walk, which will be held this Saturday, displays mural paintings from local and visiting artists inspired by the past, present, and future of West Dallas. In addition to the large cultural murals, the festival includes in-person art shows and exhibition from participating local galleries, and live entertainment provided by the AT&T Performing Arts Center. Click here for a map of this weekend’s events with beings with Saturday’s Art walk at 11 a.m. and ends on Sunday.

Head below the image for my chat with Heron, which has been edited for length and clarity.

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Media

Which East Dallas Journalist Most Deserves a Namesake Burger?

| 3 days ago

News broke last week that a Rodeo Goat will open next year in Casa Linda, in the old Highland Park Cafeteria spot. This is super important, mainly because I live in that neighborhood and love Rodeo Goat. I will go there and put things in my mouth.

Speaking of mouths, let’s talk burger names. Shannon Wynne likes to put eponymous burgers on his menus. The current Dallas location of Rodeo Goat, for example, serves a Brad Sham (applewood smoked bacon, beefsteak tomato, jalapeños, shredded lettuce, fried onion, cheddar, pickled chutney, Texas BBQ sauce) and a Mike Rawlings (entire burger submerged in a gin and tonic). So Wynne told the Dallas Morning News that he’s naming a new burger at the upcoming Casa Linda location. It’s called the Murder Burger by Skip Hollandsworth, an homage to the Texas Monthly writer who got his start right here at D Magazine. (I’m kidding about the gin and tonic thing, obviously. It’s actually a Manhattan.)

This all got me thinking: if I were going to pick one East Dallas journalist to name a burger after, would it be Skip Hollandsworth? I love and admire Skip. He might be the only writer in Dallas with a National Magazine Award to his name, unless I’m mistaken. Oh, wait. I am mistaken. Just occurred to me: I, too, have won the American magazine industry’s highest honor. Am I arguing that I deserve a namesake burger more than Skip because he’s a recent transplant to East Dallas from Preston Hollow, whereas I have lived in East Dallas for 44 years? No! Of course not! What I’m suggesting is that it’s fine to serve a Murder Burger by Skip Hollandsworth, so long as the place is called Rodeo Goat (feat. Tim Rogers).

I’m sure even Shannon Wynne would agree.

OK, really. If you’re talking East Dallas journalists who get a burger, it’s Jim Schutze. There’s no argument against this. Plenty of time to fix this oversight. I look forward to eating it.

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Local News

Leading Off (10/22/21)

| 3 days ago

Texas Public Utility Commission Issues New Winterization Rules. Which means: if you own a power plant or transmission line, you must make your “best effort” to protect it against extreme winter weather by December 1. The PUC is requiring documentation of such efforts, but it won’t penalize the plants if the measures aren’t taken. Like so much of the effort to ensure our power grid doesn’t go out at the worst time again, this one lacks teeth. The organization promises that more “robust” requirements will be on their way, likely next year.

Mavs Fall to Hawks by 26. The season opener, which pitted Luka Doncic against Trae Young, was nowhere near as exciting as advertised. New coach Jason Kidd’s offense appears built to get Kristaps Porzingis back in rhythm, often at the expense of giving the ball to Luka and letting him cook. I’m sure more will be on StrongSide today, but I’d like to direct you to contributor Iztok Franko’s tweet: he’s spreading the ball across the team, particularly to Porzingis and Tim Hardaway Jr. But when you have a generational talent like Luka who can both create for himself and others, I question whether this is the path forward. On the plus side, Porzingis was moving quite well. That has to be encouraging.

Arlington Police Buck Bullying Narrative in Timberview Shooting. Family members of the shooter said he was bullied and robbed and beaten, pushed to his limit until he brought a gun to school and opened fire. Arlington Police Chief Timothy Simpkins told residents there is no evidence of this as the motive, but that the shooter had engaged in “high-risk activity” and the shooting came after a disagreement that led to the preceding fistfight.

Warm Weather Coming. “Unseasonably warm,” that is. Expect highs in the mid-80s this weekend. The weak cold front that came in yesterday didn’t do much for our temperatures. 

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Basketball

Ready to Start: Setting the Table for the 2021-22 Dallas Mavericks Season

| 4 days ago

When do we become who we are?

The answer is unknowable, especially so in professional basketball, because for however much we understand about skills and health and athletic primes, there are always outliers. LeBron James reinvented himself as a point guard and led the league in assists for the first time at age 35. Nikola Jokic unearthed a deadly three-point stroke at 22, then saw it evaporate for two years before it suddenly reappeared last year during his MVP season. Chris Paul is playing some of the most measured basketball of his career at 36 years old, pacing a Finals runner-up in Phoenix after his body seemed on the verge of splintering in his early 30s. There are no maxims when you’re special, at least none too rigid to disregard at a moment’s notice.

Kristaps Porzingis is an outlier. You know this. So do I. He has been from the moment he entered the NBA, and heading into the most pivotal season of his career, which tips off this evening in Atlanta against Trae Young and the Hawks, it’s the main reason why everyone remains so invested. The idea of him—a shooting guard crossbred with a low-post stopper, packaged in a hysterically long frame—remains irresistible. Expectations mushroom: Porzingis shooting 50 percent from the field on the year when he’s never mustered 48; scoring 25 a night when his highest season average is a hair under 23; pulling down 11 boards per game when he’s yet to average double digits. One look at that gargantuan frame in action, the way his 7-foot-3 body lopes instead of lumbers, is all it takes to believe that there’s always room for more. Porzingis has seemingly transcended the laws of genetics, after all. Why not his basketball contemporaries, too?

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Transportation

Biking in Dallas ‘Feels Like a Death Wish.’ Hopefully That Is Beginning to Change

| 4 days ago

On paper, Dallas looks like it is trying to be a bike friendly city. It claims to have some 74 miles of bike infrastructure. The City Council adopted a bike plan back in 2011 and employs staff to oversee its implementation. Since the creation of that plan, several new trails have opened, and a nonprofit is working to connect many of those trails into a large mega loop which will allow cyclists to navigate from the Katy Trail through East Dallas down into the Trinity Forest and back entirely on dedicated trails.

Yesterday, to highlight the importance of biking in Dallas, Mayor Pro Tem Chad West and council members Jesse Moreno and Paul Ridley led the 2021 Bike to City Hall event, an annual ride (though it missed last year due to COVID) to raise awareness around cycling. But as city council members attempt to shine a spotlight on biking in Dallas, a recent report by Vox reminds us that there is  still an enormous gap between the way the city presents its bike facilities and what they are like to use.

The Vox report looks at how the Biden Administration’s infrastructure bill could impact urban cycling, and it uses Dallas as an example for how there is sometimes a disconnect between ways cities promote and fund bike facilities. It finds that Dallas has woefully underfunded bike infrastructure through the years, making Dallas one of the unfriendliest cities for cyclists in the United States.

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Local News

Will Southwest and American Airlines Follow Through on Vaccine Mandates?

| 4 days ago

After a scrap with its pilots’ union and protests at its headquarters, Southwest Airlines (slightly) changed course and said that unvaccinated employees can keep working past a Dec. 8 deadline requiring federal contractors to mandate the jab for workers—if they apply for a medical or religious exemption.

Previously, the company said workers who were not vaccinated or exempted would be put on unpaid leave. The difference now is that employees who are in the process of applying for an exemption will be allowed to continue working.

“While we intend to grant all valid requests for accommodations, in the event a request is not granted, the company will provide adequate time for an employee to become fully vaccinated while continuing to work and adhering to safety protocols,” Southwest spokeswoman Brandy King told the Associated Press.

American Airlines, which issued a similar edict with a deadline of November 24, is also allowing for similar protections for those who choose not to get the jab so long as they’re formally applying for an exemption. That’s according to the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, which told its union that “[m]anagement indicated that … they were exploring accommodations that would allow employees to continue to work.” The APFA also noted that management “failed to offer any specifics as to what such accommodations might look like.”

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Leading Off

Leading Off (10/21/21)

| 4 days ago

Dallas County Jail Inmate Commissary Accounts Bilked of $700,000. A former jail clerk was charged with property theft back in April in connection with the alleged scheme, which relied on damaged debit cards, per a county audit. The FBI is looking into it further.

Alleged Otter Attack Prompts Lawsuit Against Dallas World Aquarium. A Grand Prairie woman who says her 18-month-old son was “brutally attacked” by an otter is suing the aquarium.

The Dallas Mavericks to Start the Season in Atlanta. Tipoff’s at 6:30 p.m. on TNT.

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Coronavirus

Conflicting Vaccine Rules Have Companies ‘Pulling Their Hair Out’

| 5 days ago

When Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order last week banned private entities from mandating vaccines for their employees, it created an unenviable dilemma. Companies with over 100 employees or those enforcing vaccination had to figure out if they would abide by President Joe Biden’s order that all companies of that size vaccinate or the governor’s which required the opposite.

The order and the proposed state legislation that followed (but failed before the special session ended) would allow employees to file a lawsuit against their employer who forced a vaccine upon them. It also conflicts with the federal order that is mandating vaccinations or frequent testing for large companies. An extensive list of corporate lobbying groups, including the Texas Hotel and Lodging Association, the Texas Medical Association, and Texas REALTORS opposed the legislation. Health systems in Dallas-Fort Worth that have vaccine mandates aren’t budging either.

In the meantime, the conflicting rules are making it difficult for corporations. “It’s extremely challenging for HR professionals, and they’re almost literally pulling their hair out because it seems like every week or two, the law or the purported law, is changing,” says Dallas corporate lawyer Rogge Dunn.

For those with federal contracts or those seeking one, the companies risk losing business if they comply with the governor’s order. Thankfully for those companies, the Constitution’s supremacy clause means that the federal rules are the law of the land when in conflict.

But for employers that have mandated vaccination or provided cash incentives to get vaccinated (some as high as $500), they are left to navigate a web of conflicting and ever-changing rules and wonder if they need to reverse course. The executive order and legislation allow for an exemption because of “reasons of personal conscience,” a phrase that may allow for a good amount of legal ambiguity.

“They want to be intentional and thoughtful, so they haven’t immediately changed their policy, but many of them are saying, ‘Wait, what does this mean for me? Do I need to change the policy?’” says Stephanie Gaston, a Houston-based partner and labor and employment lawyer at national law firm Bradley. Right now, it seems they are safe to stick with their vaccine mandate.

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Education

Dallas ISD’s Top Elementary Schools Beat Highland Park in New Rankings

| 5 days ago

The U.S. News and World Report cut its teeth on college and university rankings before expanding its purview to cover high schools in an annual list that evaluates schools on a few metrics, but most heavily weights test scores. This year, U.S. News brought elementary and middle schools into the mix for the first time.

To come up with its just-released 2021 rankings for elementary and middle schools, U.S. News looked exclusively at reading and math standardized test scores from the 2018-2019 school year. As you may recall, there was a pandemic between then and now. COVID-19 has not been great for students, and 2019 test scores might as well have been recorded in another world entirely. Many people have questioned, with solid justification, whether these sorts of rankings accurately reflect a school’s quality or do much of any good at all.

With those caveats out of the way, let’s see how North Texas schools fared in the latest U.S. News list. I’m going to stick with the statewide rankings for public elementary and middle schools (those are the new lists) throughout this article.

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Crime

Lawsuit Raises New Sexual Assault Allegations Against Developer Bill Hutchinson

| 5 days ago

A civil lawsuit was filed this morning in Dallas County district court by a third alleged victim of Bill Hutchinson, the prominent Dallas real estate developer and star of the reality TV show Marring Millions. The new suit alleges that, after meeting a young woman in her late-20s who had recently moved to Dallas, Hutchinson, on two occasions, lured her to a hotel room and an apartment where he sexually assaulted her. Jane Doe 3, as the woman is referred to in the suit, has joined a lawsuit that was filed in August by another young woman who claims Hutchinson sexually assaulted her at the same apartment across the street from the Virgin Hotel.

In addition to these allegations, Hutchinson was charged in July with sexually assaulting a teenage girl at his homes in Highland Park and Laguna Beach, California. The teenager, who has also filed her own civil suit, had been living with Hutchinson at his mansion on Lakeside Dr. Hutchinson has pled not guilty to the charges and, according to his lawyer, maintains his innocence.

The son of missionaries who moved to Dallas, where he attended SMU, Hutchinson had risen to the height of his professional career and personal notoriety in the wake of the purchase of large landholdings in the Dallas Design District, the development of the Virgin Hotel, and his turn on Marrying Millions, which featured his relationship with his fiancée, Brianna Ramirez, who is 40 years his junior. In a few short months, that world has come crumbling down around him as multiple women have come forward to share their stories of a man they say has used his money, success, and notoriety to prey on young women.

Over the weekend, subscribers to D Magazine will receive the November edition of the magazine, in which I write at length about the entire Hutchinson ordeal. During the reporting of the story, Jane Doe 3—the subject of this new lawsuit—came forward to speak with me and share her story. You can read the lawsuit here.

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