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Local News

Scenes From What Was a Peaceful Protest In Downtown Dallas

| 14 hours ago

Before the tear gas came again, a peaceful protest of hundreds of people marched through downtown Dallas for hours on Saturday afternoon. They started at City Hall and snaked through the city’s core. Drivers stopped as the marchers passed and honked their horns and raised their fists in solidarity. The day would devolve—police fired tear gas and flashbang grenades to disperse the crowd, some protestors damaged police cars while others shouted them down—but much of it was peaceful and carried a message that called for an end to police brutality after a Minneapolis officer killed George Floyd.

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Local News

Dallas’ Community Police Oversight Board To Resume Meeting on June 8

| 2 days ago

The 2019 overhaul of Dallas’ Community Police Oversight Board was a long time coming. It started slowly, but was picking up steam. The city had just hired a Police Monitor from New Orleans who would handle internal investigations on behalf of the public. We spoke with her in January, if you’d like to meet Tonya McClary. In its last meeting, the board agreed to review the department’s policies of releasing dashboard and bodycam footage.

Considering what’s happening in Minneapolis and Louisville as I type, a body like this is an important resource for a nervous public. But the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent disaster declarations temporarily shut it down. And when standing committees began meeting again, people started raising their eyebrows about why the oversight board wasn’t also. (For more context, the Dallas Morning News’ Cassandra Jaramillo has a very good exploration of the momentum the board was building toward and the frustration from its members and the public that it could not meet.)

During Wednesday’s City Council meeting, the fact that the board had not met in months attracted plenty of public speakers. The mayor tweeted his desire that it begin again and included it in his recurring email newsletter. And just a little while ago, City Manager T.C. Broadnax sent a memo to the Council and the mayor announcing that the board would begin meeting again on June 8.

Here’s the full memo:

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Television

Asia O’Hara’s Las Vegas Show Is on Hold, But Don’t Cry

| 2 days ago

Several weeks ago I talked to Alyssa Edwards and Asia O’Hara, our Dallas-based drag queen superstars, when they both appeared on the four-part limited series RuPaul’s Secret Celebrity Drag Race. You can find Alyssa’s interview here. The show is over, but the Season 12 finale of RuPaul’s Drag Race airs tonight. I know, I know, we’ve all been crying now that Heidi N Closet is out of the running. But you must have a second fave. I mean, did you see Crystal Methyd serving up pinata realness? Meanwhile, I thought you might like to know what Asia has been up to while her Las Vegas show is taking a coronavirus hiatus. (Btw, now that Heidi is gone, she’s all #TeamJaida.)

How has quarantine life been going for you? It’s actually bad. You know, I have not been still in a couple of years. I mean, if I’m being completely honest, it’s actually nice to have time to just like be at home and be in one space. It’s actually a little refreshing. I mean, I do wish I could be working, but it hasn’t been absolutely terrible having time off.

You were just starting your Vegas show, weren’t you, when all this went down? Yes, we opened at the end of January.

How was that while it was still going on? Oh, wonderful. I think better than any of us could have imagined. It was definitely a lot harder, a lot more work than we had expected it to be or than we’re used to. But it was absolutely great. When the casinos start to reopen, it’s still going to be a few weeks before they open the show room. So we’ve got a little bit of time.

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Local Government

The Dysfunctional Relationship at the Top of Dallas City Hall

| 2 days ago

There appears, at the very least, to be a communication problem between the two most important figures at City Hall. Mayor Eric Johnson and City Manager T.C. Broadnax have now gone back and forth in memos and messaging (and, on Johnson’s part, tweets) that publicly express frustration with the way city policy matters are being handled during the pandemic.

Broadnax addresses the communication breakdown outright in his most recent letter: “As the city manager, I believe it is critically important for communication to flow more efficiently from you directly to me on matters requiring my immediate attention.” That seems to be the general problem: they’re not talking to each other enough. The two do not meet regularly. The communication when things go sideways becomes public and messy, because the mayor communicates through memos and pronouncements. The disagreements between the two men muddy how business is done at City Hall. But to understand the frustration, we must pull the weeds.

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Media

DMN Editorial Board Falls on Its Face

| 2 days ago

Let’s get all the cards on the table first. The Coalition for a New Dallas (CND) is the name of both a super PAC and a 501(c)(3) nonprofit co-founded by Wick Allison, the guy who started D Magazine and who was, until recently, my boss. His wife, Christine Allison, now has that enviable job (Wick is too busy fishing in Upstate New York). The CND operates independently of the magazine, though the two organizations do share some beliefs about the harm done over decades of designing American cities for cars rather than humans. Seven years ago, we were the first publication to suggest that tearing down I-345 and replacing it with a boulevard would restitch downtown Dallas with Deep Ellum and create billions in economic development. That story was written by Patrick Kennedy, an urban planner who went on to co-found the CND and become a DART board member.

That’s the deal on our end. Now let’s look at an editorial the Dallas Morning News published this morning. The headline: “Southern Dallas Residents Need I-345. Why Is a Wealthy Consortium Trying to Tear It Down?” You need to read the entire thing to appreciate its dunderheadedness, so here it is:

The long-running question over what to do with a tiny strip of highway in Dallas is now tied up in a weird political knot.

Roddrick West, son of powerful state Sen. Royce West (a.k.a. Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Royce West), wants to do business with the Texas Department of Transportation.

Specifically, he wants to lease land under Interstate 345, a mile-and-change stretch dividing Deep Ellum and downtown. And he wants to build soccer fields beneath the highway.

Others can debate the merit of the proposal. But given his father’s role as vice chair of the Senate’s transportation committee, this is raising eyebrows, as anyone would expect. There’s no evidence we’ve seen that Roddrick West has done anything wrong. But deals like this need not only avoid conflicts of interest; they need to avoid the appearance of conflicts of interest.

So the Dallas City Council, which shares the land with TxDOT, was right to hit pause on this proposed lease Wednesday until everything that happened around it is aired in the full light of day.

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Coronavirus

How Should Hospitals Reopen in the Middle of a Pandemic?

| 2 days ago

Hospitals have been caught between costly preparations for a possible influx of COVID-19 patients and substantial revenue losses from the inability to provide elective surgeries and other service lines.  Locally, hospital operators Baylor Scott & White and Tenet have announced layoffs and furloughs, with similar actions from other providers most likely on the way.

The return of patients is essential for hospitals’ financial health and for patients who have been putting off care, but many patients are fearful of catching COVID-19, which is still present even if it is not at predicted levels in North Texas. As hospitals balance the public health emergency and crippling financial interruption, having a plan to open up safely is critical.

“There is a feeling that hospitals made a bunch of money like grocery stores did, but that is not the case at all,” says Stephen Angelette, an associate with Polsinelli’s Health Care Alignment and Organizations practice group based in Dallas. “The bulk of revenue from elective surgeries and other services were sidelined because of COVID-19.”

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Local News

Leading Off (5/29/20)

| 2 days ago

Black Dallasites Hit Hard By COVID-19. In late March, the Rev. Dr. Michael Waters of Abundant Life AME Church in Dolphin Heights knew how that COVID-19 was to likely hit black communities especially hard in Dallas. So did Dr. Brian Williams, who’s helping County Judge Clay Jenkins with the equity piece in the response to the virus. I wrote about both, when cases were trickling in from these communities compared to their more affluent counterparts, likely because of poor access to testing. NPR gave us the data we need to see this, detailing a concentration of testing sites in wealthier neighborhoods. And as The Dallas Morning News reported yesterday, infection rates are highest in communities of color: “Most of the cases are in the southern half of Dallas, in neighborhoods that have suffered decades of neglect and disparity.”

Dallas Police Oversight Board To Begin Meeting ‘In the Very Near Future.’ Wednesday’s City Council meeting kicked off with a long list of callers who vocalized frustration that standing committee meetings had begun again but the police oversight board had not. City Manager T.C. Broadnax said this yesterday when I emailed him for comment:

The Citizen Police Oversight Board and other advisory boards play a critical role to the community. I am in the process of working with staff from my office, who will need to provide the administrative and technical support for various advisory boards that would also like to meet virtually. I will provide an update to Dallas residents and the City Council on the re-initiation of the various advisory boards in the very near future.

The News went deeper, finding that Broadnax had previously denied their request to meet, noting that the refreshed board was getting ready to take its first actions right when the coronavirus stopped it in its tracks. In January, we spoke to the city’s first-ever police monitor, Tonya McClary, who came to Dallas from New Orleans. We’re eager to see her work play out in these meetings.

Sisters of Botham Jean and Atatiana Jefferson Form Group to Protest Police Brutality. “Sisters of the Movement” has a local tie in its organizers. They started the group after George Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis. They’ll be advocating for federal legislation aimed at curbing and investigating police violence.

Nice Weekend Ahead. As I type this, it’s a sunny 66 degrees. It’ll get into the mid-80s this afternoon. That’s about what you can expect on Saturday and Sunday. So get out and enjoy it—away from others.

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Restaurant & Bar Updates

Nick Badovinus Is Back

| 3 days ago

Nick Badovinus is re-entering the arena. The prolific restaurateur reopened his opulent Design District steakhouse, Town Hearth, last night as well as two Neighborhood Services locations—on Lovers Lane and in Addison. His latest restaurant, Desert Racer in Lowest Greenville, will partially return tonight in the new guise of Vantina, a pop-up concept that borrows from Desert Racer’s Baja-inspired aesthetic and menu. Montlake Cut will make its comeback next week. Off Site Kitchen, his cult-following, minimalist burger joint in Trinity Groves, won’t reopen. (Its lease was up in June. He confirmed the closure today.)

In March, Badovinus closed all of his restaurants and, in the same week, he was the first restaurateur to report a case of COVID-19 in one of his staff members. The time shuttered allowed the management team to revaluate. Badovinus is rethinking the space in Highland Park Village that will no longer hold his pizza joint Perfect Union, but rather something more in his premium-protein-centric wheelhouse.

The piece I wrote about Desert Racer in the May issue of D Magazine was a non-review of the Lowest Greenville restaurant that had only been open two months. When I spoke with Badovinus then, in mid-March, he stood on the brink of unknowns no restaurateur wants to face: the wasteland of the parking lot spoke volumes, and the Wes Anderson playground of Desert Racer stood empty, fires out, non-management staff laid off. It became, instead, a story about what he had built before the world fell apart.

“Whatever comes out for the restaurant business on the back side of it is going to be completely different from what it was before,” he told me.

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News Bites

What Has Reopening in Dallas Looked Like So Far?

| 3 days ago

Since the very beginning of May, Texas has been slowly reopening the economy, including many of the restaurants and bars that were forced to shutter back in March. Bars had been closed for nine weeks—that’s 63 days without pulling up to a bar top and waving a bartender down for a cold drink. It’s also enough time for us to think about how we’d approach drinking out again—how to do it responsibly or, in some cases, less so. And so after a brief hiatus, SideDish’s mostly-weekly News Bites has returned.

We captured scenes throughout the first weekend of reopened bars at partial capacity all over the city. In Deep Ellum, places like Bottled Blonde appeared to disregard the 25 percent occupancy order. At the other end of the caution spectrum, Lee Harvey’s in the Cedars closed its interior so patrons could only sit outside. Some bars with outdoor spaces—and restaurants, too, which were allowed to reopen at 50 percent occupancy last weekend—just may be better suited to have guests at limited capacity.

Still, four North Texas health experts told The Dallas Morning News that they wouldn’t dine out in a restaurant yet, though outdoor dining would be safer with proper precautions like mask-wearing and social distancing. Bars on the other hand present scenarios in which maintaining social distance could be harder to manage. (On bars, one expert told DMN: “That is, like, a hard no.”)

So, a lot of food and drink business are sticking with takeout and delivery only, like Double Wide, Las Almas Rotas, and BrainDead Brewing, to name a few. Speaking of breweries, taprooms are preparing to return. Vector Brewing, which had plans to debut in March pre-coronavirus, says it’ll officially open on June 1. Peticolas Brewing Company and Four Corners Brewing have likewise flirted with June comebacks.

There is no easy answer. Listen, I love beer. And I love cocktails. (See, we have this handy guide to drinking the good stuff at home.) But I don’t love swapping germs with tipsy strangers who aren’t diligently watching their six-feet-wide bubble. A spacious outdoor bar? Maybe.

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