Something’s off. it’s the morning of Saturday, September 8, just six weeks to the start of early voting, and state Rep. Matt Rinaldi is holding a grand opening for his new campaign headquarters in a secluded office park in Farmers Branch. The campaign was supposed to walk blocks this morning, but it’s pouring rain, so a handful of people stand around the conference room chatting. The Huffii are here—state Sen. Don Huffines and his brother Phillip Huffines. The Emotions’ soul anthem “Best of My Love” plays from a very quiet speaker in the corner. There are a few doughnuts.
Rinaldi’s appeal, to his most passionate fans, is that he’s got fire in his belly. He beat a moderate incumbent in the Republican primary in 2014 and was ranked the most conservative member of the Texas House the year after. By last session, he had gained a reputation as a relatively talented legislative arsonist, the rising star of the far-right faction of the Republican Party in the House, with a penchant for self-immolation.
On the last day of the session, he won national infamy by telling his Hispanic colleagues he had called ICE on immigration protesters in the House gallery, precipitating a scuffle that ended with Rinaldi threatening to put “a bullet in the brain” of a Democratic colleague. (If needed in self-defense, he says.) It was a shocking moment for the Legislature, in the way that a lot of things were shocking in 2017: it seemed to be evidence of a collective new low, before disappearing quicker from the headlines than might be expected amid an avalanche of fresher horrors.
That fire is Rinaldi’s brand, even if he takes it too far sometimes. But it’s not particularly visible here. The mood is muted. Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” comes on that speaker. The campaign messaging on Rinaldi’s new lit feels like it could belong to any legislative candidate in Texas—anybody except, maybe, Matt Rinaldi. His tag line for this race: “Lower Property Taxes. Stronger Schools.” That’s in line with his first TV ad, a real oddity. It opens on Rinaldi, smiling as widely as possible.Read More
In the beginning, Sharon Brucato and her husband, Paul, never imagined raising llamas would become a serious undertaking. “It started off as a joke,” Sharon says. Her son, now 22-year-old Tommy Brucato, fell in love with llamas during a family vacation in Germany. The family had gotten lost and ended up at a zoo that had a pen full of the exotic creatures. “I just kind of became fascinated with them,” Tommy says.
When the family returned home to Yorba Linda, California, they decided to take a “llama hike” in San Diego for Tommy’s birthday. They discovered there was a llama rescue center nearby for animals that had been neglected or abandoned, and Tommy decided to volunteer. “My parents didn’t seem to see any problem with it,” he says. “It was just one of my hobbies.”
Eventually, the entire family started making trips to the rescue center, taking the llamas on walks around a park. Parkgoers would ask if they could walk the llamas, too, even offering to pay to walk them. “We were like, ‘OK, we’re already doing this. Why don’t we make some money and get some help?’ ” Sharon recalls.
The Brucatos bought their first two llamas and launched ShangriLlama, named after the mystical Himalayan utopia depicted in the 1933 novel Lost Horizon. But they soon outgrew their California home. In 2014, just after Toyota announced its move to Plano, the Brucatos decided to move to Texas as well. The state’s business-friendly atmosphere—no state income tax, more open spaces, less expensive living costs—made it an easy decision, Paul says. (ShangriLlama has since moved to Royse City, a property that includes a replica Irish castle. They own an abutting residential location for the Llama walks, lessons, commercial photography, and llama birthday parties.)Read More
Cowboys Lose in a Sort of Typically Cowboys Way. I actually watched — a quarter. The second. Then I had to go. For the rest, a recap from my son, via text last night at 11:08: “Down by 10 with 4 minutes left. Dak leads a drive and we score. Get the ball back w a minute to go. We get a 45 yard kick lined up to send it to ot and we got a penalty. Then our kicker hit the effing post and we lost.” So, definitely my son.
Colin Allred and Pete Sessions Square Off. They got a debate in just before the start of early voting, which is today. Allred, a former football player, is making his first run for public office. Sessions, a thumb, is still somehow around after 22 years.
Big Crowds on the Last Day of the State Fair. It rained a lot so people were ready to have corn dogs and try to fit Big Tex and maybe a quarter of their bodies in the same iPhone selfie and so on. Guess who is writing this post and did not go to the Fair again?
Madison Martin Becomes First Woman to Score for Carroll Football. Good job, Madison.
FC Dalla Loses to Sporting KC, Also Loses Western Conference Lead. With the 3-0 loss, FC Dallas also lost the Western Conference lead to Sporting KC. Can they get it back next week on Decision Day? Maybe, but MLS has playoffs so I guess no one cares.Read More
Restaurateur Shannon Wynne wants you to vote. Dine at any of his concepts, wearing your “I Voted” sticker during early voting from October 22 to November 2 or on the November 6 Election Day, and you will get a 10 percent discount. (The offer excludes alcohol.)
“I’ve heard many times that Texas ranked near the bottom, if not the bottom, for voter turnout,” says Wynne. (Ed. Note: And Dallas as a city is even worse.) “I think in a state that has the diversity that we do, that it’s important to do a fun thing to incentivize people, where they can have fun and get together to proudly display their voting stickers, and participate in the process. Too many people in our lives growing up would say, ‘well, my vote doesn’t count,’ and as a voting bloc, the youth of Dallas, and Texas, has to participate and lift us out of that stigma of being a non-participatory state.”
Voting is fun. Wearing a sticker is fun. And getting a discount on food is fun. This is a clear win for everybody. Not sure where and how to vote? Click here.Read More
Not to get everybody’s feathers ruffled before the weekend starts, but who OK’d this?
The @startelegram included this graphic in yesterday’s paper. If you don’t get it, inclusion and cultural awareness is the punch line. Xenophobic humor at the expense of others use to be reserved for the “comment section” of social media—now its mainstream. Good job @startelegram pic.twitter.com/dF7JT7gPWL
— S. Lee Merritt, Esq. (@MeritLaw) October 19, 2018
The above cartoon depicts Rachel Dolezal, who lied about being black, and Elizabeth Warren, whose recent genetic test revealed an ambiguous connection to Native American ancestry, and weaponizes them against some very important conversations occurring right now. It ran in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on Thursday.Read More
It was a misty October day in the Cedars when I pulled up to Checkered Past Winery. I found a lone spot on the crowded street and parallel parked in one try, but that was just the beginning of the magic I was destined to experience that Friday afternoon.
I came to meet Trigg Watson, magician extraordinaire, whose monthly series Wine & Magic has become a low-key hit at the wine bar and eatery.
The reason for the show’s success is pretty clear: Watson is not your average birthday party trickster. The man’s been doing magic since he was four years old, and he’s been performing professionally since about age 11.
“I had these little business cards, I was available to perform at summer camps and libraries,” he says.
The young entrepreneur grew up and got a job in the corporate world, but he continued performing in his time off. Eventually, he gave in to his unusual vocation.
“I came to terms with the fact that if there’s one thing I’d regret, it’d be not pursuing magic full time.”
As he immersed himself in the world of magic, he started taking the art form in new directions. Watson wanted to show people that magic isn’t just for kids – that going to a magic show was kind of like going to a comedy show or a concert. A year ago, as Watson was looking for new, sophisticated environments to bring his show, Checkered Past was seeking out performers who could bring in a new clientele to the cozy wine bar.
“I started bringing magic into these environments it wasn’t usually in, and that forced to me create material that fit in that environment,” says Watson.
Forget about the stereotypes, the rabbits in hats and those decks of playing cards. This is millennial magic.
“In 2018, we’re kind of desensitized,” he muses. “We’re living in this incredibly magic world in which anything is possible and we don’t think of it as being incredible because it’s just everyday.” In his quest to reignite that sense of wonder, Watson often asks himself, “If I was in an audience and I wanted to experience something impossible, what would that look like in this modern day?”Read More
In the Texas Legislature, criminal justice reform is among the last Big Issue Kumbayahs that Democrats and Republicans have left. Which means that it’s one of the few that you’ll likely see some movement on in each legislative session. Like, despite the population growth the state’s incurring, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has closed eight units, four of which shuttered amid last session’s steep budget cuts. A rare win for budget hawks and criminal justice reform advocates alike.
On Friday morning, a room of about 200 or so people gathered at the Belo Mansion for a day-long symposium organized by Unlocking DOORS, a Dallas-based nonprofit that helps ex-convicts re-integrate in society. Kicking off the event was a speech from Brody Burks, Gov. Greg Abbott’s top criminal justice policy advisor. Burks was an assistant district attorney in mostly rural parts of Texas for the better part of a decade.
“I had no idea how many people I incarcerated,” he said. “But with the exception of one or two or three, they’re all coming out. As they should be.”
So what do we do with them? How do we best set them up for success, to limit the risk of recidivism? This message led us into the first panel of the day, which was packed with officials who offered local and statewide perspective about what to do with our incarcerated both before and after they enter the system.
Newly-crowned superstar moderator Jason Whitely, the longtime Channel 8 reporter, presided over a discussion between East Texas state Rep. James White, a Republican who chairs the House Corrections Committee; Justin Wood, a former prosecutor and the director of the Texas Senate Committee on Criminal Justice; Lake Highlands-area Councilman Adam McGough, the chair of the city’s Public Safety and Criminal Justice Committee; Assistant Chief Paul Stokes, the Dallas Police Department’s head of investigations and tactical support who subbed in for Chief U. Reneé Hall, who was dealing with a family emergency; and Bryan Collier, the executive director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.Read More
Over the last 10 days, while those of us in Dallas have largely dealt with rainy day after rainy day through a flat avoidance of the outdoors, Todd Phillips has been out in it, on a lake, by choice. The founder and head of Rockwall-based nonprofit The Last Well has vowed to stay afloat on a barge in the middle of Lake Ray Hubbard, living out of a tent, until his organization has raised $2 million to bring clean water to Liberia.
See? Here he is:
He’s living off protein bars and getting tossed around by storms. He says he couldn’t stand up for two and a half days, due to the way the storms angered the water, and that he got zero hours of sleep one night and then just two the next. Because I know you’re wondering: He has a Port-A-Potty.Read More
Earlier this week, I took you on a bumpy trip of the Ross Avenue corridor, where a slew of major redevelopments have shot up and taken our sidewalks. Yesterday afternoon, on the way to an appointment at City Hall, I got curious where else this is happening. The problem: the city appears to have little control over how much public right of way is occupied by contractors doing these big-time tower re-dos. Walking around downtown, you’d think the city’s core is desperate for any sort of development—not undergoing the boom that we’re in.
“We don’t seem to have any system of controls that would guarantee any respectful use of the city’s right of way,” says Councilman Philip Kingston, who represents downtown, Uptown, and East Dallas. “It’s a function of the city’s historic fealty to developers. They get away with everything.”
To City Manager T.C. Broadnax: Dallas is again forgoing the safety of pedestrians and allowing these projects to overtake what little space residents have when they’re on two feet. This is happening in the densest parts of the city. A little scaffolding would go a long way. They’re even bleeding into driving lanes, sticking sad orange cones in areas that abut their fenced-off developments.
“They’ve managed to piss off not just the pedestrians but the drivers too,” Kingston says.
In my post from Wednesday, this was most evident on San Jacinto. But it’s elsewhere, too. Here’s one on Flora Street, the Arts District’s primary artery, which appears to be using a sidewalk to place equipment and, among other things, a Port-A-Potty:Read More