A Daily Conversation About Dallas

Local News

Good Luck Riding DART Today, Cont’d

| 3 hours ago

Last night, the power lines that hover over the DART rail line suffered some damage just south of the Mockingbird/SMU Station. As the trains came through, a spokesman said they likely grabbed those lines and caused further damage. For the second straight day, commuters were shuttled in the cold between rail stops via bus. Which caused delays that are continuing into rush hour.

“Personnel on-site assessed the damage and began repairs immediately,” read a statement from spokesman Mark Ball. “They determined that with the recent cold weather and strong winds it caused the overhead powerlines to contract and break loose from its connections.”

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After Two Meetings, Dallas’ Police Oversight Board Has Yet to Hear Complaints

| 4 hours ago

Something lost in the shuffle of last night’s Community Police Oversight Board meeting: the city has yet to staff the crucial Office of Community Police Oversight. Those are the three paid employees who will sort through complaints about the police department, bring findings to the board, and keep tabs in real-time as Dallas PD investigates itself.

Assistant City Manager Jon Fortune says the monitor—who will serve as director of the office and hire its other two employees—could be in place in January, if all goes right. Although the ultimate decision to hire will fall to City Manager T.C. Broadnax and CPOB Chair Jesuorobo Enobakhare, the finalists will go before three separate panels of five community members each.

So far, 70 people have applied. Enobakhare says the position has been “a little slow” to attract qualified candidates. They’re now moving toward selecting finalists.

Without staff in place, however, police oversight sits in a precarious spot. Complaints aren’t filtering to the board, so there have been no cases to discuss. It voted on Tuesday to put the case of Diamond Ross—the woman who overdosed and died while in police custody—on next month’s agenda. That didn’t keep board members from a stream of questions about their apparent inaction.

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Sports & Leisure

You Genuinely Hate to See It: The New Mavs Jerseys Have Leaked

| 8 hours ago

Do I love the Mavericks? Yes. I think I have proven that on this website and in the pages of D Magazine and elsewhere. There is, however, one thing I don’t super love, especially lately, and that is their overall branding and, specifically, their uniforms. The main home and road sets were never that great (and not unique, basically the same as the old Charlotte Bobcats jerseys). At their very best, they were competent. Now they look dated; they do not have a timeless aesthetic worth hanging onto, desperately it seems.

With the team building around 20-year-old Luka Doncic, and fully in a new era after the retirement [stares into the middle distance for 25 minutes] of Dirk Nowitzki, it is time for a change, a professional brand refresh from logo to color scheme to uniforms. I can only hope it is coming for next season. Nothing can be done right now, unfortunately.

In addition to its home and road unis, the Mavs have played in a new dark blue incredibly plain-looking set that, if you are being kind, looks like a well-made practice uniform. And last night, another set leaked. You see it here. I believe these are the City edition and I think they are inspired by Deep Ellum(??). There were hints this was coming, when the matching court design was glimpsed prior to the season. But I guess I wasn’t fully prepared for my reaction to these. It brings me no pleasure to do this, but I have a few thoughts:

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Local News

Leading Off (11/13/19)

| 12 hours ago

Police Oversight Board to Look at Case of Diamond Ross. Board members voted to add it to the agenda of their November meeting. It will be the first case on their plate. “Don’t make this a dog-and-pony show,” Ross’ cousin, Obra Henry, told the board last night. “Do something about it.”

DART Settles With Photographer. They’ll pay $345,000 to end a federal civil rights suit. Freelancer Avi Adelman was arrested in 2016 after taking photos while someone was being treated for an overdose. A DART security officer tried to shoo him away from the public space and then took him into custody for trespassing when he wouldn’t leave. Adelman sued DART and Stephanie Branch, who made the arrest.

DPD Cuts Number of Side-Gig Hours Officers Can Work. A 2018 audit found some officers more than doubling their normal work week in side jobs. The off-duty hours limit now goes from 72 a week down to 40.

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Good Public Transit

Good Luck Riding Dart Today

| 1 day ago

Good luck if you’re trying to ride DART light rail home in this cold. According to the Dallas Morning News, light rail service is suspended through downtown because of a power outage. That means, essentially, that the entire DART light rail system is messed up, because every one of DART’s light rail lines runs through a single at-grade downtown transit corridor. A delay or stoppage of service in that downtown corridor means a disruption of Dallas’ entire rail system.

And it sounds like a mess:

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Dallas History

SMU Saves North Texas’ Archaeological History

| 1 day ago

Remember Sunday Eiselt from our 2017 profile of her? She’s a former Marine, archaeologist, professor, and director of SMU’s Archaeological Research Collections (ARC). She’s also our best chance of saving some of North Texas’ oldest, most important history.

Last week I met up with her to tour the ARC facilities, located in Heroy Hall. It’s been a little over two years since our initial interview, and in that amount of time she’s managed an amazing transformation of the three rooms that comprise ARC. What follows is an update, including before-and-after photos. But prior to getting there, give the photo above a look. That’s Eiselt in one of the rooms surrounded by musty brown boxes, each packed to capacity with artifacts, stacked like sardines on shelving on the verge of collapse. In the span of two years a great deal has changed, and she says there are more developments on the way.

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Politics & Government

Mina Chang’s Pants Are on Fire

| 1 day ago

From NBC News: “Mina Chang, the deputy assistant secretary in the State Department’s Bureau of Conflict and Stability Operations, has inflated her educational achievements — like claiming, falsely, to be a Harvard grad — and exaggerated the scope of her nonprofit’s work.” And, yes, she is Dallas’ own. She was a speaker at D CEO’s 2017 Women’s Leadership Symposium. She won’t be invited back.

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The Most Florid Press Release You Will Read Today

| 1 day ago

The Omni has gotten a facelift. I know this because I received a press release telling me that the guest rooms have been “reimagined” and that Dallas “celebrates the vibrancy and confidence of those that live and visit.” God bless the PR professional who decided that the hotel has “become further synonymous with the Dallas lifestyle.” For your consideration:

Today, on Omni Dallas’ eighth anniversary, Omni Hotel & Resorts unveils the hotel’s recent renovation that includes fully reimagined guest rooms and meeting space.

Dallas is a city flourishing in momentum and innovation. A destination rich in diversity and entrepreneurship, Dallas celebrates the vibrancy and confidence of those that live and visit. With an unparalleled vantage point, the Omni Dallas Hotel has enhanced the design of the property to align with the city’s evolving art and architecture to become further synonymous with the Dallas lifestyle.

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North Texas Banks Consider Replacing ATMs With Video Tellers

| 1 day ago

Local lenders are trying to puzzle out how to adopt a new form of automatic teller machine that lets customers talk via video with off-site bankers. These interactive teller machines, or ITMs, allow banks to make tellers available after hours. They also provide a lower-cost way to expand geographically, compared to opening new branches. There’s also a big difference in  per-transaction costs, which run about $4.50 for an in-person teller and just 70 cents through an ITM, according to Cornerstone Advisors, a Scottsdale, Arizona consultancy.

But ITMs are expensive. From installing the machines to generating returns, banks must spend between $250,000 and $750,000, according to Quality Data Systems of Charlotte, North Carolina. More important, the banks must figure out how to fit ITMs into their particular customer service models. “If you try to implement them in existing branches to reduce human interaction, I think that will fail,” says Jimmy Sawyers, chairman of Sawyers & Jacobs, a financial technology advisory firm. People tend to believe that the next digital method for bringing products or services to market will replace all others, he adds. “That’s not how it works.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, most banks are kicking the tires of ITMs rather than buying. Since first testing the technology in Detroit in 2014, Comerica Bank has installed 21 ITMs in North Texas, with plans for continued expansion through 2020, says Cassandra McKinney, its senior vice president and national director of retail delivery and strategic services. The ITMs provide 90 percent of services typically available only during traditional service hours. “The fact that they double as an independent ATM and offer personal interaction is the added value proposition,” McKinney says.

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Health & wellness

Keep Your Zen Up This Holiday Season

| 2 days ago

Daniel Sunshine has a present for you. In fact, the man with an aptronym has two: the gifts of gratitude and calm. As the director of mindfulness at Dallas Yoga Center, his job is to help people learn to live well and happily even while circumstances conspire against them.

Mindfulness as a practice is on the verge of a mainstream phenomenon, Sunshine says. What was once relegated to the woo-woo corners of the world is now a business model, with places like Dallas Yoga Center in Oak Lawn, The Refuge in Deep Ellum, and Dallas Meditation in Carrollton and Plano bringing a more palatable, science-based approach to the general public. “Once science got involved, mindfulness could no longer be categorized as weird or unproven or religious,” Sunshine says. It’s meditation for the masses, and the time has never been more right.

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New EarBurner: Evelyn Mayo Knows How to Prevent Another Shingle Mountain

| 2 days ago

Over the summer, as I was reporting a column on Shingle Mountain, I met Evelyn Mayo for coffee. We talked zoning and land use. I was curious as to how a multi-story tall pile of shingles had come to be located next to the home of an incredibly kind woman named Marsha Jackson. Mayo had been investigating this very thing. Southern Dallas, her team found, is zoned for a patchwork of industrial uses. In some cases, these are next to homes, which exist on land that may not be zoned residential at all. A paralegal with Legal Aid of Northwest Texas, Mayo was in the process of researching all of this for a report she titled “In Plain Sight.”

It uses Shingle Mountain as a lodestar, arguing that the city’s land use policies and zoning created far more vulnerabilities than just the lot next to Marsha Jackson’s home. Mayo and her team went looking for violations of zoning regulations and found a path that basically takes you along the banks of the Trinity River, from West Dallas—former home of lead smelters—all the way down to the city’s southern border near Hutchins, not far from Shingle Mountain. Another hot spot exists further east, in Pleasant Grove. These violations include everything from lacking a certificate of occupancy to industrial activity being too close to homes.

This report, which was published last month, is being offered to neighborhood associations around these vulnerable areas. Some include pockets of homes that aren’t correctly zoned residential. That means, say, a shingle recycling operation could open up next door and the homeowner would not have the same sort of protections as someone who lived in an area zoned single family. That’s Marsha Jackson’s conundrum: her home is zoned agricultural. So she didn’t get a formal review process before the industrial use began. The company behind this, Blue Star Recycling, told a judge that it ran out of money and can’t afford to quickly remove the pile. So now there’s something of a stand-off, and Marsha Jackson is stuck breathing in the particulate matter from the shingles that’s flowing in through her vents.

Evelyn Mayo, a paralegal with Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas. (Photo courtesy Downwinders at Risk)

The report gives the neighborhood associations something of a toolkit. It encourages residents to call 311 when they think they see a violation near them. (Bizarrely, however, the report notes that “it is up to the discretion of the inspector as to what extent the background research is conducted on the site.” Which means they’re not always aware of current zoning when they show up. That’s a policy fix.) It’s also asking the City Council to re-zone some of the areas to prevent such establishments in the future, and, in particular, eliminate the patchwork zoning that creates opportunities for things like Shingle Mountain.

This is why we asked Mayo to come onto EarBurner. And then we wound up talking about Roller Derby and James Harden. Listen below.

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