A Daily Conversation About Dallas

Leading Off

Leading Off (2/20/20)

| 38 mins ago

Council Member Wants to End Veteran Homelessness. Chad West, an Army vet and chair of the council’s Housing and Homelessness Solutions Committee, said yesterday that he and the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance are aiming to house 100 vets in 100 days. Beyond that, he wants to find every local veteran a home. Veterans can get federal vouchers from the Dallas Housing Authority.

Landmark First National Bank Tower Will House Downtown Dallas Inc. The building’s $450 million renovation will be finished this year, and Downtown Dallas Inc. will be the first major tenant. Kourtny Garrett, president and CEO of Downtown Dallas Inc., says: “We have been champions of this project, and it was a unique opportunity to put all of our operations under one roof.”

Number of DFW Democratic Voters More Than Doubled On First Day of Polls. On Tuesday, the first day of early voting, the number of Democratic voters more than doubled in Dallas, Tarrant, Collin, and Denton counties from the same day in 2016.

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Criminal Justice

Mayor, Governor: Stop Sharing the News’ Fearmongering Bail Reform Editorial

| 17 hours ago

The Dallas Morning News’ wrongheaded editorial about bail reform is being amplified by two of our city and state’s most prominent public officials. Mayor Eric Johnson and Gov. Greg Abbott have both tweeted it out, spreading its conflations and fear mongering.

The News’ editorial board, or an online producer, has also changed the headline of the editorial from “Is Bail Reform the Cause of Dallas’ Climbing Crime?” to “What’s Causing Dallas Crime to Spike?” The original headline is still contained in the URL for the piece. The new headline is a softer path to connecting the city’s rising violent crime rate to bail reform and District Attorney John Creuzot, who has championed the policy and others like it.

Here is my colleague Zac Crain, writing last week in response to the editorial:

Bail reform is about reducing a jail population that is largely made up of pretrial detainees, people who can’t afford to get out, even at seemingly low amounts like $500. Across the country, almost two-thirds of people incarcerated locally have not been convicted of anything. In Texas, it’s 70 percent.

We’ve written a fair amount over the past couple years about bail reform, a national movement—often court-ordered—that aims to eliminate cash bail for low, nonviolent offenses.

A little history lesson here.

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Visual Arts

The Dallas Mavericks Posterize Local Artists

| 18 hours ago

This season, the Dallas Mavericks decided to try something off the court. Twenty local artists got a chance to illustrate a home game through the team’s Posterized series. Clay Stinnett imagined a grizzly bear in Elvis garb fighting a horse and a cowboy. (Mavs vs. Grizzlies, Feb. 5.) Skyler Thiot drew a basketball hoop standing tall over the Dallas skyline. (Mavs vs. Kings, Feb. 12.) Mariell Guzman infused Dallas’ landmarks with bright colors, imagining an upside down Brooklyn in black and white. (Mavs vs. Nets, Jan. 2.)

“Most people don’t realize that Dallas actually has a burgeoning art scene. It really has since the ‘80s. But right now it started to get to much more of a fever pitch as more investments, more people move from the coast to the Dallas area for different reasons,” says Dale Alexander, the vice president of the Mavericks’ Creative Studio. “We knew that there was an opportunity there.”

The team prints 100 posters for each participating game and sells them for $20 a pop. The proceeds benefit the Mavs Foundation. It wouldn’t have been possible without Chris Paliotta, a local designer who served as the project’s point person.

“I actually only knew a small handful of artists first-hand from our list,” Paliotta says. “As for the others, I’ve been tracking their work over the years through social media. It was really important for us to incorporate and tap into several different types of visual art, from the street art world, to printmaking, to comic art—we wanted to capture it all.”

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Dallas Doesn’t Think It’s Charging Contractors Enough to Occupy Public Sidewalks and Streets

| 21 hours ago

More than a year after the city started fining contractors for illegally occupying streets and sidewalks, staff believes they aren’t going far enough. As such, they’re asking for Council approval to charge contractors higher fees to work in the public right-of-way, both as a way to generate revenue and to get them to finish their jobs quicker. They also want to increase daily fines.

The City Council’s transportation committee was briefed on the plan on Tuesday, learning that Dallas has the lowest lane and sidewalk closure fees of all the major cities in Texas. That causes streets and sidewalks to remain closed longer than needed and sometimes to even be used for storage of equipment.

Under the new fees, a 61-day closure of a 100-foot lane would jump from $366 to $1,514. The fee per square foot doubles after 121 days and triples after 180, hopefully incentivizing contractors to hurry up. (If you’re in and out within 60 days, you’ll pay just $.012 per square foot a day. If your work takes up the right of way for 180 or more, you’re looking at $.096. It hikes to $0.288 a day if your job occupies a second lane or sidewalk.) The city estimates it will increase revenue from fees from $1 million to $3 million in 2021 and, as a byproduct, “incentivize contractors to remove their barricades as early as possible.”

If you’ve been following this website for any amount of time, you’ll recognize our Dallas Hates Pedestrians series. North Oak Cliff Council member Chad West even brought it up during the meeting. The very first of those, published a whole two years ago, expressed pent-up frustration over this very issue: a mess of equipment near a downtown parking garage that swallowed up a full lane of traffic as well as a sidewalk.

“I am so happy this topic has been brought up,” West said. “If you go to a walkable city like New York, you’re never gonna have a sidewalk that’s closed off for weeks at a time without scaffolding to walk under.”

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Local News

Leading Off (02/19/20)

| 1 day ago

Dallas County Foots the Bill For Last-Minute Poll Workers. The parties usually bring their own judges during primaries, but both sides fell short of requirements this year. County commissioners approved $359,000 to fill the gap.

DISD Names a New Chief Auditor. It’ll be Alan King, on an interim basis, after the board accepted Steven Martin’s resignation Tuesday night amid criticism. King helped end the Dallas County Schools fiasco and has worked as DISD’s chief financial officer.

Boy Scouts File for Bankruptcy. It could mean that a lot of people who say they were sexually abused as Scouts don’t get their day in court.

Lowest Greenville Getting Big Apartment Building. Eight stories, 230 units, just south of Sam’s Club behind the 7-Eleven.

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Dallas’ New Scooter Rules Start To Come Into Focus

| 2 days ago

Dallas is getting closer to imposing new rules on scooter companies that will likely impact the time of day you can ride and, the city hopes, will incentivize companies to keep sidewalks clear of piles of toppled-over machines. The city is also working out a new fee structure to drive revenue for much-needed infrastructure repairs that could include dedicated bike lanes.

After a four month extension in November, the city’s dockless mobility pilot program ends next month. City Council is set to vote in new regulations on March 25. City staff has been locked in negotiations with scooter operators Uber, Bird, Wheels, Lime, and Ojo, plus stakeholders of highly traversed neighborhoods like Deep Ellum and Uptown. It presented the results of those negotiations, which are still wrapping up, during Tuesday’s meeting of the Transportation Infrastructure Committee.

We’ll start with the fees.

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Commercial Real Estate

Petition Launched to Save the Leaning Tower of Dallas

| 2 days ago

I joked this morning in Leading Off about saving the Leaning Tower of Dallas, that stubbornly un-demolished part of the old ACS building off Central Expressway. Well, now someone has started a petition to make the thing a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The petition, started by Jimbob Dallas, reads:

Over the past few days, The Leaning Tower of Dallas has become the city’s largest cultural icon. After making national headlines, we are finally famous for something other than the JFK Assassination. Unfortunately, the demolition will be completed soon to make way for even more hideous shops and condos for the bourgeois residents of Uptown Dallas. We need to act FAST! We need to reach out to local officials to save our new historical landmark. You wouldn’t tear down the Leaning Tower of Pisa or the Great Pyramids of Giza and replace them with condos would you?

If anything, do it for the memes.

So far, six people have signed it. So you’re saying it has a chance.

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Local News

Airbnb Regulation Could Be Coming to Dallas

| 2 days ago

The days of Airbnb hosts skirting local taxes could be coming to an end, and the city of Dallas may soon consider other new regulations to the short-term rental industry.

On Tuesday, city staff briefed the Quality of Life, Arts, and Culture Committee on their options for regulating a growing industry that brings out all the neighborhood complaints you may imagine: noise, parking, overcrowding, trash. They are also a way for out-of-towners to find a cheaper and more neighborhood-inclusive route into the city, and for Dallasites to earn extra income. It’s a conversation that brings out strong opinions. While other cities have already codified significant regulations of the industry, it’s just beginning in Dallas.

The city has already decided to enforce its rule that hosts pay hotel taxes. It hired a technology company in November to scour the web for addresses of short-term rentals. Only 400 have registered with City Hall so far, bringing in about $245,000 in taxes. Staff has identified 1,200 “registration pending” short term rentals in town, which are Airbnbs and others that hadn’t bothered to notify the city. There could very well be more.

Getting those operations registered is the first step, and it’s more complicated than you may think. Staff says that the city has engaged operators like Airbnb but has faced reluctance to charge local taxes through the app. (Airbnb has reached similar agreements with other municipalities, however.) That means an extra burden falls on the hosts, some of whom may only make something like $1,000 a month, according to Kris Sweckard, Dallas’ director of sustainable development and construction.

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Local News

Jeopardy Remains a Fan of Former Mayor Mike Rawlings

| 2 days ago

In 2013, we learned that then-Mayor Mike Rawlings DVR’d Jeopardy every night. He popped up on an episode as a clue alongside Mark Cuban and Jerry Jones.

Well, it took seven years, but Rawlings now has his own clue. It came in the category of words that rhyme with “fighter” and got its winning contestant $800. Via his former chief of staff, the answer was, of course, “uniter:”

In a similar feeling of satisfaction, it has been about as many years since we’ve had a reason to use this photo:

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Local News

Leading Off (2/18/20)

| 2 days ago

Leaning Tower of Dallas Becomes Internet Famous. Maybe the developers of that project off Central Expressway should just leave the core of the old ACS building as it is, because people like to take pictures of it.

Trial Continues for Man Accused of Killing Richardson Cop. Jurors saw graphic body cam footage yesterday in the trial of Brandon McCall, who is accused of murdering officer David Sherrard. Testimony will continue today, and, if convicted, McCall could be executed or sent to prison without possibility of parole.

Prosper’s Chris Buescher Takes Third in Daytona 500. It was the longest Daytona 500 ever, and Denny Hamlin won in a photo finish that occurred moments after Ryan Newman was injured in a crash. Here’s video.

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North Texas DACA Recipients Brace For a Supreme Court Ruling

| 3 days ago

Juan Carlos Cerda has a degree from Yale. He’s influenced rooms of politicians with his public speaking and meets with some of Texas’ top business leaders every week. But if the Supreme Court ends protections for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, Cerda will no longer have freedom from deportation in the country he’s lived in since the age of 7. That ruling could come any day.

“I’m scared,” Cerda says. “I’m very scared. I’m worried that I may not be able to get my first house. I don’t know if I’m going to be able to enroll in an MBA program, which is what I’ve been thinking about doing—going to UT Business School. And I just want a solution.”

Cerda is one of 92,000 DACA-eligible individuals in North Texas, immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children and have spent most of their lives here. Instituted in 2012 under President Barack Obama, DACA gives them the ability to get a job, drive a car, and be free from deportation. It does so in two-year increments, and each new application costs nearly $500. DACA recipients do not have a path to U.S. citizenship. But despite its imperfections, the program has been a crucial piece of immigration policy, even as some advocates view it as a stopgap toward a more permanent immigration policy.

It could soon go away. The latest the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule is June. Cerda says that based on the conservative-leaning makeup of the court and gleanings from the November hearings, his organization, the Texas Business Immigration Coalition, is bracing for the worst.

A lot is at stake. According to the North Texas Commission, DACA-eligible households earned $1 billion in 2017, contributing nearly $200 million to the federal, state, and local tax rolls. DACA-eligible immigrants have a 96.2 percent employment rate in Dallas-Fort Worth. Going beyond the personal impact of uprooting people who’ve lived nearly their entire lives in the U.S., an elimination of DACA without policy to replace it would have a significant impact on the region’s economy.

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Urban Design

Dallas: The City That Hates Pedestrians, Pt. 40

| 3 days ago

On this Monday morning, I bring you one of the most boneheaded sidewalks in all of Dallas. It’s a sidewalk to nowhere, disembodied from both the nearby shopping center and the Santa Fe Trail bridge that shoots above it. White Rock Creek Trail is about a quarter mile away and eventually connects with the Santa Fe. Maybe this sidewalk could’ve been an exit for folks from the Trail?

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