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A Daily Conversation About Dallas

Local News

What’s on Mike Rhyner’s Mind?

| 12 hours ago

I first interviewed Mike Rhyner a few days after his shocking retirement announcement at the beginning of January. We had a long talk over lunch, and I probably had more than enough to work with for the profile I’d end up writing about him in our April issue. One of the founders of the The Ticket and the longtime host of its flagship show, The Hardline, Mike was open to all lines of inquiry and answered all of my questions thoughtfully.

We met again a few weeks later—another long lunch, another long talk. My initial idea was to catch up with him at various stages of retirement, check to see how it was going, if he had regrets, if he had made plans. I ended up abandoning that idea, mostly, but not before I met with Mike again, this time for a walk in downtown, where he lives and I work. We’re both walkers, and I figured a bit of motion would make for a good ending. By then, I’d exhausted my questions, pretty much, and I’d gotten thousands of words of good answers, about the radio business and sports and music and whatever else.

Over that weekend, with an assist from Mike’s ex-wife Renee, I spoke with his younger sister, Patti, who lives in California. Maybe half an hour or so after we’d hung up, after talking about their growing up in Oak Cliff, I got a text from Mike: “Wanna go for a ride Wed?” I, of course, said yes. He said he was going to take me by the three houses in Oak Cliff where he and Patti lived, the neighborhoods, the schools. “It’s become quite clear that you’re putting a shit ton into this thing … and I’m going to get with the program.” Which made me laugh because what had he been doing all this time? It certainly felt like he had been with the program.

It turns out he had plenty more to offer, and it’s to his credit that the story turned out the way it did. I guess it should not come as a surprise that a man who has spent almost all of his adult life talking for a living is pretty good at it. You just have to be there. It’s online now.

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Media

Pay Cuts (But No Layoffs) at Dallas Morning News

| 13 hours ago

A letter went out to Morning News employees today from president and publisher Grant Moise. It outlines how the company is cutting costs to weather the pandemic. Most of the newsroom will take an 8 percent cut. There are a few issues here at which one could raise an eyebrow if one were so inclined: that Moise earns somewhere around $800,000 in total compensation, that CFO Katy Murray was promoted last week to executive vice president despite having overseen an embarrassing accounting snafu in November that has yet to be straightened out. But the really disturbing part of this announcement, the thing that makes my blood boil? Moise is a two-spaces-after-periods guy. Disgusting. Here’s his letter:

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Outdoors

This Video Tour of Texas Discovery Gardens Will Make Your Day

| 13 hours ago

Texas Discovery Gardens launched a new digital garden series on YouTube a couple of weeks ago, since they can’t currently open their doors to the public. There are two episodes so far, and they both star Dick Davis, TDG’s executive director, who is so incredibly soothing and endearing that he can only be described as Dallas’ answer to Mr. Rogers. The first video is a sweet animated poem great for kids. But the second, which starts and ends with a classic dad joke, will brighten your Monday.

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Coronavirus

Judge Clay Jenkins to Gov. Greg Abbott: Will You Just Call Me?

| 13 hours ago

Judge Clay Jenkins wants Gov. Greg Abbott to know that Dallas County is still planning for the pop-up hospital at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center. He also wants the governor to pick up the phone.

Jenkins has responded to a letter sent yesterday by Luis Saenz, Abbott’s chief of staff, that threatened to take away the pop-up hospital from Dallas County. Saenz wrote that he’d heard from federal officials that they were considering locating the hospital elsewhere because Jenkins had said he didn’t want it. Jenkins says that was not true, adding that that nobody called him to discuss this alleged claim, which originated in a voicemail. Mayor Eric Johnson quickly piled on, saying he was “stunned and deeply disappointed” about “Dallas County’s position on the pop-up hospital.”

Johnson did not call the judge either, basing his reaction off Saenz’s letter.

Saenz, meanwhile, wrote, “I have been informed by federal government officials that if you cannot make clear the acceptance of these facilities by 5:00 on Monday, April 6, the federal government may be forced to relocate these healthcare facilities to other regions.”

Jenkins in his letter reiterates that the county is planning for the hospital and preparing for its activation.

“If anything in this letter or any information not contained in this letter will be used as a reason to steer the FMS from Dallas County or jeopardize Dallas County’s ability to receive or obtain resources from the federal government, please contact me immediately and I will work to provide answers and a resolution,” Jenkins writes.

He has spoken about the hospital’s purpose for the last week, that it would be a release valve turned on when hospital capacity takes a hit from COVID-19 cases. It would start with 250 beds but have the ability to grow to as many as 1,400. It would serve as a “step-down” facility for patients no longer needing critical services. Rocky Vaz, the city’s director of emergency management, shared that belief. And suddenly, the governor is threatening to pull the services altogether.

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Nature

Law Man Walking: Nature Treks With Bill Holston

| 15 hours ago

I felt like last week I was falling into the rhythm with my sometimes remote schedule. Thursday morning, I drove up to Spring Creek in Garland for a hike before I headed into the office. We are all working remotely unless we need to deliver critical aid to our clients. It was a nice 60 degrees as I headed up Shiloh. I put a travel mug of Cultivar Coffee in my day pack and drove off.

I started down the paved trail and then headed across a patch of native prairie. It burned this last fall, and it’s fun to see the entire area covered in green now. The Yuccas are starting to send up stalks, and the first of the Indian Paintbrush is blooming.

I took the trail under Garland Avenue. A few months ago, a large Pecan shed a big piece of its trunk and pushed another large tree all the way horizontal to the ground. I stood looking at it, and noticed that the tree is sending new growth straight vertical from the now horizontal trunk. The tree is adapting to a new reality. That’s what we are all doing. Perhaps you are adapting to a layoff and figuring out how to survive, or you are my friends Matt Tobin and Josh Yingling, who overnight revamped their entire business plan and shifted to a new name: Good Citizen, with a new menu and curbside delivery. Or you’re the crew at Cultivar Coffee, who had to shut one store and shift to curbside delivery.

Our agency has had to shift quickly. We are, like many of you, doing all meetings as Zoom meetings. We just conducted our first virtual training of lawyers by Zoom. We have set up tables outside to distribute grocery cards and toiletry bags to our clients. We started investigating how we could do remote legal services for individuals stuck in Mexico. The point is, we are all adapting. We are all accepting new realities and surviving, just like the big Pecan tree.

I made my way up a hill, and entered a great hardwood Oak forest.

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Coronavirus

A Day in the Life of Heard That Foundation’s Staff Meal Kitchen Warriors

| 15 hours ago

Lowest Greenville has been justifiably quiet in the wake of the city’s coronavirus measures. No more M Streets-dwelling SMU alums sashaying into Steel City Pops in athleisure, no couples filing into Teppo for robata-grilled yakitori.

The normally well-frequented, boisterous stretch has gone silent. Save for a group that toils in the formerly hopping HG Sply Co., its presence discernable only in the evenings from the back parking lot. Where once there were rooftop-bar shenanigans, now something entirely more serious is occurring. Until recently, they worked while we played. But the times have changed all that. It’s time we drew back the curtain.

Every weekday since March 23, Evelyn Aloupas, Denise Apigo, and Randall Braud have filed into the kitchen of the now-shuttered HG Sply Co. on Lowest Greenville to cook for their own. This is the skeleton crew that puts together the nonprofit Heard That Foundation’s Staff Meal program, which launched on the Monday following the city-mandated ban on in-room dining. Such a move, however necessary for the health of diners and workers alike, devastated the service industry landscape for those who were let go from both front-of-house and back-of-house jobs.  

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Coronavirus

HKS Has a Plan to Turn Hotels and Schools into Hospitals

| 19 hours ago

Dallas says it has the manpower and hospital space to handle a significant uptick in COVID-19 cases, but much of the future is unknown. In New York, intensive care units are filling up, and bed shortages are rampant. With that in mind, minds at Dallas-based architecture firm HKS Architects began to make a contingency plan to convert hotels and schools into healthcare facilities.

The American Hospital Association says there are around 920,000 staffed beds in the country, but some studies say that up to nine million people may need to be hospitalized, a third of whom will need intensive care. If this estimate is anywhere near accurate, creative thinking will be needed. While there are no plans currently underway involving specific HKS buildings, they have thought through what it would look like.

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Local News

Leading Off (04/06/2020)

| 21 hours ago

What is Going on With the COVID-19 Hospital at the Convention Center? Our Matt Goodman attempted to get to the bottom of a bizarre “telephone gossip tree” that could lead to our losing the pop-up facility.

The Latest Total: 1,112 COVID-19 Cases in Dallas County. That was as of last night, when 97 new cases were reported. Of course that number is probably out of date at this second.

Amari Cooper’s Big Contract Puts Him Under the Microscope. Because nothing can stop Dallas Cowboys drama.

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Coronavirus

The Bizarre Case and Uncertain Future of Dallas County’s Pop-Up COVID-19 Hospital

| 1 day ago

On Sunday afternoon, members of the media were alerted to a letter sent from Gov. Greg Abbott’s chief of staff to County Judge Clay Jenkins. It threatened to relocate to another county the planned pop-up hospital at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, which Jenkins had said would be activated once hospital capacity takes a hit from cases of COVID-19.

The confusion apparently started when Maj. Gen. Mike Stone left a voice mail on Saturday night for Nim Kidd, the chief of the Texas Division of Emergency Management, which he then relayed to Abbott’s office.

“We had a call with Judge Clay Jenkins; his team … has no intention of moving patients into the convention center and the Department of Defense is confused,” Stone said in the message.

That triggered the letter. Luis Saenz, the governor’s chief of staff, wrote, “I have been informed by federal government officials that if you cannot make clear the acceptance of these facilities by 5:00 on Monday, April 6, the federal government may be forced to relocate these healthcare facilities to other regions.” From there, the confusion spread.

Allow me to break it down as best I can. That phrasing—“make clear the acceptance of these facilities”—is what doesn’t make sense. Because Jenkins has made the county’s intentions clear for the past week: this was to be a “step-down” facility for patients recovering from COVID-19, to free up beds at the hospitals for patients needing critical services. The county was working in tandem with the National Guard to get the hospital ready. But we aren’t there yet.

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Shopping

Love in the Time of COVID: Shouting in the Grocery Store

| 2 days ago

My mom is 75. She’s a teacher and an artist — fiber, watercolor, pretty much anything you throw at her. With the CDC’s new recommendation, she made me some masks. All respect, but they aren’t pretty. That said, they seem to work well, far as I can tell. They have a bendy metal piece sewn above the nose. I wore one yesterday, for the first time, to shop for groceries, some of which were for her. It was a weird experience.

First, the shelves at my Albertsons in Casa Linda look like the shelves in a country that is not the richest, most privileged place on the planet. Some items are stocked, others aren’t. You don’t make a shopping list and tick it off anymore; you have a general idea of what you need, and then you just grab what’s available, even if you don’t need it.

Then there is the mask. I’m sure I’ll get accustomed to wearing it. But for my first shopping excursion, I felt claustrophobic. And everyone else, of course, looks like they are about to stick you up and demand your eggs. The variety of masks interested me. Some surgical, some homemade, some just a scarf. I saw a woman in the produce section wearing a rainbow-print mask and I said to her, “Hey, that’s a cool mask.” She looked at me and made a noise I couldn’t classify. It’s hard to tell what someone thinks when you can’t see her face. Did she think I was being sarcastic and that I was homophobic? Ugh. This is what I was worrying about when I was grabbing some romaine and saw a dude riding a Rascal that I nearly got into a fight with.

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Coronavirus

Dallas County Stay-at-Home Order Extended to April 30—And We Don’t Know How Far the Virus Has Spread

| 3 days ago

Editor’s Note: After the meeting, County Judge Clay Jenkins amended the order to extend the shelter-in-place rule only until April 30. Originally, it was set for May 20. The story below has been adjusted.


Dallas County extended its existing disaster declaration until May 20 during its Friday meeting, with its shelter-in-place order lasting through at least April 30. The stay-at-home ruling can be extended if necessary, but County Judge Clay Jenkins wanted Dallas County to work in tandem with the state’s current order, which expires April 30, according to chief of staff Lauren Trimble.

The disaster declaration limits the size of gatherings and the types of businesses that can remain open. Shelter in place requires residents to stay at home except for essential travel.

Yet again, Dallas has established the most stringent rules for its residents of any county in the state of Texas, securing a consensus vote that included Republican County Commissioner J.J. Koch. Expect our neighbors to follow suit, if not the governor. (On Friday, Commissioner John Wiley Price was the only ‘no’ vote, arguing that the economic hardships were hurting his southern Dallas constituents. The Dallas Morning News covered the meeting well.)

Have these measures worked to slow the spread of coronavirus? It’s hard to say. Jenkins hopes it has. At his nightly press conference on Thursday, he noted that the cases confirmed each day—more than 100 on both Wednesday and Thursday, and we learned of another 90 on Friday—are delayed because of the virus’s lengthy incubation time.

“We see the benefit of [staying at home] two weeks later, because the 100 cases that tested positive today, those cases got exposed two weeks ago,” Jenkins said. “So you won’t immediately see the benefit of the whole state being in stay at home and you won’t necessarily see it in a sheer number fashion. The numbers won’t immediately go down. We know we’re at the front of the curve.”

The New York Times published two maps this week that showed the average distance traveled by residents the week of March 23 and tracked the ascending line for total transmissions and death rates. Dallas is indeed at the beginning of the curve, climbing the stairs up to its peak. And who knows where that peak will be?

Jenkins on Thursday night was encouraged by the travel map. North Texas was gray, meaning more people weren’t traveling than in other parts of the state. There are many reasons for this: rural Texans don’t have the luxury of a Kroger at the end of their block or delivery services. They have to move. But Jenkins sees that gray and breathes a bit. He lobbied for extending the shelter-in-place order at the behest of the DFW Hospital Council, which has also advocated for similar statewide policies. They and other experts contend that staying home is the best way not to overrun our hospital systems, giving providers the space to treat all who need it.

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