A Daily Conversation About Dallas


She Came to Fix the Parking

| 10 hours ago

Andreea Udrea isn’t your typical Dallas city staffer. The Romanian-born urban planner studied for her Ph.D. at the University of Turin, in Italy, and spent the first half of her career working in Europe. She taught at the Ion Mincu University of Architecture and Urbanism in Bucharest; helped draft a plan at Bucharest City Hall to remove cars from the historic city center; and founded a research initiative into the life and work of Cincinat Sfintescu, the founding father of Romanian urban planning. Then, in 2015, Udrea made the unlikeliest of career changes: spurred partly by family concerns, she took a job with the city of Farmers Branch.

I first heard of Udrea when I called Oak Cliff Councilman Chad West in November to ask about the city’s ongoing reform of its sorry parking regulations, which the councilman initiated early last year. When he was still chair of the Council’s Housing Committee, West led something of a crusade to overhaul the city’s byzantine permitting process. One city staffer I talked to estimated that 75 percent of the permitting department’s time is spent calculating parking requirements. I was surprised when West told me a quiet catalyst behind the reform movement was a member of the city’s own bureaucracy.

“She’s fantastic,” West said of Udrea, who by then had taken a job in Dallas. “She’s been unleashed on this without the constraints they put on their senior planners.”

Read More


John Peyton Is a Former Judge. Now He’s a Probate Lawyer. You Can Hire Him.

| 11 hours ago

This is a complicated deal. I’ve tried to explain it before. That previous effort nearly caused me to pull a hamstring. So I’m just going to repeat myself from a 2018 blog post:

If you haven’t been following the saga of John Peyton, the disgraced former probate judge, let’s see if I can break it down for you in one sentence. He slept with a lawyer who had a case in his court, and he didn’t recuse himself, which led to a D Magazine story written by Jamie Thompson, which then led to an investigation into the matter by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, in response to which Peyton resigned rather than face possible disciplinary action, but everything was cool for a bit because his fellow probate judges gave him a job as director of probate operations, whatever that is, thereby raising some serious ethical questions because the Court of Appeals sent the case at the heart of that original D story back to the lower probate courts, the ones presided over by the same judges who had rewarded their friend with that cush job. I think that about sums it up.

Well, after six months on the job, Peyton has resigned. His “notice of separation” form indicates that he quit August 16 for a personal reason.

Did you read that closely? Then you are up to speed. And that brings us to today’s update.

Peyton is now a probate attorney at the prosaically named Dallas Probate Attorneys. You know who else is a member of that group? The lawyer with whom he consorted while married to another woman, the lawyer who had a case before his court, the case from which he did not recuse himself. That lawyer’s name is Mary Burdette. There are two other Burdettes who belong to Dallas Probate Attorneys. They are Elliott Burdette and Bradford Burdette. If my math is right, that makes three Burdettes. It appears Peyton has transitioned from the bench to a bed of Burdettes.

My point here? If you have a probate case in Dallas County, why wouldn’t you hire one of the attorneys at a group that is populated by people whom the Dallas County probate court judges have shown they are partial to?

Follow-up question: is there a single judge in the Dallas County probate court system that deserves to keep his or her job? I’m sincerely open to answers to that last question.

Read More

Local News

Leading Off (03/08/2021)

| 13 hours ago

New Groups Should Be Eligible For Vaccine in the Next Few Days. I assume I will be eligible sometime toward the end of May. My parents have both shots, so that’s pretty much all I cared about anyway. Anyway, regardless of what the governor has said, please continue to mask up and keep your distance, and get your shot when your time comes. Let’s get through this as quickly as possible.

Woman Dead, Two Children Injured in Colorado Boulevard Shooting. The kids, 13 and 9, are in “serious but stable” condition. The woman, unidentified, appears to have shot herself, authorities said.

Garland Police Search for Man Wanted in Slaying. Police say Rodrigo Roman Villareal, 40, shot and killed his girlfriend in her apartment while two of her three children were there. The kids, both under 10, were found wandering nearby.

Luka Doncic Gets 8 Points and 8 Assists in All-Star Game Start. More important, he didn’t get hurt. They shouldn’t have played it, but the game was fairly entertaining, especially the second quarter.

Read More


‘Brain in a Bucket’ Story Gets Play on Crime Junkie Podcast

| 3 days ago

Attentive readers might remember D Magazine’s story from 2018 titled “Brain in a Bucket,” by Jessica Pishko. You can go read it for free — for now (hint, hint). The story was about a mother and daughter who were murdered with an axe in New Zealand and the quite possibly innocent husband/father who is serving time for the crime. What’s that have to do with Dallas? Well, a pathologist here, it turns out, played a key role in convicting the alleged murderer, and he (the pathologist) did it, in part, using chicken entrails and a human brain that walked out of UT Southwestern Medical Center. There’s a lot to explain here. Anyway, the very popular podcast Crime Junkie has done two episodes on the New Zealand axe murder, and the second one, which dropped last weekend, brings up our story from 2018. Start with our story. Then listen to the Lundy episodes on your favorite podcatcher, or find them here.

Read More

Local News

Goblin Death Cult Practices Dark Arts on Shores of White Rock Lake

| 3 days ago

Dear readers, the disturbing image you see here was captured two days ago at White Rock Lake. I was on a ride when I spotted this structure at the water’s edge and immediately stopped to record the scene. Here is a closeup shot, so that you can study in greater detail the evidence of what is transpiring in one of Dallas’ most beloved parks. You see the rope, yes? The telltale construction techniques used in the log structure — and we’re not talking algebraic geometry! This is clearly the work of goblins. Or orcs. Or maybe hobbits. Whichever beast built this, the danger this presents to our community needs to be addressed immediately by Chief Eddie Garcia. Forget street racing. Dallas’ real problem is the goblin death cult at the lake.

Read More

Restaurant Business

The Governor Turned Dallas Restaurants Into Enforcers

| 3 days ago
Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to eliminate the mandate that has kept restaurant capacity limited and masks secured to faces sparked concern and baffled a restaurant community that was taken off guard by the sudden evaporation of health-minded measures. Next Wednesday, the statewide order disappears. It marks a shift of responsibility to business owners who will now determine and enforce their own rules. It puts restaurant owners—providers of hospitality—in the precarious position of enforcer.

Immediately, restaurateurs reacted with a flurry of Instagram posts.

“I believe in business and safety. I am here to try to protect our people and my long term interests. For my sake, I am not reopening our dining room for at least another month at @whiskcrepes and until I feel like it. [smiley face emoji],” wrote Julien Eelsen, owner of Whisk Crepes, in a caption.

The post itself—“This week we are still opening 0% of our dining room”—could not be clearer. Eelsen underlined what the business is offering, from patio dining to curbside pickup, catering to provisions packages. Restaurateurs have had to be nimble—and vigilant. The state is loosening its reins. Businesses now have to be firm, without being able to point to a statewide ordinance.

Andrew Savoie, the chef-owner of Resident Taqueria, posted an image of himself donning a mask, with the caption: “Masks on Please!” This followed a post Tuesday that began “I know we are all eager for this to be over …,” but asked that customers still wear masks. The dining room opening will be patient and gradual. The post received almost 880 likes, hundreds more than the usual average, which peaks near 150.

Even small pick-up-only businesses like Moon Child Vegan Cakes wrote: “Texas may have lifted the mask mandate, but our bakery hasn’t. Please continue to sport those stylish masks when picking up your orders. Thank you!” Baker Amaris Riddle obliquely draws attention to something that has become a norm. With our collections of fashion statements, we’ve established a semblance of equilibrium.

It’s stirring the pot again.

Read More

Local News

Leading Off (3/5/21)

| 3 days ago

Cop Allowed to Patrol Despite Being Investigated for Murder. Ofc. Bryan Riser, a 12-year veteran of the Dallas Police Department, was a person of interest in a pair of murders since 2019. Former Chief U. Reneé Hall had been briefed on the matter. Using guidance from investigators with the Department of Justice and the district attorney’s office, the chief allowed Riser to continue to patrol the South Central division. Doing otherwise would, she told the Dallas Morning News, “compromise the murder investigation.” Police didn’t have enough evidence to secure an arrest warrant until this week, when a man accused of murder said Riser paid him to do it. In 2017, a few months after Riser was arrested on a misdemeanor family violence charge—and still allowed to remain on the force—30-year-old Lisa Saenz was found in the Trinity River near downtown by some boaters. She’d been shot. Six months later, a tipster pointed police to three suspects. They were charged with murder. In August of 2019, one of those men told investigators that Riser had paid them to kill Saenz and another 60-year-old man named Albert Douglas. Douglas’ remains haven’t been found. Riser had been the subject of multiple internal investigations, including “escalating or participating” in a disturbance. He’ll keep being paid on administrative leave until an internal investigation is complete. Chief Eddie García said Riser “has no business wearing this uniform.”

ERCOT Overcharged $16 Billion for Electricity. Last week, I learned all about electricity scarcity pricing by talking to two former energy retailers who sold their companies. They were fearful that the state would allow generators to sell electricity at exorbitant rates, which is allowed when supply is low and demand is high. According to an independent market monitor, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas—acting with permission from its oversight body, the Public Utility Commission of Texas—kept prices too high for two days after the storm. What is too high? About $9,000 per megawatt hour, when it was just $50 before the storm. The decision resulted in excess charges of $16 billion, which will surely cause defaults and bankruptcies. We’re already seeing that.

Full Vaccination Effort for Educators Could Take Weeks. State and federal directives now ask counties to add teachers and child-care professionals to the list of eligible vaccine recipients. But the county doesn’t enough vaccine to pull it off. As it stands, County Judge Clay Jenkins is using the 17 FEMA priority ZIP codes to vaccinate educators who live there. The state, it seems, isn’t really communicating with the county about this. Which is super reassuring, especially considering we’re a few days away from the governor’s mitigation efforts flying out the window.

Beautiful Weekend Ahead. Until Saturday, with highs in the low 60s and lows in the 40s, we’ll have to deal with a minor chance of rain. Like, 10 percent today. It’ll be mostly sunny this weekend, with Sunday peaking at 67 degrees. Enjoy it. 

Read More


The Grassroots Group Finding COVID-19 Vaccines in Dallas-Fort Worth

| 4 days ago

Gene Davis was trying to get his parents a vaccine appointment. He called hospitals but found that he had outdated information about which facility was vaccinating and when. It was a lonely experience; how many others felt they existed in an information gap? 

Before the county established its major hubs, Davis created a Facebook group called DFW Covid Vaccine Finder with a few friends to share information about vaccinations. He found that calling smaller pharmacies and providers in towns around Dallas was the most effective. Some locations, such as UT Health in Tyler or a pharmacy in Weatherford, were hosting first-come, first-serve sign up lists that opened at the beginning of the week. He shared what he was learning with the group. What began with just 30 people quickly ballooned to 500 members. 

When the hubs were established, there was significant confusion regarding the sign up process and whether it was OK to share links. Soon came reports of ineligible residents trying to be vaccinated. It resulted in another feud between Mayor Eric Johnson and County Judge Clay Jenkins, though it seems that most of those early issues have been remedied. That confusion made it more difficult for those who were eligible for the vaccine to navigate the bureaucracy. This is where the group came in. 

Read More


Not in 1A or 1B? Here Is One (Ethical) Way to Get Vaccinated

| 4 days ago

The search to become vaccinated against COVID-19 has become a bit more desperate for some after Gov. Greg Abbott announced that he was canceling the state’s coronavirus mitigation efforts. While vaccination hubs are still working their way through the lists of prioritized residents in groups 1A and 1B, volunteering at a vaccination site may get you a dose. 

Dallas County is accepting volunteers at the Fair Park COVID Vaccine Mega Center to fill several roles. They are needed to help residents who have arrived for their scheduled vaccine. Others are asked to direct people around the site to the correct building or door. There is a need for handling paperwork, directing cars, and many other responsibilities, as needed. (You also may get to drive a golf cart.) Cell phones are required to check in and out with QR codes. Bilingual volunteers are also required to handle the same responsibilities. The county also needs medical volunteers who can help with the vaccinations through the Dallas County Medical Reserve Corps

Read More
Page Cached: 2021-03-09 01:30:02 on