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Local News

New Street Art Effort in the Cedars Allows Artists to Tell Stories on a Large Scale

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Titled .222 Free In The Streets, Claudia Maysen says she drew inspiration for her new mural from another series of work she began two years ago after the Uvalde shootings. Courtesy Claudia Maysen

The Cedars has long been an enclave for artists just south of downtown Dallas. A new grassroots effort to beautify the area gave artist Claudia Maysen the opportunity to bring an earlier drawing to life on a larger scale. 

Cedars resident Madison Mask has been matching local artists with neighborhood spots that could use a little color. Most recently, he connected Maysen and property owner Herschel Alan Weisfeld, who volunteered a wall at Lear Street and Park Avenue.

Maysen says she frequently explores social issues in her art. Her mural was part of a body of work she began after the Uvalde massacre at Robb Elementary, which occurred two years ago today. Titled .222 Free In The Streets, the piece reflects on the ubiquity of the weapon at the center of the deadliest school shooting in the state’s history.

“I studied the legally-bought AR-15 ammunition used in mass shootings, its use as a symbol of freedom, how common it is to find it in our neighborhoods, and the ironic resemblance that these bullets have with flowers once they explode,” she says. “The centerpiece of this mural is a large format print of a drawing I made of an expanded .223 Remington round.” 

Stars Lose in Double Overtime. Your Dallas Stars are in a 1-0 hole to the Edmonton Oilers in the battle for the west. Connor McDavid scored early in the second extra period to narrowly escape with the win. Here’s what the Edmonton Journal typed up in the early hours of Friday morning: “First blood in the Western Conference Final is green.” Those Edmontonians value brevity. StrongSide will have more shortly, and game two is tomorrow at 7 p.m.

Success Story in East Oak Cliff Apartment Complex. Sharon Grigsby drives over to 3550 East Overton Road to survey how the police chief’s violent crime plan transformed Dallas’ top “hot spot” for violence into a “tidy, safety-conscious, and family-friendly operation.” It’s an example of what Chief Eddie Garcia hoped his plan would accomplish; targeting hyper-specific areas of the city would cause the citywide violent crime rate to fall while making communities safer.

Dallas Approves New Parking Meter Rates. The City Council approved a new curb management plan that will hike the cheapest meter rates to $1 per hour and the most expensive up to $6. The city was severely undercharging for meters around town, where the cheapest were still 5 cents an hour. Dallas has more than 3,500 parking meters across town, and areas like Jefferson Boulevard in Oak Cliff, the area around Baylor Medical Center, downtown, and Uptown will be most affected. Deep Ellum will hold tight for two years.

‘Unseasonably’ Warm Memorial Day Weekend. We’ll spend the next three days with highs in the low to mid 90s and a chance for severe storms on Friday. Saturday’s rain looks like it’ll stay north of the metro area, but there’s a slim chance we’ll get some showers.

T.C. Broadnax moved into his Austin offices 17 days ago. Thursday, Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson directed Mayor Pro Tem Tennell Atkins to convene a Council committee “immediately” to discuss denying the former Dallas city manager’s severance pay.

When Broadnax announced his intention to resign in February, it reportedly came after eight council members worked behind the scenes to formally request his resignation. That request could trigger a clause in Broadnax’s contract requiring the city to pay a full year’s salary of $423,246 as severance. 

In a memo to Atkins Thursday, Johnson demanded that the Ad Hoc Committee on Administrative Affairs meet to consider a resolution preventing the new Austin city manager from receiving that payment. 

Johnson has been vocal about his displeasure with the payment. Last week, he asked City Attorney Tammy Palomino to weigh in and appeared on CBS 11 to express his displeasure with the arrangement, too.

It’s a different tone than the one he took on Broadnax’s last day in Dallas City Hall last month. “I think the city of Dallas is better off for our partnership and I want to say thank you, T.C.,” he said. “I just want to tell you I appreciate you.”

That appreciation, it appears, stops short of a year’s pay.

Media

D Magazine Brings Home Two CRMA Awards

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We're up there. Most days.

My body has finally recovered from the one-hour time difference between Dallas and Cleveland to report that, at the annual City & Regional Magazine Association (CRMA) conference that happened over the weekend and Monday, D Magazine won two of the coveted awards at the ceremony that (mostly) closes out the affair.

(I say mostly because a large number of people congregate at the hotel bar after and then a significant, but not quite as large, number go to an offsite bar to continue celebrating each other’s accomplishments. This year it was Joe’s Little Bar & Grill, a proper townie-filled dive.)

The two very deserving winners from our number are creative director Lesley Busby, who won the Illustration and Graphics category, for work that judges said had “panache.” (And a lot of other complimentary remarks, but I wasn’t taking notes.) And Mike Piellucci, sports editor and new father, won for Online Column for his very strong work over at StrongSide. I don’t remember what the judges said about him because I was in charge of relaying results via a group text and I was making fun of how the announcer said his last name (“PIEllucci”) and didn’t realize, like an idiot, that people would take that to mean he won. And thank goodness he actually did.

We faced strong competition in the other categories, but I still think we could have come back with a couple more. Next year!

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Golf

One Member’s Assessment of the Renovated Colonial Course

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The Pritchard men in 1984, from left: father Jim, Jay, Judd, and grandfather Ed

The Charles Schwab Challenge gets going today at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, which, as you might know, recently underwent a $20 million renovation. A friend of mine named Jay Pritchard sent me a text yesterday saying that the new course literally had him in tears. So I asked for more detail. Jay wrote back:

My grandfather joined Colonial in 1958. My dad joined after law school and said it was the closest he and my mom got to divorce because he spent the $1,750 on the initiation fee without telling her. My brother and I have won 13 club championships—as kids and adults, mine all as a kid. Colonial is a big part of our family.

My brother and I are not super tall. In a previous life, my “good friends” on The Ticket nicknamed me Jay the Midget. Enough about us, though. Here is our take on the Colonial renovation.

Gil Hanse restored character to the most historic course in Texas. In his early meetings with membership, Gil was told by Dan Jenkins that Colonial’s course used to be a “dark and scary place” where options and uncertainty would challenge golfers. Gil brought the course from years of sharp lines and manicured edges to a natural river bottom layout that Marvin Leonard and Perry Maxwell envisioned. Gil returned the natural wash areas to the course and lowered green complexes, giving pros and amateurs different options to play every hole.

Colonial once again asks the questions of the player that Maxwell envisioned. The new par 3s bring variety in shot length and shot shape, ensuring that the course doesn’t play the same day after day. Hole No. 8 is an absolute gem, a mirror image of the original hole built in 1936. Removal of bunkering (especially at 4 and 5) allows the amateur player to have some options in playing the hole while removing the certainty of a bail out for the top pros. In the landscape of technology and the bomb and gouge strategy of modern golf, Colonial presents the same challenge to players that Mr. Hogan faced: managing your game around a course as unpredictable as the Fort Worth weather.

My brother and I thank Gil Hanse for lowering the greens so that we can see the PGA Tour players’ putts go in the holes without standing on our tippy toes and for the new comfort stations to rest our tiny little legs.

Local News

Explaining What’s at Stake as Dallas Works to Solve $3.3 Billion Pension Shortfall

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The Dallas Police and Fire Pension has a $3.3 billion hole that the city and the system are trying to plug. dallashabitatphotos/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The hang-up between the city of Dallas and the Police and Fire Pension Fund appears to be a cost-of-living adjustment that was removed in 2017 as the pension inched perilously close to not having enough money to fulfill its obligations.

Multiple sources say the city and the pension are at loggerheads over adding some sort of increase to offset inflation for its beneficiaries. The retirees have filed a motion to appeal a prior suit, which, if they win, could spell doom for the pension’s liquidity. Meantime, the state has given the entities a November deadline to reach an agreement to shore up a more than $3 billion shortfall and create a path to sustainable solvency.

But how did we get here?

Nature & Environment

Plano Keeps Using White Rock Lake as a Toilet

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The highlighted strip shows the path of White Rock Creek, which ends at White Rock Lake.

In March, a Plano wastewater facility operated by the North Texas Municipal Water District malfunctioned and spilled 1.5 million gallons of sewage into White Rock Creek, which feeds into the East Dallas lake. E. coli levels spiked above our capacity to measure them using standard monitoring methods. All that poop forced Dallas to close White Rock Lake to water activities.

Gross, right? But at least it was a one-time thing. Accidents happen.

Not so. Plano has been spilling its sewage on Dallas for years. Newly disclosed records indicate that we might need to change White Rock Creek’s name to Shit Creek.

After the most recent spill—it’s technically called a “sanitary sewer overflow,” or SSO—the Morning News published an op-ed from the executive director of Environment Texas that said five such SSOs in Plano have occurred since 2019. That turns out not to be true.

Someone I know filed an open records request to obtain the investigation report from the March SSO in Plano. That report comes from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, or TCEQ, and you can read it here. It is signed by a TCEQ investigator named Bismark Otorino, which is a name that makes me happy. Bismark wrote: “The City of Plano has reported thirteen (13) SSOs that have impacted White Rock Creek during the record review period of 2019 to 2024.” Thirteen is more than two times five. That is maths.

But wait. That someone I know also got raw data from TCEQ that indicates that since 2017, through March 2024, Plano has crapped in White Rock Creek about 30 times, for a total of nearly 6 million gallons of brown water. To put that in perspective, an Olympic swimming pool contains about 660,000 gallons of water. Which means that if you had to do a backstroke in Plano’s filth, you’d have plenty of filth if you did your swimming in Shit Creek.

White Rock Lake lies in District 9. I called Paula Blackmon, the councilperson who reps that district. Blackmon had to be careful about what she said because the city of Dallas held an executive session in April about Plano’s shit. What happens in executive session stays in executive session. But I can guess that the city of Dallas is thinking about suing Plano for repeatedly SSOing on us. Here’s what Blackmon could say on the record:

“Same shit, different day. They [Plano] are aware that we [Dallas] are not happy and that they need to stop. I did call Plano myself and talked to [Director of Policy and Government Relations] Andrew Fortune. They need to get their stuff working. Bitching and yelling from the highest mountain isn’t going to solve the problem. They need to fix their infrastructure.”

So here we are. Plano has a history of crapping on Dallas. At times, as a result, White Rock Lake is unsafe for humans (and presumably gross for birds). The only solution I can offer? Those of us in Dallas, I suggest we start doing our bottom business in diapers so that we can carry our sentiments upstream and make Plano our Diaper Genie. One good dump deserves another.

Good Sports Night, Part I. Did the Mavericks make it kind of angsty the whole time by waiting until the bitter end to take the lead, even then only taking it by three points? Yes. Did they win despite being beaten at the three-point line? Also, yes. And did I hide in my bedroom for most of the game to help? Very much, yes. (StrongSide will have analysis soon.)

District Goes After Principal for Legal Fees. Grapevine-Colleyville ISD trustees voted Tuesday to recover the legal fees paid in a suit filed by former Colleyville Heritage principal James Whitfield. Whitfield left the district in 2021 after he was accused of “pushing” critical race theory, which he denied. He sued after felt a trustee violated a settlement agreement by allegedly disparaging him. He lost that suit.

Dallas Loses Another Assistant City Manager. Tuesday night, the DeSoto City Council voted to hire Dallas Assistant City Manager Majed Al-Ghafry as its new city manager. Last week, Topeka, Kansas, hired Assistant City Manager Robert Perez to fill its top seat. Interim City Manager Kimberly Bizor Tolbert has already tapped former Sanger City Manager Alina Ciocan to take over Perez’s duties. 

Mavs Owner Enters the Texas Politics Chat. Dallas Mavericks majority owner Miriam Adelson has spent more than $9 million on Texas legislative races, including the GOP runoff for the Beaumont seat occupied by state Speaker of the House Dade Phelan. Phelan has received more than $660,000 from Adelson and one PAC linked to her Sands casino empire, and Adelson has donated another $9 million to the Texas Defense PAC. Phelan faces GOP activist David Covey.

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Local News

New Report Shows Growing Impact of Dallas’ Parks Building Boom

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An overhead view of Creekside Park, one of the many new green additions to the city of Dallas in recent years. Elizabeth Lavin

Later today, Mayor Eric Johnson will announce that Dallas jumped another five spots in the Trust for Public Land’s annual ranking of city park access. More Dallas residents have access to a park within a 10-minute walk from their home than all other Texas cities except for Plano, which has long been atop the state’s rankings. We’re 38th in the country, which is up from 54th in 2019.

About 74 percent of residents now live within that 10-minute radius from a park. Our median park size is 7.8 acres, more than 2 acres above the national median. Much of the credit for this growth goes to the Trust’s Texas chapter, which has become a critical component of policy, advocacy, and execution in building out parks big and small throughout the city.

Last year’s splashiest addition was Big Cedar Wilderness, a 282-acre spread near Joe Pool Lake that had been owned by Liberty Bankers Life Insurance and was donated to the Trust. Trails for hiking and mountain biking snake through the pecan, oak, juniper, and ash trees. But the smaller initiatives have an outsized impact on park access, building the types of neighborhood green space that attract families and connect neighborhoods.

Thunderstorms Coming. Significant rainfall, chunks of hail, and high winds could all be in the cards today and tomorrow. There is a flood watch in effect through Thursday. The National Weather Service says Dallas-Fort Worth has had about 6 inches more rain than usual this year, powered by a wetter-than-expected spring. Rain chances are 60 percent today and 70 percent on Thursday, but the storms turn scattered over Memorial Day weekend. The bad news is it’ll feel like Houston over those three days—hot and humid.

Declining Enrollment at Plano ISD May Result in Closures. Davis Elementary, Forman Elementary, Armstrong Middle, and Carpenter Middle may close to save Plano ISD $5.2 million each year. The district’s enrollment has fallen each year for the past 12, which demographers suggest is a direct result of declining birth rates and the cost of living in what has become an inner-ring suburb.

Photographer Declines to Pursue Assault Charges Against Rashee Rice. This was the weird deal where police said a photographer was summoned back to a downtown club by the wide receiver and attacked upon his arrival. Dallas police say the victim signed an affidavit of non-prosecution and told investigators that he was punched in the face.

Books

Will Evans Is Now a French Knight

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Will Evans with his Chevalier medal and his team. Back, from left: Linda Stack-Nelson, Sarah McEachern, Sara Balabanlilar, S Rodriguez, Noah Mintz; front: Eliana Gala, Evans, Gino Dal Cin Courtesy Deep Vellum

For the May issue of D Magazine, I conducted a hard-hitting Q&A with Will Evans in anticipation of his receiving a high honor from the French government, a knighthood called the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. The Ministry of Culture recognized Will for the 200 or so French books from 13 countries that his Deep Vellum has translated into English. The ceremony took place last night in the library at Babou’s, in the Hotel Swexan (more on the library in a moment).

Mohamed Bouabdallah got things started. He is the cultural counselor of France in the United States and came in from New York to do the honors. Bouabdallah first apologized for disappointing Will for what he called the “chevalier package” of benefits. Referring to my Q&A, he let everyone know that the knighthood would not grant Will speedy access through TSA. Nor would it allow him to cut the line at the Louvre.

I laughed like Robert De Niro playing Max Cady and shouted, “Putain de merde! C’est hystérique! Tu me fais mal aux côtés et mon cœur bat la chamade!” (That’s a lie. I actually just thought, “Pretty cool that the cultural counselor of France in the United States subscribes to D Magazine.”)

Councilmember Cara Mendelsohn wants to change Dallas’ form of government, giving the mayor the power that presently belongs to the city manager. Councilmember Adam Bazaldua would like to not have to wait for the mayor to call meetings into order. Councilmember Paul Ridley wants to double term lengths for the City Council from two years to four.

These are a few of the 17 amendments to the charter proposed by the mayor and council. Every 10 years, the city of Dallas opens up its governing document and lets residents submit changes. These proposed amendments get vetted by a review commission before heading to the City Council for a vote. Voters will weigh in on their decisions this November.

Council had until last Friday to submit their own amendments, which will be considered along with the eight from the public that the commission approved that have been winnowed down by Council. Six of the Council’s proposals involve modifying the powers of the mayor. Under Dallas’ council-manager form of government, the mayor’s true power comes in appointments. His is one of 15 votes, which means he must build a consensus to push through policy. It’s not like in Houston, whose new mayor immediately got to work ripping out streets projects supported by his predecessor because he can.

Bazaldua and Ridley both presented charter amendments to require the Council to vote on the mayor’s appointments to committees. Those are powerful positions that can shape and direct policy. It’s not uncommon for mayors to use the power to reward or punish their colleagues.

Ridley argues for Council approval for the mayor’s chair appointments in order to “eliminate confusion.” Bazaldua’s asks for the Council to ratify all committee appointments and gives the mayor a 60-day deadline to make them. Behind the scenes, multiple council members expressed frustration with how long it took the mayor to make his appointments. Johnson waited two months after the June runoff last year to announce his decision, which typically occurs within weeks of the election as it did in 2021.

“I’m just looking at the charter review process as an opportunity to make our government more efficient,” Bazaldua said in a text message. “I believe these recommendations would help accomplish that.”

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