Sunday, May 22, 2022 May 22, 2022
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A Daily Conversation About Dallas

City Manager T.C. Broadnax briefed Council this week on how he plans to finally fix Dallas’ broken permitting process, which has been in various stages of disarray for over two years. Residential builders say it’s still taking eight to 10 weeks to get needed approvals. Phil Crone, the president of the Dallas Builders Association, says that every other city in North Texas processes those same permits in two to three weeks.

Commercial developers are harder to pin down because of the variety of their projects, but Linda McMahon, the head of the The Real Estate Council, says she receives “a daily barrage of emails” from brokers and smaller developers who can’t figure out why their permits aren’t moving quicker.

Broadnax’s presentation on Wednesday was supposed to bring clarity on what is to come. And he did present a plan. But that solution contained no metrics by which to gauge success. It is still not clear what the city believes is an appropriate amount of time for processing commercial and residential permits so builders can get to work.   

Broadnax also argued that the issue had been overblown by the media and the development community. He says people now approach him at parties to ask when the permitting problem is going to be fixed—something that used to be an in-house complaint among the developer community has now gone public. “That’s not a good party feeling,” he said.

The city manager estimated that processing times would be back to normal—“the good old bad days,” as he called it, which came accompanied with no numbers or timeline to define what those “gold old bad days” really entailed—early next year. In the conversations I’ve had with builders, consultants, and council members, they took his attitude like this: little to see here, we’re on top of it, and why are we even talking about this?

Why are we talking about this? Here is an anecdote from one homeowner I spoke to.

First, I’d like to make it clear that I am in no way suggesting that I’m an American hero who deserves a statue erected on the Santa Fe Trail and probably even a namesake burger at the soon-to-open Casa Linda Rodeo Goat. Nothing of the sort. I am just a humble journalist with a pricey All-City bicycle, a roll of duct tape, and a strong desire to make Dallas an even better place.

On Monday, I strapped my phone to my helmet and road the Santa Fe Trail bicycle and pedestrian detour, near the south end of White Rock Lake. Tuesday, I posted a video that showed how dangerous the detour was. Today, TxDOT sent out a press release and a map (above) announcing that they’d changed the route, taking it up Tucker Street.

Did I save a life? Of course it’s impossible to say. But if I’m being honest, I probably saved the life of a 6-year-old girl who will grow up to cure cancer. So, yes, it was worth it.

(OK, kidding aside: I wasn’t the only one who made noise about this. Folks were writing to City Council members. There was significant chatter on social media. This was a group effort. Kudos all around. And the Tim Rogers should be a turkey burger on wheat with Yellowbird sriracha.)

Podcasts

EarBurner Podcast: Joaquin Zihuatanejo, the First Poet Laureate of Dallas

Matt Goodman
By  |
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Joaquin Zihuatanejo, Dallas’ first-ever poet laureate.

Come June, Dallas poets—young, old, whoever you are, so long as you have a tie to Dallas proper—will be able to schedule a time to sit down with the city’s first-ever poet laureate. Joaquin Zihuatanejo plans to have two spaces at the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library: one, “an open-air community table”; the other, an enclosed office.

Poetry can be intensely personal, and sometimes the words aren’t ready for others. But, Zihuatanejo says, “the real secret to poetry is revision.” That is where he comes in, and he believes the city stands to benefit greatly from it.

He joined us at the Old Monk to discuss what it means to be the first poet laureate of the city of Dallas. The program was spearheaded by Deep Vellum Publishing’s Will Evans, who couldn’t believe that McAllen had a poet laureate and Dallas didn’t. (Plus, we had to beat Fort Worth.) Soon, he attracted interest from the Dallas Public Library and the city’s Office of Cultural Affairs.

Zihuatanejo was one of 21 applicants. His pitch stood out because of his vision for uplifting the poetry scene here. He wants local poems on buses and at schools and businesses. He calls this “poetry on the go,” but it’s really a way to expose more of the public to work that’s being done in the community. Those poems would include the poet’s name and the neighborhood they most identify with.

He wants kids from South Oak Cliff to see their neighborhood next to the words. Maybe it sparks a possibility.  

Zihuatanejo grew up in Old East Dallas. He’s had a long history in the Dallas poetry scene, attending slam nights at Club Clearview where he’d have to shout over the band in the other room. He won the 2008 World Poetry Slam in Charlotte, which booked him a trip to the World Cup of Poetry Slam in Paris. He beat poets from 13 other countries. His final work, which also used sign language, earned him a perfect score—besting the runner-up by a tenth of a percentage point.

He argues that North Texas has a rich poetry history. UNT is one of only about a dozen or so colleges in the country that offer a master’s program with a concentration in poetry. “People are dedicating years and years of their lives studying poetry and then settling in Dallas,” he said.

He views his role as a connector, bringing poetry into the everyday lives of the people who live here. He’s completely at home belting out a poem in the bar—as you’ll hear—and making it feel like the exact setting in which that should happen.

Listen below, and stick around after his reading to hear all of our thoughts on how the Mavericks can claw their way back in Game 2 tonight.

Local News

Leading Off (5/20/22)

Matt Goodman
By  |

Steven Aubrey Indicted in Tobolowsky Murder. Aubrey was long suspected in the murder of prominent Dallas lawyer Ira Tobolowsky, who was beaten and burned to death in his garage. Aubrey proclaimed his innocence in the press but refused to talk to investigators when they wanted to question him six years ago. He was arrested in Florida; it sounds like the pieces started to add up. He had burns on his hands a week after the killing. Investigators found a drill and ignitible liquids in his home; investigators had found a hole in Tobolowsky’s fence that someone used to spy on him. Aubrey was formally indicted Thursday on one count of capital murder. I highly recommend revisiting Jamie Thompson’s 2017 D cover story about the slaying.

Dallas Police Have Persons of Interest in Shooting Death of OU Player. Du’Vonta Lampkin, 25, was shot and killed in a downtown apartment earlier this month; some of his property was taken. Police on Thursday released surveillance footage of two men exiting the elevator and returning with a designer backpack that was missing from the scene.

More Reckless Driving in North Oak Cliff. A speeding minivan smashed into a stop sign on its way into the home of Sarah Mazariegos, at 12th and Clinton in Winnetka Heights. There have been 81 crashes on this portion of 12th since 2019. Mayor Pro Tem Chad West is putting together a task force to address the matter. A similar incident on Jefferson led to a traffic-calming strategy that reduced speeding and wrecks without affecting travel times.

Cold Front Coming. We’ll get back to normal temperatures early next week, with a cold front plunging us from the mid-90s to the high 70s and low 80s. That’ll begin overnight Saturday into Sunday.

Local News

Superintendent Vacancies Statewide Might Mean Shuffling At Dallas ISD’s Central Office

Bethany Erickson
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Dallas ISD's Linus D. Wright Administration Building.

The good news, as we reported last night, is that Dallas ISD trustees named current Austin ISD superintendent Stephanie Elizalde its lone finalist to replace Michael Hinojosa. He announced his intention to retire in January.

The bad news is, there is now a scenario where there might be some shuffling at district headquarters this summer.

Let me preface this by saying that I have no knowledge of anyone’s career intentions, but I do know the landscape statewide, where there are roughly 51 open superintendent positions that include Richardson ISD (where the application process will start June 1), Fort Worth ISD (where the process is still in the public input phase), San Antonio ISD, and now Austin ISD.

Almost a quarter of superintendents nationally have quit in the past year, American Association of School Administrators director Dan Domenech told The Hechinger Report. The typical turnover is around 15 percent. 

Yesterday we stumbled into what I think is a pretty good trivia question. Mike “The Looch” Piellucci was working on a post about the silliness of Mayor Eric Johnson’s campaign to bring an NFL franchise to Dallas proper (as opposed to Arlington). An early draft of the post contained language about how the Dallas Open is actually in University Park. You know, because the tournament is played at SMU’s mellifluously named Styslinger/Altec Tennis Complex, and everyone knows that nearly all of the SMU campus is in UP (with one building on the other side of Central, in Dallas).

So the trivia question is as follows: in which municipality is the Dallas Open played? And here’s how I think most people would screw up the question: “Well, it can’t be in Dallas, because then this wouldn’t be a good trivia question. Oh, I know! It’s played in UP, because that’s where SMU is. [thinks for a second] Hang the hell on. No, no, no. SMU’s tennis complex actually sits south of Mockingbird, which is the northern border of Highland Park. Bingo! I got it! The Dallas Open is played in Highland Park.”

WRONG.

I had to check with SMU’s PR folks yesterday to make sure I understood this correctly. Even they didn’t know off the top of their heads. The PR folks had to check with other folks. Eventually all those folks confirmed what Google Maps suggested: that triangular sliver of land under the tennis complex actually sits in Dallas. So the Dallas Open is, in fact, played in Dallas.

Isn’t this the most amazing thing you’ve read all week? You’re welcome.

P.S.: We’re trying hard (at least I am) to get The Looch to stick as a nickname for Mike. Do what you can to help.

Basketball

What We Saw, What It Felt Like: Mavs-Warriors, Game 1

Iztok Franko
Mike Piellucci
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Game 1 was one long flex for the Warriors. Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

The playoffs are complicated. Each series is its own story, and each game is its own chapter encompassing a dozen moments and plot points. But the playoffs can also be simple. Each of those moments, those plot points, falls into one of two buckets: the things we observe and the emotions they inspire within us. That’s what we’re here to talk about.

What We Saw 

We are used to this by now. After every Mavericks playoffs high comes a low. So of course a historic Game 7 victory would be followed by another demoralizing blowout in the series opener against the Warriors.

While it’s difficult to feel upbeat after such a lopsided loss, these Mavericks showed us they can and will bounce back quickly. After all, they followed two 20-point blowouts in the previous series with great comeback wins. The first half wasn’t even that bad; Dallas just couldn’t make any shots. Luka Doncic scored 18 points in the first half, but the rest of the group went four for 22 from the three-point line. Half those were lightly contested or uncontested per Second Spectrum tracking data. In other words, the looks were there. 

Then, like in Game 5 in Phoenix, the Mavericks just fell apart in the third quarter. Doncic, rattled by the Warriors’ pressure, scored only two points and had six turnovers after the break in what was probably his worst playoff showing.

Former President Praises Ukrainian Leader, and Then… Former President George W. Bush spoke at an event held at his presidential center at SMU Wednesday, comparing the Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy to Winston Churchill. He also made a bit of a gaffe when talking about Putin’s “wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq, I mean, Ukraine,” then shrugging and muttering, “Iraq, too.”

Microsoft Teams Meeting Takes a Lifesaving Turn. Laurie Enright and Vicki Dennis, who are colleagues at UT Southwestern’s Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute, were having their weekly Teams meeting when Enright’s aneurysm burst, and Dennis’ quick thinking got her coworker medical help in time.

The City of Keller Switches To a Four-Day Workweek. The city announced that some employees (including employees at Keller Town Hall, some municipal services, and the records department of the Keller Police Department) will be able to take part in a trial period for a four-day workweek, starting May 28.

Dallas County On Track for Record Number of Home Appraisal Protests. Ken Nolan, Executive Director of the Dallas Central Appraisal District, says that the previous record two years ago of 178,000 protests will almost certainly be surpassed “in the next couple of days.” The deadline to file a protest was May 16, or 30 days from the date you received the notice.

If all goes as planned, Dallas ISD’s new superintendent will be an extremely familiar face, and one that has a couple of years of experience at the top spot under her belt.

In a called meeting Wednesday night, the district’s board of trustees (including new trustee District 4 trustee Camile White) unanimously named Dr. Stephanie Elizalde as its lone finalist to replace Dr. Michael Hinojosa, who announced his retirement in January. Elizalde had served as the district’s chief of school leadership before decamping to Austin ISD in July 2020, where she served as superintendent.

Since January, the board has been focused on a timeline that would name a finalist by summer, so that the new hire could be on deck for the first day of school.

Sports

Why Mayor Johnson’s Sports Committee Will Likely Be a Wild Pitch

Mike Piellucci
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Mayor Eric Johnson, speaking during the State of the City address in 2019.

Mayor Eric Johnson is on a kick about attracting more pro sports teams to Dallas, so he did what politicians dependably do: form a committee. The Ad Hoc Committee on Professional Sports Recruitment and Retention, to be specific, promises to do a whole lot of assessing, analyzing, and strategizing to bring more pro sports franchises and events to Dallas after too many years of losing out to the suburbs.

Which is sound enough in theory. Johnson seems particularly riled up about this, too. A couple weeks back, he tweeted at CBS that Dallas should have its own pro team because of how much our region—not our county—has grown. He pointedly deployed asterisks in a memo announcing the new committee, noting that the *Dallas* Wings and *Dallas* Cowboys do not, in fact, play their games in Dallas. Give him an A-plus for vigor.

It’s the follow-through that’ll be the issue. Because while the announcement is brimming with can-do attitude, it’s hard to envision what this will accomplish.

Basketball

Fifteen Years Later, It’s Time For Luka to Finish What Dirk Started: Beat the Warriors

Zac Crain
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A different generation of Mavericks and Warriors will pick up the story from 2007. Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

I’m a writer and editor by trade, and I devote a fair amount of my free time to reading. To put it another way: I spend most of my days thinking about stories. Given that, it is only natural that I have come to believe in the power of narrative more than most.

I believe in hero’s journeys. I believe in flashbacks and foreshadowing, tying off a loose end, the satisfaction that comes with closing a loop several years down the line. I believe in revenge!

Local News

Leading Off (5/18/22)

Matt Goodman
By  |

Dallas Hate Crimes are Underreported. That’s the belief of the FBI, which said that the police department’s total—nine in 2022—doesn’t make sense with the “deep fear” in communities of color here and elsewhere. The FBI is openly questioning the police department’s statistics a few days after Police Chief Eddie Garcia had to walk back his declaration that a recent shooting was not a hate crime. “We know that it has to be more than nine,” Dallas FBI spokeswoman Melinda Urbina told The News’ Jamie Landers. “We see the fear, we see what they’re fearing, so why are we not seeing it reflected in the numbers we’re looking at?”

Dallas Mayor Doubles Down on Sports. Mayor Eric Johnson announced the creation of a City Council committee that will do what it can to retain the pro sports we have while attracting others. It’s now just over two weeks since he took to Twitter with his desire to bring an NFL franchise to town. The committee has stated goals like reinvesting in Fair Park’s venues while figuring out ways to lure teams like the Dallas Wings to town. Mike will have something more on this later today. Let’s hope this committee takes heed to the warnings in other major tax giveaways—we don’t want to be Arlington.

Abbott Won’t Budge on Pot. The governor at a business roundtable in North Richland Hills said he would go no further than making marijuana possession a Class C misdemeanor. A new poll found most Texans support legalizing it.