Thursday, October 6, 2022 Oct 6, 2022
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A Daily Conversation About Dallas

This morning as I went about my routine—walking the dog, watering stuff in the yard that’s already dead—my earbuds brought me a few different calls by Dallas and New York broadcasters of Aaron Judge’s historic home run at Globe Life last night. Two of the calls I heard included a “case closed” pun. Actually, that’s not really a pun, is it? It’s just an allusion. And it’s a bad one, because judges don’t say, “Case closed.” Police investigators might say that. The dude’s name isn’t Aaron Cops. It’s too cute by half.

You know who didn’t flub an allusion? Hall of Famer Eric Nadel, the Rangers’ radio play-by-play man. Nadel grew up in Brooklyn. That American League home run record that Judge broke? When he was a kid, Nadel saw Roger Maris set the record. So this was a big moment for him. And he absolutely nailed it.

When I saw the video below of Nadel making the call, it impressed me in a way that went beyond how the audio alone hit me. From hearing just the audio, maybe I expected Nadel had come out of his chair. That’s the excitement I heard in his voice. But seeing the video, you get a better idea of what goes into a call like that.

He remains seated because he’s watching a monitor and the field while also taking a moment to consult the notes on his desk. You can see the on-field action on Nadel’s monitor, so you can appreciate when he decides to let the crowd noise play without embellishment, when he decides to jump in. The Yankees “pour” out of their dugout; it’s a great verb. As they congratulate Aaron, they don’t do it at home plate; Nadel calls it “the dirt circle around home plate.” The rhythm is pleasing, and it better evokes the image. There’s just so much going on in this short clip, and Nadel handles it all like a man in total control of his craft.

Ladies and gentlemen, Eric Nadel is the best. I rest my case.

Hensley Field, 738 acres near the city’s western border with Grand Prairie, has for more than two decades been where the city puts the things it does not know what to do with. It’s housed over a thousand old police cars, a dog whose owner was infected with Ebola, and the old statue of Robert E. Lee that was removed from Oak Lawn Park.

On Thursday, the City Plan Commission will be briefed on a master plan for Hensley Field that was developed by city staff and Austin-based McCann Adams Studio. The latter was hired by the city to plot the area’s mixed use future; it previously transformed Austin’s former Robert Mueller Municipal Airport into a 700-acre community development.

The city of Dallas has wanted to develop the land since the Base Closure and Realignment Act of 1990 formally ended all U.S. Navy operations there. Today, Hensley Field falls in a designated Opportunity Zone, part of a federal program that offers tax incentives to developers in working in specific neighborhoods identified by the state.

The draft master plan is 59 pages of ambitious goal setting for a lot of land that may still have a lot of secrets. The Navy’s operation left toxic waste in the soil that must be remediated. It was once home to indigenous tribes like the Caddo, Comanche, Cherokee and Wichita, and the city’s re-use and redevelopment plan discusses the potential for discovering artifacts related to those Native Americans. There are also historic structures and a historic cemetery on the site.

It’s an ambitious draft plan that envisions a whole new neighborhood sprouting from nothing.

You know the drill by now, not even a week into the State Fair of Texas. Photographer Jason Janik is at Fair Park, wandering the grounds, bringing back the little moments that make the fair so fun. Today, he’s hanging with the caricature artists and the families who flock to the Midway for them. We’ll be at the fair through October 23. Catch all of our coverage right here.

Local News

Leading Off (10/5/22)

Matt Goodman
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Billy Chemirmir Trial Continues. The 49-year-old who has been indicted on nearly two dozen counts of robbing and murdering elderly victims is facing his third trial; one ended in a mistrial and the other secured his conviction and a sentence of life without parole. Opening statements began Monday in the death of 87-year-old Mary Brooks, with jurors hearing a taped interview with a 91-year-old woman who has since died. She told officers in 2018 that a man wearing green gloves had tried to smother her with a pillow and take her jewelry. Chemirmir faces 22 counts of capital murder, mostly in senior living communities in Collin and Dallas counties.

Aaron Judge Breaks American League Home Run Record in Arlington. Judge made light work of his 62nd home run, blasting it into the shallow left field stands during his lead-off bat on Tuesday night. Roger Maris’ standing 61 homers had only been beaten by players taking steroids, which the MLB would like us all to conveniently forget about.

Ken Paxton’s Feet Didn’t Save Him From Testifying. Paxton and his wife, state Sen. Angela Paxton, packed into a truck and fled a federal process server last week who was trying to serve the Texas Attorney General a subpoena to testify during a challenge to the state’s abortion law. (Paxton says he feared for his safety.) A federal judge on Tuesday ordered Paxton to clarify how his office plans to enforce possible fines and prison time for people seeking, providing, or aiding in abortions.

Matt Hillyer is one of dozens of musicians playing the State Fair of Texas this year. Photographer Jason Janik captured him playing near the Wine Garden, where he’ll set up every Monday that the fair is in session. Hillyer, of Eleven Hundred Springs, was one of our picks for the must-see concerts during the fair’s three-week run. Head here to help inform your schedule.

Local News

Break-In Forces the EPA To Quickly Demolish the Toxic Lane Plating Site

Bethany Erickson
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Lane Plating Works has been an EPA Superfund site since 2018. It will finally be demolished within the next seven months. Bethany Erickson

Lane Plating Works has been perched on Bonnie View Road since 1950 and it’s still there, despite the property being so toxic that federal and state environmental agencies had to intervene in 2018. But all of that may change within months, the agency told community members in a September meeting.

The Environmental Protection Agency said it recently found evidence that the building was being used for shelter at times, and that a “yellow cloud” of dangerous hexavalent chromium was stirred up whenever someone entered the vacant building.

That prompted the agency to advance its timeline for remediating the property in what it calls a “time-critical removal action,” which will see the building and the most contaminated soil removed within months.

The former electroplating facility closed when the company filed for bankruptcy in 2015. It was added to the roster of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund sites in 2018. (A Superfund site is part of an environmental program that addresses abandoned hazardous waste sites.) The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the federal agency found evidence in 2016 that the company had contaminated the land upon which it sits with the byproducts of its business—dangerous waste in the form of hexavalent chromium, arsenic, lead, and more.

A 2016 report from the EPA said that nearly 94 tons of toxic waste was carted from the site, and a TCEQ report the following year found that they could not find accurate summaries from the company regarding its hazardous waste disposal, saying that the company “copied and pasted the same annual waste summaries for the last three years of operation.”

Local News

City of Dallas Looks to Restore Hours at Its Libraries, Starting in Vickery Meadow

Ian Kayanja
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The Vickery Park Branch Library is an important service provider for hte Vickery Meadow neighborhood in North Dallas. City of Dallas

The city of Dallas only owns one recreational building in the North Dallas neighborhood of Vickery Meadow, the Vickery Park Branch Library. That desert of public buildings east of Central Expressway and Park Lane makes that library an integral place for the community.

It is not merely a provider of books. It is a provider of language classes, GED training, music classes, and a community heating and cooling center that springs to life amid unexpected tragedy or severe weather. The grayish building is shaped like an ellipse with a looping courtyard. Inside is filled with computers, hot spots, printers, and books. In times of need, this is where residents can access water and air conditioning. It “meets those that it serves at their points of need,” says Patricia Ramirez, the Vickery Park Branch Library manager.

To the east of the library, across Ridgecrest Road, are Jack Lowe Sr. Elementary School and Sam Tasby Middle School. To the north is a church. Scattered in all directions are apartment complexes and homes, filled with residents who often walk to the library for its books, services, internet access, or a place to rest. Much like the various libraries across the Dallas area, it’s a community building. A hub.

During the pandemic, the Vickery library changed just as the rest of the Dallas Public Library system did. Fearing a downturn in tax revenue, the city manager adjusted the budget by cutting funding and hours to the city’s libraries. They were no longer open seven days a week.

As a result, staff levels dropped and so did the opportunities for the library to provide for the community.

Now two years later, the Dallas City Council last week unanimously approved a budget that expanded library hours at 15 branches around the city from five days a week to six. Vickery Meadows’ library will be the first to return to seven-day service through an amendment proposed by its council member, District 13’s Gay Donnell Willis.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas and Southwestern Health Resources have settled their dispute just hours before the contract was set to expire, relieving an estimated 230,000 Blue Cross members across North Texas who were nearly left without their in-network physician.

The resolution arrived on the day the contract would expire, much in the same way other disputes between SWHR and BCBSTX resolved in 2016 and 2018. The terms of the multi-year contract are confidential.

Last week, Blue Cross sent an email to brokers saying that SWHR was requesting a $900 million increase in reimbursement over the next 32 months, which Blue Cross said was out of line with what other health systems had requested in recent contracts.

The new agreement will keep UT Southwestern and Texas Health Resources providers in the network for BCBSTX’s Par Plan, Blue Choice PPO, Blue Essentials, Medicaid, Medicare Advantage (PPO), Medicare Advantage (HMO), and Blue Advantage HMO members.


Q&A With Two Freaks: Ben and Skin

Tim Rogers
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Photo by Elizabeth Lavin

“So. Where were we?”

With those words at about 3 p.m. yesterday, Mike Rhyner came out of a 1,000-day retirement and launched a new Dallas radio station, 97.1 The Freak. If you checked out the podcast with Rhyner that we dropped yesterday, you know that he credits Ben Rogers and Skin Wade with catalyzing this whole operation. Since they do their first Freak shift today, starting at 11 and aided by Krystina Ray and Michael Gruber, I thought we’d do some Qing and Aing with the lads. I interviewed them over text. Enjoy:

TIM: In our podcast, Rhyner called you guys “hustlers.” What does that word and Rhyner’s use of it mean to you?

BEN: I think he means that we’ve been scrappin’ our asses off to chase the illusive dream of working in radio. When we last worked with Rhynes, we were at the end of The Ticket bench. In the 14 years that have passed since then, we’ve been at Live 105.3, The Fan, 103.3 ESPN, back at The Fan, The Eagle, and now 97.1 The Freak. But we’ve never been fired; we’ve just stayed steady hustlin’. Always thinking ahead. Always networking. Always plotting our course.

SKIN: Well shit, I was gonna say he likens us to Huggy Bear, but Ben’s answer seems to make more sense.

TIM: Here’s the way I see it: y’all are Buddy Pine from The Incredibles. You were the biggest fan of The Ticket until you were denied a full-time slot there. Then you came back as Syndrome, and now you are using zero-point energy to throw the Catman of the Americas all over downtown, seeking your revenge. Am I close?

Local News

Leading Off (10/4/22)

Tim Rogers
By |

Rangers Lose. But at least they avoided giving up a homer to Aaron Judge, who is running out of time to break his tie with Roger Maris. Three more home games against the Yankees (starting with a double header today), and this Rangers season mercifully draws to a close.

Blue Cross and Texas Health Resources and UT Southwestern Still Don’t Have a Deal. About 459,000 patients could find themselves out of network if an agreement isn’t reached between the insurer and the healthcare system. The deadline is today.

Tillerson Testifies in Federal Trial. The former Exxon chief who called Trump a moron while serving as secretary of state, testified in the New York trial of Tom Barrack, the one-time chairman of Trump’s inaugural committee. Barrack is accused of leaking intelligence to the UAE.

City Council Committee Opposes Oncor Rate Hike. Oncor wants to raise rates by 11 percent, even though it made a profit last quarter of $126 million. Dallas is set to join 168 other cities to ask the state’s Public Utility Commission to deny the increase.

State Fair of Texas

State Fair Photo of the Day: 10/3, Painting Lady

Bethany Erickson
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Patricia Rodriguez paints some custom art onto a new Acura, as part of a DFW Acura Dealers local art competition at the State Fair of Texas. Jason Janik

The State Fair of Texas has been open for three whole days, and photographer Jason Janik has been documenting all the action, and will continue to capture those moments big and small that showcase the excitement around the event.

Today, we see Patricia Rodriguez painting custom art on an Acura MDX as part of the DFW Acura Dealers live art contest outside the Centennial Building. Local artists Rodriguez, Jose May, Isaac Daniel Davies, Art Lab 3000, and Hatziel Flores were tapped to compete, and voting on their work will go from Oct. 5-23.

 Go here for all of our fair coverage, and we’ll see you at the State Fair.


Mike Rhyner Returns to Radio With 97.1 The Freak

Tim Rogers
By |
Photo by Elizabeth Lavin

Mike Rhyner retired in early 2020 after a storied 40-year career in Dallas radio during which he played a huge role in launching The Ticket and creating a radio format that has been copied around the country. Zac Crain profiled Rhyner when he stepped away from the mic. We did a podcast with him, too (recorded in Main Street Garden, because we were just getting accustomed to Covid).

Now, ladies and gentlemen, Rhyner is back. Richie Whitt broke the news on a week ago. The Eagle is switching formats and rebranding as The Freak, as of 3 p.m. today. Whitt got nearly everything right, missing on only the detail about the new station being a sports talk joint; it’s not. As Rhyner told us on an episode of EarBurner that we recorded before the news broke, The Freak won’t be a sports station. It’s free-form talk, unlike any other station in this market.

Rhyner will hold down the 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. shift, with a show called The Downbeat co-hosted by Mike Sirois. Michael Gruber will run the board. (Lots of Mikes, right?) Ben Rogers and Skin Wade, whom I profiled last year, will move to middays and bring Krystina Ray with them. Those two lads deserve much of the credit for this concept. Rhyner calls them “hustlers,” in the best sense of the word. Jeff Cavanaugh will do morning duty. There are other names still in play.


As you can see from the magazine stories we’ve written about some of the folks involved, Zac and I have relationships with these people. Those relationships led to a bit of access. We signed an NDA that allowed us to record this podcast with Rhyner on September 16, on the condition that we hold it until the launch of the new format, which, again, happens today at 3 p.m.

On the podcast, we talked with Rhyner about who convinced him to come out of retirement, how to fix the Cowboys (remember: this conversation took place after the season-opening loss), what made him move out of downtown Dallas after living there for a decade, and why you’re never too old to wing it. Oh, and we talked about jorts. You can listen via the player below, or you can use whatever podcatcher floats your boat.