A Daily Conversation About Dallas

Politics & Government

Introducing the 2019 Dallas Mayoral Candidates

| 1 week ago

Today was the deadline to file to run for office in the May municipal elections. We’ll have a 12-headed mayoral race, almost certainly leading to a runoff between the top two vote getters. Election Day is May 4. You should register. You should vote. Here are the candidates, listed in order of the date they filed to run.

(Note: We rounded these up throughout the day on Friday, and in the wee hours before the 5 p.m. deadline, two more names popped up: Miguel Patino and Heriberto Ortiz. We’ll look into these two. In the meantime, here’s Ortiz’s campaign Facebook page.)

UPDATE: Patino and Ortiz, as well as Stephen Smith—listed below—failed to get the needed signatures and will not appear on the May ballot. We’re down to nine.

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The Making of a $242 Million Verdict

| 2 months ago

Inertia can be dangerous. when a speeding car comes to a sudden stop, its passengers continue their travel forward, toward the windshield, reason for the inventions of seat belts and air bags.

The same inertial properties work against passengers when their car is stationary. When a car is struck from behind and accelerates suddenly, its seats slam into the occupants. If those seats give way, if they’re engineered to give way, the bodies sitting in them can move in surprising ways.

That’s what happened to Kristi and Ben Reavis on a September Sunday in 2016. They were leaving Mockingbird Station, where they’d gone after church because 5-year-old Emily’s footwear was giving her a blister. The girls went to The Gap. The boys, Ben and 3-year-old Owen, headed for a taco spot, where Emily soon came skipping through in brand-new sparkly blue shoes.

After lunch, the parents buckled the kids into the back seat of the Lexus that Kristi had convinced Ben to buy a decade earlier. Emily sat in a booster seat, Owen in a traditional car seat, both facing forward. Ben turned southbound on Central and stayed in the right lane so they could exit on Woodall Rodgers toward downtown, home. But traffic stopped, and Ben had to abruptly brake to avoid hitting the car in front of them. Ben and Kristi gave each other a look like That was close. And then, without so much as a warning sound of screeching tires, their lives changed forever.

Testifying in court last summer, Ben described a nightmare. After the impact, he and Kristi discovered their kids unconscious behind them, the back window of the Lexus blown out. They feared the kids weren’t breathing. Each parent gingerly held a child. Ambulances arrived. A paramedic called out, “We need to go now!” At Children’s Medical Center, Owen was wheeled by, and Ben thought he saw on his 3-year-old son’s pillow a piece of his brain. He was sure the boy was gone. A neurosurgeon arrived, as did a social worker and chaplain. It was surgery for Owen, a procedure for Emily. Medically induced comas. A month in the hospital. Another month in a room at a Children’s Health facility, Ben and Kristi sleeping nearby on an air mattress. In the end: both kids suffered traumatic brain injuries. Permanent damage.

Somewhere in there, a few days after the accident, a young lawyer named Chip Brooker walked into the Reavises’ hospital room and found Ben and Kristi hovering over their children, Emily and Owen sharing a bed.

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The Editors of D Magazine Reflect on Their Favorite Stories of 2018

| 2 months ago

Like last year, I asked the editors to select their favorite stories that ran in the pages of D Magazine—both online and print—in 2018. And oh man so many people loved Holland Murphy’s profile of a feline phenomenon and Kathy Wise’s incredible journey into Bonton Farms. As they should. They’re national-caliber pieces, and I’m incredibly proud to work for a place that published them. Especially with staff photographer Elizabeth Lavin’s lens lending the visuals.

We also put out a 13th issue this year on urbanism and the importance of walkability, smart development, and density have. We explored race and policing, and profiled people on either side of that coin. In our pages, we wrote about boxing gyms being pushed out by development in Oak Cliff, and we went to AT&T Stadium to root on the Mexican soccer team alongside a bunch of nationals.

These things sum up D Magazine. We’ll tackle thorny policy issues on FrontBurner, but people—and their cats—matter, and their stories matter. I think the commentary you find below will show you that we had a great year in terms of journalism, but it will mostly illuminate how dynamic and interesting our community is. We couldn’t tell these stories without you. Here’s to 2019.

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Local News

Harold Simmons Park Reveals a New Plan for the Trinity River

| 3 months ago

Yesterday at noon, we jumped in the car to drive to the other side of downtown to participate in one of the oldest, time-honored Dallas traditions: witnessing the unveiling of yet another grand plan for the future of the Trinity River.

We had been invited to preview a new design for Harold Simmons Park, which is planned to be housed in a 200-acre space between the Ron Kirk Pedestrian Bridge and Interstate 30. The Trinity Park Conservancy, the nonprofit that is overseeing the park’s development, had invited some of the designers to town to unveil the project at Gilley’s in the Cedars. It is a process born of weeks of public meetings and years of plans that have never materialized.

Given the long, troubled history of the project—from botched whitewater features and broken Calatrava Bridges to jugglers under overpasses and vanished dreams of majestic toll roads—it was impossible not to harbor a healthy dose of skepticism heading into the meeting. However, walking into Gilley’s and seeing the rendering of this latest iteration, printed on white fabric, backlit and stretching 60 feet across the length of a western ballroom, it was clear that something about this plan was different than all the plans that had come before.

The sprawling image was not a bird’s eye view of a new Trinity River fantasy, and it didn’t necessarily depict a park, per se, or a refined idea or singular concept for a reimagined Trinity River. Rather, the image showed a long, horizontal cross section of the floodway, a ground-level view of the manmade channel, managed grasslands, and levees that run past downtown Dallas—interrupted, now, by new undulations of terrain, wetlands, side channels, elevated gathering places, a few paths, new access points and pedestrian bridges, and urban-style parks perched up on top of and just beyond the levees.

The designers admitted that this was an early stage mock-up of a wide variety of ideas for a 200-acre subsection of the Trinity floodway. But what was more interesting about the rendering was not the specific improvements it depicted, but how the drafters of the plan had settled on them. All ideas came out of a close consideration of how water moves through the floodway.

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The Era of Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot Is Almost Here

| 3 months ago

Regardless of whether the votes fell for John Creuzot or Faith Johnson, Dallas County’s next elected district attorney was going to lead a much different office than the one they started in.

Both candidates began their careers in 1982, as Dallas County prosecutors during Henry Wade’s notoriously aggressive, 36-year run as district attorney. Yet their battle for the powerful perch atop the county’s justice system came amid a wave of reforms prioritizing “smart on crime” over the time-tested “tough on crime,” changes that are mindful of repairing the damage inflicted by the justice of Wade and other DAs of his era. Reformers want to see a marked reversal in the prison system’s decades of bloat, which disproportionately impacted people of color, and which continued long after Wade left office in 1987. More and more people were sent to jail with every passing year—Texas’ 1978 incarceration rate sat at 182 per 100,000 Texans but rocketed to 710 per 100,000 by 2003.

It spiked over 1,000 for a time, but today sits at 891.

It was Creuzot, the Democrat who eked out a win in the primary without support from national reformers, who won Dallas County. He promised to reduce state jail and prison admissions by 15 to 20 percent within four years. He pumped his well-earned reputation as Texas’ grandaddy of the drug courts, which have reduced recidivism. He leaned on a couple decades of experience with media attention, a lot of it flattering. And after all the ballots were counted, he had won a resounding 60 percent of the vote over the incumbent Republican Johnson.

A few local reporters and talking heads had signaled it would be more competitive. Jason Whitely, who hosts WFAA’s Inside Texas Politics, was one of them. The show had featured each candidate. They told viewers to settle in for a tight one. But the early numbers came in lopsided, and Whitely received a text: “Not sure it’s going to be a long night!” wrote Creuzot.

The week after election night, with my eyes searching the glistening Oak Lawn buildings for the right address, the guy I was after appeared on the sidewalk, walking toward me in a dark suit and Men in Black-ish sunglasses. He was still riding high.

“Butt whooping,” he said after he’d lit a cigarette. “Wasn’t it?”

I asked him to tell me about his background.

“ ’82 to ’89, I was in the DA’s office,” he started. “You want to go back further than that?”

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Local News

In Losing Amazon, Dallas Dodged a Bullet and Gained an Opportunity

| 3 months ago

Third place in a game in which the first and second finishers got the top prize: that’s how close Dallas came to winning the historic relocation of Amazon’s HQ2. But now that the online retail giant has announced it will instead split its second headquarters between New York City’s Long Island City and northern Virginia’s Crystal City neighborhood, we can all breathe a sigh of relief. Dallas dodged a bullet, and the process provides a rare opportunity for the city to reevaluate the type of growth and development it should pursue.

Sure, every civic booster in Dallas was rooting for HQ2. It would have brought with it a projected 50,000 jobs paying a median salary of $100,000, not to mention billions of dollars in new construction. The presence of one of the world’s largest corporations and one of its most pioneering tech companies—run by Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man—promised to transform Dallas’ reputation into a hub for technology business. In addition to the Amazon jobs, analysts suspect, HQ2 will generate thousands of additional jobs at companies and start-ups that desire to be located near the tech giant. In other words, Amazon HQ2 is not simply another major corporate relocation; it is more like an industry relocation.

And that was the problem. HQ2 was just too big. The corporation is so large and influential and yet still growing so rapidly that it could have become the singular force in shaping an uncertain future for our city. Amazon’s HQ2 would have exacerbated existing issues of inequality; warped the housing market; transformed Dallas’ political, social, and economic cultures; and remade Dallas into an image of Amazon’s own dominant corporate identity.

How do we know this? Because that is exactly what has happened in Seattle, and it is one of the reasons why Bezos decided the company’s needed a new city—or, as it turned out, cities—to accommodate its growth. In Seattle, the corporation’s outsized influence on development has created an economic windfall, but it has also caused many growing pains.

In October, when it still looked like Dallas might win the relocation, I headed northwest to understand how the mega-corporation has affected Seattle. Those city’s troubles now read like a vision of a future that could have been Dallas’ own—but which Dallas narrowly avoided.

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