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Local News

Can Neighborhoods Depend on the State to Regulate Nearby Industry? A New Report Asks Just That.

Bethany Erickson
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The GAF shingle manufacturing plant, on Singleton Boulevard in West Dallas.

It’s been a very busy week for government meetings, but one more happened in Austin that is important to the ongoing discussion about equity across urban Texas cities as it pertains to environmental justice.

On Wednesday, the Sunset Advisory Commission met to review a staff report about the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, or the TCEQ.

The Sunset Commission’s job is to evaluate various state agencies and then make recommendations to state lawmakers as to what legislation might need to be enacted or changed to improve them. The TCEQ was last evaluated almost 12 years ago.

The report (which you really should read in full) outlines concerns that the agency had largely ceded control to the industries it was supposed to regulate, allowing them to police themselves. Those are significant concerns: the TCEQ is the backstop to curbing emissions, regulating industries that emit hazardous materials into the air, ground, or water. The commission also dug into whether permitting decisions and oversight were equitable.

“The commissioners’ lack of visibility in and ownership of TCEQ decision making has only inspired further frustration and distrust among both the regulated community and environmental advocates,” the report said.

The commission heard from dozens of Texans, including some from Houston who testified about environmental decisions that often disproportionately impacted neighborhoods of Black and Hispanic residents. If that sounds familiar, it’s because there are several neighborhoods in Dallas—including the neighborhood around the GAF shingle factory in West Dallas—that have pointed to historic zoning and environmental regulations that seem to ignore the health and safety concerns of their neighborhoods. 

But it’s not just Shingle Mountain and the GAF plant that have North Texans concerned about how the TCEQ is regulating industries. 

News

Roe v. Wade Is Overturned. Ramifications Will Hit Far Beyond Abortions.

Matt Goodman
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Jane Roe, aka Norma McCorvey, and Dallas County District Attorney Henry Wade.

The Supreme Court of the United States issued an opinion this morning to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark case that began in Dallas and established the constitutional right to abortion. The 6-3 ruling leaves abortion laws in the hands of the states, where 13, including Texas, have passed “trigger” laws that make abortions illegal at a point after the judgment has been issued. Texas’ trigger law goes into effect 30 days after the judgment is final.

In an advisory, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton notes that the high court issued its opinion on Friday, not its judgment, meaning it’s unclear exactly when the state law will go into effect. Paxton writes that he “will publicly announce an effective date for the Act as soon as possible” after “the window for the litigants to file a motion for rehearing has closed.”

In January, D Magazine published an excerpt from The Family Roe: An American Story, the journalist Joshua Prager’s attempt to find out whatever happened to the baby that Jane Roe had sought to abort. Roe’s real name was Norma McCorvey. The case was decided too late for her to have an abortion. The book is a fascinating look at the city of Dallas in the ’50s and ’60s and the scrappy, marginalized lawyers who worked hard on the landmark case.

Roe v. Wade provided federal protection for five decades against Republican state legislatures that have for years sought to chip away at a woman’s right to an abortion. In the last legislative session, Texas passed Senate Bill 8, one of the nation’s most restrictive anti-abortion laws. It bans the procedure after cardiac activity is detected. That’s generally six weeks, about the time when a woman learns she is pregnant. The Legislature went further, issuing statutory damages of up to $10,000 as bounties for citizens to report doctors who perform the procedure or anyone else who aids in the process.

The Supreme Court’s ruling will affect many women who aren’t seeking abortions. Already, Texas women say they are having trouble finding a doctor willing to prescribe medications like the drug Misoprostol, which softens the cervix and is used in many situations: inducing labor, implanting an IUD, handling a second-trimester miscarriage, and, yes, inducing abortions.

As our Will Maddox reported earlier this month:

Some miscarriages pass without any medication, while others require an operation in the hospital. But many require the same drug that is used in an elective abortion. The Texas law has already created barriers for other non-abortive women’s healthcare, and providers and patients are reporting pharmacists asking more questions than usual when patients pick up their prescriptions about whether they are sure they are no longer pregnant and if the medicine is being used for an abortion.

The bloc of conservative justices on the Supreme Court appears poised to overturn more cases and further erode rights currently guaranteed by law. Writing in his concurrent opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas argues that the high court “should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell.”

Griswold v. Connecticut blocked states from banning contraceptives. Lawrence v. Texas ruled it unconstitutional to prosecute sodomy. And Obergefell v. Hodges legalized same-sex marriage.

As this post was being written, D Magazine told its employees that our downtown office will close early today. We’ve seen information on social media indicating that protestors are mustering online to march on the nearby federal courthouse.

Murder Suspect Arrested After Cutting Leg Monitor. James Moore had been in jail since 2019 for the murder of an employee during a robbery of a South Dallas restaurant. Prosecutors kept punting on the case for a number of reasons, resulting in numerous resets. When prosecutors aren’t ready to try a case while a defendant waits in jail, state law requires a judge to reset bond. So Moore was given house arrest and released on June 17. Soon after, he cut his monitor and fled. He was captured yesterday. Some have tried to put this on bail reform, but that’s not the case. Prosecutors weren’t ready, Moore had been accused of a crime, and state law holds a judge responsible for resetting bond in those cases. Mayor Eric Johnson said he would advocate for a change to the law if necessary.

Mavs Take G Leaguer Jaden Hardy, Await Challenge from Knicks. The New York Knicks spent their draft night offloading assets—both players and draftees—to free up cap space. They’re expected to make a run at the Mavs’ Jalen Brunson, whose star-in-the-making playoff performance drew the eyes of a few teams around the league prior to his pending free agency. The Mavs traded a pair of second rounders to jump into the draft and take the G League Ignite’s Jaden Hardy early in the second round, who struggled with his shot last year but has potential.

Spectrum Was Negligent in Hiring Employee Who Killed. A Dallas County jury ordered the cable TV conglomerate to pay 90 percent of $375 million to the family of Betty Thomas, an 83-year-old who was fatally stabbed by a technician working at her home. In December 2019, Roy James Holden did a job at Thomas’ home and returned the next day, stabbing her with a company-issued knife and driving a company van. He stole her credit cards and used them in a “spending spree.” Attorneys say the company dropped its pre-employment screening program after it acquired Time Warner in 2016.

Weekend Will Feel Like 108. Not much more to say there, folks. Enjoy your summer.

Local News

The City Council Passed an Event Promoter Ordinance That Still Needs ‘Massaging’

Bethany Erickson
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Permitted venues will likely be exempt, but DIY shows like this one might have trouble getting off the ground with Dallas’ new promoter ordinance. Taken in June 2019, at Transit Bike Shop’s closing party.

Nobody on the City Council—or in the weeks leading up to it—debated that Dallas needed to do something to address un-permitted gatherings after a pair of them recently ended in shootings. Those included an outdoor concert in southeast Oak Cliff, where two people were killed and another 16 were injured, and a spring break party in South Dallas this spring, where 10 people were injured in a shooting.

But what happened Wednesday was something not often seen: a City Council so ready to pass an ordinance that it did so despite everyone universally acknowledging that it wasn’t fully baked.

In fact, the word “massage” was used a lot.

There were 10 public meetings in a month. People in the events industry still have a lot of questions, which resulted in some minor tweaks and language clarifications. Still, 11 people signed a letter to the City Council prior to the vote asking to slow down and get more input. They didn’t say, “Don’t pass a promoter permit ordinance.” What they asked for was, “Hey, let’s maybe make sure this makes sense and doesn’t penalize people who have been doing the right things all along.”

In the letter, the group said that the process was rushed; the first inkling of what the ordinance would look like didn’t arrive until May 7. 

“If passed in its current form, this ordinance would adversely impact Dallas’ economic and cultural vibrancy in ways we cannot currently calculate due to its ambiguity,” the letter read. “As event promoters, producers, organizers, creators, and advocates, we are writing to ask that consideration of this ordinance be postponed to a later date to allow for additional community engagement and revisions.”

They also said the ordinance was “overly reactive,” and duplicated existing measures already in place to regulate events in the city.

The ordinance requires commercial promoters to register with the city and pay a $175 fee. An event would also need a safety plan signed off on by the promoter and the venue. A contact person that can be reached immediately in the event of an emergency is also required, and the promoter must provide an estimate of how many are expected to attend and how they plan to manage the crowd.

The ordinance addresses events like dance shows, concerts, and other performances and activities where fees are charged, specifically if the event isn’t already covered under existing city ordinances. (For instance, the city requires a special-use permit for some events, including those with a crowd of 100 people or more.)

Those found in violation of the ordinance could be fined anywhere from $500 to $2,000, and they could be responsible for the costs associated with any emergency response.

There are some carve-outs. Events held for or by nonprofit groups are exempt, as are events held on city property and those held at venues that already have a specific-use permit or certificate of occupancy that allows that kind of event. So if you are planning an event inside a club or venue that already has one of these COs or SUPs that allows it, you’re probably in the clear. Probably. If your church wants to have a 500-person bake sale, you’re fine. If you want to have a benefit concert and the proceeds will go to a registered nonprofit, again, you’re probably fine.

What isn’t explained is what it means for a big chunk of promoted events that happen outside those bounds, like events at art galleries and smaller DIY shows that may be produced by neighborhoods or smaller groups that maybe have one event a year.

Local News

Bill Hutchinson No-Billed by Dallas County Grand Jury

Tim Rogers
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Bill Hutchinson at his annual pajama party
Man About Town: Hutchinson and guests at one of his infamous pajama parties.

Yesterday a grand jury declined to indict real estate developer and former reality TV star Bill Hutchinson on a charge of sexual assault. The incident allegedly occurred at his Highland Park house.

Levi McCathern, a noted attorney working on Hutchinson’s behalf, issued the following statement: “We would like to thank the Highland Park Police Department, the Dallas District Attorney’s office, and the Grand Jury. They took the allegations made against Mr. Hutchinson seriously, investigated them thoroughly, and, in the end, established what I have always known—Bill Hutchinson is innocent, and the accusations made against him are false.

“We sincerely hope that the media will work to clear his name with the same ferocity with which they tainted it. Bill has been a pillar in the Dallas community for years and restoring him to that position benefits everyone who lives here.”

Grand jury proceedings occur in secret. Grand juries do not determine guilt or innocence; they merely determine if there is probable cause. Hutchinson still faces charges in California involving the same accuser from this no-billed case and another accuser. He also faces multiple civil lawsuits in which additional women accuse him of sexual misconduct.

More Monkeypox in North Texas. Dallas County health officials reported two new cases of monkeypox Wednesday. Both individuals traveled internationally (Spain and Mexico), and are now isolated and recovering at home. 

The U.S. Senate Advances Bipartisan Gun Legislation. The Senate voted 64-34 to pass legislation that would enhance background checks for gun purchasers younger than 21, make it easier to remove guns from people who are threatening to kill themselves or others, and domestic abusers. Fourteen Republicans and all 50 Democrats signed on to the effort led by John Cornyn. Ted Cruz voted against the bill.

State Court of Appeals Tosses Roy Oliver’s Appeal. The state Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal of former Balch Springs police officer Roy Oliver. He is serving a 15-year sentence for the 2017 murder of Jordan Edwards, an unarmed 15-year-old Black boy.

Texas Rangers to Investigate After Man Dies in Police Custody. The Texas Rangers are investigating after a man died while in the custody of Denton police early Wednesday morning. Officers say the man was behaving erratically and had a “medical episode” and died at a local hospital.

Well, It’s a Hot One. The National Weather Service in Fort Worth has issued a heat advisory effective from noon today until 7 p.m. Friday. Highs could get as high as 103, with a heat index of 106.

Urbanism

Dallas: The City That Hates Pedestrians, Pt. 45

Matt Goodman
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Construction again trumps walkability and accessibility.

Let’s head to the edge of Uptown, on Cole Avenue south of Fitzhugh. The fence has eaten the sidewalk where North Dallas High School is undergoing a $46.5 million renovation, which will land the school a new athletic facility, a band room, and various other renovations that look like they’re really needed.

But pedestrians need their sidewalk, too. Maybe you can make sense of that new driveway. Here’s another image from the job, where an alert FrontBurnervian tells me he “had to step out into oncoming traffic literally as this is a one-way street with no signage whatsoever for pedestrians other than tiny handwritten notes.”

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Send your photo evidence of Dallas hating pedestrians to [email protected]. For more in this series, go here.

Local News

Leading Off (6/22/22)

Matt Goodman
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Pilot Point Mayor Arrested on Charge of Soliciting a Minor. Dallas police officers arrested Pilot Point Mayor Matthew McIlravy for soliciting a minor online following a five-month investigation. Dallas police arrested him at Pilot Point City Hall, which is about 20 miles northeast of Denton. Dallas police conducted the investigation along with federal partners, but they haven’t said much about its results.

Oak Cliff Woman Pleads Guilty in Husband’s Murder. Jennifer Lynne Faith coordinated with her ex-boyfriend to kill her husband, then went on a media tour pleading with the public to help find the person responsible. Investigators say she misled the ex to believe she was being abused. The ex, Darrin Ruben Lopez, drove to Dallas from Tennessee and shot Jamie Faith seven times while the two were walking their dog. Her story unraveled quickly, revealing Jennifer Faith’s role in the killing. Sentencing is set for next Tuesday.

Delta Stays Put at Love Field. Southwest has wanted Delta’s gate for a while now, alleging that the Atlanta-based airline was barely flying any planes out of Love Field in order to block Southwest. Delta will wind up taking one of the two gates where Alaska Airlines flies out, and will pay $200,000 a year over the next six years to continue doing so.

Seven Triple Digit Days So Far, More to Come. This is earlier than usual, and this week will be a beating. Stay hydrated.

Bonton Farms and Catholic Housing already had the money to build affordable multifamily housing in the Bonton neighborhood. But the partners need the city to approve a zoning change that will allow them to turn dirt.

Last week, they got a little closer after the City Planning Commission voted to approve changing the zoning from neighborhood commercial to multifamily for a stretch along Bexar St. between Valentine and Silkwood streets. City staff recommended the CPC approve the request.

At an earlier briefing, CityBuild Community Development Corp. director Trey Holloway said the 12 studio apartments, 14 one-bedroom apartments, and 10 two-bedroom apartments would be affordable, workforce housing. (CityBuild is the community development arm of Bonton Farms.)

Holloway explained that, as many know, Bonton Farms’ initial mission was to create jobs in an area that had been long-ignored by the city and private development. 

“But we realized real quick that housing was a serious problem,” he explained. “We’d have people come to the farm to work with us, and to work on their life plan, and they would leave us, and we’d find out they had to move out of the community because they had nowhere to live.”

So the mission became a little bigger.

Local News

Effort to Fire City Manager Ends With a Whimper

Matt Goodman
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t c broadnax dallas city manager
PLAYING THE ANGLES: Broadnax isn’t afraid to tell the mayor he doesn’t like one of his ideas.

The most embarrassing week in recent Dallas City Hall history comes to an end with a municipal prayer circle.

Last week, Mayor Eric Johnson leaped out in front of the effort to fire City Manager T.C. Broadnax. “I made the call,” he titled an email newsletter. Bad call. He needed eight votes to do it, and a chunk of those took off running once their names were made public. A special meeting to discuss Broadnax’s job performance and potential discipline was canceled, a council member alleged that the mayor’s office had forged his signature on a memo, and some on council walked back their support for Broadnax’s removal.

That left the two men to do something they have never been good at: they apparently met and talked. Some sources say Broadnax initiated the meeting, took it on the chin, and left with a list of to-dos and a prepared statement: “I know my team and I can be better. I understand that I am fully accountable to my 15 bosses. So today, I want to say to the mayor, to the members of the City Council, and to all the residents of this dynamic city: I accept the challenge.”

However that meeting worked out, Broadnax is staying put. He and the mayor came up with five priority fixes:

Hockey

Pete DeBoer Is a Good Hire. But Is the New Stars Coach Arriving at the Wrong Time?

David Castillo
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Pete DeBoer has experienced plenty of success in his NHL coaching career. Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Stars have a new head coach, as the team announced Tuesday that ex-Vegas Golden Knights boss Pete DeBoer will replace Rick Bowness at a reported cost of more than $4 million annually for the next four years. Depending on the official number, this would put DeBoer on the higher end of the NHL’s coaching payscale,  above New York’s Gerard Gallant and Philadelphia’s John Tortorella but just below Peter Laviolette in Washington and Todd McLellan in L.A.  

Which is a decent chunk of change for a coach who, at least superficially, bears some strong resemblance to the man he’s replacing. At face value, there are some similarities with Bowness. DeBoer turned his team into a contender after only a brief run, bringing Vegas to the 2020 Western Conference Finals less than a year after replacing Gallant. Vegas’ opponent in that series? The Dallas Stars. And, also like Bowness, DeBoer has yet to reach similar heights in the two seasons since. Now he’s in Dallas, with the same directive Bowness had: win now. 

The end of the national public emergency may bring about a crisis of a different kind: a jump in Texas’ uninsured population.

During the pandemic, 1.3 million Texans received health insurance through Medicaid because of additional federal funding during the pandemic. The 6.4 percent funding increase was meant to keep everyone who was on Medicaid at the beginning of the pandemic on the rolls.

There are several ways to qualify for Medicaid, but the most common way is to be low-income. But Texas’ Medicaid criteria are such that if one has a full-time job, they are likely to make too much money to qualify. When not in a public health emergency, the registry of those receiving Medicaid is regularly checked to ensure that everyone receiving coverage qualifies. So if a child ages out or an individual is making more money, they lose their insurance.

Over the last couple of years, no one has been taken off the Medicaid rolls, but as people apply and qualify, many more have been added. In March 2020, the federal government extended the public health emergency and allowed millions of Americans to receive Medicaid coverage, coronavirus testing, and telehealth services. The public health emergency was most recently extended to mid-July amid an increase in COVID-19 cases around the country.

But if the public health emergency is allowed to end next month, more than a million Texans could be in jeopardy of losing their health coverage. Texas is already the worst state in the nation for its uninsured rate and is just one of 12 states that have yet to expand Medicaid and accept federal funding to provide health insurance to low-income Texans. However, many states with similar political leanings have found a way to expand Medicaid in recent years, including Texas’ neighbors Arkansas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma.