A Daily Conversation About Dallas

Politics & Government

Mayor Eric Johnson Announces Task Force on Violent Crime

| 6 hours ago

Mayor Eric Johnson on this afternoon announced a civilian-only task force that is charged with developing policy recommendations to help the City Council stop a wave of violence unlike Dallas has seen in more than a decade.

Johnson said no police would be participating and added that he has not spoken to Chief U. Reneé Hall since she took medical leave for an unknown surgery more than a month ago. The mayor urged the task force to come up with “holistic and data-driven solutions for communities disproportionately affected by violent crime.” Johnson said he expected “concrete recommendations” to be brought before city leadership by year’s end.

“These solutions should not rely exclusively on law enforcement,” he said. “I believe in the Dallas Police Department, and I believe the Dallas Police Department’s focus on guns, gangs, and drugs is both smart and necessary to help reduce violent crime in our city. But we can’t ask or expect law enforcement to do it all.”

He opened his announcement by reflecting on the death of 9-year-old Brandoniya Bennett, who was shot and killed in her Old East Dallas apartment last week. Police say a 19-year-old fired into the wrong unit a little after 5:30 p.m. last Wednesday, striking the girl as she relaxed inside. Johnson named the three chairs of the task force and said he planned to name the rest “very soon.” They include Alan Cohen, the head of the nonprofit Child Poverty Action Lab; Rene Martinez, an educator, community activist, and longtime member of LULAC; and Rev. Michael Bowie, of the Saint Luke Community United Methodist Church in the Far East Dallas neighborhood of Owenwood.

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Hearing Some Interesting Rumors About Tristan Hallman’s DMN Departure

| 7 hours ago

Do I consider myself “sourced-up” at the Morning News? No, that would be my esteemed colleague Eric Celeste. I’m not really sourced-up anywhere. I used to be sourced-up at the Old Monk, but I honestly don’t know much of the staff there anymore. I don’t even always know what is going on at my own house.

But I do, occasionally, hear things. People talk. I pay attention and pick up a few things. And this time, yeah, I would say I have something. I can’t tell you who told me and I am going to be a bit fuzzy about a few things regarding Tristan Hallman’s recent exit from the DMN and editor Mike Wilson. ANYWAY, with all that preamble aside, here goes:

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DART’s Cotton Belt Line Comes Into View, to the Chagrin of North Dallas Residents

| 8 hours ago

I rely on DART. Having not owned a car in a decade—a personal point of pride, especially in this city—its services are my primary method of getting around town. While I have learned to enjoy the benefits that DART provides (and there are benefits) I understand why many people shy away from, or outright dismiss, Dallas’ sole provider of public transit services.

The system can be daunting and confusing. If you are trying to get from Point A to Point B with one or more transfers, you need to time everything just right as to not get stuck at a station or on the side of the road. Buses don’t always show up when they’re supposed to, traffic being a primary contributor. Yet, for all of its inefficiencies, I can’t call DART altogether ineffective. It will get you where you are going, but it will test your patience.

Last Thursday, I took DART from my work in downtown to the June Shelton School and Evaluation Center in Far North Dallas to attend the fourth community meeting regarding the Cotton Belt, DART’s 26-mile suburban rail line connecting Plano to DFW Airport. It was the first to be held in the city of Dallas. It took more than an hour to reach Arapaho Road and Hillcrest Lane, a distance of about 13 miles. Here’s what that trip looked like:

  • 5:04 p.m. – Leave work and walk to the station
  • 5:16 p.m. – Get on the train
  • 5:44 p.m. – Arrive at Arapaho Station
  • 6:00 p.m. – The 361 bus arrives, three minutes later than scheduled (this is pretty good)
  • 6:15 p.m. – Arrive at Arapaho and Hillcrest bus stop, walk to Shelton

I know what you’re thinking. “It takes an hour to get from downtown to North Dallas?! Are you insane? Get a car, you fool!” For many, this is a standard travel time on DART. It takes up to an hour or more to travel almost anywhere from downtown unless you live within a four-mile radius. And this is just from downtown, DART’s central hub. It’s a completely different story riding the system across town. It’s not a new thing, either. In 2016, D’s Peter Simek spent some time riding buses around Oak Cliff. His headline: “Doesn’t Anyone at DART Realize How Terrible Riding DART Actually Is?”

I pass the time reading books and refreshing my Twitter feed.

Inside Shelton’s Gene and Jerry Jones Family Dining Hall, neighbors gathered for the meeting, talked among themselves, and looked at enlarged photographs of the Cotton Belt route, running east to west, along the sides of the room.

As the presentation got underway, it was clear that we were in for a contentious evening. DART officials recognized notable members of the community, their own board members who were in attendance, as well as recently elected Dallas City Council member Cara Mendelsohn. The Cotton Belt runs through the middle of her district. She addressed the 200-member strong crowd, voicing many of their concerns.

“There are lots of things that are happening and you have to speak up because you think it’s hard to fight City Hall? It’s really hard to fight a railroad,” she said. “So, use your collective voice and make things happen. I’m with you. This is not a great thing for the neighborhood.”

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Urban Design

ModTexas Aims to Save Midcentury Architecture One Hashtag at a Time

| 12 hours ago

Amy Walton walked away with one question after attending an event organized by the Okie Mod Squad, a group of midcentury modern architecture and design enthusiasts who documented Oklahoma City’s MCM gems: “Where the hell is something like this in Texas?”

Buildings of the period, defined by sleek lines and minimal ornamentation, are threatened by development and decay despite being relatively recent history.

Shortly after the trip to Oklahoma, Walton teamed up with statewide preservation organizations to create modTEXAS, an Instagram crowdsourcing campaign. Texans are encouraged to photograph and share midcentury modern homes, commercial buildings, signs, furniture, and decor using the hashtag #modtexas. When paired with a geotag, the photos create a midcentury modern map of the state.

The tag has been used nearly 2,000 times already. Scrolling through its history on Instagram, you’ll find gems like the Bass residence in Fort Worth and the Good Luck Gas Station in Dallas.

“We are on the cusp of the pivotal 50 years of midcentury modern design,” some of which is threatened by neglect and development, Walton says. “Our goal is to whip up a frenzy of people in Texas who love midcentury modern architecture by crowdsourcing content, and hopefully spearheading more volunteers for the sponsors.”

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Local News

Leading Off (08/19/19)

| 17 hours ago

DPS Troopers Shoot and Kill Man They Say Pulled a Gun on Them. They attempted to pull over a car near the Dos Equis Pavilion. The driver pulled into a driveway and attempted to flee on foot and, according to a written statement by the troopers, pulled a gun on them. They shot him and he died at Baylor.

Hearing in Botham Jean Murder Trial Today. The defense will learn what they can use as evidence.

Cowards Say They Protested in Dallas. Members of American Identity Movement posted videos of them doing their dumb chants and unfurling a banner in and around downtown but no one saw them.

DISD Kids Are Back In School. Looking forward to figuring out every day how I can get my son home.

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Local News

Fair Park First Calls Out for New Businesses in Fair Park

| 3 days ago

Earlier this week at an event, the private company charged with revitalizing Fair Park got a taste of what the community will ask of it. On sticky notes spread throughout the room, residents asked for things like transportation improvements, a grocery store, and more family activities. Also on the list: better options when it comes to food, drink, and recreation.

To that end, Fair Park First, the company subcontracted with Spectra to manage the park, has put out a request for information. The organization wants proposals from business owners who’d like to be Fair Park tenants. Three Fair Park buildings are up for grabs: Science Place 1, the Museum of Natural History, and the Women’s Building.

Fair Park First Executive Director Brian Luallen says they’ve already had “tremendous interest” from folks who want to be a part of the new vision. Putting out an RFI allows the organization to formalize those talks and take a broader look at the body of proposals.

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Politics & Government

Rowling, Hunt Giving Big Money in Texas Races

| 3 days ago

The Texas Tribune today does the work of sifting through state campaign donations during the first half of the year to unearth the total contributions of some local, big-dollar Republican donors. Robert Rowling, he of Omni Hotels and Gold’s Gym fortune, and Ray Hunt, of oil riches, find themselves on the list of the top 10 individuals who donated the most.

Rowling, No. 7 on the list, has donated $442,500 this year. Hunt, at No.9, has given $385,000. Also on the list at No. 6 is Kenny Troutt, who built Irving-based Excel Communications in the 1990s; he gave a clean $500,000.

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A Story About El Paso and Soccer That You Should Read

| 4 days ago

You might recognize the name Roberto José Andrade Franco. He’s a Ph.D. candidate at SMU who has written a few stories for D Magazine. Roberto is from El Paso. He was there when a North Texas man killed 22 people in a Walmart. At the time, Roberto had an assignment from Deadspin to write about soccer in Juarez. There was no way he could write about the sport without addressing the violence. The result was quite something. A taste:

I’ve made that drive so many times I’ve lost count. I know where to stop for gas and which bathrooms are clean. As you drive into that open west Texas land, hours pass between glimpses of even moderate-sized cities. During that long, lonely drive it’s impossible not to contemplate your own life, your beliefs, your future. Ten hours alone, and that still wasn’t enough time for him to reconsider killing us.

The first time I took that drive back home, I returned a different person. After almost getting lost along the way, I figured out a few things with the help of some people. And every time I came home after that—taking that same drive—a little part of me had changed for the better. I eventually came back a father to a little girl who has my eyes.

On the day she was born, I began talking to her in Spanish. I told her things no one else knows. My deepest regrets. I told her I felt like a coward for saying these things to someone who can’t understand. I told her I loved her and that I would always protect her. I said all of it in Spanish.

She’s two years old now. She talks mostly in English, but I keep talking to her in Spanish. I sing to her in Spanish. I feel a sense of accomplishment when she sings along. I worry that without that language, she’ll lose something more than the ability to communicate with the side of the family that lives a long drive away from home. Recipes handed down, the stories that get told, the phrases with double meanings, the song lyrics so beautiful they make me glassy-eyed—she’ll lose that.

Find 15 minutes or so to read this.

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Local News

Leading Off (8/16/19)

| 4 days ago

Teenager Turns Himself In For Shooting of 9-Year-Old Girl. Tyrese Simmons is 19, and he told police he is the one who shot into an Old East Dallas apartment and accidentally killed 9-year-old Brandoniya Bennett. Police say he was after another rapper who dissed him on a track, but he had the wrong address. This story is the level of sad that feels like it should be a turning point in this city’s crime wave, but you know in your gut it probably won’t be. Here’s a line from The Dallas Morning News to carry with you today: “Brandoniya was only the latest child killed this summer in Dallas.”

Downtown Shooting Leaves Scooter Rider Injured. At 1:45 a.m. on Park Avenue near City Hall, a man stopped a group of scooters and asked for a lighter. Most of the group sped off, leaving one behind. Then the man apparently pulled out a gun and shot the person in the leg while trying to rob him.

Plano ISD Cancels Football Game Against El Paso School. Plano Senior High School is where the El Paso shooter went to school. Eastwood High School isn’t far from the Walmart where he killed 22 people in a racist attack against Mexicans. Plano school district officials apparently talked it over with local cops and decided “it falls too soon after the tragedy in El Paso.” Even the police say there was no evidence of threats. Dale Hansen is worth listening to on this one.

Here Is a Nice Story. Because I think we probably all need it. It’s about Amanda Austin, who is reopening her Dallas Comedy House this weekend on Elm Street in Deep Ellum. 

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