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A Daily Conversation About Dallas

Politics & Government

Dallas County Republicans Step on the Fundraising Gas in 2020 Fend-Off Efforts

| 3 days ago

We have a quick campaign finance update for you on this foggy Friday. Democrats are pushing to flip the Texas House blue in 2020, but so far, financing is largely favoring incumbents, the Texas Tribune reports. That holds true for the two remaining Dallas County Republicans who currently have seats in the House.

In the closely watched race for Texas House District 108, which runs from downtown and east Dallas through the Park Cities and North Dallas, Rep. Morgan Meyer pulled in $322,000. That’s a chunk. Democrats are licking their chops in that race after Meyer squeaked out a victory by 200 votes in 2018. Based on funding, his likely 2020 challenger (primaries are in March) is Shawn Terry, of Uptown, who might’ve scared some donors into action with $236,000 last period. Terry put together $153,000 this go around.

And in Garland and Richardson’s District 112, state Rep. Angie Chen Button pulled $275,000 (she also has a pile of $772,000 on hand). She dwarfed the returns of challenging Democrat Brandy Chambers. Chambers, whom Button beat with 51.1 percent of the vote in 2018, hauled in $87,000.

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Local News

Gentry Beach Will Not, In Fact, Get Part of That $91 Million Payout

| 3 days ago

Back in June, Tim told you that noted bear hunter and Donald Trump Jr. buddy Gentry Beach won part of a $90 million payout over bonuses he alleged he was owed while working for a hedge fund. Fast forward to two days ago, and The Wall Street Journal reports that the Highland Park High School grad’s big payout will have to wait. A New York appeals court vacated the judgment, sending it back down for another trial.

The lawsuit was filed back in 2009. The four-judge panel found that a specific defense should have been allowed in the original trial, which that judge had precluded. In doing so, the court ruled that it “deprived them of a fair trial.” Beach and a former colleague allege that they’re owed net profits from a hedge fund where they worked from 2005 to 2008.

They’ll have to try again to prove it.

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Criminal Justice

In Dallas County, Hope For Bail Reform Collapses Into Confusion

| 3 days ago

In 2018, U.S. District Judge David Godbey ruled that the county had to dismantle its assembly-line bail system. He found that poor people accused of committing nonviolent crimes were stuck in jail because they couldn’t afford to post bail. Among criminal justice reformers, hopes were high. But now, a year and a half later, bail reform in Dallas County is murky at best. The court battle is ongoing, and a lack of communication among its major players has spurred confusion and piecemeal adoption across the criminal courts.

The confusion around executing these reforms has even leaked out of the Frank Crowley Courts Building. Just look at the Dallas Morning News’ editorial board. Two Sundays ago, the voice of the paper printed flimsy conclusions based around an opinion piece written by U.S. Attorney Erin Nealy Cox, which was also published by the paper. Nealy Cox lists instances in which offenders with violent histories have been released from jail on bond, only to reoffend. But the edit board paints in broader strokes, claiming that bail reform “drives toward the uncritical release, on outrageously low bonds, of people accused of violent crimes who have a history of violent behavior.” It blames District Attorney John Creuzot, a Democrat who has advocated for reforming the bail system to make it more equitable to the poor.

That editorial is inaccurate. It suggests we have true bail reform in Dallas County. We don’t. It insinuates Creuzot’s wish-list reforms are in place. For the most part, they aren’t. It also conflates a violent offender with the type of defendant bail reform is targeted at: poor people who are accused of a nonviolent offense, whose lives are upended because they don’t have money to post bond.

Arraignments in Dallas County have traditionally worked like this: about 20 defendants sit before a magistrate. Their charges are read one by one, and bail is determined by a schedule that associates a price with the crime. The individual’s ability to pay is not taken into consideration. They have no representation, and because there are no defense attorneys present, prosecutors cannot be either. According to figures provided by the ACLU at the time of the lawsuit, as many as 70 percent of the 5,000 inmates in the Dallas County Jail are only there because they cannot afford to post bail.

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Local News

Leading Off (1/17/20)

| 3 days ago

The Rain Won’t Be So Bad By the Time You Read This. But it’s coming. That’s from WFAA. Be careful clicking that link, the video starts immediately and froze my browser. Also there are some weird ads in the middle of what you want, which is the news: it’s probably going to drizzle today, then it’s going to get colder. So you should wear a jacket and bring a light umbrella just in case. Saturday should be dry and in the mid-50s for most of it.

Joe Biden Came To Dallas. Former Mayor Mike Rawlings hosted a fundraiser for the former vice president, who says he’s the guy to turn Texas blue. Gromer Jeffers reported that about 140 people attended the fundraiser at Rawlings’ home.

Teacher’s Group Sues Over DISD’s Merit-Based System. The Teacher’s Excellence Initiative, or TEI, pays some teachers more than others based on outcomes for state tests. Other teachers say this resulted in a pay cut and is unfair, particularly because of the increase in healthcare costs. The district’s superintendent defends this process, arguing, in part, that no teacher has been paid less.

Apparently There Is More Graffiti? Oh, NBC5 and others, get over it.

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Urbanism

Texas Trees Foundation Nabs $2.5 Million Grant for Medical District Redo

| 4 days ago

Last January, Matt wrote a story for the magazine titled “The Woman Who Fought the Sun.” It was about Janette Monear, the president and CEO of the Texas Trees Foundation, and her organization’s effort to bring some sanity to the Southwestern Medical District. The Medical District is a mess. It’s hostile to pedestrians, and, thanks to acres of concrete, it’s also the hottest part of the city. Texas Trees came up with a streetscape plan to remedy some of the problems in the district and make it a place where, you know, people might actually like to walk.

This work isn’t cheap. Through her philanthropic foundation, Lyda Hill in 2018 promised to donate $2.5 million to the project — but the money came with a big contingency. Texas Trees itself had to raise $2.5 million by December 31, 2019. You know how this story ends. Texas Trees upheld its end of the deal, and Lyda Hill’s organization last month confirmed that the matching grant is on its way.

In a letter to D Magazine written shortly before the Christmas break, Monear said: “The great ‘stars’ aligned and together we will redesign the public rights-of-way and transform the Southwestern Medical District into a campus that will have a profound impact on our city, the medical institutions, and all of the individuals, organizations, and businesses within and beyond the boundaries of the district. … During a season of hope and goodwill, we would like to express our gratitude to you for your support. Yes, this support is about a redesign, but truly it is about the gift of giving to create a space where all can enjoy and thrive. It is about enhancing three major institutions beyond the footprint of their buildings. And it is about investing in an area of healing.”

Monear says the design process for Harry Hines Boulevard will begin this month.

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Law

Groundbreaking Implicit Bias Project Takes Shape in Dallas County Civil Courts

| 4 days ago

Prior to the holidays, I came across a Facebook post from Judge Tonya Parker, who serves on the bench of Dallas’ 116th Civil District Court. She had just returned from a conference in Washington, D.C., and she mentioned that she had picked up a thing or two that she planned to apply to “phase II” of the Implicit Bias Project in the Dallas Civil Courts.

I hadn’t even been aware of phase I, but I was intrigued. So I called Judge Parker and arranged to meet with her in her chambers to learn more. It turns out that the project, which entails giving a jury instruction about implicit bias to jurors in certain civil trials (in this case, traffic accident cases) is probably the first study of its kind. In any court, anywhere.

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Sports

Dallas Tennis Giant John Isner Injures Small Child in Auckland (He Didn’t Mean to)

| 4 days ago

Dallas tennis legend John Isner has already made headlines going into the Australian Open after an overhead smash clipped the ear of an 11-year-old sitting in the second row at the ASB Classic in Auckland last night. He quickly made amends, offering up some wristbands as a souvenir. The two-time Auckland champion will take on lefty Frenchman Ugo Humbert in the semis tonight. Then he’s off to Melbourne where he’ll play Brazilian Thiago Monteiro in the first round of the Australian Open.

For action closer to home, the RBC Tennis Championships of Dallas return to T Bar M Racquet Club February 3–9. Last year’s star-studded doubles lineup included Isner, Alex Kuznetsov, Ryan Harrison, and Nick Kyrgios. This year, RBC has announced that the singles lineup is one to watch, with Americans Jack Sock, Steve Johnson, and Fort Worth native Mitchell Krueger. If Luka is Zac’s son, then Jack is mine. Here’s a highlight reel from my scrapbook.

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Leading Off

Leading Off (1/16/20)

| 4 days ago

TSA Discovered 217 Guns on Passengers at DFW Airport Last Year. That was the second-most in the country, behind Atlanta. Love Field came in at number six. Come on, people.

Disgruntled Former Employee Brandishes Sword at Bishop Arts Restaurant. Vincent Briceno had been fired from Paradiso, after which he picked up a sword used for opening Champagne bottles and swung it around at other employees and diners. He was taken into custody and faces charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and criminal mischief.

Man Shot and Killed Outside Red Bird Apartment. The victim was Dominique White, who was found on a sidewalk with several gunshot wounds. The suspect is still at large.

Dallas County Reports Nine Flu Deaths This Season. Three more were reported yesterday, bringing the total to nine.

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Media

Cyanide & Happiness Crew Does Live Sketch-a-thon for Australian Wildfire Victims

| 5 days ago

If you aren’t a fan of the Richardson-based animation studio called Explosm and their web series Cyanide & Happiness, then you are doing it wrong. The guys behind it are some seriously funny people. About a month ago, their YouTube channel racked up its 10 millionth subscriber, just to give you an idea.

A few minutes ago, the C&H guys started something they are calling Ted Bear for Australia, a live sketch-a-thon to raise money for the wildfire victims in Australia (including critters). You can watch here. And if you donate here, you can suggest things for them to draw.

At 12:21, there were 793 people watching, and they’d raised $115. Get to it.

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Sports & Leisure

What Is Up With Luka Doncic’s Free Throw Shooting?

| 5 days ago

If you are a Mavs fan, you have no doubt seen the GIF I have included here of Luka Doncic ripping his jersey apart, not out of shame in its 1990s-antidrug-ad design, but because he clanked a pair of free throws against the Lakers on Friday night. For the game, he was 8-13 from the stripe.

He was better the next game, a win over the Sixers, but last night he went 2-8 and I would say most of the six misses I saw were not that close. I saw someone last week suggest he might have the yips. Does my Slovenian son have a problem? His FT percentage is now under 80 percent, at 78.2 as of this morning, and given how often he hears whistles (which is probably half as often as he actually gets fouled), you’d like to see him at least in the low 80s. So, should we be worried?

Nah, I just wanted to post that GIF. Carry on.

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Fair Park

Does the New Fair Park Master Plan Lack Vision?

| 5 days ago

In late November, we shared the draft Fair Park Master Plan created by architecture and design firm Perkins and Will for the new managers of Fair Park. At a glance, the plan offers some significant improvements on the concrete-heavy, State Fair-dominated fairgrounds that have been a thorn in the side of South Dallas for generations. The master plan calls for the addition of a community park, provides for more pedestrian way-finding, adds more green space, and expresses the need to revitalize and reuse many of Fair Park’s crumbling historic buildings.

But is it enough?

One long-time park watchdog doesn’t think so, and the alternative plan that he has now put forward imagines what Fair Park could become if Dallas really wanted to transform the park into a community-minded green oasis in the center of the city.

The watchdog is Don Williams, former chairman of the Trammell Crow Company, who has made advocating for Fair Park a significant part of his retirement life. Williams has long worked with Boston-based architect and urban designer Antonio Di Mambro to create draft visions for the park. You may remember the so-called Di Mambro Plan, which was touted as an alternative to the many short-sighted and unimplemented visions for the park that have been drafted over the years. Williams shared the draft Fair Park First Master Plan with Di Mambro, and he was unimpressed. Here is his full reaction to the plan, but I’ll touch on some of the highlights:

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