A Daily Conversation About Dallas


Dallas County Stay-at-Home Order Extended to April 30—And We Don’t Know How Far the Virus Has Spread

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Editor’s Note: After the meeting, County Judge Clay Jenkins amended the order to extend the shelter-in-place rule only until April 30. Originally, it was set for May 20. The story below has been adjusted.

Dallas County extended its existing disaster declaration until May 20 during its Friday meeting, with its shelter-in-place order lasting through at least April 30. The stay-at-home ruling can be extended if necessary, but County Judge Clay Jenkins wanted Dallas County to work in tandem with the state’s current order, which expires April 30, according to chief of staff Lauren Trimble.

The disaster declaration limits the size of gatherings and the types of businesses that can remain open. Shelter in place requires residents to stay at home except for essential travel.

Yet again, Dallas has established the most stringent rules for its residents of any county in the state of Texas, securing a consensus vote that included Republican County Commissioner J.J. Koch. Expect our neighbors to follow suit, if not the governor. (On Friday, Commissioner John Wiley Price was the only ‘no’ vote, arguing that the economic hardships were hurting his southern Dallas constituents. The Dallas Morning News covered the meeting well.)

Have these measures worked to slow the spread of coronavirus? It’s hard to say. Jenkins hopes it has. At his nightly press conference on Thursday, he noted that the cases confirmed each day—more than 100 on both Wednesday and Thursday, and we learned of another 90 on Friday—are delayed because of the virus’s lengthy incubation time.

“We see the benefit of [staying at home] two weeks later, because the 100 cases that tested positive today, those cases got exposed two weeks ago,” Jenkins said. “So you won’t immediately see the benefit of the whole state being in stay at home and you won’t necessarily see it in a sheer number fashion. The numbers won’t immediately go down. We know we’re at the front of the curve.”

The New York Times published two maps this week that showed the average distance traveled by residents the week of March 23 and tracked the ascending line for total transmissions and death rates. Dallas is indeed at the beginning of the curve, climbing the stairs up to its peak. And who knows where that peak will be?

Jenkins on Thursday night was encouraged by the travel map. North Texas was gray, meaning more people weren’t traveling than in other parts of the state. There are many reasons for this: rural Texans don’t have the luxury of a Kroger at the end of their block or delivery services. They have to move. But Jenkins sees that gray and breathes a bit. He lobbied for extending the shelter-in-place order at the behest of the DFW Hospital Council, which has also advocated for similar statewide policies. They and other experts contend that staying home is the best way not to overrun our hospital systems, giving providers the space to treat all who need it.

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What Faith Looks Like Now: A Conversation With the Imam Omar Suleiman

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Since I met Imam Omar Suleiman a few years ago, he’s been good at checking in from time to time, to see how I’m doing or to get my perspective on something. And I’ve found that it’s invaluable to get his take, or just to talk to him for a few minutes. He is a comforting presence in what, even before this month, were uncomfortable times. We had spoken recently: he had been scheduled to go to New Zealand not long ago, on the anniversary of the Christchurch attack, but was forced to stay here and was wondering how best to commemorate the moment.

We caught up again early last week, to talk about how he’s handling the current pandemic. Suleiman—the resident scholar of the Valley Ranch Islamic Center in Irving, founder and president of the Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research in Las Colinas, and professor of Islamic studies at SMU—sounded exhausted when he picked up the phone, but seemed to gain strength through the rest of the conversation. Which, in turn, gave me strength, as it always does. A transcript, lightly edited for clarity, follows. I’ll have more of these in the coming weeks.

But, first, a prayer.

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A Game That Does Good: Play Dallas Restaurant Shelter-in-Place Bingo

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Dallas Restaurant Shelter-In-Place Bingo is a fun game that anyone can play, plus it helps our resilient dining scene weather this storm. Order delivery? That’s a dab. Get a gift card? Another dab. And hey, when this is all over, the lessons this bingo card teaches are applicable to post-pandemic life, too. It’s never a bad time to smile at your server and write a nice Yelp review.

You know the drill: Five squares in a row and you win. Free space is “Wash Your Hands” because wash your hands. Get those paint dabbers ready…

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How the United Way and Communities Foundation Are Helping Small Nonprofits Fight COVID-19

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As the coronavirus continues to spread, vulnerable members of our society–the elderly, the homeless, children living in poverty–will feel its effects to an unprecedented degree. North Texas’ nonprofit community is swiftly adapting to meet increasing demands, but many are struggling to find the money to pay for it.

Some of our region’s largest companies and foundations have acknowledged that smaller nonprofits need assistance. Nearly 30 Dallas-Fort Worth Area organizations (including Toyota Motors North America, Communities Foundation of Texas, and The Gene and Jerry Jones Family Foundation) have partnered with local branches of United Way to create North Texas Cares. The goal is to bring together donors to provide financial support to small nonprofits that serve the people and communities affected by COVID-19. To date, a total of $1.3 million has been awarded to applicants.

North Texas Cares’ streamlined application process uses a single form; nonprofits are able to submit their requests to all partners at once. This ensures that they get the resources they need as quickly as possible.

“In urgent times such as these, it is imperative that we come together to simplify the process for submitting funding requests, for all of our nonprofit partners,” said Leah King, president and CEO of United Way of Tarrant County.

Dozens of applicants have already received funding. Meals on Wheels Senior Services is now delivering shelf-stable foods in addition to hot meals. Domestic violence shelter Emily’s Place continues to provide housing, childcare, and other resources. Empowering the Masses, which typically focuses on vocational training, has pivoted to fight food insecurity with grocery drop-offs and pickups. All are doing so with money from North Texas Cares.

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Local News

Leading Off (4/3/20)

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Another 100 Cases of Coronavirus in Dallas County. It’s the second day in a row we topped triple digits, which lines up with the virus’ incubation period. As County Judge Clay Jenkins noted yesterday evening, these folks could’ve been exposed to the virus up to two weeks ago. That was before the county put its stay at home order in place and began closing bars and restaurants. Will these measures of physical distancing work? We’ll know more next week. The death total is now at 17.

David Brown Is Headed to Chicago. The former Dallas police chief will now lead the Chicago police. He’ll be faced with the city’s longstanding violent crime problem on the South and West sides as well as the spread of coronavirus. Mayor Lori Lightfoot called him a “humble leader” and noted the community policing initiatives he championed in Dallas. Perhaps most importantly, Brown will lead 13,000 officers as the department works through a federally mandated consent decree to reform its operations after the shooting death and subsequent coverup of Laquan McDonald. Here’s the Chicago Tribune‘s writeup on Brown’s new gig.

The Need for Food Is Significant. Cars backed up into the neighborhoods near Fair Park to pick up food from the North Texas Food Bank’s popup center yesterday morning.

Dallas Gets Its New Park Board Director. The Parks Board made its interim leader official yesterday. It will be John Jenkins, a 25 year veteran of the department. Some thought the decision was happening at a poor time, and, indeed, streaming problems made the last search committee meeting unlistenable and cut out during yesterday’s meeting. But Board Chair Calvert Collins-Bratton told The Dallas Morning News that the search was “exhaustive” and “had more public input than recent searches for city manager, police chief, fire chief, and city attorney combined.” Jenkins comes with high praise from present and former Park Board members and department staffers.

Jenkins Puts the Hammer Down on Hobby Lobby. He called out the craft chain by name in his nightly press conference last night, ordering the corporation to follow the stay at home order and shut its doors. There were some solid burns: “There are plenty of places to buy yarn and art supplies that are fully compliant with our orders and have robust online platforms.”

Cold and Rain to Come. Temperatures will drop into the 40s this afternoon, bringing with it spotty showers. Your highs all weekend are in the mid-50s. Public health officials are hoping this will aid efforts to keep people in their homes, perhaps even flattening the curve of coronavirus transmissions.

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The Best Trails to Visit When Avoiding the Katy Trail and White Rock Lake

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Last weekend, Dallas Parks and Recreation had to keep you away from each other. The popular Katy Trail and White Rock Lake were magnets for antsy, homebound Dallasites, so much so that County Judge Clay Jenkins had to threaten shutting them down. It didn’t come to that, but it did come to fliers and light warnings and, at White Rock Lake, the closure of vehicular access points, as Trace Miller detailed yesterday.

It doesn’t have to be like this. It shouldn’t be like this. And even though rain is in the forecast this weekend, you will need the following words in the future: go to another trail. If you’re reading this, I bet you either live in Dallas or you live close to it. And Dallas is home to the largest hardwood urban forest in the United States. If you’ve driven south on Interstate 45, you’ve seen the dense trees that surround the highway for miles.

You can, and should, explore it. The fauna, which is depicted here by artist Cynthia Mulcahy, is diverse and magnificent. You’ll forget all about the fact that there are skyscrapers just a few miles away from you.

It’s April, but our March cover story was prescient. It was a version of this piece, which attorney and naturalist Bill Holston put together for us. The Trinity River Audubon Center serves a trailhead for four miles through the wetlands that attract birds year-round.

The Texas Buckeye Trail leads you two miles to a patch of buckeyes deep in the forest. Master naturalists maintain these trails, and you can place an order for curbside pickup at the nearby Bonton Farms and bring back food for the week. Further east, the Scyene Overlook and Piedmont Ridge offer some of the best views in all of the Trinity Forest.

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Nature & Environment

A Field Guide to Dallas

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Several years ago, Dallas artist Cynthia Mulcahy was looking for places to observe fauna in action while she was working on War Garden, her ongoing body of work exploring American militarism through paintings of insects and birds of prey. She thought she might have to travel far afield. But armed with a cheap pair of binoculars, Mulcahy was shocked to find a world of wildlife right here at home.

The resulting sketches from her explorations became the basis for a public art project funded by a grant from the City of Dallas Office of Arts and Culture and the Texas Commission on the Arts. Its most recent iteration is titled A Field Guide to Wild Fauna of Dallas, Texas, and copies are available for free on the fifth floor of the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library, when it opens back up.

You can’t go there now because of coronavirus, so here’s the next best thing: a sampling, with her commentary.

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Doing Good

Dallas: The City of Random Acts of Kindness, Pt. 8

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While cleaning out storage closets at the Dallas Marriott Suites last week, Bill Bretches, the hotel’s general manager, stumbled upon a forgotten stash of surgical masks.

“As travel has slowed, we’ve had some time at the hotel to get to a few of our ‘to do’ list items, including some very necessary spring cleaning of a few of our storage closets,” Bretches says. “In going through the linen closet, I discovered over 4,000 surgical masks tucked way back in one of our storage units which must have been left behind from a past conference or other initiative many years ago. Wow. The timing!”

Bretches reached out to several area hospitals, and UT Southwestern Medical Center and Children’s Health were quick to respond and pick up the masks. “We were really thrilled to have the opportunity to support our hard-working medical community,” he says.

Thanks to Bretches and the team at Dallas Marriott Suites for their fortuitous find and generous donation. Send more stories of RAOK to [email protected]

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Dallas Fed President Says Unemployment Likely Headed to Mid-Teens

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Robert Kaplan, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, was on CNBC’s Squawk on the Street today. You’ve probably already seen that 6.6 million filed unemployment claims last week, bringing the total of new filings to nearly 10 million in just two weeks. So I was curious to hear what Kaplan was going to say and tuned in. Either that, or the people from CNBC sent me the transcript. You can watch or read. Transcript follows the video. He see low to mid-teens unemployment and thinks we could dip below 10 percent by the end of the year.

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$20 Fruit and Veggie Boxes Available Today at Trinity Groves

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Thanks to Eve Hill-Agnus’ great post about WIC benefits, which were just disbursed on the first of the month, we all know we’re not supposed to go grocery shopping until April 4 to make sure those most at risk are able to buy food. But what if you didn’t plan too well this week, and you’ve already eaten your way through all of your apples and salad greens?

From 4 to 7 p.m. today, a refrigerated FreshPoint truck will be parked in front of 3015 at Trinity Groves, where they will sell fruit and veggie boxes until they run out. Each box costs $20, and cash and credit will be accepted. Just pull up, and you can place your order and make your payment from your car.

Veggie boxes contain:
3 heads romaine hearts
1 stalk celery
1 lb. white mushrooms
2 bunches broccolini
2 green bell peppers
2 red bell peppers
2 lbs. grape tomatoes
3 yellow onions
5 lbs. russet potatoes 

Fruit boxes contain:
4 avocados
1 bag red seedless grapes
5 lbs. oranges
5 lbs. Granny Smith apples
2 lbs. bananas

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Transit Oriented Development

Dallas Finally Seeks to Take Active Role In Transit-Oriented Development

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Shelter-in-place orders be damned, the Dallas City Council did hold its regularly scheduled briefing yesterday via teleconferencing and with relatively few technological hiccups. And while the end of the meeting brought some COVID-related debate around a proposed eviction ordinance (more on that soon), it was comforting to settle into a few presentations revolving around the usual, drab city business. The most interesting briefing addressed the city’s revived effort to steer development around so-called Transit-Oriented Developments.

Transit-Oriented Developments, or TODs, are central to the long-promised benefits of Dallas’ light rail network. When DART originally proposed the system back in the 1980s, the hope was that new rail stations would spur on new developments of dense housing and commercial real estate. Despite the agency’s continued touting of its TODS, redevelopment around DART stations has only happened sporadically, perhaps most visibly at the Mockingbird Station. Yesterday’s presentation drove home how little development has actually been directly generated by the region’s light rail system.

Here are some of the most interesting numbers:

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