FrontBurner

A Daily Conversation About Dallas

Super Heroes

Serena Williams Pops Up in Dallas at Neighborhood Goods

| 2 hours ago
She’s just that into me. Photograph by Melissa Romig.

The first time I saw Serena Williams play, I cried. It was 2009 and I was in NYC for a trademark and copyright seminar. Bored out of my mind during one of the sessions, I decided on a whim to see if I could get a last-minute ticket to the U.S. Open. The heavens shone down upon me, and I scored a loge seat for the night matches in Arthur Ashe for like $100. I hopped on the 7 Subway to Queens, found my seat, they dimmed the lights, and, as the Black Eyed Peas’ newly released single “I Have a Feeling” blared over the sound system and the spotlights chased each other around the arena, Serena took the court. The crowd went wild, and I sobbed like a 5-year-old meeting Elsa on a unicorn made of candy. That song still makes me tear up every time I hear it.

That was the same year that Serena threatened a line judge with physical harm, which I wasn’t cool with. But I soon forgave and forgot, because, in the end, she always gives more than she takes, to both the sport and the world at large. I haven’t missed a U.S. Open since. This past Labor Day weekend, I hovered behind the windscreen of the practice court as she sat just feet away on a bench, laughing with her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, during a water break. I figured that was the closest we would ever be, and I was fine with that.

Then I got an invite to the VIP launch event Saturday night for her Great Collection at Neighborhood Goods, in Legacy West. Yes, that’s right: the GOAT has gone beyond 23 Grand Slam wins and a Nike catsuit controversy and the Beats “Queen of Queens” video endorsement and marrying that Reddit guy and motherhood posts about teething and being the newest board member of Survey Monkey and showing up to gal pal Megan Markle’s wedding in Valentino trainers to personally stock and style the shelves of a small pop-up shop in Matt Alexander and Mark Masinter’s new take on a department store.

In Dallas.

And so, of course, I went.

Read More

Good Public Transit

A Local Group Wants to Help DART Build a Better Bus Stop

| 2 hours ago

Dallas Area Rapid Transit has more than 11,000 bus stops, about 1,000 of which are the standard three-sided plexiglass shelter. If you want to die prematurely, those shelters are a great place to wait for a bus. That’s because studies have shown that a traditional bus shelter traps particulate matter, or PM—tiny bits of airborne pollution from all sorts of sources (in this case, mostly cars) that cause all sorts of diseases.

Read More

Local News

Leading Off (12/12/18)

| 4 hours ago

Carolyn King Arnold Wins Runoff. Fewer than 2,600 cast their ballots in Tuesday’s District 4 special election, and in the end, Arnold edged out activist Keyaira Saunders with 59 percent of the vote to fill the vacant seat left after Dwaine Caraway stepped down and pled guilt to taking bribes. Arnold previously served the Oak Cliff district from 2015 to 2017, when Caraway was term-limited out of the council.

Five Arrested in String of Driveway Robberies. Five men believed to be connected to at least nine robberies in Oak Cliff, downtown Dallas, and Old East Dallas, were arrested on Tuesday. Authorities say the men were ambushing residents as they parked in their driveways and forcing them into their houses at gunpoint. One victim told CBS-11 about the harrowing experience, which ended with a kicker: it took officers more than 2 hours to respond to calls from him and his neighbors.

“DFW Mystery Friend” Donates More Than $600,000 To North Texas Teachers. The anonymous donor filled the needs of hundreds of local teachers who posted requests for classroom project funding on donorschoose.org.

Will Friday Be a Snow Day? The answer rests on Mother Nature’s frosty shoulders and maybe, just maybe, the manifesting mind powers of schoolchildren, if they all wish hard enough.

Read More

Business

Meet the Trio Behind Downtown Dallas’ Royal Blue Grocery

| 21 hours ago

Royal Blue Grocery might feel unfamiliar to the average downtown denizen. But that’s exactly how Dallas owners and partners Zac Porter, his wife Emily Ray-Porter, and their friend Cullen Potts want it.

Urban residents who meander into Royal Blue’s location at Main and Ervay streets will find fresh produce, artisan foods, prepared meals from the in-house kitchen, and local options, like breakfast tacos from Tacodeli. It feels closer to a dressed-up New York bodega than the big-box grocery stores of suburbia. “East Coast people love it, and they get it the minute they walk in,” Ray-Porter says.

Downtown was ready for Royal Blue. The central business district has seen explosive residential growth in recent years, but it had remained a food desert.  According to Downtown Dallas Inc., 11,000 people live in the city’s urban core. There are more than 8,200 existing residential units downtown and in surrounding neighborhoods, with 3,100 more on the way. The city center’s daytime population is booming, too with about 135,000 people working in the CBD.

Royal Blue offers downtown residents and workers a way to stay in their neighborhood and complete the live-work-play triumvirate so many aim to achieve. “We are all looking for convenience,” Ray-Porter says. “Most people are shopping for one, or two days max, and moms don’t cook as much anymore.”

Read More

Politics

Turnout Has Been Low, but There’s Plenty at Stake in Today’s City Council Runoff

| 23 hours ago

As of Friday, with Election Day happening today, just 804 people have voted in the special election runoff to determine District 4’s next City Council member. This is the Oak Cliff slot vacated by Dwaine Caraway, who stepped down in August as he pled guilty to felony corruption charges.

The lackluster numbers come after a whopping 14,297 people cast votes in the District 4 special election in November. At that point, 13 candidates were involved. Previous Council member Carolyn King Arnold and activist Keyaira Saunders received the most votes, but neither won a majority, so the decider became this mid-December runoff.

In 2017, Caraway edged Arnold by taking 1,760 votes compared to her 1,553. District 4 did not require a runoff that year, but the ones associated with that election—Districts 6, 7, and 8—yielded between 2,000 and 2,500 votes, give or take. It would require an unlikely final push to reach those numbers this year; during those runoffs—which were in June—only about 18 percent of the total vote came on election day.

But despite the poor turnout, there is plenty at stake here for the slice of Oak Cliff covered by District 4, and for the rest of Dallas. The winner holds influence during a crucial five-month stretch for the city, leading up to the election of a new mayor, while grabbing an inside track to their own re-election for a full two-year term in May.

Read More

Trinity River

It’s Time to Bury the Old Trinity River Hatchets

| 1 day ago

As Matt and I wrote last Friday, we were rather impressed with a big new plan for the Trinity River that was unveiled last week by the Trinity Park Conservancy. Unlike so many of the Trinity River plans that have been pushed over the years, the Harold Simmons Park plan appeared to represent a change in direction around some of the fundamental thinking that has dictated official efforts to chart out the future of the river. Past plans proposed transforming the river all sorts of crazy ways, but this new plan appears to have the fundamental nature of the Trinity River as its starting point.

I say “appears” because, as the plan’s authors readily admit, it is still very early in the planning process. If the history of the Trinity has taught us anything it is that politics, bureaucracy, philanthropy, engineering, general incompetence, and other forces that swirl around the Trinity often manage to get into the designers’ plans and muck them up. But at least at the unveiling, the designers were keen on making the appearance that the nature of the river was fundamental to their design.

Let’s highlight the significance of this. It means that after decades of debate over the Trinity, public resistance to the official Trinity narratives has helped reshape the city’s thinking around what we do within its levees.

There was a time not that long ago when everyone spoke about the river like it was an object that needed to be transformed—redeveloped as a road to boost a regional transportation agenda, harnessed to target economic development in areas of downtown, or dug-up and rebuilt as a park. Only in recent years—months, really—did some of the people closest to the project start to recognize that the Trinity was a floodway, and not a river like the kind that exists in east coast or European cities or in the mountains of Colorado. This park project, as pitched, has a core principle of restoring natural ecology in the floodplain.

The designers behind the new plan talked about making “strategic moves” to harness the river’s aquatic physics in a way that can help rehabilitate the ecosystem and open low-impact recreational access.

These ideas are coming from the Trinity Park Conservancy—the recently renamed Trinity Trust—the same organization that once hired the people that drew the jugglers under the overpass and commissioned the doomed whitewater rapid course. The shift in language and attitude should overjoy the old Trinity warriors—their friction and resistance has helped to sharpen Dallas’ understanding of the river and its future.

But this is the Trinity River, Dallas’ oldest punching bag, and old polemical habits die hard.

The two main responses to the new plan—one from the Dallas Morning News’ Mark Lamster and another from the Dallas Observer‘s Jim Schutze—both miss the mark in their reaction to last week’s unveil.

Read More

Local News

Yesterday I Passed Seven Horse-Drawn Carriages in Highland Park

| 1 day ago
(photo by Thom Quine)

I don’t know anyone who likes horse-drawn carriage rides. At least I don’t think I do. And what I really mean is I don’t know anyone who specifically likes horse-drawn carriage rides. I’m sure I am acquainted with at least one or two or maybe even three people who, if the situation presented itself, would go for a horse-drawn carriage ride. Why, even I, under the exact right scenario — and absolutely without one dollar coming out of my pocket — might indulge in one and maybe it would even be pleasant. I don’t know. Maybe I am being too magnanimous. It is the holidays. I very well could have my guard down.

Anyway, even in Highland Park, which likes to think of itself as a modern remake of a Norman Rockwell painting, especially around this time of year, seven horse-drawn carriages is too many. It is an untenable situation.

Read More

Local Government

Which Council Member Sends the Most Email?

| 1 day ago

Having heard the specious rumor that certain dallas City Council members were computer illiterate to the point that they didn’t know how to send an email, we filed an open records request with Dallas City Hall. We asked for the number of emails sent from every council member’s city account during the six-month period from March 17 to September 17. Then we asked the council members to explain their position in the resulting ranking of email activity. A caveat: bear in mind that they all have an assistant or assistants who also communicate with constituents.

Read More

Local News

Leading Off (12/11/18)

| 1 day ago

Glenn Beck Pays off $27,000 Worth of Strangers’ Layaway Items. Beck, who recently merged his media company to create BlazeTV, paid off all the layaway items at a North Richland Hills Walmart. Even more impressive than the dollar amount is that paying off the accounts one by one took several hours.

More Share Bikes Coming to Dallas. Uber-owned Jump bikes, which are electric, will soon litter the streets. About 2,000 of them will likely roll out next year, along with 2,000 electric Jump scooters. You know what would be cool? Dedicated lanes for all these bikes and scooters.

Mavs Smoke Magic 101-76. The highlight of the game again came from Luka. After DeAndre Jordan missed two alley-oops from him and then finally finished a third, Luka celebrated like this:

Read More

Media

Jeff Whittington Ends 12-Year Run of Anything You Ever Wanted to Know at KERA 90.1

| 2 days ago

The late, great Glenn Mitchell invented KERA’s Anything You Ever Wanted to Know, the oddly compelling call-in show where people ask questions and then other people answer those questions. It’s hard to say when, exactly, he did this. Somewhere in the ’90s. Lore has it that a guest didn’t show up one day, and that’s how Mitchell filled the hour. He just opened the mic and started taking calls. If he couldn’t answer the caller’s question, he invited his audience to do so. The show became a Friday afternoon staple in 2001.

After Mitchell died, in 2005, his producer, Jeff Whittington, took over the show, which his buddies (me included) prefer to call Anything You Ever Didn’t Google. After 12 years of hosting it, and after 22 years with KERA, Jeff is leaving the station to spend more time with his family.

Generally, when you hear that phrase in connection with a workplace separation, it sounds like something has gone horribly wrong. In Jeff’s case, that is exactly what has happened.

Read More

Business

Toyota’s Jim Lentz Is D CEO’s 2018 CEO of the Year

| 2 days ago

You could call him the Susan Lucci of our CEO of the Year feature. For three consecutive years, Toyota Motor North America’s Jim Lentz was named a runner-up in D CEO’s annual program; this year, he earned the title outright, as a consensus pick among editors. We also discussed the merits of Stephen Demetriou of Jacobs Engineering, Melissa Reiff of The Container Store, Randall Stephenson with AT&T, and Stephen Winn at RealPage Inc.

Lentz is named CEO of the Year for successfully overseeing a massive restructuring at Toyota and the company’s headquarters relocation to Plano, where it now employs 4,000 people. The chief exec has to contend with profound changes in the industry—including advances in technology, government regulation, and increased competition—as he grapples for market share. At the same time, the speed of doing business has rapidly accelerated.

All of this has led Lentz to rely more on his gut. “Back in the old days, you waited to make your decisions until you had 100 percent of the information, because you could afford to do that,” he told us. “Today you can’t. Today you’ve got to be ‘roughly right.’”

Read More