FrontBurner

A Daily Conversation About Dallas

Politics & Government

Voting Is Safe. You Should Do It. Also, Most Poll Workers Are Wonderful.

| 1 day ago

Last weekend, two workers at the University Park United Methodist Church polling location were fired because they refused to wear masks. Toni Pippins-Poole, Dallas County’s elections administrator, has pointed out that poll workers must wear masks, per an order issued by the County Commissioners Court. The maskless poll workers point out that Gov. Greg Abbott has issued an executive order saying that while poll workers are encouraged to wear masks, they are not legally required to do so.

Similar disagreements have popped up at other polling locations. The Dallas Observer wrote about a deal up in Denton where some folks feel like maskless Republican poll workers were engaged in voter intimidation. But the only outlet that has so far reported on the UP incident has been the Texas Scorecard. That’s the right-wing outfit run by Michael Quinn Sullivan’s Empower Texans. When the mayor of Southlake reversed course on requiring voters to wear masks, the Texas Scorecard called it a “victory against coronavirus tyranny.” That’s how they roll. Bear that in mind.

So what’s going on here? I called Lynn Davenport — one of the UP poll workers who was fired, a onetime Richardson ISD school board candidate, and a singer-songwriter — to see if I could get some clarity on the issue.

Read More

Music

The Mountain Goats Return to Dallas On the New Getting Into Knives

| 1 day ago

I was hoping to speak to John Darnielle this morning, the singer-songwriter behind the long-running, cult-favorite, Colbert-approved band the Mountain Goats. But seeing as it is release day for the band’s latest, Getting Into Knives, I suppose he was otherwise occupied. Among other questions, I specifically wanted to ask Darnielle about this lyric from “Picture of My Dress”: “I’m in the bathroom of a Dallas, Texas Burger King/And Mr. Steven Tyler is on the overhead speaker/He doesn’t want to miss a thing.”

The song itself has an interesting back story. It began with a tweet from the poet Maggie Smith, talking about a hypothetical photo essay involving a wedding dress. Darnielle responded that it would be a song titled “Picture of My Dress.” Eventually, he sat down and wrote it.

“Picture of My Dress,” of course, is not the Mountain Goats’ first foray into North Texas. Most notably, there is 2002’s All Hail West Texas, which featured songs such as “Blues in Dallas” and “The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton.” The latter served as the inspiration for Kimberly King Parsons’ entry into our annual summer fiction package a few months ago.

TL;DR Listen to the Mountain Goats.

Read More

Nature and Environment

Local Eagle Dares You to Peer at Him With Live Cam

| 2 days ago

In the September 2019 issue of D Magazine, Tara Nieuwesteeg wrote a story about the John Bunker Sands Wetland Center, located 30 minutes southeast of Dallas. The piece focused on the great lengths taken to preserve the nesting area of a pair of bald eagles. Well, lookee here. Tara sends word that a couple weeks ago the folks at JBSWC got a new eagle live cam up and running. As I type this, 10 of us are watching nothing happen. The eagles must be off doing eagle things, terrifying fish and small rodents. You know what, though? It doesn’t matter. Just the sound of the live cam — crickets, wind, the occasional crow caw — is a soothing background track to play during the workday. Highly recommended.

Read More

Local News

Leading Off (10/23/20)

| 2 days ago

Attorney General Ken Paxton Kept Intervening In Donor’s Legal Affairs. The Dallas Morning News got an interview with one of Paxton’s former deputies who resigned after suspecting their boss’ behavior had grown criminal. The report finds that Paxton stepped in “at least four times on a range of legal matters” that were centered on the Austin developer and campaign donor Nate Paul. In 2019, Paul had his home and business raided by the FBI. Paxton was getting involved in small matters, like records requests. Others were larger, like a dispute with a nonprofit where Paxton’s office seemed like it was representing Paul. It tried to get that nonprofit to settle the $10.5 million lawsuit for “pennies on the dollar.” Meanwhile, the attorney general fired a second whistleblower just yesterday.

Murder Suspect Killed His Girlfriend, But Got Out On Bond. Andrew Beard was booked into the Lew Sterrett Justice Center with a $1 million bond after he shot and stabbed the mother of his child. Family members say he stalked her. Police believe he wore dark brown makeup to disguise himself, which obviously didn’t work. But he was able to post bond and is back on house arrest, which has the victim’s family fearful. Family violence advocates believe the bond was too low and are calling for reform of the arraignment process.

Hospital Capacity Is At Risk Because of New COVID Surge. Statewide and local hospitalizations for the disease are now at levels we haven’t seen since August, when we were coming down off a peak from July. The 1,374 people hospitalized in the 13-county North Texas region is higher than anywhere in the state; it’s double that of Houston. Yesterday, Dallas County added 435 new infections. The 7-day average is 482, up from 380 a week ago. Wear your mask and stay away from others.

Another Debate for Collins and Allred. Genevieve Collins, the Republican hopeful trying to unseat incumbent Colin Allred, said during a debate last night that highways like Central Expressway should be expanded to meet transit needs. Not only is this a backwards thinking that doesn’t account for the surge of vehicles that come with every highway expansion, it would also require seizing land along the highway in some of Dallas’ most prosperous neighborhoods. The other subjects were more down the party line, with Collins calling for a replacement of Obamacare.

Cold Front Today. It’ll get down in the 50s tonight, hang out in the 60s on Saturday, and warm back up on Sunday. Enjoy it

Read More

Coronavirus

COVID-19 Long-Haulers: ‘The Second Time, They Got Sicker’

| 2 days ago

The Centers for Disease Control has released a report showing COVID-19 resulted in about 300,000 more deaths than would be expected in a typical year. Nearly two-thirds of those died from COVID-19. The death tally does include deaths from the regular seasonal flu and other causes, though these medical events rarely overwhelm hospitals like COVID-19 has threatened at various points in this pandemic. This is no ordinary flu. 

COVID-19 symptoms are not only more severe than the regular flu, but they also last longer. The fever, sweating, coughing, and fatigue are common with the flu, but diarrhea is a symptom that wouldn’t usually be associated with the flu. The loss of smell and taste are unique symptoms, appear more widely than fever, and last for months. Patients with those symptoms are now eligible to be screened for the disease.  

But these symptoms can become severe, resulting in hospitalization, oxygen, and even intubation. If a patient becomes so sick that they can no longer take in oxygen, they must be put on a ventilator, where a machine pumps in oxygen into the lungs. While many eventually improve enough to get off the ventilator and leave the hospital, symptoms can remain for months. 

“We’re learning this as we go because we’re seeing that first wave of fully recovered patients coming through from March,” says Dr. Mohanakrishnan Sathyamoorthy, professor and chair of the department of medicine at the TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine as well as an invasive cardiologist. “The fatigue, lethargy, and cough can be persistent for many months after the initial hospitalized phase.”

Heart disease is another lasting effect of the virus, says Dr. Fahmi Farah of Bentley Heart Medical Center in Fort Worth. She is a cardiologist who has treated several COVID-19 patients in the hospital and follow-up visits and has noticed younger patients coming in with heart conditions they never had before. She has found inflammation of the heart muscle, or myocarditis, in some post-COVID-19 patients. This can lead to heart failure, shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, a debilitating swelling of legs, and a severe drop in quality of life. 

Read More

Local News

Dallas School Board Shows Guts, Not Corruption, in Tornado Recovery

| 2 days ago

No very visible organized opposition to next month’s Dallas public school bond election has shown up, but a two-part, vote-no argument is bubbling along beneath the surface on social media. The first part argues that, even though voters have authorized big bond issues in the recent past, the Dallas Independent School District still has too many lousy buildings.

The second argument is that something crooked is going on with the bond money and the proof is Thomas Jefferson High School in northwest Dallas, still battered and unrestored a year after it was devastated by a string of tornadoes.

The first argument — too much money spent already, too many bad buildings left — is the easy one. DISD is a city unto itself, with more than 150,000 students and 20,000 staff. Its wants and physical deficiencies are indeed staggering, with almost $6 billion in unmet needs in the physical plant alone.

The proposed bond for Dallas is the biggest ever — $3.7 billion. But on a per-student basis, this year’s bond proposal in San Antonio — not a rich city — is 12 percent more than what Dallas is asking its voters to approve. A bond approved in the affluent Highland Park school district five years ago was 131 percent more per student.

People opposed to the Dallas bond may argue that DISD still has a lot of bad buildings, but the people in favor of the bond are saying the same thing. So fix them. And the thing the crazy Texas Legislature stuck on the ballot in all caps saying it’s a tax hike is flat not true. Nobody’s taxes go up when this passes.

The piece I personally am more drawn to, however, is the charge of corruption and conspiracy, because — I just am. And I didn’t get why Thomas Jefferson was still a fly-blown hulk when I thought the district had said it was putting TJ on some kind of super speeded-up fix-erator program that I never really understood. We’re a year away from the tornado, and, if anything, TJ looks like it got hit by another tornado.

So I have been asking around. Most of the people I talked to — with one notable and very welcome exception — would only talk to me on a not-for-attribution basis, meaning I can say what they told me, but I can’t name them. And I think when we get into it, you will see why they’re so goosey.

Read More

Sports & Leisure

Dez Bryant Close to Joining an NFL Team*, Not the Cowboys

| 2 days ago

Dez Bryant has been out of football for a long time. He’s only 31, but he last played — for the Cowboys — in the 2017 season. He signed with the New Orleans Saints a couple of months into the 2018 season, but then he tore his achilles tendon two days later, in practice, not even making it into a game, and that seemed like that.

Bryant has since actively campaigned to get back on the Cowboys’ roster, but I think the closest that has come to happening is Jerry Jones making some noncommittal remarks about wishing Bryant well. I personally never thought he would play football again.

But, it looks like he is at least in the vicinity of that happening. If all goes well, Bryant will be joining the Baltimore Ravens’ practice squad. And with the craziness of this current NFL season, who knows what might happen after that?

Also, it was a catch, and we all know that.

Read More

Local News

With Fair Park’s Master Plan Nearly Approved, All It Needs Is $58 Million

| 3 days ago

Barring some sort of tectonic political shift, the City Council will next week approve — likely unanimously or close to — the new master plan for Fair Park. The Council was briefed on the plan Wednesday afternoon and it received unanimous approval from the Park Board in June. Most on Council had no concerns about the merits of the plan or the ability of the nonprofit Fair Park First to raise $58 million to complete the first phase.

“It won’t be an issue for them,” said Councilman Adam Bazaldua, who represents Fair Park and the surrounding areas, after I asked him what happens to the project if that money isn’t raised. “I have full confidence in seeing the vision executed.”

I dug into the plan in detail a few months back after the Park Board OK’d it, and it doesn’t seem like there were any changes to report. The broad strokes include transforming 800,000 square feet of surface concrete into green space, building a community park accessible to the public year round, adding a few new pocket parks around the edges, looping trails that guide you through the property and connect with the surrounding neighborhoods, a new parking structure, a hotel with surface-level retail and restaurants, an overhaul for the areas near the existing venues and the Cotton Bowl, and a greening of the land that will help curb a heat island effect that makes the grounds 45 degrees warmer on summer days.

The fundraising will be overseen by a consulting group called Rise 360 that helps nonprofits raise money. Last month, Bill Lively, a man who has been described as a “master fundraiser,” volunteered to advise the capital campaign. He oversaw a $334 million campaign to build the AT&T Performing Arts Center and helped generate $280 million in donations as the director of the campaign for SMU. He also served as head of the Super Bowl Host Committee, bringing in $25 million ahead of the 2011 event.

“We all know Dallas has a lot of good causes, and that there is a lot of competition for philanthropic funding, but we’re very confident because it’s Fair Park, because of its history, and because of its potential and vision we have with Fair Park First and its mission that we can make it among the top priorities in the community,” said Ben Casey, a consultant with Rise 360.

It’s broken up into three phases, the final of which will take up to 20 years to complete. The city wants the first one done in five years.

Read More

Local News

Leading Off (10/22/20)

| 3 days ago

Dallas City Council Gets First Look at New Fair Park Plan. Reps from Spectra, Fair Park First, and the Dallas Park and Recreation department briefed council members yesterday, presenting an updated plan for the 277-acre property that includes a 2-acre music green, parking deck, and 14-acre community park that’s been likened to Klyde Warren Park. The first phase of the project is expected to cost $58 million; $2 million has been raised so far. Council member Adam Bazaldua, who represents the Fair Park area, called the plan a “big win” for District 7 and the city as a whole, while also acknowledging longstanding community concerns: “Fair Park has symbolism in this city as segregation and racism and a systemic reason for why a lot of the surrounding communities and constituents of District 7 have their guard up and want to make sure this park is something that belongs to them.”

Arlington ISD Reports 34 Active COVID Cases in the Past Week Alone. Since in-person instruction started on September 28, there have been 166 positive cases reported district-wide. The past week’s new cases include 20 staff members and 14 students. Meanwhile, Dallas County cases also continue to rise. Yesterday’s totals include 523 new confirmed cases and two deaths. Dr. Fred Cerise, the president and CEO of Parkland Memorial Hospital, told The Dallas Morning News that he was concerned about the upward trajectory. “While not at the same level as our peak in mid-July yet, we are well on our way,” he told the paper. “The number of COVID patients at Parkland has tripled in just over a month, and the cases we are seeing today reflect community activity from two weeks ago. I have seen nothing in the past two weeks to make me think the curve we are on now will imminently flatten.”

Dallas Police Make Arrest for Murder of Air Force Reservist. Rashad Rayford surrendered himself to the Homicide Unit yesterday and was charged with the murder of Nick Slaughter, who died from a gunshot wound in the early morning hours on Monday. The shooting is believed to be related to an earlier incident involving an active shooter in a parking lot next to the Chocolate Lounge on South Lamar Street. Slaughter’s family believes he may have been hit by a stray bullet.

Read More

Coronavirus

UTSW Projections: Could There Be 2,500 New Daily COVID-19 Cases by January?

| 3 days ago

With schools in action, restaurants open, and COVID-19 fatigue settling in, new COVID-19 cases in Dallas-Fort Worth are on the rise. Projections by UT Southwestern, which have been accurate throughout the year, are predicting a terrifying winter. The latest models show that without a change in the effectiveness of disease abatement efforts, there could be 2,500 new cases each day by January. 

DFW’s case increase mimics the national pattern, where cases have increased by 73 percent in the last five weeks, with more than 60,000 new daily cases across the country this week. The U.S. has followed European Union patterns, which has seen a rapid increase in new cases over the last couple weeks. Hospitalizations statewide have risen from fewer than 3,500 in early October to more than 4,500 on Oct. 20. 

Last week, Dallas County raised the threat level back to red, advising residents to limit in-person gatherings and avoid anything but essential activities. In North Texas, hospitalizations have risen 77 percent since late September and are now 85 percent higher than in May. In the next two weeks, UTSW says COVID-19 numbers will return to the way they were in early August. In Tarrant County, COVID-19 hospitalizations are higher than in Dallas, even though Tarrant has about 500,000 fewer residents.

Read More

Local News

Leading Off (10/21/20)

| 4 days ago

College Student Flies Home to Vote. When Bradley Bain, a 23-year-old  senior at Pomona College in California, failed to receive confirmation that his absentee ballot was received by the Dallas County Elections Department, he booked a flight back to Dallas to cast his vote in person. Bain joins record numbers of early voters in Texas — 4.6 million as of Tuesday morning.

The Daily COVID Update. Dallas County reports 472 new cases and 4 deaths. What does that mean? The bad news is that the total number of cases is increasing, and there is evidence of a nationwide surge. The good news is that the rising number of cases has not corresponded with a significant increase in deaths. That could be because we’re testing more, new cases are affecting less vulnerable populations, treatments are improving, or all of the above. But doctors aren’t sure yet. The takeaway: don’t be like these establishments that lost their liquor licenses for failing to follow simple social distancing and mask guidelines. Be a nice neighbor and wear your mask.

Science, Young People Will Save the World. Looking for some hope? Meet Anika Chebrolu, the 14-year-old high school freshman from Frisco who was named America’s Top Young Scientist and won a $25,000 prize for discovering a potential COVID-19 treatment that could dramatically reduce the rate of COVID-19 infection.  “Science is the basis of life and the entire universe and we have a long way to go to understand it fully,” she said.

Domestic Violence Up During COVID-19 Lockdowns. There have been multiple domestic violence killings during the COVID-19 pandemic, domestic violence cases are up nationwide, and shelters are overwhelmed. Add this trauma to the many mental health risks young people are facing during the pandemic. More reasons to wear masks and social distance so we can get back to a new normal.

Highland Park Phenom Wins World Series Opener. The first time I heard the name Clayton Kershaw, I was writing for Park Cities People in the mid-2000s and this HP Scots pitcher struck out every single batter in a perfect game (oh, and he also hit a grand slam in that game). Kershaw, of course, went on to become one of the greatest pitchers in the history of baseball, and last night he led the Dodgers to a World Series game one victory in a brand new Arlington stadium that, despite outward appearances, is a great place to watch baseball.

Read More

Local News

One Year Ago Today, Tornadoes Ripped Through Dallas

| 4 days ago

One year ago today, the Dallas Cowboys easily beat the Philadelphia Eagles, the State Fair of Texas was shutting down for 2019, and thousands of residents in Preston Hollow and Northwest Dallas and Richardson were rushing to find shelter as an EF-3 tornado bore down on them. Miraculously, no one was killed. The property damage was pegged at over $2 billion, an amount the Federal Emergency Management Agency declined to help cover.

Thomas Jefferson High School is still gutted. It will take years to fix the damage sustained by Walnut Hill Elementary School and Cary Middle School. The Home Depot on Forest Lane that took a direct hit finally reopened. Northway Church, just east of Forest Lane, is still damaged, its George Dahl-designed sanctuary of Noah’s Ark claimed by the force of the storms. The warehouses and small businesses along Harry Hines, like the textile wholesalers that make up Fabric Alley, still haven’t come back. When you cruise through Preston Hollow, blue tarps are still covering up roofs.

Yesterday H-E-B’s president over Central Market, Stephen Butt, presented Dallas ISD a $1 million donation to help fix the district’s schools that were damaged in the disaster. He did so in the Preston Royal shopping center, standing outside the shell of Central Market. The company says the store is being redesigned and renovated.

But here is was what it was like inside that store a year ago, as one of the 10 tornadoes that ripped through North Texas destroyed the shopping center. Note the shoppers being shuttled into walk-in freezers.

Read More