A Daily Conversation About Dallas

Good Reads

Your Summer Reading List: Violated

| 41 mins ago

Ruthie Mae stared across the street at the State Fair of Texas. She lived close enough to see and smell the smoke when Big Tex had burned to a crisp. Some days she imagined her husband was still around, coercing her to ride on the Ferris wheel, trying to recapture their youth. She shook off the nostalgia and picked up the lunch she had packed for her daughter, Shontaye. Every Monday through Thursday for over a year now, she fixed a chicken sandwich, mixed salad, potato chips, cookie, and orange juice and stuffed it in her soft-sided cooler. Dialysis made Shontaye so weak that she needed to eat and take a short nap before she returned to her job training people at the gym. “Whipping them into shape,” she’d said.

Her phone rang as she headed toward the front door. Telemarketers. But wait, maybe it was Shontaye. Ruthie Mae knew she was running an errand with one of the trainers before meeting her at dialysis.

“Mom,” Shontaye whispered. “Don’t panic. Just listen.” Ruthie Mae pushed the speaker button and eased down onto the brown leather recliner that had belonged to her husband before he passed away. “Call my parole officer and tell her I was riding in the car with another felon when the police pulled us over. It’s a parole violation.”
Ruthie Mae interrupted her. “Lordy, Jesus.”

“Mom, listen. They’re going to hold me. My P.O. can tell you what to do. I’m at the Lew Sterrett Justice Center, the Dallas County Jail.” Ruthie Mae picked up the pencil from the end table and wrote Dallas County Jail onto the calendar. “Mom. You there?”

She remembered years ago when Shontaye had called and said she was in jail. That day she handed the phone to her husband to let him handle it.

“I didn’t know he was a felon,” Shontaye said.

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New Study Shows Gentrification May Not Be the Boogeyman Many Fear

| 2 hours ago

Earlier this week, I was sitting in the offices of the Jim Lake Company talking with Amanda Moreno-Lake when the subject of Oak Cliff development inevitably came up.

Moreno-Lake has been a key figure in the Oak Cliff boom, and Jim Lake is one of the original investors in the Bishop Arts District. In 2008, when a stretch of Davis St. was rezoned to allow for dense development in and around the district, Moreno-Lake was on the neighborhood committee overseeing the changes. That rezoning opened the floodgates for a tremendous amount of development that has rapidly transformed Oak Cliff. The development has split the neighborhood. It has brought jobs, amenities, shops, and restaurants, but it has also driven up taxes and the cost of living, leading to displacement and a shift in the character of the neighborhood. In 2008 Oak Cliff residents were desperate for more investment in their neighborhood. These days, when they have the opportunity, Oak Cliff residents have attempted to tap the brakes on the surge.

Moreno-Lake bristles at the sentiment that the new development has been bad for the neighborhood. She argues that gentrification and displacement are terms that are too broad to describe what is going on in Oak Cliff. For example, she says, what if someone purchased a house on 7th St. a few decades ago for $35,000 or $40,000. Now, with their family grown, they can sell that house and earn hundreds of thousands of dollars in profit. Perhaps they choose to find a quiet place out of the city on a little patch of land and live on the earnings for the rest of their lives. Is that displacement, Moreno-Lake asks, or the best investment decision of their lives?

What Moreno-Lake is getting at is that it can be difficult to sort out who wins and who loses when neighborhoods experience gentrification. A new study backs up that observation, demonstrating that, despite the common fears of gentrification and its visible impact on the character of neighborhoods, original residents stand to gain more than what conventional wisdom is willing to admit. In fact, the study shows that whether residents choose to stay in their neighborhoods or they choose to move, they are often better off than they were before reinvestment occurred.

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Local News

Leading Off (7/19/19)

| 4 hours ago

No Clue When Chief Hall Will Return. Chief U. Reneé Hall underwent surgery last week and is recovering. But it’s not clear when she’ll get back to work. Some at City Hall seem to just don’t know. Others say they can’t say because of HIPAA, the medical privacy law. All we know is that it was a “major surgery” and that Executive Assistant Chief David Pughes is running the show in her absence.

High-Ranking Cop Under Investigation. Speaking of DPD: Maj. Vince Weddington is under investigation for allegedly ordering a detective to destroy a piece of evidence in a murder case. WFAA says it’s related to the shooting death of Shniquia Simington, who was gunned down outside King’s Cabaret in the Design District. It’s not clear what the evidence was, but the station said it detailed “concerns about the investigation.”

Big Expansion Coming to Katy Trail. The Friends of Katy Trail plans to add a new soft-surface path for pedestrians to a one mile portion that doesn’t currently have that. It’ll run south of Knox at Armstrong to Blackburn in Uptown. The idea is to separate pedestrians from cyclists. The total cost is $9 million, with $8 million coming from private donations.

Hot Weekend Coming, But (Minor) Front Will Arrive Next Week. That about says it all. You’re looking at highs in the upper 90s this weekend and upper 80s into the week. Last year at this time we were dealing with triple digits, so I suppose we should be happy with what we’ve got.

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Local Government

The Legislature Kneecapped Revenue for Texas Cities Just in Time For Budget Season

| 21 hours ago

This summer, Texas cities will begin maneuvering through their budgets knowing that the state has lessened the revenue they’ve come to expect. The last session resulted in two immediate stoppages: no more revenue from red light cameras and a limit on fees that municipal governments can charge telecommunications companies for using public right of way. Then, in 2021, cities won’t be able to grow property tax revenue collections by more than 3.5 percent without voter approval. This has been written about before locally, but the Texas Tribune’s new urban affairs reporter corralled responses from all major Texas cities and what they’re expecting.

Across the board, municipalities are reporting an immediate hit in a ballpark that ranges from $4 million (Austin) to $27 million (Houston) from the telecom limitations alone. Dallas and Fort Worth expect about $7 million to $8 million less than they received last year. Red-light camera revenue doesn’t seem like it’ll hit the cities as hard—San Antonio and Houston had already outlawed them—but Dallas and Fort Worth each say they’ll lose out on $1 million next year. (The year after, the city projects a loss of $2.4 million, presumably because existing contracts are allowed to expire if they were signed before May.) It’s by no means a huge portion of their general funds, but these captures can help lead to things like police raises and longer hours for libraries.

The real pain comes the following budget cycle, in 2021, when the Lege’s property tax reform begins. Previously, cities didn’t have to go to voters unless they wanted to jump revenue collections by 8 percent. Now, the cap is at 3.5 percent, and all municipalities are going to feel it: Austin is expecting a shortfall of $52.6 million by 2023-2024; San Antonio’s could be as high as $81 million, which is what it estimates it would’ve cost the city if the cap was in effect in the last decade. Dallas says it would’ve been down $25.1 million if the law was in place last September. The law won’t affect tax bills much, just how much the cities can collect.

The five-year forecast that the city’s budget office presented the Council in June is even more grim.

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Good Reads

Your Summer Reading List: Shorty

| 1 day ago

Shorty had a curse word for the world stuck in his throat that even the sweetest Boone’s Farm strawberry wine couldn’t wash down. A curse word he slurred effortlessly at everyone who walked down his block of Wayne Street. And it truly was his. While Annette Strauss was the mayor of the city of Dallas, Shorty was the mayor of the 1800 block of Wayne Street.

“You don’t know nothing about no damn dominoes, so step off, youngster.”

“That has got to be the ugliest damn dog on this whole planet.”

“Mr. Ice Cream man! There ain’t no reason to be playing that music that damn loud!”

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Local News

Since 2014, Dallas Averages One Shooting Per Day

| 1 day ago

In May, more than 40 people were murdered in Dallas, an unexplained spike from the 15 in May of last year. The investigation files crowded the desks of a skeleton homicide crew, prompting Dallas PD to boost the unit from 14 to 22 detectives. By mid-June, the number of homicides here had already notched over 100, on pace to surpass last year’s total of 196.

With election season behind us and City Council out for the summer, rhetoric around the issue has slowed. But it’s way too easy to find examples illustrating that the problem hasn’t gone anywhere.

Not all of these killings involve guns. But gun violence has long stretched the city’s limited resources while leaving neighborhoods and families reeling from its effects. To get a grip on how deeply Dallas is impacted by gun violence, we analyzed five years of DPD incident data. The results are staggering. They show that on average, the city sees at least one gun-related murder or shooting involving an injury per day.

Over the past five years (June 2014 through May 2019), there have been at least 2,285 people injured by shootings in the city of Dallas. Of those people, 482 died. Because the city’s public incident data excludes sensitive records, such as offenses involving minors or sexual assault, the numbers are surely low. But the statistics presented here offer some of the most comprehensive tallies yet of how gun violence impacts our city.

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Leading Off

Leading Off (7/18/19)

| 1 day ago

Chief Hall Taking Leave of Absence After Surgery. DPD Chief U. Renee Hall underwent major surgery and is now on a leave of absence and recuperating. Executive Assistant Chief David Pughes will fill her role in the meantime.

Carolyn Davis’ Daughter Also Killed in Car Crash. Melissa Lashan Davis-Nunn, the 27-year-old daughter of former City Council member Carolyn Davis, also died as a result of Monday’s crash. Jonathan Alger Moore, who crashed his Mazda SUV into Davis’ Oldsmobile Cutlass, faces two counts of intoxication manslaughter. He is now in the Dallas County jail.

Dallas Cops Arrest Two People on Sex Trafficking Charges. Jerry Duncan and Kathryne Sneed were arrested on sex trafficking charges in three states, one of which is Texas. They’re in the Dallas County jail with bail at $100,000 each.

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Early Campaign Donations Show A Major Fight For Texas Legislative Seats in 2020

| 2 days ago

The kumbayah of the 86th legislative session’s comity and bipartisanship led to the passage of historic and costly school finance legislation. It was one without fist fights or bill-killing massacres. But the gloves are off: 2020 is upon us.

For the first since 2009, when Republicans only held a two seat majority, both parties are on defense.

Texas House seats in Dallas County—and even neighboring Collin, Denton and Tarrant counties—are in play. Both parties need to defend what they have, including the six Democratic Dallas pickups and the two remaining Republicans in the local delegation. With the first major campaign finance reports of the season now available, a glimpse of what is to come predicts a wild ride.

Here’s where we stand:

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North Texas Won’t Win in the Long Run With a ‘Dallas Also’ Attitude

| 2 days ago

Over the weekend, the Dallas Morning News editorial board published its take on the Texas Monthly interview with Mayor Eric Johnson, which we also spoke about last week. In the interview, Johnson tells TexMo that he believes regionalism is fine when it comes to big economic engines like Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. But when it comes to services like public transit, he argued that Dallas needs to start delivering for its own residents. To my ears, that sounded like Johnson pointing out that sometimes the region’s interests and the city’s interests don’t align. In those cases, the mayor of Dallas must stick up for the city.

If that’s what Johnson really meant, it’s a striking shift in tone compared with his predecessor. Nonetheless, the News’ edit board, one of the former mayor’s biggest champions, tried to close the gap on Johnson’s comments. Johnson’s comments were “nuanced,” the editorial says, and they demonstrate that “he deeply understands this difficult dance” between regional and urban interests. “We don’t hear from the mayor a ‘Dallas First’ motto that excludes our important partners in this region,” the edit board writes. “What we hear is a ‘Dallas Also.’”

I’m not sure what exactly “Dallas Also” means, but I find something pejorative about the phrase and the way it implicitly frames the city’s interests as subordinate to a greater regional project. More importantly, the general tone of the editorial—the way it brushes off criticism of DART’s light rail, its fawning at supposed “nuance,” its suggestion that the future success of DFW requires a delicate dance between large urban centers and suburban partners—underscores a complacency and a general failure to grasp the real stakes of the city’s—and the region’s—future. It is a lack of urgency that also seems to be shared by a large subset of Dallas’ civic leadership.

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New Podcast Announces Big Changes at D Magazine Partners

| 2 days ago

In late May, we saw some significant changes at D Magazine. On the cusp of our 45th anniversary (coming up in September!), founder Wick Allison announced he was relinquishing editorial and management responsibilities while remaining our chairman. Wick, as you know, is also the founder and co-chair of the Coalition for a New Dallas superPAC and several other enterprises.

His wife, Christine Allison, became editor-in-chief of all media as well as CEO of the company. Christine founded our D Home magazine and is the author of 13 books. She has been running the operational side of the business for several years. Tim Rogers will remain the magazine’s editor, and the rest of the editorial staff is unchanged.

Gillea Allison, senior of the four Allison daughters, became our new president and chief revenue officer. Her sisters were named earlier to the company’s board of directors.

Yesterday Jason Wright’s Texas Titans podcast featured an interview with Gillea Allison about her background, what led her back to Dallas, what it’s like to enter and rise in a family business, how she sees the future of media, and a host of other subjects. There’s also some interesting insight into what we aim for here at D Magazine: to create communities around the topics we cover. (The interview begins at the six minute mark.)

Well worth a visit for media junkies, which aren’t we all? Join me in congratulating Gillea and Christine in their new gigs.

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Good Reads

Your Summer Reading List: The Watch

| 2 days ago

“Why do you wear a man’s watch?” I asked my grandmother when I was 3, playing with blocks.

“So I will remember to put you to bed,” she replied.

“She doesn’t care when you go to bed,” my grandfather said.

“Why do you wear a man’s watch?” I asked my grandmother when I was 10, cutting out sugar cookie stars.

“Because the numbers are bigger,” she replied.

“Your grandmother can see the gnat on a bullet a mile away,” my grandfather said.

“Why do you wear a man’s watch?” I asked my grandmother when she gave me her pearls.

“It was my father’s,” she replied. “ It reminds me of his heart ticking.”

“Her father never wore a watch,” my grandfather said. “And he had no heart.”

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