A Daily Conversation About Dallas

Sports & Leisure

Byron Nelson Round 1: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

| 2 days ago

The pandemic forced the cancellation of last year’s AT&T Byron Nelson, whose two previous incarnations had struggled at Trinity Forest Golf Club. Its southern Dallas location confused White people. Its treelessness invited heatstroke. Even The Pavilion, that bacchanal tent under which so much Michelob Ultra had flowed when it stood at the Four Seasons, couldn’t get people swinging. So they moved the tournament to TPC Craig Ranch, in McKinney, and organizers promised to “bring the party back.”

But you knew all that already, didn’t you? My apologies. What you don’t know: now that Tim has attended Round 1, how will he write a blog post that breaks down his thoughts into three categories as determined by the title of a 1966 spaghetti Western starring Clint Eastwood? Ah, here we go.

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Local News

It Only Took Three Months for Industry to Return to the Shingle Mountain Site

| 2 days ago

Marsha Jackson has another fight on her hands. For three years, her neighbor was a six-story-tall dump of shingles, which came to be known as Shingle Mountain. It stood there for years as lawsuits wended their way through the courts. Last year, the city finally reached a settlement with one of the landowners to have the pile hauled to the nearby McCommas Bluff Landfill. It was fully removed by February, and the city vowed to begin an environmental assessment and consider acquiring the land, a right given to the city in the settlement.

One problem: that was only one of the landowners involved. Shingle Mountain actually sat on two plots of land that were bisected by a creek. One plot was owned by CCR Equity Holdings One. It paid the city $1 million to haul off the shingles and basically gave up its right to the land. CCR had leased to a man named Chris Ganter, whose Blue Star Recycling was responsible for the illegal shingle dump. (Ganter has denied any wrongdoing.)

The other plot of land, which is located at 9505 S. Central Expressway, is owned by Irving-based Almira Industrial and Trading Corporation. Almira cleaned up its site on its own. The city didn’t settle with Almira, and litigation is ongoing, freeing the company to use the land for the industrial uses it is zoned for. And while the city prepares an environmental assessment for the land owned by CCR, it is doing no such thing on the property owned by Almira. And Almira is getting to work.

On Thursday, the company filed an application with the city to use its property for sorting and separating metals to supply to “mills, trading companies, and export.” Late last week, someone had already hauled in two trailers. They put up a white fence between the two properties. As of today, there are at least eight trailers being stored on the land. An operator at Almira’s recycling facility hung up when asked for comment. Reached a second time, the operator said, “Don’t call us anymore. We’re not interested.” The city will either approve or deny Almira’s request.

Jackson’s home is adjacent to this industry; her property line abuts its fence. Almira’s property is zoned industrial research, freeing the landowner to perform many things that act as research, development, or support for commercial businesses. Jackson’s land is zoned agricultural. This incompatible zoning frees industry to exist next to Jackson’s home. She now says she can’t go outside without breathing in pollutants, which irritate her throat, cause skin rashes, and make her voice break. Jackson says the trucks have agitated the gravel that was placed over where the shingles were, sending dust into the air, which has gotten into her ventilation.

On Friday morning, she could barely speak on the phone. She says she has heard 18 wheelers coming and going on Choate Road, where she lives, and now her house smells of diesel fuel. “This fume is so strong in this room, in my bedroom,” she said. “It’s diesel. It started at 6:30 in the morning. They’re out there, full-on working.”

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The Scooters Are Back. This Could Be Awesome.

| 2 days ago

Don’t call it a comeback. Not yet. But electric rental scootersbanned from the streets of Dallas last fall after two wild years that saw them both hailed as an important mobility option in a city freeing itself from a car-centric past and decried as a menace to law-abiding citizens everywherecould be returning sooner rather than later.

“We’ve heard a lot from community groups and locals who want scooters back in Dallas,” says Alex April, the head of government partnerships for Spin, a Ford Motor Co. subsidiary that pitched its scooter service at City Hall last week. “Spin wants this to be done in a responsible manner to make sure this program is successful long-term.”

I couldn’t get anybody from the city’s transportation department on the phone, and as of Friday morning hadn’t heard back from spokespeople for Lime and Bird, operators whose names should be familiar to those who recall Dallas’ last scooter heyday. However, Councilman David Blewett told Channel 4 that next month the city will ask scooter companies to make their respective cases for a return to Dallas. He predicted scooters would be back “in a safe and efficient manner” at some point this year.

“There is no way this goes well,” sneered The Dallas Morning News’ editorial board.

Well, not with that attitude it won’t.

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Local News

Dallas Street Racing and Takeovers by the Numbers

| 2 days ago

Two years ago, 911 dispatchers in Dallas fielded more than 4,800 calls about dangerous driving. In 2020, that number almost doubled. During the long months of the COVID-19 pandemic, cities across the country saw a spike in street racing, along with street takeovers and showy driving stunts known variously as sliding, spinning, orto the people flooding 911 with callsa huge pain in the neck and a threat to public safety.

The problem of reckless driving and street racing is new only to certain parts of the city. Police say that targeted enforcement against street racing in southern Dallas over the last several years has been effectiveso much so that it’s pushed drivers to find new streets and intersections to take over. Meanwhile, the general claustrophobia and boredom of the pandemic have pushed kids to seek new outlets for their pent-up energy. Say, setting off fireworks while someone does donuts at the intersection of Skillman and Live Oak.

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Local News

Leading Off (5/14/21)

| 2 days ago

Texas Legislature Roundup. If the House didn’t hear a bill last night by midnight, it was basically dead. This was the first big deadline of the session, so things were pretty busy. The House passed a bill that would make it a state crime to lie on a background check to get a gun. The Senate gave final approval to a bill that would basically ban abortions. The so-called “heartbeat bill” bans abortions as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detected, which is about six weeks into the pregnancy. Which is sooner than most women know they’re pregnant. The House passed Bo’s Law, named for Botham Jean, which mandates that police officers keep their body cameras on through the course of an investigation. The House also passed a law requiring state jails to install air conditioning units.

CDC: Fully Vax’d Americans Don’t Have To Wear Masks. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky yesterday declared it safe for fully vaccinated Americans to not wear masks outside or inside businesses. Businesses can basically decide whether they want to enforce wearing a mask. I am going to continue wearing mine, if only because it annoys those who have been firmly anti-mask this whole time.

Glen Richter Pleads Guilty to 2019 Lower Greenville Murder. Richter was accused of murdering 22-year-old Sara Hudson and leaving her body in a burning SUV in the 5600 block of Alta Drive. He pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to life in prison. He waived his right to an appeal.

Beautiful Days, Then Rain. Expect beautiful weather today and tomorrow. Then, starting Sunday, expect a whole lot of rain. Rain is likely every day of next week through the weekend. Are these spring showers? 

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Arts & Entertainment

The New Kid on the Blockchain

| 3 days ago

Bart McGeehon is putting the finishing touches on a vintage 1930s radio outfitted with an LCD screen and refitted speakers in his light-filled Bishop Arts District loft. He’s the production manager of the AT&T Performing Arts Center, and he does freelance work as a set and lighting designer. But at the moment, he’s completing his transformation of the retro specimen into the sole physical embodiment of an art object whose dynamic reality will exist entirely in the etheric, intangible world of blockchain technology.

This is the latest endeavor from Verdigris Ensemble, a choral group led by founder and artistic director Sam Brukhman. Verdigris is proposing to catapult itselfand choral music in generalinto the nascent realm of programmable music that can be auctioned, resold in cryptocurrency, and modified by its user-owners. It will not just be cutting edge; it will be the first of its kind, propelling Dallas onto the international crypto art scene.

Last fall, the 28-year-old Brukhman connected with Async Art, the San Francisco-based company that recently had a coup with the sale of Block 21, one of a 40-piece series created on the company’s platform by Ben Gentilli, the London-based artist known as Robert Alice. The canvas disc, hand-painted with a portion of the digits that made up Bitcoin’s launch code (the full series contains all 12.3 million digits), sold last October for more than $131,000. It was the first artwork associated with a nonfungible token (NFT), a sort of digital key stored in the blockchain for authenticity, to be auctioned by Christie’s. In March, the digital artist known as Beeple sold a wholly digital art piece for $69 million. And earlier this spring, Alice’s Block 21, along with Beeple’s latest work and other heavyweights of blockchain art, was part of the first crypto art exhibit, held at Beijing’s UCCA Lab, a division of the UCCA Center for Contemporary Art.

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New EarBurner: Police Chief Eddie Garcia On Violent Crime, Budgets, Marijuana, and More

| 3 days ago

We met with Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia a day after he told the City Council how he planned to curb violent crime. Violent crime, he told council, is largely concentrated in tiny pockets in a few neighborhoods across the city. In Dallas, we’ve known that it has generally—although not always—originated between two or more individuals who are familiar with one another.

And we know that most of the communities that are dealing with violent crime do not have the same sort of opportunities as communities where it is not as prevalent. Transportation is poor, life expectancy is lower, jobs are difficult to come by, and healthy food isn’t always available. Many of those failures are the fault of government, which for too long neglected—and actively damaged, be that through zoning or highways or redlining or other policy decisions—some communities while favoring others.

The city’s violent crime rate increased 14 percent from 2018 to 2019 and another 5 percent from 2019 to 2020. Into this walks Garcia, who, upon his hiring three months ago, was charged with fixing it. I found his three-hour briefing to council interesting, in part because he waded right into the very controversial phrases that are “hot-spot policing” and “broken windows theory.”

Those have both led to over-policing and prejudicial practices like stop and frisk. In some cities, they’ve led to a disproportionate targeting of people of color who live in communities with high poverty rates and a violent crime problem. Garcia says his plan isn’t that; he said it’s not a “dragnet” operation and it won’t lead to stop and frisk. He says the plan is specific and narrowly tailored. It wants to fix some simple infrastructure problems that can improve neighborhoods:

“In one of those areas (I was patrolling) I counted 12 streetlights that were out in a city block. I don’t know what was worse: the fact that there was 12 streetlights that were out or the fact that people thought it was OK to live that way, because it’s not.”

As for the “hot spots,” the department identified grids—these are about the length of one football field and the width of about two—where most violent crime is occurring. This is what the operation will look like:

“We’ve broken down not only the areas but the times that we need to be there. The point is to be there and be highly visible. As visible as possible. It’s not about being there in those peak hours and stopping everything that moves, that’s that historic perspective of hot-spot policing and how it destroys community relationships with the police department. This isn’t that.”

Meanwhile, the city itself will need to figure out investments that can lift these neighborhoods up. Considering public safety is the largest line item on the city budget, balancing those interests is a difficult proposition for the chief:

“On one hand, yes, for long-term, safer Dallas and to get our communities on stable ground, we need to reduce poverty. We need to increase employment. We need to reduce food disparities and things of that nature. But at the same time you also have a report that’s saying you also need police officers to be in these areas to drive crime down. …I don’t want to call them competing interests – you have these two very important prongs that are needed for a safer Dallas, right? I’m not quite sure what the answer is, but especially when I go out into the community, I know these things are long-term successes, but our community is asking for officers now. Immediately.”

Zac Crain and I spoke with Garcia about his violent crime plan, how he reconciles the need for social services and the police department’s budget, what led to his decision to stop arresting for personal amounts of marijuana, and his thoughts on the legislation that would allow for the open carrying of handguns without training or licensing.

Listen after the jump.

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Leading Off

Leading Off (5/13/21)

| 3 days ago

High-Rises Coming to Oak Lawn. A pair of apartment towers will go up at Cedar Springs and Throckmorton with the unanimous approval of the Dallas City Council. They’ll provide some contrast with the low-slung businesses and homes already in the neighborhood, the historic center of the city’s LGBTQ community, but developer Mike Ablon plans to leave existing buildings alone and has said all the right things about supporting the area’s cultural identity and vibrancy.

COVID. Dallas County on Wednesday reported 10 deaths* due to COVID-19 and 239 new cases. Tell your friends to get vaccinated.

More Dallas Businesses Making (Masked) Return To Offices. Only about 6% of 156 companies surveyed by the Dallas Regional Chamber are requiring workers to be vaccinated, although more than 80% said they’re having masks worn around the office. About 35% of the companies surveyed said their workplaces are fully open right now, with about 19% opening in May or June and another 29% shooting to get back at it in-person between July and September. I’m heading in soon myself. Not sure where I’m supposed to sit anymore.

Mavericks Beat Pelicans 125-107. Odds are looking good that Dallas will avoid the play-in tournament for the playoffs.

Cowboys 2021 Schedule Released. Dallas’ 18-week(!) season starts Sept. 9 visiting the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Nine road games, four NFC East games in the last five weeks of the season, and absolutely no predictions from me, even though we all know this is the year, baby, Super Bowl or bust, let’s go, how about them Cowboys.

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Politics & Government

Dallas Polling Sites Were Down for Hours on Election Day

| 4 days ago

Snafus downed at least 10 9 polling locations for as many as four hours during Dallas City Council elections on May 1, showing that there were more Election Day problems than had been previously reported. [Update: 9 polling locations were temporarily closed, with other issues reported at two others; the original headline of this story has been changed to reflect that.] This emerged Wednesday as City Council members grilled Michael Scarpello, the county’s election administrator. They further decided in a 11-3 vote (one council member was absent) to tell off the Dallas County Elections Department by refusing to pay it to run the upcoming runoffs scheduled for June 5.

“We’ll never know, I suspect, how many people literally did not get to vote in this election that wanted to,” said Mayor Eric Johnson, who appeared to be the most pissed of several very displeased council membersand who, despite not appearing on the ballot, already had reason to be unhappy about the May 1 election. “That wouldn’t be OK in a presidential election or gubernatorial election where millions of people are going to get to vote.” In a low-turnout election like this one, where races could be decided by a few dozen votes, “we should be outraged,” Johnson said. The mayor’s preferred candidate in District 7, Donald Parish Jr., missed the runoff by just 25 votes.

Several of his colleagues agreed, including council members Carolyn King Arnold, in South Oak Cliff, and Cara Mendelsohn, in Far North Dallas, both of whom likened the issues on Election Day to voter suppression. Mendelsohn and other council members also pressed Scarpello on what they described as inefficiency and waste in how the elections were run.

Speaking to council members and in a phone interview afterward, Scarpello acknowledged systematic issues in the elections department that created problems on Election Day. But overall, the “ability to vote” in this election far exceeded the ability to vote in municipal elections in 2019, he says. There were more polling locations, which were open longeraccounting for 415 more hours during early voting and 1,100 more hours on Election Day, or an overall 19 percent increase from two years ago, Scarpello said. This was the first local election in which Dallas County voters were allowed to vote at any polling location in the county, both during early voting and on Election Day. And turnout this year was consistent (which is to say, pretty low) with past municipal elections.

“There were no obvious problems as far as having a net effect on the election,” he told me.

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Local News

The Oak Cliff Streetcar Went Off the Rails

| 4 days ago

I am, admittedly, late to this. But I wanted to use the photo that you see above these words. On Tuesday at about 2:15 p.m., the streetcar that ferries riders from North Oak Cliff to downtown’s Union Station and back suffered a derailment. There were no injuries. Riders were taken to their ultimate destination in a shuttle bus while the streetcar was re-railed and returned to the maintenance facility for repairs, according to DART spokesman Gordon Shattles. No businesses or residences were affected.

Derailments have happened, but they’re “very rare,” he said. The route was operational by Wednesday morning, but only one streetcar was making the rounds. DART is investigating what happened.

In the meantime, take in the rarity with the photo above, courtesy our Taylor Crumpton.

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Politics & Government

State Rep. Rafael Anchía Went Viral With a History Lesson About Voting Rights

| 4 days ago

It’s rare that a history lesson goes viral. But state Rep. Rafael Anchía (D-Dallas) managed just that in a clip recorded last week on the floor of the Texas Legislature, where lawmakers were debating a bill that would introduce new voting restrictions to the state.

Anchía, who’s already done some high-quality grilling this legislative session, was questioning Rep. Briscoe Cain (R-Deer Park), the author of the bill, about its inclusion of the phrase “purity of the ballot box,” language that had previously been used after the Civil War and again during the Jim Crow era to discriminate against Black voters.

“Are you aware that references to purity of the ballot box used throughout this country’s history has been a justification for states to disenfranchise groups they deem unfit to vote or somehow lacking?” Anchía asked.

He was not, Cain said, somewhat sheepishly. It was uncomfortable. The phrase was removed from the bill.

“This is not just old-timey history,” Anchía said in a phone interview this week. “It’s contemporary history as well. Last decade alone there were multiple findings of intentional [voter] discrimination against the legislature from three federal courts.” (This is true, although higher courts have upheld Texas’ controversial political maps and voter ID laws.) “What I wanted to emphasize in my questioning of the bill author was that there has been a continuous effort to try to roll back voting rights at different points in Texas history, and we’re experiencing one of those especially provocative points in time.”

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Sports & Leisure

Let’s Bring the (Soon to Be Former) Oakland A’s to Downtown Dallas

| 4 days ago

Yesterday, the Oakland A’s announced that they will start exploring relocating to a new city, with the blessing of Major League Baseball. Today, coincidentally (or maybe not???), I am wearing a baseball cap. It is a Mavericks cap, but still. In any event, that means I am in the right headspace [broad wink to camera] to make this argument:

Dallas should make an offer to bring the A’s to a new stadium in downtown Dallas.

I can’t find the issue, and I don’t think it ran online, but a few years ago we pitched the idea of Dallas bringing a National League team to town. Specifically, to the site of the former Reunion Arena, still unoccupied at this time. It is an even better spot for a stadium now, accessible by train and trolley and truck (or car—just wanted to hit the alliteration), and certainly walkable. In terms of pedestrians, it’s not quite as great as it would have been when the city kicked the tires on trying to lure the Rangers to the Farmers Market in the early 1990s. But I can tell you, as someone well familiar with walking around this city, it’s eminently doable, if not 100-percent convenient. You’d get used to it.

But wait, Zac, you’re yelling to a screen, not thinking that only Amazon and the feds are listening. The Rangers are already here. OK, but are they really? Here? They’re in Arlington, and while it is known by some as “the Paris of I-30,” it is not Dallas. And Arlington has always had a chip on its shoulder about people thinking the Rangers (and Cowboys) belonged to Dallas. So, OK, fine, they can have the Rangers. (We will still keep our hold on the Cowboys, because we can. It’s pretty effortless.)

I mean, what have the Rangers ever given us, but heartbreak? What is your best memory? Almost winning a couple of World Series a decade ago? Rougie Odor punching the soul out of that guy? Nothing we can’t leave behind. Imagine knocking off for the day—in this example you work downtown, obviously—and walking over to the ballpark for a few innings and a couple of beers? Pretty great.

I don’t need payment. Just a standing ovation during the seventh inning of every game by the Dallas A’s in perpetuity.

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