John Wiley Price Pleads Not Guilty. But opening arguments in the Dallas County Commissioner’s federal corruption trial will not start until Monday, as one juror was hospitalized due to a serious illness and had to be replaced. Also, it took hours for a federal prosecutor to read the 107-page indictment aloud. Price is accused of taking more than $900,000 in bribes in exchange for helping businesses that were seeking Dallas County contracts or approvals.
HUD Is Examining How Dallas Spent Millions of Federal Dollars. Since Tuesday, federal officials have been at City Hall, searching for files related to single-family and apartment projects financed with nearly $30 million in government funds between 2012 and 2014. Dallas’ own auditor has said these files don’t exist. The investigation is expected to end today.
Downtown Protestors Criticize Trump’s Removal of Transgender Bathroom Protection. About 100 people gathered in Belo Garden on Thursday night to denounce Trump’s decision to retract protections allowing transgender students to use restrooms matching their gender identity.
Just imagine. Bud Shrake, Dan Jenkins, and Gary Cartwright all working at the same newspaper. And Blackie Sherrod was their boss. It’s impossible. How could that have happened? And now, with the passing of Cartwright, Jenkins is the last one left. Michael Granberry wrote an excellent obit in the DMN, and he talked to Jenkins. You should read it, especially if you’re not familiar with all the names in this post. And then you should read John Spong’s fine remembrance of Cartwright over at Texas Monthly. It is filled with links to Cartwright’s stories for the magazine. Follow every one of them.
Making one of his first public appearances as the new president and CEO of Baylor Scott & White Health, James M. Hinton told members of the Baylor Health Care System Foundation board Tuesday that his transition is going “a lot better” than Donald Trump’s. Full Story
It’s not the first time the national press has taken notice of what CityLab dubs North Texas’s ISD “arms race.” But CityLab’s report draws a insightful comparison between the money Texas cities spend on buildings versus classrooms, and it wonders why so much money is being spent on football stadiums when the school districts already have stadiums that they can’t even fill-up:
The money for the McKinney project came as part of a $220 million school bond referendum voters passed overwhelmingly in May 2016. Although parts of McKinney are poorer, residents’ $83,000 median household income and present relatively low tax rates make the project seemingly affordable. Here’s the rub, though: It’s not even needed. The new stadium, slated for completion for the 2017 season, will replace existing Ron Poe Stadium, which was renovated just 10 years ago at a cost of $10 million. (The district will keep the old stadium, however.) Poe can accommodate 10,000 spectators. In the 2015 football season, the most recent for which attendance figures were available, paying attendees for each of the three high schools’ home games held at Poe did not exceed 12,000 in total, and no game had even 5,000 total spectators on hand. In other words, Poe stadium was never even half full.
Why would relatively small exurban school districts like McKinney build enormous football stadiums that will sit empty most of the year (and are often less than half-full even on game day)?
The answer, in short, is anticipated population growth in the northern ‘burbs, as well as school financing system that makes it a hell of a lot easier for districts to spend money on buildings than on, well, education:
The structure of the Texas school system also seems to encourage such infrastructure spending. By law, each ISD board has the power to call referendums when they choose to raise bond money. They act and can raise funds separately from their local municipal governments. But the bond money can go only toward construction and renovation of facilities, acquisition of land, and purchase of equipment, not toward expanding education opportunities for students or paying for teachers. (Texas ranks 38th out of 50 states in per-pupil education spending; in McKinney, per-pupil expenditures totaled $7,345 in 2013, compared to a national average of $11,841, according to an Education Week analysis of federal data.)
Jacquielynn Floyd is a Metro columnist for the Dallas Morning News. With the departure of Steve Blow a while back, she and James Ragland are the only two left. I guess Robert Wilonsky could be considered a Metro columnist. I don’t know. I’m still trying to figure out what, exactly, he does (aside from everything). Anyway, Floyd has been at it a long time. She knows the drill. So I’m confused by her recent selection of columnar material.
In recent weeks, she has written about the tumultuous, short tenure of the mayor of Corpus Christi; a rattlesnake found in a toilet north of Abilene; and, today, a crazy obituary that appeared in a Galveston newspaper. Each of these stories had been widely shared on social media before Floyd came to them, almost as if they were bacteria that had spread throughout the populace. The stories had gone bacterial, as it were. So why would Floyd choose to write about stuff that has absolutely nothing to do with Dallas? I can think of only three reasons:
1. Her husband’s recentillness has made it difficult to focus on writing her column. If that’s the case, she has my sympathy. But I’d rather she write more about that struggle than toilet snakes in Abilene.
2. The crushing, relentless Metro column deadlines have taken their toll. She’s out of gas. If that’s the case, she again has my sympathy. But a change needs to be made. She’d be happier doing something else.
3. Her editor has seen the traffic that Floyd’s column gets when she writes about bacterial stories, and that editor has encouraged her to write more of the same. If that’s the case, she totally has my sympathy. But I can’t think of a surer strategy for driving the paper into the dirt than writing about whatever flits through your Facebook feed. If the DMN wants to survive in these click-baity times, it needs to bring me local content that I can’t find anywhere else. Less news from Galveston, please. I’ll take fewer toilet snakes from Abilene, thank you. I’d like to read about what’s happening in North Texas. If you’ve got a smart take, people might even pay for it.
Tensions Mount as Police and Fire Pension Board Looks for a Solution. At Thursday’s meeting, board members and retirees argued over plans to save the failing fund. Board members are continuing talks with city council members on ways to move forward. Four city council members, who also sit on the board, filed a lawsuit earlier this week restricting retirees from withdrawing lump sums and asking a judge to place the system’s assets into a receivership. But retirees pushed back, noting that they depend on lump sums from the DROP accounts to survive.
Diocese of Dallas Welcomes New Bishop Edward J. Burns. The diocese’s eighth bishop was welcomed during an installation Mass at the Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe in downtown on Thursday. Pope Francis chose the Pittsburgh native for the position in December. Three Cardinals, more than 50 bishops, and hundreds of priests were in attendance. Before coming to Dallas, Burns led the Catholic Diocese in Juneau, Alaska.
Former Neurosurgeon’s Assault Trail Continues. An expert witness answered several hypothetical questions related to Christopher Duntsch’s grievous patient outcomes, which were the focus of D Magazine‘s November cover story. A neurosurgeon should stop practicing after acquiring multiple patient deaths and severe outcomes, expert witness Dr. Martin Lazar testified. Duntsch, however, did not. To secure a guilty verdict, the state must prove that Duntsch was reckless and provided care that was far beyond the accepted standard.
Prosecutors Want Ken Paxton’s Trial Moved From Collin County. Prosecutors say a move would ensure a fair trial, as the Texas attorney general “has embarked on acrusade clearly calculated to taint the Collin County jury pool.” They feel their case has been tainted by Paxton’s associates’ “repeated attempts” to personally attack anyone going against him. Paxton’s legal team denied the allegations. Pending a ruling on location, the trial is set to kick off May 1. Paxton faces three felony fraud charges, with a maximum sentence of 99 years in prison and thousands in fines.
Gov. Abbott Isn’t Happy with Dallas County Over Immigration. On Tuesday, Dallas County Commissioners approved a resolution for Dallas to be a welcoming community to immigrants (see Holland’s post yesterday). Now, Gov. Greg Abbott threatened to “bring the hammer down on Dallas County” if any action is taken on the resolution. The commissioners don’t seem too worried though, as the resolution isn’t legally binding, and Sheriff Lupe Valdez cooperates with federal immigration rules at Dallas County Jail. Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said that “It’s just politics. People in the Legislature want to show who’s the toughest on immigration and these so-called sanctuary cities.”
The May Bond Election is Officially Dead. Yesterday City Council members officially shut the door on the bond election happening in May. It will likely be in November when voters can have their say on issues, especially streets. Philip Kingston, Scott Griggs, and Mark Clayton were against delaying the election partly because amendments to the Texas Constitution might also be on the November ballot, making the bond trickier to pass.
Organizer of Garland Terrorist Attack Gets 30 Years in Prison. Abdul Malik Abdul Kareem, who helped plot the attack on a cartoon contest of the prophet Muhammad in Garland in May 2015, was sentenced yesterday to 30 years. He had provided guns to two men who opened fire at the Curtis Culwell Center.
Dallas Zoo Welcomes Threatened Tortoises. Fifteen Home’s hinge-back tortoises that were smuggled into the U.S. and confiscated in Miami are now being cared for at the Dallas Zoo. There were originally 35 tortoises, but because of poor health, only 15 are at the zoo. But these 15 will be entered in the Species Survival Plan; there are only 61 of this kind of tortoise in U.S. zoos. The Dallas Zoo tortoises are now healthier and free of parasites. Way to go, little guys.
Testimony Begins in Duntsch Assault Trail. Two of Dr. Christopher Duntsch’s former patients testified against him Thursday, noting the continual pain they now experience. D Magazine examined the neurosurgeon’s background in a November cover story that raised questions about his medical training and chronicled his life after the Texas Medical Board revoked his license to practice. A surgeon who corrected one of Duntsch’s procedures called the result “an atrocity.” Duntsch is criminally charged with harming six patients during surgeries that took place between 2012 and 2013 at four North Texas hospitals. Testimony continues today, and the trial is expected to continue throughout the next three or four weeks. Read Matt Goodman’s recap of the opening arguments here.
Parents, Teachers Want Answers in ‘Mystery’ Illnesses at an Arlington School. The school district says it’s done what it can to inform parents and find the cause of the illnesses. Since September, roughly 60 teachers and students at Nichols Junior High School have experienced symptoms such as nausea, trouble concentrating and dizziness.
West Dallas Tenants Give Housing Plan to Controversial Landlord. In a surprise visit, the residents presented Khraish Khraish, co-owner of HMK, with an eight-point plan outlining ways to keep their housing affordable. The more than 50 tenants who signed the document want HMK to sell the houses at a reasonable price to every tenant who wants to purchase their home. In Khraish’s five-point plan, new houses would replace some of the 305 rental homes his company took off the market last fall. Some lots would be sold to Dallas Area Habitat for Humanity. Khraish also wants to build apartment units.
George Takei visits SMU. The activist and author’s lecture was arranged through a partnership between the Embrey Human Rights Program at SMU and the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance. Takei talked about his time in a Japanese internment camp as a child and his disdain for Trump’s executive order temporarily banning the entrance of immigrants and refugees from select countries. Earlier in the day, he sat down with KERA’s Krys Boyd for an enlightening conversation.
T.C. Broadnax Starts as City Manager Today. The former Tacoma, Washington, city manager has plenty to keep him busy during his first day on the job as Dallas City Manager.
Irving Mayor Dismissed from Defamation Suit. Beth Van Duyne was dismissed yesterday from the lawsuit filed by Ahmed Mohamed’s father after the boy was detained in 2015 for taking a homemade clock to school that staff mistook for a bomb. Ahmed’s father agreed to remove the mayor from the suit.
Dallas County Schools Will Cut Jobs.Up to 100 jobs could be cut because the bus contractor is $42 million behind budget forecasts. Interim CFO Alan King said yesterday that revenue had been significantly overstated. It’s unclear where the jobs will be cut from.
Skip Fletcher, R.I.P.Neil “Skip” Fletcher of famed Fletcher’s Corny Dogs at The State Fair of Texas has died at age 82 after a battle with pneumonia. Skip’s father and uncle first introduced the corny dogs to the fair in 1942, and Skip and his late brother took over in the late 1980s. This year, it would have been his 75th anniversary at the fair.
That headline is a lie. Sorry. They are outsourcing only their design and print layout. You know, the people who actually make the paper. An Austin firm will now do the work. Twenty people will lose their jobs. And so it goes.
Suspect Photos Released in Theater Director Attack. Derek Whitener was assaulted at Cityplace Target earlier this month (he is currently in stable condition), and now police have released photos of two suspects. The photos show the two men at the Cityplace DART station after the attack. They are still at large.
Mark Cuban Gets a Win with City Council. The council approved the development of a subdistrict in the Design District that would include a new practice facility for the Mavs, as well as the possibility of a new arena down the line. The Mavs’ lease at AAC ends in 13 years. Cuban wants a new arena because he says all the new retail and residential construction in Victory Park is reducing what’s available for game attendees.
Free Chick-fil-A Today. If you have or download the Favor app, you can order a Chick-fil-A sandwich from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. today and get it for free. You still have to pay the delivery fee, so I guess I should say almost free. Everyone at the office knows I’m a frequent Favor user—so yes, I will be claiming my “almost free” sandwich today.
Over the weekend, Mike Wilson, the editor of the Dallas Morning News, took to Twitter to defend his paper’s coverage of the march in Dallas. As Bradford Pearson, a former D staffer and a current editor at Southwest: The Magazine, had pointed out: “Largest march in Dallas in decades. Morning News gives it 300 words, two interviews, and a bunch of embedded tweets.” Seemed to me at the time that Brad was on to something. Then, this morning, I got to see for the first time how the paper handled the march in print, and I realized that Brad had no idea exactly how right he was. What you see here is Sunday’s front page. The story is datelined Washington and illustrated with a Getty image of the Capitol. A strange choice for the Dallas Morning News.
“Throwing a great party is like writing the Great American Novel,” writes Dawn McMullan. “It takes gumption and planning. It takes imagination to create something unique enough to keep everyone interested, yet not so strange as to become fodder for gossip. It takes just the right mix of characters, and it takes good help.”
The piece is an insightful look into soiree planning at the time, but it’s the playful photography by James Bland that really makes this a memorable spread.
Click the images below and take a step back in Dallas dining history.
John Wiley Price Opening Statements Begin. At 8:30 a.m. this morning, opening statements for Dallas County Commissioner Price’s federal corruption trial will begin. The prosecution will go first, followed by the defense. Dapheny Fain, Price’s longtime assistant, will also be standing trial.
Dallas Disagrees with Texas Over Feral Hogs. State Agricultural Commissioner Sid Miller may have made it legal to poison feral hogs in Texas, but the Dallas City Council wants a different solution. Yesterday, by a vote of 14-1, the council voted to pay Striker Outfitters $347,100 throughout the next three years to “humanely trap and remove” hogs in Dallas. The company has completed a 10-month pilot program that has led to the capture of 96 hogs. After hogs are captured, they taken to Frontier Meats in Fort Worth.
Arlington Preschool Teacher Fired for Anti-Semitic Posts. Nancy Salem, who belonged to the University of Texas at Arlington chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine, was fired from The Children’s Courtyard for posting several anti-Semitic tweets. Watchdog group Canary Mission reported her comments, along with those of other students. Salem has deleted her social media accounts.
North Texas Experiences “A Day Without Immigrants.” Several Latino-owned businesses in Dallas closed and hundreds of DISD students staged peaceful walkouts as part of “A Day Without Immigrants” demonstrations on Thursday. These exhibitions were part of a nationwide effort to accentuate immigrants’ role in daily U.S. life. Many Dallas-area schools experienced lower enrollment Thursday. More than 200 students walked out of Dallas’ Moisés E. Molina High School, which has a 96 percent Latino population.
Controversial Irving Mayor Won’t Seek a Third Term. Beth Van Duyne’s announcement came Thursday, a day before the filing deadline for May elections. She did not disclose her future plans; however, her trip to Trump Tower in the days after the presidential election has led to speculation that she could join Trump’s administration. Since taking office in 2011, Van Duyne has gained a reputation for her vocal opposition to sanctuary cities and position against Sharia law.
Mexican Consulate Hosts Immigration Meeting. The town hall-style meeting Thursday night brought together hundreds seeking guidance and comfort from elected officials. Worries have increased with President Donald Trump’s orders on immigration and the construction of a border wall. However, the predominant concern was how Trump’s actions could impact children—immigrants themselves as well as those born in the U.S. to immigrant parents.
Car Fire in Uptown Garage Leaves One Dead. Firefighters discovered a body inside of a car engulfed in flames Thursday afternoon in the 3600 block of McKinney Avenue near West Village. The car was parked on the top floor of a parking garage, witnesses said. The person’s identity has not been released, and the cause of the fire is under investigation.
Ken Paxton Will Be Tried Twice. The state attorney general was back in court Thursday where he discovered prosecutors plan to try him in back-to-back trials on his separate charges. Paxton faces two first-degree securities fraud charges and one third-degree felony charge.
City Council Debates Approach on Tackling Homelessness. On Tuesday, Mayor Rawlings and County Judge Clay Jenkins introduced a cross-jurisdictional partnership that would observe how social services and nonprofits are dealing with homelessness. However, some council members said yesterday that they would prefer to leave the county out of it and keep this as a city issue. City Manager T.C. Broadnax said city staff should already be employing the measures that the partnership would espouse. The council will likely decide on the issue in March.
Police and Fire Pension Settles Lawsuit with Former Real Estate Advisers. The pension and CDK Realty Advisors have agreed to drop all claims because they “have now resolved their differences.” Except that, according to pension system attorneys, CDK is partly responsible for the awful state that the pension is currently in. But, yeah, everything’s good.
Dallas Pimp Convicted by Jury. 33-year-old Martavious Detrel Banks Keys was convicted by a federal jury yesterday on multiple sex trafficking counts, including child sex trafficking. His sentencing is set for June, and he faces 15 years to life in prison. In 2015, he had forced two girls, 14 and 15, to work as prostitutes, and used violence and drugs to keep them in his control. Heinous. The two girls escaped separately, within a month of each other.
Interim CFO for Dallas County Schools Resigns. Alan King, who was hired to help fix the bus agency’s financial issues, resigned yesterday. King did not provide a reason for resigning.
In the latest in the string of bizarre and possibly supernatural incidents that have plagued me since childhood, it was announced Monday night on Jimmy Kimmel Live! that the star of the upcoming season of The Bachelorette is the daughter of Sam Lindsay, the federal judge who sentenced me to 63 months in prison in a case that was denounced as retaliation for my work in exposing government wrongdoing by outlets ranging from the New York Times to Der Spiegel to U.S. News and World Report, by NGOs including Reporters Without Borders and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, by former U.S. prosecutors, and by foreign members of parliament. Lindsay also ordered me to pay $800,000 in restitution to Stratfor, a State Department-linked firm that was revealed by Wikileaks to have conducted surveillance for Dow Chemical on Bhopal activists, among other things.
Naturally I didn’t want to end up facing additional charges in a courtroom run by a judge who didn’t find it suspicious that the DOJ attributed to me a quote calling for the death of Julian Assange that was actually uttered by Fox News contributor Bob Beckel on live television, as Assange himself pointed out at the time. So after the government was forced to drop the bulk of the charges due to fundamental flaws in how they were using the statutes, I pleaded guilty to three counts, including accessory after the fact. You see, I had called the executives of the firm after it was hacked and offered to redact any sensitive information from the stolen emails that could harm its informants living under dictatorships abroad. Incidentally, the search warrant the FBI had originally served on my apartment and on my mother’s house didn’t even mention Stratfor, but rather listed other firms, such as HBGary Federal and Endgame Systems, whose illegal activities I’d documented — as well as echelon2.org, the wiki on which my team presented our findings (and which has since moved). Judge Sam Lindsay didn’t find any of this suspicious, either.
D Magazine editor Tim Rogers wrote a pretty thorough rundown of the January 2015 sentencing hearing when it happened, and the fact that so many normally staid news organizations of all ideological stripes made the unusual decision to come right out and accuse the Department of Justice of having pursued me solely for my role in exposing illegal programs by state-linked intelligence contractors should be sufficiently telling. But in addition to revelations that the prosecution improperly withheld evidence in my case — something that the government prefers to do when it knows that the presiding judge doesn’t have a handle on what’s going on — it has also now been revealed via the lawsuit filed last week by the head of my legal defense fund that the prosecutor and FBI illicitly forced an online payment firm to provide them with the identities of everyone who contributed to my defense, and arranged to have this information sent via irregular methods — an act that is not only explicitly unconstitutional and disturbing, but also hard to square with the prosecution’s claims, accepted by Judge Lindsay, that this case wasn’t about going after dissent.
And as originally reported in D before my sentencing, the two lead agents on my case also went after the Dallas resident who provided server space to Edward Snowden and claimed in a court filing that he tried to avoid them by jumping over his balcony and running away. As Tim pointed out in that D story, the man, Ladar Levison, actually lived on the upper floor of a high-rise. This didn’t prevent Judge Lindsay from deferring to these same two FBI agents during the sentencing phase, in which a judge has to evaluate the evidence presented to him before making a decision about the fate of a human being.
All in all, Judge Lindsay presided over one of the most widely denounced federal cases in recent memory. And it will look much worse as certain other extraordinary details are made public, a process that began last week with the lawsuit against the Dallas FBI and federal prosecutor and which I expect to continue over the next year. In the meantime, it’s reasonable to ask how many other Dallas residents have been wrongly punished due to Judge Lindsay’s incompetence, and how I go about becoming one of the contestants on The Bachelorette.
At Passport you’ll enjoy elaborate themed parties with exquisite food and wine pairings at more than 45 winery locations. Guests can meet Sonoma County’s most renowned chefs, including Michelin-starred Chef Charlie Palmer, Diavola Chef/Owner Dino Bugica, and other culinary stars, savoring their inspired creations alongside newly released and limited edition wines. Wineries taking part range from the internationally-acclaimed Ridge Vineyards and Ferrari-Carano, to boutique wineries like Nalle and Talty, which produce fewer than 2,000 cases per year.
Music includes a Beatles cover band, bluegrass, Hawaiian music, funk from The Jacktones and more. Winery themes range from the glamorous (think Prohibition-era speakeasy) to the goofy (think Caddyshack), with unforgettable food and wine at each stop.
First place winner will be given two 2-Day Passports with VIP First Class Upgrades and a voucher for your flight* out to the 28th Annual event.
Second place winner will have the Dry Creek Valley experience brought to them. Let us treat you to dinner* at The Capital Grille with personally selected Dry Creek Valley wine.
We’ll also be giving out pairs of weekend passes to 3 more lucky winners to be used either for the 2017 or 2018 event!
Winners will be selected on March 15th. Enter today and keep your eyes on your inboxes. // www.drycreekvalley.org
*Flight Voucher for up to $400. Not redeemable for cash.
*Dinner voucher for $200; not redeemable for cash.
Winners must prove valid identification and be 21+.
Dry Creek Valley is located in the heart of Sonoma County, just 15-minutes from Sonoma County Airport (STS) and 1-hour north of San Francisco and Bay Area international airports.
Yesterday, I attended a discussion of economic issues for women in Texas, put on by the Dallas Women’s Foundation and hosted at Texas Woman’s University over in the medical district. The speakers and panelists included DWF President and CEO Roslyn Dawson Thompson, TWU Chancellor and President Dr. Carine Feyten, Center for Public Policy Priorities‘ Dr. Frances Deviney, and Terry Conner—former managing partner at Haynes & Boone, former chairman of the Dallas AfterSchool network, and on the Dallas Regional Chamber board of directors. There were a lot of bar charts and numbers relating to four pertinent areas: child care, education, health insurance, and housing.
The goal was not only to educate on how the situation for women (and minority women especially) needs to be improved in these sectors, but also to provide ways that we can actually start doing that. For housing, cities like Dallas can, for example, pass ordinances protecting low-income renters who use vouchers (most of whom are women) from housing discrimination. For health insurance, Texas can give grants to community organizations that help women navigate health coverage options. To ensure that more women who enroll in college actually graduate, there can be subsidies for dual enrollment courses and increased grant aid. And regarding child care, in order to close the wage gap and allow more women to stay in the work force, public-private partnerships can be created to increase subsidized child care funding.
This was just the tip of the iceberg, but one thing that stood out to me most was that in a study of 100% of 8th grade girls enrolled in 2005, only 34% of white females, only 17% of Hispanic females, and only 16% of African American females earned a four-year higher ed degree. The other issues of housing, health insurance, and child care are all affected by education first, and this is what needs to be prioritized locally, particularly in light of the current political state of disarray. As this begins to shift, a growing number of female voices and perspectives will influence these very issues, as Dr. Feyten said, and, according to Terry Conner, it will further enable local businesses to advocate for equity and social justice.
The Partnership for Southern Equity has released a new study that looks at the history of racism and segregation in the city of Atlanta and how it participated in shaping the city’s transportation network. It’s an angle on the history of 20th century urban growth and suburban sprawl that is rarely looked at this directly or with so much detail. What the study reveals is that the social history of 20th century America was as much of a contributor as economic factors in the shaping of the built environment of Atlanta, as well as many cities in the southern part of the United States, including Dallas.
Atlanta’s problems are Dallas’ problems: traffic congestion; long, arduous commutes; a inadequate public transit system; job centers in the north and poorer, largely African-American neighborhoods concentrated in the south. It is an urban landscape that reinforces social and economic inequality.
As Leah Binkovitz reports on the blog run by Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research, these problems are symptoms not merely of the economic gambit of post-war urban sprawl, but also of housing policies and social attitudes that reconfigured legal segregation into a pattern of urban growth that wrote a new kind of segregation into the new, post-war landscape:
Like other cities, Atlanta was transformed by transportation and housing policies in the mid-1900s that subsidized suburban growth for white homeowners, leaving the city core underfunded and crippling the ability of black families to build wealth.
“The effects have lasted for generations,” the report reads, describing what some have called the “$120 billion head start.” Those policies fueling residential segregation were inextricably tied to transportation in the region, said Alex Karner, a city planning professor with the Georgia Institute of Technology and co-author of the report.
As white families took advantage of racist housing policies and lending practices and headed to the suburbs, “the economic activity was still concentrated in the cities, so they needed some sort of link,” he said. Shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that segregated schools were illegal, “the freeway system comes online,” often running right through communities of color.
Atlanta was one of the earliest southern cities to invest in public transit, beginning to build the MARTA system in the 1970s. However, rather than viewing public transit as a way of overcoming some of these social inequalities, the shape and design of the network was largely conceived as a way to connect the suburbs with the downtown business core. Does this sound familiar:
Though the metro area was largely segregated between suburbs and the central city, business elites still maintained an interest in making downtown economically vibrant and facilitating connections to the suburbs to manage traffic. Their interest in rail helped create MARTA, thanks to an act of the state legislature in 1965. Early on, the agency faced opposition from black voters, who rejected a proposed property tax in 1968 because they were “dissatisfied with a lack of input and the proposed design’s emphasis on suburb-to-downtown access,” the report explains.
In response, MARTA appointed a key critic to its board and reworked plans to include a major bus expansion and a rail line serving largely black neighborhoods as well as other changes. Black voters, in turn, helped pass the next funding referendum in 1971. But the measure failed in two of the four counties where MARTA was established. The two counties, notes the report, were rural and largely white. “Racial fears were certainly part of their opposition.”
Other scholars have chronicled “this radicalized animosity toward transit” in Atlanta, including Jason Henderson, a geography professor at San Francisco State University. “Since it was established in the 1960s,” he wrote in a 2006 paper on the politics of automcobility in Atlanta, MARTA “was jokingly referred to as ‘Moving Africans Rapidly Through Atlanta.’”
Now, the study continues, Atlanta faces a new problem that also echoes the pattern of Dallas growth. Poverty that was once contained in the central city is spreading to the suburbs, which presents is own challenges for planning future transportation. The key to reversing this trend, Binkovitz argues, is not merely transportation, but also affordable housing:
So while it points to the need for dedicated funding and integrated regional transit, it also touches on affordable housing as a way to address traffic problems. “If we had a better fit between affordable houses for low-wage workers and the location of jobs, that’s also a transportation mitigation but its strictly housing,” said Karner.
In other words, the key to solving ongoing issues of poverty, inequality, traffic congestion, and growth are tackling precisely the two urban issues – public transit and affordable housing – that have dogged Dallas more than any other.
He’s wearing three garments of varying shades of cobalt blue, his back to the city, standing—or superimposed—somewhere in the Cedars with a downtown view. He looks stern yet confident, shooting you a scolding glance in case you don’t buy the book, but he suspects that won’t happen. Called to Rise is out June 6, from Ballantine Books. Here’s the summary from Amazon: “The Dallas police chief who inspired a nation with his compassionate, community-focused response to the killing of five of his officers shares his uplifting personal story and a blueprint for the future of policing.”
Revealing the cover for @ChiefDavidBrown‘s new book “Called To Rise,” from Ballantine Book
This is how my brain works. I saw Alex Macon’s post today about the Neil deGrasse Tyson event at the Winspear on Valentine’s Day. I thought, I love Neil deGrasse Tyson. I haven’t planned anything for Valentine’s Day. How much are tickets? Tickets are sold out. Why did Alex post an event that’s sold out? What am I going to do for Valentine’s Day now? Melissa likes to go to Norma’s for their Valentine’s Day dinner, which is a three-course fried extravaganza of awesomeness topped off by red velvet cake. Those fried mushrooms are the best. I wonder if they’re doing it again this year. They must be doing it again this year. But I better double check the website. They are doing it again this year. But what’s this? A Tailgate Touchdown box for six for the Super Bowl? With your choice of brisket sliders, chicken tenders, mac and cheese, and … a pie?!? How have I not heard of this? What’s the difference between chocolate peanut butter and Reese’s pie? They both sound basically like a Buckeye, which is what Zeke would order. I wonder who I can invite over for the Super Bowl. My friends probably already have plans. I don’t even know who’s playing in the Super Bowl, except not Zeke. I wonder how much food it actually is. “For six.” Melissa and I will dominate that box. I don’t need friends.
The grand opening was promised last October, and what an opening it would have been. The Statler Hilton, one of Dallas’ most storied and beloved historic buildings, was supposed to represent a new high water mark in the redevelopment of downtown Dallas. After sitting vacant for years, and flirting with various buyer interest, the Statler Hilton is planned to reopen as The Statler Hotel & Residences, a 161-room boutique luxury hotel with an additional 219 condos, four restaurants, retail and office space, trendy bars, and a 14,500-square-foot ballroom for concerts and large events.
The Dallas Morning News, which is set to become a major tenant of the new Statler Hotel & Residences (it signed a lease to move into the old Dallas Public Library space adjacent to the hotel), reports that the IRS is looking into the complex financing that raised $26.5 million of the $221 million project, part of a tax-exempt bond sale that local experts at the time called “unusual:”
Lawyers involved in the tax-exempt bond sale published a notice Monday telling investors that the IRS is examining the deal because of concerns “that the debt issuance may fail one or more provisions” of the tax code. The notice said the concerns may have been raised by “external sources.”
This isn’t the first time the developer behind the Statler redo, Mehrdad Moayedi, has faced legal scrutiny. You may remember that last fall the Dallas Observer reported that Moayedi was at the center of a “class-action lawsuit, a citation for failure to pay school taxes and attacks from Kyle Bass, a Dallas-based hedge fund operator who claims Moayedi is part of a Ponzi-like scheme involving United Development Funding IV, a Dallas-based real-estate lender.” United Development Funding’s Grapevine offices were raided by the FBI in early 2016, two years after the real estate investment trust became the subject of a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation. Kyle Bass also launched UDFexposed.com, which intends to out how the company “built a billion dollar house of cards.”
It all has the makings of a fascinating legal thriller, but for Joe Schmoe Dallasite waiting for that invite to the grand re-opening of the Statler, the two most pressing questions are these:
If Moayedi has indeed been building a “billion dollar house of cards,” will the Stater Hilton redo project come crashing down with it?
With tens of millions of city tax intensives backing the bonds that are now the subject of the IRS investigation, when the dust settles, will the city be left holding the bag?
Per the DMN’s story, neither city officials nor representatives of the Statler developer could answer these questions. I reached out to the Statler Hotel & Residences PR people just to see if they have rescheduled that opening party. I did not receive an immediate response.
A Water Gun, Trump, and Instagram Lead to a DISD Teacher’s Suspension. The W.H. Adamson High School teacher was placed on administrative leave Thursday after a video surfaced on social media that shows her shooting a water gun at a projected image of the president while yelling “Die!” The eight-second video was shot in a classroom and was posted to the teacher’s personal Instagram account Jan. 20, Inauguration Day.
More Finger-Pointing, But No Answers. Negotiations to save Dallas’ police and fire pension system collapsed Thursday. Police and fire associations and city leaders criticized one another for not allowing enough of a role in discussions that ended early Wednesday. The conversation was halted at the threshold of an agreement, which would have gone to state legislators in hopes of a solid solution.
DISD Will Protest Vouchers and Rating System. The board of trustees has signed a resolution that challenges the call for school vouchers as well as the A-F ratings bestowed by the Texas Education Agency. The resolution passed 7-2, joining school boards across the state in a collective effort to oppose these concepts.
ISIS Threatens First Baptist Dallas. Earlier this month, an ISIS propaganda publication posted photos of Robert Jeffress’ mega church (and D Magazine World Headquarters neighbor) and suggestions that the building be the target of an arson attack. Officials are taking the threat seriously, although there’s no proof that an attack is in the works.
I Admire This Man’s Level of Pettiness. After receiving a rather large bill and limited answers from the North Texas Tollway Authority, Kenneth Fisher decided to take action (while paying his bill). Fisher dropped off 17,000 pennies, equaling 90 pounds, at the Plano office. Does he feel even slightly guilty? “Not at all. Not at all,” Fisher says. “In fact when everything is said and done, I intend to enjoy me a beer.”
On February 11, it will officially be 20 years since Erykah Badu released her genre-defining debut, Baduizm. To mark the occasion, I wrote this profile of her, for which I talked to friends and family and collaborators. But unfortunately, as these things go, I wasn’t able to include everyone I interviewed. So here is my conversation with Jeff “Skin” Wade, co-host of The Fan’s Ben & Skin Show and third man in the booth on most Dallas Mavericks broadcasts. When I first met Skin, he was still best known for his role in the local hip-hop scene, which is where he met Ms. Badu.
How long have you known Erykah?
“We started doing stuff with her about a — you know it all kind of runs together because it was so long ago, but about a year before all that went down. We used to do this thing called The Session. It was a freestyle thing. It was me and Ben and Del, the DJ Del Furious, and Erykah, and — at the time I guess he went by Mikey Culture. He was part of IGP. He appeared on some of the Hydro stuff.”
“Cold Cris would come through, and it was like a Wednesday night deal. It started at a place called Rebounds, and we would just — it was kind of like a bar and we just sat there and held these long freestyle sessions. Erykah, I guess, had just come back in town from college. I did not know her before she left for college, but a bunch of the people that we were hanging out with in the scene did, because she was so involved in KNON I guess before she left for college.
Was she still rapping, or was she —
“She was singing. She was mostly singing. In fact, there’s a video from that. Do you know Jeff Schroer? We call him Stottle.”
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
“He’s got video of that where she is singing the lyrics and the melody of ‘Appletree’ over The Roots’ instrumental for ‘Proceed’ [from 1995’s Do You Want More?!!!??!]. The Roots had just kind of come out on Geffen, and there was all these promo 12-inches, and I think the version she’s singing over is the Roy Ayers instrumental of ‘Proceed,’ and she’s singing the melody right over it.”
“The thing that’s so interesting about that is, I’m pretty sure she was unfamiliar with them. I think we introduced them to her, and a year later she was working with them on her first record.
“The story the way I remember it, when she came out and moved back to town and was doing things, she was doing things with Rob and they were doing shows together, and they were going by the name Erykah Free. It was, Rob was doing beats and rapping, and she was doing her thing. They started gigging.
“I remember I saw them perform one time at SOA, which I don’t even know that it’s called now. It’s down there in Fair Park on Exposition. They used to do these kind of acid jazz nights, because that was still sort of a thing. I remember seeing the perform there, and the way I remember the story was D’Angelo was coming to town on his first record. I went to the show; he played Caravan of Dreams [in Fort Worth]. At the time he was still just kind of a kid. He just sat there in a leather jacket behind his Wurlitzer keyboard. No showmanship, just sat there and sang, right? But, Erykah and Rob got on the bill as the opening act.”
“Kedar Massenberg had been touring with D’Angelo, because he was doing A&R for D’Angelo’s first record. I think it was like Christmas, I can’t remember now. But, he was the A&R guy on it and so he was touring and saw Erykah — and they put on a great show that night — and saw Erykah and was like, ‘I want her.’ So Erykah Free was no more. I’m sure you’ll get a better story about that from Rob.”
“But Rob did end up producing a couple tracks on that first record, including ‘Appletree.’ I think he produced ‘Appletree,’ not 100-percent sure.
“Yeah, it was literally like that, and then — I don’t know man, I’m sure there’s dates on the internet, but a couple months later she was on the High School High soundtrack doing a duet with D’Angelo [“Your Precious Love,” originally recorded by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell].
“Then obviously some people around here got to do production with them, including Ty Macklin had a song on there.”
“Then I remember very, very vividly — hell, I don’t know it may have even been the same night, dude — but I can remember being in the parking lot of SOA, and Kasaan [the Don from Mad Flava] playing a cassette of Jah’s beat for ‘On & On,’ and at the time it was just like a stick beat and the chopped-up piano parts. When you hear the version it’s got like these, all this added extra instrumentation, and it’s very lush sounding. I can’t remember who co-produced it — might have been Bob Power. I don’t remember. But I remember hearing Jah’s original beat when it was chopped-up piano and a stick drum thing in the parking lot of SOA. And Kasaan was walking around with a tape of all of Jah’s beats, because I think dude, Jah was like 17 or 18 then. He was really young.
“So he was tied in with all the guys that ran Exodus. He was the high-school kid that was hanging out at Exodus when Exodus was still a thing. He’d been around, he was just real young, man.
“Definitely ask him about that, and definitely ask Rob about the D’Angelo show. That was my memory of it. I remember I didn’t know that she was opening that night, and when I went out there I was like, ‘Oh, cool! Wow! That’s great gig for her. That’s awesome.’ Then a month later, dude, it’s on. She’s being whisked away to New York.”
So, what was it like when Badu was hit it big?
“Man, it was really insane because she wasn’t getting any play here. It was like you could see the video for ‘On & On’ on MTV or BET and it wasn’t getting radio play here. Eventually they started playing some of the stuff, but she blew up—I want to say she hit big in Atlanta first, if I remember correctly.”
“But it was real frustrating that if you wanted see her it going to be on MTV or BET, they weren’t playing her here. Oh, they were playing her on KNON, I mean obviously they were going to support. But, K104 was still a really big deal back then, and that was that time period — I’m pretty sure you wrote an article about, a long time ago, about the frustrations of trying to get on.
“So that was part of it. Dallas was the last one to get onboard the Badu train. But it was really exciting, man. It was — you just kind of felt like it was going to pump life … As you know we’d had our little ups and downs where something would happen and you’d think it’s gonna break, and I think people were kind of depressed about the way the whole Mad Flava thing went down. It was just a real nice boost for everybody when that thing happened.
“One of the things that’s real cool is when she had her platinum party, platinum disc party, they had it in Deep Ellum, and the whole scene was there just all happy for her. There was no — I think part of it is probably because she hadn’t been in the scene rapping against people, you know. I think everyone was just genuinely happy for her. No one was bitter, nobody was jealous, none of that. It just felt really special. And everyone was happy that Ty Macklin, you know, had a song on a record that went platinum. It was just really good thoughts.”
Weren’t you one of the founding members of the Cannabinoids?
“I was, and that was a little bit out of left field, and a huge honor. I was really shocked that she asked me, man. It made me feel really, really good. That was incredible. I didn’t know what to do with myself, to be honest.”
Had you been in touch with her at all?
“Not really. It was, you know, you would see her at gigs or whatever, and she was nice and friendly and things, but I wasn’t in her inner circle or anything like that.”
“So, I think her vision for that was that was going to be her version of Sa-Ra, and I think what she wanted was, she wanted to get that thing up and going and then it become a life of its own. I don’t think she had long-term visions of, ‘Hey, this my group and I’m always going to be with this group.’ I think that was her way to give back to the Dallas hip-hop scene.
“She had donated money to [EZ] Eddie [D]’s show. She was proud of being from here, and that was just another way to give back to people. So, it’s kind of funny, man, when that thing went on, when that first thing started I had about a hour conversation with her on the phone. We did the opening night at the House of Blues, the first time it ever opened, and then I think — I can’t remember why, I might have written up something for — oh, my god I’m blanking on the name of that Belo paper I was writing for.”
“Yes, I think it was something for Quick, but anyway I did an hour interview with her. And she pretty much laid it all out what she kind of wanted to do and what the vision was. She’s obviously notorious for — god, I couldn’t even tell you how much unreleased stuff she has. I mean it goes on and on. I’m not doing a pun here, it goes on and on and on. I think it was a great vision, I think it was really cool thing.
“Also, for me, I pulled out of it after about six or seven months just because it just didn’t fit my lifestyle anymore. I had a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old, and I was getting into radio full-time. That was just starring to take off, and I just didn’t really have available time to go to rehearsal space for four or five hours and not know what we were going to do. Basically I was becoming an old man. So, it was really nice. I ended up doing two or three shows with them, and then I said, ‘Hey, it’s probably best for me to step aside.’ But it was a great honor, dude. I just can’t tell you how good it makes me feel that she thought enough of me to involve me in it.”
What’s she like to work with? I mean, is she collaborative, does she have vision, does she have a little bit of both?
“Okay, so the only times I’ve worked with her was in these sessions for the Cannabinoids. I never recorded with her before that or anything like that. But she’s like, my impression of her, and obviously I think Jah, Rob, and RC would give you way better answers, but my impression of her is she’s looking for a spark. So when we would do some of those rehearsal sessions, whoever got there early, it was like ‘Alright, well, instead of just waiting around let’s just do stuff.’ So those early sessions was lot of like, ‘What do you think of this?’ Then someone would play a beat or whatever and someone would kind of start going on top of it. So when she would come in during those sessions, by the time she’d get in, we’d been doing stuff for four or five hours, and so it’s kind of like walk in and just sort of like, so what am I soaking up here, what am I vibing off of?
“I don’t know how different it was from the way she would work with other producers and stuff. But I think she wanted us to come up with stuff and then she would vibe with it.”
“I don’t know that I think she had a distinct vision for what it would be. She had an idea of what the concept was. The concept was it was going to be collaborative hip-hop — with you know turntablists and keyboard players and beat makers and things like that — and then: Hey, creative people where do we take this thing?
“I don’t know how that compares to her work on any of her other records, but she was sort of like, “Alright, here’s the spark. Where’s this thing going to go, who’s going to grab this?’ And so it’s cool in that regard. It was, I think it was like, honestly I can’t remember it might have been 10 or 11 of us, but I was like, ‘Okay, who’s got this? You start.’ We did settle into that, too, by the way. Where it’d be like, ‘Okay, Jah, you start this.’ And he’d come in with the beat and then, ‘Alright, you’re next.’ We kind of developed a little groove that way. It was really cool.”
That’s cool. Did you ever think she would, after Baduizm started to blow up and she started to get bigger, did you ever think that she would just go away? Move up permanently to New York or LA or something, like generally what people do?
“Honestly, I never gave it any kind of thought. I never really thought about that. I just knew that she was so prideful. So ‘Southern Gul,’ did that come out—that came out after her second album, right? That was a single thing? So, she was always real prideful of being from down here. And I think, too, if you listen to Worldwide Underground, there was like a—you know because what happened was, she also really started to reject the idea of ‘neo-soul’ as a term. She hated that term.”
“I can remember talking to her specifically and she was repulsed by that term. I think she didn’t—she obviously liked all the Okayplayer kind of folks, and vibed with them, and they were kindred spirits. I think my perception of Worldwide Underground is that that’s a real deliberate move to go, Hey, down in the South we like the sound of the 808 bass and we like that sound of this electronic cowbell, and this is us, and this represents us. Even if she’s doing something with Rahzel, she’s gonna bring this Southern element to it.
“I don’t know that I ever thought that she would leave or not leave, or whatever. I just thought that this was in her DNA. And that even if she was in other places she represented here really well. Which is why I think she did the Cannabinoids and things like that. She’s proud of who she is and where she’s from, and we all cherish that because it’s just a good representation of us.”
Late last Friday afternoon, Jim Schutze published a run down of the witnesses both the prosecution and defense would like to call to testify at the John Wiley Price corruption trial, which is set to begin next month. In case you need a reminder, Price has been accused of taking bribes in the form of gifts and cash paid to his longtime political consultant Kathy Nealy in exchange for political favors. Central to the case against Price is the accusation that Ross Perot Jr. paid Nealy in order to sway Price to put up road blocks to a proposed southern Dallas “inland port” project so that the Perot family could eliminate competition for their own inland port, AllianceTexas, which is thriving north of Fort Worth.
The salaciousness of that accusation cannot be undersold. If substantiated it would mean that Price, perhaps the most prominent and certainly the most vocal champion of southern Dallas and economic opportunity for Dallas’ African-American population, was paid by the princes of the Dallas’ wealthy white establishment to kill a project that would have brought tens of thousands of solid jobs to southern Dallas. Schutze has called it, in no uncertain terms, a “betrayal.”
Given the backdrop, what the Dallas Observer columnist expects will unfold during the trial is a thorough examination not only of Price’s conduct, but of the entire “Dallas Way” of doing things. The list of witnesses appears to support the argument:
The defense will have no problem establishing Price’s history as a flamboyant champion of the southern Dallas black community, because those chapters are already written in history. Nor will it have a hard time demonstrating that Price has always claimed a particular interest in the economic development of southern Dallas.
But the government clearly intends to argue that it’s that personal history and that claim to be the main champion of southern Dallas economic development that make the crimes of which he is accused all the more heinous. That twist is what will raise the inland port question into sharp focus.
Price, Nealy and Price’s administrative assistant Dapheny Fain are accused of conspiring to shakedown several companies seeking business with the county, most of them in the information technology area, but the inland port matter rises above the others as an accusation of direct betrayal.
The developers of the inland port claimed it would produce over 30,000 new well-paid jobs in southern Dallas in the port itself and an equal number of new jobs in ancillary and support businesses. The public record and his own statements confirm that Price delayed key infrastructure projects and stalled certain important permits. Eventually the developer wound up in personal and business bankruptcy, and the project now is a shadow of what was originally envisaged.
But the city’s only daily newspaper, the mayor at the time and influential members of the business community sided with Price, not the developer, who was an out-of-towner whose project the Perot family had called a “direct threat” to their own holdings in Fort Worth. At the same time, Price derided the promise of jobs by saying that manual labor was identified with slavery and that “during slavery, everybody had a job.”
Read the whole thing here with this curious fact in mind: Price owns the rights to Schutze’s landmark study of Dallas racial history, The Accommodation.
It’s probably not surprising that Robert Jeffress, downtown Dallas’ loudest pastor, chose to zero in on the Book of Nehemiah for now-President Donald Trump’s pre-inauguration sermon this morning. The book is written in first person, essentially a memoir describing how this builder, chosen by God, would go about erecting a wall to protect Jerusalem from its enemies.
Jeffress, the First Baptist Church senior pastor who has tossed off Trump’s recorded comments about sexually assaulting women, also peppers that sermon with digs at the press (Nehemiah’s “chief antagonists” were “the mainstream media of their day” who “continued to hound and heckle Nehemiah and spread false rumors” during the building of said wall) and links the book’s namesake’s ability to shrug off criticism to his new president’s: “I’m doing a great work,” he quotes Nehemiah as saying while Building That Wall, “why should I stop the work and come down to you?”
Rick Perry’s Confirmation Hearing. Still gunning for energy secretary, the former Texas governor appeared before the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on Thursday. In addition to an awkward exchange with Sen. Al Franken, Perry vowed to “protect all of the science” from budget cuts. Zac had an efficient recap, too.
Planned Parenthood Will Remain Part of Medicaid For Now. U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks paused the move to oust Planned Parenthood from the program. Had Sparks not intervened, the organization would have lost funding Saturday. Sparks postponed the decision until Feb. 21, giving him more time to consider the issue. If Planned Parenthood were to be removed, the impact would reach more than two dozen clinics that serve about 11,000 low-income women.
The Man Accused of Killing a Little Elm Officer Had a History of Mental Health Issues. Rudy Garcia, who fatally shot Little Elm Police Det. Jerry Walker earlier this week, was taking medication for his Schizophrenia, family members say.
Controversial Landlord May Sell 130 Lots to Habitat for Humanity. The lots, owned by Khraish Khraish of HMK, Ltd., are located in South Dallas and West Dallas. Through this agreement, Habitat for Humanity can purchase properties HMK deems are no longer useful as rental properties. Khraish is known for his public clash with city leaders, alleging they are attempting to force him out of business in an effort to gentrify West Dallas.