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This week (and from last week) in news from the DFW area: election results from the June 10 runoff; the Dallas short-term rental ordinance; Heider Garcia’s replacement as Tarrant County elections administrator; the history of Freedmen’s Towns in Dallas for Juneteenth; conservative women meets in the Metroplex; RIP LeAnn Mueller; and more. It’s a long post this time because last week’s post was eaten by family business. We’re all fine now and I’m glad to be back!
Dallas City Council only had one race in the June runoff. In D3 in southwest Dallas, Zarin Gracey beat Joe Tave to succeed term-limited council member Casey Thomas, who had endorsed Gracey. Inauguration was June 20 and Mayor Johnson’s speech focused on decreases in crime, improvements to our park system, and property tax relief. Unlike Mayor Johnson, I’m not sure being called the “new Dubai” is a compliment.
Forth Worth also had one council runoff, D11, where Jeanette Martinez won a new Hispanic-opportunity district to become the second Latine member on the city council. 30% of Fort Worth’s population is Hispanic and D11 is 60% Hispanic.
A couple of city school district seats were also on the runoff ballot, with funding the common denominator. In Fort Worth, Kevin Lynch outspent one-term incumbent CJ Evans in a civil race between similar opponents. In Dallas ISD’s D2, which the DMN described as “one of Dallas ISD’s most expensive board seats”, Sarah Weinberg beat Jimmy Tran. Weinberg had the endorsement of outgoing trustee Dustin Marshall.
In Collin College news, two Republican-backed candidates won seats on the board. Cathie Alexander defeated incumbent Stacey Donaldson in Place 3 and incumbent Jay Saad defeated challenger Scott Coleman in Place 2. Collin College board races, like most school elections, are technically nonpartisan, but as longtime readers know, Collin College is a hotbed of political conflict. Three faculty members have been fired over free speech issues in recent years, resulting in one settled lawsuit and one still in progress, and the American Association of University Professors censured Collin College for limiting academic freedom.
As mentioned in a number of the linked articles above, turnout was low. 5% of Dallas County registered voters participated in the runoff election and per the Fort Worth Report, Fort Worth turnout was about 4%.
At the same time, in Dallas we have low satisfaction with our City Council according to a recent city survey. This survey preceded recent changes to ethics rules that lowered evidentiary standards for ethics complaints (i.e., council members and associates have to disclose more potential conflicts).
- A big item on the City Council agenda has been short-term rentals. Council went with the City Plan Commission’s recommendation to ban STRs in areas zoned for single families in a late-night session less than a week before the new council (substantially the same people as the preceding council with exceptions for term limits) was inaugurated. The Observer has some thoughts about what to expect. What I expect, with the new rules coming into effect after six months, is that apart from the inevitable lawsuits (as we’re seeing in Fort Worth), Greg Abbott will include a call in a special session to override local regulations the way he did when Austin tried to regulate Uber. That’s assuming that this term’s pre-emption laws don’t already cover STRs.
- We also have movement, finally, on the City of Dallas/DART conflict over reimbursements and the Silver Line which resulted in the city getting less money than it wanted (only $90 million) and DART taking less money in reimbursement than they thought they were owed. There are no real winners in this one, but the taxpayers lose a little less now that the issues are settled.
- Tarrant County has a new elections administrator, who was former administrator Heider Garcia’s first deputy. This is a relief because one of the other finalists was a GOP donor and “voter fraud activist” who had sued Garcia.
- As the impeachment process for Ken Paxton moves forward, as ably documented by Charles, I found this op-ed piece by Andrew Murr, the leader of the House impeachment worth a read. It’s aimed at the Collin County GOP resolution condemning the impeachment.
- Lege-watching: Texas Monthly’s Best & Worst Legislators was kind to North Texas. We had four of the best and only one of the worst (Tony Tinderholt) this session, plus one piece of furniture. And, of course, Bryan Slaton.
- Mentioned by Charles but noting this here: State Rep. Julie Johnson launches campaign to replace Colin Allred in Congress. Also, from earlier this month, but mentioned in that article: Rhetta Bowers running for reelection instead of vying to replace Colin Allred in Congress.
- And here’s an interview with Allred from our local NPR station if you want to know more about him.
- A local postal carrier died on the job from heat-related illness this week. Please stay safe and watch for symptoms of heat illnesses if you have to be outside in the Texas summer.
- This week I learned that Highland Park ISD pays for its superintendent to have a local residence. Pays $1.8 million for a house in the district, that is. Nice work if you can get it, but of course that’s also what it costs to live in the Park Cities.
- In hyperlocal news for me, the DMN published a Juneteenth remembrance for Little Egypt, the freedman’s town that was just north of my part of Lake Highlands. A state historical marker for Little Egypt was unveiled last month. While my home is not on former Little Egypt land, I live less than a block from the southern end of the development and my library, the park where I enjoy walking, and the high school my home is zoned to are all in what used to be Little Egypt. It’s a reminder that the past isn’t dead and isn’t even really past. The DMN also wrote about three other Freedmen’s Towns: Elm Thicket-Northpark, now Love Field); Joppa (about which more below); and Tenth Street in Oak Cliff, part of which is now I-35.
- Two redevelopment projects in my part of Dallas are advancing. First, Dallas has broken ground on a park replacing a shopping center in North Dallas. There will be outdoor and indoor facilities and a DPD substation in what has been an underserved part of the city with a bad reputation. Second, an affordable housing development near a DART line and Central Expressway (75) has moved forward, with the city agreeing to a long-term lease for the developer. My former council member, Adam McGough, is quoted in the article complaining about how his constituents’ voice didn’t matter. As one of those constituents, I’m happy that what I think are NIMBY objections were overcome.
- Related: a nice update on how Dallas County is paying for new affordable homes in Joppa, the former Freedmen’s Town that has suffered for years from air quality concerns. The asphalt plant that causes those concerns closes down next week.
- North Texas school districts continue to be a lab for terrible policies that someone will try to roll out statewide and nationwide if they succeed here. This week it’s Keller ISD debating transphobic policies around pronouns and bathrooms, following Grapevine-Colleyville’s work last year. Followers of book banning and other reactionary school policies will recognize both of these districts’ names.
- In Dallas ransomware updates, the city is offering employees credit monitoring after the ransomware attack. Yes, it’s still ongoing; yes, it’s still a problem; Thursday evening I got a notice that my library book club meeting for early July is cancelled because of the ransomware attack. Meanwhile, the software SNAFUs in the county’s new court software and the transition from the old software have caused increases in the jail population as case work slows.
- Turning Point USA was in Grapevine over the weekend of June 9-11 for a Young Women’s Leadership Summit. The Dallas Observer has a local take on the message to our young women, particularly from Charlie Kirk, and Laura Jedeed has a fantastic article in The New Republic about the mixed messages the movement is sending. For a more, ahem, traditional review, there’s the Washington Post.
- In sports news, here’s a Washington Post opinion piece about the harassment of Britney Griner at DFW airport a couple of weeks ago that places it in some context I didn’t know.
- We know HEB is getting serious about North Texas because they’re sponsoring a high school football stadium in Allen.
- RIP to LeAnn Mueller of the Mueller barbecue clan and maker of, from my personal experience, some mighty fine ‘cue.
- I personally do not need anyone to clean a chicken coop or babysit chickens, but that service is now commercially available in Dallas.
- And last but not least, my favorite neighborhood barbecue, One90 Smoked Meats, is now available at local Central Markets. My favorite, the smoked duck breast, is still only available at the One90 storefront, alas for the rest of town.