This is a weekly feature produced by my friend Ginger. Let us know what you think.
This week in news from the Metroplex, a big police expose in the DMN, the seventh anniversary of the July 7 Dallas police ambush, Six Degrees of Clarence Thomas and his Cowboys connection, how Dallas is dealing with state regulation of cities’ ability to regulate, short-term rentals, Texas Monthly’s deep dive on Highland Park real estate dealings, and the candidate plans for the DMA’s expansion. Plus: the season opening of cricket, the opening of Meow Wolf in Grapevine, and some baby cranes.
If you take nothing else away from this post, please read this Dallas Morning News expose on the investigation into former DPD officer Christopher Hess, who ultimately killed a woman on the job. He was indicted for aggravated assault and DPD fired him at that time. While Hess was acquitted, the lawsuits around the killing of Genevieve Dawes continue.
This story is not about Dawes and what Hess did to her. This story is about all the times DPD could and should have stopped him for abusing citizens before he got to the point of killing one. (Accordingly, consider yourself warned for police violence and homicide in the story. I did not watch the videos; the story was enough.)
To go with the investigation, I give you a handful of law enforcement headlines in Dallas area news sources I read from the last two weeks: Dallas police officer gets 5-day suspension for making challenge coin decried as racist; Civilian driver killed during Forth Worth police chase; In Unrelated Cases, 3 People Have Died Following Arrests by Dallas Police in 2023; Cases dismissed against 3 former Tarrant County jailers charged in jail beating; Former Sanger officer indicted on excessive use of force charges (in Denton County); Fort Worth police officer shot and killed man before identifying himself, body cam footage shows; and in one piece of not-so-terrible news, Dallas police chief fires officer who was arrested on family violence assault charge. Police violence is so normalized in the Metroplex, and probably where you are too, that none of those headlines excite any notice. Yet they add up to cases like the Christopher Hess story that really shock the conscience.
I don’t have an easy answer to what we do about police violence, but something needs to be done. Probably a lot of somethings, and I need to figure out where I can put my shoulder to the wheel on this issue.
In other news:
- This month was the seventh anniversary of the July 7, 2016 ambush on DPD officers. The DMN has a retrospective and the Dallas Observer has a piece on the use of “killer robots” like the one that ended the July 7 standoff. And here’s an op-ed by Brian Williams, one of the contenders for Colin Allred’s House seat, who was the trauma surgeon in charge at Parkland Hospital the night of the ambush. The juxtaposition between the July 7 anniversary and the Hess investigation is strange but they’re related in some obvious ways; the shooter in the July 7 attack was motivated by police shootings of Black men. The fact that someone got angry enough about police brutality to shoot cops doesn’t excuse police brutality any more than police brutality excuses shooting the police.
- Speaking of Brian Williams and his run for Colin Allred’s seat, earlier this week Axios’ Dallas newsletter devoted some space to his race against Julie Johnston and their respective fundraising prowess.
- Our host brought you the latest on Ken Paxton earlier this week. I’ll note another couple of stories for you: first Texas AG Ken Paxton reports post-impeachment $1.7M personal ‘fundraising record’, three-quarters of which came from a handful of donors (Texas Tribune coverage). Some of the same folks are also putting a lot of money in Dan Patrick’s coffers. And the Dallas County GOP has condemned the impeachment alongside its colleagues in Collin County.
- One of my favorite beats, Six Degrees of Clarence Thomas, has been pretty active recently. Propublica has an explainer on the tax games involved in how Crow’s yacht trips with Thomas were accounted for. And it turns out that Jerry Jones gave Thomas a Super Bowl ring in 1994. It could now be worth $100K, and he did file the proper paperwork on it. The paperwork is now lost because the Court no longer has files from before 1998. And you’ve almost certainly seen the story about how lawyers with business in front of the court were paying one of Thomas’ aides by Venmo. (For what? Unclear.) You may not have seen, because it’s not nearly as obviously corrupt, the news that Leonard Leo helped fund a PR push for Thomas in 2016, around the 25th anniversary of Thomas’ confirmation. Speaking of Leo, the expanding Judiciary Committee inquiry into let’s-not-call-them-bribes gifts to the Justices has led to letters requesting information from Leo, Paul Singer, and Robin Arkley II, who arranged the 2008 trip that Justice Alito took that’s under investigation.
- Here’s a Watchdog story from the DMN: former Mayor Laura Miller’s efforts to help a man coming out of a shelter were stymied when the non-bank app he was using, Chime let someone steal $9500 from his account. Y’all, be wary of all these unregulated banks. There are reasons we have bank regulations; neo-banks or financial apps or whatever you want to call them don’t want to be bound by those regulations. When you use a non-bank financial app, even Paypal, you’re risking your money. Keep it in mind.
- In the ComoFest shooting that I led with two weeks ago, two suspects have been arrested. Based on the warrant, it sounds like the shooters had a beef with someone in the crowd but they claim they didn’t intend to shoot randomly. Somewhat related, the DMN has the autopsy report for the Allen shooter. Key findings: he was shot three times and tested negative for drugs and alcohol.
- Here’s a good explainer from the Guardian about the shenanigans around election administration in Tarrant County: How Texas Republicans are catering to election deniers in this county. They do a lot of good work in tying things together including context like Crystal Mason’s case.
- The Dallas North Tollway continues to expand toward Oklahoma following the suburban sprawl northward in a way that will seem mighty familiar to Houston readers.
- There’s going to need to be a cleanup at the Dallas Executive Airport after last November’s fatal air show crash. It’s not clear whether the Commemorative Air Force, which hosted the show, or the taxpayers will end up paying for the cleanup. (Morgan Freeman narrator’s voice: It’s going to be the taxpayers.)
- Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson was going to protest the DCAD appraisal of his house but decided not to at the last minute. Everybody deserves a fair appraisal on the value of their home, and I get being mad at a $33K appraisal, but a 5,000sf house near White Rock Lake is going to cost you in taxes.
- Let’s you and him fight is what North Texas cities are saying about Houston’s suit to overturn HB 2127, the Texas Regulatory Consistency Act , aka the Death Star. The City of Dallas doesn’t want to talk about it with the media either. In case you thought that wasn’t enough interference in local law this session, Governor Abbott also signed SB 1017, which says you can’t ban or limit the use/sale/lease of engines based on fuel source. This is a problem for the city’s plan to get rid of gas-powered lawnmowers and landscaping equipment. We can’t do anything that might cost the oil companies money or help with climate change even though we’re in a record-breaking heat wave that’s also the coolest summer of the rest of our lives, most likely.
- Atheist Group Sues Fort Worth, Claiming Free Speech Violation. Metroplex Atheists wants to hang banners from the lightposts downtown for an event in August, just like they did in 2019. They’re getting the runaround from the city this time. I wish them much success; it’s hard enough to be an atheist in North Texas without unconstitutional governmental discrimination.
- Here’s an interesting news item I’ll be interested in seeing more about: Elon Musk’s X Corp. sues Dallas County entities over alleged Twitter data scraping. They’re identified only by IP. As an observer of Twitter with no dog in the hunt, I wonder whether this is a PR exercise or technical incompetence of some sort.
- Dallas passed a short-term rental ban back in June and unsurprisingly, folks are big mad. Things I did not know: Marriot International lists about 160 properties in the city of Dallas as short-term rentals and they say they’ll abide by the law. Also, here’s a DMN article on the distribution of STRs. There are only 17 of them in my zip code; half of the STRs in the city are in five zip codes. It looks like 40% of the registered STRs will end up banned; it looks like there may be three times as many unregistered STRs (about 6000, per the Marriot article) as registered STRs (about 1900, per the distribution article).
- How are things going with the ransomware attack on the City of Dallas, you may ask? Our library is still a shambles but they are cycling books in and out again (I have new ones). But problems continue, particularly in areas involving permits. The DMN says there were still almost 900 delayed permits as of June 30. We need to have to have a fence repaired/replaced, so I’m about to have some close personal experience with this particular problem.
- Meanwhile in the other Dallas-area IT problem center, the courts, they’re still not paying everybody (DMN; Dallas Observer). I really wish they’d resolve this problem and pay all those people.
- You may have seen that Rev. Jesse Jackson is stepping down from the Rainbow PUSH Coalition. You may not know that Jackson’s successor, Rev. Frederick Douglass Haynes, is a minister here in Dallas. The DMN has more.
- This deep dive from Texas Monthly isn’t on an important subject like the DMN police investigation, but it’s still pretty interesting: The Queen of Highland Park. It’s all about Dallas’ toniest realtor and really, also, about changes to the Dallas real estate market, some of which are Dallas-specific and some of which are national. Spend your lunch on this one; unless Dallas snobbery puts you off your feed, it should be safe to eat while reading.
- Our host noted that scooters are back. Apparently we still hate them according to 311 complaints. I’ll probably have more to report when I get my hair cut in Deep Ellum in a couple of weeks. They used to be all over that part of town and were a nuisance to park around.
- Speaking of Deep Ellum, it’s now on the National Register of Historic Places. Unfortunately, as mentioned in the article, this registration doesn’t protect the buildings. That’s a function of state and local laws.
- If you’re interested in architecture and museums, take a look at the six finalist designs for the expansion of the Dallas Museum of Art. A winner is expected next month.
- Two other items about area museums: first, the Lege has committed a million dollars for the National Juneteenth Museum in Fort Worth, which is one of the few worthwhile things to come out of the regular session. And second, a group is trying to get funds for a permanent Mexican American Museum in Dallas in next year’s bond propositions.
- The DMA is one of the arts boards that the DMN reviewed this year as a follow-up on their 2016 analysis of the boards’ diversity. Click through for the graphics and to see how all of the big Dallas arts organizations are doing better.
- Major League Cricket has started in DFW and the Texas Super Kings had a 69-run win against the Los Angeles Knight Riders. I’m going to have to ask my Aussie friends whether that’s as good as it sounds.
- Friends of mine have been singing the praises of Meow Wolf for years, and now it’s finally open in Grapevine. I’m waiting until the first rush of visitors dies down to brave it, but if you can’t wait, here’s the Texas Monthly review and the Dallas Observer preview.
- In honor of Jackson Browne’s performance here in Dallas this week, here’s a sweet story about how Browne helped Stevie Ray Vaughan make Texas Flood. We didn’t hit this Browne gig but he’s a favorite of my husband’s, so I took note of this story for him.
- Presented without commentary, because what can you say?: This is what AI thinks a typical home in Dallas looks like.
- Last but not least, the Dallas Zoo has hatched its first whooping crane chick. Prepare to click through and say “awww”.