This is a weekly feature produced by my friend Ginger. Let us know what you think.
This week, in news from Dallas-Fort Worth, we have a story from Granbury, southwest of Fort Worth, that ties up a lot of book-banning business locally, in the Metroplex, and statewide. We also have Dallas’ city budget, appraisal district shenanigans, the latest from Joppa, election fraud in Dallas County, cops behaving badly, HS football vs the killer heat, water mains vs the killer heat, USCIS raising visa fees that will kill portions of the touring music business, and the eternal question of tacos in Dallas: good, bad, or indifferent?
This week’s post was brought to you by the music of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, who have just released a new album, and the music of Japan, who have sadly not released anything lately.
First up, a book-banner scandal in Granbury, southwest of Fort Worth: trustee Karen Lowery, who was elected last year on a book-banning platform, was censured by a vote of 5-2 (the two being herself and her ally Melanie Graft) for sneaking into the Granbury HS library while it was closed during an after-hours event to distribute school supplies. Lowery and another woman were caught in the darkened library using their phones as flashlights by an assistant principal. There was an investigation that led to the banning at a raucous school board meeting this week.
The more I read up on this story, the more interesting it got. Current local coverage is in the Star-Telegram; the DMN; local Fox affiliate; and last week from Hood County News. The Daily Beast is on the story nationally. But there was also some fascinating additional background when I did a little research on Trustee Lowery: this Texas Tribune article from back in December 2022 about a federal investigation into Granbury ISD’s book-banning ways.
Even more interesting is this investigative piece on Medium dating from April 2022 where Chris Tackett lays out a lot of well-documented history from his public records requests about what has been going on in Granbury ISD in the previous few years. He has a follow-up from January of this year about the books that have actually been removed from Granbury ISD’s library. He ties the removals directly to Matt Krause’s 850-book list from back in 2021. Granbury got its marching orders from Krause and have been slogging forward ever since. All Trustee Lowery got wrong was not following the process.
Where Granbury is right now is where the book-banners want to take the rest of us. As our host is wont to say, you know what to do: vote in every election and take your friends and run these people out of office. Nothing will change until we do.
In other news:
- Fort Worth ISD also has problems with book banners in its public meetings. Apparently on Tuesday they had to remove a member of the public for reading from a banned book during public comment. As I mentioned last week in these dispatches, FWISD’s libraries are closed for two weeks while their collection is weeded. Here’s the DMN article on the removal.
- Frank Strong on why HB 900, the READER Act, is unworkable. As a reader of the serialized Dracula Daily, I agree with Strong’s analysis of why Dracula, along with many other classic books, is going to present a big problem for booksellers and libraries.
- You may have seen a piece recently on how Dallas is the safest large city in America according to a Gallup poll. D Magazine has some analysis of the fine print.
- As a person with a chronic autoimmune disease who takes immunosuppressive medication, I have some feelings about the news that the share of kindergarteners exempted from vaccines has doubled in the last ten years. I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but kids need vaccinations. Sure, there are a few folks out there who cannot be vaccinated! That’s why everybody else needs to bare arms and butts and take their shots. If too many people taking their shots, herd immunity will vanish and we’ll start burying little kids again like we did before vaccinations were widely available.
- Ongoing city budget news in Dallas: KERA; DMN; and Community Impact summary. The debate is between folks who think we need to raise money to fund city services and folks who want to lower property taxes. For now the money-raisers seem to be winning. The final budget will be adopted next month and go into effect on October 1.
- Speaking of budgeting, we here in the Metroplex are dealing with a lot of water main breaks thanks to infrastructure maintenance delays and high heat. Here’s an editorial from the DMN suggesting we spend federal infrastructure money and some of the state surplus fixing our water pipes statewide. It’s not going to happen but it’s nice to see the DMN asking for it.
- We have news from the DMA about upgrading its security systems after last year’s breakin and floods. The DMA is asking for $36 million from next year’s bonds but the city only wants to give them $11.5 million. That may have knock-on effects on the planned expansion previously mentioned in these dispatches.
- Appraisal districts behaving badly are in the news this week. In Tarrant County, their head of Information Systems has been suspended for lying about a bad rollout of the updated web site for TCAD. The Star-Telegram is calling for TCAD officials’ heads. Meanwhile in Dallas County, where we’ve been following the big payroll rollout SNAFU, the County Auditor has resigned.
- Per the DMN, Dallas still on fence about joining lawsuit to block ‘Death Star bill’ from taking effect. We’ll call y’all when that changes.
- Apparently we did have some election fraud in Dallas County in the 2022 elections, specifically in the Democratic primary. A Frisco man has been charged with election fraud, fraudulent use of identifying information and tampering with a governmental record. We’re getting prosecutors in from Fort Bend County since our DA is a Democrat and rightly recused himself. More from the DMN.
- Joppa cannot catch a break. As we’ve seen in previous dispatches, having just gotten rid of the asphalt batch plant, they now have found out that a nearby concrete plant is operating without permits, aka illegally. This week saw the public meeting downtown over how the TCEQ is going to handle that permit. More from the Dallas Observer, with some additional background on polluters in the area and the history of the concrete plant in question.
- Mark Steger has some commentary on the fact that Hispanic folks are now a plurality in Texas.
- Here’s a breakdown of the fourteen propositions on the statewide ballot this November.
- You know the heat is too damn hot when Dallas area high schools are delaying football games over it. It’s supposed to be 107 degrees out there Friday. And as the DMN is suggesting, maybe it’s time to move the start of football season back to September. (I personally am the heretic who thinks schools shouldn’t play team sports that cause brain damage at all, but I recognize I’m in the minority on that.) Related: Amid unrelenting heat in Dallas, Parkland reports six times number of heat-related visits (compared to last summer).
- The Dallas Observer has a good roundup of North Texas cops behaving badly. Some of it is violent but some of it is just small potatoes humiliation, like the police who laughed at the poor veteran who soiled himself.
- The Observer also has an item about the increase in fees for touring artists. Current fees for the O and P visas are in the $450 a head; the prices will rise $600 per visa; and on top of that USCIS is adding a supplementary fee of $600 so “business” visas can pay for the cost of asylum programs. This is going to kill plans for a lot of foreign acts touring the US. The big acts can afford the costs but small and medium-sized acts don’t have that kind of money hanging around. Also, when I posted this on Facebook, a friend of mine who’s into dancing commented that this was probably going to make the workshops by South American dancers he likes to attend financially unfeasible. It’ll also hit book tours and other arts endeavors, with knock-on costs to cities, as the Observer notes.
- Not that some of our home-grown entertainment is doing well: KERA tells us that Dallas arts leaders ponder a troubling question: how to stage shows under SB 12. For one, we’re supposed to get a Rocky Horror Show musical here in Dallas this fall and SB 12 could derail that.
- A few interesting things I learned in arts and culture news this week: Lake Highlands HS students paint their parking spaces and four of them painted the Beatles’ Abbey Road photograph across their joint spaces; there’s a Hindu temple in Frisco that engages its congregation with monthly concerts of music and dance in various Indian styles; and a fun piece about our local trolley car barn that performs repairs and maintenance on our Dallas trolleys; and Westfest is coming over Labor Day weekend so leave room for lots of kolaches and practice your polkas if you’re in that part of the state.
- Last but not least, the DMN wants to know whether a poll that rates Dallas as the worst city in Texas for tacos is fair or not. I don’t have a dog in this hunt, but I do notice that I eat gringo-style tacos mostly from Torchy’s, an Austin favorite of mine, instead of at Resident Taqueria, a highly-rated Dallas taco shop that’s literally walking distance from my house when I can stand the weather.