Dispatches from Dallas, September 15 edition

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 grab bag of stories. Ken Paxton is keeping his pension no matter how the Senate votes; DPD oversight reform; local crime statistics; a day at DFW airport; a TCU student’s murder inspires public safety improvements in Fort Worth; G.W. Bush on PEPFAR in the Washington Post; Dallasites hit by a scam over water bills; unintended consequences of a statewide food truck law hit Dallas County; Coffee City in East Texas and its cop shop shut down; the Texas Rangers (law enforcement) and their supporters have come after a Dallas author; improvements at Fair Park; and some very lucky dogs.

This week’s post was brought to you by the music of Windham Hill Records, which is about what you need when you’ve spent two days having the old insulation sucked out of your attic and the new insulation blown in. That’s super loud, and Windham Hill is nice and quiet.

Without further ado, let’s jump into this week’s news.

  • The DMN tells us that Ken Paxton won’t lose his pension even if he’s impeached because the laws and regulations around state pensions are super complicated. Also, as I’m getting a feel for the Star-Telegram’s mostly Republican opinion columnists, I think I’ve found the Never Trumper: You want a smoking gun? A hush money receipt? This is as close as it gets in Paxton trial. It’s complicated but I agree it’s not that complicated.
  • Bad timing: with the big bond package coming next year that includes $200 million in housing bonds, the city’s Directors of Housing and Planning are both quitting by the end of the month. DMN story; Dallas Observer story. The planning director is moving out of the city; the housing director is going to work for HUD.
  • Here’s a piece on police oversight reform in Dallas from the DMN. They’re interested in how their reports on misconduct revealed that DPD’s internal affairs isn’t living up to federal standards; what I found interesting is that former chief Renee Hall is one of the pro-reform activists mentioned in the article.
  • In actual non-police crime, the Dallas Observer tells us that the good news is that violent crime is down here but murder is up. As someone who lived through the “if it bleeds, it leads” coverage of Houston’s murders in the 80s, when there was a murder or two every day on local news, the numbers I see on local news still sound low. Related news from KERA tells us that violent crime is common in older apartment complexes in Dallas, which I don’t know about but certainly jibes with my experience as an apartment dweller, then a homeowner, in Houston.
  • It’s the 50th anniversary of DFW Airport and here’s a puff piece on what 24 hours at the airport is like. In a nod to our crime coverage, though, here’s recent news about car theft at DFW, which is on pace to almost double last year’s numbers and something like triple the numbers from 2019.
  • Also on the crime beat, here’s an opinion piece by Fort Worth mayor Mattie Parker on the steps the city and county are taking following the murder of TCU student Wes Smith in the 7th Street entertainment district. We were in Fort Worth visiting the Kimbell for its big Maya exhibit over Labor Day weekend and overheard some college students talking about the murder at a restaurant near the school. This is clearly a big-deal case for the school population and I’m not surprised it’s generating a response from local leaders.
  • Local ex-president George W. Bush doesn’t sound off much about politics these days, but he wrote, or at least assembled, this Washington Post opinion piece on renewing funding for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). I generally have no use for Bush, but PEPFAR was an important achievement, and I’m glad he’s speaking up for it. Also, I always appreciate Republican calls for bipartisanship that support legislation for helping folks out, even if the only Republicans who make them any more are lame-duck or retired.
  • Dallas County has reported 19 human West Nile cases this year.
  • September 15 is Democracy Day and the Star-Telegram has an opinion for it: Want a better democracy? Quit asking us to vote so dang much. On the one hand, he’s not wrong that it’s a lot of work to keep up with what and who is on the ballot, and that November elections are better attended than May elections. On the other hand, celebrating Democracy Day by asking for less of it is a choice.
  • Upsetting news for area bigots: D-FW companies stick by DEI programs despite culture wars that have smeared efforts: Three quarters of surveyed Dallas-Fort Worth companies have metrics and goals attached to their DEI initiatives. I hope the usual angry suspects bust a blood vessel on reading this news.
  • Meanwhile, speaking of local loudmouths who have said unfortunate things, we have a couple of items. Jerry Jones was named in Jim Trotter’s discrimination and retaliation lawsuit against the NFL, which is bad in a week when people should be talking about the Cowboys’ victory over the Giants. Meanwhile, Southlake-Carroll ISD has a couple of big talkers letting it all hang out on Twitter; these two gentlemen are developing a business academy for the district and their tweets may derail them. As a local activist tweeted, “Will Southlake Carroll’s Business Academy allow girls?” You could ask the same question about gay students, Black students, students who mask, and a whole host of other kids.
  • Chad Green a McKinney ISD trustee, has announced a campaign for District 12 of the State Board of Education. I’m in District 9, so I won’t be voting against him, but anyone who says he’s a “conservative fighter who will lead with innovation” is not my candidate.
  • There’s disconnection phone scam targeted at Dallas Water Utilities customers going around this summer. We haven’t gotten this call but I’ve seen the warnings on their web site when I paid our bill. Stay safe and wary about weird phone calls, friends!
  • Department of Mistakes Have Consequences: Dallas County Commissioners approved a 5% raise for everybody in their next budget except for 13 officials in the juvenile department. They may get theirs after the state completes its ongoing (discussed in these posts previously) investigation into the detention center. I understand John Wiley Price’s objection to exempting specific people from raises, but I also see why Price lost the vote.
  • Department of Unintended Consequences: HB 2878 went into effect on September 1. It’s a law sponsored by a Southlake representative to fix things in Tarrant County so food trucks can get a county permit instead of multiple city permits. Sounds great, right? But while it was written narrowly for Tarrant County, it also applies to Dallas County and they didn’t know they were on the hook until the end of last month. Like the DMN, I’m not sorry about the improvement but I do wish Dallas County had known, or been informed, they might start issuing these permits when the law was under consideration.
  • Here’s a sad story about a North Texas family split by the January 6 insurrection. Dad participated and one of the kids turned him in; the piece is about how the family navigated the situation.
  • Two articles about coastal mitigation presented without commentary to my Gulf Coast friends. First, the BBC has a piece on Babcock Ranch: Florida’s first hurricane-proof town. Second, NPR reports that San Francisco considers lifting the Ferry Building by 7 feet to save it from the sea.
  • Y’all may be more up to date in Houston than I am on this story because it’s KHOU original reporting, but Coffee City in East Texas has deactivated its police department and fired the chief after KHOU’s investigation. Apparently the town has 250 people, the police chief had hired the department up to 50, and a lot of them were cops that had trouble in previous police jobs. Coffee City is on Lake Palestine, so about an hour and a half from me, so I consider it within my remit.
  • As the heat dies down from this summer, here are a couple of news items relevant to our ongoing struggle with climate change. The BBC has a piece on How Texas is racing to thwart the heat which covers work in Austin and San Antonio. We all need more heat mitigation strategies because it’s only getting hotter. And The 19th reports on how Extreme heat is linked to higher risk of life-threatening delivery complications for pregnant people, which is doubly relevant in Texas considering our maternal mortality statistics were terrible even before Dobbs.
  • The DMN’s Watchdog columnist has a piece on how the Texas Rangers compiled a dossier and an enemies list over a 2020 book on the Rangers that detailed some of their nastier history. (This is the law enforcement agency, not the baseball team.) The book’s author is a former DMN journalist and used a FOIA request to get the dossier. A millionaire business supporter also hired a PR firm to go after the author. It’s a pretty ugly story. As someone who almost went into history as a profession at the university level, I learned enough to know that arguments about this kind of history are actually arguments about current politics. So in that spirit, I offer links both to the book’s wikipedia page and its publisher page on the grounds that a book like Cult of Glory that people really don’t want you to read should go on your TBR list.
  • Here’s an update on plans for Fair Park including a new three-story parking garage on site and a new park for the locals. The parking situation at Fair Park has been ghastly since I started going to North Texas Irish Festival back in the early 00s, and it’s worse every year as I get less able to walk in from the distant lots. I hope the management is right and the garage will improve the situation, and I hope the park is a good thing for the local residents.
  • There are going to be 31 new foods and drinks at the State Fair this year. Don’t read this article before you eat, or maybe do and you’ll have worked up an appetite. I’ll take a raspberry chipotle jalapeño popper grilled cheese and some fried surf and turf, please and thank you!
  • Last but not least, let’s end on a feel-good story about a pup who survived a fire when her humans’ home was struck by lightning. The house was a total loss, but all three of the family dogs made it: two by escaping and the third was found alive in the debris.

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