Dispatches from Dallas, April 19 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: news about the upcoming election, including what we know and don’t know; the bond package here in Dallas; lots of shenanigans and high-handedness from the Fort Worth GOP; Dallas’ former mayor on his work with No Labels; a bunch of stories about big money in local and state politics and its connection to some unsavory bigotry; hey, we had an eclipse; and a zoo baby. And more!

As always when we have an election coming up, I’d like to remind you to vote. Need help? Check out the Texas Tribune guide.

This week’s post was brought to you by the music of the Police, after we enjoyed the Police Deranged for Orchestra as part of Stewart Copeland’s SMU residency earlier this week. Apparently there’s an album of this music coming out later this year and probably a tour from Copeland, so keep an eye out if you love the Police.

Let’s start with election news: next week is the beginning of early voting for the May election. And let’s talk about Tarrant County, which as our host has noted, has already seen County Judge Tim O’Hare putting a thumb on the scale. You can find a full list of candidates for the three open positions in this article. The Star-Telegram has endorsements (one, two, three). The Star-Telegram didn’t endorse O’Hare’s preferred candidate in Place 2; in fact they note she didn’t respond to repeated requests for an interview. They didn’t endorse Chuck Kelley, the candidate O’Hare allegedly tried to force out, but said everyone in the Place 3 race could do the job even though they preferred another candidate (as it happens, the one O’Hare endorsed in Place 3). Last night the Fort Worth Report and the League of Women Voters held a debate, which dealt with both the missing Place 2 candidate (she didn’t show up there either), and with O’Hare’s potential election influence.

For what it’s worth, using the search our host suggested in his post about the lack of news about these elections, I found two articles about candidates in Dallas County: this piece mentioning an endorsement in a Dallas County race from Progress Texas and the same Y’allitics story Charles got. I got nothing from a search of the DMN. I did have a chance to go to a local Dem group’s meeting on Wednesday about the May election, but unfortunately had a prior commitment. I’m looking forward to hearing from the guy who runs the group because that’s my best prospect for hearing anything significant about the DCAD races. That said, we, like other Dallas homeowners, got our DCAD tax bill recently, and ouch. CultureMap and D Magazine have some thoughts on the rising property valuations.

The other big thing on the May ballot in the city of Dallas is our bond election. Axios has two good summaries (one and two) and the Dallas Observer has some things that were left out of the package. The discussion of housing recalls to my mind that Mayor Johnson has been pretty adamant over time that the city not be in the housing business. He doesn’t win often but he seems to have gotten the better of things in the bond package. Unsurprisingly, one of the items on the ballot includes funding for a new “Cop City” DPD training facility in South Dallas. Also unsurprisingly, the neighbors aren’t interested in having it nearby. Between this and the way state law will disfavor cities cutting funding to the police, I think my vote on the police section of this bond package is settled.

Meanwhile, there are a lot of little local elections in the suburbs and exurbs of the Metroplex, most of which are ably covered by the Fort Worth Report. One that has drawn my attention is Bedford’s mayoral election, which elicited two stories from the Star-Telegram: one about the candidates, including a guy who tried to get Trump to pardon “Joe Exotic” from the Tiger King story, and the other one about the wild story that guy is telling about the sale of a city property. Another exurban story is from Denton, where out of town developers are spending big on the election. Both of these stories draw on local anxiety about additional suburban and exurban development around Dallas and Fort Worth, which is also a big driver with a lot of the school board elections. The city, in whatever form, is coming for a lot of these places; they don’t want it; but if there’s money in it, what the residents want doesn’t matter that much.

In other news:

  • The Star-Telegram asked locals what issues were on their minds and came up with “the economy, taxes, health care, education and affordable housing”, adding “Immigration also came up, but not to the same degree as it does among politicians”. Apparently Tarrant GOP Chair Bo French thinks it’s the number one issue.
  • Speaking of Mr. French, he and the party are getting sued by an elected precinct chair whose election French refused to certify. French decided the guy was a Democrat so he refused to certify the election and is now calling for closed primaries here in Texas. So keep an eye out for that talking point.
  • On the related subject of election integrity, we now have news from Tim O’Hare’s pet project, the Tarrant County Election Integrity Unit about voting fraud in the March election: three voters, all over 70 years of age, each voted during early voting and again on Election Day. This was out of a vote total of more than 105,000. No word yet on whether the voters will be charged.
  • O’Hare also got into it this week with his fellow commissioners over a contract for communications with a conservative political marketer who has close ties to Don Huffines and worked on Ken Paxton’s re-election. The contract was passed on a party-line vote.
  • The Star-Telegram isn’t pleased with the high-handed way O’Hare handled the would’ve-been court reorganization we discussed recently. We’ve seen how O’Hare does business; shaking a finger isn’t going to change him. Tarrant County voters need to get rid of him and his majority of county commissioners.
  • Here are two items that are not directly related but say a lot about politics in the Metroplex. The Dallas Morning News has Local Texas GOP groups lay groundwork to restrict IVF, but the state party isn’t so sure and the Star-Telegram has an opinion piece Pro-lifers hitting Trump on abortion should see that saving babies means winning now by local talk radio host Mark Davis. I leave the connection as an exercise for you readers.
  • Former Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings was, unsurprisingly, in the middle of the No Labels search for a third-party candidate and he’d like to sell you on how they’ll find their candidate eventually. Talk to the man if you’re looking for a bridge.
  • On March 30 Kansas City Chiefs’ wide receiver Rashee Rice and an SMU player friend of his were racing down Central Expressway and crashed. Fortunately nobody was killed, but there were injuries. Rice and several friends fled the scene. The latest items in this ongoing story are about how the SMU player who was racing Rice has been suspended and the lawsuits filed against Rice by people injured in the wreck. Apparently the two vehicles were going just under 120 mph seconds before the crash; the speed limit on that section of Central is 70. This story rates a mention here because State Senator Royce West is Rice’s lawyer.
  • The other reason I brought it up is as a lead-in point to speculation that the mysterious Project X on a recent Dallas City Council agenda is actually an effort to move the Chiefs to Dallas, which is apparently on Mayor Johnson’s agenda. Kansas City refused to give the Chiefs a better stadium, as covered here by Talking Points Memo, so they’re threatening to bail. Given the politics of the NFL and its markets, I’m not sure Dallas is a viable destination for a team, but I’m sure a lot of locals will enjoy the fantasy.
  • Here’s an update on the November city charter election in Dallas from the DMN. Pretty sure that everybody else in town is feeling like me, which is “call me after the bond election and the runoffs”.
  • A lot of locals here in Dallas have complained that the new ForwardDallas land use plan is going to change the character of neighborhoods by allowing things like duplexes and triplexes. Sounds like we don’t need to worry about that because Dan Patrick and his cronies in the Lege are going to solve our zoning problems by tightening up zoning laws in Austin.
  • Also on Patrick’s plate: apparently someone he knows up in Grayson County is unhappy about a cement plant. So finally someone is going to do something about cement plant approvals. I have been hoping for someone to put a stop to approvals of cement plants in Dallas but I have to admit I didn’t expect it to be our Lite Guv!
  • Sounding the drum: here’s this month’s article about how Dallas’ police and fire pensions are underfunded.
  • Two stories whose connection is obvious to people whose politics or jobs don’t require them not to make the connection. One: More intense tornadoes hit this Texas metropolitan area in the past 20 years, study finds. Two: Texas and Oklahoma have the highest home insurance costs in the U.S..
  • Here’s another round of recent stories that are all connected if you’re paying attention:
  • My congresswoman, Beth Van Duyne, put a full-page in the New York Times to ask their cops to move to North Texas. I have no words for this one.
  • Mayor Johnson is pissed off about T.C. Broadnax outmaneuvering him to get out of his job as City Manager with his golden parachute. He’s floated the old “there oughta be a law” and we’ll see whether anyone in the Lege will actually act on that. Or maybe Mayor Johnson will put it in the next City Manager’s contract.
  • You may remember that a few months ago, a Dallas pastor took over as CEO of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition from Jesse Jackson. He resigned this week effective immediately. I’m not sure whether this is worth putting a pin in; I’m just noting it because I mentioned when he took the job back in February.
  • Earlier this week President Biden and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan discussed the Houston-to-Dallas high speed rail line, prompting Amtrak to push on it as well. I’ve been waiting on this project in one form or another since I was in college; I think I’ll believe it when I see it and not until.
  • I talked earlier about the Dallas Express, which was a Black newspaper here in Dallas that closed in the 1970s. The Dallas Weekly is another Black newspaper that’s been operating since 1954. James Washington purchased the paper in 1989 and his family currently operates it. He died earlier this month at his home in Atlanta. His civic involvement here in Dallas, as listed in the DMN obituary, is quite impressive. I didn’t know about the Dallas Weekly until I read this story, but I’m adding it into my RSS feeds and will be looking at their articles for inclusion in my news here in the future.
  • D Magazine has a Q&A with author Megan Kimble who has a new book about Dallas Highways out. City Limits: Infrastructure, Inequality, and the Future of America’s Highways went on my reading list immediately. Somewhat related, the Star-Telegram has photos of I-30 from its early days in the late 1950s to the late 1970s, when it was “freed” from tolls and was designated part of the interstate.
  • Dallas has a new Poet Laureate: Dr. Mag Gabbert. I didn’t know this was a thing but I’m glad to learn about it.
  • Right up there with messing with Texas is messing with the Rangers’ fan music. Don’t do it.
  • Maybe you heard we had an eclipse last week. Perhaps you would like some pictures. D Magazine; Dallas Observer; KERA; DMN featuring a great photo of the eclipse over the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge. According to the Star-Telegram, actual numbers of visitors were at the bottom end of the estimate. Also in case you were wondering what to do with those eclipse glasses, reuse them for future eclipses, donate them for reuse, or recycle the cardboard.
  • Last but not least, it’s a giraffe! The Dallas Zoo tells us that a boy calf was born on April 1. If you’d like some footage of him the zoo’s Instagram page has you covered.
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