A Daily Conversation About Dallas


What the Census Deadline Change Could Mean for Dallas

| 10 hours ago

As I mentioned yesterday in Leading Off, the Trump administration decided to end the 2020 United States census four weeks sooner than expected, leaving only six weeks to get the Constitutionally mandated, once-a-decade headcount right. Moving up the deadline, however, basically ensures that the Census Bureau won’t get the count right, and Dallas may stand to be disproportionately affected by the move.

For one, the region is home to the fourth largest population of undocumented immigrants in the nation, and the deadline change will only make it more difficult to track down a population already fearful of being noticed. Secondly, communities of color tend to be undercounted during censuses, and Dallas is a minority-majority city. A severe under count could affect Dallas in many ways. Here’s one: according to a report in the Dallas Observer, a mere 1 percent undercount could cause Dallas County to lose around $40 million a year in funding.

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Local News

White Motorcycle Stunt at Black Mega-Church Last Sunday Stirs Talk of Armed Response

| 14 hours ago

Dr. Frederick Douglass Haynes III, pastor of Friendship West, a Black mega-church in far southern Dallas near DeSoto, still doesn’t think he needs the help of an armed militia to protect his churchgoers. But he knows influential people in southern Dallas who disagree, especially given last Sunday.

Around noon Sunday, a reportedly all-White group driving about a thousand jeeps, pickups and motorcycles flying “Back the Blue” banners and at least one Confederate battle flag, according to news reports, showed up to the parking lot at Friendship West for what they said was a “pit stop” during a highway parade to support police. The group previously had been granted permission by the church to use the lot for half an hour but only under what Haynes now says were false pretenses.

Haynes is the second generation of a Dallas family of activist Black clergy. Like his father before him, he has been an outspoken equal rights advocate. His church, Friendship West, is a center of the Black Lives Matter movement in Dallas. A huge Black Lives Matter banner is affixed to the church’s massive façade.

So a common sense question would be: how likely is it Haynes or his church granted permission to use their parking lot knowing in advance it would be swarmed by thousands of White people in pickups and on motorcycles displaying the Confederate battle flag?

I was unsuccessful in efforts to reach Nathan Abrams, organizer of Sunday’s “Blue Lives Cruise.” Organizers of the parade told reporters Sunday they had intended no insult or challenge and only needed a place to rest.

Haynes says not everybody in the crowd Sunday may have been there to kick off a racial confrontation: “I have received too many apologies from persons who were unwittingly pulled into what took place on Sunday,” Haynes says. “They are adamantly opposed to what happened.”

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Local News

Leading Off (8/6/20)

| 18 hours ago

Dallas Mayor Asks City Auditor to Investigate Honu Management Group. The Washington-based company was awarded a $14 million contract to run one of the county’s largest public testing sites at the University of Dallas, but Mayor Eric Johnson voiced concerns yesterday after the Dallas Morning News questioned the vetting process, pointing out the company’s prior investigation for involvement in a foot cream kickback scheme, among other things.

The Dallas Art Fair Is Canceled for 2020. Kelly Cornell, the event’s director, announced yesterday afternoon that after an initial postponement from April to October, the high-profile international event has been canceled for the year. “This has been an extremely difficult decision to make, but with the high number of COVID-19 cases in Texas and global travel restrictions, we have to put the safety of our dealers and collectors first,” Cornell said.

Dallas County Reports 2,340 Children Have Contracted COVID-19 Since July 1. Sixty-one of those kids have been hospitalized. New cases for all ages were at 508 yesterday, and there were four deaths.

Gov. Abbott Will Be in Town Today to Discuss the Flu. The roundtable will be at UT Southwestern Medical Center at 11:30 a.m. Cuz yeah, that season’s coming, too.

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Visual Arts

The DMA Reopens August 14, But Is It Safe To Visit a Museum?

| 1 day ago

The Dallas Museum of Art will reopen to the public after five quiet months on Friday, August 14 with limited capacity, timed entry, and fewer hours. Employees began returning this week. The news comes days after Dallas Contemporary announced that it would stay closed for the remainder of 2020, setting its planned post-COVID opening date for next January. The DMA isn’t the first to welcome back visitors, though; the Meadows Museum, the Modern, the Kimbell, and Amon Carter each reopened in July.

Meanwhile, other museums in the Dallas Arts District, like the Nasher Sculpture Center and the Crow Museum of Asian Art, have remained in limbo as the coronavirus pandemic keeps North Texas in its grasp. The divergent paths taken by our cultural institutions raises the question: is it even safe to visit a museum right now? 

“It’s always a caveated answer. I think they can be on the safer side. I think a lot of it depends on their physical layout, their structure, the capacity of visitation that they allow, their air circulation, and of course, everybody wearing a mask–all employees,” says Dr. Mark Casanova, president of Dallas County Medical Society. “Then, that’s an endeavor that could be made safer. That’s how I would put it.”

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Houston Continues to Do Dallas’ Urbanism Homework

| 2 days ago

First it was the buses.

In 2015, Houston adopted a plan to completely revamp its bus system, changing from the hub-and-spoke network model Dallas Area Rapid Transit currently uses to a grid system that focuses on raising service levels to promote increased ridership. Since then, DART has begun the process of following Houston’s lead.

Now, Houston is adopting a slate of new ordinances designed to encourage more urban design. Dallas would be wise to take notes and perhaps explore a similar revision of many of its codes.

For a full rundown of what Houston plans, head here. I’ll touch on a few quick highlights:

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Insurance & Benefits

The Pandemic Is Mushrooming Texas’ Health Insurance Crisis

| 2 days ago

Pandemic-induced job losses in Texas have increased the uninsured crisis that already plagued the state. Dallas is the epicenter of the uninsured problem, leading the state in uninsured individuals, and the economic disruption caused by COVID-19 has only exacerbated the problem. 

Before the pandemic, 20 percent of Texans were uninsured, the worst rate in the nation. It is one of 13 states that has not expanded Medicaid, leaving many low income working adults and families without insurance. But according to data from Families USA, uninsured individuals in Texas have increased by nearly 50 percent. 

Between February and May, 5.4 million laid-off workers became uninsured nationwide, larger than any increase ever recorded. The Great Recession resulted in just 3.9 million non-elderly adults becoming uninsured. According to Families USA data, Texas’ uninsured adult rate jumped from 20 percent to 29 percent during the pandemic, still the highest in the nation. The next highest state is Florida, where 25 percent of adults are uninsured. 

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Local News

Leading Off (8/5/2020)

| 2 days ago

Dallas County Records Second Highest Day of COVID Deaths. The 31 new deaths include a man in his 20s and two men in their 30s. The county also reported 641 new cases, which is a jump from yesterday’s dip into the 300s. Collin County has reported its highest day of new cases ever. The North Texas Food Bank will hold its fourth free food distribution at Fair Park on August 11.

Problem Testing Vendor Had Checkered Past. As Tim mentioned yesterday, there have been problems with the vendor running the COVID-19 testing site at the University of Dallas. A new investigation has found that city officials vetting the vendor, Honu Management Group, overlooked some sketchy history, including a Washington state investigation into a foot cream kickback scheme and a conflict of interest involving the owner of an El Paso construction company who vouched for Honu.

More Problems Emerge With Reopening Schools. A survey of area school districts found that most do not have the air filtering systems that have shown to reduce the spread of COVID-19, and families are struggling to acquire computers in time for the start of the online school year.

Census Count Finishing Early. The census has already been plagued by pandemic shutdowns. Now the census plans to wrap up early, sparking fears of an inaccurate count.

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What a NIMBY Victory in Plano Means for the Future of Urban Planning in Texas

| 2 days ago

The final death knell for one of the most promising, forward-thinking urban planning efforts in North Texas will be sounded tomorrow. During a joint session of the city of Plano’s City Council and Planning and Zoning Commission, Plano officials are expected to vote to repeal the city’s Plano Tomorrow Comprehensive Plan and replace it with the 1986 master plan—literally putting Plano a generation behind on planning for its future growth and success.

The Plano Tomorrow Comprehensive Plan was adopted in 2015, and since then, it has been embroiled in a long legal feud seeking its repeal. Opponents feared the new plan and said it would allow dangerous amounts of density that would erode the suburban city’s character. To me, the Plano Tomorrow plan looked like exactly the kind of urban planning vision that could begin to reverse the damaging effects of 70 years of sprawl-style suburban growth.

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Local News

At Hensley Field, the City Council Eyes a ‘Blank Canvas’ the Size of Downtown

| 3 days ago

The Dallas City Council will soon vote to begin the overhaul of Hensley Field, the 738-acre former Naval yard at the western edge of town. Later this month, the full Council will consider spending $2 million in mostly bond dollars on a master plan to chart the redevelopment of the enormous parcel that has long been used for random storage.

The city housed the Robert E. Lee sculpture here until it was purchased and moved to a West Texas golf course. It’s where the police department keeps its aging vehicles. It’s where the city put nurse Nina Pham’s dog after her owner contracted Ebola. In its darkest moment, the city even considered shuttling the homeless here, a dozen miles from downtown.

There has not been a concrete plan for all these acres since the Navy vacated the premises in 1999 without cleaning it up. It’s near Mountain View College, Dallas Baptist University, the Potter’s House of Dallas, Mountain Creek Lake, a handful of neighborhoods, and a Home Depot distribution center. It’s about as close you can get to Grand Prairie while still being in Dallas. Councilman Casey Thomas, who represents the Oak Cliff district where it is located, called the land a “blank canvas,” one that is fewer than 100 acres smaller than the entire footprint of downtown.

“This is the type of project that not very many cities have had an opportunity to create,” he said.

On Monday, Peer Chacko, the city’s chief planning officer, briefed the economic development committee on the possibilities. It could support “7,000 new diverse, mixed-income dwellings,” another 7.5 million square feet of “commercial, institutional, and civic space,” and 15,000 “new jobs created across sectors and industries.”

Dallas has for years touted a neat number of how many more “affordable” units are required to meet citywide demand—10,000. It’s not hard to understand why Thomas referred to this as a “legacy project.” But there is much work to be done.

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Local News

Leading Off (8/4/20)

| 3 days ago

COVID-19 Update. Dallas County reported 382 new coronavirus cases yesterday, the lowest number since mid-June. Good work, people. However, it looks like something janky might be going on at one of our testing sites. The UD site was recently running at 7 percent positivity, compared to 17 percent at sites run by Parkland. Dr. Philip Huang is working on it.

DFW Air Traffic Over Southlake. Northerly winds are leading more planes to use runway 31L today. Everyone knows about 31L, right? Pretty good little runway. Anyway, that means more traffic over Southlake.

TCU Players Boycott Football Practice. They did it because coach Gary Patterson dropped the n-word while talking about why players shouldn’t use the n-word.

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How One Organization Is Still Trying to Help Undocumented Workers

| 3 days ago

Pay for seizure medication. Keep the lights on as electric bills pile up. Buy eggs and milk. Cover rent each month. These are some of financial realities many needed help with after they lost their jobs months ago when the pandemic reached Dallas. The vast hospitality industry was especially hard hit, which employed several thousands in Dallas County. Although this economic hardship isn’t unique to any one group in particular, the problems undocumented workers face—many of whom provide the backbone of the food industry—certainly are.

Despite paying taxes into government assistance programs, undocumented workers are left out of receiving those benefits. So they’ve turned to tiny, grassroots groups offering a helping hand.

Since March 22, just days after the county shut down, The Undocumented Workers Fund of Dallas (UWFD) has been distributing micro grants of $150—enough to keep food on the table and stay afloat in troubled waters.

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Good Public Transit

How Much Can Public Transit Be Blamed for COVID-19 Outbreaks?

| 4 days ago

When this whole global pandemic thing kicked off some months ago, reports that the virus spread quickly through crowded, dense cities appeared to raise some sharp questions about the future of urban places. In cities like New York, subways were shuttered and residents who could fled the city. Were cities—and dense cities which rely on public transit, in particular—especially vulnerable to global pandemics? An article in Scientific American suggests that initial fears of COVID-19’s spread on public transit, at least, were perhaps a tad overblown.

The article addresses an Atlantic opinion piece written by Janette Sadik-Khan, the former commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation, and Seth Solomonow, the co-author of Streetfight: Handbook for an Urban Revolution. The pair argue that public transit can’t be linked to as many major outbreaks as bars and live music venues. Furthermore, avoiding public transit increases car use, which can create pollution, which can make people more vulnerable to respiratory diseases.

My initial reaction to this argument was skepticism. The premise doesn’t seem to make sense.

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