John Wiley Price's trial is held in Chief U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Lynn's courtroom inside the Earle Cabell Federal Building.

John Wiley Price’s trial is held in Chief U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Lynn’s courtroom inside the Earle Cabell Federal Building.

By Ashley Stanley
Special Contributor

For the first installment in this series, click here.

The morning didn’t go as planned. I was hoping to be at the courthouse at 7:45 a.m., remember? It was more like 9:03 a.m. I ended up taking care of other business matters, but nonetheless, made it to the Earle Cabell Federal Building in time to be second in line. Meaning if someone comes out, I go in.

It is not standing-room only. Chief U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Lynn does not want anyone standing except for the security officer monitoring the door. You either have a seat, or you wait outside on a wooden bench. I benched it for 20 minutes until I snagged my opportunity. I made it in. However, while I was waiting outside the courtroom, I overhead two attorneys negotiating (nothing to do with the trial). It went a bit like this:

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I knew there was a good (well, in this case, terrible) reason, because John is, as I said, one of best Tax Appraisers/Collectors we have ever had. Under his watch the office has become much more efficient, the clerks are friendly and polite, and well, maybe he ought to interview for the new management job available over at Dallas City Hall.

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I tried calling John at the Tax office yesterday five times, never could get through because everyone was (probably) calling about their property taxes. May 31 was the last day to protest appraisals. Some tax consultants tell me they were getting calls at 2 and 3 in the morning. People sometimes confuse the Central Appraisal District office with John’s office down on Elm. He does not oversee appraisals, he administers the Tax Collectors office.

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Voters across the Dallas area will go to the polls on May 9 to elect mayor, city council members, and school district trustees. If you want your name to appear on a ballot, you should know that the filing period for candidates begins today. (Photo by iStock)

Early voting began Monday for two sets of bond packages (Dallas ISD and Highland Park ISD), as well as a handful of proposed state constitutional amendments. (Photo by iStock)

Early voting began Monday for two sets of bond packages and a handful of proposed amendments to the state constitution. Both bond packages — one for Dallas ISD and one for Highland Park ISD — are important to the growth of the districts and even the health and safety of the students. And those amendments deal with everything from property taxes to the living arrangements of state officials.

But hardly anyone one will vote. Which is a crying shame, because (and excuse me while I get on my soapbox) there are people in some countries that would give both eyeteeth for the honor of having a say in anything — even something as mundane as whether small counties can be allowed to perform maintenance on private roads.

And sure, maybe voting is this arduous task that requires getting out of your car and walking into an air conditioned building to hand your driver’s license over to a nice lady or man who then finds you in a computer and walks you over to sign your name and then walks you to a booth to fill in some circles with a Sharpie. That’s hard. I know. I mean, it’s almost as hard as getting out of your car, walking into a Starbucks, standing in line, choosing a drink, telling a nice man or lady what you want to drink, and then paying for the drink before scooting over to wait for a barista to make your drink. I mean, almost. Right?

No.

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Susan Hawk, newly elected Dallas DA

Susan Hawk, Dallas DA

Everyone in town is talking about our District Attorney, Susan Hawk, and her return from a voluntary in-patient hospitalization at the famous Menninger Clinic in Houston the last several weeks.  D Magazine ran a comprehensive, well-written story by the talented Jamie Thompson on Sunday to scoop the local media and get the story buzzing before the week’s start. It’s a must-read. Here at CandysDirt.com, we are always on the look-out for the real estate angle to breaking Dallas stories. So naturally we went a-hunting for the places where the main characters live, and the action took place: (more…)

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We’ve been talking about this trend for some time, but thanks to the business-friendly environment Great State of Texas and our fantastic job market, more people are moving to our state from areas where there are fewer jobs and houses cost a whole lot more.

And of course, when more people relocate to Texas, that means more real estate clients. A total of 138,057 new clients according to the statistics from the Texas Association of Realtors’ “Texas Relocation Report.”

The report, which uses data from 2013 American Community Survey, the 2008-2012 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau, as well as the U-Haul 2013 National Migration Trend Reports shows that Texas is outpacing Florida, California, Georgia, and North Carolina in the number of people moving from out of state.

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John Wiley Price's Home at 406 E. 5th Street in North Oak Cliff

John Wiley Price’s Home at 510 E. 5th Street in North Oak Cliff

John Wiley Price was arrested this morning at 8 a.m. on an FBI indictment alleging bribery, mail fraud, tax fraud, and other crimes associated with influence peddling. Co-defendants in the 107-page indictment, which was released this morning, include longtime assistant to Price Dapheny Fain and political consultant Kathy Nealy. A fourth defendant, Christian Lloyd Campbell, was also named in the document.

Price’s attorney, Billy Ravkind, was stunned by this morning’s arrest, alleging that neither he nor his client knew that the indictment was coming out today. Jim Schutze thinks that this means that there is no cooperation coming from Price or his associates, or that a crucial player has recently opted to flip to federal authorities. We’re certain that things will become more clear after the U.S. Attorney addresses the media later today, and as the days and weeks progress.

One thing is certain: a lot of real assets will likely get caught up in this arrest and indictment, one that is swiftly becoming the biggest public corruption case Dallas has ever seen. Price currently resides at 510 E. 5th Street in North Oak Cliff, which was raided by the FBI almost three years ago to the day, but he was listed as owner for several other properties, too. Agents found more than $229,000 in cash inside Price’s home during the June 2011 raid, which also targeted Fain and Nealy’s homes and offices.

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Grandwick 3 JoEngland

You already know that Grandwick, the former Dallas headquarters of the Church of Scientology, was reduced to ashes by a three-alarm fire Thursday. The owner, David D. Anderson, said that he was unable to obtain insurance on the property because it was vacant.

It would seem like this is a tragic, singular occurrence, but the truth is that Anderson owns several homes throughout east and southern Dallas, and many of them are vacant, overgrown, and generally eyesores.

In total, Anderson, who also owns two music stores in the area, has 23 residential properties in Dallas County according to records pulled from the Dallas County Appraisal District website. Of those 23 properties, four are rated “Unsound,” seven are rated “Poor,” and seven are rated “Fair.” Only five are rated either “Average” or “Good.” Grandwick, which is considered a commercial property, is not rated using the same system.

David Anderson East Dallas Properties

According to an official with DCAD, a property that is rated “Poor” often has more than a few code violations, the most common of which is peeling paint, overgrown landscaping, broken windows, as well as some structural issues. An “Unsound” property is often considered unfit for occupation, with serious structural issues, boarded up windows, along with a significant number of code violations.

Grandwick 2 JoEngland

A firefighter whose station responded to the blaze at Grandwick said that while they are unsure what caused the blaze that reduced the stucco-clad 1950s Spanish estate to a pile of rubble, Anderson told firefighters he suspects students from nearby Gaston Middle School. It’s a popular theory, especially considering the number of nearby residents who complain of vandalism and graffiti, as well as the previous 911 calls to Grandwick after break-ins.

So, if a property is sitting vacant and is a magnet for vandals, why not sell it to someone who could put the time and money into refurbishing it? It’s a good question, especially since vacant properties are many times more likely to be broken into and suffer catastrophic damage.

A neighbor to one of Anderson’s East Dallas homes in Forest Hills said that he visits his property at 8310 Forest Hills Blvd. regularly, but doesn’t live there. According to DCAD, this is the home Anderson uses as his primary address. The neighbor, who declined to be identified, didn’t think Anderson was acquiring all these properties just to let them rot, though. Instead, she said Anderson was amassing an estate for his daughter to inherit.

8310 Forest Hills 3 JoEngland8310 Forest Hills Blvd. is rated in “Poor” condition.

It kind of makes sense, but wouldn’t his daughter benefit more from property that is properly maintained? For example, 8310 Forest Hills Blvd. is rated in “Poor” condition by DCAD. On the flip side, Anderson bought his daughter Belle Nora at 8254 Garland Road, just a few blocks from his Forest Hills Boulevard home, for her 16th birthday. Since then, though, it’s sat empty save for Christmas dinner last year.

After reports from passers by and Forest Hills residents that the property wasn’t being maintained, we asked Realtor Vicki White if she had heard anything adverse about Belle Nora. In a Jan. 28 email, White said that while Anderson wanted to move into the stately mansion overlooking White Rock Lake, he couldn’t move his parents there, who are in poor health.

“He does own several houses, and some of them are in disrepair,” White added. “I don’t think that’s the case with Belle Nora.”

However, since that date, much of the property has become overgrown, and the wrought-iron fence facing White Rock Lake has been held together with some nylon rope for months, rusting without repair. It is rated in “Average” condition by DCAD.

Belle Nora Fence

Is it a pattern of neglect, or is it a property owner spread too thin? As Anderson’s Forest Hills neighbor claims, he’s spending much of his time with his ailing parents, and only visits other homes. She called the fire at Grandwick “a tragedy,” too.

But for some people who have visited his Garland Road music store, they say it’s a pattern of disorganized neglect. Patrons and East Dallas residents have likened the store to a hoarder’s home, with stacks and piles of equipment and very little concern for the structure or contents.

We tried to contact Anderson for this story, but our calls were not returned before deadline. Our attempts to contact Anderson at two different nearby Zoo Music locations were not returned. 

1608 Crest Ridge JoEnglandThe home at 1608 Crest Ridge is considered “Unsound” by DCAD.

 

Jeremy Woodhouse/Getty Images

(Photo: Jeremy Woodhouse/Getty Images)

Dallas is a pretty dang popular place to move to, with 54,388 households moving into Big D according to the National Association of Realtors. While Dallas County ranks second behind Houston and ahead of third-place Tarrant County in households relocating to our fair burg, more people are packing it in.

“Data from the Texas Relocation Report shows that the continued growth of the Texas housing market is not a housing bubble but a genuine surge in demand fueled by job and population growth across the state,” said Shad Bogany, chairman of the Texas Association of Realtors. “People are moving, and they’re moving to Texas. Clearly, Texas is a domestic migration destination.”

Sure, Texas is a job destination for many folks, with more households moving into the great state than leaving. But Dallas has a net migration of -1,845 while our neighbor to the west, Tarrant County, has a net migration of 3,138.

Interesting, no? Dallas posted the highest negative migration numbers in the state, which makes me wonder where all those folks leaving Dallas are going, and why they’re leaving in the first place? Is it housing costs? Corporate downsizing? What’s your theory?