Law enforcement, neighbors, and Atmos work crews gathered Saturday at a cookout organized to provide a hot meal to residents without natural gas, and to thank law enforcement and work crews (photo by Bethany Erickson).

I’ll be honest. At first, when I first had the idea of writing about how the neighborhoods impacted by the deadly home explosion two weeks ago — and the aftermath — I was thinking of a straight news story.

But I realized fairly quickly that I couldn’t. You see, I know these neighborhoods. My child goes to school with the children from these neighborhoods, and for almost 10 years, I lived quite close to one of the neighborhoods and in the other one, on a street just a block from Marsh Lane.

These are my friends, my son’s friends, and my neighbors. And how they’re dealing with the turmoil and sadness is a story worth telling — but one wholly unsurprising to anyone who lives in either of the neighborhoods that hug Marsh Lane. (more…)


Atmos Energy crews continued to work around the clock to restore service and detect potential gas leaks after an explosion Friday killed one and injured four more (Photo by Tom Erickson).

Five days after a home explosion claimed the life of a sixth-grader and sent four of her family members to the hospital, Atmos Energy is still working to ascertain what happened — and to detect leaks throughout two neighborhoods.

Monday, the National Transportation Safety Board was on hand to begin investigating the explosion as well. Residents at the Chapel Creek apartments were evacuated on Sunday, and yesterday more streets were evacuated as more gas leaks were discovered. (more…)


Downtown Dallas stakeholders, along with Dallas ISD trustee Miguel Solis and Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Adam Medrano, presented Focus on Teens with a $2,250 donation to help provide the necessities for the thousands of Dallas ISD homeless students that utilize the district’s drop-in centers (photos courtesy Tanya Ragan/Wildcat Management)

As the holiday season approaches, it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of providing Christmas cheer for family and friends — and it’s equally easy to forget that not everyone will have a home to go to for the holidays.

Such is the case for the thousands of Dallas ISD students — estimates are anywhere from 3,000 to 6,500 — who are homeless.

As we’ve talked about before, even the most prosperous high schools in Dallas ISD have students experiencing need. Without the district’s drop-in centers, which provide things like clean uniforms, food, and toiletries to students (as well as filling other emergency needs), these students would find it much more difficult to stay in school. (more…)

Dallas electionsFourteen Dallas City Council seats and three Dallas Independent School District trustee seats are up for grabs on May 6. I’ll start saying this early — as I always do: It can cost somewhere around $1 million to hold an election, and in most May Dallas elections, we see less than 10 percent of voters turning out to vote.

And it really couldn’t be much easier. Check and see if you’re registered to vote here.  If you’re not, you can click here to register. If you vote early, you can vote at any early voting polling location in the county – so on your way to work, during your lunch break, on your way home, or even on a Saturday. The last day to register to vote is April 6. Early voting begins April 24 and will continue through May 2 for all Dallas elections.

The last day to register to vote is April 6. Early voting begins April 24 and will continue through May 2. You can even vote on a Saturday or a Sunday.


Kings Road Demolition

You remember the huge DHA project that is scheduled for the former site of the housing authority’s Kings Road project. A rezoning proposal that increased the scale, reduced parking and could perhaps exacerbate security issues on the property, had rubbed some neighbors the wrong way.

Mike Harper, who runs the website, is hoping that the community will turn out for the Feb. 6 hearing at Dallas City Hall. It starts at 1:30 p.m. and is an opportunity for nearby residents to be heard on the density and location of the site.

“At the current time, we are still trying to engage in a ‘Good Neighbor Agreement’ that would address some of the management/security issues that are not specifically related to the zoning variance request,” Harper said via email. “At the same time, we are still trying to work with DHA on moving the placement of where some of the buildings are on the property and still asking for some reduction in the number of units, however we do not have a response on this yet.”

DHA chief MaryAnn Russ  has said “we believe that our customers and clients – low income families, seniors and individuals with disabilities – need and deserve to live in good neighborhoods just as higher income people do.”

True, but what about a compromise? And although Russ may be right, that still doesn’t change the fact that reports of criminal activity were frequent. According to Harper, Councilmember Adam Medrano has promised nearby homeowners that he’ll keep the dialogue open between the DHA and property owners.

Here’s hoping they can all meet in the middle for the good of the neighborhood.



Editor’s Note: This is the fourth installment of our series of Dallas City Council candidate questionnaires. You can view the first here, the second here, and the third here. We attempted to contact each candidate in every contested race (10 races total), and those who responded with a working email address received the same eight questions. We gave them until April 5 to respond. Below you’ll find the answers to our questions, which we did not edit or abridge.

District 2 is a pretty diverse area, and so is the field of candidates vying for the City Council seat. The spot is being vacated by Pauline Medrano, and another Medrano, Adam of the Dallas ISD Board of Trustees, is looking to win the vote. There are three more candidates, including Vernon Franko, Ricky Gonzales, and Herschel Weisfeld. Although we contacted each candidate and gave them ample time to respond, only Weisfeld returned a questionnaire. Read on for his thoughts on hot-button Dallas real estate issues.

Herschel Weisfeld

Herschel Weisfeld

1. In your view, what are the strengths of the Dallas real estate market versus the rest of the nation?

Dallas has an extremely active real estate community and I am proud to have received the endorsement of the MetroTex Association of Realtors representing over 13,000 real estate professionals and also The Dallas Builders Association representing homebuilders from across the Dallas region. The overall quality of life and the diversity of housing options make Dallas a great place to be a homeowner. According to a story published by Yahoo News in February 2013, Dallas is cited as the “sixth strongest real estate market in the country. Homebuyers would be hard-pressed to find a poor real estate market in any DFW neighborhood”. The strength comes from single family homes to luxury high-rise (and vertical housing) options that cross every economic level. Plus, Dallas has invested heavily as a city in the past decade in creating more parks/green space and major arts venues that are attractive and desirable features.

2. What are the next areas/neighborhoods you feel are poised for high-volume growth?

While there are several areas in Dallas poised for high growth volume, my focus is in District 2 with major employers such as Love Field, Parkland/UT Southwestern, and Baylor Hospital, as well as parts of the downtown and Deep Ellum entertainment areas. These are all opportunities for significant growth and vertical expansion. Dallas no longer has a backyard and I see great mixed income and mixed use opportunities for Farmers Market, The Cedars and other projects focused around Transit Oriented Developments.

3. What areas/neighborhoods need the most help and any solutions?

There is a major push for revitalizing South Dallas with the Mayor’s plan, plus there are parts of West Dallas where improvements are needed. I have taken an active role in the Revitalize South Dallas Coalition by supporting its founder, Ken Smith and attending the regularly scheduled monthly meetings because I believe that we must be physically present. The City should consider the value of assisting in the assemblage of smaller tracts of land that would then make economic sense for redevelopment on a larger scale. We should restrict low income housing tax credit projects that are earmarked solely for rental and support home ownership programs and mixed income projects. We must offer expanded mezzanine financing and we must invest in Fair Park.

Having said that, again, I will focus on District 2 where according to the latest economic report from the City of Dallas, there is $1.36B in real property residential taxable value, and this represents 2.5% of the city total residential value. There is true opportunity for improvements throughout District 2.

4. Would you support retaining the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research to do a study of the root causes of decline in the City of Dallas, as it did for NYC during the Giuliani era, leading to one of the most compelling restorations of a major city in history?

The study done by the Manhattan Institute of Policy Research (MI) dealt with many issues New York was facing, from public safety issues to significant budget deficits, etc. In my opinion, Dallas’ challenges today are not as broad as New York’s were in the Guiliani era of 1994-2001. According to MI; “Giuliani took office declaring that city government was too big and taxes were too high. His first two budgets cut the headcount of city employees and reduced spending…” I do believe there is always an opportunity for Dallas to partner with institutions of higher learning and think-tanks to constantly study where we are as a city and where we need to consider moving toward as a positive approach for the overall health and well-being of our city.

5. Would you approving the zoning variance to allow an on-campus lighted soccer field at Ursuline Academy of Dallas, winner of 22 state soccer championships?

I would be willing to support the will of the community. The residents who have made this area their home have a right and vested interest in maintaining the environmental and aesthetic amenities of the neighborhood they have chosen. However, if a democratic solution can be arrived at and the collective neighborhood agrees to make this change, I would be supportive.

6. How would you handle the Museum Tower/Nasher Sculpture Center impasse? Should the Nasher also play a role and adapt some structural changes? Or is the burden purely on Museum Tower and future residential developments to mitigate impact on surrounding structures?

The Nasher opened in 2003 and has brought the caliber of art and sculpture in Dallas to a world class level. The Museum Tower, which opened in 2010, should have perhaps researched more of the impact the structure would bring to the surrounding neighborhood. Now the two organizations must work together to come to an amicable/joint solution to move Dallas beyond this point of negative controversy and publicity for the best interest of the City, the Citizens and the Dallas Arts District.

7. Historic and conservation districts are a great way to maintain a neighborhood’s character, but some older districts have regulations that seem somewhat out of date. For instance, a homeowner in Junius Heights was cited for having xeriscaped his front yard in lieu of a traditional water-hogging front lawn even though our region faces long-term drought. Should alternative landscapes and eco-friendly materials be allowed in historic and conservation districts as a citywide policy change?

Alternative landscapes and water conservation should always be considered since it is the City’s responsibility to be good stewards of our environment and to set a good example. Overall neighborhood beauty in appearance can be maintained without requiring strict uniformity. We need to encourage creative designs that are mindful of our basic resources. We understand that the long term 60 year water plan calls for approximately 23% of our future water usage will be recycled and another 33% is expected to come from surface runoff. I will be an advocate for meeting the needs of our long term water plan by being environmentally conscientious.

8. What is your stance on hydraulic fracturing (better known as fracking) inside the city limits? Do you feel it poses a danger to residents and nearby businesses? Or does the potential income to the city outweigh overblown risks?

The citizens of Dallas have already dealt with the long term effects of lead smelters in West Dallas forty years after we thought it was safe to allow them to exist near residential neighborhoods, schools and play grounds. I would support fracking with the assurance that we can guarantee that we will have clean air, water and surface areas for the future generations of our city without unsightly visual pollution and noise pollution which have all been concerns of our citizens. I do not support drilling or fracking on city parks or close to spaces where harm could be done to the residents of Dallas and would ask that we seriously consider the recommendations of the City of Dallas Gas Drilling Task Force that was chaired by Lois Finkleman.