District 14 Dallas City Council member was officially reprimanded by the council after using his office to post a video on Facebook about a fundraiser.

By Ashley Stanley
Special Contributor

Dallas City Council members engaged in a lengthy discussion on Wednesday about the so-called “Kingston ethical lapse.” The body was charged with voting on a recommendation from the Ethics Advisory Commission to reprimand Dallas City Council member Philip Kingston for using his city office to film a campaign video — a clear violation of the ethics code recently approved by Kingston and his colleagues.

I was there hoping to come away with a story about economic development and performing arts because I attended a presentation at The Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth the day before. I wanted to see how this meeting would go and what outrage might ensue, especially with the bond program vote concluded, which included funding to repair several cultural and arts facilities such as the Wyly Theater.  I missed the arts item, but I did hear enough to appreciate Dallas Observer columnist Jim Schutze’s bathroom-wall article posed early (4 a.m.!) this morning.

Schutze referred to his weekly paper as the dish. If that is true, then I write for the dirt! Councilmember Lee Kleinman called Kingston’s lapse “going too far” and said it was “just wrong,” according to a story in The Dallas Morning News by Tristan Hallman. I missed that part of the conversation, but I sat down in time to hear Councilman Adam Medrano (a personal friend of Kingston’s) say, “Philip made a dumb mistake.” Or did he? Who knows? Who cares? This meeting was all about Dallas City Council member Dwaine Caraway, and I heard every word from that dude. Council meetings with that guy in office are free, front-row tickets to the funny show.

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Dallas Housing Director David Noguera addresses members of the Greater Dallas Planning Council

The new City of Dallas director of housing and neighborhood revitalization, David Noguera, has jumped in with both feet — and seems to have a good handle on what he’s up against. The Greater Dallas Planning Council invited him to address to a group of dedicated local professionals last Thursday, and he made quite an impression.

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This statue of Robert E. Lee overlooks Lee Park in Dallas. Could removing this statue celebrating a controversial Confederate leader hurt Turtle Creek real estate?

[Editor’s Note: This post reflects the opinion of the writer and should not be interpreted as the editorial position of CandysDirt.com.]

I lived in Dallas for at least 10 years when I asked someone, “Who is Lee Park named after?” I assumed it was a great city forefather.

Robert E. Lee, I was told; the man who surrendered to Union troops in the bitter War Between the States, the only civil war in U.S. history.

Now, a movement that is growing like a snowball rolling down a mountainside — and crescendoed Saturday night at an anti-hate rally reportedly attended by thousands in front of Dallas City Hall — wants our city to rid itself of Lee Park’s eponymous statue. Duke University removed their statutes yesterday. However, this is also not an overnight movement: some Dallas City Council members have been working on a removal since last April.

I’m not sure if changing the name of the park will follow. The statue was built in Dallas during the Depression in 1936, when the Civil War was well over. Though the war ended, deeply rooted racism was not wiped out with Lee’s unconditional surrender at Appomatox Courthouse in 1865.

I’m not a native Southerner, so I have to wonder why the statue was erected in the first place. This is not Lee’s hometown; he was a native of Virginia. After Virginia, Texas has the largest collection of  Robert E. Lee monuments in the nation.

Why look up to a man who fought to let human beings own other human beings?

And last week, Jennifer Staubach Gates, City Councilwoman in District 13, who is making a lot of mayoral-like noise, wrote her conservative, wealthy constituents that the statue must come down:

My office has received a number of inquiries about the removal of Confederate statues in the City of Dallas, so I want to be clear on my position. 

I strongly support the removal of these statues. Symbols of white supremacy, neo-Nazis, the KKK or other hate groups are unacceptable and must be removed from public spaces that serve all of our citizens, including our public schools. The issue should not be whether or not they are removed, but rather the process of how they are removed, and I look forward to an open dialog on moving forward. 

The sooner we complete this process and remove these unacceptable symbols in public spaces, the stronger we will be as a City. If you have questions about this issue or thoughts on the process, please feel free to contact my office.

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It’s true: municipal bonds can help Dallas catch up on long-neglected infrastructure upgrades and repairs, but they can make projects cost more in the long run. (Photo: Luis Tamayo via flickr)

By Ashley Stanley
Special Contributor

City Council members were briefed last week about the Citizens Bond Task Force’s and city staff’s recommendations for an $800 million bond program that will appear on November’s ballot.

Stop what you are doing and ask yourself this question: “Do I know what a municipal bond is?” Allow me a minute or two to explain what they are and how they work in layman’s terms.

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If you forgot Dallas’ torrential weekend rains, Monday’s return certainly brought those memories … flooding back.

What’s up with that?  It’s not like rain is something new to Dallas.  Sure, depending on whether your beliefs are fact- or fiction-based, climate change may be making rains heavier, but we’ve always had deluge-type rain (when we’re not in drought).

So why does this city flood like it’s never seen a drop of water? Why do we have to repeat, “turn around, don’t drown” and mean it when the water is coming up to the running board of the SUV? There are many reasons, some just mother nature, some brought on by neglect and — shocker — our city’s indifference to infrastructure.

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Plan Commission 2

Coming as no surprise, the final Preston Center Area Task Force plan passed Plan Commission Thursday. Even with all the political puffery and backslapping, approval took about 15 minutes. I say it comes as no surprise because there’s nothing surprising, insightful, or controversial about it. In fact, it could have been written two years ago before a single meeting was held or a single dollar spent.

A few self-congratulatory task force members got up to heap praise on the plan. Peter Kline and others said that for the first time in 40 years this group is actually in agreement.  Bill Archer said, “I don’t think there’s anything controversial in the plan.”

Well, ya got that right.

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Tax vs Income Chart Dallas 1

Our real estate market has never been better. North Texas sales were up 26% in November. Our median home price is now $230,000. Yeah, the trophy home sales are a little soft, but  our region saw some of the biggest property price/value increases in the country in September, just three months ago. We are up a whopping 8% year over year from 2015 (Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller Home Price Index) and only Seattle, Portland and Denver have bigger price gains. We are among the top U.S. cities with the greatest annual home price gains. Nationwide, prices were only up 5.5 percent from 2015. Says Standard & Poors:

“Other housing indicators are also giving positive signals: sales of existing and new homes are rising and housing starts at an annual rate of 1.3 million units are at a post-recession peak,” S&P’s David Blitzer said in the report. “We are currently experiencing the best real estate returns since the bottom in July of 2012.”

Dallas-area home prices are up over 30 percent from the pre-recession high in mid-2007, according to Case-Shiller.

But I am still terrified. And confused. All this could be wiped out by the absolute Class A disaster going on down at City Hall: figuring out how to save the Police and Fire Pension plan. Which has been around since the mid 1990’s. Did everyone just ignore the problems up until now? (Including me — wasn’t on my radar.) And where is the tax revenue on all these gains going? I sat at City Hall in late August and heard, with my own ears, Mayor Rawlings say there was “room in the budget”.

Could this be the next perceived nail in the Dallas real estate coffin? “Bad schools, bad taxes, let’s look in the ‘burbs.”

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CityMAP main graphic 1

Last night I attended the first public roundup for the CityMAP project.  Haven’t heard of it?  Well, neither had I until 72 hours ago.  Turns out it’s a framework for traffic mitigation and neighborhood revitalization that’s been put together for the past 15 months based on input from people who know about traffic and neighboring residents.  So far, it’s unlike the crony-driven Preston Center plan.  CityMAP is based more on research than avarice.

And … oh my … is there research.  There’s a 15-page summary for the kiddies or the 351-page doorstop for the minutia-driven.

Guess what I read?  Yup.  Both.  What can I say, I need more fiber in my diet.

Before I get too far in, don’t expect a bloodbath from me.  There’s only one plan component that I question and just one scenario I think is totally doolally … but it’s the internet, so I have to tease you into reading more.

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