Monday, February 28, 2011

Third Time's the Charm at US 75 and Bush Tollway

US 75 and Bush Tollway

According to a story in The Dallas Morning News (behind pay wall), Plano is pitching a $34 million dollar transportation project to reconfigure the ramps at US 75 and the Bush Tollway. This would be the third attempt to get it right.

After the jump, failures one and two.

Don't Look Now At Rick Perry's Tweets

If you're a member of the press, he just might have blocked you from seeing his tweets. Reporters are eagerly checking if they are on Tricky Rick's enemies list. Regular people (and by regular people I mean me) are wondering if this doesn't inhibit communications between the governor and the people of Texas. Well, yes, it does. But it's much more than that.

It's actually a brilliant political move on Rick Perry's part. Not only does he stick a finger in the eye of the press, thereby winning hearts on the right, but he gets a ton of free publicity for his Twitter PR stream. I'm sure he won't mind if people reading this check it out. Like Sarah Palin, Rick Perry is shoving aside the press and communicating directly with the public. Brilliant. And by brilliant, I of course mean petty, vindictive, divisive and endearing to his (2012 national) base.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Fossil Watch Moving, Galatyn Overpass Isn't

Fossil Watch announced plans to move its corporate offices to the former Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas campus at US 75 and Spring Valley. Fossil will be vacating offices on both sides of US 75 in Richardson near Galatyn Drive.

So much for Fossil benefiting from last year's bond item to complete the Galatyn overpass west of US 75. That overpass has been in the long-range plans since at least 1993 (see a history of the project here), but listening to the opposition to the 2010 bond election, you would have thought that it was invented as a personal treat from Mayor Gary Slagel to Fossil chairman Tom Kartsotis after Fossil bought land west of US 75 in 2005.

Maybe now we'll hear that the Spring Valley underpass near Fossil's new location, completed almost a decade ago in 2002, was actually a prospective treat to Fossil by the Richardson City Council, knowing that in 2011 Fossil would end up moving down to that part of town. Conspiracy theorists, it's your turn.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Dennis Stewart's Hat Is In, But Which Ring?

Dennis Stewart, former member of the Richardson City Council, is running for election again. The question is, which seat? His campaign website is up (h/t Destiny Herndon-DeLaRosa), but with the embarrassing notice "This site is currently UNDER CONSTRUCTION !!" (What is this? GeoCities circa 1998?) The website says to check back after March 14, 2011.

March 14 just happens to be last day for filing, which suggests that Stewart has not yet decided which seat to run for. In 2009, he was defeated in his re-election bid for the at-large Place 7 seat by Amir Omar. He said a few unfriendly things about Omar in that campaign. Stewart might be tempted to seek revenge for his loss, but if so, why wait until March 14 to file? So instead, he might be thinking of running against Mark Solomon in Place 2. In 2010, as a private citizen, Stewart joined a fairly vocal opposition to a rezoning request for a senior living center at Renner and North Star, which council member Solomon (and Omar) voted for. So, maybe Stewart will try to rally the NIMBY crowd to unseat Solomon. Or maybe Stewart might decide that it'll be easier to win one of the open at-large seats and doesn't want to tip his hand about which one until he knows who all he's up against.

Ian McCann, in The Dallas Morning News, reports that, as of today, only one of the seven seats on the council is contested. We know that many more potential candidates picked up packets from city hall. That suggests a lot of them are taking a wait and see attitude before deciding which seat to file for. It promises to be a busy day at city hall on March 14.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

What's in a Name? CarFreeinBigD

On long road trips, some people play the license plate game. My family used to play the shortsighted-business-name game. For example, McDonald's was a genius business name, even if accidental. When the market for hamburgers was saturated, this fast-food restaurant chain branched out into McChicken sandwiches and -- yikes -- McRib sandwiches, finding a way to use its brand name as a marketing aid, not a drawback. Even breakfast was able to fit comfortably under the Golden Arches. All things that, say, Burger King or Pizza Hut could never do easily because of their own shortsighted business names.

The most limiting names are on the mom-and-pop businesses. For example, "Best Thai Richardson" might have the best Thai food in Richardson hands-down, but its name suggests its owners have no ambitions higher than operating a Thai restaurant in Richardson. Even if they just wanted to open just a second location, what would they call it, Second-Best Thai Richardson? (On the other hand, the name is a Google-genius name. Google "Best Thai Food Richardson" and which restaurant do you think is going to be at the top of the listings? Maybe that makes up for its limited expansion options.)

I thought of the shortsighted-business-name game this morning when I read a tweet from Patrick Kennedy, the urban designer better known as the car-free guy. He used to have the Twitter name @carfreeinbigd (but now uses @WalkableDFW) and still has a website (although the title of the home page is "WalkableDFW"). Those name changes hint that he realized that having car-free in the name was boxing him in just a little. Today's tweet showed how. Kennedy tweeted, "In the market for some kind of Vespa/scooter. Who has a line on best place to get one?" In other words, the car-free guy is in the market for a two-wheeled car. CarFreeinBigD is an example of a moniker that would have scored well in the shortsighted-business-name game (and by "well" I mean high on the shortsighted scale) .

By the way, I recommend reading Kennedy, even if he does tend to view livability issues as pitting cities against suburbs. Driving wedges won't increase livability for either. We're all in this together.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Nitpicking the RISD Bond Election

The board of trustees of the Richardson school district (RISD) called for a $170 million bond election for May 14, 2011, to fund infrastructure and other capital items for RISD's 55 schools. The bulk of the bond will go for things like A/C, heating, roofs, plumbing, computer networking equipment and servers. Passage of the bond will not require a tax increase for RISD taxpayers. (The Wheel offered an early look at this election here.)

The Dallas Morning News's editorial writer Rodger Jones has come out against the bond. Well, he doesn't explicitly reject it. He nitpicks a few items, implying they are frivolous and should not be paid for as capital assets. Like uniforms for athletics and JROTC programs. And electronic devices, which Jones dismissively calls "kiddie calculators."

After the jump, the context in which this bond package was crafted.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

One and Done for Berkner, Lake Highlands

From 2011 02 Playoff Basketball

It was a rough night for the Rams and Wildcats boys basketball teams. The two RISD representatives in the UIL tournament both lost in the opening round. Berkner lost to Garland Naaman Forest 44-40 in the opening game of a double-header at JJ Pearce High School. Lake Highlands lost the second game to Garland Lakeview Centennial 98-74.

Berkner, District 9-5A champions and the #1 seed in the bidistrict matchups, fell behind early to Naaman Forest. While they narrowed the gap, they never could quite close it. Lake Highlands, the #4 seed from District 9-5A, had much the tougher matchup, going up against Garland Lakeview Centennial, the #1 ranked team in the state. Lake Highlands made it close for a quarter, then fell behind big in the second quarter. They played Lakeview Centennial even in the second half, but never made a run, with Lakeview Centennial maintaining a lead of about twenty points for the rest of the game.

Photos from both games can be found here.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Why Aren't We Talking About Superintendents?

Dallas's new state legislator Stefani Carter weighed in on the crisis facing public education funding in Texas. In doing so, this freshman legislator demonstrated how little she can be counted on to offer practical solutions to the crisis. Her comments came in an interview with The Texas Tribune's editor Evan Smith. Unfair Park's Rob Wilonsky highlights the money quote from Carter on the subject:

"Says Carter, instead of talking about laying off teachers: 'Why aren't we talking about superintendents? Why aren't we talking about administrators?'"

After the jump, why this is wrong in multiple ways.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Lake Highlands Beats Richardson, Makes Playoffs

From 2011 02 LHHS vs RHS Basketball

The Lake Highlands Wildcats boys basketball team won a District 9-5A tiebreaker Friday night against the Richardson Eagles, 95-57. It was all Wildcats all the time. Trey Bingham was unstoppable, leading all scorers with 33 points. Malcolm Oaks led Richardson with 16 points. Richardson ends their season with an 8-6 district record (15-17 overall).

With the win, Lake Highlands (8-6 district, 19-13 overall) secures the fourth and final playoff spot in District 9-5A. The Wildcats will be tested early in the playoffs. They are scheduled to play Garland Lakeview Centennial, the state's #1 ranked team, Tuesday night at JJ Pearce High School. (Berkner plays Garland Naaman Forest in the first game of a double-header.)

For a look at more photos from the Lake Highlands - Richardson game, look here.

"Wal-Mart Lady" Challenges Bob Townsend

Ian McCann reported that a single candidate had filed for the May 14th election for each of the seven seats on Richardson's city council. On Thursday, one of the ballot places became an official race, as Diana Clawson filed to run against Bob Townsend in District 1 (southeast Richardson).

You may remember Clawson as the "Wal-Mart Lady." She was one of the principals who fought against Walmart building a Super Center in Richardson at Arapaho and Jupiter. Instead, we got the Block 24 apartments. I've often wondered how much tax revenue Richardson left on the table due to that successful action. Walmart remitted to Texas more than $1.4 billion in sales taxes in 2010. Richardson gets only a tiny fraction of that, from the Neighborhood Market on Buckingham Rd. No word yet on whether Clawson will adopt a NIMBY attitude on future Richardson growth and development opportunities.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Fact-Checking the Fact Checker

"Why are all the speakers white? ... All of you are white. Go to hell."

By now, everyone has heard about John Wiley Price's racist outburst:

"Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price smiled, glared and rolled his eyes as he listened to several speakers Tuesday accuse him of being deceitful and duplicitous in his behind-the-scenes maneuvering to replace the county's popular elections administrator [Bruce Sherbet]. But when the final speaker, Dallas lawyer Jeff Turner, took the podium and referred to Price repeatedly as the county's 'chief mullah' and used the word 'tribal' in his remarks, Price's famous temper got the better of him."

This part of the story is easily dealt with. Was John Wiley Price out of line? Yes. Was he provoked? Yes. Does that justify his outburst? No.

After the jump, an important detail that was lost in the colorful exchange.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Where Are All the Candidates?

We're into the filing period for the Richardson City Council election (May 14) and the list of announced candidates is slim despite a dozen or more potential candidates having picked up packets from city hall. Where are all the candidates?

After the jump, a review of the field ... so far.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

OMG! Back-In/Head-Out Angle Parking

Back In, Diagonal Parking
Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates

Now that the commotion over rezoning the open land around the Bush DART station has quieted down, it's time for some housecleaning. Little noticed in the effort to derail the new zoning was one little detail about this potential mixed-use development. And just as the recent introduction of flashing yellow arrows to control left turns brought out the curmudgeon in many of us, expect this latest little wrinkle in how we all drive to stir up the curmudgeons again, if and when the concrete is poured and the stripes are painted on the pavement.

After the jump, the coming distress over back-in/head-out angle parking.

Monday, February 14, 2011

OTBR: A Japanese Restaurant in Paris

Latitude: 48.9445 N
Longitude: 2.2494 E

A child on a road trip with his family asks, "Where are we?" and the father answers, "Let's check the map. We're off the blue roads [the Interstate Highways marked in blue on the road atlas]. We're off the red roads [the US and state highways]. We're off the black roads [the county highways]. I think we're off the map altogether." It was always my dream to be off the map altogether.

After the jump, a few of the random places (and I mean random literally) that I visited vicariously last month that are "off the blue roads".

Friday, February 11, 2011

Ever Change Your Mind?

I don't mean deciding maybe you want chicken instead of beef for dinner. I mean something more fundamental. A belief about what's real and what isn't. Like you can't deny any longer that evolution really is the best explanation for the diversity of life on Earth, or that the planet really is warming and humans have something to do with it. I've blogged before on the subject, identifying some major flip-flops in my own thinking over the years. All of those flip-flops were flip-flops in my judgment of the best strategy to deal with certain facts. Kind of like, when faced with a charging bear, changing my mind whether I should play dead or run like hell. None of my flip-flops were changes in my belief in the facts underpinning my beliefs. The bear is still a bear in any case.

After the jump, some recent readings on what it might take to change my mind about some fundamental facts.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Ron Paul and Texas Secession

Ron Paul
Joeff Davis

Last spring, it was Gov. Rick Perry slyly suggesting that Texas just might want to secede from the Union if the Tea Party didn't get its way.

This winter, secession is again being talked about, this time prompted by the associations of another Texas politician. After the jump, does Texas Congressman Ron Paul -- and possibly future senator -- also believe in secession?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Will Dallas Ever Get Another Super Bowl?

Maybe I should say north Texas. But I'll call it the Dallas Super Bowl because that's the way the rest of the country views it and it's the rest of the country that's going to make the decision. So, will Dallas ever get another Super Bowl? The answer is yes. Not because Dallas is perfect. It isn't. It's because all cities are flawed. Patrick Kennedy identifies three characteristics the NFL looks for in picking a Super Bowl city:

  1. Lively, interesting city
  2. Warm weather in February
  3. Big, kickass stadium

He then runs through the usual list of Super Bowl cities and points out how each one comes up short in one or more of these requirements (Indianapolis - 2012 - and East Rutherford, NJ - 2014 - obviously fail requirement #2). North Texas is neither significantly better nor worse than other cities in this regard. In no way are we disqualified. We'll get more Super Bowls, maybe not as soon as we'd like or as often as we'd like, but we'll get them.

After the jump, how Patrick Kennedy wants the Super Bowl experience to be simultaneously broader and smaller. Is he trying to have his cake and eat it, too? Maybe a little.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Early Look at Local Elections

The Richardson local elections on May 14 promise to offer important choices for voters. Whether those choices turn out to be controversial or highly contested is another matter. So far, there are no fireworks visible on the horizon. But it's still early.

After the jump, a look at how the school district and city council elections are shaping up.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Final Notes on Super Bowl XLV

Super Bowl XLV

The buildup to north Texas's Super Bowl XLV seemed to last for years. Correct that: it did last for years. So, it was hard to keep the actuality from being a letdown compared to the anticipation. But it's hard to imagine a bigger letdown than what north Texas experienced over the last week. One Steelers fan was asked where the Super Bowl XLV experience ranked compared to the previous 44 Super Bowls and he replied, about 47th. And that was before the outcome of the game was known. Ouch.

(For Packers fans, on the other hand, the final score probably made up for whatever disappointments they experienced in the lead-up to the game. But they are cheeseheads still in the warm afterglow of victory, so they are a poor judge of the week's happenings.)

After the jump, my own final notes on Super Bowl XLV.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Super Bowl Champions

Super Bowl Champions poster
NFL Shop

What?!? Too soon?

Postgame update: That pregame prediction above turned out to be not too soon after all.
Final score: Green Bay Packers 31, Pittsburgh Steelers 25.
NFL Championship #13. Go Pack!

Worthy of note: Two of the five stars in the poster above were lost to injury in the first half. The Packers still found a way to win.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Packer Weather in Dallas for the Super Bowl

From 2011 02 Super Bowl Freeze

To see more photos from the "frozen tundra" of north Texas, look here

Jeffrey Weiss, in The Dallas Morning News Richardson blog, put out a call for tales of the frigid north: Richardson super storm stories. After the jump, my attempt to comply.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Twitter Tracks: Hoops, NFL, Bush Station Real Estate and More

Twitter tracks from January, 2011:

  • 2011 01 02 - Between the Folds (2008): Documentary of origami. Raises questions about what is art and shows surprising applications in science. See it.
  • 2011 01 02 - In basketball news, Rice 71, TCU 60. Rose Bowl glory doesn't transfer to other sports. Good luck to Horned Frogs in the Big East. Go Owls!
  • 2011 01 04 - The Grand Design, by Hawking and Mlodinow: M-Theory explains how universes spontaneously arise. Edges God farther out of the picture. B-
  • 2011 01 04 - Bill McCalpin explains Form Based Code and its implications regarding Bush Station development plans (and mentions me!)
  • 2011 01 04 - DART Man finally gets his paved walk to Bush Station. But he still doesn't sound happy. Some people like to find fault.
  • 2011 01 05 - Goodbye Ian McCann and Jeffrey Weiss. You'll be missed. Headline: "The Dallas Morning News to Erect Paywall"
  • 2011 01 05 - He knows demographics of his customers. Jim Moroney: "We're down to a core group that says 'You'll pry the paper from my cold, dead hands.'"
  • 2011 01 05 - The miraculous Texas immunity to the recession is apparently mythical.
  • 2011 01 05 - Thanks for his service. Will others follow? "Longtime Richardson council member John Murphy won't seek re-election."

After the jump, more Twitter tracks.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Flashing Yellow Arrows Everywhere

Flashing Yellow Arrow

By now, Richardson drivers are becoming quite familiar with the flashing yellow arrow on traffic signals at intersections with a left turn lane (at least before today's rolling blackouts, which turned many intersections dark). Richardson has been slowly converting intersections to the new standard for over a year now.

After the jump, now it's Arlington's turn.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The "debasing doctrine of equality"

Last April, Republican Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia declared April to be "Confederate History Month" in Virginia, neglecting in his proclamation the small detail of slavery. Last December, South Carolina went Virginia one step more blatantly racist. The Sons of Confederate Veterans celebrated the declaration of secession with a ball held in Charleston. I blogged about the shameful sesquicentennial here, and openly wondered whether Texans would have better sense than to celebrate their state's own blatant declaration of racism, which happened exactly 150 years ago today, on February 1, 1861. A day later, Texas published a "declaration of causes". Here's a typical paragraph:

"In all the non-slave-holding States, in violation of that good faith and comity which should exist between entirely distinct nations, the people have formed themselves into a great sectional party, now strong enough in numbers to control the affairs of each of those States, based upon an unnatural feeling of hostility to these Southern States and their beneficent and patriarchal system of African slavery, proclaiming the debasing doctrine of equality of all men, irrespective of race or color - a doctrine at war with nature, in opposition to the experience of mankind, and in violation of the plainest revelations of Divine Law. They demand the abolition of negro slavery throughout the confederacy, the recognition of political equality between the white and negro races, and avow their determination to press on their crusade against us, so long as a negro slave remains in these States."

To their credit, today's Texans judiciously chose to ignore this shameful sesquicentennial, at least officially, at least according to this story in Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Still, Texans could have done even better by commemorating this despicable stain on American history with a day of atonement or at least by a vigil remembering the lives and deaths of those who suffered in slavery or died to end it. We should not celebrate infamous history, but neither should we suppress and forget it.

Winter Crushes an Early Spring

So much for the first daffodils in the Steger garden
From Flowers
After enjoying a sunny and warm weekend with temperatures in the seventies, old man winter came roaring back down the plains, bringing sleet and snow and temperatures in the teens to north Texas. The sub-freezing temperatures are expected to last for three days.

Coincidentally, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers arrived in town yesterday to prepare for next weekend's Super Bowl. Someone should have told the Packers they didn't need to bring the frozen tundra with them. Unfair.