City News Roundup

Early voting and restored murals give this Dallas news roundup an upbeat note

Early voting and restored murals give this Dallas news an upbeat note

Phoenix mural mockingbird
Restored murals on apartment building by Mockingbird Station. Courtesy photo

This week's roundup of Dallas city news covers a wide swath. There's a new safety measure in Deep Ellum, fallout from the temporary license plate scandal, and an employee complaint against the Arboretum. Also, early voting begins on Monday for an election that'll take place on March 1.

Here's what happened in Dallas this week:

Early voting
Early voting begins soon for a primary election taking place on March 1. This includes elections for state offices such as governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, state senators, and state representatives, as well as U.S. representative seats in a number of districts that include Dallas as well as Dallas County seats including Dallas County Judge. During early voting, you can vote at any location in Dallas County. It begins on February 14 and ends on February 25.

Deep Ellum safety center
The Deep Ellum Foundation is creating a new command center that will be open 24/7 and staffed with Deep Ellum Public Safety personnel. You can pop in, ask questions, share concerns, or report incidents. It will function as the central coordination point for all of the district's public safety efforts, partnering with the Dallas Police Department officers and other city personnel, and will also serve as the headquarters for the foundation's homeless outreach program.

Paper tags fallout
The head of the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles has resigned: Executive director Whitney Brewster turned in her resignation on February 7, following revelations of fraud in the state's temporary license plate system. Temporary tags issued to fake dealers by the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles have become a national problem, tied to offenses ranging from selling damaged vehicles to robberies and carjackings. The organization finally took steps in late January to limit how many temporary tags a dealer can issue through the state’s online system.

Arboretum complaint
A former employee at the Dallas Arboretum filed a discrimination complaint, stating that she was fired in part because she used gender pronouns in her emails. The employee used both she/her and they/them pronouns in her emails but was told to stop using them by the Arboretum.

The case provoked a warning letter from Dallas Parks and Recreation Department Director John Jenkins to Arboretum president/CEO Mary Brinegar, referring her to nondiscrimination language in the Arboretum's contract with the city. Failure to comply could lead to complete or partial cancellation or suspension of the contract.

"Prior to that time, the arboretum had no standardized email signature block for employees and many employees included quotes, sayings, or Bible verses in their email signatures," the complaint said. The quotes, sayings, and Bible verses remained after management called for standardized signatures.

Missing snake
The Grand Prairie Police Department has arrested Lawrence Matl, the 23-year-old owner of a cobra snake that has been missing since August 2021. Matl was arrested on a warrant for violating Parks and Wildlife Code 43.853, which says that a person may not intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence release or allow the release from captivity of a venomous non-indigenous snake. This being idiotic Texas, Matl did have a valid state-issued license to own the cobra, which has still never been found.

Convenience store inconvenience
Convenience store owners in Dallas must now submit their annual registration to Code Compliance Services. Registration used to be under the auspices of the Dallas Police Department.

There are around 1,800 convenience stores in Dallas. Dallas City Code defines a convenience store as "a business with less than 10,000 square feet of retail space that sells convenience goods (i.e. basic food, household products, gasoline)."

Owners are required register every year to document they are implementing correct safety measures like security signs and at least three digital high-resolution cameras.

Mural restoration
Dallas-based private equity firm SPI Advisory LLC has completed a restoration of murals at 5 Mockingbird Apartments, the former Phoenix complex, at 555 E. Mockingbird Ln., near Mockingbird Station. The murals were painted over by a previous owner in 2017, to much hue and cry. When SPI acquired the complex in 2020, principal and co-founder Michael Becker initiated a restoration,, hiring original muralists Chris Arnold and Jeff Garrison. The project began in summer 2021 and was finished in November.

DPD wants you
The Dallas Police Department is hosting a big hiring event for 911 call takers, police dispatchers, and other administrative and technical positions. The annual salary for a 911 operator trainee ranges from $35,000 to $44,000, while police dispatcher salaries range from $43,000 to $54,000. The hiring event will run all day on Saturday February 12, from 9 am-5 pm at the Jack Evans Police HQ on Botham Jean Boulevard. Email dpdrecruiting@dallascityhall.com for more information.