Beto O'Rourke/Facebook

On November 8, Texas will vote for its next governor — choosing from either incumbent Republican Greg Abbott or Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke.

In anticipation, the two will participate in a debate on September 30, which takes place at 7 pm at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in Edinburg. It's hosted by KXAN news anchor Britt Moreno and will feature questions from a panel of journalists.

The debate will air on Nexstar television stations which in Dallas is KDAF Channel 33; the Texas Tribune will also livestream.

It's their only scheduled debate and according to the Associated Press, Abbott conditioned his participation on the debate taking place without an audience.

"Sources tell me Abbott would only agree to face Beto with no audience in the room," said journalist Scott Braddock, in a tweet which is right here:

This will be first time Abbott and O'Rourke meet since the May 25 press conference where O’Rourke confronted Abbott after the shooting in Uvalde.

O'Rourke, who previously undertook a summer tour across Texas, holding 70 public events in more than 65 counties, is now launching a College Tour focused on young voters. It includes visits to two Dallas-area campuses, with only one open to the public, as follows:

  • Monday October 3, 10 am: Town Hall at University of North Texas, at the University of North Texas - Gateway Center Ballroom, 801 N. Texas Blvd., Denton. Open to UNT students only.
  • Monday October 3, 12:30 pm: College Tour Town Hall at Dallas College El Centro Campus, 801 Main St., Dallas. Open to the public.

During the College Tour, he'll hold more than a dozen public events at colleges and universities around the state, affording an opportunity not only for him to share his platform — reproductive freedom, reducing gun violence, raising minimum wage, legalizing marijuana — but also an opportunity to get students and young people registered before the October 11 deadline.

Photo courtesy of Afterimage Gallery

Last chance to grab a tree for free and more news around Dallas

City News

Busy busy week around Dallas with many decisions made and money spent by the Dallas City Council, including an approval of the annual budget and a $4-million incentive to prop up an old music venue. Early voting is coming in anticipation of an election on November 8, and the city is giving away free trees.

Here's what happened in Dallas this week:

Convention center vote coming up
On August 10 the Dallas City Council approved a special election on November 8 to vote on an expansion of the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center Dallas and improvements to Fair Park, including the Automobile Building, Centennial Hall, Fair Park Band Shell, Music Hall at Fair Park, Cotton Bowl Stadium, and Fair Park Coliseum. If passed, the hotel occupancy tax rate will be increased by 2 percent.

These improvements and rehabilitation projects will be funded without impacting the City’s general fund or increasing property taxes. The City of Dallas has committed to making good faith efforts to spend 20% of the revenues derived from the new 2% hotel tax increase for the Fair Park facilities venue projects as allowed by state law. Current estimates of $300 million in proceeds represent the largest investment in Fair Park since construction for the Texas Centennial Exhibition in 1936.

New budget
At a September 28 meeting, the Dallas City Council approved a budget for 2022-2023 of $4.75 billion. The budget is $400 million higher than last year's.

It'll fund an increase in minimum wage for city employees from $15.50 an hour to $18, plus 250 new police officers and five more animal services officers to respond to calls about loose dogs.

It goes into effect October 1.

Longhorn Ballroom win
Predictably, the Dallas City Council approved to give more than $4 million in incentives to the developers lwho are redoing the Longhorn Ballroom. The venue is owned by Edwin Cabaniss, who also owns Kessler Theater who plans to turn it into a multi-use entertainment center. He owns the full four acres upon which the Longhorn Ballroom sits, and will spin multiple listening spaces out of the building. The main room’s capacity would run from about 1,000 to 2,500 people, while another space, off to the side of the main room, would evoke the cozy confines of the Kessler. Out back, Cabaniss is planning something tentatively called the Longhorn Ballroom Backyard, an outdoor space capable of holding around 5,000 people. Construction is set to begin in October with an opening slated for mid-2026.

Voting machines
Collin County Election officials will hold a public test of voting machines on October 7 at 10 am at the Elections Department, 2020 Redbud Blvd. #102. Known as a logic & accuracy test, the test is designed to ensure that voting systems are calibrated and count correctly for the upcoming mid-term election. Texas law requires public testing of the voting machines be done before and after every election to ensure the machines count votes accurately. The public is also invited to attend and perform a similar test of their own by casting ballots using the voting equipment, and verifying the accuracy of the voting system by comparing a hand count of the ballots cast against the vote totals counted on the voting equipment.

Early voting
Early voting locations, Election Day vote centers, sample ballots and more can be viewed here. The last day to register to vote in November in Tuesday October 11. Early voting runs Monday, October 24 through Friday November 4. Voting day is Tuesday November 8.

Free trees
Dallas is reprising Branch Out Dallas, its bi-annual tree giveaway designed to encourage the planting of hardwood trees in the city. This initiative began in March 2019, and has returned every spring and fall on a semi-regular basis to dispense thousands of trees. You need to be a homeowner in the city of Dallas, and must register here with your Dallas Water Utilities account number. There were six kinds of trees, but they’ve already run out of two (the Mexican oak and the redbud which everyone chooses because it has purple flowers). But you can still get these four excellent trees: American elm, Cedar elm, Chinquapin oak, or a statuesque sycamore with large leaves and beautiful white bark. (They have photos here.) The trees will be available for pick up on Saturday, November 5. The original deadline to get one was September 30, but they’ve pushed it back to October 6.

Oak Cliff golf course reopens
Cedar Crest Golf Course, an iconic Oak Cliff course, reopens after months of renovations that include the addition of Legends Plaza, a homage to Walter Hagen, 1927 PGA Champion, and Charles Sifford, 1954 UGA Negro National Open Champion. There are greens, bunkers, updated natural grass driving range, and a banquet area. A.W. Tillinghast designed the historic 18-hole course that was the site of the 1926 Dallas Open and 1927 PGA Championship. In 1954, Cedar Crest hosted the UGA Negro National Open and USGA Public Links Championship.

Texas' toxic waterways
A new report finds that Texas has the highest amount of toxic releases into waterways, and Environment Texas is calling for dramatic pollution reductions to protect rivers and streams. According to a release, industrial facilities dumped 16,778,747 pounds of toxic chemicals into Texas waterways in 2020.

Called "Wasting Our Waterways," the report is from Environment Texas Research and Policy Center. Big polluters include the Austin-Oyster watershed south of Houston, which ranked first in the U.S. for discharges of cancer causing chemicals to waterways; and Pilgrim's Pride Corporation's poultry processing plant in Mount Pleasant, which ranked first in Texas and 10th nationally for total toxic discharges. Dow Chemical Co.'s Freeport Facility south of Houston is also highly toxic.

Photo courtesy of Inn at Dos Brisas

Dallas man gets life in prison for smuggling meth concealed in cauliflower

Gluten-Free News

A Dallas man who found a new use for cauliflower is going to jail: Joaquin Salinas, who received $3.7 million worth of methamphetamine hidden in boxes of cauliflower, was sentenced to life in federal prison, according to a release from U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Chad E. Meacham.

Salinas, 48, pleaded guilty in March to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine, and was sentenced on September 27 by U.S. District Judge Barbara M.G. Lynn.

“Methamphetamine is a dangerous drug that affects tens of thousands of lives every year,” said Eduardo A. Chavez, Special Agent in Charge of DEA Dallas, in a statement. “Mr. Salinas chose to engage in this illicit activity and now can spend the rest of his life with the consequences of those actions."

According to plea papers, in August, 2021, Salinas received a shipment of approximately 247 kilograms of methamphetamine, shipped from Mexico and inside boxes of cauliflower.

This obviously beats any of the other various and sundry uses for cauliflower that have emerged in recent years for people avoiding gluten and/or meat, including cauliflower crusts for pizza instead of regular wheat; shredded cauliflower used as "rice"; and cauliflower "steak" made from cauliflower cut into thick slices and grilled.

At his sentencing hearing, testimony revealed that Salinas had ties to the Sureños XIII criminal street gang and the Puro Tango Blast street and prison gang, both of which have ties to Mexican drug cartels.

One of Salinas' codefendants, Angel Cabrera, pleaded guilty in June to one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine and one count of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine and is currently awaiting sentencing.

His other codefendant, Omar Jorge Valle Estrada, pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial.

The Drug Enforcement Administration’s Dallas Field Division conducted the investigation with the assistance of the Dallas Police Department, the Hickory Creek Police Department, the Fort Worth Police Department, and the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney George Leal prosecuted the case.

Dallas man allegedly scammed $26M from Chinese real estate investors

Flipper News

A Dallas-area man has been charged for allegedly scamming Chinese investors out of more than $26 million in a real estate scheme.

According to a release from U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Chad E. Meacham, Timothy Lynch Barton, the 59-year-old president of real estate development firm JMJ and CEO of real estate investment firm Carnegie Development, has been indicted on seven counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and one count of securities fraud.

Barton made his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge David L. Horan on September 26; he was arrested on September 20.

If convicted, Barton faces up to 20 years in federal prison for each count of wire fraud, up to 20 years in federal prison for conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and up to 20 years in federal prison for securities fraud.

He is also the subject of a parallel civil action filed by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

According to the indictment, Barton allegedly traveled to Hangzhou, China to pitch so-called real estate investment opportunities in Texas to Chinese investors.

His presentations included his supposed ties to U.S. politicians, as well as a builder, identified in documents as "S.W.", allegedly builder Steve Wall, whom he claimed would purchase the lots to build on and then sell to buyers. (You can get a glimpse of the hypnotic spell Barton surely wove, with his blue pinstripe suit, in this video posted by the DBJ.)

The properties were supposedly located in sought-after neighborhoods in Dallas Fort Worth. In reality, they consisted of hundreds of acres in Kaufman, Tarrant, Johnson, and Parker counties, and the cost was inflated by as much as 195 percent. In some instances, the properties were never actually purchased.

Investors were expected to contribute 80 percent of the funds necessary for the project. Barton said that he and others would contribute the remaining 20 percent, and claimed he wouldn't be taking a commission.

The payout consisted of annual interest payments for two years, followed by the return of their initial investment at the end of the second year.

For interest payments, Barton allegedly deployed the pyramid scheme routine, making interest payments to early investors with investor funds from later projects.

Despite his claim that no commission would be drawn, Barton allegedly drew commissions out of investors’ funds.

He also funneled money into unrelated projects; used it to pay consultants; and even paid an unrelated AmEx bill.

In 2020, several Chinese investors tried to force JMJ, Barton's company, into Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which would have led to its liquidation and the investors possibly getting some money back. But in early September 2022, JMJ filed for Chapter 11, allowing the company to continue operations without liquidating their assets.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Dallas Field Office conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Renee Hunter is prosecuting the case.

Photo by Getty Images

Once-sizzling housing market cools down and more Dallas news

City News Roundup

This roundup of news around Dallas includes a welcome update on the housing market, some info about a seminar on college loans, a toast to volunteers, and a State Fair of Texas 2022 milestone.

Here's what happened in Dallas this week:

Loan forgiveness
Dallas County Judge Clay Lewis Jenkins and the Department of Education are hosting a webinar targeted to former and/or current government and 501c3 employees to learn about recent time-sensitive changes to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. If you work for a government entity or 501c3 nonprofit and have been repaying student loans for nearly 10 years or longer, you may qualify for a Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Waiver. It'll take place September 26 at 10 am. Interested parties can register here.

Habitat volunteers
On September 8th, Dallas Area Habitat for Humanity held a dinner to honor volunteers. Over the past year, they had 4,300 volunteers who contributed over 50,000 hours of service. The celebration took place at the Dallas Arboretum and dedicated time to honor those who have been serving for 15, 25, and 30 years.

TWF grants
Texas Women's Foundation invested nearly $9.2 million in advocacy, programs, and grants during its fiscal year of July 2021-June 2022. That includes $7,102,079 to 223 nonprofits and $2.1 million in programs to create leadership opportunities for women and girls. For a complete list of grantees, visit txwf.org/grants.

Big Tex drop
NBC DFW has a video of Big Tex, the State Fair of Texas mascot, being dropped into place in anticipation of the opening on September 30. The figure has a new "shirt" and "jeans," words used loosely since this is not an actual person but instead a construction made of wire. A rep for the fair says that 80 percent of the activities are outdoors but that masks must be worn indoors, wonder how that'll go down.

Housing buzz dims
The Dallas-Fort Worth housing market is cooling down, say real estate agents. The market has shifted due to higher interest rates and more inventory available. An agent says there are more homes on the market, forcing sellers to reduce the price, with homes now on market for an average of 24 days, twice as long as 2021 when a house was typically on the market for 2 weeks. A market review by the Collin County Association of Realtors for August says that sellers were forced to negotiate and accept offers for less than their asking price for the first time since January 2021.

The kindof-bummer is that we're now in a pricier new market. Agents say that the $300,000 to $400,000 range has become the standard that they do not see that going backward or the other way.

Photo courtesy of Ecotrends

Dallas police seek info on SUV that killed bicyclist in hit-and-run

Traffic News

Dallas police are asking for the public's help to identify the driver of a white SUV involved in a hit-and-run accident that killed a man who was riding his bicycle.

The police have not released information on the identity of the victim.

The accident took place in far southeast Dallas on September 11 at about 7 am and was caught on video by a Ring device from a nearby homeowner.

The man was riding his bike southbound in the 12900 block of Kleberg Road, a four-lane road, when he was hit.

The video shows him riding in the right lane. First, he's passed by a dark SUV. Next, the video shows a white SUV, being driven at a higher rate of speed. The actual impact is hidden behind a tree, but the video records the sound, which is severe enough to rouse the three dogs in the homeowner's driveway who all go to the edge of the yard and start barking.

According to a release from the police department, when the victim was hit, he was thrown a significant distance into the grassy area next to the roadway.

The video shows the brake lights of the suspect's SUV turn red and the SUV stops. A person in dark clothing can be seen exiting the SUV and going over to the area where the bicyclist is. The driver returns to the vehicle, goes back to the victim, and then goes back to the SUV. The video ends.

The release says that the suspect drives off without helping the bicyclist.

Kleberg Road is a four-lane road that's the main drag of Kleberg, a neighborhood outside I-20 and north of Seagoville.

The police ask anyone who knows the identity of the suspect or recognizes the SUV or has any information about the crash to contact Detective Kenneth Watson at (214) 671-0015 or kenneth.watson@dallaspolice.gov. The case number is 165437-2022.

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Top-ranked high schools make the grade in this week's 5 hottest Dallas headlines

This week's hot headlines

Editor's note: A lot happened this week, so here's your chance to get caught up. Read on for the week's most popular headlines. Looking for the best things to do this weekend? Find that list here.

1. 2 distinguished Dallas high schools sit at head of the class as Texas' best in 2022. Two campuses in Dallas have earned extra credit as the best high schools in Texas. In the latest rankings from education review website Niche, Dallas ISD’s School for the Talented & Gifted tops the list of the state’s best public high schools, and St. Mark’s School of Texas in Dallas leads the list of the state’s best private high schools.

2. NFL legend Terry Bradshaw's ranch north of Dallas listed for $22.5 million. An Oklahoma ranch around 70 miles north of Dallas-Fort Worth that’s owned by NFL Hall of Famer and Fox Sports analyst Terry Bradshaw is back on the market for $22.5 million. The 744-acre ranch was relisted after a deal with a would-be buyer fell through.

3. Dallas grilled cheese restaurant abruptly closes location in Oak Cliff. A Bishop Arts restaurant dedicated to making grilled cheese sandwiches has closed: The aptly named Dallas Grilled Cheese Co. closed its original location at 310 W. 7th St., after nearly eight years. According to co-owner Diana Ezzell, the closure was prompted by problems with the location.

4. Best vegan grocer in Denton relocates to market-deli space. An acclaimed market in Denton specializing in all things vegan is making a move: Mashup Market, the plant-based specialty grocer that debuted at 316 Oak St. in 2020, is closing that original location and making its new headquarters at 1302 W. Hickory St., its second location that opened in 2021.

5. Dallas man allegedly scammed $26M from Chinese real estate investors. A Dallas-area man has been charged for allegedly scamming Chinese investors out of more than $26 million in a real estate scheme. Timothy Lynch Barton, the 59-year-old president of real estate development firm JMJ and CEO of real estate investment firm Carnegie Development, has been indicted on seven counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and one count of securities fraud.

'Wide-awake' Dallas neighbor is 2nd best U.S city for families, says Fortune

No place like home

Fortune advises readers to not let Wylie’s “picturesque, historic downtown fool you.” And for good reason. The magazine hails the North Texas city as “a fast-growing, modern community that doesn’t skimp on the amenities.”

Thanks in large part to those amenities, Fortune puts Wylie at No. 2 on its list of the 25 best places in the U.S. for families to live. Ann Arbor, Michigan, takes the top spot.

In recognizing Wylie, the magazine cites the city’s well-above-average public schools, numerous facilities for older residents, and events such as the Bluegrass on Ballard festival and Wylie 500 Pedal Car Race.

"With its start as a stop on the Santa Fe Railway in the 1880s, Wylie has always been a gathering place," the magazine writes. "In fact, because shops stayed open late to accommodate the railway visitors and business, one of the town’s nicknames became 'Wide-Awake Wylie.' The historic downtown continues that tradition of community today..."

Fortune lists the median home price in Wylie as $399,838 and the median household income as $96,845. The booming suburb is home to nearly 60,000 residents. It now stretches across Dallas, Collin, and Rockwall counties.

To come up with its ranking, Fortune combed through mounds of data for almost 2,000 communities in the U.S.

The only other Texas city in the top 25 is the Houston suburb of Sugar Land, ranked 17th.

“Residents have a sweet spot for this Houston suburb that brings the community together through its lively downtown hub, local events, and even a ball game or two,” Fortune says.

Among other highlights, Fortune notes Sugar Land’s “outstanding schools,” the Sugar Land Space Cowboys minor-league baseball team, Sugar Land Town Square, and high-quality health care at Memorial Hermann Sugar Land Hospital.

In Sugar Land, the median home price is $399,250 and the median household income is $121,665, according to Fortune. The suburb is home to around 110,000 people.

Zac Efron finds out war is hell in The Greatest Beer Run Ever

Movie review

Longtime comedy writer/director Peter Farrelly duped a lot of people – though not this critic – with his first attempt at drama, 2018’s Green Book, for which he won Oscars for both Best Original Screenplay and, astoundingly, Best Picture. His follow-up film, The Greatest Beer Run Ever, is another film based on little-known history, with much stronger results.

Chickie Donohue (Zac Efron) is kind of a ne’er-do-well in a 1967 Manhattan neighborhood, living at home and going down to his local bar on a daily basis to drink with his friends. There, he, his friends, and bar owner Doc Fiddler (Bill Murray) commiserate over the fate of the local men who are getting injured or dying in the Vietnam War. Though they hate what the men face, they mostly agree that the soldiers are doing their patriotic duty.

On a drunken whim, Chickie – who has job as a merchant mariner – says he’s going to pay tribute to their friends by bringing them beer from back home. By hook or by crook, he actually manages to get over to Vietnam on a supply ship. But what starts out as a fun lark for the genial Chickie turns into an education about what war is actually like, how his friends are handling their deployments, and that governments may not be always telling the truth.

Co-written with Farrelly by Brian Hayes Currie and Pete Jones, the film is a tale of two halves. The first 45 minutes or so is pretty goofy, as it sets up the story by showing the growing divide about the war, a serious topic that’s undercut by almost every character utilizing an over-the-top New York accent. Chickie’s apparent lack of concern about heading into a war zone also rubs the wrong way.

But the film’s shift in tone once he gets to Vietnam is a welcome one, and helps to make sense of what the filmmakers were trying to accomplish in the beginning of the movie. As Chickie tries to track down the various guys from his neighborhood, his eyes are opened about the experience on the ground in a war. Chickie traveling in plain clothes gets him mistaken for a CIA agent, a falsehood he willingly goes along with until an encounter with a real CIA agent pulls the wool off his eyes once and for all.

Farrelly appears to have matured as a filmmaker in the past four years. While he went for overly simplistic conflict and just as facile resolution in Green Book, he gets down and dirty in this film. He and his co-writers don’t pay lip service to the bad parts of war; they put Chickie right there in the middle of it all, witnessing atrocities firsthand. He’s not a soldier, so they don’t try to overplay their hand, but they give the film just enough intensity that the changes he experiences don’t feel tossed off.

Of course, the film is “based on a true story,” so you know liberties were taken – would the number of beers he brought really last? – but they do an effective job of making eye-rolling moments relatively believable. Chickie’s interactions with his soldier friends have a good arc to them, as do his run-ins with in-country reporters like Coates (Russell Crowe). A late film sequence that finds the two of them running around Saigon while the city is under siege is one of the best the film has to offer.

Efron, save perhaps for his turn as Ted Bundy in a Netflix film, has never been known for his dramatic chops. This role gives him the best of both worlds, allowing him to let loose and dig deep in equal measures, and he makes the most of it. Relative unknowns play his various friends, with the ones playing soldiers coming off the best. Murray and Crowe provide contrasting color to the film, and each is effective in their small amount of screentime.

The Greatest Beer Run Ever is a nice step up for Farrelly and proof that there are still interesting ways to demonstrate that war is hell. The funny premise behind the film belies the seriousness with which it treats the larger issue at hand, a bait-and-switch that gives the story a gravitas you might not expect.

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The Greatest Beer Run Ever is now playing in theaters and streaming on Apple TV+.

Photo courtesy of Apple TV+

Zac Efron in The Greatest Beer Run Ever