At the Center of Valley View Redevelopment, a 20-Acre, $100 Million Park

Categories: Biz, City Hall

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Via the City of Dallas
Transforming Valley View Center from a dystopian wasteland into Dallas Midtown, a mammoth, 450-acre complex of restaurants and offices and stores and apartments and retail, won't be cheap. More than $10 billion was the figure floated when developer Scott Beck first went public with the idea last year.

Most of that will come from the private sector -- but not quite all. The Dallas City Council is set to chip in $360 million in the form of reimbursements through a newly created TIF district.

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Dallas' Plastic Bag Fee Will Bring Dire Consequences, Kroger Warns

Categories: Biz, City Hall

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Nicholas Eckhart
If the Dallas City Council thought its baby-splitting compromise on single-use shopping bags (a $.05 cent fee, not a ban) could stave off the bagpocalypse of free market prophecy, they were sorely mistaken.

As Kroger rep Gary Huddleston eagerly explained to WFAA on Thursday, the consequences once the new ordinance goes into effect on January 1 will be dire.

"We've got a real concern with this new ordinance that charges a nickel per paper and plastic bag that customers may go into our [recycle] barrels to take out plastic bags to re-use them," he said.

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Will a Shot at Tesla's Gigafactory Push Texas Car Sales into the Free Market?

Categories: Biz

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Tesla
Texas -- or at least its lawmakers -- is not fond of Tesla, the electric car seller. In 2013, lawmakers blocked a bill that would have allowed the company to bypass auto dealers and sell directly to consumers. For Tesla the car manufacturer -- the one that just put Texas on the shortlist for a $5 billion gigafactory -- the response was considerably warmer, with lawmakers wooing the startup, hard.

Tesla the car seller and Tesla the car manufacturer are, of course, one and the same. How, then, to explain Texas' schizoid half-embrace? Pretty simple. On the one hand, state officials love nothing more than bagging a big, high-tech job-creating factory. On the other, lawmakers are in the pocket of the state's auto dealers, whose economic clout, generous campaign contributions and the thousands of people they employ in every one of the state's legislative districts give the industry unparalleled power in Austin.

Tesla founder Elon Musk knew this when he announced last month that Texas, along with Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada, was a finalist for the gigafactory. Now he seems to be having second thoughts.

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Walmart Fired a North Texas Manager For Being Old and Having Diabetes, The Feds Say

Categories: Biz, Legal Battles

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David Moorman isn't old, at least not by any modern standard. The Fort Worth man is in his mid-50s, still nearly a decade away from reaching Medicare eligibility, still in command of all his faculties, and he still has several years of productive employment ahead of him.

According to the federal government, that wasn't enough to keep Walmart from firing him. On Wednesday, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued the retail giant, saying that its 2011 termination of Moorman was illegal, violating federal age- and disability-discrimination laws.

Moorman worked in regional management for Walmart. The lawsuit doesn't delve into his job description, but his LinkedIn profile says he "managed all day to day operations of $30/40 million retail grocery stores" and oversaw grocery operations for 10 North Texas supercenters.

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Texas Is Ordering a Southlake Oil Company to Stop Taking Investments in Bitcoin

Categories: Biz

You can buy anything with Bitcoin (pictured above) these days: A sandwich; art; insurance. And, until yesterday, at least, you could also buy shares in Texas oil wells.

The oil well shares were offered by a Southlake company called Balanced Energy, which, according to its website, is currently offering a couple prospects in Runnels County near San Angelo. Typically, investors buy interests using U.S. dollars. But at the Texas Bitcoin Conference in Austin last week, Balanced Energy president Kirk Johnson apparently told attendees that he also accepts the popular crypto-currency.

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New Forecast Should Drive Stake Through the Heart of Proposed Energy Tax

Categories: Biz

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Peter Ryan
With the appointment of Governor Rick Perry's former chief of staff to the Public Utility Commission, it seemed all but assured that we were headed toward a multi-billion-dollar subsidy for electricity generators -- an energy tax based on questionable assumptions about how much juice Texas will actually need in the future.

Texas' electricity market is pegged to the price of natural gas, now cheap and in overabundance, and has delivered some consistently low-cost energy to Texans. You'd think this would be viewed as positive, the success of the free-market model. In fact, the free market that looked so inviting in the days before the shale boom, when natural gas came from somewhere else and electricity prices were high, now looks like a land of modest profits.

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Behind Texas Electric Grid Emergency Alert, a Power Plant Failure, Not Demand

Categories: Biz

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Peter Ryan
ERCOT, the manager of Texas' electric grid, issued an emergency alert Saturday. Apparently, a single power plant malfunctioned, went offline and single-handedly cut into the 2,300 megawatts of extra capacity we keep on reserve for just such occasions.

To keep that number from plunging further, ERCOT called on its demand-response reserves, which is basically a really technical way to say it asked some industrial customers to back off on their power usage. This is the second time this month the grid has issued an emergency alert. On January 6, a cold snap, two large, malfunctioning power plants, some scheduled power-plant maintenance and seasonal mothballing conspired to push the grid to the breaking point. Electricity spot prices rose above the state-mandated cap for nearly an hour. We were literally importing power from Mexico.


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For Barnett Shale, 2013 Saw Drilling Activity at Its Lowest Ebb in a Decade

Categories: Biz

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The Barnett Shale set off a national renaissance in the production of oil and natural gas through fracking. But as we look back on 2013, it's clear that the boom has left North Texas behind, for now anyway. Drilling and permitting activity in the area has fallen to a 10-year low.

The Railroad Commission of Texas issued some 827 drilling permits. For context, that's down from more than 4,000 in 2008, at the height of the shale-gas bonanza. In fact, this is the first year the agency has issued fewer than 1,000 permits since 2003.

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Union Jack, the First Gay Business on Cedar Springs, Is Closing

Categories: Biz

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unionjackdallas.com
Cedar Springs Road wasn't always the heart of Dallas gayborhood. Until Richard Longstaff, a British expat, opened Union Jack in 1971, there probably wasn't a gay-owned business on the block, according to a 2011 Dallas Voice article.

It was, the paper reported, surrounded by pool halls, grocery stores, a bookstore specializing in Texas history, and an arrow-straight beer joint. When Longstaff put go-go boys and a drag queen in his store window for gay pride, the bar's owners called the cops.

Most of those businesses are long gone. Union Jack, though, has been a constant, an anchor for the LGBT-oriented businesses that came to dominate the strip. It even played a bit role in LGBT legal history when Longstaff waged a legal battle against the U.S. government for denying him citizenship on the grounds that homosexuality equated to "psychopathic personality." He ultimately lost the case.

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Texas Electricity Prices Are Falling, but That Doesn't Mean Deregulation Lowering Them

Categories: Biz

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Peter Ryan
The deregulation of the electricity market has been a mixed bag for Texans. On the bright side, we paid less for power last year than the national average. The architects of the energy-only market (primarily electricity generators) would call this a coup -- proof that consumer choice and the free market have driven prices down.

But that's only true if you don't examine power prices in the 15 percent of Texas that lies outside the deregulated market. And it's only true if you don't look at more than a decade of prices that have exceeded that national average. The Texas Coalition for Affordable Power, a group of cities and governments that collectively negotiate with power companies, did that very thing, and what its report reveals about deregulation isn't terribly flattering.

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