Dallas Councilman Tennell Atkins Helped His Son Launch an Unlicensed Private Security Company

Patrick Michels
Dallas City Councilman Tennell Atkins
During a seven-year law enforcement career as a Dallas County deputy constable and Dallas City marshal, Tyler Atkins says he protected the public from fake security guards.

"I used to take people to jail who used to run security companies without a license," he says.

But for the past several months, it appears that Atkins, the 32-year-old son of Dallas City Council member Tennell Atkins, was doing just that. His company, Dallas Shield Inc., has been providing security guards for University General Hospital in Oak Cliff for the past several months, despite lacking the proper license from the Texas Department of Public Safety's Private Security Bureau. The company has applied for a license, but its application is listed as "incomplete" by DPS. According to the department, companies with incomplete licenses cannot legally operate.

Under state law, operating a security company without a license is a class A misdemeanor, which carries a maximum one year in jail and a $4,000 fine.

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Dallas Keeps Red Light Cameras, Right to Screw Up Your Credit

Categories: City Hall

Derek Jensen
We'll be dealing with these for a while more yet.
They don't work. At least not in the way they're intended to. Study after study shows that red light cameras are, at best, an inefficient revenue generator and, at worst, increase accidents.

Dallas' red light enforcement is especially bad. Because the city signed its contract with Xerox -- the company that collects red light fines for the city -- in 2006, it is able to ding the credit reports of drivers who fail to pay their tickets. The Legislature made the practice illegal in 2007, but Dallas was grandfathered in because of its existing contract.

City staff recommended extending the current contract, rather than putting a new one out for bid, because that will allow Dallas to mess with scofflaws' credit until at least 2017. Credit reporting is the only thing that gives red light tickets teeth, they say.

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How Awful Is Your Street: A Searchable Database of Dallas Road Conditions

Flickr/Alan Stanton

Dallas has terrible streets. Ask any driver who hasn't been rendered prematurely senile by the constant jostling over disintegrating pavement or any cyclist who's survived a run-in with a man-eating pothole. Hell, ask City Hall, which estimates that it will take three-quarters of a billion dollars to get the city's roads back in decent shape. When you couple aging infrastructure with a long-standing municipal propensity to value shiny new hotels and bridges over nuts-and-bolts governance, this is what happens.

This ground has been well trod, and bitching about the general crappiness of the city's streets is a tired and unsatisfying exercise. But what if Dallasites could bitch about street crappiness with mathematical precision? To not only say, "Sweet Jesus, the potholes on Garland Road sure do suck," but to quantify the precise amount of suckiness those potholes contain.

See also: Dallas Streets Keep Getting Worse and Worse

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Trinity Trust's Plan for River Amenities Is a Vivid, Impossible Fever Dream

The Trinity Trust
Are the three in black and white stripes together, or what?
Say what you will about boring stuff like feasibility -- as surrealist art the latest renderings of potential park-like amenities between the Trinity River levees are pretty damn amazing.

Tragically, the solar-powered water taxis we've all grown to love from earlier sales pitches for the Trinity project are gone, but the latest conceptual images for the lakes near downtown include jugglers, zip lines and a water "spray park." Presumably, the water for the spray park -- like the water for the lakes -- wouldn't come from the river itself because, you know, disease. But in any case, the renderings Assistant City Manager Jill Jordan and the Trinity trust showed a City Council committee on Monday were incredible. By that we mean not credible.

At least that's how some City Council member saw it.

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Philip Kingston Starts the Drumbeat to End Red Light Cameras in Dallas

Categories: City Hall

Yousuf Fahimuddin
The problem, according to City Council member Philip Kingston, is that red light cameras seek to fix a problem that doesn't exist.

"[Red light cameras] are based on two fallacies," Kingston says. "The first is that there are a bunch of people out there who intentionally run red lights. Those people almost don't exist; maybe they do exist, but it's a vanishingly small number. Then, the second fallacy is that writing a ticket would change their minds if they're that kind of person."

In response to a presentation to the Dallas City Council's public safety committee about extending the city's current red light contract, Kingston suggested doing things that will actually cause fewer people to run red lights, like extending yellow light times, a tactic that has led to fewer violations, and fewer wrecks, in other cities.

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Mayor Rawlings Hires PR Firm

Categories: City Hall

Dallas Observer
Wonder what this could mean?
Mike Rawlings has hired Laurey Peat + Associates, a Dallas-based public relations firm to handle media relations for the mayor's office. The firm replaces Sam Merten, the mayor's previous manager of public affairs and communications, who left the office on September 19 to make a run for the District 9 city council seat that Sheffie Kadane will vacate next year.

"We hired Laurey Peat and Associates for their vast experience and working knowledge of the media. They have a strong understanding of the mayor's office and City Hall operations," Rawlings said in a press release.

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Dallas Spokesman Says Reporters Scaring Residents at Apartments Where Ebola Patient Stayed

Categories: City Hall

Amy Silverstein
Dallas Councilwoman Jennifer Gates gives an interview across the street from the complex where the Ebola patient stayed.
A school bus parked in front of the Ivy Apartments yesterday afternoon and let out dozens of kids as reporters filmed B-roll and took photographs across the street. The news stations had already confirmed that this apartment complex in Vickery Meadows was where Thomas Eric Duncan stayed in Dallas before he ended up at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital with an Ebola diagnosis.

The parents who lived there waited outside for their kids to get off the bus and ushered them back inside the sprawling complex. Most waiting outside said they didn't speak English. One father who did said he hadn't been given any information by the building's management or the city about Ebola.

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Dwaine Caraway Does a Terrific Vonciel Hill, but Maybe Not a Good Way to Win Her Vote

Categories: City Hall

Dallas Observer
Quite the comedian, this guy.
Update: The Dallas Morning News' Robert Wilonsky reports that Caraway has pulled the Mandela renaming plan and is now calling for Lancaster to be renamed for legendary Booker T. Washington and Roosevelt High School football coach Raymond Hollie.

Earlier in the week Dallas City Council member Dwaine Caraway told The Dallas Morning News that he had the votes necessary to secure the three-quarters majority of the City Council to override the City Plan Commission, which voted 13-1 against his proposal to rename South Lancaster Road after Nelson Mandela.

Wednesday afternoon, it quickly became apparent that he did not.

Public speakers on the issue -- many of them veterans -- spoke against the potential change for the trouble it might cause the VA Hospital and costs it might impose. Multiple council members backed away from the plan.

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City Council Can, In Fact, Vote Against Trinity Toll Road, Says City Attorney

Categories: City Hall

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Trinity River Toll Road.jpg
Not so inevitable.
The Dallas Morning News' Rudy Bush got the scoop: a copy of memo from City Attorney Warren Ernst that says the City Council could walk away from building the Trinity River toll road despite the city's contract with the North Texas Tollway Authority to build the thing.

"There is no commitment of future Council approvals for funding, nor would any such agreement be enforceable," Ernst says in the August 5 memo to council member Scott Griggs, a toll road opponent.

The timetables set up in the original 15-year-old tollway agreement have long lapsed, Ernst says, which opens the project up to termination by the council. Walking away from the agreement could cause what Ernst obliquely referred to as "legal issues" because of the "open-ended nature" of the agreement between the NTTA and the city, but is not impossible as previous councils have been told repeatedly by staff.

That could mean one of three things A) Ernst is wrong; B) staff members who told the council the contract was ironclad were wrong about a $1.5 billion project; or C) those staff members were lying through their teeth.

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Dallas Apartments and Hotels Are Terrible at Recycling

Kevin Dooley
It's really easy to recycle in Dallas if you live in a house. Just dump that unsorted mass of old newspapers, empty soda cans and milk cartons into a cavernous blue bin, drag it to the curb and let one the city's lumbering dump trucks haul it away.

For those who live in apartments -- nearly half of the city's population -- recycling is much, much harder. There's no blue bin, no city dump truck. The average apartment complex doesn't even offer recycling.

Apartments, along with offices, hotels and other businesses, are part of an enormous blind spot in Dallas' recycling efforts. Together, they generate about 83 percent of the garbage that goes into area landfills. Houses account for a mere 17 percent.

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