The Battle for Preston Hollow's Soul

Categories: Cover Story

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Mark Graham
Luke Crosland has been trying -- and failing -- to redevelop Preston Center for years.
Luke Crosland stands at the window of his seventh-floor office and looks out across Preston Center. In the foreground, a tangle of luxury SUVs battle for access to a shabby, two-story parking garage that seems to deteriorate before his eyes. The garage is ringed by a jumble of aging retail strips that wouldn't be out of place in a working-class neighborhood in Garland. Further back, past the Marshalls, a clump of mid-rise office towers stand as a testament to a 1980s office boom.

Crosland is a pugnacious commercial real estate developer best known for the iLume apartments on Cedar Springs Road. He's been gazing down on this scene since he bought into Preston Center 27 years ago. There are trendy new restaurants like John Tesar's Spoon and Hopdoddy Burger Bar, and a few office buildings have gone up here and there, but the difference between now and then is cosmetic. The retail buildings are still outdated. The infrastructure is still crumbling. Three decades of decay have only made the situation worse.

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Plans for Texas' First Private Toll Road Roll On -- and Right Over People in its Path

Categories: Cover Story

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David Leonard
For the people who live in the countryside east of Lake Ray Hubbard and Lake Lavon, the appeal is in the quiet rural roads, dense trees, wild animals in the woods and bright stars shining in the night sky.

To a Dallas company called the Texas Turnpike Corp., all that open space is a sign that not enough stuff has been built yet. "A review of an aerial map of the metroplex shows that there is a lack of development to the north and east of Dallas," said a report the corporation prepared and sent in 2012 to the mayor of Lavon, a small town on the eastern shore of the lake. "Lake Ray Hubbard and Lake Lavon have blocked access to the area and stifled growth."

Texas Turnpike Corp. had a fix for that "lack of development:" a private toll road, developed by none other than Texas Turnpike Corp. The corporation's report pointed to wealthier Collin County suburbs as an example of the positive effects of toll roads: "Similar to the lack of growth in northwest Collin County prior to the opening of the Dallas North Tollway, the area northeast of Dallas has not grown due to lack of adequate transportation infrastructure."

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The Cop Watchers: Chasing (and Sometimes Trolling) Police in the Name of Liberty

Categories: Cover Story, Crime

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Dylan Hollingsworth
Cop-watcher Kory Watkins squats and films a traffic stop in Arlington. Is this interfering?
Their camcorders and phones recording, about 10 cop-watchers stand on an embankment between six busy lanes and four gas pumps at an Arlington gas station, wondering why cops keep coming for what looks like a simple traffic stop. Don't all these cops have something better to do, they think, like fighting crime?

Three Arlington officers get out of their squad cars and form a loose wall between the officer conducting the stop and those recording. "Get back," an officer says. "Get back." The cop-watchers look at each other in confusion. Get back? Why?

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Meet the Arlington Libertarians Who Spend Their Nights Chasing and Filming Cops (Video)

This week, the Observer's Sky Chadde has a cover story about a group of Arlington "cop watchers" who spend their nights following the suburb's patrol cars, filming police's interactions with the citizenry and lobbing the occasional "oink," all in the name of liberty.

As part of that story, videographer Sarah Passon recently hit the streets with the group. Her video is above.

The Cruel and Unusual Building of the Texas Horse Park

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Dylan Hollingsworth
Kevin Woods wanted to work with the Texas Horse Park. He ended up getting stampeded by it.
Hunched over a table at a Jack in the Box, Kevin Woods doesn't look much like a cowboy. No hat, no belt buckle, no boots, not a horse in sight. Here, tucked between a cluster of warehouses and a bustling urban highway, is about as far from the open range as a Texan can be. With his plain red T-shirt lightly dusted with sheetrock, and his calloused hands entwined in front of him, he looks like the home-repair contractor that he is. But it's a cowboy's blood that runs through Woods. This is a man who's broken wild mustangs and wrestled half-ton steers to submission in soft dirt, who can rope a calf and shoe a horse, who's as comfortable in the saddle as behind the wheel of a truck.

Woods was born into farm life in Stamps, Arkansas, a hollowed-out agricultural town a few miles north of the Louisiana border. He left as fast as he could, fleeing for Toledo, Ohio at 14. He took with him his fondness for horses and livestock, but his passion lay fallow for several years as he clawed for survival. He slept on the streets and rummaged through garbage cans for scraps before he fell in with a gang, started dealing drugs and pulled himself out of homelessness.

"I was one of the drug dealers you didn't want to meet on the streets," he says. "I'm the one Momma warned you about. You know, like I said, I was taught in the school of hard knocks."

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Wallace Hall Was Right About UT All Along

Categories: Cover Story

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Can Turkyilmaz
UT System Regent Wallace Hall, the man legislators wanted to impeach for asking too many questions.
Maybe the University of Texas at Austin and its many passionate defenders had reason to beware of Wallace Hall when Governor Rick Perry appointed him to the UT System board of regents in 2011. Perry was pushing some plan he got from a rich oilman to eliminate research as a criterion for granting professorial tenure, an idea scathingly denounced by detractors as tantamount to book-burning.


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Many New Moms Are Eating Their Placentas. Baylor Wants Them Off the Menu.

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By Mark Graham
Brittany Wackowski says Baylor's hardball stance on releasing placentas to new mothers is putting a dent in her placenta-pill business.
She was recovering in a postpartum room at Baylor University Medical Center this spring, exhausted from giving birth, when her husband gave her the good news. "We got the placenta," he told her. "It's in the cooler."

Now she just had to get it off the hospital property without being caught. "We were petrified that they were going to realize that we had it," says the mother, who is still too nervous about the placenta-snatching to go on the record with her name, the date she gave birth or how her husband managed to get the placenta into the cooler in the first place.

That placenta was important to her. She wanted to eat it.

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Chasing The World: One Man's Crazy World Cup Quest

Categories: Cover Story

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Catherine Downes
Mexico v Croatia, Ojos Locos

The roof of my car has sprung a leak in the middle of a tropical rainstorm, and the backseat is rapidly flooding. I'd pull over, but I've been stuck on an under-construction highway for the last half hour, and time is slipping away.

We're two weeks into the World Cup. At the behest of my editor, I have agreed to search Dallas for 32 people from the 32 countries competing in the tournament, in the spirit of North Texan multiculturalism. Moving here from Europe, I figured that right-wing, gun-toting Texas would be wall-to-wall with rich, angry white people. What I've found over the last two weeks is that it's far more diverse and interesting than England. I should have looked at Wikipedia.

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How Congress Offers the Worst Job in America, Starring Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Former Dallas Mayor and Others

Categories: Cover Story

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Scott Anderson
Imagine, in a moment of suspended disbelief, that your job pays 174 grand a year. And comes with a $1.3 million expense account. And a staff of eighteen Ivy League yes-men whose sole duty is to bray loud and wide about the miracle that is you -- when they're not babysitting your kids or fetching your dry cleaning, that is.

You get free travel to anywhere on the globe. A private dining room and a private gym replete with swimming pool, sauna and steam bath.

Best of all, you're only required to show up for the equivalent of four months per year.

Former congressman Tom Tancredo had this life for a decade. By the time it was over, he'd caught that affliction known to anyone who hates his job: a fear of Monday mornings. "As I drove to work, I'd get a knot in my stomach, and it would just start to grow," Tancredo says.

Here's why:

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Adventures in a Car-Free Dallas: The Great Race to the Bar

Categories: Cover Story

You know how the Amazing Race works? Well, this is like that, but we could only get Observer staffers to do it if we promised alcohol at the end. Tracie, our art director, takes her car, Gavin, the web editor, takes a Yellow Cab, Catherine, our editorial assistant, takes Lyft, Eric, our fearless news blogger, cycles to Deep Ellum, Amy takes DART, and Marie will eventually take Uber if Warren ever shows up. Who will make it first? Will everyone like their beer? There's only one way to find out.

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