Public libraries: Bad news, good news

Guest.Phyllis

Phyllis Guest Taking Notes

The legislature slashed state funds, but city funding cuts weren’t as bad as they could have been. Best of all, there are ways you can help keep our libraries flush with LGBT content

Back in the winter, I wrote here about problems facing our libraries (“Losing our libraries,” Dallas Voice, April 1). The theme of that piece was the enormous losses the Dallas Public Library system was likely to face if the 82nd Texas Legislature took an axe to public systems statewide.

Well, they did wield an axe — and we lost a lot of state funding. This adds injury to insult, since the city of Dallas has cut library funds drastically over the last three budget cycles.

But the recently approved 2012 budget is less austere than it might have been. City Manager Mary Suhm proposed, and the mayor and city council agreed, to fund the new branch library now under construction on Ferguson Road, to maintain the current 40 hours at other libraries and to plump up the meager materials budget.

However, the approved budget also cut more than 90 salaried positions and eliminated others.

As of Oct. 1, the number of hourly workers known as pages dropped sharply. Remaining staff and volunteers are taking on much of the work once done by pages: sorting and shelving books and other media, maneuvering heavy carts and duck-walking between the low racks of the children’s sections.

And new books are in short supply.

But that’s enough whining. Let’s get to the good news.

First I want to tell you about some terrific mystery novels with gay angles that are now available at the Oak Lawn Library. Some are just slightly bent, while others are way over the edge, and two or more are probably available at this very moment on Oak Lawn Library’s LGBT shelves.

(Unless otherwise indicated, all are available within days through the Dallas Public Library’s online catalog at Catalog.DallasLibrary.org.)

My newest discovery is John Morgan Wilson, whose main series character is a California writer named Benjamin Justice, an edgy, flawed and therefore believable guy.

The series begins with Simple Justice and proceeds through Revision of Justice. By the time the series reaches the book I just finished, Justice at Risk, Ben is living like the Blanche DuBois of Hollywood. Best you read the books in order to learn where he began and why he fell so far.

My other new discovery is Matt Beynon Rees, a Welshman who worked as a journalist throughout the Middle East for several years and, in 2006, became a full-time fiction writer living in Jerusalem.

vook-cover

YOU CAN HELP | Want to be a Book Hero? Consider buying a copy of E. William Podojil’s ‘The Tenth Man.’

The detective of his series is a Palestinian schoolteacher who cannot walk down a street without being pulled toward the most appalling crimes. The book to read is the third in this series, The Samaritan’s Secret. The plot turns on a single gay character and the effects his sexual proclivities have on all those around him.

On the hunt for more LGBT mysteries, I did an Internet search and came up with a list of recommendations for five books that sounded good.

I ordered the two that were immediately available, whipped over, picked them up, devoured them in a single weekend and thus can recommend both: R.D. Zimmerman’s Closet and Mark Richard Zubro’s File Under Dead.

The Dallas system has other books by Zimmerman, all with one-word titles, and others by Zubro, including one that is new.

But here’s the thing: The system did not have three of the recommended books, including one by Michael Nava, whom I had read years ago and had liked a lot. So I went to DallasLibrary2.org with mouse in one hand and charge card in the other, then clicked on “Support Us” and chose to “Be A Book Hero.”

A recent system upgrade allows me, you and other booklovers to make purchases at the library discount. The library contacts the bookseller and the seller sends the book directly to the Central Library downtown. Central enters it into the system, then sends the book to the designated branch and contacts the “Hero” to pick the book up.

At the same time I bought Nava’s The Little Death, I bought a book that was favorably reviewed here in the Dallas Voice: Bronson Lemer’s The Last Deployment: How a Gay,Hammer-swinging Twentysomething Survived a Year in Iraq. I just received an email notice that the books await me. Purchase and processing had taken less than three weeks.

When I read and return them, they will likely stay at the Oak Lawn branch, which houses the system’s modest LGBT-specific collection.

I’m telling you all this because Dallas Public Library has zero copies of books by two other gay mystery writers who are highly recommended: E. William Podojil and Greg Lilly.

If you decide to “Be A Book Hero” to yourself and others, the recommended books are Podojil’s The Tenth Man, in which a guy’s past live-ins and other lovers are done away with one at a time, and Lilly’s Fingering the Family Jewels, in which the tale is more frightening but less suggestive than the title.

More good news: The Friends of the Oak Lawn Library just voted to spend $1,000 to freshen the LGBT collection. The $1,000 came from ongoing sales of library calendars and of gently used books or magazines.

So whether you buy the former, donate the latter or order a newbie through the system, you’re helping our whole community.

Meanwhile, there must be mysteries starring Ls, Bs, and Ts. Yes. More soon.

Phyllis Guest is a longtime activist on political and LGBT issues and a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas.

—  Kevin Thomas

LifeWalk steps off Sunday in Lee Park

Nobles says that park will not be fenced this year but is worried about added cost and barrier affecting next year’s event

KICKING UP THEIR HEELS | The LifeWalk organizing committee gets ready for Sunday.

 

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

New requirements by the city of Dallas could affect proceed totals from this year’s AIDS Arms LifeWalk, and at least one more new requirement is expected to be added to the list next year, according to LifeWalk organizers.

The 21st annual LifeWalk steps off from Lee Park on Oct. 2 at 1 p.m. for the 3.2-mile walk. Registration begins at 11:30 a.m. Last year’s event raised $401,000 and this year’s goal is $500,000.

Although thousands of people are expected for the event, Lee Park will remain unfenced this year, even though the city has said such gatherings will require fencing in the future.

Officials with the Dallas Tavern Guild, which stages the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade and the Festival in Lee Park each year as part of Dallas’ annual LGBT Pride celebration, decided to get ahead of the new requirement by fencing in Lee Park this year for the festival, although the city requirement had not yet gone into effect.

Tavern Guild officials also chose to charge a $5 admission fee to the festival this year to help offset expenses and raise extra funds that will be distributed to parade beneficiaries.

The admission fee raised the ire of some in the community, and attendance at the festival was down compared to last year. But Tavern Guild Executive Director Michael Doughman said the drop was not significant, and noted that the admission fee brought in about $25,000 that will be divided among beneficiaries.

But AIDS Arms Executive Director Raeline Nobles said new city requirements have already had an impact on LifeWalk, and she is worried that the new fencing requirements could affect next year’s walk.

“There were a lot more expenses from the city this year,” she said. “It really hits the bottom line.”

The cost of fencing next year will add an additional, unwelcome expense. But Nobles said she isn’t going to worry about that until after this weekend’s event. Right now, her main concern is getting people out to participate in this year’s fundraiser.

“Anyone can participate in LifeWalk,” Nobles said. “You can walk alone or bring friends or join a team. We even have poop-out vans: In case you can’t walk the entire three-mile route, someone will pick you up and bring you back to the park to have a good time.”

She also invited people to just come to the park and cheer.

“We need cheerleaders at the start and finish and at the water stations,” Nobles said. “We have pompoms for anyone who wants to cheer the walkers on.”

Registration for LifeWalk is $40 for people and $10 for dogs participating in LifeBark. People get a T-shirt and dogs get a bandana to show their support for people with HIV.

AIDS Arms is the primary beneficiary of LifeWalk, but other organizations also receive funds from the event, including AIDS Services of Dallas, Legal Hospice of Texas, Turtle Creek Chorale, The Women’s Chorus, Bryan’s House, Resource Center Dallas and the Greg Dollgener Memorial AIDS Fund.

Money raised goes toward programming rather than capital costs. The chorale uses funds for their HIV fund, including giving tickets to performances through the year to people with AIDS.

Nobles praised that effort, saying that socializing is an important holistic element in treating HIV.

The Women’s Chorus will present a program at AIDS Arms in March on National HIV Women’s Day. Those expenses, Nobles said, should be covered by the group’s LifeWalk proceeds.

Nobles said it would be tempting for AIDS Arms to use the money to finish paying off the agency’s new Trinity Health and Wellness Center in Oak Cliff. She said that the new facility cost more than $2 million, and AIDS Arms needs to raise just $35,000 more to pay off the facility.

Trinity Health and Wellness Center opened in September and will have its formal grand opening in two weeks.

But despite the temptation, AIDS Arms will instead use proceeds from LifeWalk to support programs for clients at Trinity as well as at AIDS Arms’ older clinic, Peabody Health Center in South Dallas.

AIDS Arms also uses the money to administer HIV tests to more than 3,500 people a year and for case management for more than 3,400 people.

LifeWalk began in 1990 as a fundraiser for Oak Lawn Community Services. When that agency closed, management of the event moved to AIDS Arms.

LifeWalk Co-chair Marvin Green noted that his Green Team will mark its 20th year of participation in LifeWalk. He said he put the team together for the first time in the second year of LifeWalk because he had already lost 20 friends to AIDS.

That first year, three team members raised $75. This year, the 32-member Green Team has collected about $22,000.

Co-chair Fred Harris said that there were quite a few new teams this year.

“We’re reaching out to new communities,” Harris said. “There’s new energy. We’re branching outside Oak Lawn.”

He said teams are using creative new ways to raise money and AIDS Arms has actively brought in new sponsors such as Chipotle.

“Stoli is coming with a first-ever LifeWalk drink,” Nobles said. Returning sponsor Caven Enterprises will serve beer and Ben E. Keith donated iced tea.

Harris said planning has gone well, and that “LifeWalk is a well-oiled machine.”

Harris said he has seen more use of social media this year than ever, reaching out to people outside the Metroplex.

“This year Facebook has become a very powerful tool,” he said, not just for fundraising but also for recruiting walkers.

Last year, about 3,500 people walked, and this year, “Registration is ahead of where we were this time last year,” Harris said.

Waterpalooza, another AIDS Arms event, was moved to Pride weekend this year, just two weeks prior to LifeWalk. Harris said they took advantage of that event to sign up teams and walkers and generate excitement for this weekend’s walk.

Among the new teams, Harris said, are the DFW Sisters.

“Their efforts have been tireless,” he said. “They raise the bar.”

Nobles said that WFAA Channel 8 morning anchor Ron Corning will serve as M.C. in Lee Park. Although he’s appeared at several events since arriving in Dallas, this is the first big public event the openly gay television host has emceed.

LifeWalk received the Human Rights Campaign family-friendly designation, and Nobles said there will be bounce houses, clowns and face-painting for children.

Harris said the event is pet-friendly as well, “because pets are our family.”

There will be games and puppy pools for dogs as well as doggie adoptions, Nobles said.

She said the day would be a lot of fun but asked people to participate because the need is greater than ever.

“With the growth in the number of newly-infected people in Dallas County who need help in this economy, we’re seeing people who never would ask but must,” she said.

Next year, Nobles said, she would like to see LifeWalk return to Oak Lawn, but new city regulations for events may change those plans. Among the events changing plans this year because of the city involved Lone Star Ride.

Last year, Lone Star Riders participated in LifeWalk on bike. This year, city regulations banned bikes from walks so LSR riders who participate will have to walk.

Green was thinking about bigger plans for future LifeWalks. Other cities that raise more money stage longer walks. He said he’d love to use the new Downtown Deck Park that should be completed next year and dreamed of seeing LifeWalkers crossing the new suspension bridge that should be open in March 2012.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 30, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Changes on tap for Pride festival

Organizers don’t expect decision to fence in Lee Park, ban outside alcohol at event following parade to have major impact on attendance

DOUGHMAN.Michael
Michael Doughman

JOHN WRIGHT  |  Online Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

When the Dallas Tavern Guild announced a $5 admission charge for Sunday’s Festival in Lee Park earlier this year, it led to some major backlash on social media networks and in the comments section of DallasVoice.com.

But Michael Doughman, executive director of the Tavern Guild, said the backlash hasn’t translated into significantly reduced interest in the event from vendors and nonprofit groups.
As of this week, only five fewer organizations had signed up for booths at the festival, which takes place before, during and after the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade.

“We don’t consider that a loss in attendance at the park at all,” Doughman said. “We do have some nonprofit organizations that opted not to be in the park this year, and that’s certainly their choice. We don’t think that it’s going to harm anything.

“We have over 70 vendors already paid in the park,” Doughman added. “If that were the general consensus, a whole lot of those people wouldn’t be coming either, but they are.”

The Tavern Guild, which puts on both the parade and festival, chose to fence in the park this year to be proactive since the city plans to require it in the future, Doughman said.

The fencing will also allow the Tavern Guild to prevent people from bringing in their own alcohol, which Doughman says has become a problem.

“We’ve had a really, really rapid rise in the number of people [getting] highly intoxicated,” he said.

Those who want to consume alcohol at the festival this year will have to purchase it from vendors — who’ll be selling plastic bottles of beer at the same prices as before, $3 for domestics and $4 for imports, Doughman said.

Lori Chance, special events manager for the city of Dallas, confirmed that her office likely would have required the Pride festival to be fenced beginning in 2012.

“Typically anytime alcohol is involved, we require fencing, and that’s so they can control the ingress and egress,” Chance said. “We’re headed in that direction because of the alcohol. Their choice is to fence the entire park … or to make a secluded area for alcohol, and the alcohol has to stay in that area only.”

While the decision to fence in the festival was made in anticipation of the city requirement, Doughman said the $5 admission charge is designed to raise money for the event’s beneficiaries.

The Tavern Guild historically has donated a combined $20,000 to $25,000 to three or four beneficiaries. But in recent years, there’s been only $7,500 or $8,000 left over for one  beneficiary — Youth First Texas.
This year, the Tavern Guild has added AIDS Arms, AIDS Services of Dallas, AIDS Interfaith Network and Legacy Counseling Center.

“If you begrudge $5 to be divided among four of the AIDS services and YFT, then that’s not the spirit of Pride to begin with,” Doughman said. “It’s always been about raising money for the community.”

The Festival in Lee Park normally attracts about 7,500 people, and organizers are predicting a decline in attendance of up to 1,500 this year due to the admission charge, Doughman said. But even if attendance is as low as 5,000, it will still mean an extra $25,000 for the beneficiaries. In addition, Doughman said 25 percent of net proceeds from alcohol sales will go to the Texas Gay Rodeo Association, while 75 percent will go back to the Tavern Guild and its beneficiaries.

Still, not everyone is willing to pay the price.

Rob Schlein, president of Log Cabin Republicans Dallas, said his group is among those that won’t have a booth at the festival this year because of the admission charge, which he called “a stupid business decision.”

Schlein said Log Cabin decided it wouldn’t be worth the $150 registration fee because of reduced attendance.

He said Log Cabin, which is also skipping the parade this year, used “free market principles” to make a statement.

“To have to pay for it just doesn’t seem to be in the spirit of gay Pride weekend,” Schlein said. “This is a tax on the gay Pride parade.”

Festival in Lee Park
Sunday, Sept. 18.
Park opens at 11 a.m.
No coolers, glass containers or alcohol can be brought into the park. There will be an exception for vendors who want to bring in coolers for volunteers. Admission is $5. ATM machines will be situated near festival entrances for those who don’t have cash. More info at www.DallasPrideParade.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 16, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

FEEDBACK: Valuing our human infrastructure

Valuing our human infrastructure

For years, politicians have talked about the under-funded public infrastructure like highways, water lines, sewer systems and basic transportation.

There is another infrastructure that is being under-funded in this city and state in particular: our “human infrastructure.”

In educational terms, we are regressing.

When I was growing up, my school district supplied the basics for a well-rounded education. I took what I learned and then expanded my knowledge at my local county-funded library, and went on to graduate with honors at Angelo State University.

Today’s children receive a poorer quality education because Texas no longer properly funds public schools K-12, and our public libraries are being starved of resources. A university education that cost me $4 a credit hour has now increased 10 times or more since I went to school.

While libraries are being destroyed by budget cuts, the need for a strong library is greater than ever. The population that our schools serve face greater challenges since so many come from homes where English is not the first language in the home.

Despite this challenge for children and adults, ESL class funding has been slashed. Dallas Independent School District has a 50 percent dropout rate, and GED class funding has been slashed.

The state of Texas has eliminated funding for the online databases for K-12 and DISD has reduced the number of school librarians.

Each of these reductions by other government agencies has increased the demand by citizens of Dallas and other Texas cities to use public libraries; however, the city of Dallas has reduced our library spending by approximately 40 percent over the last three budget years.

We would be lucky were our library merely “decimated,” i.e. reduced by a tenth. We now spend less money per capita on libraries than Fort Worth, Austin, Houston or San Antonio. Despite this lack of funding, demand at Dallas Public Libraries has increased.

In the 2006 bond program, the voters approved approximately $60 million in funding for eight new or replacement libraries; unfortunately, those buildings are now short staffed and short of materials.

Each branch except for Hampton Illinois has only a branch manager for 2 ½ days a week since the branch managers cover two branches. The branch manager for North Oak Cliff also is responsible for West Dallas. By dividing their time, they barely have time to manage their branch, let alone get to know their neighborhoods.

Many branches no longer have children’s librarians even though it is critical to encourage children to love reading if they hope to succeed in life. Texas prisons are filled with men who read at a fourth grade level.

Our city is filled with unemployed men and women who lack the necessary job skills to compete in our global economy. If we do not invest in our children, our future as a community is doomed to failure.

It does not matter how much money we give in tax breaks if our citizens cannot read the English language. Companies may locate here but employ suburbanites who have better funded schools and libraries.

The choice is clear: Either we as a city invest in our library system, our cultural institutions where children and adults learn, or we are known as a city with beautiful monuments and a high unemployment rate.

If you want to change this situation, I would encourage you to contact your City Council member and the mayor of Dallas.  The proposed budget can still be changed. If you would like to help improve the Dallas Public Library System, you can join the Friends of the Dallas Public Library or your local branch Friends Group. If your branch does not have a Friends group, I can help you start a group.

Stan Aten, president, Hampton Illinois/Oak Lawn Library Friends

………………………………….

Republicans won’t help economy

Why did the president of Dallas chapter of Log Cabin Republicans give no evidence in his commentary (“Why I will vote Republican in 2012,” Dallas Voice, Sept. 2) as to why the GOP will help your pocketbook?

He couldn’t. They won’t. They never have.

Take stocks, the way many generate retirement, as well as current income:

DJIA up 223 percent during Clinton’s eight years, down 25 percent during the George W. Bush eight-year reign of error, and up only 46 percent during his daddy’s four-year term.

Jobs? More than 11 percent increase annualized during the Clinton presidency, under 1 percent when George W. Bush was in the White House.
How do I know the above information? I googled it.

Don’t be misled by Republicans who talk about being better on pocketbook issues. You only have to check with Google to know the Democrats have consistently done better.

Dave Gershner, Dallas
………………………………….

Is Schlein nuts?

In re: “Why I will vote Republican in 2012,” Dallas Voice, Sept. 2, by Rob Schlein.

Is this guy nuts? Bring back “don’t ask, don’t tell?” A federal defense of straight only marriage amendment? America got it wrong in 2008?
Hundreds of millions of Americans think not.

Can we not be trusted to vote intelligently? How about we all do away with votes and have a permanent Republican government and bring back President Bush to save us from the recession he caused.

What kind of gay man would dare show his face and tell us to vote for the most homophobic party in politics? He must be very stupid, or on the GOP payroll.

Nathaniel Ash, via the Internet
………………………………….

Flawed premise

Rob Schlein’s article about why he will vote Republican (“Why I will vote Republican in 2012,” Dallas Voice, Sept. 2) reminds me of the argument that many slaves were better off in bondage than they were after they were freed.

No level of economic privilege can compensate for the loss of basic civil rights. I will not live as a second-class citizen and hide in the closet, even if it buys me a nicer car and gets me a higher paying job.

Even if I accepted Mr. Schlein’s premise that voting Republican would lead to higher economic opportunities for the average person — which I don’t — the price is still too high. That’s why I will vote Democrat, no matter who is running. And I hope you will too.

Mark Swaim, Dallas

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 9, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

UPDATE: City still reviewing complaint of anti-gay discrimination against Baylor-owned gym

The city of Dallas is in “the final stages” of reviewing an allegation of anti-gay discrimination against the Baylor Tom Landry Fitness Center, a city official told Instant Tea this week.

Gay Dallas resident Alan Rodriguez filed a complaint in January against the Fitness Center, after the popular East Dallas gym refused to offer a family membership to Rodriguez and his longtime partner.

Rodriguez’s complaint was filed under a Dallas ordinance that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in public accommodations. Rodriguez said he has declined an offer from the city’s Fair Housing Office, which handles discrimination complaints, to enter arbitration.

“I don’t know that there’s any room to compromise,” Rodriguez said. “There’s not middle ground to reach to.”

In a letter he penned to a Baylor executive before filing the complaint, Rodriguez accused the Fitness Center of “draconian and bigoted practices” that are “unthinkable in 2011.”

In response to Rodriguez’s email, the Baylor executive confirmed that the Fitness Center offers family memberships only “to a husband and wife pursuant to the Texas law definition of marriage.” Baylor’s attorneys reportedly are arguing that the Fitness Center is a private health club and not a public accommodation.

Jennifer Coleman, senior vice president of consumer affairs for the Baylor Health Care System, declined further comment this week.

Beverly Davis, director of the Fair Housing Office, said she is unsure when officials will decide whether to prosecute Rodriguez’s complaint.

“All I can tell you is that it’s in the final stages of review,” Davis said. “I wish I could give you a definite date, but right now I don’t have a definite date.”

Rodriguez’s complaint is one of more than 50 that have been filed under the nondiscrimination ordinance since it took effect in 2002. However, none of the complaints has ever been prosecuted by the city. Each violation of the ordinance punishable by a fine of up to $500.

—  John Wright

WATCH: Cedar Springs fire station may lose truck

In its first study to redistribute equipment in 25 years, the city of Dallas has decided that one of the fire trucks from Station 11 on Cedar Springs Road should be sent to south Oak Cliff near Duncanville.

Oak Lawn residents responded with a Facebook page and urged calls to Councilwoman Angela Hunt, whose district includes that side of Cedar Spring Road. The Facebook page Save DFD Truck 11 had about 500 “likes” by Friday morning. A Blogspot website has also been created.

A video report from WFAA is below.

From the “Save Truck 11″ website:

Why is this important?

For over 100 years, Truck 11 has faithfully served the Cedar Springs community: A densely populated neighborhood filled with high rise buildings, multi-unit apartment complexes, shopping centers, complex streets, hotels, restaurants, schools, hospitals, and homes. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year Truck 11 stands ready to rapidly respond whenever called upon to assist you. Truck 11 is staffed by a diverse mix of highly skilled personnel who have chosen to work in and serve this community by providing the high level of protection and assistance you deserve and have come to expect. The crews of Truck 11, through years of experience and dedication, know this area: the streets, the buildings, and you, the people.

To contact Hunt:

angela.hunt@dallascityhall.com
Office: 214-670-5415
Fax: 214-670-5117

—  David Taffet

What’s Brewing: Census figures show Dallas has highest percentage of same-sex couples in Texas

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Dallas has the highest percentage of same-sex households of any city in Texas, according to an analysis of 2010 Census figures by the Williams Institute at UCLA’s School of Law. Overall, same-sex couples account for 0.76 percent of households in Texas — or 67,413, the analysis shows. But in the city of Dallas, the rate is twice as high at 1.5 percent — for a total of 6,876 same-sex households. Galveston has the second-highest rate of same-sex households in the state at 1.47 percent, followed by Austin at 1.44 percent. Download the Williams Institute’s snapshot here, and stay tuned for more on the 2010 Census figures that were released this morning.

2. Almost three weeks after same-sex marriages began in New York, a solid majority of the state’s residents are comfortable with the new law, according to a poll released Wednesday. The poll found that 55 percent of New Yorkers back same-sex marriage, while 63 percent say they don’t want the law overturned. Forty-four percent said they are more likely to vote for a state senator who supported marriage equality, while only 30 percent are less likely to do so. Looks like the National Organization for Marriage is facing an uphill battle.

3. Despite widespread rioting and looting in the city this week, Manchester Pride will go on this weekend.

—  John Wright

The Top 10 hotspots for violent crime in Dallas (which no longer includes the Cedar Springs strip)

Last week we told you that violent crime was down 29 percent in the first six months of this year in the roughly 1-square-mile sector that includes the Cedar Springs gay entertainment district and much of Oak Lawn. At the time, we didn’t have a list of violent crime numbers for all 27 of the Dallas Police Department’s Targeted Area Action Grids (TAAGs), which are essentially the city’s worst crime hotspots. But DPD Administrative Sgt. Moises Ochoa followed up by forwarding those statistics on Friday, and they contain more good news: The Wycliff-Maple TAAG (shown above), previously known as the Cedar Springs-Wycliff TAAG, ranked 11th for violent crime among the TAAGs from Jan. 1 through July 11. DPD officials have cautioned against ranking the TAAGs, because they vary somewhat in geographic size and population density. But when we first started reporting on the TAAG statistics two years ago, the Cedar Springs-Wycliff was No. 3 on the list. Below are the top 10 worst hotspots for violent crime in the city of Dallas during the first six months of 2011, according to the statistics provided by DPD. To view the raw data, go here. And for a map showing all the TAAGs, go here.

TAAG: Number of violent offenses

1. Five Points: 100
2. Ross-Bennett: 94
3. WebbChapel-Timberline: 75
4. JuliusSchepps-Central: 73
5. Forest-Audelia: 72
6. Loop 12-Jim Miller: 66
7. Greenville-LBJ: 62
8. Lake June-Buckner: 59
9. JohnWest-Buckner: 57
10. Overton-Illinois: 54
11. Maple-Wycliff: 51

(Based on number of violent offenses recorded Jan. 1 through July 11, 2011. Violent offenses are murder, sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault.)

—  John Wright

Oak Lawn is getting lit up, but what about the crosswalk on Cedar Springs at Reagan Street?

The crosswalk on Cedar Springs at Reagan Street has been a maintenance nightmare for the city of Dallas since it was installed in 2004.

Last week we reported that the city of Dallas will install 45 new streetlights in Oak Lawn over the next 60 days, in response to Dallas Stonewall Young Democrats’ Light Up Oak Lawn safety campaign. But speaking of lights, what about the crosswalk on Cedar Springs Road at Reagan Street, which has again stopped working? Well, a city official told Instant Tea today that it will likely be October before the city can repair the broken lights in the crosswalk.

Alex Wong, the city’s program manager for traffic field operations, said in response to complaints over the last few weeks, a city inspector went out to check on the crosswalk this weekend. What he found is that more than half of the ground-level, flashing lights have stopped working. This marks at least the fifth time the city has had to repair the crosswalk since it was first installed in 2004. It’s the only crosswalk of its kind in Dallas, and it’s proven to be a poor design, Wong said.

Each time it costs the city roughly $5,000 to replace the lights, which are malfunctioning in part due to the uneven street surface. But it would cost $30,000 or $4o,o00 to replace the whole system, and that’s money the city doesn’t have.

“It’s really a Catch-22,” Wong said. “We really do not like the system, but what can I do? There’s no funding available for us to go with another approach.”

For now, the city will continue to repair the crosswalk, but first officials must identify a vendor for the parts and clear a backlog of other projects, Wong said.

In February 2009, the lights in the crosswalk had been out for more than six months when the city finally replaced them. Weeks later, after a construction crew mistakenly cut the wires to the lights, the city announced that it would no longer repair them. The announcement outraged local business owners, and the city finally agreed to repair the crosswalk. Those repairs were completed just 18 months ago — in December 2009.

—  John Wright

Mayor-elect Mike Rawlings says he ‘will try to be there’ for Monday’s LGBT Pride Month Reception

Mayor-elect Mike Rawlings

UPDATE: Rawlings said the following in an email shortly after we posted this: “I’ll plan to be there unless [secretary] Sandy [Nelson] tells me I have a conflict. She will put it on my calendar.”

ORIGINAL POST:

It remains unclear whether Mayor-elect Mike Rawlings will attend an LGBT Pride Month Reception at Dallas City Hall on Monday afternoon.

A press release announcing the reception sent out by the city on Wednesday indicates that Rawlings will be there. However, Councilwoman Delia Jasso, who organized the reception, said this morning that Rawlings hasn’t confirmed his attendance.

“I would list him as invited,” Jasso said, adding that she’s confident he’ll attend.

On Wednesday, Rawlings said in an email to Dallas Voice that he will “try to be there.”

“It’s not on my calendar right now but I will try to be there when I find the details,” Rawlings said.

Rawlings didn’t respond to a follow-up email providing details of the Pride Reception. He also didn’t immediately respond to a voicemail left on his cell phone this morning.

The Pride Reception would be Rawlings first LGBT event as mayor, and his attendance could be an indicator that he’s willing to mend fences with the two LGBT groups that endorsed his opponents in the election. During the reception, Jasso will present a Pride Month proclamation to the LGBT task force she created, which includes leaders from the the two groups, the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance and Stonewall Democrats of Dallas.

Jasso said Monday’s Pride Reception, the first of its kind, will take place immediately after a post-inauguration photo session for council members in the same location, the Flag Room on the sixth floor.

“It’s as convenient as it can be for any council person to stay,” she said.

Jasso is hosting the reception along with Councilwoman Angela Hunt and Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Pauline Medrano.

Jasso said all current council members have been invited, but only Jerry Allen has confirmed he’ll be there. Jasso said she also plans to contact new council members who’ll be sworn in Monday to invite them.

Others listed on the city press release as attending are City Manager Mary Suhm, Assistant Chief of Police Vincent Golbeck and Assistant Chief of Dallas Fire Rescue Debra Carlin. Jasso said the police and fire chiefs had prior commitments.

“A special ceremony will be held at Dallas City Hall in recognition of June LGBT Pride Month,” the press release states. “The ceremony is to recognize June 28, 1969 as a historic turning point for LGBT’s struggle for equality.”

The event is open to the public and begins at 4:30 p.m. in the Flag Room, on the sixth floor of  City Hall at 1500 Marilla.

—  John Wright