Oak Lawn library’s Angie Bartula named Librarian of the Year

BigDReads.113821Oak Lawn Library’s branch manager Angie Bartula was named Dallas Librarian of the Year.

“She won talent, swimsuit AND personality,” North Oak Cliff branch manager Ray Sablack said.

To celebrate, D Magazine is staging a festival at the deck park downtown.

“On the 26th, we are having a huge festival at Klyde Warren Park celebrating storytelling of all forms,” said D Magazine’s Community Engagement Manager Krista Nightengale. “It’s a free event that’s open to the public.”

Bartula encouraged people to bring a book to the park and spend the afternoon reading.

However, in the event she’s unable to fulfill her reign as Dallas Librarian of the Year …

“Hey,” Bartula objected. “Why wouldn’t I be able to fulfill my term?”

Absolutely no reason at all.

Since becoming Oak Lawn’s librarian, she’s expanded the LGBT section at her branch and encouraged other branches to begin LGBT sections as well, which Sablack has done in North Oak Cliff. She recently partnered with Dish, at ilume across the street from her branch, to host author lesbian Leslea Newman for a reading.

She’s active throughout the community, welcoming senior citizens, a crime watch and a North Dallas High School group. She’s encouraged a knitting group that meets at the library, a homeowners group and loves to help people with their job searches.

Well deserved, Angie, and we’re looking forward to the D Magazine centerfold in May.

—  David Taffet

ASD property torn up by neighbor’s contractor

Everything to the right of the orange survey flag in this photo is on property belonging to AIDS Services of Dallas, including where the backhoe is parked.

A contractor working on a convenience store adjacent to property owned by AIDS Services of Dallas has done considerable damage to the agency’s lots acquired for future expansion of housing for people with HIV and AIDS.

After leaving a business card and sending two certified cease-and-desist letters, ASD President and CEO Don Maison said he was going to have to hire an attorney this week to have a restraining order placed on the business. However the owner of  City View Food Store finally responded to Maison on Tuesday.

“We own three lots behind the store,” Maison said. “They encroached on one and trespassed on our land on the other two.”

—  David Taffet

DMN’s Eats Blog reports old Jack’s Backyard spot to become restaurant complex

Over on DMN’s Eats Blog, Kim Pierce reported that the guys behind Bolsa, Smoke and Bar Belmont in Oak Cliff have their sights set on the old Jack’s Backyard spot. The nightspot, which was owned by Kathy Jack, abruptly closed earlier this year amid controversy to the dismay of may gay patrons who partook in drink and live music. Now, according to Pierce, Christopher Jeffers and Smoke exec chef Tim Byres look to turn the venue’s spot — heck, the whole block — into a bar/restaurant complex. From DMN’s Eats Blog.

Christopher Jeffers‘ baby is the Chicken Scratch-Foundry complex that’s going to be another amazing addition to North Oak Cliff. It’s not just a bar (factory-themed Foundry) tied into a restaurant (family-friendly Chicken Scratch), it’s a whole city block, whose shambling structures date to the 1920s. He took me on a tour to show me the vision.

One of the main buildings, where Jack’s Backyard was cloistered on Pittman at Commerce, will house The Foundry, which will be the first of the complex to open January-ish.

Like Pierce said in her piece, ambitious plans. Indeed.

—  Rich Lopez

District 7 challenger aims to become Dallas’ 1st out lesbian councilmember

Casie Pierce

Casie Pierce believes that the Great Trinity Forest could be the gateway to lifting up South Dallas community

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

If Casie Pierce wins her District 7 race, she would be the first open lesbian to serve on the Dallas City Council. She is challenging incumbent Carolyn Davis.

District 7 runs from the Mesquite border north of I-30 then dips south of the highway through Pleasant Grove, across parts of South Dallas including Fair Park and stopping just before North Oak Cliff.

There have been no openly-LGBT council members since Ed Oakley resigned to run for mayor in 2007. James Nowlin, another openly gay candidate, is challenging incumbent Angela Hunt in the District 14 race.

For a number of years, Pierce has been active in her Parkdale community, a section of Pleasant Grove with a large LGBT population. She worked on neighborhood cleanup and park projects with at-risk youth.

In 2005, Pierce founded Groundwork Dallas Inc., a nonprofit organization that has improved access to the Great Trinity Forest and cleaned up gateway neighborhoods. The group has built nature trails that connect with the Trinity River Audubon Center and the planned neighboring equestrian center. The group has also done landscaping around churches and on roadway medians, and, using grant money, it has employed at-risk neighborhood teens.

Pierce sees the possibility of bringing business to South Dallas by developing local eco-tourism in the forest surrounding the Trinity River.

“Lots of people go outside of Dallas to go mountain biking,” Pierce said, adding that most people don’t even know these trails are here.

Pierce said that much more could be done to develop the Great Trinity Forest into a recreational area. The 6,200 acres of forestland lies just four miles south of downtown encompassing an area four times the size of Manhattan.

While Pierce calls District 7 incumbent Carolyn Davis supportive of the work she’s done to clean up neighborhoods and attract more people to the district, “I’d be more aggressive” as the District 7 council representative, she said.

Pierce said that businesses should be given a reason to move into the district. With the opening of DART’s Green Line, she would work to bring development to the area as a council member, especially around the new Lawnview Station.

Pierce said that while she wasn’t expecting anything on the scale of the development that surrounds Mockingbird or Park Lane stations to come to her South Dallas district, she would like to see some new apartments and stores.

Pierce works as a grant writer. She cites that talent as a source for funding new projects that will stimulate and attract business to the district. Groundwork Dallas got started with an initial $100,000 grant from the National Park Service’s Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program.

As a City Council member, Pierce said she would be more aggressive in attracting grant money to her district for development.

And she believes the area is primed for business development. Pierce points to all of the vacant stores, offices and manufacturing facilities in the area. She said that while much of the opposition to beer and wine sales in last November’s election came from her district, she’d like to see a few carefully zoned stores inside the Dallas border that cater to the still-dry Mesquite market.

“Right now they’re shopping in Garland,” she said.

Pierce calls herself a fiscal conservative and said the city should stop giving away PIDs — public improvement districts that offer large tax advantages to locate businesses in certain areas. She mentioned the new Hunt Oil building downtown that she said was going to be in the exact same location whether they received a tax abatement or not.

“That’s $30 million,” Pierce said. “We shouldn’t bribe people to be here.”

Pierce said her strategy is to build a coalition of voters who want to see positive growth in the area. She said she hoped her fiscally conservative views would attract voters in the more conservative District 7 areas north of I-30. In her neighborhood clean-up campaigns, she has worked with a number of South Dallas pastors who she hoped would support her candidacy.

In addition to her grant writing career, Pierce has worked for the McKinney Avenue Transit Authority and still volunteers as a trolley operator when they need extra help for special events.

Her Parkdale neighborhood lies east of Fair Park and south of Military Parkway. She lives with her partner who manages a high-end restaurant.

District 7 incumbent Carolyn Davis was contacted for comment for this article, but had not responded by press deadline.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 4, 2011.

—  John Wright

Neighborhood activist takes on incumbent

Scott Griggs

Scott Griggs says District 3 Councilman Dave Neumann doesn’t have the neighborhood’s interests as a top priority

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

In campaigns, gas drilling is usually a state vs. federal government concern. In Dallas, it could be a deciding factor in a single council district race since challenger Scott Griggs has raised the issue in his race for city council against District 3 incumbent Dave Neumann.

The massive Dallas City Council District 3 covers more than 50 square miles — an area larger than the city of San Francisco.

Potential drilling sites include Red Bird Airport and Mountain Creek, an area that is closer to Highway 360 in Arlington than it is to Downtown Dallas or even to Bishop Arts in Oak Cliff.

A controversial technique called “fracking” — slang for “hydraulic fracturing” — would be used to extract gas from underlying shale. Opponents have warned fracking could be responsible for recent earthquakes in North Texas and that chemicals used in the process may pollute the ground water.

Runoff from this area feeds Mountain Creek Lake, a source of drinking water for the southern sector.

At the Sept. 22, 2010 council meeting, Neumann called the Barnett Shale drilling proposals “a sweetheart deal” and “a great deal for the taxpayers of Dallas.”

Many in his district, including Griggs, disagree.

“He’s ignoring the effects on property values, quality of life, our air, our water, our health,” Griggs said. “I’ve been asking for a moratorium.”

Griggs said he would like more study to see what the effects would actually be.

Neumann has delayed a vote on the issue until October, allegedly to prevent drilling from becoming an issue in the May election.

Griggs describes District 3 as the donut that surrounds Delia Jasso’s compact District 1 donut hole.

Jasso represents much of north Oak Cliff. Neumann represents an area that includes the heavily LGBT-populated neighborhoods of Stevens Park in North Oak Cliff and the Keist Park neighborhoods further south.

Griggs has been active with the Fort Worth Avenue Development Group and the Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce and served as Ed Oakley’s appointee to the Board of Adjustment.

He believes in development but criticizes the way Dallas often goes for big projects only. While new overpasses across the Trinity River would help Oak Cliff, Griggs said he worries about the cost of maintaining the faux suspension bridge being built.

In contrast to the way Dallas usually builds, Griggs said he prefers small projects and points to Jack’s Backyard as an example of how one person can help transform a neighborhood.

Kathy Jack, owner of Jack’s, said, “I couldn’t have gotten my business open without him.”

The city was preventing Jack from opening the restaurant without a paved parking lot.

Griggs explained that the area has flooding problems and no storm sewers. Paving the lot would have made flooding worse.

Jack finished the lot with gravel over a green product called Gravelpave that allows water to absorb into the ground.

“I went to the city of Dallas and they gave me 10 reasons why we couldn’t open,” Jack said. “He went to the city of Dallas with me and they approved my parking lot.”

“We always think that the biggest and sexiest development is best,” Griggs said. “But if you look at what happened with Bishop Arts, the city went in and invested $2.6 million.”

The city added parking, trees, wider sidewalks, crosswalks and enhanced pavement, he said, which made pedestrians feel welcome.

“Property values immediately adjacent to the improvements — 10 years ago the property was worth $1.7 million,” he said. “Now it’s worth $6.2 million. We’ve had 13 percent increase steady through two recessions.”

The city makes more money in Bishop Arts now on a Saturday night from taxes on alcohol sales than they did before with a year of property taxes, Griggs said.

He said that the success of the area is not being copied anywhere else in the city.

“Those are the types of revenue solutions we need to look at in these tough times,” he said. “Something Dallas has never looked at — small investments. We don’t do little. We’re all big and sexy.

“We think it’s an accident,” Griggs said of the success in Bishop Arts. “We think it’s quaint and it’s cute. It’s just an old streetcar neighborhood and we have those throughout the area.”

But, he said, the area’s success can be replicated.

Griggs mentioned that adding bike racks has brought additional traffic to Bishop Arts. He said he supports the plan to add bike lanes to streets and is a supporter of Bike Friendly Oak Cliff, a neighborhood group that encourages bike riding.

He also supports the extension of the trolley line across the Houston Street Viaduct and across Davis Street. Grants for the extension were obtained despite Neumann’s refusal to sign onto the project, Griggs said.

He charges Neumann with blocking other development in the area by moving money out of designated funds into the general fund, including rebuilding the pergola at Kiest Park and cleaning up the Hensley Field Naval Air Station, also within the district.

Griggs is married but counts the LGBT community as part of the base of his support.

Joseph Hernandez ran against Neumann in 2007. He served on the Landmark Commission and has known Griggs through their work at the city for eight years.

“The gay community is very tight knit and engaged and we know who our supporters are,” Hernandez said. “I believe he’s an advocate for us and would be very inclusive.”

Susan Melnick, who lives in District 3, said, “He and his wife are very progressive and he thinks outside the box.”
She called him thoughtful.

“Scott’s not going to just jump on the bandwagon,” she said. “He’s going to do his homework. ”

Melnick said she believes Griggs would always be very inclusive of the LGBT community.

“He’s always had gay and straight friends,” she said. “He’s very low-key. No ego there. I just adore him.”

Former Dallas Independent School Board member Jose Plata lives in the District and said he hasn’t been pleased with the representation of the incumbent and so is backing Griggs.

“Scott has a strong mind about strong neighborhoods,” Plata said. “Scott understands issues and would be a good spokesperson for the gay community.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Jan. 28, 2011.

—  John Wright