By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Checking in: The Dallas City Council votes 11-2 to pay $42 million to purchase more than eight acres of land to build a controversial $500 million-plus convention center hotel. Critics complain the land's value on county tax roles had jumped from $7.5 million to more than $36 million just days before the council agreed to the purchase. "Wow, from $7.5 million to $42 million in just a few days. Man, lucky we nailed that one when we did. Property prices around here are going nowhere but up, up, up," says the city's new chief real estate negotiator, former DISD finance administrator David Rastellini.
Little China boy: Mayor Tom Leppert returns home from China, where in May he led a local contingent intent on boosting trade ties between the city and the Asian economic giant. Leppert terms the trip productive and says it inspired hopes of increased employment in Dallas' vital tourism, personal services and massage industries along Harry Hines Boulevard. "Lemme tell you, we made a lot of contacts while we were over there," a smiling, relaxed and oily mayor tells reporters.
One born every minute: Voters narrowly approve a $1.35 billion bond issue for new school construction and renovation in Dallas Independent School District. Supporters hail the decision as a vote of confidence for leadership in a district tainted by reports of poor accounting and business ties between the school system and school board members. The bonds will finance construction of 15 schools, "give or take," says Superintendent Michael Hinojosa, adding "everything's comin' up roses for us from here out. Yes, indeedy, it's all smoooooth sailin' from here on out."
Dead men walking: The AirHogs, a new minor league baseball franchise in Grand Prairie, give away a funeral as part of a team promotion. Texas Rangers President Nolan Ryan dismisses the giveaway as a cheap stunt. "That's why they're the minors and we're the Bigs. We give fans a funeral 162 times a year," Ryan says.
Sooo-eee!: The Texas AgriLife Extension Service announces that it plans to field-test an oral contraceptive for use on wild hogs as part of a $1 million effort by the Texas Agriculture Department to control the animals, blamed for costly damage to cropland throughout the state. The proposal draws fire from Governor Rick Perry's office and conservative ministers, who say that as part of the state's emphasis on abstinence-only sex education, the pigs should instead be counseled to avoid sex. Extension service researchers announce that they will begin using helicopters to blanket rural areas with leaflets that tell feral hogs to "just oink no" and "true rutting waits."
Gutter ball: Cementing Arlington's reputation as the sports hub of the metroplex, the International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame announces plans to move from St. Louis to the Tarrant County suburb. The move, a city spokesman estimates, could bring an additional $832 in tourism revenue to the region annually.
Cull the litter: Texas tied New Mexico for the nation's highest teen birthrate in 2005, according to a report released in June by the Anna E. Casey Foundation. In a controversial effort to lower the rate—62 births per 1,000 girls ages 15 to 19—the Texas AgriLife Extension Service announces it will begin spiking cans of Red Bull and Monster energy drinks with oral contraceptives and distributing them freely at Texas shopping malls and Sonic drive-in restaurants. "We had a bunch of the stuff just lying around," an agency spokesman says.
Pay-per-view: The Transportation Security Administration announces that it has installed two "millimeter wave whole body imaging" machines at DFW Airport over the objections of privacy advocates who say the new technology is capable of producing images that are too revealing. Use of the devices will strip air travelers of the "last vestiges of their dignity," a spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union complains. "Well, duh," a TSA spokesman tells reporters, "that's in our charter."
July - September
Not ready for close-up: Outraged Dallas County commissioners move to reverse a decision by Sheriff Lupe Valdez to allow the Discovery Channel to film a documentary at the county jail. Valdez is accused of arranging the work as an election-year stunt, a charge Valdez denies. A court order eventually halts production of Dallas County: A Jewel of a Jail.
Texas two-step: The state unveils a new anti-divorce program that waives marriage license fees for couples who take pre-wedding classes instructing them how to sustain healthy marriages. The "Twogether in Texas" program will provide $15 million in federal grants to social service agencies providing the classes, which will cover such topics as "Foreplay and Cuddling: How to Endure It," "Beer Guts: Just More of Him to Love" and "Can't a Man Just Watch the Friggin' Game in Peace."
Star-crossed: County Commissioner John Wiley Price accuses fellow Commissioner Ken Mayfield of racism when the latter criticizes the work of the county's central ticket collection office, calling the office a "black hole." Price and Judge Thomas Jones, who are black, say Mayfield's analogy, a reference to an astrophysical phenomenon, is racially insensitive. Mayfield says he intended no reference to race and suggests that Price "stop being so damned uppity."
Jah love: Police discover an indoor marijuana farm at the vacant Wilmer-Hutchins High School. DISD officials, flooded with calls inquiring about future enrollment and transfers to the school, which is slated for renovation as part of the DISD bond program, vow to take steps to better secure the property. In the meantime, a district spokesman urges residents to "just chill, dudes. It's like 'Whoa, people, why is everyone all up in our faces?' It's like a total buzzkill."