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Buzz Year in Review

Buzz Year in Review
Greg Houston

This year, our annual news rehash features some really good news. You ready? Here goes.

Jesus came back.

That's right: J.C., right here in Dallas. Really. We have that on good authority from a Dallas City Council member. Not only that, but anti-Jesus also made an appearance in 2013, according to one local politician who certainly should be able to recognize the devil when he sees him.

What that means, based on Buzz's many hours of theological studies (we've watched all the Omen movies scads of times), is that it's just about time for heaven on earth to arrive.

Sadly, we also have some bad news for you. As we understand these things, before that happens there's this thing called the rapture. It's very complicated stuff involving blue lights and James Franco, but the gist is that if you're reading this right now, you probably didn't make the cut on God's team.

Sorry about that.

But, hey, at least we'll have better music. So while we're stuck here waiting for things to go even worse to hell, plug in those earbuds, crank up the death metal and take a look at what sort of happened last year.


January

Out of the blue, into the black: The national Democratic Party kicks off a multi-million effort to turn Texas "blue." Called Battleground Texas, it will be spearheaded by Jeremy Bird, the national field director for President Obama's re-election campaign. The party "plans to engage the state's rapidly growing Latino population, as well as African-American voters and other Democratic-leaning constituencies that have been underrepresented at the ballot box in recent cycles," the website Politico reports. Eight months later, the party places pictures of Bird on milk cartons sold in Texas and offers a $10,000 reward to anyone with information on Battleground Texas' whereabouts.

Somebody call a doctor: After booting Planned Parenthood and assuming control of the Women's Health Program, the Texas Department of Health and Human Services takes down an error-riddled website listing the names of health care providers available under the new program. Among the errors is a provider who advised a pregnant patient to cut back on oats in her feed, keep her fetlocks wrapped and be sure she has plenty of clean straw for bedding.

But not if you're poor: A report sponsored by Texas Impact and Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas harshly criticizes Governor Rick Perry's refusal to take part in the federal government's plan to expand Medicaid. The report claims that Perry's move will result in 8,400 premature deaths each year and leave more than a million poor adults and children still without health coverage. Perry's office calls 8,400 fewer poor people "a decent start."

Panties in a twist: U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says the U.S. military will drop its ban on women serving in combat, prompting an outraged denouncement from local outraged denouncer Mark Davis. "This is a disaster," Davis says on his radio show on KSKY-AM 660 AM The Answer. "It is an outrage against humanity." It's also a "sick perversion," "pernicious," and "one of the worst ideas since the beginning of time," not unlike the act of giving Mark Davis a radio show.


February

Crime and punishment: Twice in one month, male thieves make snatch-and-grab raids on the Victoria's Secret shop in Mockingbird Station, the third and fourth such crimes to hit the store since Christmas, costing thousands of dollars in sexy sleepwear, sweatshirts and cotton panties. Store employees describe the culprit in one of the raids as a 6-foot-2, 300-pound man who has not yet been told of the Internet.

Menage a dummy: A Dallas man tells police that he was robbed of a $3,000 watch by two women he'd met on Craigslist who agreed to join him in a threesome — for free. The man tells officers that he wasn't suspicious that the women would offer a no-cost menage a trois on the online classified site. He goes on to describe the suspects but the officers can't hear him over their own laughter.

OMG: At a Dallas City Council meeting to discuss City Manager Mary Suhm's controversial secret deal to promote natural gas drilling on city parkland despite an earlier council vote banning it, council member Vonciel Hill leaps to Suhm's defense, comparing one of Suhm's chief critics, council member Angela Hunt, to Haman, the Old Testament enemy of Jews in ancient Persia.

Skipping ahead several chapters, Hill then goes on to compare Suhm to Jesus Christ.

"And then reach forward from the Hebrew scriptures to the New Testament scriptures, where those who said of Jesus Christ on Good Friday, 'Well, he's done, he's dead, we've got him now.' Wait three days, because Easter will come and there will be the resurrection. And those who pierced him on Good Friday are no longer known, and their names are not around, but 2,000 and some years later, the name of the Christ is still ringing forth.

 

"Miss Suhm, this is a Good Friday moment, but I guarantee you from the faith well into which I reach, your Easter is coming, and you will sail forth," concludes Hill, who fails to mention the story of Samson, who like Suhm brought down a building on his head and defeated enemies with the jawbone of an ass.


March

No. That's not how it works: First Baptist's Robert Jeffress, known for comparing homosexuality to bestiality, appears on the Trinity Broadcasting Network's Praise the Lord, where he unveils another view of gay sex, comparing God to a TV delivery man who tells a customer to plug his TV only into a 120-volt outlet. But the buyer, "because those are antiquated instructions" and "it's my TV and I can do whatever I want to with it," rams it into the 220-volt outlet. The TV then explodes. Parishioners who have visited Jeffress' home say the odd parable explains why every time he turns on his television his dog scampers from the room.

When Irish eyes are bloodshot: The former Greenville Avenue St. Patrick's Day Parade, rechristened the Dallas St. Patrick's Day Parade, draws thousands to the streets to celebrate medieval Christian evangelism by dressing in green plastic derby hats and feather boas and getting drunk. The parade, which a year earlier faced cancellation until Mavericks owner Mark Cuban stepped in with his checkbook, roars back in 2013 with greater involvement from the city, which promises a more "family friendly affair." Stricken parade fans protest and are reassured that "family friendly" simply means that floats from strip clubs are banned and parade watchers are encouraged to be mindful of children when whipping it out to piss on the street.

Benefits? What benefits?: Faced with rising numbers of sexually transmitted diseases among local teens, county health officials urge Dallas Independent School District expand its sex-ed curriculum to include information on sex. A district spokesman says DISD's abstinence-based approach does in fact include information about sex, but only "non-coital sexual behavior," affirming DISD's reputation for being led by a bunch of wankers.


April

Bright lights, big city: As part of a multi-part series aiming to identify the region's best neighborhoods, The Dallas Morning News declares Irving's Valley Ranch, soon-to-be-former home of the Dallas Cowboys, as the top spot for "urban sophisticates." The Irving Chamber of Commerce issues a statement assuring would-be Valley Ranch residents that "urban sophisticates" is not the same as plain old urban urban, although they have nothing against urban urbans and in fact count some of them among their best friends. The Morning News concludes its best neighborhoods project in June with a list of 10 winners, all of them suburban, only one — gritty, eclectic Sunnyvale – south of Interstate 30 and each of them noteworthy for relatively low populations of urban urbans.

Even the devil can cite scripture. Just watch us: Taking a page out of Vonciel Hill's playbook, The Big Book of Whaffuck, still-unindicted Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price gets biblical-ish as he wades into a running battle at DISD over Superintendent Mike Miles' plan to can some 60 underperforming principals. Miles' reforms have put him at odds with teachers unions and the school board's urban urban members, who are angered at the potential loss of patronage power.

To win support, Miles begins visiting southern Dallas churches with board President Lew Blackburn, prompting John Wiley Really-Where's-the-Damn-Federal-Indictment-Already Price to send letters to 75 pastors. "It has come to my attention that now Pontius Pilate plans to parade through many of your churches with a fake Jesus in tow. It amazes me, but I must say that I am not surprised. While Pilate may find no fault in the prisoner that he has been charged to judge, we do. Thankfully, this time, we get a chance to make it right," writes Price, who with his usual deft political touch casts southern Dallas ministers in the role of the Sanhedrin, who unlike Pilate found Jesus guilty. Price later explains that he was confused because Jews and Italians all look the same to him.

It's called commitment: In an enthusiastic show of support for Governor Rick Perry's calls for fewer business regulations, the town of West blows up.

Kindness is killing us: At a meeting of the Dallas City Council's Housing Committee, council member Dwaine Caraway suggests temporarily suspending city funding for homeless programs. The city's success in providing services, Caraway explains, has made Dallas the "homeless capital of the world."

"Other cities — Plano, DeSoto, Duncanville, Allen — they're taking advantage of us. [Their homeless] are coming here to Dallas, and they're not helping Dallas," Caraway says. He proposes that the city instead offer the homeless bus tickets to more appropriate urban locales, such as Valley Ranch and Sunnyvale.

 

Good Scouts: Responding to critics and corporate sponsors, the Irving-based Boy Scouts of America announces that it will end its ban on openly gay youth members, provided they're not actually sexually active, except in the usual cases of a little experimental goofing around in the ol' pup tent.

They call their tacos "falafels": East Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert, father of the 2010 "terror baby" panic, tells CSPAN's Washington Journal that Al Qaeda is operating camps in Mexico, training terrorists "to come in and act like they're Hispanic when they're radical Islamist." Gohmert contends the Arab terrorists, who like all brown-skinned, dark-haired people look just like Mexicans to him, are given intensive training in the use of leaf-blowers, a technology foreign to treeless Middle Eastern deserts.

He's a pistol: Tea Partying Texas Congressman Steve Stockman (R-Whackadoo City) tweets out an ironic new campaign slogan: "If Babies Had Guns, They Wouldn't Be Aborted." Stockman, who later in 2013 will announce a primary challenge to Senator John Cornyn, stepped into the national spotlight when he brought ancient rocker Ted Nugent, author of the 1977 ditty "Wang Dang Sweet Poontang," to President Obama's state of the union address in February. Abortion rights and women's groups for some reason do not counter with, "If vaginas had guns, Steve Stockman would be a dead virgin."


May

For God's sake, give the man some privacy: Hard-living country singer Randy Travis files suit in Travis County to stop the Department of Public Safety from publicly releasing a dashboard video taken during a 2012 arrest in which he was found bare-ass naked and passed out on a roadway near his home in Tioga. In an unprecedented move, hundreds of reporters and editors from across the state file friend of the court briefs supporting Travis' cause, pleading with the judge to save them from being required to look at his dangling junk.

Damn spell check: Embarrassed administrators at Irving High School recall copies of the school's 2013 yearbook after discovering that someone had changed the caption of a group photo of the junior varsity cheerleaders, identifying one of the girls simply as "Ugly Hoe." School officials promise to track down the culprit and force him or her to attend a remedial English class to learn the proper usage of "hoe" and "ho."

She is risen: After enduring weeks of criticism for her secret deal to push for natural gas drilling on city parkland, City Manager Mary Suhm announces she is leaving the job she held for eight years. She says she will spend her final days at City Hall clearing up any lingering doubts about ongoing projects and having dinner with a few loyal followers before finally freeing herself of the tribulations of City Hall and ascending to a better place, one filled with peace and joy — most likely a nice 3-2-2 split-level within walking distance of a Starbucks in Valley Ranch.

Other things are risen: As internecine warfare over Superintendent Mike Miles' reform efforts continues to rattle the foundations of DISD's Ross Avenue headquarters, trustees manfully step up to settle a question plaguing public education in Dallas: Should students be allowed to roam schools with untucked shirts? DISD administrators urge trustees to change the district's dress code to permit flapping shirttails. "Now, I am always one to say tuck in your shirts, but it was brought to my attention that if you are, uh, healthy, tucking in your shirt shows your healthiness and that's not what they wanted to do," says board President Lew Blackburn.

Calling overweight kids "healthy"? What's next? Not teaching sex in sex-ed class?

Oh, so that's a "sophisticate": To combat an epidemic of heroin abuse, police in Flower Mound create a program called "I.N. the Know" or Identify and Notify. I.N. the Know allows anonymous callers to finger teens they suspect are using heroin. Officers follow up with visits to the suspected junky's family members, giving them information on drug intervention programs and tips on securing wallets, car stereos and other small electronics. Flower Mound, coincidentally, is home to one of The Dallas Morning News' best neighborhoods, which the paper notes has "some of Lewisville ISD's best schools along with parks and green spaces that are hard to beat plus buttloads of really mind-blowing chiva."


June

It's a man's world, baby: Fort Worth state Senator Wendy Davis stages an 11-hour filibuster attempting to block passage of a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks and place stringent requirements on abortion clinics. Davis' planned 13-hour filibuster is cut short when Senate Republicans invoke a parliamentary rule known technically as "being assholes," accusing Davis of taking unfair advantage of the scientific fact that women can hold their pee way longer than men. Shouts from hundreds of Davis supporters stop the Senate from acting on the bill nevertheless, though Senate GOP leaders claim they managed to pass the law by a midnight deadline. They later admit they had altered a time stamp on the vote, invoking another parliamentary procedure, called "seriously, you guys are such dicks."

 

Lucky No. 1,000 gets Six Flags tickets: A somber day arrives in Texas as the state carries out its 500th execution since the death penalty was reinstated in 1982. State officials mark the grim landmark with a shower of balloons, confetti, a death's head-shaped cake and a sequined banner in the execution chamber that reads "500 Down, 283 to Go!" Survivors of inmate Kimberly Lagayle McCarthy are awarded coupons for a free entree at TGIF (of lesser or equal value to a purchased entree), a copy of the home version of the Texas Death Row Game and commemorative T-shirts that read, "My Kin Got the Needle and All I Got Was This Stupid T-shirt."

Maybe we should build a water wall: The dreaded bivalve Dreissena polymorpha continues its inexorable march toward Dallas as the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department announces the discovery of a juvenile zebra mussel in Lake Lewisville. Since sneaking into the Upper Midwest three decades ago, the invasive freshwater species has spread southward, taking low-paying filter-feeding jobs from hardworking native mussels, playing foreign mussel music loudly at all hours and clogging municipal piping systems with the tiny cotton T-shirts they insist on wearing in the water.

Doesn't have a prayer: John Dyer, a web developer at Dallas Theological Seminary, creates an app that translates the Bible into Texan by automatically replacing the second-person plural "you" with "y'all," making the Lord God Almighty sound like a total goober. (For example: "Let y'all's light shine before men in such a way that they may see y'all's good works.") Dyer says the app is a first step on his road to creating his programming masterwork: an app that translates the Bible into something Vonciel Hill and John Wiley Price can understand.

Looks like the Observer needs another source: Because of term limits, longtime neighborhood activist and City Hall critic Angela Hunt leaves the City Council and returns to her native Persia.


July

Only her hairdresser knows for sure: An anonymous right-wing blogger questions state Senator Wendy Davis' feminist bona fides, calling her a "surgically constructed human Barbie doll" and a "buxom blonde with excellent facial features and sleek, long, perfectly coiffed hair." The Real Wendy Davis blog also publishes photos that suggest the 50-year-old Davis is not a natural blonde and accuses her of violating a trademark issued to Fox News in 1995.

Eat it: Sugar junkies mark July 15 on their calendars with a red "T" as Twinkies return to lunch boxes for the first time since being pulled from store shelves after Irving-based Hostess went bankrupt. Private equity firms C. Dean Metropoulos and Apollo Global Management bought the Twinkies and other popular Hostess snack brands out of bankruptcy for $410 million and moved Hostess headquarters to Kansas City, Missouri. Boxes of the returning treats bear the slogan "The Sweetest Comeback In The History Of Ever," words whose cheerful optimism lifts the hearts of some 15,000 former union workers whose contracts were shredded in the bankruptcy.

For $25 mil, they can drop the Cowboys part: Cowboys owner Jerry Jones sells the naming rights to Cowboys Stadium to AT&T for a reported $17 million annually. The deal brings an expanded cell phone network and better Wi-Fi to the rechristened AT&T Stadium, Home of the Dallas Cowboys, allowing fans to more easily stream football games from better teams on their smartphones and tablets.

Desperadoes: Five female thieves stage a lightning raid on the Max Beauty Supply store on Westmoreland Road, scooping up armfuls of hair weaves and pepper spraying a cashier who pursued them before they made their getaway. Witnesses describe the women as a desperate-looking crew with ugly heads of short bad hair and split ends.

Maybe AT&T will buy the naming rights: Dallas Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson co-sponsors legislation that would establish a national historic park on the moon and protect the original landing sites of U.S. astronauts. "As commercial enterprises and foreign nations acquire the ability to land on the moon, it is necessary to protect the Apollo lunar landing sites for posterity," the bill reads. The bill's sponsors acknowledge the cost of creating the park would be high, but hope to recoup some of the massive expense by selling concessions at prices only slightly higher than those at a typical game at AT&T Stadium.


August

Father of the year: Facing near constant attacks from minority board members and stung by a leaked "internal audit" falsely accusing him of contracting irregularities, DISD Superintendent Mike Miles informs his staff that his wife and son are returning to their former home in Colorado so his son can attend seventh grade there instead. Miles denies that his troubles with the board have anything to do with the move. He merely did not want his son to grow up to be as dumb as a bag of hammers.

 

Rides from strangers: The school year gets off to a shocking start for some DISD parents caught off guard by a new district policy that uses assorted unmarked cars, taxis and vans to transport some children to school instead of traditional yellow buses. DISD administrators contend parents were notified about the new vehicles and that all the drivers were given supplies of lollypops to offer any students unnerved by the change.

Needles and the damage done: Public health officials sound the alarm over a measles outbreak in Tarrant County centered on Eagle Mountain International Church, a cornerstone in the evangelical empire of minister Kenneth Copeland, a proponent of faith healing and the discredited notion that the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine causes autism. In response to the outbreak, Eagle Mountain Pastor Terri Copeland Pearsons, his daughter, says the church will offer free vaccination clinics along with an appearance by Mary Suhm, who will perform a laying of hands.

Yellow Cab über alles: Mayor Mike Rawlings orders an investigation to find who placed an ordinance that would effectively outlaw Uber, a smartphone-based limo-dispatching service, on the City Council's consent agenda, which is normally reserved for routine items council members pass without bothering to read, such as leases for gas drilling on parkland. Rawlings' move comes after Dallas vice cops, whose usual work involves policing prostitution, issue more than 60 tickets to limo drivers who use the Uber service to connect with passengers. (The tickets are later dismissed after lawyers claim the police nailed the wrong whores.) City staff launched its anti-Uber campaign in early 2013 at the urging of Yellow Cab, a competing taxi company with a proud history of civic contributions, chiefly in the form of bribes to council members. Interim City Manager A.C. Gonzalez owns up to being the man behind the agenda item, leading council member Vonciel Hill to compare him to Peter, prince of the apostles.


September

Families are no fun: Local LGBT activists are crushed to learn that this year's gay pride parade will be more family friendly, with police vowing to strictly enforce laws against public nudity and lewd behavior, including displays of visible, clothed erections. Despite the threat, the parade goes off successfully, with police writing fewer Unlawful Boner tickets than ever before.

As-Salaam-Alaikum, y'all: The State Fair of Texas unveils the new Big Tex, the replacement for the beloved giant cowboy hat- and boot-wearing animatronic figure destroyed by an electrical fire at the end of the 2012 fair. Observers note the new Big Tex is a bit darker complexioned than the original, making him look somewhat Hispanic. Congressman Louis Gohmert demands that the Department of Homeland Security investigate the new mascot to ensure that he's not secretly a Muslim.

Caged heat: Texas rolls out ourtown4teens.org, a $1.2 million abstinence-only web campaign to combat teen pregnancy. Designed to be an information source for communities, the site includes helpful tips on how to construct separate pens for females in heat and safely caponize and geld rambunctious males.

There are other kinds of statements?: DISD trustees vote 5-3 to allow Superintendent Mike Miles to keep his job after an outside investigation by former U.S. Attorney Paul Coggins clears him of contracting irregularities. Coggins' report, however, finds Miles had a hand in writing the resignation letter of former Chief of Operations Kevin Smelker, which accused board members of intimidating staff and behaving unprofessionally. Smelker, who resigned in June, is among seven top administrators to leave the district in the first year of Miles' tenure. While Miles gets to keep his job, vengeful board members give him an unsatisfactory performance review and alter his contract to prohibit him from "making, publishing or assist in making or publishing false, vicious or malicious statements concerning any employee or member of the board," leaving that task to 1.24 million other residents of Dallas.


October

She does know only Texans can vote?: Buoyed by the outpouring of support she received for her filibuster of this summer's abortion legislation, Democrat Wendy Davis announces she is running for governor. When asked what she'll do if she wins, we'll let you know but so far no one has asked her that because even journalists aren't dumb enough to think she could actually win.

We know it was you, Louie: Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott turns to Facebook to solicit suggestions from supporters about how to make Texas better and is flooded with a wide variety of thought-provoking policies ranging from sealing Texas' borders and expelling all non-natives and Democrats to sealing Texas' borders and shooting all non-natives and Democrats. Abbott shuts the page down when it is robo-spammed by 17,437 messages calling for the removal of Muslims and Muslim-looking people from Texas soil, all from a pseudonymous author posting under the name ooeelay_omertgay.

 

The year of Deion: Too much news happened around the former Cowboys Hall of Fame defensive back and molder of young minds Deion Sanders in 2013 to adequately sum up in a paragraph, but here are some highlights: The co-founder of the tax-funded charter school Prime Prep won a custody battle against his ex-wife in March, built possibly the best high school basketball team in the nation in April (thanks to a little poaching), allegedly called a school staffer the "N word" in May, finalized his divorce in June and got his own "reality" show with his girlfriend on the Oprah Winfrey Network in July.

He was accused of assaulting a school administrator and called the school's co-founder a "snake," which led to him being fired as Prime Time coach in October. He was rehired almost immediately only to be fired again in December, causing a walkout by 75 students in protest. After his second firing, school co-founder and CEO D.L. "Snake" Wallace resigned, along with Superintendent Rachel King-Sanders, who had fired Sanders. She was replaced by former DISD trustee Ron Price. Current rumor has it that Sanders may soon be rehired by the school, presumably for more money, which Wallace said Sanders' lawyer demanded in a letter at the end of the school's first year. Oh, and Wallace says Sanders tried to choke him at a meeting in state Senator Royce West's office.

All of this leads to one inevitable question: Why isn't Deion working for DISD?


November

Know who else should shut up?: Parents and students at Richardson High School protest a PTA-sponsored assembly led by faith-based motivational speaker Justin Lookadoo — author of Dateable: Are You? Are They? and The Dateable Rules — whose website includes a list of "Dateable girls rules" that include "Be Mysterious. Dateable girls know how to shut up" and "Let him lead. God made guys as leaders. Dateable girls get that and let him do guy things ... Which means they don't ask him out!!!" The assembly is funded by a grant from a prominent whiskey maker, Lookadoo's girl-quieter of choice.

Maybe the author went to Richardson High: An op-ed published in SMU's student newspaper, The Daily Campus, sparks a national backlash from women's groups and victim advocates for suggesting that irresponsible drinking by females is partly responsible for a rash of campus rapes. "Is the blame being placed in the right place? Of course the perpetrators are the ones responsible for the crimes, but to solve the problem they can't be the only ones taking blame," author Kirby Wiley writes in a column headlined "Dateable Girls Know How to Hold Their Goddamn Hooch."

How will we know if it works?: Firing an opening salvo in the annual war on Christmas, conservative Christian group The American Family Association calls for a two-month boycott of Fort Worth-based Radio Shack because the electronics retailer's website doesn't mention the word Christmas in its holiday advertising. The boycott falls apart, however, when the AFA learns that none of its members nor anyone they know has ever heard of Radio Shack.

Assassination? Nope. Doesn't ring a bell: Thousands gather on Dealey Plaza on November 22 to officially celebrate the victory in A.D. 845 of Nominoe, the first king of all Brittany, over Frankish king Charles the Bald at the Battle of Ballon. Controversy mars the ceremony, however, when a competing group arrives to mark the same day in 1221 when Frederik II Hohenstaufen was crowned Roman-German Emperor. Hundreds of police are called out to keep the Frederik fans from disrupting the official Battle of Ballon Day event, only to be confronted by libertarian firebrand Alex Jones, host of an online radio program at InfoWars.com. Jones tells his listeners he expects to be martyred as he attempts to enter the plaza to mark November 22, 1809, the day Peregrine Williamson of Baltimore patented a steel pen. Sadly, that doesn't happen, and the ceremonies go off without a hitch with Mayor Mike Rawlings delivering a moving 11-minute speech praising Nominoe's bravery that fails to mention any of the other significant events drawing crowds to the JFK Memorial on a cold and rainy November day.


December

Birds of a feather: The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development accuses elected Dallas officials and city staff of breaking federal housing and civil rights laws and worsening racial segregation across the city. A four-year HUD investigation finds that the city misused federal grants intended to promote construction of affordable housing downtown and instead shifted low-income housing to the city's southern sector. News of the investigation moves downtown Dallas up three notches in The Dallas Morning News' ranking of the region's best neighborhoods.

 

Pull the other one: After years of study and debate, Dallas City Council votes 9-6 to approve regulations setting stringent limits on natural gas drilling in the city. Industry spokesmen describe the ordinance as a virtual "moratorium" on fracking. Environmentalists and opponents of drilling on city parkland declare the vote a long-awaited victory and a new day for Mother Earth in Dallas, prompting a bout of uncontrollable giggling, winking and elbow nudging among nearby city staff members.

Too bad it's not contagious: Tarrant County District Judge Jean Boyd sentences 16-year-old Keller resident Ethan Couch to 10 years probation and a stint in a $450,000-per-year treatment center after the teen pleads guilty to killing four people in a drunken traffic accident in June. The sentence comes after Couch's attorneys offered what is called the "affluenza defense," arguing that because Couch was raised a rich, drunk, spoiled asshole he should not be held responsible for being a rich, drunk, spoiled asshole. The sentence prompts national outrage, prompting Morning News editorial writer Mike Hashimoto to write "it's far better to come from that wealthy place where actions seldom have those nasty old consequences." Those, he concludes, are for "other folks" unfortunate enough not to live in one of the region's best neighborhoods.

Time is money: As part of a massive reconstruction of Lyndon B. Johnson Freeway, road planners unveil LBJ Express, toll lanes that allow drivers to bypass congestion on the city's busiest stretch of freeway. LBJ Express features tolls that vary with traffic demand, a scheme that causes headaches when rush-hour drivers learn they were charged $375 to make the 3-mile trip between Preston Road to Greenville Avenue. TxDOT blames the high tolls on Uber, which it hired to manage the variable fares.

Happy New Year: Dwaine Caraway and Sheffie Kadane, members of City Council's Public Safety Committee, urge Dallas police to become more aggressive in using civil forfeiture laws to seize cars in which officers find marijuana. We'd tell you more about that and other things in 2013, but right now, Buzz has to run and catch a bus.

Greg Houston

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