Axios Dallas

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Happy Thursday! You can cross the finish line.

🧥 Today's weather: Brrr… temperatures are dropping to the 40s.

🎵 Sounds like: “A Change Is Gonna Come”

🦠 Situational awareness: After several weeks of decline, the number of COVID-related hospital admissions in Dallas County is up slightly. With the holidays coming, be as vigilant as possible.

Today's newsletter is 857 words — a 3-minute read.

1 big thing: Mayor worries Dallas could get "left in the dust"

The brutalist Dallas city hall building
This is where the magic happens. Photo: Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

Dallas must become more competitive regionally, or else the city will be left “in the dust of new construction to the north,” Mayor Eric Johnson said.

  • The mayor laid out ambitious plans for the city over the next year during yesterday’s annual state of the city address.

Why it matters: City leaders want to bring in more tech businesses. The city is also considering overhauling the convention center while also bidding for the 2026 World Cup final.

The intrigue: Dallas does not have a strong mayor system, which means the city manager runs city hall. The mayor, who is the only member of the City Council elected at-large, is much like a chair of the board, and the city manager is the CEO.

What he’s saying: “As someone who was born and raised in Dallas … and as someone who is raising three children here, I’ve never been more optimistic about our future,” the mayor said during the address.

Among the mayor’s stated goals:

  • Johnson wants comprehensive ethics reform, including creating an office of the inspector general.
  • The mayor also hopes to develop a sunset review process for city programs and departments. This would be similar to the process used by the state.
  • Johnson stressed the need to bring new foreign trade offices to Dallas.
  • He also wants to implement the newly approved economic development policy to draw businesses to southern Dallas.
For residents
  • He announced a workforce czar to implement recommendations to educate and grow a local workforce instead of just attracting employees from other locales.

The city is also initiating a “Dallas is for Families” initiative by creating a task force to make the city more family-friendly. It’s not clear yet what that will entail.

2. 🔎 The Department of Education is investigating Southlake

An apple core with a Black student and a white student silhouetted on each side.
Maura Losch/Axios

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights is investigating allegations of discrimination in Southlake’s school district.

  • The department notified Carroll Independent School District’s officials that it has opened three investigations into complaints about discrimination against students based on their race, gender and national origin, according to NBC News.

Why it matters: The wealthy suburban school district has been at the forefront of the ongoing national battle over how to teach students about racial issues.

Context: District officials promised to make sweeping changes three years ago, after a video of Southlake high school students chanting the N-word went viral — though those changes never came.

What they’re saying: “Our focus will always be what is best for our students as we prepare them for their next steps in their educational journey,” Karen Fitzgerald, a Carroll spokesperson, told NBC.

The bottom line: These investigations can take months or years, so the Southlake saga is far from over.

Read the full story.

3. Beto distances himself from Biden

Beto surrounded by cameras and microphones
Beto is back in front of the cameras and microphones. Photo: Jordan Vonderhaar/Getty Images

Days after officially launching his new campaign for governor, Beto O’Rourke signaled he’ll avoid the playbook that failed Terry McAuliffe in Virginia, telling Axios Austins Nicole Cobler, "Trump doesn’t live in Texas. Biden doesn’t live in Texas. Thirty million of us are what’s most important to me."

Driving the news: O’Rourke called on President Joe Biden to place a greater emphasis on protecting voting rights, sketching a framework for his strategy in what’s widely seen as an uphill fight to unseat Gov. Greg Abbott.

  • On Bidens slipping poll numbers, O’Rourke said: "Who the hell knows where people are going to be a year from now?"
  • He praised the president for his ability to push the infrastructure package through.

Of note: O’Rourke raised $2 million in the first 24 hours of his campaign.

The big picture: The former congressman’s decision to enter the race sets up one of the most gripping contests for the 2022 election cycle — a matchup with national interest and significance.

Read the full story.

4. 🗞 Burnt Ends: Bite-sized news bits

Illustration of the Deep Ellum neon sign, which says "Burnt Ends" and "Axios" instead of "Deep Ellum" and "Texas."
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

🏈 Former SMU football coach Bobby Collins died at 88 years old. (DMN)

🍆 The state board of education rejected proposed sex education material, so now school districts can decide for themselves how to teach new health requirements. (FOX4)

🏛️ Dallas County officials are setting up a “backlog court” with federal COVID-19 relief money to reduce the jail population. (KERA)

🐴 The wife of a 48-year-old COVID patient in the ICU is suing a Burleson hospital to urge doctors to treat him with ivermectin. (WFAA)

🐻 The Big 12 fined Baylor $25,000 after students and fans stormed the field at the end of the school’s recent victory of Oklahoma. (NBC DFW)

💬 Quote du jour:
"Usually, people in Ryan’s position would choose to fight. Instead, he has chosen to join them."
— Head of the House Democratic Caucus, state Rep. Chris Turner, on longtime Democratic state Rep. Ryan Guillen switching parties. (Texas Tribune)

5. 🔥 Ask Axios Dallas your burning questions!

Illustration of a red pegasus with a word balloon coming out of its mouth, and a question mark in the balloon.
Photo illustration: Allie Carl/Axios. Photo: Explore Dallas History via Flickr

Have you always wondered what will happen to that empty lot in your neighborhood? Wonder why your trash pickup schedule is the way it is? Curious where that old Cowboys backup is now?

  • Whether you’re new to town or you’ve lived here your whole life, you have some questions about the city around you.
  • We want to answer them.

Submit your questions here, and we’ll answer as many as we can in upcoming newsletters.

Our picks:

🐘 Mike is reading this fascinating Atlantic story about the the most important animal-rights case of our time.

🎧 Tasha is catching up on the Southlake podcast.

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