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We're Denton Dammit: March 1

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Lucinda Breeding

Denton luminaries sometimes end up in surprising places. Local science fiction writer Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam (whose delightful name sounds like something that J.K. Rowling would dream up over her favorite tea) was a special guest for the "Stay Late" program at Dallas Theatre Center's Saturday night performance of Frankenstein. Stufflebeam, who won a 2016 Nebula Award for her short story "The Orangery," joined cast member Chris Sanders after the dark, brooding play inspired by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's novel. In their chat with the audience, Stufflebeam smartly noted the themes of fear and depression as the stem cells that grow into our most towering monsters.  

During Tuesday's work session, the Denton City Council seemed favorably inclined toward the creation of a cultural district. What the heck is a cultural district? It's a program administered by the Texas Commission on the Arts, and it guides cities through the process of creating a  district that is most often anchored by a landmark building — a theater, music hall or arts center — that stimulates economic and social activity, and gives a bump to tourism, jobs and the preservation of historic buildings. 

Council members Keely Briggs and Dalton Gregory said they supported pursuing the commission's program, while Don Duff said he preferred pursuing a local initiative. Council member Sara Bagheri said the council needs a lot of buy-in from stakeholders — artists, musicians, businesses and residents. "I don't think we have to rush," Bagheri said.  

Interestingly enough, Economic Development Director Caroline Booth's presentation on cultural districts listed "gentrification" at the bottom of a group of local challenges when creating a district. The Texas Commission on the Arts put gentrification at the top of its list of local challenges. 

Denton is bidding farewell to two leaders in the local initiative for LGBT equality. Kathryn Winters has held leadership positions in Outreach Denton, the city's LGBT resource, and in Denton Trans-Cendence, a local chapter of Trans-Cendence International. The nonprofit supports transgender residents. Winters is returning to the San Francisco Police Department, where she had worked before moving to Denton. 

The Rev. Pamela Wat, who probably would demure if you credited her with the founding of Outreach Denton, will be leaving her post as the pastor of Denton Unitarian Universalist Fellowship for Delaware with her husband, Erik. Wat guided the small congregation to its largest membership, and lent her leadership to that difficult moment when the fellowship went from holding one Sunday service to two. Wat has been a key player in Denton's interfaith activity, and as she corralled the leaders who went on to create Outreach Denton, she gave a clear reason: She didn't want to officiate the funeral of a local gay teen lost to suicide. 

Tracy Murphree isn't just the Denton County sheriff. He's God's servant, who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. Or that's one interpretation you might take from the the Bible verse Murphree includes on his letterhead (Romans 13:4). As long as he remembers that he was elected to serve Denton County, state and federal laws — which seem vanilla compared to charging ahead on orders to mete out divine wrath — we're fine with the Bible verse. 

It looks like U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess wants battlefield medicine to be available in some civilian spaces. Congress just passed House Bill 880 — the Mission Zero Act, which requires the Department of Health and Human Services to award grants to enable military trauma care providers to train civilian trauma center staffs. The bill suggests that the cross training will equip select emergency room staffs to deliver care that medical teams specialize in — and that usually means tending to soldiers wounded in combat.

"These grants will keep our military trauma preparedness high while increasing the capacity and expertise of these domestic trauma centers across the United States," Burgess said in a statement. "Simply put, the Mission Zero Act is a win for both civilian patients and military doctors."

It's hard not to associate this bill with mass shootings involving military-style assault weapons that fire high-velocity ammunition — which, by design, shred human tissue, chew up internal organs and shatter bones. For another thing, it looks as if  hospital CEOs across the country have told lawmakers their employees aren't prepared to save people who have been shot with rifles designed for combat. 

It's tax time. United Way of Denton County has a program called the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance to help families keep more of what they earn. Just last year, local United Way volunteers, through the volunteer tax program and, helped connect 1,500 Denton County taxpayers to more than $2 million in tax refunds while saving them an estimated $300,000 in unnecessary filing fees. The leadership at the United Way says that means more money coming back into Denton County and being spent at local businesses. 

If you made $58,000 a year or less in 2017, you can file your taxes with the help of the volunteer program. There are nine sites in the county where volunteers will help you.  Assistance is available for Spanish speakers, too. 

Parting Shot

"I'll save you a couple of minutes: Don't waste your money on homeopathic garbage." 

—Denton resident Deanna Wood

Denton Dammit is an old-fashioned gossip column about people, places and things in and around Denton. Send your submissions to Lucinda Breeding at