Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst told attendees of the Texas Association of Business’s annual meeting Feb. 7 that he believes education reform must be a part of any special session on public school finance. There appears to be a looming disagreement between the governor’s office and the legislative leadership on whether the school finance special should only pertain to taxes and the minimum required to remedy the court verdict or whether the special session should also tackle education reform.
“In talking with our senators, I think most feel that if we’re going to put new money into public education, there needs to be some reforms. Particularly, dramatically increasing accountability, both academic and financial, which I don’t think is really controversial but is very helpful. We’ve got to lower our dropout rates,” Dewhurst said. He described the current situation as a "window of opportunity" and warned that the ability to pass education reform might wane once the court challenge has been solved.
When asked about the work of former Comptroller John Sharp’s commission, Dewhurst said, “In my talking with a number of the members [of the commission], I don’t know that there’s a consensus yet on where they are. Some of them are supporting this gross receipts tax. Some want to see an expansion of the sales tax to all business services with the exception of food and medical [care]. So I don’t know if there’s a consensus today, but we’re open in the Senate to look at any recommendation.” Dewhurst noted that the senate passed a bill to expand the sales tax to services in 2003 but noted that the concept later ran into more resistance.
Dewhurst has not ruled out a plan requiring a constitutional amendment. “One of the elements that several senators have recommended to me is to go in and lower local school property taxes by some meaningful amount, that even after local enrichment there still is a reduction, and then propose a constitutional amendment which would provide another huge reduction in local school property taxes.”
President BushWhile George W. Bush has his critics on the Left, he also is losing support among conservatives. A Wall St. Journal poll revealed that more than 50% of those who identify themselves as conservatives would like to see most of our troops out of Iraq by the end of this year.
A recent article in the Christian Science Monitor entitled "Conservatives ask: Is Bush one of us?" quotes a number of conservatives critical of Bush’s domestic spending policies and his recent State of the Union address.
Nonetheless, rank-and-file voters don’t seem to share those views. The Monitor story notes: "A Gallup poll of State of the Union watchers, two-thirds of whom were Republicans, showed a 75 percent positive rating, including 48 percent who were very positive."
What those poll results suggest is that, while conservative activists may be increasingly disenchanted with Bush’s policies, mainstream Republican voters still are standing behind their man.
Mike CantrellWell-placed sources tell DallasBlog that County Commissioner Mike Cantrell believes that County Judge Margaret Keliher was behind a story in the January issue of D Magazine which was highly critical of Cantrell for his alleged role in a flawed Dallas County computer contract awarded to an IT consulting company called InfoIntegration.
The article in question is entitled "The Schemer" (link here) and focuses on an IT consulting company called InfoIntegration headed by Tonya Brenneman which (the article maintains) was unqualified to develop and manage such a sophisticated computer network for the county. Three members of the Court, including County Judge Keliher, voted in favor of the contract. Commissioner John Wiley Price opposed it. Commissioner Mayfield was absent for the vote.
Margaret KeliherThe D Magazine article refers to the IT contract as a "$3million lemon" and puts much of the blame on Commissioner Cantrell who, according to the article "played a hands-on role in securing the contract for InfoIntegration". Cantrell disputes that and believes that Keliher, one of the few county officials to come out looking good in the article, set him up to take the fall for problems with the new computer system.
In her first term in office, Keliher has managed to alienate all of her fellow Republicans on the Commissioners Court. The relationship had deteriorated so badly that the Republican Commissioners tried to recruit State Representative Fred Hill to run against Keliher in the Republican primary. Hill seriously considered making the race but ultimately decided to run for re-election to the House instead.
Keliher’s only remaining ally on the Commissioners Court is Democratic Commissioner John Wiley Price. The relationship between the Republican commissioners and Keliher was already strained prior to the D Magazine article. But now, it is completely ruptured, with Cantrell particularly incensed over what he believes was Margaret Keliher’s role in that negative story about him.
Right now, the Republicans control the Commissioners Court by a 4 to 1 margin. If the Democrats were to defeat Republican Ken Mayfield in November and hold two seats on the five member Court, longtime Courthouse observers wouldn’t be surprised to see Margaret Keliher do a reverse Carole Strayhorn and move from the Republican Party into the Democratic Party in 2007.
Meanwhile, don’t expect relations between Keliher and her fellow Republicans on the Court to improve anytime soon.
Tarrant DA Tim CurryTarrant County DA Tim Curry today endorsed the candidacy of Toby Shook for the Republican nomination for District Attorney in Dallas. In his endorsement letter, Curry made the following statement: "I wholeheartedly support Toby Shook for Dallas County District Attorney because he is supremely qualified, and he has the temperament, the character, a sound vision and a desire for innovation that will make him a powerful leader." Shook is locked in a very tight race for the Republican nomination with former Judge Vick Cunningham. Former Judge Dan Wyde also is a candidate in the Republican primary for the DA post.
And a reason why on-line newspapers are here to stay: They're immediate with the news.
According to w.com, a veteran reporter was in critical condition Tuesday after unidentified gunmen walked into a newspaper building with automatic rifles and shot up the lobby before tossing two grenades into the newsroom in the Mexican border city of Nuevo Laredo, the newspaper editor said. "Nuevo Laredo continues to be the battleground for drug cartels," said Ramón Cantu Deandar, editor of El Mañana and an afternoon daily, La Tarde. The attorney general’s office and the Mexican military have taken over the investigation.
Town Hall meetings intended to gather public input for the city's November bond election are at the half-way point and priorities are beginning to emerge. The top three are police, police and police. After that come streets, drainage and parks. But there also appears to be a desire for a larger bond program that addresses what are perceived as a long neglected city infrastructure. Last night's meeting in Gary Griffith's conservative east Dallas district seems to have been representative.