On Tuesday, the school board for the Dallas Independent School District was briefed on the status of the accruement of costs from its contract with FedEx Kinkos. The deal was signed in 2004 and has the district outsourcing its copying and printing costs to the company. Deputy Superintendent Ron Peace, who oversees DISD business services, gave an evaluation to board members of the total costs for each of the last three years since the FedEx Kinkos deal was signed with the district. No action on renewing the contract was taken on Tuesday, though Peace did say that action on renegotiation of the contract could take place as early as April. If no action is taken by the board, the contract will expire.
District officials have been disappointed in the contract that was apparently supposed to reduce copying and printing costs. Instead, costs have nearly quadrupled.
John Mauldin is an Arlington-based economic analyst who writes a widely-circulated, weekly commentary on the economy. He also publishes a "guest letter" each week from a respected economist. This week John turns to Paul Kasriel, Director of Economic Research for the Northern Trust Company, to write on a subject we have covered extensively here at DallasBlog – the housing bubble.
Mr. Kasriel’s column is entitled "Is Dave Leonhardt A Renter?" He warns that the U.S. economy has become far too dependent for its economic well-being on a constantly rising, residential real estate market.
Those of us who lived through the housing market collapse in Texas during the 1980s remember homeowners who were under water on their homes (i.e., the value of their homes being less than what was owed on them) simply giving up their keys and walking away from their obligations in the wake of the oil industry and financial institutions’ collapse in the Southwest. Could it happen nationally this time? If Paul Kasriel is to be believed (and his statistical information is compelling), "housing today is more highly leveraged than it was in 1989, just before the last bicoastal housing bust occurred."
I urge our readers to read John Mauldin’s latest "Outside the Box" on the housing bubble by Paul Kasriel. Link here.
Tonight at 7, the polls will close. But there’s another side of Texas politics that does not get much ink. Right after the polls close, each major party holds a precinct convention. The precinct convention elects delegates to the county or senatorial district conventions, which in turn elect delegates to the state convention. But the precinct conventions also consider resolutions. These resolutions are often considered by the party platform committee, so interest groups often encourage their members to submit resolutions at their party’s conventions.
Here are some of the resolution topics we’ve heard about so far: * Opposition to raiding the Permanent School Fund as a method of finance for expanded state government (Americans for Prosperity and several other conservative groups) * Support of appraisal and revenue caps (Americans for Prosperity) * Opposition to cloning (pro-life groups) * Ending taxpayer-funded lobbying (Americans for Prosperity) * Supporting restrictions on the use of eminent domain for economic development purposes (Americans for Prosperity) * Increased funding for public education and teacher pay raises (teacher unions) * Cap superintendent salaries to the governor’s salaries (Katy Citizen Watchdogs) * Prohibit homeowners associations from foreclosing on property (Katy Citizen Watchdogs)
Today seems to be a big day for polls. The ABC News Poll takes a look at Sen. John McCain and Sen. Hillary Clinton and finds that they are formidable contenders for the Presidency but that each have different strengths and weaknesses. Hillary has stronger support from her base while McCain has similar support across all sectors and much lower negatives.
Police say this Arlington woman wasn't clowning around when she tried to hire a hit man to off her husband.
She's under arrest now, and I'm thinking of a famous line from Winston Churchill when a woman told him that if she were his wife, she'd put poison in his cup. He replied that if he were her husband, he'd gladly drink it.
Clay Robinson has an excellent article in today’s Houston Chronicle about the Sharp Commission’s proposed solution to the school finance quandary. According to the Chronicle story, Sharp will propose a "revised franchise tax which would apply to limited liability partnerships, as well as corporation … It would help pay for a cut of about one-third in local property taxes spent on school operations."
The Sharp plan "will net about $4 billion a year more than the current franchise tax" while cutting property taxes by $5.8 billion a year." The difference would be made up by the utilization of a portion of the estimated $4.3 billion surplus. The Chronicle story also mentions that "some commission members want to raise the sales tax, which he (Sharp) opposes."
Gov. Perry reportedly has signed on to the Sharp Plan while opposition is coming from some auto dealers, law firms and other professionals, along with companies headquartered outside of Texas.
With the Governor’s support of the Sharp plan, chances improve that the Texas legislature may finally be able to reach an agreement on a school finance alternative to our excessive reliance on high property taxes and the Robin Hood redistribution of local property taxes.
The independent auditors presented their final report on the Dallas Police Department's fake drug scandal from back in 2001, and it appears as though the DPD is doing the bare minimum to comply with the auditor's recommendations. Some city council members would even like to see an independent panel continue to audit the Dallas Police narcotics division.
The auditor's report restates the obvious – the D.A.’s office did not require lab testing of drugs, there was a failure to follow standard operating procedures and a lack of supervision.
Last year auditors said the Dallas Police narcotics division hadn't fixed problems with handling confidential informants identified after the infamous 2001 fake drug scandal. They now say some but not all of their recommendations have been implemented.
As the report from the auditors notes, eight narcotics officers signed documents claiming field tests were positive for drugs when they turned out later to be fake, but only three of them - disgraced officers Mark De la Paz, Eddie Herrera and David Larsen - were ever fired and indicted, and only one, De la Paz, convicted. Which should be of great comfort to all those who spent time in state prison because of bogus busts and prosecution.
And one of the officers involved in the scandal - Officer Larry Moses - who despite there being excessive evidence of inconsistent testimony regarding a drug bust (first saying he was present, then not, then had contact with defendant, then not, then saying he was involved, then saying not) was put back on duty and even on special assignment with the narcotics unit. He has since been returned to duty as a patrolman in the Southeast division.
Further, the department hasn't addressed all of the problems with its handling of confidential informants. The DPD says it will record conversations with snitches "when possible," but as Scott Henson at our favorite legal affairs blog, Grits for Breakfast, points out, it means inevitably "when something improper is discussed those conversations won't be recorded. It's a loophole you could drive a truck through. What's more, the department failed to implement all the recommendations, and continues to use officers who helped convict innocent people in the first place."
Councilman Ron Natinsky said he was concerned about ongoing errors in field testing of drugs, despite improvements that saw only 40 false positives of almost 10,000 field tests in 2005, using the new guidelines and training.
“Of the 10,000 field tests, 40 (that were false positives) is a small percentage, but it’s significant if you’re on the receiving end of a false positive” Natinsky said.
Councilman Mitch Razansky, not one to recommend spending city money lightly, wondered if the city couldn't engage the independent auditing firm - Munsch Hardt Kopf & Harr PC - to continue ongoing work watching over the Dallas Police Department.
“I feel confident our police chief today is doing what should have been done a long time ago. But is there anyone left in the department that should have been investigated more than they have? My biggest concern, has anyone gotten away with anything? You just cannot answer that question. So I wish the investigation would have gone deeper, but this is fantastic. But sorry to hear that maybe some people may be getting by with something,” he said.
Council member Angela Hunt echoed Razansky.
“I agree we should continue to have independent panel looking at this … to once again secure the public trust. My recommendation is after the trials we do have independent panel review transcripts and evidence to ascertain whether currently there are people in our police department there who shouldn’t be,” she said.
What happens when two 800-pound gorillas climb into bed together? Some thoughts on the marriage between the Cowboys and The Ticket -- and a dismissal of concerns that somehow the radio station will now lose its "sports edge'' from Mike Fisher in the "School of Fish.'' ...