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LAY AND SKILLING CONVICTED
by Scott Bennett    Thu, May 25, 2006, 01:17 PM

Former ENRON CEO's Jeff Skilling and Ken Lay have been convicted.  Lay was convicted on all charges while Lay was convicted on 19 of 28 counts.

Click here to read more ...

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DALLAS POLICE OFFICER UNDER INVESTIGATION FOR ALLEGED SEXUAL ASSAULT
by Trey Garrison    Thu, May 25, 2006, 12:49 PM

The Dallas Police Department placed Officer Charles Jeffers on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation of his reported involvement of an alleged sexual assault that occurred while he was off duty. The incident reportedly occurred on Tuesday, May 23, 2006, and was reported to police the next morning.

The incident did not occur during the course of Jeffers performing his duties as a Dallas police officer. Jeffers was placed on administrative leave last night.

Jeffers has been with the Dallas Police Department since April of 2003 and is assigned to the Southeast Patrol Division.

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DALLAS CITY ATTORNEY TEAM EARNS NATIONAL AWARD FOR WORK ON GUN CRIME
by Trey Garrison    Thu, May 25, 2006, 12:41 PM

There's a right way and a wrong way to deal with gun crime. The wrong way, as we've seen, is mucking about with law-abiding gun owners. The right way is to punish those who commit crimes using guns.

From our Credit Where It's Due department, the Dallas City Attorney's office has been doing things the right way, it seems.

According to Dallas Police Department statistics, in 2001, a violent gun crime occurred once every hour in Dallas, and 75% of those crimes were being committed by repeat offenders. In 2001, the Dallas City Council approved formation of the Community Prosecution Team to partner with community and law enforcement agencies to develop long-term, community based solutions to improve quality of life problems. One of the programs of the team was the establishment of the Dallas Probation/Parole Re-entry Education program.

“In the three years since that initial investment by the City of Dallas, and because of the collective efforts of our partner agencies, we have seen a 44.86% reduction in gun crimes committed by parolees in Dallas between October 2003 and September 2005,” Dallas City Attorney Tom Perkins said.

The Dallas Probation/Parole Re-entry Education program is administered by the city’s Community Prosecution Team and Chief Community Prosecutor Roxann Pais. The monthly sessions are court-ordered for all ex-offenders in Dallas. Attendees are taught about laws related to felons with firearms or ammunition. The program reinforces to the ex-offenders that prosecuting agencies in Dallas are serious about apprehending and prosecuting those who commit gun crimes.

Over 9,000 parolees and probationers have attended the monthly sessions since 2003, with an average of 500 in attendance each month.

For their efforts, the U.S. Department of Justice has awarded the City of Dallas Community Prosecution Team the 2006 Project Safe Neighborhood National Achievement Award.

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TEXAS SEN. CORNYN RANKS 97th MOST UNPOPULAR IN POLL
by Scott Bennett    Wed, May 24, 2006, 06:56 PM
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Texas Senator John Cornyn
Texas GOP Sen. John Cornyn isn't up for electino this year and a new poll may make him very happy with that fact.  According to SurveyUSA Cornyn gains the approval of only 43% while 47% disapprove.  That gives him a net "disapproval" rating of 4%.  Survey USA rates all 100 senators on the basis of their popularity and finds that out of 100 senators Cornyn ranks 94th.  By contrast Sen. Kay Hutchison commands a 58% approval rating versus 35% disapproval for a net positive rating of 23%.  Hutchison ranks 38th in overall popularity.  There are only 14 sitting senators with a negative rating.  Of the four senators who rank lower in popularity than Cornyn two, Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa) and Sen Conrad Burns (R-Montana) are seeking relection this year.  Both are trailing badly in early polls.  The SurveyUSA Poll is sponsored in Texas by San Antonio TV station WOAI.
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HALF-BAKED MUFFIN MEN MAY HAVE GOOSES COOKED
by Trey Garrison    Wed, May 24, 2006, 06:54 PM

Yeah, between us and the FrontBurner and Unfair Park, we've pretty much exhausted all the nursery rhyme puns, so here it is straightforward - they've arrested two teens in the Lake Highlands marijuana muffins case.

They face state felony charges. And the FBI's involved too, so it's pretty serious.

And as a public service, any schools finding mystery baked goods can send them directly to my office care of the DallasBlog World Headquarters Building, where I'll subject them to proper tasting testing. We're doing our part. (Kidding on that last bit.)

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STRAYHORN SAYS AVERAGE TEXAS HOME WILL SAVE ONLY $598 OVER THREE YEARS
by Scott Bennett    Wed, May 24, 2006, 06:10 PM

Carol Strayhorn speaking as Texas Comprtoller fullfilled her constitutional duty today and certified that the property tax cut would be covered by increases in the state Business Franchise Tax.  Carol Strayhorn the candidate for governor, however, attacked the plan again by asserting that the average Texan would get only $598 in tax savings over the next three years.  Gov. Perry claims that the average Texas homeowner will get a tax break of $2000 over those three years.  According to the Comptroller in 2005 the average value of a home in Texas was $103,000.

According to Strayhorn, "Perry's entire plan is a massive increase in business taxes that will increase the state's budget by $6 billion a year, leave a $23 billion hot check, increase the number of businesses that will have to pay or file taxes by 200,000, increase business taxes by 200 percent, and give the average homeowner a $52 property tax cut in school taxes only, this year," she said.

The Governor responded by saying that “Comptroller Carole Strayhorn is so obsessed with playing politics that a bill providing immediate relief to hurricane victims sat on her desk for eight days while she plotted her next negative attack on a record property tax cut and a teacher pay raise,” Perry spokesman Kathy Walt said. “It’s more of the same from Ms. Strayhorn: Headlines and political warfare take precedence over serving the people and providing honest numbers.”

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SPARKS FLY AND RACIAL DIVIDES DEEPEN OVER FED FUNDS PROPOSAL
by Trey Garrison    Wed, May 24, 2006, 05:34 PM

A proposal by Mayor Laura Miller today to limit how Community Development Block Grant funds are spent sparked a fiery row along racial lines on the Dallas City Council.

The mayor proposed a new policy of no longer using federal CDBG monies for the acquisition, development and rehab of real property unless it is already owned by the City of Dallas – in short, no more spending on brick-and-mortar projects. Her proposal passed 9 to 5 but only after a heated debate that basically pit black and Hispanic members against white.

Community Development Block Grants are federal funds provided to the city for exclusive use in areas or for individuals who meet federal means-tested guidelines.

Miller said previous uses of the CDBG funds had been wasted in the past on projects that were not long-term beneficial. Councilmember Bill Blaydes concurred, saying the money would be better spent on other programs and not brick-and-mortar projects.

“It makes sense that our precious dollars be spent on our neediest areas in the best way possible,” Miller said.

Southern sector council members said that there shouldn’t be a blanket limit on the use of CDBG funds. They argued that every project should be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Supporters of the mayor’s proposal said the limit would better focus the CDBG funds to get better bang for the buck.

This drew a sharp rebuke from Councilmember Maxine Thornton-Reese, who reminded the council that this is not a strong-mayor government. But then she went off on some tangent about kids today riding skateboards and not going skating like they did when she was young, and whatever point she had was totally lost. Something about a failed skate park in South Dallas paid for by CDBG money that was a total failure.

The most impassioned reply came from Councilmember Leo Chaney, who said without the use of such funds to spur Southern Sector development – including purchasing and rehabbing real property – South Dallas businesses would be disadvantaged.

“There’s been institutional racism in this city for years and years,” Chaney said. “Don’t limit us. We can’t get the development without some type of cap(ital) financing generally done through federal dollars that the banks won’t do in Southern Dallas. Those funds are our lifeblood.“

He also dared the mayor to live in his district for a month to better understand the challenges minorities in his district face.

This, in turn, drew a sharp response from Blaydes.

“Come visit District 10, Mr. Chaney. I’m a minority in my own district,” he said. “My vote has nothing to do with race. It has to do with whether we are to make a difference in CDBG areas.”

Councilmember Elba Garcia said while Mayor Miller cited previous CDBG funded projects that had failed as justification for the change, she ignored projects that had been successful.

“My concern is that we are closing the door,” Garcia said.

She presented an alternative proposal to limit brick-and-mortar project funding to every other year. Her motion failed 8-6, with Mayor Pro Tem Don Hill absent.

Councilmember Ron Natinksy said that since the city has more than $7 billion in capital needs, the CDBG monies would be better spent on city property, if on any bricks-and-mortar.

“It’s really a question of how to maximize a (shrinking) amount of funds,” said Councilmember and 2007 mayoral candidate Gary Griffith.

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OAK CLIFF BUSINESS ASSISTANCE CENTER SURVIVES MAYOR’S NEW LIMIT
by Trey Garrison    Wed, May 24, 2006, 05:32 PM

The first CDBG project that could have been affected by change referenced in the story above regarding how grants are issued was the proposed new Business Assistance Center in Oak Cliff, but backroom wheeling and dealing ensured that project was passed before the new CDBG limit vote was taken.

At issue was BAC No. 5 in Oak Cliff, which is planning to buy land and build a job training/business consulting center at Interstate 35 and Wheatland.

The Community Development Commission agreed to release $225,000 from CDBG funds to help fund the $800,000 project. The balance of the funding comes from foundations, private investments and donations.

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MCCAIN: LIMBAUGH, SAVAGE, AND DOBBS ARE NATIVIST
by Brian Bodine    Wed, May 24, 2006, 05:07 PM

According to insiders who attended a casual, closed-door McCain speech in New York on Friday, Senator John McCain criticized conservatives Lou Dobbs, Rush Limbaugh, and Michael Savage as being "nativist", claiming that they are helping to "fuel the problem". The problem McCain referred to was apparently related to the ongoing illegal immigration debate. According to the New York Observer, McCain cautioned against ghettoizing immigrants in the U.S., while claiming that ghettoization in Europe has been a disaster.

The Observer reports that a number of influential and wealthy political donors were in attendance, including R.N.C. finance chair Lewis Eisenberg, Blackstone Group co-founder Peter G. Peterson, and former Secretary of the Navy John F. Lehman.

Click here for story 

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LONG LINES AT APPRAISAL DISTRICT
by Tom Pauken    Wed, May 24, 2006, 04:24 PM

Those seeking to challlenge the appraised values on their property have only a few days left to do so.  Protests must be filed by no later than May 31st to object to the Dallas Central Appraisal District's valuation of your property.  If today is any indication, a lot of Dallas County property owners were at the Appraisal District office disputing their appraised values for 2006.  The wait to get to talk to a live person was expected to be an hour or more.  Clearly, property owners are coming out in larger numbers to challenge the jacked-up appraised values by the non-elected Dallas Appraisal District board.  Yesterday, a new homeowner was complaining to a good friend of mine that the District had appraised his home at $50,000 more than what he had paid for it earlier this year.  The appraised value on a Mesquite rental house I own was increased by one-third for what appears to be no discernable reason other than the District thought they could get away with it.  And, the folks at the Appraisal District do get away with it a lot of the time.  A number of property owners fail to appeal these unfair increases; so the higher appraised values automatically go into effect.  The appeal process itself is difficult to navigate and weighted in favor of the taxing authority and against the property owner (particularly the residential homeowner). 

Nonetheless, a lot of Dallasites are angry enough this year to go down to the Central Appraisal District and seek relief from Dallas County's "stealth tax".

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