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by Brian Bodine    Thu, Apr 13, 2006, 01:00 PM

DallasBlog recently reported on the election contest filled by Steve Smith for the Place 2 on the Texas Supreme Court.

Now, according to information obtained by the Texas Lawyer, it appears that Steve Smith’s name was left off the ballot in Winkler County. Don Willet received 273 votes to  0 votes for Smith in Winkler Country. The  Winkler County vote won’t be enough to affect the election outcome, but irregularities in Winkler County in addition to irregularities in other counties could produce the net effect that Smith needs to get a ruling in his favor that could, at the very least, allow Smith to look at the ballots in those counties. Irregularities in Tarrant County, where there was an error in the computer software program used for reporting election results, could ultimately lead to the election being overturned.

Speaking to the DallasBlog, David Rogers of the Smith campaign said that, in the event that the Smith campaign is allowed to look at the ballots in Tarrant County, they would be looking for additional campaign irregularities.

“Ultimately, we’re asking that either Steve be declared the winner or a new election be ordered,” said Rogers.

Judges in Travis County will begin hearing motions on the election contest today.

Click here for story from Texas Lawyer

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by Scott Bennett    Thu, Apr 13, 2006, 12:40 PM

New polling over the past few days indicates the skies are growing ever darker for the President and the Republican Congress. The USA Today/Gallup poll and the ABC/Washington Post poll both find the President’s “disapproval” rating has hit 60%! Bloomberg is only slightly better with a 57% disapproval rating. The ABC/Washington Post poll also found that 74% say they “disapprove of the way Pres. Bush is handling gasoline costs while 70% say higher gas prices have imposed a personal hardship.

The LA Time/Bloomberg poll also asked whether voters would like to see the Democrats take control of Congress in November or prefer to see Republicans keep control. Democrats lead by 51% to 38%.

If there is hope for Republicans in Congress it seems to come from the immigration issue. According to USA Today/Gallup a remarkable 81% say “immigration is out of control.” Given that a new Rasmussen poll finds voters “trust” the GOP on the issues by a 37% to 31% margin Republicans seem to have some opportunity to regain some lost ground with progress on this issue.

And since tax day is coming up it is interesting to note that when Fox News/Opinion Dynamics asked whether “Congress thinks of the [tax] money more as (a) taxpayer money to spend carefully, or (b) their [Congress] money to spend as they wish” survey takers said (b) by 80% to 10%. That isn’t good for a Republican Congress either.

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by Scott Bennett    Thu, Apr 13, 2006, 12:11 PM

While Chris Bell, Carol Strayhorn and Kinky Friedman were busy attacking a new effort to raise and spend $6 million on a media campaign supporting the governor's tax plan, Texans for Limited Government was announcing it would launch a statewide radio campaign to defeat the plan. Texans for Limited Government is the brainchild of Gary Gates, a Fort Bend county businessman and rancher. He has run two unsuccessful campaigns for public office.  Whether Gates is primarily funding the campaign himself or has other backers was not immediately known.

In announcing the campaign Gates said he has "traveled across Texas for the past year and I’ve heard a consistent frustration from grassroots citizens—they are tired of our elected officials raising taxes and increasing the size of government. My goal is to empower, mobilize, and unite grassroots Texans to effect change for smaller, limited government.”

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by Tom Pauken    Thu, Apr 13, 2006, 10:09 AM

One of our regulars brought this story to our attention.  The AP is reporting that "federal spending totaled $250 billion" in March, "up 13.7 percent from March 2005."  The federal deficit for the month was  "$85.5 billion, a record imbalance for March."

Combine huge budget deficits with trade deficits running at a $800 billion annualized basis, and you have a prescription for economic disaster.

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by Trey Garrison    Thu, Apr 13, 2006, 12:47 AM

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission is suspending its policy of arresting people who have the gall to go to bars and, well, drink. Somewhere, an editor is doing the happy dance.

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by Trey Garrison    Wed, Apr 12, 2006, 08:38 PM

Asked whether the protests have made likely voters more or less sympathetic towards illegal immigrants, 32% said they are now more sympathetic to their plight, while 61% said they are less likely to be sympathetic as a result of the protests. And while 56% of Democrats said the protests made them feel more sympathy for illegal aliens, just 6% of Republicans felt that way.

A wide majority of those participating in the survey (65%) said they would be willing to pay significantly higher prices for some goods and services should that be the result of tighter control of the southern U.S. border and a resulting lower number of illegal aliens.

As Congress now works on immigration reform legislation in Washington, the survey shows there is a significant partisan divide on this question. Among Democrats nationwide, 51% favor amnesty, while 29% oppose it and another 20% said they are unsure. Among Republicans, just 13% said they favor amnesty, while 76% said they oppose such an offer.

A majority of political independents are opposed to offering amnesty – 50% said they are against it, while 33% said they are in favor of it.

Some have warned that if illegal workers are deported, the cost of goods in many U.S. industries would increase markedly. The poll shows that 30% of respondents would be willing to pay up to 10% more if undocumented workers were deported, while another 36% said they would willingly swallow a price increase of between 10% and 25% for certain goods. Just 6% said they would be willing to pay more than 50% more for goods from industries largely dependent on the labor of illegal workers.

Check out the full results here.

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by Scott Bennett    Wed, Apr 12, 2006, 05:55 PM

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by Trey Garrison    Wed, Apr 12, 2006, 04:19 PM

When the cameras are installed at a number of Dallas intersections by late summer/early fall, Dallas will join six other North Texas cities with an automated ticketing system in place or in the works. The ordinance passed today made the $75 fine – along with its presumption of guilt on the driver’s part – official.

Councilmember Angela Hunt, for one, isn’t too pleased, and she insisted that city staff keep extensive records at the intersections with red light cameras, which will be compared to previous years for number of collisions and the number of fatalities.

“All the studies I have read say that this doesn’t increase public safety, all it is for is to generate revenues for the city,” Hunt said. “If there’s evidence later that these do decrease fatalities, then I’ll support the program.”

Hunt noted a recent Washington Post article that found accidents at intersections with red light cameras actually went up.

“The data are very clear," said Dick Raub, a traffic consultant and a former senior researcher at Northwestern University's Center for Public Safety told the Washington Post. "(Intersections with red light cameras) are not performing any better than intersections without cameras."

Our favorite legal affairs blog, Grits For Breakfast, has compiled extensive information that supports the Washington paper’s findings.

Click here, then here, and then here

Other critics point out that red light cameras violate the concept of equal protection - running a red light in front of a camera results in a $75 administrative fee, while doing it in front of a flesh and blood cop is a substantially higher criminal, not civil, penalty.

However, there are contradicting studies that support red light cameras. A 2005 Federal Highway Administration report, drawing information from more than 130 sites, found that the cameras were associated with a decrease in right-angle crashes.

Dallas will follow the model of having an independent private company install the cameras at certain intersections, and the company will then collect fees from the owner of any registered vehicle that runs the red light. The private company will get a portion of each $75 fine – which is a point of contention for critics since that gives the company an incentive to game the system.

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by    Wed, Apr 12, 2006, 04:01 PM

Tom Stephenson
We welcome to DallasBlog one of the best known local members of the Dallas Morning News "alumni association". Tom Stephenson was with the News back in the glory days of the early 1970s. He later wrote for D Magazine where he had major scoops ranging from the Priscilla Davis story to "vice" in the vice squad of the Dallas Police Department. Tom also was the Texas stringer for Newsday. He currently is the Upland Game Editor of the Texas Sporting Journal.

Tom is the founder of the Greenville Avenue St. Patrick’s Day Parade. As he notes, Tom made a fortune in the restaurant business and subsequently lost it in the real estate crash of the late ‘80s and the early ‘90s. Currently, Tom is owner of an adventure travel company known as Worldwide Blast and Cast, Inc. a hunting and fishing travel company. He also owns a company called Texas Sporting Properties. Here is Tom’s first ‘Musings and Muckrakings’.

Click to read more ...

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by Scott Bennett    Wed, Apr 12, 2006, 03:39 PM

Gary Griffith
In a letter to supporters Dallas City Councilman Gary Griffith says he will formally announce for Mayor of Dallas tomorrow.  Griffith will become the first formal candidate against incumbent Mayor Laura Miller at a press conference tomorrow on the front steps of Woodrow Wilson High School where Griffith attended high school. 

With city elections a year away observers see the early announcement as a move to head off other candidates by removing doubt of his candidacy.  Other potential candidates include former Dallas Bar president Darrell Jordan, TI executive Phil Ritter, former council member Max Wells, current council member Bill Blaydes and Mayor Pro Tem Don Hill.  Miller has stated that she intends to run for re-election.

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