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by Brian Bodine    Wed, May 24, 2006, 10:05 AM


Dallas County jails will no longer be guarded by a security company that commissioners say has allowed a number of prisoners to escape over the past two years.

On Tuesday, commissioners decided to rebid a contract with Greer's Investigations and Security Inc. The contract is set to expire in October, though some commissioners supported terminating it immediately.

Commissioners and officials at the Sheriff’s Department have blamed Greer for many of the escapes, some of which involved prisoners escaping while receiving medical treatment at Parkland Memorial Hospital. In their vote on Tuesday, commissioners agreed to look at a few different options for guarding inmates.

“If there’s a private company out there, we need to find it as soon as possible,” said Commissioner Ken Mayfield. While the job of guarding the prisoners could be outsourced to an outside private company, it could also be done by the Sheriff’s Department. Mayfield said that he favored terminating the contract with Greer immediately and finding another private company to provide the service.

Commissioners also discussed the amount of overtime work being done by guards working for the Sheriff’s Department. Last week, Sheriff’s Department officials explained to commissioners the reasons for the overtime. Some of the overtime costs were due to Greer not being able to provide enough security personnel to guard the inmates.

Since October, close to $5 million has gone to overtime costs.

“I wasn’t impressed by what we got last Tuesday,” said Commissioner Ken Mayfield, indicating that he wasn’t pleased with the justification given to commissioners for the overtime pay.

Commissioners attributed the overtime pay to the increasing population at the county jails. Commissioners criticized the jailing of people that had committed crimes, such as criminal trespass, that could be punished through community service instead of jail time.

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by Scott Bennett    Tue, May 23, 2006, 06:13 PM

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Bell held a news conference today criticizing lawmakers and Gov. Rick Perry for passing $300 million in merit pay incentives for teachers. Bell would have liked to see the money go toward an across the board pay increase for all Texas teachers. Bell is calling for a $6,000 a year teacher pay raise.

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by Scott Bennett    Tue, May 23, 2006, 06:12 PM

Gov. Rick Perry has signed HB 2, the bill that dedicates the new revenue sources created in this special session to property tax relief and education. “I am proud today to sign legislation that protects Texans tax cuts for years to come, House Bill 2,” Perry said. “For too long, Texans have paid some of the highest property taxes in America, in spite of significant tax cuts authorized by the legislature in recent years. But that’s about to change. This time Texans will get both tax rate relief and tax rate reform.”

Perry signed the bill at the Waxahachie Civic Center, home of the bill's author, Rep. Jim Pitts (R). Later in the day, Perry will conduct a ceremonial signing in Houston, which is near the home of senate sponsor Tommy Williams (R-The Woodlands).

So far, Perry has signed HB 2 and HB 3, leaving HB 1 (the school bill), HB 4 (liar's affidavit), and HB 5 (cigarette tax) as the remaining items of the Perry-Sharp tax plan still on the governor's desk. Last week, Perry signed a bill banning protests near funerals and has several other miscellaneous pieces of legislation on his desk.

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by Scott Bennett    Tue, May 23, 2006, 06:09 PM

The renowned DISD Arts Magnate School is the downtown Dallas Arts District will soon be on its way to becoming a reality. This Thursday the city’s arts community, students and DISD Superintended Michael Hinojosa will join in a formal groundbreaking ceremony for Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts.

The building will include a 168,000 foot addition with 41 teaching spaces including classrooms, performance areas, a performance hall and black box theatre. The total cost is expected to run to $47 million. It is being financed with $15 million in DISD bond money and $32 million in private funds. Of that amount about $25 million has been raised to date

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by Brian Bodine    Tue, May 23, 2006, 05:46 PM

High temperatures and drier than average conditions this summer will lead to drought, soaring utility usage, water restrictions and wildfires. The Star-Telegram reports that the National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center forecasts a hot, dry summer that could have 30 100-degree days. One official with the Tarrant County North Texas Municipal Water District called the current drought the second worst he has seen in the last fifty years. Additionally, the drought will produce conditions that will make North Texas ripe for wildfires. Since December, wildfires have burned 1.35 million acres across the state.

On the plus side, rolling blackouts are very unlikely, according to one state official with the Electric Reliability Council of Texas.

Click here for story 


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by Tom Pauken    Tue, May 23, 2006, 03:48 PM

The Methodist Health System won naming-rights for the new Mansfield stadium, but the word "Methodist" won't be in the name, according to a story in today's Ft. Worth Star Telegram:  "The word Methodist won't be in the name of the school district's new stadium after concerns arose about religious connotations...Some trustees brought up concerns about having a religious name attached to the public facility.  The stadium will carry the hospital system's logo, which is a circle with a cross inside."  I am surprised they even allowed a logo featuring a cross in light of the Board's objection to the use of the word "Methodist" in the stadium.

This follows on the heels of a story about a principal at Liberty Elementary School in Colleyville who "chose to omit the words 'In God We Trust' from an oversize coin depicted on the yearbook cover because she "wanted to avoid offending students of diffferent religions".  This report appeared in the May 20th edition of the Star-Telegram.  One of the parents of a student at the school wasn't all that happy about the prinicpal's actions in striking out the words 'In God We Trust' from the yearbook cover depiction of the coin.  "Debi Ackerman of North Richland Hills said she is offended by the omission.  It's yet another example of a politically correct culture that is removing Christian references from all public places, she said.  'I think it's really ridiculous,' said Ackerman, whose daughter attends Liberty Elementary School. 

The campaign to eliminate any reference to religious symbols from the public square continues unabated.  It will be interesting to see whether President Bush's new appointees to the U.S. Supreme Court, John Roberts and Samual Alito, will change the Court's attitude towards the legitimacy of religious symbols in public life and public institutions which the federal courts in recent decade have severely restrained.


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by Scott Bennett    Tue, May 23, 2006, 11:52 AM
Lloyd Bentsen receiving Medal of Freedom from President Bill Clinton
Former Texas Congressman, US Senator, Treasury Secretary and Democratic nominee for Vice President Lloyd Bentsen is dead at 85.  Bentsen served as a Congressman from the Rio Grand Valley in the fifties and later defeated incumbent liberal Democrat Ralph Yarbrough in that party's primary in 1964.  Bentsen went on to defeat a rising star in the Texas GOP named George Bush that year and again in 1970.  He would run with Michael Dukakis who was defeated by the team of Bush and Dan Quayle.  When Democrat Bill Clinton took control of the White House he named Bentsen as Treasury Secretary and relied on the savvy Texan to steady what was often a youthful and chaotic White House.
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by Tom Pauken    Tue, May 23, 2006, 09:34 AM

Our resident economist Carl Pellegrini has these observations about the falling prices for equity shares in the emerging markets:  "Overall, the MSCI Emerging Market Index fell 4.6% yesterday, its largest one-day decline in two years, erasing $86 billion in market capitalization.  The index has delined 15% since hitting its highest level ever just two weeks ago.  Emerging-market bonds have also taken a hit over the past two weeks, and currencies like the Turkish lira and the Brazilian real have retreated more than 9% against the dollar.

Driving the sell-off:  Expectations that central banks around the world, from the U.S. to Europe and eventually Japan, may be preparing to raise rates more aggressively than previously anticipated.  News last week that the U.S. consumer-price index rose faster than expected raised the specter that interest rates will have to climb further to curb inflation.  Even the recent retreat in commodity prices has not been enough to blunt inflation fears."

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by Trey Garrison    Tue, May 23, 2006, 07:50 AM

Remember how we told you a couple of weeks ago about how Mr. Laura Miller, aka Steve Wolens, was leading the charge by San Antonio in filing a dodgy lawsuit to shake down online travel companies?

Well, now Dallas wants to get in on the action, only it's a bit of a sticky wicket that the mayor's consort is already involved in such a suit.

For those just joining the game, the suit goes like this: Travelocity or some other online travel firm buys a $150 hotel room in, say, San Antonio at a wholesale price - say, $75 - and the Travelocity customer ends up buying it for, say, $100. That's still a bargain for the customer, since retail was originally $150. Travelocity currently pays hotel taxes on the $75 it paid for the room, not the $100 it charged the traveler.

Cities like San Antonio and now, apparently, Dallas think they deserve to tax Travelocity on the $100. No way this will end well.

The most chilling quote comes from Councilmember Ed Oakley. City and state politicians jealously eye Internet commerce, but Oakley sounds like he's salivating when he says, "It's really critical we get our hands around this. This may be the tip of the iceberg with Internet sales."

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by Trey Garrison    Tue, May 23, 2006, 07:36 AM

Just in case you forgot why commercial developers still hate having to deal with the City of Dallas, Dallas Mayor Laura Miller reminds you.

She and a few councilmembers want to arbitrarily pull the plug on the Cityplace TIF 14 years into a 20-year deal, because that's the way the wind blows this week - nevermind commitments or anything. Not that TIFs are a smart way to work anyhow, but in business a deal's a deal. Not so at 1500 Marilla.

When the TIF was created in the early 1990s, what is now a successful New Urbanist development with chi-chi shops and high-end condos and apartments was an ugly eyesore. The developers who pushed for the TIF put their own money at considerable risk to rehab the entire area, and the city committed to reimbursing them for the cost of some of the improvements for 20 years.

And now, Mayor Miller basically wants to punish them for their success by renegging on the deal.


That's a great way to do business, Madame Mayor.

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