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.
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.
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.
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".
The Associated Press has a report on a new study on adolescent obesity. John Hopkins sociologist Richard Miech was the lead researcher. According to Miech, "today the percentage of adolescents 15 to 17 who are overweight is about 50% higher in poor as compared to non-poor families." This is a signficant change from the 1970s when about 4% of poor teenagers were "severely overweight" compared with about 5% of non-poor teens in the same category. The AP story points out that obesity rates "among all teens climbed substantially during the study, which covered thirty years."
The new issue of the Dallas Observer has a good story on how one of Sheriff Lupe Valdez's deputies made "nearly $175,000" over the past 24 months by working about 80 hours a week. Detention Service Officer Muriana Olugbode was the officer in question. Other officers also used the overtime system to rack up additional earnings in the Department, according to the Observer: "Ingar Singleton, Tadesse Bayessa and Solomon Desta averaged more than 60 hours a week, 50 weeks a year for the last 24 months, earning approximately $165,000, $127,000 and $134,000 respectively over that time frame."
The Sheriff's spokesman Don Peritz doesn't see a problem with any of this even though "Valdez's department is projected to spend $8.5 million in extra pay, $6.8 million more than budgeted," the Observer reports. It sounds as though there are some major management problems down at the Sheriff's department.
Texas emergency officials have turned to the private sector to increase the disaster preparedness of Texas counties. According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, scannable ID-bracelets will be used to track people who use public transportation to evacuate threatened areas. The bracelets are meant to avoid the chaos that occurred in Louisiana when hurricane Katrina hit. Texas officials claim that they will be able to track evacuees wearing the bracelets with the state’s 2-1-1 system, which will involve the use of scanners at evacuation shelters.
Counties are also being urged to allow private vendors to bid on providing items such as food and energy in a disaster.
One day after Hillary Clinton, the frontrunner for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 2008, reportedly "bombed" in a Washington speech on energy at the National Press Club Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut announced that he was preparing to run for the Democratic nomination for President. The Financial Times reports today that Mrs. Clinton "faces intense scrutiny from within the Democratic party." Some Democratic leaders are worried that "she is such a polarising figure...that, they fear, she stands no chance of winning the general election. And still others worry about what could be called Clinton fatigue and a hesitancy to return to the scandals that plagued Mr. Clinton's tenure. The New York Times provided a reminder of that yesterday with a front-page story about the state of the Clinton marriage," reports the Financial Times.
Just last week, some key advisors to Al Gore talked up his prospective Presidency candidacy to the media. Former Virginia Governor Mark Warner already is trying to position himself as a centrist alternative to Hillary who can win a general election while Sen. Russ Feingold is running on a campaign of opposition to the war in Iraq which Mrs. Clinton supports. The early maneuvering for the Democratic nomination is shaping up as one of who stands the best chance of knocking off Hillary Cllinton in the Democratic primary while showing a credible chance of winning the general election. Sen. Chris Dodd is the latest Democrat candidate for President who will try to make that argument.
The June 5th edition of Forbes magazine has an interesting story about the potential economic loss to ABC radio once the 87-year-old Paul Harvey departs from his ABC news and commentary show. Forbes cites statistics which show that Paul Harvey remains the number one talker on US radio with 15 million weekly listeners. The next ranking "talkers" include Rush Limbaugh at 13.75 million weekly listeners, Sean Hannity at 12.5 million, Michael Savage at 8 million, Dr. Laura Schlessinger at 7.75 million, and Laura Ingraham at 5 million weekly listeners. The sources for the fall 2005 figures are ABC Radio Networks and Talkers Magazine.
The Forbes story estimates that Paul Harvey has brought in close to $1 billion in revenue for ABC Radio Networks in the 55 years he has been with the network. According to Forbes, Harvey still is "at the studio, without fail, by 4:00 am." The Forbes story suggests that ex-Senator Fred Thompson may be waiting in the wings to replace this radio legand when Paul Harvey retires. But, at the moment, Paul Harvey shows no indication of stepping down from his national bully pulpit on ABC radio: "I'd retire, only I have never found anything else that I would rather do," says Harvey.
COUNTY VOTES TO REBID SECURITY CONTRACT by Brian Bodine
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.