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VISION FOR CITY'S FUTURE PRESENTED TO COUNTY by Brian Bodine
by Scott Bennett    Wed, May 17, 2006, 05:05 PM

The Dallas of the future will have more high-rise condos, townhouses, smaller lots, and more compact parking structures according to a plan presented to Dallas County commissioners on Tuesday.

The Forward Dallas plan, which was created with the input of Dallas residents and refined by an advisory committee appointed by the city council, consists of four parts: a vision, a policy plan, an implementation plan, and a monitoring system. The plan is meant to guide and inform the decision making process of defining and managing the city’s future.

Teresa O’Donnell, the Director of Departmental Services with the City of Dallas, mentioned the core values that underline the plan’s recommendations and proposals. The top three are education, public safety, and a healthy environment. A major focus of the plan, according to O’Donnell, would be to promote job growth in the Southern Sector, the Trinity River Corridor, and around the DART stations.

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AG ABBOTT FILES SUIT ON GAS BOOSTER FIRM
by Scott Bennett    Wed, May 17, 2006, 05:00 PM

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott today filed a lawsuit and obtained a temporary restraining order and asset freeze against Texas-based BioPerformance Inc. The company, organized as an illegal pyramid scheme, markets a fuel pill it falsely claims will boost gas mileage and save consumers money.

 

BioPerformance Inc., president and owner Lowell Mims and co-owner Gustavo Romero of Irving advertise nationally via the Internet and through seminars around Texas and other states, exploiting the climate of today’s high fuel prices. The company’s ads claim the gasoline pills and powders they offer have a non-toxic “top secret gas pill” that can increase fuel efficiency by 30 percent or more and cut harmful emissions by up to 50 percent. In fact, the additive is basically the chemical equivalent of mothballs, which are toxic.

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USE OF VACANT LOT A CONTENTIOUS ISSUE by Brian Bodine
by Brian Bodine    Wed, May 17, 2006, 05:00 PM

central expressway vacant lot 2.jpg

The best use for a vacant and undeveloped lot is becoming a topic of contention on the Dallas County Commissioners Court.

Situated at the corner of Carol and the Central Expressway, the spot is the only undeveloped acreage along the Central Expressway.

“It’s hard for me to understand what a better use of the piece of property could be than to have the property fund the public school fund and house approximately 60 kids who are homeless,” said Dallas County Judge Margaret Keliher.

The project would have 320 units that would be sold at market rate. An additional 32 units located on the property would be used to house approximately 60 youth aging out of foster care. According to a document released by Judge Keliher’s executive assistant Bob Johnston, these additional units would be subsidized by the rental of market-rate units and would “promote the integration of youth aging out of foster care into the larger community.” The market-rate rents would also be used to fund the Texas education fund.

At least one commissioner, however, does not believe that the land should be used by the county for proposed project. According to Commissioner Maurine Dickey, the county is not in the business of residential housing and it would not be the best use of tax dollars. “Philosophically, I do not think (residential housing) is the role of Dallas County,” said Commissioner Maurine Dickey. “But, if we expand that role, then that needs to be a clear policy issue that the tax payers are aware of.”

Dickey said that there were too many problems that the county was mandated to take care of for it to be dealing with residential housing. She also said that taking on the project could mean that the county will face some of the same challenges that other local entities have faced when dealing with residential housing.

The property in question is in a very valuable section of East Dallas, right off North Central Expressway at Carroll St. between Fitzhugh and Haskell Ave. Large office buildings are on the properties immediately to the North and South of the vacant land owned by the state. Immediately east of the proposed taxpayer-subsidized housing is a nice set of garden style apartments. Critics of the Kelleher proposal suggest that a far better use for this particular property would be for an office complex, condominiums, or non-subsidized apartments which would generate substantial property taxes for our schools and local government. Moreover, selling this property for a higher and better use would generate a good profit for the state from the sale of the land. Opponents of the Kelleher proposal suggest that this alternative approach is much better from the taxpayers standpoint.

The court is set to vote on the project at their first meeting in June.

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RISING INMATE POPULATION LEADS TO $5 MILLION IN OVERTIME COSTS
by Brian Bodine    Wed, May 17, 2006, 01:42 PM

 RISING INMATE POPULATION LEADS TO $5 MILLION IN OVERTIME COSTS

Officials from the Sheriff’s department testified at the Dallas County Commissioner’s Court yesterday and were asked to explain the amount of money going to overtime pay in the fiscal year. Since October, close to $5 million has gone to overtime costs.

According to officials at the Sheriff’s Department, the main reason for the overtime was an increase in the inmate population at Dallas County jails. Officials said that the Decker jail currently has five floors open – more than the county anticipated having open. The county has had to increase overtime work for guards at the jails in order to manage increasing inmate populations.

Officials also attributed the overtime costs to vacancies in Sheriff’s Department staff and to state requirements for staffing at county jails.

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DALLAS IN TOP TEN FOR ROAD RAGE
by Brian Bodine    Wed, May 17, 2006, 11:29 AM

According to monkeymeter.com, Dallas is one of the top ten cities for road rage in the country. Monkeymeter.com uses a test created by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to calculate which cities have the most occurrences of road rage.

Dallas is currently ranked at number 10.

Link 

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CONSERVATIVE INCREASES LEAD IN MEXICO'S PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
by Tom Pauken    Wed, May 17, 2006, 10:27 AM

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PAN Candidate for President of Mexico Felipe Calderon
Felipe Calderon, the candidate of the conservative PAN party in Mexico, has increased his lead in the hotly contested Mexican presidential race over the leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.  The PRI candidate Roberto Madrazo is running well behind the two major contenders.  A new poll published this week in El Universal puts Calderon in first place with 39 percent of the vote, according to the Financial Times.  He has a four point margin over Obrador, but the trend is in Calderon's favor.  The leftist candidate Obrador has been hurt by his close ties to the Leftist leader Hugo Chavez of Venezuala who is rumored to be funding his candidacy.  Obrador also has lost support for his failure to participate in the televised presidential debates and for his personal attacks on President Vicente Fox. 

It is good news for the United States if Calderon can maintain his present lead and win election in July.  The Chavez influence in Latin American affairs is beginning to do serious harm to our relations with our neighbors to the South. 

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ABC POLL: BRING ON THE GUARD
by Scott Bennett    Wed, May 17, 2006, 09:42 AM

ABC New/Washington Post poll:  "Would you support using the National Guard to guard the US border with Mexico?  Support 74% Oppose 25%.  Is the US doing enough to keep illegal immigrants from coming to this country?  Yes 20%  No 77%.

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PERRY PRAISES SESSION RESULTS
by Will Lutz    Wed, May 17, 2006, 09:39 AM

Gov. Rick Perry praised the recently concluded special session at a news conference with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Speaker Tom Craddick. “I will be proud to sign this plan that will reward teachers and reform our schools, provide a record property tax cut that will make homeownership more affordable, reduce the net tax burden on Texans by nearly $7 billion, and improve our tax system so it is fairer because it is broader,” Perry said. “Because of this plan, our schools will improve, our economy will grow and our state will prosper.” When asked, Perry explicitly said he plans to sign House Bill 3, the revised franchise tax, despite calls in some Republican circles for a veto.

Also at the news conference, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said he hopes to have a tax relief constitutional amendment for seniors passed early in the regular session in time for the May 2007 ballot. The House passed a constitutional amendment that would provide tax relief to seniors but it did not make it out of the Senate Finance Committee.

Perry held the news conference at the governor’s mansion and was flanked by representatives of the business groups that endorsed the plan. Several legislators attended the event with Perry, including two Democrats – Vilma Luna (Corpus Christi) and Patrick Rose (Dripping Springs).

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WHY ARE OUR EXPORTS TO CHINA SO LIMITED?
by Special to DallasBlog.com    Wed, May 17, 2006, 09:38 AM

Our resident economist Carl Pellegrini has these observations about our one-sided trade dealings with China:

"The United States economy is four times that of Japan, but the former's exports to China are only half of the latter. 

So what's up?  Are Japanese goods far more attractive than American products in China?

'No,'  says Charlie Martin, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in China.  'All branches of the US Government need to recognize that our failure to take full advantage of the opportunity that China presents is contributing to our bilateral trade deficit.'

Martin made the remarks Tuesday when releasing the chamber's annual white paper on American business in China.  Both Japan and Germany have substantial government offices and industry organizations to promote trade; and the United States ends up ceding market share to competitor countries because they devote more resourses, Martin said." 

 

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HUNT, RASANSKY WORRIED HOME VALUE INCREASES COULD RAISE TAXES MORE THAN BOND PROGRAM PROJECTS
by Trey Garrison    Wed, May 17, 2006, 09:37 AM

The overall reaction by council members to the bond package was positive, but some were worried that Dallas voters needed to know how the bond would affect property taxes factoring in increased home values.

“It’s a good program, but people’s taxes, if this passes, are going to be close to 50 percent more in six years,” Councilmember Mitch Rasansky said, factoring in the estimated cost of increased home values.

“We should have some additional table to factor in what property value increases will mean to the bottom line,” Councilmember Angela Hunt said. “People need to have all the information if they are going to vote for this.”

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