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Good News Dallas
by Trey Garrison    Mon, Apr 24, 2006, 09:24 AM

Press Release


Mercy, the 10-month-old puppy who was doused with gasoline and set
on fire, has died.

Mercy died Sunday evening about 9:30 p.m. at the veterinary clinic
where she was being treated. Doctors said Mercy showed some
improvement Saturday, but her condition started to deteriorate Sunday
afternoon. She was given a plasma transfusion, but shortly afterward
her heart--weakened by burns over 60% over her body--stopped beating.

The young pit-bull mix was rescued Friday, April 14, by a Dallas
man who saw her in the wooded area behind the Rock Creek Apartments at
Preston and Belt Line in Far North Dallas. He took the dog to
Operation Kindness Animal Shelter in Carrolton, where she was given
immediate veterinary care.

Mercy was transferred to the Dallas Veterinary Surgical Center last
Monday. She had surgery the following day to remove most of her burned
ears and begin the painful debridement treatment. Doctors cautioned
that, because of the severity and extent of her injuries--which also
included stab wounds and cuts--her prognosis was guarded.

"All of us at Operation Kindness, as well as thousands of people
who have been moved by her plight, are grieving for Mercy," said Jonnie
England, executive director at Operation Kindness. "We were so hopeful
that this beautiful, gentle dog, who had suffered and endured
unbearable pain, would pull through in the end. It's more important
than ever that the person who brutalized her be caught and brought to
justice--for Mercy's sake."

The reward now stands at $10,000 for information leading to the
arrest and conviction of the person responsible for torturing and,
ultimately, killing Mercy. The case is being investigated by Dallas
Animal Services' Cruelty Division and the Dallas Police Department.
Anyone with information should call 3-1-1 or Dallas Animal Services at

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by Brian Bodine    Sun, Apr 23, 2006, 07:24 PM

Gov. Rick Perry’s tax plan, which calls for a business franchise tax, has its conservative critics. The Austin-American Statesman reports that Dan Patrick, a Republican senate candidate who is likely to win the seat currently held by the retiring John Lindsay, said small- and medium-size businesses stand to loose the most under the Governor’s plan. Patrick blasted the plan in a speech before the Americans For Prosperity–Texas Taxpayer Summit this weekend.

On the numbers, there are some big differences between Patrick and the Governor’s office. According to the Governor’s office, 50,000 of the businesses that have not paid the current franchise tax would have to pay the new business franchise tax under the Governor’s plan. Patrick said the number was more like 100,000. The Statesman reported that Patrick suggested using more of the state’s budget surplus to cut property taxes.

Click here for story

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by Special to    Sun, Apr 23, 2006, 06:15 PM

In a tape broadcast on Arabic TV, Osama bin Laden encouraged his Islamic supporters to oppose a proposed UN force in Darfur:  "I call on Mujahedin and their supporters, especially in Sudan and the Arab peninsula, to prepare for long war against the crusader plunderers in Western Sudan."  A longstanding civil war has been going on in the Sudan between the Islamic government and Christian forces.  According to the Daily Telegraph, bin Laden also issued "an ominous threat apparently justifying attacks on civilians in the West."  This is the first reported tape message from the militant Islamic leader since January of this year.

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by Trey Garrison    Sun, Apr 23, 2006, 05:29 PM

The daily reported today and DallasBlog can confirm that Catholic Bishop Charles Grahmann has been mum about Rev. Ramon Alvarez's departure, which the priest disclosed to a select few at the church.

Several sources at the church who spoke to DallasBlog said they were unaware of any issues with Father Alvarez, and said they expected him back at the church by May 3, and that they had been told he was on vacation.

One source, however, who wasn't kept in the dark said Father Alvarez's unexpected departure was because of inappropriate conduct with an adult male. If confirmed, this would be the second such allegation against Father Alvarez. The diocese said four years ago that Father Alvarez confessed to "inappropriate contact" with a male churchgoer in 1991.

And another source, echoing the allegations of the initial tipster to DallasBlog, said he believes diocesan officials were aware of these latest allegation before the April immigration rally that the church supported, as well as prior to Easter week services.

"That's a violation of their own rules to let him keep his position when they knew," the Catholic layperson said.

Father Alvarez has been at the center of a number of controversies within the Cathedral Shrine.

He is among several targets of a lawsuit in which he and other church employees are said to have ignored allegations against two childcare workers at St. Pius X Church who later confessed to molesting young girls.

Father Alvarez is also expected to be a witness in the upcoming criminal prosecution of Rev, Matthew Bagert who is accused of possessing child porn.

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by Brian Bodine    Sun, Apr 23, 2006, 03:26 PM

leigh ann ellis.gifA Dallas ISD school board candidate looking to unseat the board president is saying that the district needs to change in order to keep up with global trends.

Leigh Ann Ellis, a local business owner and the chair of the Superintendent’s Community Advisory Committee, is seeking the District 3 seat that is currently held by Lois Parrott, who is the board president. Ellis recently sat down with the DallasBlog to discuss her ideas for changing the district.

Ellis said that the board has become complacent with the status quo and that change is not happening fast enough for the community. “We’re tired of dealing with this quagmire of issues that we’ve been discussing for 10 or 15 years,” said Ellis.

While Ellis said that Parrott has been accessible, she said that the president and the board could do a better job at communicating with the district. According to Ellis, many people, including parents, feel disengaged from the district.

“We could do better at sharing information with the schools,” said Ellis. “We need to communicate better with the campuses.”

Ellis said that one of the main reasons why she is running is to “promote change from the perspective of a global economy”. She said that, because of the increasingly globalized world, the district needs to become more marketable. On the subject of dual language programs, Ellis suggested that the district could go a step further and make students trilingual. She mentioned the fact that schools in Chicago and Boston are teaching students Mandarin Chinese.

“Considering how the world is changing, we’ll have to speak more than one language,” said Ellis.

Ellis explained that better preparing students for the workforce was crucial to changing the district. “Another reason I’m running is to better prepare our students for the workforce,” said Ellis. “They have a lack of a sense of what’s out there in the world and what their options are. There’s a limited scope of how they see the world operate. I would like to get them thinking earlier about college.” Ellis suggested that creating a technical trade learning center would help toward the end of preparing students for the workforce.

“We could be doing such a better job at getting these kids ready and preparing them,” said Ellis. “We need to have more local centers of activity for them. I want us to be more creative and think outside the box and get more discussions going.”

Ellis asked, “Why are we always behind the curve instead of ahead of it?”

“How quickly our professions are changing and how that trickles down to public education and how we’ll prepare for that is the bottom line,” said Ellis. “I don’t think we are preparing for that and I don’t think we are talking enough (about it).”

When asked about raising the salaries of teachers in the district, Ellis said that she would support paying teachers more and that the quality of instruction should be factored into teacher pay.

“Teachers that excel as far as student achievement is concerned should be paid accordingly,” said Ellis.

On the subject of principal incentives and principal authority, Ellis said that not only should principals be paid more, but that there should also be a checks and balances system to ensure that there is no abuse of the system.

“The way I see it, the principals are the CEOs of our campuses and we need to treat them accordingly. At the same time, we need to make sure that we groom enough people who are prepared and can take on that job and make sure they have the resources available to them so they can do the best job possible,” said Ellis.

“All in all, I think principals deserve more money and they deserve to have more freedom of decision making,” said Ellis

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by Trey Garrison    Sun, Apr 23, 2006, 11:26 AM

An endearingly flippant Mayor Laura Miller (you can easily imagine her giving the reporter the one-finger salute with her first quote) and Police Chief David M. Kunkle try to explain that while Dallas has the highest violent crime rate for a city its size - again - you can't just go by the numbers

Short version: What counts as a theft, burglary or robbery in Dallas might not be classified as such elsewhere.

But then we're the only city around that requires property owners to post those tacky looking "Take, Lock and Hide" signs every freaking 10 feet or so.

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by Carolyn Barta    Sat, Apr 22, 2006, 04:19 PM

Not surprisingly after the recent immigration marches, a new Gallup Poll shows a spike in the percentage of Americans who believe immigration is the most important problem i n the United States . This week’s Gallup Poll also shows a significant increase in concern over gas prices, but the war in Iraq still rates as the top overall problem. Meanwhile, just 27% of Americans are satisfied with the way things are going in the country, a level not seen since the beginning of 1996. President George W. Bush's latest job approval rating is at 36%, tied as the lowest of his presidency, but statistically unchanged across five polls conducted since late February.

The Gallup Poll released Thursday said only six percent of Americans volunteer the issue of terrorism when asked an open-ended question on the most important problems facing the country. That's behind 25 percent who say the Iraq war, 19 percent who pick immigration, 11 percent who name fuel prices and eight percent who say bad government is the biggest problem. Iimmigration had never polled above the single digits in the Gallup until the issue exploded recently with massive protests and a bitter Senate debate.


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by Carolyn Barta    Sat, Apr 22, 2006, 04:04 PM


Congrats to Bar Belmont at the newly restored Belmont Hotel overlooking downtown and the Trinity for being named to Conde Nast’s “Hot List” of new properties around the globe. Conde Nast bills the list as the insider’s guide to the newest, hottest, sexiest hotels, restaurants, spas and nighclubs opened all over the world in the last year. Bar Belmont falls in the clubs category and is the only Texas property anywhere on the list.

 Designed by famed Dallas architect Charles Stevens Dilbeck and orignally built in 1946, the Belmont sits atop a perch in Oak Cliff where it has been restored to its Fifties glory as a boutique hotel. BarBelmont provides lounge seating indoors and an outdoor terrace showcasing a panoramic view of Dallas ' skyline. It serves light fare from a menu developed by former Jennivine owner Carol McHenry. Full reviews of each hotel, restaurant, nightclub and spa can be found in the May issue of Conde Nast Traveler, on newsstands April 25.

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by Will Lutz    Sat, Apr 22, 2006, 04:01 PM

Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn lashed out today at the Perry/Sharp business tax reform plan, saying that she believes the margin tax that it incorporates is in fact an income tax, and is therefore unconstitutional. Strayhorn has requested Attorney General Greg Abbott to review the plan to see if it meets constitutional muster.

"It is my duty to ensure that the state's pay-as-you-go requirements are met and I have grave concerns over any provision that could undermine the integrity of our state's finances," Strayhorn said. "I have consulted with my legal staff, and they have raised enough questions about the constitutionality of the margin tax to make a formal opinion by the Attorney General necessary."

Gov. Perry, in response to Comptroller Strayhorn's questioning of the constitutionality of his tax plan, issued the following statement:

“Instead of trying to usurp the authority of the Attorney General by offering baseless legal opinions, Carole Strayhorn should concentrate on giving accurate revenue projections instead of the wildly fluctuating numbers she has produced in advance of this legislative session. She will say or do anything to stop a property tax cut for Texans in order to advance her political agenda. No one has elected her to provide legal opinions.”

Former comptroller and plan architect John Sharp, also commented:

“The weekly Strayhorn criticism of our property tax cut plan is a rehash of the criticism leveled by the big law firms who want to avoid paying franchise taxes. The Attorney General’s staff has already answered that question and I think anyone with any experience in taxes should know the difference between an income tax and other taxes. In addition, there is also an opinion from a former Supreme Court Justice. The questions as to whether or not this is a net income tax is absolutely unfounded and we presume everybody knows that. Fortunately, the vast majority of the members of the Legislature have put their partisan and political self-interest aside to help us solve this problem with regard to school finance and we invite the Comptroller to join us in the effort or we would welcome a plan of her own.”

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by Will Lutz    Sat, Apr 22, 2006, 04:00 PM

Several House chairmen held a news conference yesterday to highlight the taxpayer protections in the Perry-Sharp tax plan, codified in House Bills 1-5. Present at the news conference were Reps. Phil King (R-Weatherford), Joe Nixon (R-Houston), Beverly Woolley (R-Houston), Warren Chisum (R-Pampa), Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham), and Jim Pitts (R-Waxahachie).

“This special session provides the legislature with an historic opportunity to drastically improve our school finance system and to lower the tax burden on Texas families and businesses,” King said. “But simply passing a property tax cut and reforming the business tax structure is not enough. Texas are like a helium balloon: You can knock them down, but unless you have a firm grip anchoring them to the ground they will always pop back up.” King noted that Texas taxpayers work until April 19 just to pay their state, local, and federal taxation.

The representatives highlighted provisions in HB 2 that dedicate any growth in revenue from the revised franchise tax, the repeal of the liar’s affidavit loophole on auto sales tax, and the increase of the cigarette tax to property tax relief. Pitts said there is plenty of growth in the sales tax and other existing sources of revenue to fund the state’s other priorities. The representatives also highlighted provisions in HB 1 that require voter approval for school maintenance tax increases above $1.36 per $100 of valuation.

Nixon also discussed his HJR 25, coauthored by Woolley. The bill writes the $1.30 cap on school maintenance taxes into the constitution and states that it is not a statewide property tax (cutting off state property tax lawsuits from school districts). Unlike a similar amendment filed by Sen. Steve Ogden (R-College Station), the Nixon amendment does not contain an appraisal cap, which is not currently on the governor’s call. Nixon said he has cosponsored Rep. Dwayne Bohac’s (R-Houston) appraisal cap amendment.

Pitts warned against spending all of the surplus in the special session. He told reporters more than $3 billion of that money is needed to fund obligations such as Hurricanes Rita and Katrina.

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