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COUNCILMEMBER ANGELA HUNT PUSHING NEW IDEAS TO INCREASE POLICE PAY, EFFECTIVENESS
by Trey Garrison    Mon, Apr 24, 2006, 11:16 AM

Crime is never far from the minds of Dallas citizens or leaders - especially considering the dubious top rating Dallas once again earned for most crimes for a city its size.

Several ideas are being floated to increase Dallas Police Department pay and morale, including a $10,000 signing bonus for new recruits and an across-the-board raise for all officers.

Councilmember Angela Hunt has a few ideas of her own on how to increase police compensation without busting the city budget. She tells DallasBlog that she has sent a letter to City Manager Mary Suhm requesting time for the city council to have an open discussion on police compensation at the scheduled council retreat coming up.

Hunt thinks it's a topic that doesn't get the time it deserves.

"People’s number one concern is public safety, and what that requires is more police," Hunt said. "In my nine months here we haven’t as a council just sat down with Chief (David) Kunkle, who is doing the best he can with what he has, and talked about what it will take to do better than just the 35 new net officers we’ve gotten.

"I’ve talked to officers – they have a lot of ideas of what it would take and they're not shy about sharing them – everything from general raises to increasing the shift pay for night and deep nights, and increasing the monthly for officers who have a college degree," she said.

Currently the monthly premium for officers who have college degrees is $100 compared to $350 in some other Texas cities.

"And another problem is their health care premiums – they have to pay so much out of pocket it’s robbing Peter to pay Paul even if we give a small raise," Hunt said.

She thinks voters would respond positively to her proposal to revamp the proposed bond package to allow funding for more officers. (Bond funds are generally restricted to long term capital expenses.)

"One idea I’d like to consider is to change the bond program proposal. I’m on board for the proposal, and there’s an appetite out there among residents if the money is spent on what are priorities for them," she said. "I suggest that if we agree to a $1.4 billion bond, let’s reduce the bond to $1.2 billion. Then we go to people and say, we’re going to increase taxes to cover this additional $200 billion, which we will earmark part of it for debt service on the bond, and the rest will be used to hire more officers.

"I think people are smart enough to grasp the concept that things like more cops cost money, and they are willing to pay for it if they know that’s what their taxes are going towards," Hunt said. "And if after we go to people in town halls and explain this idea, and they reject it, then at least we put it to them and gave them a chance to make the decision whether to accept the level of public safety they have now, or improve it. And at least we have their feedback on how they want their money spent."

More as this develops.

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AVERY JOHNSON DOES RICHARD PRYOR? by the Fish
by Mike Fisher    Mon, Apr 24, 2006, 10:34 AM

Want three keys to the Mavs' 103-93 Game 1 playoff win over the Grizzlies, starting with Avery Johnson going a little Richard Pryor on us? Check out the 'School of Fish':

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PRESIDENT BUSH TO SPEAK ON IMMIGRATION TODAY
by Trey Garrison    Mon, Apr 24, 2006, 10:02 AM

President Bush is in California today to push a stalled bill that would allow more foreigners to work legally in the United States. Lawmakers, with an eye on Election Day in just over six months, remain far apart on whether to crack down on illegal immigrants or embrace them as vital contributors to the U.S. economy.

Bush wants a law that would give temporary guest worker permits to foreigners in low-paying jobs while strengthening border security. He was to push his idea in a speech Monday in Irvine, Calif., a state that has seen massive protests in recent weeks calling for immigrant rights.

To steal a word, developing...

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THERESA O'DONNELL TALKS ABOUT LAND USE, THE COMPREHENSIVE PLAN, AND THE FUTURE OF DALLAS
by Trey Garrison    Mon, Apr 24, 2006, 09:31 AM

Theresa O’Donnell, director of development services for the City of Dallas, took over as head of the department in May of 2003, and by all accounts she’s made great strides in reforming an area of city function that was notoriously unresponsive, and considered by developers among the worst in North Texas to deal with.

She tells DallasBlog how she has worked to make her office more market-oriented and customer friendly in terms of issuing and tracking permits and land use restrictions.

Development services also has a direct impact on how the property tax base is apportioned and changing the way the city grows in response to the cultural diversities of a major metropolitan area. About 20 years ago, the city tax burden fell somewhere around 40 percent on commercial users in downtown Dallas and about 20 percent on the Stemmons Corridor, with the balance spread among smaller commercial zones and homeowners. A year ago, the city tax revenue burden shifted to where the majority of the city tax burden now falls on homeowners.

O’Donnell how her department is working to remedy this, which is an unsustainable structure.

The department is also the driving force behind the controversial forwardDallas! Comprehensive Plan that the city is considering adopting, which will shape the way the city grows over the next 25 years. The plan has been both roundly praised and criticized, and it’s still a work in progress.

She answers many of the criticisms of the plan, and explains why Dallas needs a comprehensive plan for the next 25 years to ensure its sustained and successful growth.

After an initial old-fashioned pen and paper interview, we realized that she had more to say than we could keep up with, and that we'd only get in the way if we tried to do it as a print interview, so she was good enough to let us come back and do a digital interview where we got out of the way and let her address the issues.

Here is the link.

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MERCY THE BURNED DOG DIED SUNDAY; REWARD NOW AT $10,000
by Trey Garrison    Mon, Apr 24, 2006, 09:24 AM

Press Release

MERCY THE BURNED DOG DIED SUNDAY NIGHT;
REWARD NOW STANDS AT $10,000

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
214-671-0246.

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SMALL GOVERNMENT CONSERVATIVES BLAST PERRY PLAN
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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OSAMA BIN LADEN ISSUES NEW THREATS
by Special to DallasBlog.com    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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CHURCH SOURCES: FATHER ALVAREZ'S DEPARTURE DUE TO NEW ALLEGATIONS OF INAPPROPRIATE SEXUAL CONDUCT
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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TRUSTEE CANDIDATE WANTS TO PREPARE STUDENTS FOR GLOBAL ECONOMY, COLLEGE by Brian Bodine
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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DALLAS TOPS CRIME LIST ONCE MORE, BUT NUMBERS ARE DOWN
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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