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by Trey Garrison    Mon, May 8, 2006, 04:36 PM

The future for an aging, low-income apartment complex that Trammell Crow Co. owns and wants to tear down in favor of retail development may be decided at Wednesday’s council meeting.

Residents of the aging Timber Creek apartments at Northwest Highway and Skillman Street want the city to say no to Trammell Crow’s petition to rezone the property. Trammell Crow wants the property rezoned “regional retail.”

The developer has been a little cagey with exactly what they want to develop on the property, but it is their property. I smell the plot of "Breakin' 3: Electric Boogaloo Returns."

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by Tom Pauken    Mon, May 8, 2006, 04:36 PM

Texas Republican pollster Lance Tarrance was quoted in a story in the Washington Post over the weekend as saying that "this administration may be over.  By and large, if you want to be tough about it, the relevancy of this administration on policy may be over."  Tarrance was the leading Republilcan pollster in the country in the late 1960s through the 1970s and has been an active Republican ever since he worked in the research division of the Texas Republican Party in the 1960s.  He later was President of the Gallup organization.  According to the Post, a new poll by Tarrance's  current polling organization (RT Strategies) "shows that 59 percent of Americans disapprove of Bush's job performance" while only 36 percent approve. 

The Washington Post article reported that "Tarrance said it would be extremely difficult for any president to bounce back this late in his administration and reassert influence on Capitol Hill when his approval rating barely exceeds his party's base of support and half of all adults surveyed said they 'strongly disapprove' of his performance."  Tarrance cited the increased opposition to the war in Iraq as a major factor in accounting for the President's loss of support:  "We will have a referendum on Iraq for the first time in '06, and the '08 election may be similar.  The two elections are going to be relatively bundled together because of Iraq."

The Tarrance poll comes on the heels of an AP poll Friday which showed that over 30 percent of self-identified conservatives hope that the GOP will lose control of Congress this fall.

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by Trey Garrison    Mon, May 8, 2006, 04:33 PM

Well sorta. And only for juveniles, who don't really count as people. An item on the consent agenda for Wednesday’s city council meeting may amend chapter 31 of the city code to “regulate the possession of graffiti implements commonly used to deface and destroy public and private property.”

This appears to be an adjunct to the city’s crusade to clean up graffiti on public and private buildings, a charge being led by Councilmember Angela Hunt.

Seems a little ominous and a little lazy. After all, spray cans don’t deface buildings – people do. Granted, a 16-year-old with a bag full of spray cans is probably up to no good. But then a 16-year-old walking down the street with a baseball bat may be on his way to a game, or may be on his way to go brain someone. Arresting people for what they might do? Don't seem right.

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by Brian Bodine    Mon, May 8, 2006, 02:58 PM

Different views are being expressed on President Bush’s pick for CIA Director. reports that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich) said that Gen. Michael Hayden is the wrong person for the job since putting Hayden in charge of the CIA would mean that military officials would be in control of all the major spy agencies. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) had similar comments and has said that the CIA is meant to be a civilian agency. Other influential lawmakers, however, have said Hayden is very qualified, citing his broad intelligence experience. Hayden is also backed by Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte.

Click here for story 

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by Brian Bodine    Mon, May 8, 2006, 02:32 PM

In Idaho, some people are using the old fashion way of getting around – by horses. Idaho’s KIFI TV reports that locals in Rexburg, Idaho would rather burn hay than fuel. To make their point that gas prices are too high, the locals plan on saddling up on horseback at least once a month.

Click here for story 

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by Mike Fisher    Sun, May 7, 2006, 10:44 PM

The Mavs allow us to gather another crummy memory at the Alamo. Punxsutawney Bill allows us 51 good minutes. And the Rangers allow us a lesson in Spanglish. ... All part of Fish's Weekend Wrapup:

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by Brian Bodine    Sun, May 7, 2006, 06:59 PM

Braving stormy conditions, about 500 protestors showed up near President Bush’s ranch in Crawford on Saturday. The event was called “A Rumble at the Ranch” and consisted of speakers arguing against President Bush’s immigration policies and calling for the sealing of the border. Many of the participants were even two-time Bush voters who were attending the rally to vent their frustration with the administration’s guest worker policy.

The Houston Chronicle reports that the event was organized by the Texas Minutemen and Latino Americans for Immigration Reform.

Click here to read story

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by Trey Garrison    Sun, May 7, 2006, 04:12 PM

Exxon-Mobil poobah Rex Tillerson has a Captain Obvious message on how to deal with high oil and gas prices: Use less.

The solution to higher gasoline prices is, of course, to either consume less, produce more, or a combination of the two — not the easy answers politicians now seek, and they're too timid to say what Tillerson has the stones to.

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by Trey Garrison    Sun, May 7, 2006, 12:48 PM

A little late to the game, but the daily has finally taken on the proposed forwardDallas! comprehensive plan, and to their credit they address it from a number of angles.

Architecture critic David Dillon's take on the plan, like most of his columns, is wholly forgettable, but Angela Shah cuts to the heart of the matter with a solid argument on why Dallas has to rethink how it deals with business if it's going to move ahead. Victoria Loe Hicks makes an earnest but ultimately vain attempt to drink the mass transit Kool-Aid, but no one can seriously think Dallas is going to become significantly less auto oriented even in 50 years, much less 25. People love their cars.

A few more Mockingbird Stations would be nice, but it's not going to fundamentally alter auto use on a grand scale, and pushing for multifamily alternatives that aren't supported by market demand isn't a solution. To the extent the plan evens the playing field for developers and removes restrictive zoning, there's some good stuff in there - but too often the plan pushes for development the market doesn't support, and command economics just doesn't work no matter how noble the vision.

Overall, worth reading for the most part. Bottom line though, this is too big and important a deal to rush through on the current timetable, and there are some fundamental problems that have to be addressed before it can be seriously considered. And as Jim Schutze points out in the Dallas Observer it doesn't really make much difference what any plan or zoning says as the council is going to do what it wants to serve its special interests.

Councilmember Angela Hunt still has the best take on the problems with the proposed plan, and continues to write about it on her personal blog.

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by Brian Bodine    Sun, May 7, 2006, 01:00 AM

darrell castillo.jpgReforming the faculty hiring process and alleviating the financial burden on students are two of the big changes that Darrell Castillo proposes for the Dallas County Community College District (DCCCD).

“I think I’m the only candidate that does not speak in generalities,” said Castillo, who also described himself as the only conservative in the race. Castillo recently sat down with the DallasBlog to discuss the reasons he is running for the District 1 seat on the DCCCD Board of Trustees. Castillo is a professor at Tarrant County Community College-South Campus, worked in the Reagan administration, and is currently a partner at the Sonic Research Corporation. He is running against Dallas businessmen Sonny Williams, former City Council member Chris Luna, and a local insurance agent named Alton Kolpien.

Cost of textbooks

According to Castillo, one of the major problems facing the district is the rising cost of text books. “Seventy percent of tuition is textbooks,” said Castillo. Castillo explained that textbook purchasing is decentralized and that each college determines what textbooks it needs separately from the other colleges. Additionally, many fulltime professors have written their own books, which they are making adjunct professors use.

“There are no bids being put out there,” said Castillo. “Professors are lazy. They just keep going back to the same publisher. Prices keep rising because there’s no competition.”

“I think textbook selection needs to be centralized,” added Castillo. “Currently, it’s done college by college. I think it needs to be centralized at the district level.” Castillo said that under a centralized selection system, the district could get the lowest priced textbooks from the market.

Ideological diversity

Another major problem facing the district is the power of the faculty association, according to Castillo. “The number one problem with the district is the lock that the faculty association has on hiring new faculty,” said Castillo. Castillo explained that there is no tenure in the DCCCD and that the power of the faculty in hiring new faculty is largely due to a “good ole boy” network among some of the faculty. Many faculty members were constantly getting their three year “revolving contracts” renewed, despite the fact that they may not be the best professors for the job.

According to Castillo, this led to two problems: enormous retirement packages and a lack of diversity among the faculty. Castillo explained that by “diversity”, he was referring to not just ethnic diversity, but also to ideological diversity. He said that there is a lack of diversity on the faculty and that the overwhelming majority of the professors are liberals.

“One of the things I’ve always noticed in the 15 years that I’ve been teaching in the DCCCD is the true lack of diversity among the faculty,” said Castillo.

In order to increase diversity among the faculty and reduce the number of retirement packages the district is paying out, Castillo proposes to open up the hiring process. “As a trustee, I’m going to propose this: For the next three years, all three year contracts that are coming to an end will be opened up,” said Castillo. “The incumbent will have an equal opportunity to apply for that job like everybody else.”

In the process of hiring and retaining faculty, Castillo said that he wants to place more emphasis on student reviews. “Right now in the district, (student reviews) are just a pro-forma thing and they don’t put any weight behind it – I would,” said Castillo. Castillo also said that the committees doing the faculty reviews would consist of outsiders and not of people that the faculty works with.

District finances, in-state tuition

During the interview, Castillo also elaborated on a few other issues, including the fact that many illegal immigrants are paying in-state tuition and on the board’s oversight of the district’s finances.

Castillo said that it isn’t fair that students from out of state, and who are American citizens, are paying out of state tuition prices while illegal immigrants living in Texas are allowed to pay in-state tuition prices.

“I will bring that to the forefront,” said Castillo. “It’s something that I want to terminate as quickly as possible.”

Castillo claims that since the district came into control of $450 million in bond money, trustees have only been looking at the time table for projects and not at the total costs of projects. “They’re just looking at deadlines, they’re not looking at costs,” said Castillo. “As a representative of shareholders, they should be asking some very hard questions that they are not asking right now.”

Castillo said that trustees are not asking for the raw data on project costs and on the budget from the administration. “They get their information synthesized,” said Castillo. “The board members don’t vote on the raw data. They’re getting the administration’s filtered, synthesized analysis from briefing books and that’s what they vote on.”

“They’re not fulfilling their fiduciary responsibility to the shareholders,” added Castillo.

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