The direct mail battle continues in the race for the Republican nomination for district attorney with a new mailer from Toby Shook replete with endorsements from more than 350 “community leaders.” Included on the list are some well known Republicans.
Previously, candidate Vic Cunningham sent out a mailing stressing his endorsement by a large number of GOP precinct chairman while Shook appeared to be introducing himself to voters in his direct mail piece, listing only his endorsements from police associations and outgoing DA Bill Hill.
In a previous post, I suggested Shook was already running for the general election while Cunningham was positioning himself for the GOP primary. This week’s flyer from Shook, however, suggests he was getting his list of endorsees together.
Among the well known Republican names on the list are George Bayoud, Louis Beecherl, Norman Brinker, Mary Ceverha, James B. Francis Jr., Kent Hance and State Rep. Fred Hill, among others, as well as community leaders John Scovell, Charles Terrell, Forrest Smith and Pete Schenkel.
Shook also added to his law enforcement endorsements, which now include the police associations in Dallas, Farmers Branch, Garland, Irving and Mesquite, the Dallas Chapter of the National Latino Peace Officers Association and Dallas Fire Fighters Association.
Ken George, Dallas County Republican Party Chairman, named longtime media consultant and former news director of KRLD, Ken Fairchild, as the new Executive Director of the Republican Party. Fairchild brings decades of media experience to his new position, having advised political candidates and corporate executives throughout his career. He also served as News Director of KRLD-AM radio station when it was an all news station and was one of the top-rated stations in the Dallas market. The Dallas Republicans will need all the help they can get in this election cycle with local Democrats feeling increasingly confident that this is the year Dallas County will turn Democratic. Dallas County has been a Republican stronghold ever since 1980 when Ronald Reagan's election to the Presidency swept in a wave of local Republican candidates to countywide offices. Democrats are contesting most of the local races in this election cycle.
Fairchild recently wrote a guest commentary for Dallas Blog chiding the media for overreacting to the Cheney shooting incident.
DISD school officials discussed the annexation of Willmer-Hutchins Independent School District at Wednesday night’s Board of the Whole meeting. The annexation was approved by the Department of Justice in December and will officially take place on July 1.
WHISD was shut down by the Texas Education Authority in 2004. DISD picked up the responsibility to educate the students after Lancaster Independent School District turned it down. The district has been one of the worst performing school districts in the state. To date, WHISD students have been attending DISD schools while WHISD schools are empty and considered by some experts to be economically unfeasible for renovation.
Republican District Attorney candidates tackled questions on Wednesday about reforming the District Attorney’s Office at the Dallas Bar Association headquarters.
At the Belo Mansion Banquet Hall, three DA hopefuls answered questions about various aspects of the District Attorney’s office and about the changes they would make if elected. The race is considered by observers to be a toss up between Assistant Dallas County District Attorney Toby Shook and former Judge Vick Cunningham. Former Judge Dan Wyde is considered to be running a distant third in the primary. The debate was hosted by and largely attended by members of the Dallas Bar Association.
Highlighting the debate were disagreements over the causes of the “fake-drug” scandal in 2004 and proposals for improving the District Attorney’s relations with the community.
“The fake-drug scandal was about narcotics officers looting money off the street,” said Wyde. He was referring to local law enforcement officers who he claims were disapointed that they did not get a pay raise in 2000. Wyde put significant blame on the District Attorney’s office for the scandal.
The 2001 “fake drug scandal” happened when police informants allegedly planted fake drugs on innocent people, ultimately leading to the indictments of several Dallas police officers.
Cunningham, however, did not blame the District Attorney’s office for the actual scandal, but said that the main problem was that the public has lost trust in the office. Cunningham suggested that even if the District Attorney’s office was not hiding anything, it was the perception of impropriety that could have averted some of the fallout from the situation. Cunningham said that the best way to avert this would have been to appoint an independent prosecutor.
Shook defended his record in the District Attorney’s office and said that the way to avoid similar incidents from occurring is to “have better communication with top, middle, and lower management of the police department.”
The candidates also touted ways to improve race relations in the community. Shook said that he would meet with minority leaders, along with various other community leaders, to earn their trust and to help solve crime problems together with the District Attorney. “This way they feel they have a voice,” said Shook.
Shook also said that he would create a “speaker’s bureau” that would educate the community about criminal justice and about the District Attorney’s office.
Cunningham said that it was important for the District Attorney’s office to be as open and inclusive as possible, and that he would chose a grand jury that would represent a cross section of the community.
”It’s so important for our entire community to believe they have a voice in our government, and that’s the bottom line.” said Cunningham. “I would tell people to come down and participate in your government.”
We told you a week ago here at DallasBlog that relations were frayed between County Judge Margaret Keliher and her fellow Republican County Commissioners. See our story here. The first evidence as to how bad the situation has deteriorated was on display at this week’s Commissioners Court meeting as Keliher found herself at odds with her fellow commissioners over how to spend money allocated for homeland security.
Our reporter Brian Bodine was there at the Courthouse when an intense disagreement broke out between the County Judge and two Commissioners over the use of $475,000 in Homeland Security funds to create an IT module. The new computer module would allow various law enforcement agencies in the county to communicate with one another and share information on matters relating to homeland security. According to our reporter, Commissioners Mike Cantrell and Kenneth Mayfield were particularly outspoken in criticizing Keliher for her opposition to the IT module. When Keliher called for using the money instead to hire new staff and address the shortcomings in the Homeland Security Department, Commissioners Cantrell and Mayfield scolded Keliher for not filling the County Homeland Security Director position soon enough.
All four commissioners voted in favor of using the Homeland Security funds on the IT module. Commissioners Dickey and Price, however, were not involved in the intense exchange between Keliher and the other Commissioners. Commissioner Dickey told DallasBlog that she supported the new computer module because a "good IT system where people from Dallas County and the region can talk to each other is absolutely vital to security. If we can’t talk to each other, every city will do everything in a vacuum. The duplication would be ridiculous. If we share resources we won’t have to duplicate those resources. It’s a no-brainer."
Later, Keliher’s executive assistant did tell DallasBlog that Keliher "was okay" with using the Homeland Security funds for the computer system although she preferred an alternative use for the funds.
This vote points out how isolated Keliher has become on the Court and how little influence she wields with her fellow commissioners. A longtime observer of the Courthouse scene maintains that what he calls Keliher’s "grandstanding" on a number of issues which have come before the Court has hurt her credibility with her fellow Commissioners. This is a far cry from when Lee Jackson was the County Judge, and there was a general consensus in the decision-making process on most issues which came before the Commissioners Court.
Madison Avenue's Winter Olympics plans haven't quite worked out. You can get Bode Miller and Michelle Kwan merchandise for half-price, and US Hockey is reduced to being as good as Team Latvia. So leave it to Nike to guide us Back To The Future for an apparently forgivable hero. Click on 'The School of Fish' for more. ...
Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson wants to dispel "innacuracies and stereotypes" about the use of eminent domain for economic development, a practice the U.S. Supreme Court upheld in last year's notorious Kelo v. New London decision. Last fall Peterson told a Senate subcommittee that when the government threatens to condemn people's property because it thinks someone else can make better use of it, "a majority of the time, most people agree to sell."
Interesting. Given the choice between selling and fighting an expensive legal battle they will almost certainly lose, after which they will have to give up their land anyway, probably on less advantageous terms, most people "agree" to sell.
"Cities use eminent domain most often as a negotiating tool with property owners," explained Peterson, who was speaking for the National League of Cities. "Just having the tool available makes it possible to negotiate with landowners." Sure it does—in the same way just having a gun available makes it possible for a bank robber to negotiate with a teller.
CBS 11 News reports that four of Dallas' finest were shot and the shooter is in custody after gunfire erupted during an early morning warrant sweep in the 1200 block of Oak Park, just east of Highway 67 and south of Loop 12.
Three of the officers had minor injuries and one is in serious condition. All are being treated at Parkland Hospital.
Additional police, SWAT and tactical units were called in, and another TV station reported that SWAT officers performed a dynamic entry into the building where the shooter was holed up.
Initial reports say the shooter used a "high powered rifle" but that's doubtful, since two of the officers were protected when they were struck in the vest, and most higher caliber rifles could puncture a vest.
I'll be straight - I have barely made any headway in wading through the 454-page ForwardDallas! plan that you can download here.
And lord knows we could use something to guide new development better than the antedeluvian, ad hoc approach that we get from the planning commission. But a lot of this initial plan, despite assurances and flowery language that promises otherwise, looks a lot more like the kind of "smart growth" plan Portland adopted in the late 1990s that nearly killed economic development.
You see, the same guy who was paid $1.4 million by the city of Dallas to create the ForwardDallas! comprehensive growth plan was the author of Portland's plan, the "guru of growth" himself, John Fregonese.
The city council heard today from the authors of the ForwardDallas!
comprehensive growth plan, and the response wasn’t all that welcoming.
The short answer from council members seemed to be: slow down, and go back to the planning boards on a lot of this stuff.
City development services and a consulting team lead by John Fregonese of Portland, Oregon, launched a program to design a growth plan to present to the city council in November 2004.
Fregonese was paid $1.4 million for developing the plan.
The result is the 454-page ForwardDallas! plan, which provides a vision for directing future growth in the city of Dallas.
Should the plan be adopted, it could be married into the proposed 2006 bond program.
The plan features redirection of city planning and resources toward more urban infill, higher density development, and a higher premium placed on landscaping and mixed use development. It establishes codes, policies, and standards for the city to adopt that will reshape the direction of Dallas growth, from broad sector planning down to details like street signs and parking.
The idea, Fregonese said, is to establish an integrated, uniform policy framework for land use, transportation, housing, environment and economic development, neighborhoods and urban design.
“This plan makes it possible for Dallas to follow the path of successful central cities, and not failed cities like Detroit,” Fregonese told DallasBlog.
Fregonese thinks there will be some resistance, but he believes it’s what Dallas needs.
“I think there’s a lot of concern about the impact on existing neighborhoods, but we’ve taken great pains to ensure there’s protection for the vibrant communities and we’ve focused on the areas of decline and that lack direction,” he said. “It is not binding and it doesn’t constitute regulation or zoning. It is not a zoning plan – it is a plan for growth that gives direction and gives developers the tools to grow Dallas in the way that will enhance life in the city.”
The plan promises to “stabilize” existing neighborhoods while accommodating growth, increasing public transportation, and encouraging economic development that fits within the strategic plan.
“It’s getting the city out ahead of demand, and allowing growth to happen in a less haphazard way that makes more sense to the overall goals of Dallas residents,” Fregonese said.
Not everyone was sold on the initial ForwardDallas! plan.
“This is such an important step for our city. Right now we’re working without a blueprint. That being said, having read this 454-page document, I have some real concerns,” said council member Angela Hunt. “My first concern is we have a lot more than eight weeks worth of work to do on this. This needs months of work.”
Another concern about the plan is how the plan directs growth favorably for apartment buildings at the dramatic expense of single-family home building.
“Then, we look at the trend of households. We envision 95,000 new households over the next (20) years. Of that 61 percent are single family. Under (the ForwardDallas! plan’s) vision we are increasing the number of households by 145 percent, but not increasing the number of single family homes – in fact that declines,” Hunt said. “But the number of apartments goes up by 371 percent. And among all new households, our single family new household goes from 61 percent to 25 percent. I have a real concern about the density and this growth. “
The report is incomplete, as well, she said.
“Something else I saw was the need to encourage stabilization of our neighborhoods and protecting stable neighborhoods,” Hunt said. “However, I cannot find anyplace in which we identify locations of change or areas of stability. How can we protect our neighborhoods if we have not identified them.”
She was also worried that the plan would override city zoning powers.
“John says this document won’t make our zoning comply with it, but the document belies that,” Hunt said.
Hunt said the plan didn’t address green space requirements for new developments, an issue she said she hears much about at meetings in her districts.
“I will not be supportive of moving forward with this in the time schedule proposed,” Hunt said.
Councilman Leo V. Chaney said he also isn’t ready to move forward with the plan based on specifics dealing with development projects in South Dallas and particularly the Fair Park area, especially connectivity between Deep Ellum, downtown and neighborhoods south of Deep Ellum.
Dr. Elba Garcia was much more welcoming.
“We know this has been eighteen months of hard work and we want to recognize that. I just want to remind everyone it is a draft. I am excited to have this proposal in front of us,” Garcia said. “I didn’t get from the numbers (what Ms. Hunt did.) It was very clear to me that we need more home ownership at a middle class level to bring back southern sector.”
“I’m really ready to move this forward,” Garcia said. “The momentum is now. We have construction all over. How can we help you with the development of the bond package and move this forward as soon as possible?”
Councilman Mitch Razansky wasn’t pleased with much of what he saw.
“Through this whole thing look at this over the weekend, I’m really concerned about home ownership. There just is not enough home ownership in it,” Razansky said. “I want to see more home ownership, especially in the southern sector and in the western part.”
It got more heated. Noting a typo in the report that said the city expects to grow by “600,000 million residents” over a time period, Razansky was incensed.
“How much is the city paying you for this?”
“The contract was for $1.4 million,” Fregonese said.
“If we’re paying you that kind of money, you could have at least proof read it. Looks like you just did this for another city, and dropped in a number in front of ‘million,’” Razansky said.
The council told planners to get back to them with answers for these and a number of other questions and concerns.