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by Trey Garrison    Wed, Apr 12, 2006, 08:38 PM

Asked whether the protests have made likely voters more or less sympathetic towards illegal immigrants, 32% said they are now more sympathetic to their plight, while 61% said they are less likely to be sympathetic as a result of the protests. And while 56% of Democrats said the protests made them feel more sympathy for illegal aliens, just 6% of Republicans felt that way.

A wide majority of those participating in the survey (65%) said they would be willing to pay significantly higher prices for some goods and services should that be the result of tighter control of the southern U.S. border and a resulting lower number of illegal aliens.

As Congress now works on immigration reform legislation in Washington, the survey shows there is a significant partisan divide on this question. Among Democrats nationwide, 51% favor amnesty, while 29% oppose it and another 20% said they are unsure. Among Republicans, just 13% said they favor amnesty, while 76% said they oppose such an offer.

A majority of political independents are opposed to offering amnesty – 50% said they are against it, while 33% said they are in favor of it.

Some have warned that if illegal workers are deported, the cost of goods in many U.S. industries would increase markedly. The poll shows that 30% of respondents would be willing to pay up to 10% more if undocumented workers were deported, while another 36% said they would willingly swallow a price increase of between 10% and 25% for certain goods. Just 6% said they would be willing to pay more than 50% more for goods from industries largely dependent on the labor of illegal workers.

Check out the full results here.

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by Scott Bennett    Wed, Apr 12, 2006, 05:55 PM

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by Trey Garrison    Wed, Apr 12, 2006, 04:19 PM

When the cameras are installed at a number of Dallas intersections by late summer/early fall, Dallas will join six other North Texas cities with an automated ticketing system in place or in the works. The ordinance passed today made the $75 fine – along with its presumption of guilt on the driver’s part – official.

Councilmember Angela Hunt, for one, isn’t too pleased, and she insisted that city staff keep extensive records at the intersections with red light cameras, which will be compared to previous years for number of collisions and the number of fatalities.

“All the studies I have read say that this doesn’t increase public safety, all it is for is to generate revenues for the city,” Hunt said. “If there’s evidence later that these do decrease fatalities, then I’ll support the program.”

Hunt noted a recent Washington Post article that found accidents at intersections with red light cameras actually went up.

“The data are very clear," said Dick Raub, a traffic consultant and a former senior researcher at Northwestern University's Center for Public Safety told the Washington Post. "(Intersections with red light cameras) are not performing any better than intersections without cameras."

Our favorite legal affairs blog, Grits For Breakfast, has compiled extensive information that supports the Washington paper’s findings.

Click here, then here, and then here

Other critics point out that red light cameras violate the concept of equal protection - running a red light in front of a camera results in a $75 administrative fee, while doing it in front of a flesh and blood cop is a substantially higher criminal, not civil, penalty.

However, there are contradicting studies that support red light cameras. A 2005 Federal Highway Administration report, drawing information from more than 130 sites, found that the cameras were associated with a decrease in right-angle crashes.

Dallas will follow the model of having an independent private company install the cameras at certain intersections, and the company will then collect fees from the owner of any registered vehicle that runs the red light. The private company will get a portion of each $75 fine – which is a point of contention for critics since that gives the company an incentive to game the system.

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by    Wed, Apr 12, 2006, 04:01 PM

Tom Stephenson
We welcome to DallasBlog one of the best known local members of the Dallas Morning News "alumni association". Tom Stephenson was with the News back in the glory days of the early 1970s. He later wrote for D Magazine where he had major scoops ranging from the Priscilla Davis story to "vice" in the vice squad of the Dallas Police Department. Tom also was the Texas stringer for Newsday. He currently is the Upland Game Editor of the Texas Sporting Journal.

Tom is the founder of the Greenville Avenue St. Patrick’s Day Parade. As he notes, Tom made a fortune in the restaurant business and subsequently lost it in the real estate crash of the late ‘80s and the early ‘90s. Currently, Tom is owner of an adventure travel company known as Worldwide Blast and Cast, Inc. a hunting and fishing travel company. He also owns a company called Texas Sporting Properties. Here is Tom’s first ‘Musings and Muckrakings’.

Click to read more ...

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by Scott Bennett    Wed, Apr 12, 2006, 03:39 PM

Gary Griffith
In a letter to supporters Dallas City Councilman Gary Griffith says he will formally announce for Mayor of Dallas tomorrow.  Griffith will become the first formal candidate against incumbent Mayor Laura Miller at a press conference tomorrow on the front steps of Woodrow Wilson High School where Griffith attended high school. 

With city elections a year away observers see the early announcement as a move to head off other candidates by removing doubt of his candidacy.  Other potential candidates include former Dallas Bar president Darrell Jordan, TI executive Phil Ritter, former council member Max Wells, current council member Bill Blaydes and Mayor Pro Tem Don Hill.  Miller has stated that she intends to run for re-election.

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by Special to    Wed, Apr 12, 2006, 03:30 PM

The Relocate America Web site has released the results of a year long survey that asked site visitors to name the 100 best places in America to live. According to the site towns and cities had to be “nominated” by site visitors to be on the list. From there the staff takes over to review what they consider the vital stats of the good life. This year’s best place to live: The Chicago suburb of Naperville, Illinois. There are six Texas cities. Austin is there of course, but not Fort Worth. The North Texas representatives are Arlington, Carrollton and Lewisville. And then there is Tom DeLay’s Sugar Land, presumably the “Hammer’s” departure won’t alter its status. Dallas? It wasn’t nominated.

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by    Wed, Apr 12, 2006, 11:32 AM

The State Board of Education faction that includes David Bradley (R-Beaumont) and Terri Leo (R-Houston) has just increased its numbers. Former Rep. Ken Mercer (R-San Antonio) defeated incumbent State Board of Education member Dan Montgomery (R-Fredericksburg, 61 percent to 39 percent. Montgomery first won election in 2000 with help from Americans for Job Security, a PAC that does not report its donors. The mailers attacked incumbent Bob Offutt for going to New Hampshire, endorsing Steve Forbes for president, and questioning Gov. George W. Bush's education record. Montgomery won re-election in 2002, when newspapers connected his opponent, Jim Deats, to Offutt. Mercer, however, is a former state representative popular among San Antonio Republicans and well known to some of the major political donors. Mercer has told LSR one of his key goals is to improve relations between the State Board of Education and the Texas House of Representatives.

In the first round of primaries, the Bradley-Leo faction's candidate -- Cynthia Dunbar -- captured the open seat in District 10. Board member Cynthia Thornton (R-Round Top) did not seek re-election.

The election likely means the Bradley-Leo faction will control seven of the 15 seats come January. This assumes none of the current members of the faction pulls a Linda Bauer. Bauer ran, with support of the faction, against Grace Shore (R-Longview) and won. After winning election, Bauer rejected the faction and voted with more moderate members of the GOP caucus. She was defeated by Barbara Cargill (R-The Woodlands) in the 2004 primary.

Starting in January 2007, the faction will consist of Bradley, Leo, Dunbar, Mercer, Cargill, Gail Lowe (R-Lampasas), and Don McLeroy (R-Bryan). The Bradley-Leo faction supports phonics as the method of reading instruction, increased instruction of early American history, learning math facts and problem solving rather than self-esteem and broad concepts, grade-level specific standards in the curriculum, and presenting both sides of the evolution debate in science classes. The faction is also opposed to legislative attempts to raid the Permanent School Fund to free up funds for expanded government. Often, other Republicans on the board who did not run with faction support will vote with Bradley and Leo. With seven members, they could have a working majority on the board.

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by    Wed, Apr 12, 2006, 11:29 AM

Looks like Texas High School Cheerleaders won't have to worry about the legislature regulating their routines anymore. Al Edwards is leaving the legislature. Democratic primary voters ousted the thirteen-term incumbent, who made national headlines last year by proposing a ban on overly suggestive cheerleading routines. The bill earned praise by pro-family groups such as the Texas Eagle Forum but was lambasted by comedians nationwide and called “stupid” on the floor of the House by Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston). Edwards is a member of Speaker Tom Craddick’s leadership team, and Rep. Garnet Coleman (D-Houston), endorsed Edwards’s opponent, but the Houston Chronicle reported that Texas Democratic Party Chairman Charles Soechting stuck with Edwards, who is a member of the Democratic National Committee and a civil rights leader. Borris Miles beat Edwards 3,087 (53.5 percent) – 2,679 (46.5 percent). The district is solidly Democratic, so Miles is, in effect, the Rep.-elect.

Democrats may like cheerleaders, but they’ve given one sort-of dancer a cold shoulder. In the past, Gene Kelly – who doesn’t campaign – has won Democratic primaries on name recognition alone. (Kelly has the same name as the late famous dancer.) But this time Texas Democrats decided to pick the candidate who actually ran a campaign, Houston attorney Barbara Radnofsky. And they did so overwhelmingly, with 59.6 percent for Radnofsky and 40.4 percent for Kelly. Radnofsky will face U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in the fall.

Democrats nominated Maria Luisa Alvarado for Lieutenant Governor. Alvarado beat former Rep. and 6th Court of Appeals Justice Ben Z. Grant, with 57 percent for Alvarado and 43 percent for Grant. Alvarado faces Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in November. Rep. Richard Raymond (D-Laredo) won his runoff comfortably, 57-43 percent over Mercurio Martinez, Jr.

In Travis County, Democrats nominated Valinda Bolton over Jason Earle. Earle started out with an early name identification advantage because his father is the well-known Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle. But Bolton’s grass roots campaign overcame that and she won easily. She will face Republican Bill Welch in the November election in this swing district.

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by Special to    Wed, Apr 12, 2006, 11:09 AM

Our resident economist, Carl Pellegrini, brings to our attention the news that more consumers are filing bankruptcy under Chapter 7 which seek full debt relief, rather than Chapter 13 which requires debt repayment. Texas is one of six states with the highest consumer bankruptcy filings the first quarter of 2006. Here is what Carl has to say:

First-quarter consumer bankruptcy filings analyzed by LexisNexis CourtLink reveal that Chapter 7 filings are once again outpacing Chapter 13 filings. In Chapter 7, consumers typically seek full debt relief, while Chapter 13 filings require repayment of debt.

In the fourth quarter of last year -- after the new law became effective -- Chapter 13 filings totaled 24,656, exceeding Chapter 7 filings by 1,988. But in March, Chapter 7 filings climbed to 31,615, compared to 19,481 Chapter 13 filings. Chapter 7 accounted for 60% of the personal bankruptcy filings.

Six states had the highest consumer bankruptcy filings in the first quarter: Georgia, Texas, Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee and California.

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by Scott Bennett    Wed, Apr 12, 2006, 09:31 AM

With the final counts nearly in, it looks like the loser today in both the Democratic and Republican runoffs is House Speaker Tom Craddick (R-Mildland).  Parent PAC has beaten three out of four of Craddick’s people in the Republican primary runoff, winning only House District 63 in Denton, with Tan Parker defeating Ann Lakuska by less than 50 votes; a district many had expected Parker to win by a wide margin.   Incumbent Republican Scott Campbell of San Angelo, a close ally of the Speaker, was defeated 2047 to 1342 by Drew Darby one of Parent PAC's top candidates.  In District 71dominated by Abilene, Susan King defeated Kevin Christian by 103 votes out of over 10,000 cast.  Central Texas rancher Jimmy Don Aycok handily defeated Craddick backed Dale Hopkins with 58% of the vote.

On the Democratic side, Democrats finally got their fill of long-time incumbent and Craddick lieutenant Al Edwards, who was defeated by Boris Miles. In Laredo , Richard Raymond, a Craddick enemy, handily bested Mercurio Martinez.

Paraent PAC is a non-partisan organization created only a year ago is a self-styled pro-education organization that many Republicans have categorized as a tool of the professional education lobby.  It came into full prominence in the first round of primaries when it led the effort to knock off Kent Grusendorff, Craddick's chairman of the House Education Committee.

Parent PAC's victories will certainly add to the growing momentum to pass the governor's tax proposals to fund education.  And while gaining control of the Texas House may be a stretch for Democrats this fall there is growing concern in the Craddick camp that enough GOP incumbents might fall to allow a coalition of Democrats and Republicans to oust the Speaker behind another GOP candidate.

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