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by Mike Fisher    Tue, Mar 28, 2006, 12:22 PM

Around these here parts, the sports stuff is about to hit the fan. So this is the calm before the storm. And a chance to play Sports Media Ring Around The Rosy. Click into the 'School of Fish' for more. ...

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by Tom Pauken    Tue, Mar 28, 2006, 10:35 AM

Key Reagan advisor and longtime conservative leader Franklyn "Lyn" Nofziger died of cancer today at the age of 81.  I first met Lyn Nofziger when he was the Washington correspondent for the Copley newspapers, and I was the young Chairman of the National College Republicans.  If one ever had the tendancy to take oneself too seriously, Lyn Nofziger quickly disabused you of that notion.  He was a real character who was aptly described in one obituary as a "rumpled and irreverent conservative."  Lyn left the media to go to work for Ronald Reagan as his press secretary and was with Reagan through his campaigns for the Presidency and the first Reagan term in the White House.  He was part of Reagan's inner circle and was a voice for the conservative supporters of the President.  When I was on the Reagan transition team after the 1980 election and prior to the President being sworn into office, there was a lot of conservative unhappiness as Nixon/Ford retreads and the Bush/Baker group were dominating the selection process of appointees to the Reagan Administration.  Lyn Nofgizer rejoined the Reagan transition team, and almost overnight conservatives began to be better represented . He successfully fought to make sure that conservatives would be appointed to key posts in the Reagan Administration, and a lot of conservatives owe their appointments to Lyn Nofgizer's tenacious work behind the scenes.

  I was on the White House Counsel's staff awaiting confirmation as Director of Action, an independent federal agency, when we got word that the President had been shot.  Understandably, there was a mad scramble at the White House and the Executive Office Building as officials tried to figure out what to do, not knowing whether the President was going to make it.  Some handled that crisis in a calm and collected fashion.  Others did not do so well.  Al Haig and the Press Secretary Larry Speakes come to mind as two individuals who weren't up to the task required of them.  When Speakes faltered in handling the media, Lyn Nofziger came to his rescue by becoming the spokesman for the Administration.  His unflappability and calming influence made a huge difference in those difficult moments as the American people waited anxiously for word on the President's condition. 

Lyn was loyal to his President, to his friends, to his country, and to the conservative philosophy in which he so deeply believed.  He will be sorely missed by those whose lives he touched .  May his soul rest in peace.

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by Special to    Tue, Mar 28, 2006, 10:20 AM

The long-rumored shake-up in the Bush Administration began today with the resignation of White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card and his replacement by Joshua Bolten, the director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).  The differences in the two men are more in terms of style, rather than substance.  Both men are viewed by political observers as centrists, and both Card and Bolten have long-standing ties to the President.  While Card has more of a political background, Bolten is viewed as a technocrat who has served the President in various policy positions.  With this announcement today, the question becomes:  Is this the first of many personnel changes in the Bush Administration as the President tries to reverse his declining poll numbers in his second term?

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by Trey Garrison    Tue, Mar 28, 2006, 08:05 AM

DallasBlog: You are proposing to buy 511 N. Akard for more than 2.5 times its appraised value from a private partnership in Canada. Why are you willing to pay that much, and do you or CDM have any relationship with the partnership?

Larry James: The appraisal, as appraisals go in Dallas is old and is for tax purposes as you know. An independent appraisal is being done and when it comes in, the value of the building will be upheld or the deal will not be financed. We have no relationship to the partnership at all.

DallasBlog: You are proposing to take an 11 percent developer fee ($2.2 million) on the project, while only putting up about $350,000 equity in your own money, while asking the taxpayers of Dallas to fund $1.75 million of the project. How do you justify that?

Larry James: The developer's fee is standard and the amount of credits awarded makes taking such a fee advantageous to our proposal from a funding standpoint. So, there is nothing out of the ordinary there. Part of the fee may likely be deferred as part of the gap funding solution. As to the fee itself, all of it will go back into the non-profit and will be used entirely on future affordable housing developments that we hope to pursue and complete for the benefit of working families in Dallas. Why should a non-profit in which none of the employees stand to gain personally, not be run like a business? Why should we not be able to sustain our work? Why should our only source of income be from charity? Please take a look at Bill Shore's great book, The Cathedral Within that describes a movement across the nation of non-profits who operate with sound business strategies and sustain their efforts as a result.

DallasBlog: To be eligible to use the homeless bond fund, city attorneys say the city, not CDM, would have to own the property. Is that your intention?

Larry James: There is still debate on the city attorney's opinion on this and exactly how it will be structured. The city attorney will do his job and we will do ours, hopefully in cooperation with him and others at the city. The Central Dallas Community Development Corporation will own the building. The city will most likely impose restrictive covenants on the property to guarantee it is developed and used as the funds intend. These funds were set aside for this very purpose. Why should they not be used in this manner?

DallasBlog: A skeptic could say CDM stands to profit from this deal to the tune of almost $2 million, and, should the city take ownership of Citywalk as part of using homeless bond funds, CDM could walk away with no liabilities. How do you answer that?

Larry James:See above answers to #2 and #3. The deal will not be set up in a way that leaves the city exposed in such a manner. Plus, our low-income, housing tax credit funding requires that we stay put for 15 years in this use. Restrictive covenants would impose additional limits and restrictions. Skeptics say lots of things. It is time for serious people to tackle the affordable housing needs downtown, as well as across our city.

You can visit Larry James' personal blog by clicking here.

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by Trey Garrison    Tue, Mar 28, 2006, 08:01 AM

City council members are looking at putting more funds into improving levee pumps, to be paid out of the city's pending 2006 bond package.

Unusually heavy rains more than a week ago left some areas of Dallas underwater when pumps were unable to cope with the unexpected deluge. City staff say upgrading the pumps could run as high as $200 million.

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by Trey Garrison    Tue, Mar 28, 2006, 03:15 AM

So here's a roundup story (a balanced one at that) on the walkout Monday at Dallas schools to protest Congress having a debate on actually considering forming a committee to weigh the options of thinking about maybe doing something - or not - about the illegal immigration crisis.

Anything to get out of school, I guess, and if the penalty for cutting class is anything as severe as the current penalty for entering this nation illegally, well, um, I guess the kids had a nice walk and finally got some P.T.

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by Special to    Mon, Mar 27, 2006, 11:32 PM

puppy1.jpgMark Levin is the director of the Center for Effective Justice at the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation.  So it will not be much of a surprise that he is skeptical of new government programs.  But his recent paper for that organization addresses a new federal law that will require the registration of animals with the National Animal Identification System.  In Texas a law past in the last session makes it a criminal offense not to comply.  So if you plan on giving one of those puppies away you better get them registered or else face fines and maybe jail. 

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by Tom Pauken    Mon, Mar 27, 2006, 06:18 PM

Danielle DiMartino, the savvy business columnist at the News, has another interesting article today on a subject we have been following closely here at DallasBlog: the housing bubble.

She warns of the "systemic risk" to the mortgage market as a result of "loose lending standards of recent years" colliding "with a buckling house market".

She cites a number of facts that point to serious problems with our credit system:

  • "The collateral backing mortgages is stretched precariously thin -- one in 10 homeowners has zero-to-negative home equity.
  • Recent estimates put one-quarter of all mortgages underwritten last year in the subprime, or riskiest, category. That's well above the 13 percent average share for the decade through 2005.
  • Even after adjusting the rate downward to account for Hurricane Katrina, mortgage delinquencies ended last year at 4.55 percent, an 18-month high. And subprime delinquencies are pushing 12 percent.
  • Despite historically low borrowing costs, households spent a record amount of after-tax income at year-end to pay required principal and interest payments.
  • In the next two years, about a quarter of all outstanding mortgages -- or more than $2 trillion worth -- will reset at higher rates.
  • A record 62 percent of commercial banks' earning assets are mortgage-related."

Ms. DiMartino suggests that, if you combine all of these troublesome factors relating to the mortgage market, you have a prescription for "systematic risk" to our credit and banking system.

To read her entire column, link here (registration required).

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by Brian Bodine    Mon, Mar 27, 2006, 03:20 PM

According to the Star-Telegram, an “army of educators” consisting of teachers, parents, and school executives is trying to use their increasing clout on education issues to influence the upcoming special session. They have also been credited with being a significant factor in the defeat of State Rep. Kent Grusendorf.

Lawmakers from both parties now seem to recognize that these educators are a force to be reckoned with. As a result, lawmakers may need their support in coming to an agreement on issues such as remaking the state’s tax structure and restructuring teacher salaries. But at the same time, as one prominent Republican lawmaker has pointed out, the conflicting agendas of different education groups could mean that property taxes - something that most want reduced - will end up being the chief source of unity among the groups with competing agendas.

Click here for story 

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by Special to    Mon, Mar 27, 2006, 01:19 PM

Our resident economist Carl Pellegrini brought to our attention the recently released figures on foreclosure properties from RealtyTrac.  Its February 2006 Monthly U.S. Foreclosure Market Report shows that 117,259 properties nationwide have entered some stage of foreclosure.  This is a 13 per cent increase from the January 2006 numbers and a 68 per cent increase from February a year ago. 

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