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NEITHER SIDE HAPPY WITH CITY NEGOTIATIONS OVER WRIGHT AMENDMENT
by Trey Garrison    Wed, Mar 29, 2006, 11:45 AM

Neither side in the Wright Amendment war is happy about the city of Dallas, according to the Dallas Business Journal.

Pro-Wright and American Airlines funded Stop-and-Think doesn't like that the Dallas City Council is discussing the possibility of reducing gates at Dallas Love Field. Meanwhile, anti-Wright Friends of Love Field is unhappy that Dallas City Councilmember Pauline Medrano was named by Laura Miller to the negotiating team, because her brother, Ricardo Medrano, is on the board of directors at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport

DBJ's story is here.

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DALLASBLOG.COM CREATES IMMIGRATION FORUM
by Scott Bennett    Wed, Mar 29, 2006, 11:35 AM

With ongoing debate in Congress and demonstrations going on throughout the nation and in Dallas over the issue of immigration DallasBlog.com has received many requests to create a discussion forum on the issue.  And so we have done so.  You may either click the "Forums" tab and then click "Immigration" or simply click here.  We invite you to participate. 

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PERRY TO REVEAL PLAN ON WEDNESDAY
by Brian Bodine    Tue, Mar 28, 2006, 10:30 PM

The Austin-American Statesman reports that Gov. Rick Perry will introduce a plan on Wednesday to reduce taxes on all income levels. Under Perry’s plan, tax cuts would range between 0.9 percent and 3.3 percent, with those making over $146,804 receiving a 3.3 percent tax cut.

The Statesman also reports that John Sharp’s Tax Reform Commission is recommending a $1-per-pack increase in the cigarette tax.

Click here to read story 

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¿COMO SE DICE 'ILLEGAL'?
by Trey Garrison    Tue, Mar 28, 2006, 09:41 PM

For a second day Dallas-area Hispanic students skipped the classes Anglo students were unwilling to skip, gathering by the busload at Dallas City Hall and a few other spots in the region.

Coming in by the busload and carted out the same way, thousands of mostly Hispanic students from Dallas, Mesquite and Irving came to wave Mexican flags, chant "Viva la Raza!" and protest legislation pending in Washington that, frankly, few of them I talked to even understood.

Things got a little ugly today, first in the morning when a single car accident resulted in one would-be protester losing her hand. Police say that at about 9:15 a.m. a white Ford Expedition driven by a 15-year-old was going west on Chariot Drive. The driver of the SUV attempted to turn southbound onto 4900 Lomax when the vehicle began to skid and rolled over. One of the passengers, Yadira Ortiz, 18, was severely injured in the rollover. She was taken to Baylor hospital in stable condition.

Later in the afternoon, students stormed Dallas City Hall, causing disruption on the first and second floors until police were able to get them all out.

I went down there a little before noon. The crowd swelled and shrank as school buses brought in and took out wave after wave of students to protest, be photographed, and then told to go back to school.

Jessica Aguilerra, 20, a student at one of the many Dallas schools where students walked out of, said she was there to support the other students, but she wasn't really clear on what immigration reform bill was pending in the U.S. Senate.

Between ongoing bouts of taking cell phone pictures of her friends, Maria, who declined to give her last name but somehow it's doubtful she was the only Maria there, said she was protesting "President Bush's plan to build a wall along the border." (The idea has been floated in the House by Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., but President Bush isn't behind it.)

"We're here because they want to make it criminal to come to this country and be an..." Maria said, hesistating and looking for the right word. "Undocumented immigrant," she finished.

Others I talked to seemed reasonably informed and affable. Jesse and Francisco, who said they were self-employed and not illegal immigrants but admitted that their parents were, said illegals simply want to work and shouldn't be penalized.

"It ain't about race, it's about rights," Francisco said, while a student waved a hand-lettered "Viva La Raza!" sign behind him. "We helped build this country and now they want to kick us out? That's bulls***."

Ramon de la Santos, a state officer with LULAC, said somewhat contradictorily that he was proud of the students for walking out and protesting, but cautioned that they should have stayed in class.

"We want them back in the classroom and to participate in organized activities but also to educate their brothers and sisters and American people that we are not here to destroy this country," de La Santos said. Later in the afternoon, I overheard him telling a smaller group of students that conservative talk radio hosts were telling listeners that illegal immigrants were lazy and only in Dallas to get free medical care at Parkland Hospital."

Speaking of which, among the regular media there, so was 660 AM talker Mike Gallagher. He looks as much like a novelty cake topper as he sounds, by the way, and he was going on and on about the students littering the Dallas City Hall plaza, even though each wave of students through the early afternoon made a point of policing up the area before boarding their busses.

Funny thing - I spoke to a Native American (you know, American Indian) whose name I didn't catch. He happened to be down at City Hall checking titles on property he owns, and he made the best observation of the day.

"You know even if they're wrong, it's great to see something as American as a good old-fashioned protest," he said. "Of course, all you people are illegal immigrants to me" he added with a wink and a smile.

Oh, it's not done with.

There's a planned March for Justice and Fairness, scheduled for April 9 at 1 p.m. starting at El Santuario de Guadalupe Cathedral on Ross Ave. to the Dallas City Hall. Since it's a Sunday, I'm predicting less of a student turnout.

Here are some pictures I snapped.

dscn1040.jpg Lots of flags at the protest. Mostly Mexican flags, and one anarchist banner. No sign of any American flags.

dscn1042.jpg Who wants to be cool if you don't get to wear a sombrero?

dscn1043.jpg Your school tax dollars at work.

dscn1048.jpg

"Viva la Raza!"

dscn1052.jpg

You just know he's hoping there's tear gas.

dscn1053.jpg

"Viva Me-hi-co!"

dscn1054.jpg

Wait, there was an American flag. Defiled and worn as a shawl by Shaggy, here, but at least there's one.

dscn1056.jpg

Tom Paine and Emma Lazarus always give good quote, but I don't think these two understand the concept behind protest signs.

dscn1057.jpg

Jay and Silent Bob.

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TAX REFORM PLAN AS EXPECTED
by DallasBlog.com    Tue, Mar 28, 2006, 09:00 PM

The Tax Reform Commission headed by former Comptroller John Sharp and appointed by Gov. Rick Perry will present a plan with no surprises.  The plan would call on the legislature to institute a 1% gross receipts tax on businesses and allow them to deduct either their payroll or non-payroll expenses.  Sole proprietorships, general partnerships and companies earning less than $300,000 per year would not have to pay the tax.  The plan also calls for a $1 per pack increase in the cigarette tax and would dedicate $1 billion in the projected state surplus to education spending.

In exchange the Commission would cut the maximum local property tax rate from $1.50 per $100 in property value to $1.  Since the tax would take some time to implement savings for the current year would amount to less than 20-cents. 

Last the Texas Legislative Budget Board estimated that effort to replace lost property tax revenue with a sale and cigarette tax combination would result in a shift of the state's tax burden from the state's wealthiest taxpayers to its poorest.  Estimates for the Sharp plan hold that all non-smoking Texans will get a tax cut but that the wealthiest will still get the bigger bonus.

Reaction is mixed among Republicans many of whom prefer to use more of the existing surplus to replace local property taxes and avoid creating a new tax, especially a tax on business.  Democrats also appear divided with some fearful that allowing a higher cigarette and higher tax relief for largely Republican voters will alienate their base.  Others believe the party must avoid the appearance of obstructionism.

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STRAYHORN, FRIEDMAN AND BELL TAKE AIM AT PERRY By Will Lutz
by DallasBlog.com    Tue, Mar 28, 2006, 08:43 PM

The two independent candidates for governor and their Democratic counterpart came together Friday night for a candidate forum at a rural meeting hall outside of Temple. Kinky Friedman, Carole Keeton Strayhorn mixed talk about taxes, tolls and education with barbed comments aimed at Governor Rick Perry and what they all said was ineffective leadership.

Although Perry was not represented at the forum, he defends the Trans Texas Corridor - and its tolled portions - as the best way to meet the state's transportation needs quickly, and has challenged his detractors to come up with a plan of their own to meet that need.
Friday night's event was held by the Blacklands Coalition, a strongly anti-toll road, anti Trans-Texas Corridor group, mostly made up of farmers. Although a place was reserved at the table for Perry as well as his opponents, no one in the crowd expected him to attend. Instead, after booing the Trans Texas Corridor and raising funds to start a new political action committee to oppose it, the crowd of over 200 heard speeches from Perry’s opponents. The following are some of the highlights:

Carole Keeton Strayhorn took aim at Perry exclusively and did not make substantive mention of the other two candidates. Some quotes from her speech:
“My honest and passionate disagreement with Rick Perry have been the cornerstone of the debate for the last two years.”
“It’s time to put Texas above politics and it’s time to put partisan politics aside.”
“In the last two years, Rick Perry’s corporate welfare slush fund is up.”
“Now is th time for Texans to take back Texas…and blast the Trans Texas Corridor off the bureaucratic books.”
Noting that a constitutional amendment to stop eminent domain was not passed (a statutory bill was), the comptroller stated, “In a Strayhorn administration, we will have a constitutional amendment protecting private property rights period.”
“Rick Perry wants his legacy to be that he sat in the governor’s chair for more years than anyone else. Well, I don’t sit – I do.”
On stronger penalties for Sexual Predators: “My administration will act…As governor, I will throw the sexual predators in and throw away the keys.”

Kinky Friedman mixed humor and policy, sometimes leaving in doubt which was which. He took aim at Perry, but also at the political establishment in general, referring to Republicans and Democrats as “crips and bloods” who have “put Texas on Ebay.” Some of Friedman’s other comments:
“I’m the only candidate running with no political experience. But I have a lot of human experience.”
“I support gay marriage because I believe gay people have the right to be just as miserable as the rest of us…And I’m the only candidate who supports both gay marriage and prayer in schools.”
On the Trans Texas Corridor: “It’s a bad idea. It’s like Dubai running the ports.”
On Education: “We’re at the bottom…I’d dearly like for Texas to be first in something other than executions, toll roads and property tax.”
Friedman’s solution? Gambling: “We invented Texas Hold-em, and we can’t even play it here…Legalizing casino gambling will pay for education – not just a bandaid, it will pay for it.”
“The first thing I would do as governor is get rid of the TAKS test.” – Friedman received his best applause of the night for this line, then added, “The kids today don’t know if the Civil War was here or in Europe because it’s not on the test.”
“My policy is no teacher left behind, and in order to do that, we need to leave one governor behind.”
On border protection, Friedman suggested what he calls the “Five Mexican General Plan.” The plan would be to put $1 million in a bank account and hire five Mexican generals to patrol sectors of the Texas border. For each immigrant that comes across, the state would deduct $5,000 from the account.
On Rick Perry: “To know what Rick Perry stands for, follow the money – from the homebuilders to Perry and from the insurance companies to Perry.”

Democrat Chris Bell released a fiery press release today attacking Strayhorn, noting that many of the principles in the Trans Texas Corridor plan were originally ideas from her own E-Texas plan. Nonetheless, Bell – despite having a strongly anti-toll group to speak before – never brought up Strayhorn at all in his comments. Some of his statements:
“Money [referring to PAC donations which had been solicited] is not going to stop the Trans Texas Corridor. A new governor is going to stop the Trans Texas Corridor.”
“We need roads. We all know that. What we don’t need is to have our land taken away and sold to private business.”
Referring to Gov. Perry’s new slogan, Bell said, “We’re proud of Texas, Mr. Perry, we just don’t like what you’re doing with it.”
“The greatness of Texas is waiting to be released. With boldness and dedication it can be released…Budgets are not only fiscal documents, they’re moral documents.”

All three candidates promoted teacher pay raises, with Bell promising a $6,000 pay raise, Strayhorn a $4,000 pay raise, and Friedman supporting a raise, but not giving a specific number. Friedman was the only candidate who suggested a funding source – gambling – for such a raise.

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COUNCIL APPROVES $750K FOR CITYWALK AT AKARD LOW-INCOME HIGH-RISE
by Trey Garrison    Tue, Mar 28, 2006, 06:16 PM

ljames.jpgThis man is smiling - that's Larry James, president and CEO of Central Dallas Ministries. Almost lost in all the "Me-hi-co!" protests downtown today, a special session of the city council approved partial funding of the requested $1.75 million Central Dallas Ministries wants for "Citywalk at Akard," the proposed downtown high-rise SRO for low and no-income residents.

Councilman Mitch Rasansky was the lone dissenting vote in the case of the $23 million project at 511 N. Akard St. which will include 209 single-room apartments, retail and office space. Today the council approved a $750,000 forgivable loan from federal community block grant money. Central Dallas Ministries is still seeking another $1 million in homeless bond funds that the council will debate later.

Check our interview with Larry James here.

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UNFUNDED GOVERNMENTAL PENSIONS – A TICKING TIME BOMB
by Tom Pauken    Tue, Mar 28, 2006, 06:09 PM

Our resident economist Carl Pellegrini has been warning us that many state and local governments have huge pension liabilities which may require significant tax increases in the future just to pay the bills that are coming due. Carl brought to our attention an article in a Pennsylvania newspaper about the problems that state is facing because lawmakers increased "their own pensions by 50% and those of state and school employees by 25%" back in 2001. According to the article in the Allegheny Times by Alison Hawkes, some analysts fear that "Pennsylvania’s pension liabilities will soar from $584 million last year to $4.2 billion in six years’ time."

To read the full story, link here.

The Pennsylvania situation should lead us to pay more attention to the pension obligations of our Texas cities and state government. Thanks to Carl for bringing this to our attention.

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TEXAS SCHOOLS COULD SEE HIGHER TUITION COSTS
by Brian Bodine    Tue, Mar 28, 2006, 06:05 PM

Universities across the state are likely to experience tuition hikes in the near future. Rising utility and health care costs - and in some cases, fees needed for building improvement – have put pressure on universities to raise student fees in order to pay for the increases. According to an article in the Fort-Worth Star-Telegram, several schools in north Texas could see tuition increases for the 2006-2007 year. Click here for story

The University of North Texas – a 5.2 percent increase taking effect in the fall

UT-Arlington – 10 percent increases for 2006-2007, 9.8 percent increase for 2007-2008

UT-Dallas – 11.7 percent increase for 2006-2007, 6 percent increase for 2007-2008

The Star-Telegram also reports that some proposals for tuition increases involve “built-in incentives” that would encourage students to graduate in four years or face higher tuition costs after four years.

Meanwhile, the Austin-American Statesman reports that UT-Austin could see a 9.6 percent increase this fall and a 1.3 percent increase in the fall of 2007. The increased revenue would likely go toward employee raises, building/facility repairs, and hiring new faculty and staff.

Eight other campuses in the UT system could also see increases in tuition and fees. Click here for Statesman story

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SMALL FIRE AT THE COUNTY ADMINISTRATION BUILDING
by Brian Bodine    Tue, Mar 28, 2006, 02:13 PM

A small electrical fire broke out at the Dallas County Administration Building on Tuesday morning. The fire reportedly occurred on the 4th floor of the building at an electrical box and forced the evacuation of the Dallas County Commissioners Court as well as the sixth floor museum. The Commissioners Court was in the process of reviewing resolutions when the building was evacuated. Once the fire was put out and the building secured by Dallas County Fire-Rescue, the first floor of the building was reopened. The Commissioners Court, however, was immediately adjourned in the hallway and two guests that were scheduled to speak this week have been rescheduled for next week.

The building, which was once known as the Texas School Book Depository Building, is over 100 years old. The sixth floor of the building was the location where Lee Harvey Oswald allegedly fire shots that killed former President John F. Kennedy.

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