Joshua Bolten, President Bush's new White House Chief of Staff, has moved quickly to put his own stamp on the White House staff operation by removing Scott McClellan as White House Press Secretary and taking away the policy portfolio from longtime Bush political advisor, Karl Rove. No successor has been named yet for McClellan, a Texas Bush loyalist and son of Texas Comptroller Carole Strayhorn. Joel Kaplan, who worked for Bolten in the Budget office, is expected to take Karl Rove's job as deputy chief of staff for policy. Rove will continue to oversee political operations for the President. There also have been strong rumors that Bolten wants a new Secretary at the Treasury Department. Today's developments do nothing to dampen speculation on that front.
The Texas Medical Association and Gov. Rick Perry have reached a compromise on the governor's tax plan that has won the doctor's endorsement. Perry agreed that individual medical practitioners such as doctors could exclude government paid income for Medicare, workers comp and military insurance. They would also get a 150% deduction for payment provided by Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program. Doctors and other health practitioners had claimed that these rates were usually far below reimbursements from private health care companies. Hospitals and other institutions would get half the benefit accruing to individual doctors. The endorsement of several medical associations removes what many had viewed as potentially a major stumbling block for the plan's passage.
On Tuesday, a Dallas County commissioner blasted the security company that is responsible for guarding prisoners getting medical care at Parkland Memorial Hospital. Commissioner Ken Mayfield demanded to know why as many as five prisoners had escaped from Parkland Memorial Hospital in the last 16 months.
The court heard from law enforcement officials about the current investigation of Greer Investigations and Security Services, which is contracted to guard prisoners receiving medical care at Parkland. The officials informed the court that five prisoners had escaped since January of 2005. Two of those five escaped before last October and three have escaped since October.
Mayfield suggested that the reasons for the escapes were similar each time. “Either the prisoner goes to the bathroom and escapes or the guard goes to the bathroom and the prisoner escapes,” said Mayfield.
Greer came under fire most recently when Ray Morales, a prisoner receiving medical attention at Parkland, escaped when a Greer guard apparently went to the restroom.
Mayfield said that he favored ending the contract with Greer since there had been too many escapes in such a short time. “We need to do something that doesn’t involve Greer. It’s obviously not working with Greer,” said Mayfield. “If somebody escapes, it’s not just cost, it’s protection of the public.”
“If it costs twice as much to make sure nobody escapes, we need to spend it. There’s really no standard of performance in this contract,” added Mayfield.
Some commissioners, including Judge Keliher, seemed to favor putting Greer on notice by letting them know that another escape could result in the termination of the contract. Mayfield, however, said that he favored terminating the contract now. “I’m ready to terminate their contract as soon as we get another viable alternative.”
No way this one won't get ugly. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund filed a federal suit yesterday against DISD and the principal of Preston Hollow Elementary School alleging segregation and discrimination. The suit claims the North Dallas school and Principal Teresa Parker illegally use its English as a second language program to segregate Hispanic and minority students from Anglo students.
CNN foreign correspondent Christiane Amanpour compared Iraq to the former Yugoslavia in remarks in Dallas Tuesday afternoon, saying the fragmentation by ethnic groups could tip Iraq into full-scale civil war. “It’s a very delicate moment right now,” she said. “It’s going to take a miracle to bring it back from the brink.” Amanpour blamed the Bush administration for “post-war incompetence” and said criticism of the media for not telling the “good stories” from Iraq is unfair. Amanpour held a q-and-a session with students that previewed her Tuesday night Tate Lecture at SMU.
Amanpour said the failure of the Pentagon to respond to requests from generals in Iraq for hundreds of thousands to troops after the capture of Saddam Hussein led to the lack of security today in Iraq. “If you want to bring democracy, you have to have a secure environment. That was important from Day 1,” she said. She then ticked off the shortcomings of the “post-war” three years and four months after the invasion:
· Still not a functioning government
· Not an adequate police force
· Infrastructure isn’t being developed quickly enough
· Ethnic groups are separating into neighborhoods
· Civilians are arming themselves
“There’s not enough material improvement in people’s daily lives to truly win them over. That hasn’t happened because of the security situation. It was underestimated and under-dealt with,” she said. And the lack of adequate troop strength “contributed to this real knife edge that Iraq is hovering on right now.”
“I don’t believe it was inevitable that Iraqis start killing each other,” she said.
As for whether the media has failed to recognize the “good stories,” she acknowledged that there are “pockets of hopeful stories but they don’t yet make a national narrative. There is not enough momentum to turn things around now.”
As CNN's London-based cheif international correspondent, Amanpour has reported on crises from such hot spots as Afghanistan, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, Somalia, Rwanda and the Balkans. She has been to Iraq repeatedly since the beginning of the war.
North Texans who are in arrears on their payments of fines or other debts to the City of Dallas and whose names appear on warrants will be subject to arrest and incarceration during a warrant round-up that starts on April 24, according to City Marshal Joe Polino. The annual round-up campaign ends on Friday, April 28, but active warrants are always open to arrest.
“We will take the active warrant roles from the City of Dallas Court system and visit people at their homes, places of business or areas of recreation. Our goal is to ensure that people who owe money to the city, and who have been identified as non-cooperative, come before a magistrate,” said Marshal Polino.
Those individuals who are subject to the round-up will be taken before a Dallas Municipal Court judge for arraignment and disposition of their case. Full payment or suitable arrangement for full payment will be due at that time.
Theresa O’Donnell, director of development services for the City of Dallas, will sit down this week with DallasBlog to talk about the future of Dallas’ growth.
Many folks don’t even know what the somewhat nebulous title “development services” is, but in many ways it’s one of the most critical departments in the city, and one that can affect the course of the city’s growth for the next generation.
In late 2002, the Dallas City Council combined several former departments and divisions within other departments that provided permit and plan review, approval and inspection services for private development.
O’Donnell took over as head of the department in May of 2003, and by all accounts she’s made great strides in reforming an area of city function that was notoriously unresponsive, and considered by developers among the worst in North Texas to deal with.
Development services oversees land use and permitting for the whole city, having direct impact on how the property tax base is apportioned. About 20 years ago, the city tax burden fell somewhere around 40 percent on commercial users in downtown Dallas and about 20 percent on the Stemmons Corridor, with the balance spread among smaller commercial zones and homeowners. A year ago, the city tax revenue burden shifted to where the majority of the city tax burden now falls on homeowners.
O’Donnell says she is working to help remedy this, which is an unsustainable structure.
The department is also the driving force behind the controversial forwardDallas! Comprehensive Plan that the city is considering adopting, which will shape the way the city grows over the next 25 years. The plan has been both roundly praised and criticized, and it’s still a work in progress.
O’Donnell will sit down to discuss these subjects and other topics with DallasBlog. Our audio interview should be available by Friday morning.
Although given little to no chance of consideration, let alone passage, Rep. Lon Burnham (D-Fort Worth) introduced a personal income tax bill today. Burnham envisions a system where income over $100,000 would be taxed at 2% rising to 7% of income over $1 million. Burnham says his program would provide a tax reduction for 90% of all Texans, provide $2 billion in new money for schools, and give teachers a $6000 raise to reach the national average. Burnham would also create a "poison tax" on coal (not currently taxed), carcinogenic toxicants, mercury emissions and inefficient power plants.
Gov. Rick PerryTexas Governor Rick Perry says that he believes it is possible to safely use 25% of the state budget surplus for tax reduction and believes that an additional cut in the property tax of 10-cents is now possible. That would provide enough state money to cut the current property tax from $1.50 per $100 of value to .90-cents. However, Perry also left open the possibility of reducing his proposed business tax rate.