Democrats are calling for an ethics investigation over revelations that Houston Homebuilder and Republican donor Bob Perry has donated cash gifts to Employees Retirement System board member Bill Cerverha, who, like homebuilder Perry, has close ties to Gov. Rick Perry.
Cerverha acknowledged the gift on ethics forms, although the position is an unelected one that does not require campaigning. Bob Perry and Cerverha have previously stated that the money was intended to cover legal expenses related to the Texans for a Republican Majority PAC case.
“Given the pay-to-play Republican style of politics that is ruling our state, the question should be raised: What did Bob Perry get for his $100,000 investment?” said Texas Democratic Party Communications Director Amber Moon. “It is hard to believe that Mr. Ceverha received such a large sum of money with no strings attached. Either way, Texans deserve to know what a $100,000 will buy in this culture of corruption.”
State Rep. Lon Burnam (D-Fort Worth) has also filed suit against the Texas Ethics Commission for what he says is the commission's lack of enforcement of disclosure laws related to the gift.
Attorney General Greg Abbott has joined 46 other state attorneys general in calling for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to limit the marketing of taxpayers' private tax return information by tax preparers.
Abbott signed onto a letter submitted to the IRS by the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) expressing the group's concerns about the ramifications of proposed IRS regulations that broaden disclosure rules but impose few obligations on the recipients of such disclosed information to protect the security of the data.
"Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States," Abbott said. "Tax returns contain a wealth of information that would be a goldmine for identity thieves and could cost taxpayers countless hours and resources trying to clear their names. The proposed IRS guidelines do not go far enough to safeguard that information once a taxpayer has consented to its use. I join my colleagues in supporting the limited use of tax return information and encouraging stronger incentives for third parties to protect taxpayers' confidential information."
It's not David Sedaris, but it is surprisingly interesting reading. The latest on the state of the 2006 bond package is online now and available in PDF format. Click here.
Assistant City Manager Ramon Miguez told the council today, “We are leaning toward bringing you a recommended program somewhere between $1.25 billion and $1.4 billion."
DallasBlog is going to be looking at this and the needs inventory (still assessed at $7 billion) over the next couple of weeks and talking to various department heads to get them to break down how and why this money is needed.
“I think there’ll be projects that are not making the list but that’s because when you have $7 billion needs inventory, you obviously can’t get everything on this bond program,” Mayor Laura Miller said.
Gene PitneyAmerican singer-songwriter Gene Pitney, whose biggest hits included "Four Hours from Tulsa", "Town Without Pity", and "I Wanna Love My Life Away" was found dead this morning in his hotel room in England. He had been on a lengthy tour in Great Britain where he had remained a popular singer over the decades.
He got his start in the music business writing songs for such well-known American singers as Ray Orbison and Rickey Nelson, for whom he wrote "Hello Mary Lou".
The cause of death of the 65 year old singer has not been disclosed, but initial press reports have ruled out foul play.
The City Council heard argument today from the Dallas Police Department to consider a $10,000 police recruit incentive – a way of sidestepping a 1979 judicial order that prevents increasing recruit pay without subsequently increasing veteran officer pay in the city’s uniformed services.
The council is scheduled to vote on granting the incentive – retroactive to April 1 to cover both enrolled police cadets and those finishing their probation period – at next week’s full council session. It appears likely to pass.
“This is not a problem faced by Dallas alone, it’s something nationwide. Also it’s not just the suburbs we are competing against,” said an officer in the DPD research department, speaking to the council.
The DPD has a current staffing of 2.4 officers per 1,000 residents, and the goal of the department is to increase that to 3 officers per 1,000. Over the last five fiscal years the DPD has had a net gain of 96 police officers. Further, the department expects to see an increase in attrition over next several years due to a large block of officers due to retire soon.
The average starting salary in the 10 largest departments around Dallas is $42,538, while for DPD recruits the amount is $38,640.
“We’re competing with city’s that will do everything we can to recruit our best and our brightest, and this is a good start to competing with them,” said Councilmember Steve Salazaar.
The proposal is to pay recruits $6,000 upon graduation from the 32-week police academy, and the remaining $4,000 on completion of probation, which is 82 weeks after signing up.
“When I hear that we don’t pay our officers as much as other cities, it should take into account payment years into service and retirement benefits. The taxpayers still have to fund that,” said Councilmember James Fantroy. “I haven’t seen us put this much emphasis on our civilian employees, and they make up just as much of our city as our uniformed employees.”
“The average we are below over the following up to 15 years for officers is about $8,000,” the DPD representative at the council briefing said.
Councilmember Ron Natinsky noted that the city of Dallas’ benefits are worse than most surrounding cities, but the pension plan is better.
Councilmember Angela Hunt said, “There is absolutely nothing more important the city does than protect its citizens. This is an important first step but it’s not the answer. We need to figure out a way to recruit more police officers and pay them better. We need to look at all our options to make sure we are fully funding the best police force we can.”
Former Tx Supreme Court Justice, Steve SmithSteve Smith's Statement:
On Friday, March 31, I filed an election contest in Travis County. I did so because of irregularities in the count of the ballots. As is well known by now, Tarrant County "counted" close to 100,000 votes that were not cast by actual voters. Less well known are other irregularities, including the exclusion of seven entire counties from the statewide vote canvass by the Republican Party of Texas, the refusal of the Galveston County Party to certify the results, and the literally unbelievable canvass from Winkler County, in far west Texas, where Smith's vote went from 74% in 2002 and 65% in 2004 to 0% in 2006.
I have been unable to get a full and accurate response from government agencies without filing a lawsuit. I have been told that in order to examine ballots to be certain mistake and fraud were not committed that I had to have a court order. I am seeking such a court order now, in order to protect the integrity of the ballot process. The margin between me and my opponent decreased by more than 13,000 votes in Tarrant County alone within 48 hours after the initial election results were announced. The final statewide tally shows a margin less than half that. I owe it to my supporters all across the state (where I won 152 of 254 counties, and at least 49.5% of the vote) to make sure that the final result is the correct result.
The bottom line is - every candidate has a right to know that all the votes were counted correctly. Every voter has a right to have his vote counted correctly. We have good reason to believe that the vote total is incorrect, and we believe that the election must not be finally decided until all the votes are correctly counted.
Steve Smith served on the Texas Supreme Court from Nov. 20 of 2002 until Dec. 31, 2004.
William F. Buckley Jr., the longtime conservative writer and leader, said George W. Bush's presidency will be judged entirely by the outcome of a war in Iraq that is now a failure.
"Mr. Bush is in the hands of a fortune that will be unremitting on the point of Iraq," Buckley said in an interview that will air on Bloomberg Television this weekend. "If he'd invented the Bill of Rights it wouldn't get him out of his jam."
Buckley said he doesn't have a formula for getting out of Iraq, though he said "it's important that we acknowledge in the inner councils of state that it (the war) has failed, so that we should look for opportunities to cope with that failure."
The 80-year-old Buckley is among a handful of prominent conservatives who are criticizing the war. Asked who is to blame for what he deems a failure, Buckley said, "the president," adding that "he doesn't hesitate to accept responsibility."
Buckley called Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, a longtime friend, "a failed executor" of the war. And Vice President Dick Cheney "was flatly misled," Buckley said. "He believed the business about the weapons of mass destruction."
Buckley, often called the father of contemporary conservatism in America, articulated his beliefs in National Review magazine, which he founded in 1955. His conservatism calls for small government, low taxes and a strong defense. Both Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater said they got their inspiration from the magazine.
In the interview, Buckley criticized the so-called neo- conservatives who enthusiastically embraced the Iraq invasion and the spreading of American values around the world.
"The neoconservative hubris, which sort of assigns to America some kind of geo-strategic responsibility for maximizing democracy, overstretches the resources of a free country," Buckley said.
While praising Bush as "really a conservative," he was critical of the president for allowing expansion of the federal government and never vetoing a spending bill.
The president's "concern has been so completely on the international scope that he can be said to have neglected conservatism" on the fiscal level, Buckley said.
Buckley also offered his perspectives on other recent presidents:
-- Richard Nixon "was one of the brightest people who ever occupied the White House," he said, "but he suffered from basic derangements," which precipitated his own downfall.
-- Ronald Reagan "confounded the intellectual class, which disdained him." Every year though, Buckley said, "there is more and more evidence of his ingenuity, of his historical intelligence."
-- Bill Clinton "is the most gifted politician of, certainly my time," Buckley said. "He generates a kind of a vibrant goodwill with a capacity for mischief which is very, very American." He doubted that "anyone could begin to write a textbook that explicates his (Clinton's) political philosophy because he doesn't really have one."
Buckley exalted in what he sees as the conservative success stemming from his call a half century ago in the National Review to "stand athwart history and yell stop."
That, he remembered, was when Marxism was widely considered "an absolute irreversible call of history." The folly of that notion was demonstrated by the demise of communism a decade and a half ago, he said.
Buckley said he had a few regrets, most notably his magazine's opposition to civil rights legislation in the 1960s. "I think that the impact of that bill should have been welcomed by us," he said.
John SnowRumors began flying last weekend that the new White House Chief of Staff, Joshua Bolten, wanted John Snow out as the U.S. Treasury Secretary. Administration sources have blamed Snow "off the record" for the failure of the Bush Administration to sell its economic policies to the American public. Those reports of Snow’s imminent departure took on added life yesterday as the President gave what could only be characterized as lukewarm support for his beleaguered Treasury Secretary: When asked about Mr. Snow’s status, the President replied that John Snow "has been a valuable member of my administration, and I trust his judgment and appreciates." That sounds like a "vote of confidence" by the owner right before the coach or manager is about to be fired.
Speculation is rampant as to who will be Snow’s successor at Treasury. Bolten, who formerly worked at Goldman Sachs, reportedly would like to recruit a prominent Wall St. name such as Henry Paulson of Goldman Sachs or John Mack at Morgan Stanley. But, both the Financial Times and the Wall St. Journal say that neither Paulson nor Mack is interested in the job. The Financial Times quotes a Wall St. Republican as saying, "No A-grade person on Wall Street will go for this, given the state of the Administration."
Deputy Secretary of the Treasury, Robert Kimmitt, appears to be out of the picture because of Snow’s opposition to his appointment and because of Kimmitt’s key role in the Dubai ports debacle. That leaves two other insiders as the leading candidates to succeed John Snow. Alan Hubbard is the director of the White House National Economic Council and a longtime friend of the President’s. Robert Zoellick is Deputy Secretary of State and a close friend of Joshua Bolten, the new White House Chief of Staff. Hubbard and Zoellick have to be considered frontrunners at this time.
The Texas Department of Transportation has released an environmental impact statement for the proposed Trans Texas Corridor.
The proposal outlines a road parallel (to the east) to I-35 from San Antonio to Dallas, and merged with I-35 between San Antonio and Laredo.
“The Trans-Texas Corridor will provide unprecedented trade opportunities, a faster transportation system that moves freight and hazardous materials out of city centers, and thousands of new jobs,” Gov. Rick Perry said. “Today we take an important step toward realizing this goal.”
Bashing the plan was Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, who called the project a "land grab down the heart of Texas."
“Gov. Perry and his highway henchmen might as well split Texas in two,” she said. “This is a 10-mile swipe down the heart of Texas, running from Oklahoma to Mexico. It will suck up 2,400 square miles of prime farm land and 13 square miles of parks, and nearly a million people will be impacted by its route.”