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IMMIGRATION ISSUE HAS GOP ON THE DEFENSIVE
by Special to DallasBlog.com    Mon, Apr 10, 2006, 05:29 PM

John McIntyre makes the point that the immigration debate is "killing" the GOP. Here is how he put it: "The problem for Republicans is they are split and not speaking with one voice." The result is that "they are managing to turn" off two vital constituencies at the same time. Both the conservative base and Hispanic voters are angry with the GOP, albeit for different reasons.

Whether one agrees or disagrees with John McIntyre’s analysis, it’s worth reading his "Immigration Debate is Killing GOP. Here it is.

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2006 BOND: TRINITY RIVER CORRIDOR PROJECTS IMPORTANT, NOT CRITICAL
by Trey Garrison    Mon, Apr 10, 2006, 05:19 PM

The Trinity River Corridor Projects lists more than $425,792,000 in the needs inventory compiled by city staff over the past year.

This amount does not include the portion of the project already paid for by the 1998 bond, or additional costs that are rolled into other departments such as the streets, parks and recreation and economic development budgets.

Rebecca Dugger, director of the Trinity River Corridor Project for the city, said that needs cost may be somewhat higher, based on rising cost of steel and concrete.

But, she was quick to add, while the consequence of not funding the current needs of the project will not bring the project to a halt, it will prevent the Trinity River Corridor from living up to its overall promise.

“There’s nothing in our needs inventory that is less than what was promised in the 1998 bond program,” Dugger said. “A lot of it is what needs to go into the project that fulfills the potential.”

For instance, she noted that a good portion of the cost is routing existing above ground power lines underground.

“A lot of our needs aren’t as much the concrete and steel, it is things like the underground power lines,” she said. “We have seven miles of 345 kV line (a high capacity, expensive power line) and a good portion of that cost is the work involved – there’s a lot of tunneling and open trench digging. Just one half mile of it at Sylvan runs to $28 million.”

Other items within the departments needs are the additional parks, trails, whitewater courses, and connectivity throughout the corridor, which would fall within the aegis of other department budgets for purposes of the 2006 proposed bond. For instance, she note that part of the plan is to redo Industrial Boulevard to accommodate the additional traffic.

“We’re going to turn that into a feeder for people passing through the area, and it will require widening and work to make it able to handle additional capacity,” she said. “This is part of the overall Trinity River Corridor Project, but it falls within the streets budget.”

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2006 BOND: FLOOD PROTECTION AND STORM DRAINAGE NEEDS, COSTS RISING
by Trey Garrison    Mon, Apr 10, 2006, 05:12 PM

The Flood Protection and Storm Drainage needs inventory has grown by almost a third since the needs inventory was compiled last year. The revised needs list now runs to $918.4 million, up from $628 million.

The department presented its report to the Dallas City Council Transportation and Environment Committee today.

The flood management portion of the inventory totals $508 million, with storm drainage relief systems topping $383.8 million, and another $25.9 million for erosion control.

Rebecca Dugger, director of the Trinity River Corridor Projects, said that there are plans in place to replace the pumps at all six pumping stations – Hampton, Baker and Able on the north side; Delta, Pavaho and Charlie on the south side – which will run to $350 million.

These pumps, in addition to work downstream to increase the flow capacity of the Trinity, will help prevent the kind of flooding seen a few weeks ago in east Dallas and along Turtle Creek.

The problem with the last deluge in late March was the water overwhelmed the gravity pumps and backed up into east Dallas, Turtle Creek, and those areas. Some areas of Dallas received up to eight inches of rain in 12 hours, the equivalent of a 25-year to 100-year rainfall event.

“Replacing the pumps will fix the problem we saw, despite the problems of the covered creeks that used to handle this water,” she said. “And we start as you always do on drainage working downstream, and once we clear a lot of the trees to the south end of the corridor, it will allow faster water flow within the river.”

For a full breakdown of the revised flood and storm inventory needs, click here.

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YOUR 2006 BOND PACKAGE SO FAR
by Trey Garrison    Mon, Apr 10, 2006, 05:04 PM

As of now, the Dallas City Council is considering a capital bond program for 2006 that runs anywhere from $1.25 to $1.4 billion – not near enough to meet the total $7 billion needs inventory, but certainly not more, city management hopes, of a capital expense than could be operated and maintained within annual budgets.

Funds from capital bonds can only be spent on projects that have a lifespan of at least 20 years – they cannot be used on operations, salaries, vehicles and so on. Capital expenses – for instance a new library, carry with them operational expenses such as librarians, books, and such, which must be paid out of the city’s annual revenues.

Right now, according to feedback from a sample of Dallas residents, there is a general breakdown of how citizens would like to see their bond money spent, and it gets back to fundamental pothole politics.

Per dollar breakdown, according to the city staff:

• 19 cents for street improvements
• 14 cents for parks, community recreation and playgrounds
• 9 cents for major, citywide recreation facilities
• 8 cents for street utility and other infrastructure improvements
• 8 cents on library facilities
• 7 cents on flood protection and storm drainage
• 7 cents on police facilities
• 7 cents on cultural arts facilities
• 6 cents on city services facilities
• 6 cents for land acquisition for housing
• 6 cents on fire station facilities
• 3 cents on the Farmer’s Market

Further, feedback from the slate of neighborhood meetings in February and March far and away put streets as the number one priority, by 43 percent.

The nearest priority after that was neighborhood recreation facilities and parks, which got 26 percent, and flood and storm drainage, at 8 percent.

DallasBlog is going to try to break down the overall needs inventory by department, in small pieces and as we can, and look at what might be priorities in a bond package.

The whole of the city staff's report on the bond package to date can be found here.

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INTERNET SCAMS INCREASE DRAMATICALLY
by Special to DallasBlog.com    Mon, Apr 10, 2006, 03:35 PM

Eric Rosenberg of the Hearst News Service reports that "Americans lost a record amount of money to Internet fraud last year."

According to Rosenberg, "the highest individual losses were racked up by Nigerian scams." The story indicated that "Americans reported losing an all-time high of $183 million to Internet fraud, up 169 percent from $68 million the previous year." And, those are just the reported numbers.

Remember, folks, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Don’t get suckered by on-line swindlers.

To read the entire story entitled "Nigerian scams lead way as Internet fraud total soars," link here to the Houston Chronicle article.

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BUSINESSES UPSET OVER PROPOSED CIGARETTE TAX
by Brian Bodine    Mon, Apr 10, 2006, 02:37 PM

A proposal to raise the cigarette tax could hit smokers particularly hard, according to an article in the San Antonio Express-News. Under a plan presented by the Texas Tax Commission, raising the cigarette tax $1 per pack would help raise the $6 billion needed to replace money lost by the state as a result of a reduction in property taxes.

According to the Express-News, Texas’ cigarette ranking is 40th in the country. That ranking could change to 11th. Representatives from convenience store associations are saying that the tax would hit some convenience stores hard, potentially making them inoperable if they lost enough cigarette customers due to the higher prices. Representatives from companies in the tobacco industry also have their misgivings - one Phillip Morris USA official said that the Texas tax would unfairly burden adult smokers.

One official on the commission said that the proposed cigarette tax would lead to a 19 percent decline in cigarette sales. The state would benefit, however, gaining $800 million in additional revenue.

Click here to read story

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EDWARDS HEADLINES DALLAS DEMOCRATIC FUNDRAISER
by Carolyn Barta    Mon, Apr 10, 2006, 01:36 PM

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John Edwards
Democrats will gather at Gilley’s on South Lamar at 6 p.m. Thursday to hear former vice-presidential candidate John Edwards and raise funds for the local party’s coordinated campaign. The event will include food, drink, entertainment and the former senator from North Carolina, who’s on the short list of potential Democratic presidential nominees in 2008. General admission tickets are $50, special seating tickets are $250 and the private reception with Edwards is $1,000. Edwards is in Dallas a day after Presidential Advisor Karl Rove is scheduled to be here to raise money for the Republican National Committee. Info on the Edwards event is available at www.dallasdemocrats.org

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ROBIN HOOD'S EFFECTS: DISTRICTS INCREASINGLY RELY ON NONPROFIT FOUNDATIONS
by Brian Bodine    Mon, Apr 10, 2006, 11:34 AM

The Robin Hood school finance system has taken its toll on wealthy school districts. Some school districts in north Texas, such as Mansfield and Birdville, are increasingly relying on grants from nonprofit education foundations.

According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, education foundations in Tarrant County have raised $3.8 million for schools in the county. The Star-Telegram reports that, in the past, education foundations have been a luxury for many schools in wealthier school districts. Now, grants from the foundations are being used for more essential educational needs. Some schools have needed the grants to cover the costs of things like library books, overhead projectors, and microscopes for science classes.

Last school year, the education foundation for Highland Park received a $2 million dollar grant from its education foundation. Of that amount, $517,413 went toward technological needs of the district, such as computers and video equipment.

The Star-Telegram also reports that officials in Dallas and Fort Worth are “contemplating whether their school districts need similar foundations.”

Here are the amounts that have been given by education foundations to school districts in Tarrant County.

Click here to read story 

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HALF A MILLION MARCH ON DALLAS CITY HALL By Cole Dowden
by DallasBlog.com    Mon, Apr 10, 2006, 12:34 AM

Peacefully they flooded into Downtown Dallas. Police estimated 500,000 immigration protesters arrived at city hall chanting “Si Se Puede!” – Spanish for “Yes, We Can.”

The DPD and Dallas Sheriff Department had 750 officers on hand to try and keep the peace as the crowd waved flags and shouts of “Viva Mexico” were heard. About halfway through the protest most of the officers had donned their tactical gear.

The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) had previously asked all marchers to wear white shirts to symbolize peace and wave America flags. But sprinkled through the crowd red, white and green tri-colors with an eagle biting a snake were clearly seen.

One protester at the front of the march, as it neared city hall, proudly clutched a Mexican flag but a LULAC organizer quickly removed the flag so it wouldn’t send the wrong message. (SEE PHOTO)

But the message was clear, as a sea of white shirts and American flags packed in front of city hall, the Hispanic’s have arrived. It’s hard to ignore a half million shouts of “Yes, We Can.”

The sentiments were common among participants in the march.

Nery Alexander Monzon, 17, Oak Cliff, said he came to the march to protest a bill currently stalled in Congress, HR 4437, that he said would criminalize all immigrants.

“It wrong right now to do try to make every single immigrant a criminal,” Monzon said. “Everything is built on immigration. We’re all immigrants.”

His father, Nery Renee Monzon, said that he is marching today for a friend of his who died serving in Iraq and is now buried in Guatemala.

David Lopez, 30, Irving, an immigrant from Mexico City, said that he had been living in Texas for 15 years waiting for the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to process his immigration papers.

“They still don’t have an answer for us after 15 years,” Lopez said. “I only have a work permit.”

Lopez said he didn’t favor a more streamlined immigration process because, “the way I see it is there are 11 million people here illegally. And more than half of them already have a process started.”

Lopez said his grandmother was a citizen but he and his father have been waiting for an answer about their status.

A group of counter-protesters were safeguarded by the police in the face of the overwhelming numbers of pro-immigration marchers.

Pro-American Protester Ken McLure came down to support legal immigration.

“Our immigration laws don’t need to be changed they need to be enforced,” McLure said.

“We support anyone who wants to come into this country legally that is how this country was born,” McLure said.

“We need to get a hold and control of the situation before we can do anything about it,” McLure said. “This is not a race issue.”

Joe Youngblood, 25, East Dallas, braved a few random flying bottles and chants of “La Raza” from the peaceful crowd as he held up his sign, which read Deport Illegal’s.

“[They are] marching protesting enforcement of the law. I support the law,” Youngblood said.

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MEXICAN FLAGS WERE RARE
by DallasBlog.com    Mon, Apr 10, 2006, 12:30 AM

mexicanflag-01 2.jpg

There were few Mexican flags in evidence as rally organizers ask two girls to remove their Mexican flag

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