The federal minimum wage was last raised in 1997 to $5.15. According to the Pew Research Center 80% of the US public would back increasing that amount by a whopping $2 per hour to $7.15. And while Republicans are slightly less inclined to boost the amount 72% of them would back the increase including 31% who "strongly favor" the increase. Democrats favored the measure by 91% and independent voters by 87%. Since the federal increase 20 states have independently increase their local wage floors to a rate higher than $5.15 and 10 have gone above $7.15.
House Bill 2, which dedicates future surpluses from franchise taxes, motor vehicle taxes, use taxes and cigarette taxes to property tax relief, passed the House on an 81-65 vote. Rep. Sylvester Turner (D-Houston) attmempted to amend the bill to dedicate the revenue to education with future legislatures given discretion on how to use the money but his effort was defeated. Other Democrats charged that dedicating all revenue to tax relief would short change the Texas Teacher Retirement System.
Rudy GiulianiA new poll released over the weekend by the Pew Research Center takes an early national pulse on the 2008 Presidential race. The poll asked respondents for their opinion (favorable, unknown/don't know, or unfavorable) of several likely or possible presidential candidates. Rudy Giuliani remains America's Mayor with a remarkable 70% favorable rating versus a mere 14% unfavorable. In second place was Secretary of State Condi Rick (59% favorable to 27% unfavorable) and Sen. John McCain (R-Airzona) was in third place with 54% favorable versus 26% unfavorable. While Sen. Hillary Clinton matched McCain's positives 42% of those polled held a negative view of her. The Democratic contender for Vice President in 2004, John Edwards, who recently visited Dallas Democrats boasted a 47% favorable to 27% unfavorable. His Presidential running mate Sen. John Kerry showed poorly with 45% viewing him favorably versus 44% with an unfavorable view. Sen. Joe Biden (D-Delaware), Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tennessee), Sen. George Allen (R-Virginia), Gov. Mark Warren (D-VIrginia) and Sen. Russ Fiengold (D-Wisconsin) were all relatively unknown but their unfavorable and favorable ratings were virtually equal. Former Vice President Al Gore was not included in the poll.
The Business Travel Coalition, which represents business airline travellers, called on the North Texas Congressional delegation today to request that the General Accounting Office conduct a review of alternative uses of the land at Love Field. The BTC also wants an accounting of tax dollars invested in Love Field and DFW airports located only 8 miles apart. The organization's chairman, Kevin Mitchell, stated this his organization's goal is to find a permanent solutions to "unproductive Wright Amendment controversies. Mitchell also maintained that the current controversy had prevented low cost carriers from serving DFW for 18-months as they wait to see whether or not Love Field will be opened to national service.
DallasBlog recently sat down with Bernadette Wright-Nutall and asked her some questions about why she is running for the DISD Board of Trustees. Nutall is a former DISD community liason and is currently the executive director of Circle of Support, a group that mentors African-American girls in the inner city. She is running against Trustee Ron Price for the District 9 seat.
Nutall said that she is running because she wants DISD to work together more effectively at the top. She said that she felt the district would benefit from having her on the Board of Trustees because of her grassroots experience in the community.
“I think one thing I bring to the table is that I worked at the grassroots level,” said Nutall. “I worked at the schools for eight years. I’ve been in the community.”
Nutall said that she wanted trustees to be more open and direct about the impact of the decisions that they make. “I think that when you connect the grassroots level with the policy level, you can understand these policies that you’re making,” said Nutall. “You get a visual picture of how they are going to impact the schools. I think I can bring that perspective”.
When asked about wasteful contracts, Nutall that the FedEx Kinkos contract was clearly a bad contract. She questioned how DISD employees at the central administration could have missed the fact that it was a bad contract.
“I think we need to look closely at contracts – how we administer these contracts, how we decide them,” said Nutall. “I think a lot of that will change when you get people in office that are trustworthy. Kinkos became a bad contract because of the person that made the deal.”
When asked about the performance of Superintendent Hinojosa, Nutall said that she felt Hinojosa has done a good job in working with community people. On her opponent, Nutall said that she thinks he could have done a better job at keeping focused on the “big picture”.
Here are Nutall’s responses to some other questions:
DallasBlog: What is the most pressing issue facing the district?
Nutall: Coordination and working together. With the board, it starts at the top. We need to agree to disagree and figure out ways that we can work for all students in DISD. Ultimately, the decisions that I would make for District 9 can affect a whole school district.
DallasBlog: Do you support more pay for teachers?
DallasBlog: What about merit pay for teachers?
Nutall: The thing with merit incentives is that we tie merit incentives to test scores. I don’t think you should tie anything to test scores. We should figure out a way to reward our teachers. I don’t think that test scores should be the only thing you look at to reward them.
DallasBlog: Do you support principal incentives?
Nutall: I think we should look across the board at how we can value the people at the front line. That includes teachers, teacher’s assistants, custodians, and everybody that works in contact with that child. How do you value them? You value them in the way you treat them and in how you reward them.
I don’t think you should give incentives to one and not the other. I think we need to do a team approach.
DallasBlog: Do you support requirements for having bilingual principals at schools where there are a certain percentage of Hispanic students?
Nutall: My position on that is that someone in the school should be bilingual. I don’t think it should necessarily be the principal.
Stephen RoachDanielle DiMartino has another excellent column in the business section of the News Monday warning of the potential problems to consumer spending posed by the high costs of gasoline and the heavy debt levels of Americans. She quotes Stephen Roach, an economist for Morgan Stanley and one of the most astute observers of the world economic scene, as warning about the dangers of our huge trade deficit:
"The longer we go down this path, the greater the chance for a fracture. I continue to believe the American consumer is the weak link in the global daisy chain."
To read the complete Danielle DiMartino column, link here.
In his most recent economic commentary dated April 1st, Stephen Roach also had some important things to say about our deficits and lack of savings in the U.S.:
"The combination of chronic budget deficits and a negative personal saving rate has all but obliterated the saving capacity of the US economy. America’s saving shortage is an outgrowth of America’s wrong-footed policies … US fiscal authorities have squandered the budget surplus of the early 1990s, and the monetary authorities have condoned a series of asset bubbles that have encouraged wealth-dependent American consumers to abandon time-honored income-based saving strategies."
As Roach points out, it is time for the U.S. to get its economic house in order; or we might face a most unpleasant surprise.
Matt DohertyReports that Matt Doherty is the new basketball team coach is terrific news for SMU sports fans who haven’t had a lot to cheer about in recent years. It hasn’t had a first rate basketball program since the days of Doc Hayes. I count myself among the tens of thousands of young Dallasites who grew up watching SMU basketball in those glory days.
There is no good reason why SMU – just like another private institution named Duke University – can’t have a superior basketball program. New athletic director Steve Orsini has hired a coach who has been a success at Notre Dame. While the new SMU coach stumbled in a difficult situation as coach at North Carolina, he inherited a difficult situation there in having to replace the legendary Dean Smith.
Steve Orsini deserves applause from SMU fans for wooing Matt Doherty away from Florida Atlantic. The Doherty hire may be a bit of a gamble, but this is one worth taking. Perhaps, even our own DallasBlog columnist and fellow SMU alumnus, Rufus Shaw, will be able to get excited about the SMU athletic program again.
At about 2:42am Dallas police responded to a robbery in progress call at 621 Grandview. Initial comments on the call indicated that it was involving a home invasion by a L/M [Latino Male] wearing shorts but no shirt who came through a window armed with a knife.
A squad of 2 officers arrived at about 2:47am and observed a L/M wearing only underwear and armed with a large kitchen style knife, standing on the front porch of the residence. He appeared to be bleeding from a number of cuts and an ambulance was called. Officers also noted a front window to the residence broken.
According to the officers they called out to the man, identified themselves as police officers in both English and Spanish and ordered him to drop the knife. As this was happening, a third officer arrived. The suspect began walking toward the officers with the knife in hand, despite orders to stop and drop the knife.
As the suspect walked toward the officers, he tripped and fell to his knees but maintained a grip on the knife. He continued his advance toward the officers on his knees, waving the knife at them. One officer fired at the suspect with a Taser but one of the probes failed to connect and there was no effect on the suspect. The suspect then tried to get to his feet and the officer fired a second time with the Taser.
This time both probes connected causing the suspect to drop the knife and officers moved in to handcuff him. The suspect continued to struggle but officers were successful in handcuffing him. The responding paramedics then began examining the suspect.
Paramedics placed him on the backboard at which time the suspect stopped breathing. Officers immediately un-handcuffed the suspect and paramedics rushed him to Baylor Hospital where he was later pronounced deceased.
The incident and the suspect’s cause of death are currently under investigation. The involved officers’ chain of command will review the circumstances and determine appropriate action. The involved officers are Officer Kara Gray #8155, Senior Corporal James Winkle #6013 and Apprentice Police Officer Brent Smith #8680.
Crime is never far from the minds of Dallas citizens or leaders - especially considering the dubious top rating Dallas once again earned for most crimes for a city its size.
Several ideas are being floated to increase Dallas Police Department pay and morale, including a $10,000 signing bonus for new recruits and an across-the-board raise for all officers.
Councilmember Angela Hunt has a few ideas of her own on how to increase police compensation without busting the city budget. She tells DallasBlog that she has sent a letter to City Manager Mary Suhm requesting time for the city council to have an open discussion on police compensation at the scheduled council retreat coming up.
Hunt thinks it's a topic that doesn't get the time it deserves.
"People’s number one concern is public safety, and what that requires is more police," Hunt said. "In my nine months here we haven’t as a council just sat down with Chief (David) Kunkle, who is doing the best he can with what he has, and talked about what it will take to do better than just the 35 new net officers we’ve gotten.
"I’ve talked to officers – they have a lot of ideas of what it would take and they're not shy about sharing them – everything from general raises to increasing the shift pay for night and deep nights, and increasing the monthly for officers who have a college degree," she said.
Currently the monthly premium for officers who have college degrees is $100 compared to $350 in some other Texas cities.
"And another problem is their health care premiums – they have to pay so much out of pocket it’s robbing Peter to pay Paul even if we give a small raise," Hunt said.
She thinks voters would respond positively to her proposal to revamp the proposed bond package to allow funding for more officers. (Bond funds are generally restricted to long term capital expenses.)
"One idea I’d like to consider is to change the bond program proposal. I’m on board for the proposal, and there’s an appetite out there among residents if the money is spent on what are priorities for them," she said. "I suggest that if we agree to a $1.4 billion bond, let’s reduce the bond to $1.2 billion. Then we go to people and say, we’re going to increase taxes to cover this additional $200 billion, which we will earmark part of it for debt service on the bond, and the rest will be used to hire more officers.
"I think people are smart enough to grasp the concept that things like more cops cost money, and they are willing to pay for it if they know that’s what their taxes are going towards," Hunt said. "And if after we go to people in town halls and explain this idea, and they reject it, then at least we put it to them and gave them a chance to make the decision whether to accept the level of public safety they have now, or improve it. And at least we have their feedback on how they want their money spent."