Contention at the Dallas County Commissioners Court on Tuesday involved an intense disagreement over the use of Homeland Security Funds.
In what at times was a heated debate, Commissioners clashed over the most appropriate way to use hundreds of thousands of dollars in Homeland Security funds.
Dallas County Judge Margaret Keliher voted against the court order authorizing the creation of a Law Enforcement Incident Module. Other Commissioners supported the use of $475,000 in Homeland Security funds to pay for the module.
Keliher said that there were more appropriate uses for the Homeland Security funds. She cited a number of shortcomings that the Homeland Security Department had, including the lack of a staff, no backup generators, and the lack of an incident command center.
“We need to be spending our Homeland Security dollars on Homeland Security issues,” said Keliher. She said that it would be better to use a $380,000 criminal justice grant to pay for the computer system and that she thought it would be better if the $475,000 were saved for use in emergencies related to terrorism and natural disasters.
But when Keliher argued that it would be better to save the Homeland Security funds for shortcomings in the Homeland Security department, such as hiring new staff, Commissioners Mike Cantrell and Kenneth Mayfield scolded her for not filling the County Homeland Security Director position soon enough. Cantrell also argued that law enforcement agencies needed the computer upgrades in order to better share information with other law enforcement agencies.
An executive assistant and unofficial spokesperson with Judge Keliher’s office said that Keliher was okay with using the Homeland Security Funds for the computer system, but that Keliher thought it was more appropriate to use the $380,000 grant money that had already been approved for use on Adult Information Systems (AIS).
While other commissioners were not as vocal in the exchange as Mayfield and Cantrell, they did vote in favor of using the Homeland Security funds on the module.
“A good IT system where people from Dallas County and the region can talk to each other is absolutely vital to security,” said Commissioner Maurine Dickey. “If we can’t talk to each other, every city will do everything in a vacuum. The duplication would be ridiculous. If we share resources we won’t have to duplicate those resources. It’s a no brainer.”
The City of Dallas has received an RFP from the Republican National Committee for its 2008 national committee. Houston and San Antonio were also sent bid packages. Dallas last hosted a national convention in 1984 when Ronald Reagan was nominated for a second term. Many believe that President Bush would like a home state and one-time home town national convention for his swan song. The convention would require a major commitment of either corporate or public funds or some mixture of the two. A final decision will be made in February of next year.
No more inking in little circles on the ballot. Dallas County voters will soon be using electronic, touch-screen voting machines. Secretary of State Roger Williams demonstrated the machine Wednesday during a Dallas press conference. Williams said voting machines in counties across Texas are being upgraded as a result of the federal Help America Vote Act, passed by Congress in 2002 in response to problems encountered in the 2000 presidential election. Total cost of the new equipment and related education and training programs in Texas is $181 million, with the feds paying 95 percent and the state 5 percent.
The secretary of state's office said the machines will be used in the March 7 primaries and in the November general election.
Williams is taking his show on the road as part of VOTEXAS, the new statewide voter education program that includes efforts to make voting more secure as well as to encourage voter registration and help voters be prepared to vote.
If you have Dallas Mavericks tickets and just found out Mark Cuban was going to cut ticket prices for his go-go club and were wondering what to do with this extra cash - the Texas Rangers have an idea for you: Pay them more for your Ranger's tickets. The Rangers have announced that ticket prices will go up from $1 to $6 per ticket. The cheapest Ranger ticket is in the Granstand Reserved and will go from $5 to $6. The most expensive ticket, the Premium Infield will move up from $58 to $65. The Rangers must be pretty sure they will sign Roger Clemens.
There will be no "Dallas City Limits" entertainment development, it appears.
Backers of the proposed $250 million, 400,000-square-foot entertainment complex near the downtown Dallas Convention Center were given two weeks to answer a list of questions on the financials and details of the deal they proposed with the city, and they couldn't get it together.
After a three hour executive session two weeks ago, Dallas City Limits partners Bill Beuck (the developer of the 900-acre Pinnacle Park), Billy Bob Barnett (of Billy Bob's Texas fame) and Spencer Taylor (who was instrumental in bringing Gilley’s to Dallas) were asked to show the council and ciuty staff their financials and other details, including guarantees on their own funding for the project, for which they were asking the city to kick in $20 million in infrastructure.
Despite the backing of some members of the council, Mayor Laura Miller took a hard line, saying she wasn't going to put up $20 million in tax money if the developers didn't have their own bank account for the project in order.
Donna HowardWith 40 of 40 precincts reporting (including early voting) Democrat Donna Howard defeated Republican Ben Bentzin 58% to 42% for a vacant Austin House District. The vote turns a Republican seat Democratic. The seat came open when the Republican incumbent resigned. The race was closely watched throughout the state and is considered a bell ringer victory for the Democrats.
The seat was also once held by State Ag Commissioner Susan Coombs who is now seeking to replace Carol Strayhorn as Comptroller. Coombs and Gov. Rick Perry's organization played an aggressive role in attempting to hold the house district for the Republicans. Although special elections can be tricky and unpredictable the GOP candidate, Ben Bentzin, was a handsome, well-financed, ex-Dell executive. Democrat Howard was an attractive campaigner who did not pretend to be anything but a liberal.
The primary issue was education and Howard's victory is heartening for candidates in both primaries who are critical of the governor's handling of that issue and the overall GOP performance. However former US House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's conduct was also a key issue as was the governor's quick call of the special election.
Many political observers believe that Howard's victory could mean that a Democratic takeover of the Texas House is a possibility.
A recent Rasmussen and Associates poll shows Gov. Rick Perry at 40 percent in a four-way race for governor, with Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn at 31, Democrat former U.S. Rep. Chris Bell at 13 percent, and Kinky Friedman at 9 percent. With former Supreme Court Justice Bob Gammage as the nominee, the numbers change to Perry 38, Strayhorn 29, Gammage 18, Friedman at 8 percent. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.5 percent at a 95 percent confidence interval. The survey is based on a telephone poll of 500 likely voters.
Needless to say, the candidates are all putting their own spin on this. We have received press releases from Strayhorn and Gammage. In addition, Gov. Rick Perry’s campaign spokesman is quoted in the newspapers stating that Perry governs on principle, not polls. Strayhorn forwarded the poll to the press with a subject line “Perry in trouble, Strayhorn within single digits of him.”
And the Gammage campaign notes that it did better than Bell against Perry. "Our positive, progressive campaign for change is growing day by day", Gammage said. "Block by block, city by city, county by county we are revitalizing the Democratic Party and building for a better tomorrow."