The City of Dallas Park and Recreation Department has temporarily closed a section of the trail around White Rock Lake, along the spillway from Garland Road to Winstead Drive.
The closure is due to damage caused by heavy rain between Saturday and Monday. The section of trail will remain closed until further notice to allow the area to be assessed and approved safe for use. Additionally, miscellaneous sections of the White Rock Lake Trail will close periodically over the next several days to allow park crews to remove mud and debris left from the receding waters.
Park and Recreation Department crews have established parking lots and trail clearing as their first priority. Debris removal from shorelines and turf areas will be done as soon as possible.
The merger of the Dallas Museum of Natural History and Science Place is effective today and the new CEO of the combined outfits will be Nicole Small. Small is currently the CEO of the Museum of Natural History and has served in that capacity for the past four years. She is a native of Dallas. The combined organization is in the midst of raising money to construct a new Museum of Nature and Science near Downtown's West End. The new facility will be similar to Houston's spectacular Museum of Natural Science.
I guess the weekend topper for me -- "the cherry on the pie,'' as Malaprop Michael Irvin now calls it -- was my friend Dale Hansen's treacly late-Sunday commentary on Channel 8, the one that painted T.O. as the Ultimate Insult To What The Cowboys Have Always Stood For. Assorted takes from atop Mike Fisher's barstool in the "School of Fish'' ...
Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn and Democratic nominee Chris Bell both held news conferences today calling for larger teacher pay raises ($4,000 across-the-board in Strayhorn's case). "To ensure our state’s economic prosperity, we must recruit, reward and retain highly qualified and experienced teachers who are fully certified, well paid and dedicated to a lifelong career with our most precious resource – our children," Strayhorn said. A link to Strayhorn's report is posted below.
Perry spokesman Robert Black called on Strayhorn to release a fully-funded school finance plan. "All Texans have ever gotten from Chris Bell and Carole Strayhorn is promises without pricetags and plans to pay for them," he said.
Okay, I think the Startlegram blew it on this story, that relates a really shoddy study purporting - wrongly - to show that energy deregulation has caused energy prices to go up instead of down.
The Startlegram isn't to blame, per se, but they report this study barely questioning it. And this is not to endorse or disparage energy deregulation, but rather to point out the flaws in the study the paper reports on.
The paper states: "Under electricity deregulation, Texans have paid some of the highest rates in the nation -- a reversal of at least a decade of relatively cheap electricity under the state's old regulated system. That's the conclusion of a national utility expert, who also reports that those in deregulated states typically have had larger rate increases than customers in states still under regulation."
It goes on to note that: "In 2004, the typical Texas residential customer paid an average of $96.00 per month, compared with the national average of $89.40."
Leave aside the meaningless comparison of average Texas household to the national average - should be a given that Texas households would use more energy given how hot it gets. And it's telling that they quote average monthly bills instead of the cost per kilowatthour.
What's really notable is what remains unsaid in the article: Something like more than four out of five households in Texas still buy electricity at the regulated rate.
So how that establishes that deregulation is the problem is, well, beyond me.
Readers raised concerns over the weekend about how unusually heavy rainfall like we just had could affect the viaduct and the whole Trinity River Corridor project. One noted that if the engineering is off, it could flood a large area from Regal Row all the way to South Dallas.
We turned to the woman who knows the answer better than anyone else - Rebecca Dugger, director of the Trinity River Corridor Project for the city of Dallas.
"We're working closely with the Corps of Engineers and we can't do anything without their blessing. One of their first priorities is constructing the chain of wetlands downstream so that all the water that collects in the river basin is released downstream - basically we're unstopping the dam," Dugger said. "So far we've cleared about 80 or 90 acres to make the wetlands chain, and the result is that thus far the flood level in the downtown area is already down by more than a foot."
It gets better.
"The levees as they stand now would protect us from a 300-year flood. When we're done with this whole project, from the levees down to Loop 12, we'll have protection from up to an 800-year flood," Dugger said.
And just for perspective, she noted, the Corps of Engineers gauged the weekend's rainfall that deluged Dallas. The verdict? It represented a five-year flood.
Find out more about the Trinity River Corridor Project right here.
Dallas lawyer Michael Boone is on target in his op-ed in today’s DMN about the need for more state funding for public schools. In the last 25 years, state funding has gone from 52 percent 35 percent now, while the local share has gone up from property taxes. Boone correctly notes that a broad new business tax is needed to provide adequate revenue.
As he says, there is a major disconnect between the tax system and economy of Texas. Service industries that account for more than half of the state’s economy fail to bear their share of the tax burden. Strong lobbyists for special business interests have created loopholes and exemptions in the current franchise (business) tax.
Simply using the current $4.3 billion surplus to buy down local property taxes -- since most districts are at the state-imposed $1.50 cap -- will only be a one-time fix. Schools will continue to need more funds to meet the growing student population and keep up with inflation.
Boone is a former president of the Highland Park School Board. He has studied and worked on school finance issues for several years as a citizen-leader. He is knowledgeable. And he’s right – about what the Legislature needs to do to fix the school funding system for the long term.
Texas needs a major new state tax that grows with the state's economy, i.e. a broad base business tax.
Clay Robison has an interesting column in Sunday’s Houston Chronicle on how influential big money has become in politics and how it makes a difference in the decisions made by public officials. In this case, Robison cites the example of Comptroller Carole Strayhorn who "has received almost $900,000 in political support since 2001 from Dallas tax consultant George Brint Ryan (Ryan & Co.) or his company’s political action committee." As Robison points out, "Ryan’s firm represents clients with tax disputes before the comptroller’s office."
The Houston Chronicle columnist goes to cite a state audit of Strayhorn’s office a few months ago which "reported that Strayhorn’s agency had reduced tax bills by $461 million for companies, including same represented by Ryan & Co., that settled tax disputes within a year of contributions to the comptroller’s political campaign."
Wonder how "tough" the Grandma was on her contributors who had tax disputes before her agency?
To read Clay Robison’s complete column on the "high-dollar game of Texas politics", link here.