The State Board of Education made national news by having a discussion on English immersion and bilingual education Feb. 9. Board member Gail Lowe (R-Lampasas) invited two nationally recognized experts on English immersion to testify. Several of the board’s Democratic members invited experts on bilingual education to testify. This was not an action item. The board discussed only. Even the mere discussion of immersion – teaching immigrants only in the English language rather than English and their native language -- riled the Democrats. “I hope we have heard the end of immersion,” said board member Mary Helen Berlanga (D-Corpus Christi).
The board has also requested two attorney general’s opinions on textbooks. The first pertains to whether the Texas constitution’s reference to “textbooks” includes electronic textbooks. The second asks whether the board needs an appropriation to spend Available School Fund money on textbooks. The constitution directs the board to set aside sufficient funding for books. Recently, the board has unanimously expressed alarm at the legislature’s refusal to fully fund textbook adoptions, including the board’s new abstinence-based health books. A legislative proposal to send book money to districts in the form of a per-student allotment that can go to either textbooks or laptops has also alarmed some board members. The attorney general’s opinion requests seem directed toward determining how much power the board has to ensure Texas students have access to high-quality books, even when the legislature is experiencing a tight budget.
The higher the turnout, the better chance entertainer Kinky Friedman has to win the Texas governorship as an independent candidate, according to his campaign manager, Dean Barkley. “Our whole strategy is to expand the electorate,” he said in Dallas Friday. If the election draws the usual low turnout, he added, “we have no chance.”
Barkley was the campaign manager for Jesse Ventura’s independent run for governor in Minnesota in 1998. In that election, the base vote was expanded by 10 percent and Ventura, a former wrestler, was elected by two percentage points. Friedman is running as an independent as is Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn. Barkley said the candidate who excites unlikely voters and gets them to the polls has the best chance to unseat incumbent Republican Rick Perry, who was elected governor by only 18 percent of eligible voters.
Asked at a forum sponsored by the Press Club of Dallas if there is a difference in political climate in Texas and Minnesota, he replied: “There are more p***ed-off voters here.” He said voters are mad about education and failed special sessions and think they’re paying to much in taxes “even though Texas is last in the country."
He also said he’s never seen a state “where the Democratic party seems so toothless.” The Democrats must draw at least 20 percent for their candidate, he said. “If they fall into the teens, it will make it more difficult to pull Perry down.”
Barkley said Friedman has raised $2.5 million and 99 percent of the money has come from people who have never given to a politician before, which he called “an indication our strategy is working – to bring new people into the process.”
Carole Keeton Strayhorn’s campaign manager and son Brad McClellan jumped all over the Secretary of State’s office in a Dallas appearance Friday, calling it “absurd” that the office expects to take two months to validate petition signatures for independent gubernatorial candidates. They must gather 45,540 signatures between the March 7 primary and the May 11 deadline, so two months later means it will be July before they know if they will be on the ballot.
Scott Haywood, director of communications for the Secretary of State, justified the time by saying 12 candidates have filed for statewide races, including six for governor, and two months is the usual amount of time it takes to determine whether a signer is a registered voter, didn’t vote in either primary or sign another petition.
“If it took the secretary of state two months to sell a car, he wouldn’t have stayed in business,” said McClellan, referring to Roger Williams, a Weatherford car dealer and big Republican donor when he was appointed the state’s top elections officer by Gov. Rick Perry.
“I’m not sure we’re going to get a fair shake,” McClellan said, noting that Williams was one of Perry’s big fundraisers.
Haywood responded, during the encounter at a Press Club of Dallas forum, that the secretary of state’s office works every day to be fair to all parties. The exchange took place during a Press Club of Dallas forum that also included the campaign manager for independent candidate Kinky Friedman.
Strayhorn was elected state comptroller as a Republican but opted to run for governor as an independent instead of in the GOP primary.
McClellan said she is attracting teachers (with the Texas State Teachers Association endorsement), Texans who are against the Trans-Texas corridor, and voters who “see this governor making special deals with special interests.” The campaign has a date base of 100,000 supporters, he said, from which to draw the petition signatures. Both McClellan and Friedman's manager said they hope to gather more than 100,000 signatures, rather than the minimum required.
More coming on what Kinky’s man Dean Barkley had to say.
DallasBlog's favorite real-life TV gumshoe, Todd Bensman, along with Robert Briggs at CBS 11 News have nailed State Rep. Terri Hodge to the wall for soliciting and accepting campaign contributions from the families of violent Texas prison inmates, for whom she then used her influence to obtain favors and benefit from the prison and parole bureaucracies.
This ain't the first time CBS 11 News has caught Hodge with her hand in the cookie jar. Last fall, the FBI opened an investigation into Hodge after CBS 11 News reported that she had accepted free rent and utilities from a Dallas affordable housing developer at the center of a Dallas City Hall corruption probe.
There's definitely a trend emerging. From the most "lilly-white conservative" district to the most rural to the most ethnic, voters attending the town hall meetings are telling Dallas City Council members one thing - too much is not enough. $1.5 billion is more than welcome. Some even wonder why it can't be $2 billion. The overall message from voters at these meetings to council members - Dallas is falling apart, and it has to be fixed.
A score of voters in District 8 - one of the largest, geographically, and most rural in the city - turned out last night to talk to Councilman James Fantroy at Kleberg Riley Rec Center on Edd Road.
The biggest desire on their wishlist? Road improvements, a police substation and rec center expansions, all to accommodate the population growth the area is seeing.
"They're telling us they don't mind paying if it's an investment in the growth of Dallas and not for the personal use of council members for their own pet projects," Mr. Fantroy said.
As Scott Bennett has noted, this parallels what voters attending town hall meetings in the more affluent and chi chi districts have said - only instead of new streets, they want improvements and repairs to existing infrastructure.
District 8 resident and DISD school board member Nancy Bingham, who was in attendance, said people she has spoken to see this as an investment in Dallas that will ultimately help grow the tax base, actually alleviating property taxes in the long run.
One voter in the straw poll of those at the rec center Tuesday night raised a voice for no taxes at all, with the rest voicing opinions in favor of a $1.5 billion bond program.
Town hall meetings continue for the next few weeks, after which staff will combine the input with their own recommendations and present the whole thing to the council.
Only early risers will be viewing the WFAA-TV debate between Democratic gubernatorial candidates Bob Gammage and Chris Bell. The taped debate is scheduled to run at 5 a.m. Sunday. Thank God, I guess, for the Web. The debate is already up on the WFAA.com Web site and may also be available on the dallasnews.com site.