Even as we at DallasBlog celebrate the start of our fourth month bringing you news and views from Dallas and the Southwest, today we celebrate the City of Dallas' 150th year in business.
On this day in 1856, Texas granted Dallas a town charter, and nothing has slowed us down since. The town grew to be the most populous in Texas by 1890, boasting more than 38,000 residents. Today, more than 1.2 million people call Dallas home, and of that fully one-third of them appear to be in front of me on Central Expressway on my afternoon commute.
Wendi and Dave tell us about a great Valentine's opportunity for the single set. "The Chocolate Event" on February 14, 2006 from 5:30 P.M. to 8:30 P.M. at 3606 Greenville Ave. Actually, this might be fun for the married set too.
Today is signing day for College Football and David McNabb is ready with his evaluation of how the chips fell - blue and otherwise - for the Big 12 South, and area colleges TCU, SMU and UNT. Hint: Nobody failed. But guess who got an A+?
More than three hours of closed (and heated) executive session later, and the Dallas City Council today kicked the "Dallas City Limits" entertainment development ball back into the development group's court.
The bottom line from today's agenda briefing: city staff and the council came up with a list of questions - concentrating on the financials - that the council wants answered by the development group proposing the $250 million, 400,000-square-foot entertainment complex near the downtown Dallas Convention Center. More background on Dallas City Limits can be found here.
Chief among the questions/requests/concerns being thrown back to 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): Show us your balance sheet. Just how the heck are you going to finance this thing? You're asking the city to kick in $20 million in infrastructure, much less the sale of the property - just how solid is your backing? Is there a gambling component in your second phase proposal?
So come the day after Valentine's Day, city staff will sit down with the Dallas City Limits partnership to see if they can whisper the right sweet nothings, satisfying all of the city's questions and concerns.
Only then can the council decide on whether to move forward with any possible deal with the developer.
Now interestingly, more than one DallasBlog reader has noted that the possibility of Austin okaying gambling plays a critical role in this deal - Mayor Laura Miller has stated publicly she would like to turn Reunion Arena into some kind of city owned casino - but rumor is gambling may play an even bigger role than that. More to come as that develops...
The Texas Grant Program received its first private donation today from the Texas Retailers Education Foundation. The Foundation donated $250,000 to the program that provides financial aid to economically disadvantaged students.
Legislation passed last year by Sen. Florence Shapiro (R-Plano) and Rep. Geanie Morrison (R-Victoria) made it possible for the Texas Grant Program to receive private contributions.
"This is an excellent, excellent example of a public-private partnership at its best," Shapiro said. "It doesn't come any better than this. To be able to invest in our children's future in the state of Texas through private donations is really terrific."
The Retailers Education Foundation is part of the Texas Retailers Association which members include Radio Shack, Wal-Mart, Target and Neiman Marcus.
“The retail industry employs one out of every ten Texans,” said Theresia Intag, exec. dir. of Texas Retailers Education Foundation. “Texas retailers have a vested interest in ensuring that a well-trained, highly-educated workforce is available to our industry.”
Morrision thanked the Retailers Education Foundation for their initial support. "I think this is going to make a big difference in the lives of 200 students, and there will be more to come," Morrison said.
The funds will go toward helping seniors graduate from college.
Terry Stutz of the Dallas News is reporting that John Sharp, chairman of the State Tax Commission is focused on a business transaction tax of around 1% that would be applied to all Texas businesses except for sole proprietorships. However, businesses would be able to deduct the cost of facilities and employees within Texas. The tax must be on gross receipts as opposed to net income otherwise it becomes an unconstitutional income tax that would require a popular vote to put into effect. The new tax would replace the existing franchise tax.
According to the News Sharp thinks this would raise most of the $5.8 billion needed to offer a one third cut in property taxes the governor and the state’s legislative leadership want to achieve.
This program is one of two good ways to go, but the only politically realistic way to go. First, it is tough to transfer a homeowner and business burden to a broader tax base like all consumers. This avoids that. Second, Sharp is using the idea of a low rate to gain support from existing franchise tax payers – meaning corporations. Third he is omitting sole proprietors and therefore a legion of small business with few or no employees. Finally, he isn’t penalizing job creation. In fact, the tax looks and sounds a lot like David Hartman’s border adjusted business activity tax.
My personal problem is that it only cuts education property taxes by a third. With a rate that low why not expand it and raise it a tad and cut two thirds?
Vic Cunningham pledged to be an “innovative” District Attorney if elected to succeed Bill Hill.
Speaking to enthusiastic supporters at a reception hosted by B.B. Barr, Judge Cunningham listed his qualifications for Dallas District Attorney and stressed better coordination with various law enforcement agencies as the key to confront increasing crime from illegal aliens. Judge Cunningham also broke news to his supporters that respected Dallas realtor Ebby Halliday will cut a radio commercial for his campaign.
In all, three candidates have thrown their hat into the Republican primary. Cunningham faces Judge Dan Wyde and Dallas Assistant District Attorney Toby Shook on the Republican ballot. The winner of the primary will face either Democratic candidate Craig Watkins, an attorney who lost to Bill Hill in the 2002 District Attorney race, former federal prosecutor Larry Jarrett, or criminal defense attorney B.D. Howard.
This is expected to be a hard fought race in November. With the 2001 fake drug scandal still on the minds of many Dallas area voters, Cunningham supporters believe that their candidate has the advantage of not being linked with that potentially negative issue.
“Trust, integrity, and leadership – you can’t buy any one of those,” said Cunningham when asked about the most important qualifications in the race.
Local political analysts say that Cunningham has much of the Republican party machinery behind him. Over 100 Republican precinct chairmen have endorsed his candidacy. He is particularly strong in the Lakewood area, where he grew up. Toby Shook’s base of support comes from current and former prosecutors in the Dallas District Attorney’s office along with the backing of the Dallas Police Association (DPA). At this point in the Republican primary campaign, most local observers view the race as one between Cunningham and Shook, with Dan Wyde running in a distant third.
In his speech to his supporters, Cunningham addressed their concerns about illegal immigrant crime. He cited examples of an illegal immigrant who shot and killed a Dallas police officer recently. Cunningham said that, had there been better coordination among various law enforcement agencies, the accused killer would already have been off the streets due to previous violations of the law. “The key word is coordination” said Cunningham. “We need to work with all law enforcement agencies to achieve the result.” Cunningham also said that duplication among agencies was the main problem in the failure to apprehend many illegal aliens.
Cunningham gave an example of how he would be innovative by citing a sentence he had given as a Judge to a person convicted of driving while intoxicated. He required that individual to wear an ankle bracelet which detected if the individual consumed alcohol.
He received recognition by D Magazine for his innovative approach to punishment of criminals
With Cunningham counting on Republican regulars to carry him to victory in the March primary, a small turnout could bolster his chances of defeating Shook. The endorsement of Cunningham by the Dallas Morning News this week doesn’t hurt his chances either.
The Dallas County Commissioners have issued a court order in an effort to alleviate the build up of abandoned vehicles at salvage yards across the county.
The Commissioners issued a court order allowing District 4 Constable Roma Skinner to sign off on legal documents at auctions throughout Dallas County. The auctions take place at salvage yards and facilities owned by private enterprises that consist mostly of wrecker servicing companies.
District 1 Commissioner Maurine Dickey said that, in the past, the auction was conducted by police officers from Italy, Texas and other towns, “It’s great that we can auction off these abandoned cars,” said Dickey. “We’ve had a build-up of cars.”
Companies salvaging the vehicles in Dallas County have gone to police departments in other towns largely because they could not find anyone in the Dallas law enforcement community to do the task of conducting and supervising the auctioning. The law enforcement agencies holding the auctions have often been strapped for cash and they sought to financially benefit by holding the auction. But in the 2005 Texas legislative session, lawmakers required that wrecker companies use county officials from the counties where the vehicles were abandoned. .
“Local law enforcement agencies don’t want to do it. It’s not the most glamorous job,” said Mike Pappas, the District 1 Superintendent with Maurine Dickey’s office. Pappas largely credited Constable Skinner for going to the court and offering to do something about the pile up of abandoned vehicles.
Pappas also said that it was advantageous to the public to have law enforcement officials at the auctions. Following the 2005 state legislation prohibiting wrecker companies from using law enforcement officials from other counties to hold the auctions, the companies would have to auction abandoned vehicles on their own. In many cases, these companies don’t check to make sure that the vehicles were stolen. Additionally, abandoned vehicles shipped to auction yards are often in poor condition and therefore become road hazards once they are used by new owners.
“Having an officer present makes it easier and benefits the taxpayers,” said Pappas.