Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott today sent out an urgent message for all Texans to be on the lookout for official-looking e-mails purporting to originate from major financial institutions asking for personal account information.
In the latest series of so-called “phishing” scams, the e-mail sender claims to represent financial institutions such as Comerica, Chase or others. The message instructs the “account holder” to submit personal account information because “bank officials” have reason to believe his or her account may have been accessed by an unauthorized party.
“I cannot emphasize this enough – Texans who receive such e-mails should immediately delete them because these tactics are used to trick you into releasing private information to someone who will try to empty your bank account,” said Attorney General Abbott.
The phony e-mails scare the user into believing his or her account information may have been compromised to outsiders. The e-mails then instruct users to click on what appears to be an official link to their bank’s Web site, then log in using their user ID and password in order to inspect their account for recent activity. At that point, the ID and password are stolen and used for purposes of identity theft.
Attorney General Abbott urges consumers who receive such e-mails to visit their personal bank’s Web site and access account information the usual way. Banks and credit unions never send unsolicited e-mails to their clients in this manner, so it is always wise to avoid these e-mails and clickable links that can expose a consumer to fraud.
Financial institutions request consumers whose account information may have been compromised to immediately contact their fraud investigators. Many have established special e-mail addresses for consumers to forward phony e-mails and “phishing” attempts.
Consumers who believe they may have received such bogus e-mails may file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office by calling toll-free (800) 252-8011 or accessing the agency’s Web site at www.oag.state.tx.us
As far as giving the background on the Mercantile deal, I bow to the dean.
And on Wednesday, the City Council agreed to a $51 million bond to pay for a portion of converting a number of empty commercial buildings into residential and retail space, as part of the deal with Forest City Enterprises to renovate and redevelop the Mercantile Bank complex. Had the city not, it would have ended up with an empty Mercantile building project and a cost as high as almost $40 million.
And as Schutze noted, to ensure future bonds, the city will have to end offering businesses in the Downtown Connection Tax Increment Financing District property tax abatements and tax increment funding for quite a while.
Texas has 19 Republican State Senators and they stand united in telling the State Republican Executive Committee to mind its own business. The SREC, as it is called, passed a resolution demanding the Senate repeal the so called two-third rule. This is the rule that requires a two-thirds vote of senators to bring a bill up out of order. There is nearly always a SB1 that sits in front of other bills requiring the super majority vote to move legislation. SREC members made plain their annoyance that the overwhelming GOP majority in the Senate was allowing its will to be thwarted by a minority of Democrats.
The Republicans senators in a letter from last weekend to Republican state chairwoman Tini Benkister was direct in telling the SREC that the Senators would make their own rules thank you very much. The feeling of many GOP senators has been that without the rule in years gone by the GOP could not have stopped many bills and that those days might come again.
On Tuesday, a Park Cities Republican Women’s Club event featured speeches by a number of Republican candidates running in March’s primary. Anita Perry also spoke at the event.
According to one source present at the event, the candidates were asked to find their opponents and group together with them. This was intended to make the event run more efficiently since candidates could give their speeches as soon as the contested races were called out.
One incumbent running for Dallas County Clerk, however, refused to stand next to her opponent as her opponent gave her speech. Cynthia Calhoun, who is the current Dallas County Clerk, apparently stood far away from the front of the room as her opponent, Carolyn Garon, spoke to the attendees. When Carolyn Garon finished speaking, only then did Calhoun come to the front of the room to give her speech. According to our Republican source, who was present at the event, Calhoun’s behavior appeared petulant and unprofessional to the Republican women who were in attendance.
The same source also noted that there were many empty chairs at the event. Apparently, Mrs. Perry did not even fill the room. The source said that the speeches by primary candidates were hurried through before Mrs. Perry spoke.
Could this be an indication of a low turnout in the Republican primary? If so, that could be a good sign for Carol Keeton Strayhorn’s independent candidacy for Governor.
The Dallas City Council will consider the issue of landing fees at Dallas Love Field, which have been frozen at 35 cents per thousand pounds for the last 20 years.
The rate is the lowest of nearly any airport in the country, and given how cash strapped city hall is, it's likely the rate will be going up the proposed 20 cents per thousand pounds. Southwest Airlines is the largest airline operating at the airport, representing almost one-third of all flights.
Today The Dallas News produced a poll of 1482 registered voters informing us that 52% of all Texans favor additional spending on education versus 39% who oppose it. The only group out of step with more spending was “Republicans” who opposed additional spending by 46% to 44% margin; pretty much a tie. Beyond that the News story was a bit skimpy with details.
Another poll released yesterday was longer on detail. While this poll was paid for by the less than unbiased Texas State Teacher Association (the Texas arm of the National Education Association) it was conducted by the respected Tarrance Group. The poll of 893 registered voters found to no one’s surprise that 42% of all Texans named “education” as the state’s most important issue. That was up 4% over last year. Only 16% named “cutting property taxes” as the state’s top priority.
The most interesting result was that 69% wanted to see more state money invested in education. When read the statement “our children deserve better, and we can give them an excellent education by fully funding the proven reform already in place, and investing more money in public education” 64% said “yes.” This question was counter posed with “we can provide our children with a good, adequate education by using our current education dollars, so we should not invest more money in public education” which drew a 29% positive response.
When similar statements were counter posed the poll found that 58% wanted a pay raise given to all teachers while 39% preferred that raises be tied to student performance tests. While 70% of Texas voters want higher education standards it appears that “testing” as a measure of achievement is losing favor with 56% saying there is too much emphasis on testing.
Obviously the TSTA was not going to release a poll whose conclusions were counter to its interests. However, that doesn’t mean the poll is biased. To the extent the Dallas News offered much information on its poll results they seem in good agreement with the TSTA.
The Texas Education Agency could publish proposed rules on the expectation that 65 percent or more of all education dollars go to the classroom sometime in the next few weeks. The rules will be proposed as amendments to the state’s financial accountability standards.
Several ideas have been floated for possible inclusion in the new standards. One possibility is making compliance with the 65 percent standard worth five points on the state’s financial accountability ratings. Another is allowing districts to post their checkbook on the Internet as an alternative to complying with the 65 percent standard. Another idea floated would be to require 70 percent, but allow inclusion of librarians, counselors, and nurses.
Gov. Rick Perry and Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn once again fired rhetorical shots at each other this afternoon. Perry, at a speech to the Texas Business and Education Coalition, accused Strayhorn of trashing the accomplishment of Texas teachers and parents for political gain. Strayhorn accused Perry of failing Texas teachers and students and challenged him to a debate on education policy.
“Our record in education is one that all Texans can be proud of, and much of the credit goes to those members of the reform movement who spent years – decades, in some cases – faithfully fighting for higher standards, stronger accountability, and a renewed focus on the fundamentals of learning,” Perry said. He cited improved passing rates on the state’s exam, the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, as evidence. "The next time someone criticizes the state of schools in Texas in order to advance their political agenda, feel free to debate them that our children have come as far as children in any state and further than most, despite tougher challenges."
Strayhorn, however, argued the system is under-funded and reiterated her call for higher pay for teachers. “This state’s governor has failed our children and failed our teachers,” Strayhorn said. She cited the state’s low scores on college entrance examinations as evidence that the schools are not performing up to expectations.
Perry and Strayhorn did get into a specific debate over whether the state is spending more or less per student on K-12 education from the 2004 fiscal year to the 2005 fiscal year. Strayhorn used National Education Association statistics to argue per-student spending went down. But Robert Scott, chief deputy commissioner of the Texas Education Agency, told reporters the statistic is wrong. Scott said that the state deferred one month of Foundation School Program payments as a part of the budget adopted in 2003. He said, after this delayed payment is accounted for, per-student spending went up, not down. When asked about this, Strayhorn challenged Perry to a debate on education statistics and policy.