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by Scott Bennett    Thu, Nov 3, 2005, 02:37 AM

In a post yesterday Marisa Trevino noted that in a little over three decades 90% of the state’s population growth would come from Latino families. She went on to chronicle the various woes this would entail if some real changes didn’t occur in Public Education. D Magazine Publisher Wick Allison noted on D’s Front Burner Blog later in the day that he had noted the exact same data in a column “blasting the Legislature for not confronting what this educational crisis would do to our economy.” He then served up a sample of the comments he received more or less condemning him as a racist for saying basically the same thing as Marisa.

Our Austin correspondent William Lutz also wanted to weigh in by noting that the organization Marisa quotes is “way out in left field.” Bill couldn’t be more complimentary of the people running CCCP and their sincerity, but he thinks they are usually portrayed as “neutral” when they are anything but. His comments follow.

The issues that Wick and Marisa raise are based on fact. The debate is about what to do. Civil debate is what is all about. Unfortunately, that is not what Wick got. I hope we get better.

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by William Lutz    Thu, Nov 3, 2005, 02:35 AM

When I give speeches at the Capitol, I am frequently asked “who is the Center for Public Policy Priorities (CPPP)”. Texans see the CPPP quoted regularly with reverence in their newspapers but few are aware of group’s ideological leanings or mission.

The Center for Public Policy Priorities was founded in 1985 by the Congregation of Benedictine Sisters and is funded largely by an endowment. Its mission is to expand government-funded health care for the poor. The CPPP’s staff consists of genuinely nice, sincere people who think carefully and deeply about the issues of the day. CPPP staffers are well informed and make a thoughtful and constructive contribution to the public policy process.

But their views are way out in left field. Some Republican staffers at the Capitol refer to the group as the CCCP – the old initials of the Soviet Union . The executive director of the center is former Austin District Judge F. Scott McCown. Most Dallasites know McCown as the “Robin Hood” judge, the one who presided over the school finance trials in the mid-1990s. The group’s senior fiscal policy analyst, Dick Lavine, advocates for a state income tax.

The press sometimes tries to portray the CPPP as some sort of neutral think tank. You will seldom if ever see CPPP described as “liberal think tank” in Texas newspapers.

The CPPP has a role to play in Texas politics. But when the press writes about a CPPP report describing dire consequences for children and calling for more spending, consider the source. Remember this is a group whose stated purpose is bigger government and more taxes.


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by Scott Bennett    Thu, Nov 3, 2005, 12:17 AM

Everyone likes to complain about bureaucrats and bureaucracies and often with good reason.  Huge organizations whether public or private do not lend themselves to easily to customer service or attention to detail.  It is doubtless a bit downer for the men and women who are our public servants to feel so constantly demeaned.  So let me hand out some back pats.  In the past 48 hours I have dealt with the Social Security Administration (lost card), the Dallas County Clerk (auto registration), the DPS (Driver's license renewal), the North Texas Tollway Authority (incorrect info) and the US Post Office (don't ask).  In each and every case I encountered a hard working, friendly, professional individual who who went above and beyond the call of duty to help me out.  Every so often these government employees deserve a pat on the back.  Here is mine.

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by William Lutz    Wed, Nov 2, 2005, 11:48 PM
kidscomp.GIFA few weeks ago, Gov. Rick Perry issued an executive order directing 65 percent of education expenditures go into the classroom. Today, Perry announced part two of his effort to implement the education reforms in HB 2 (the school finance bill) administratively. Perry signed an executive order directing $10 million in federal funds to districts that succeed in improving student performance for low income students. The money will pay for $100,000 grants to 100 campuses statewide. Perry has ordered 75 percent of the money to improve teacher compensation at those schools. Perry called on the Legislative Budget Board to appropriate an additional $25 million so that 250 additional schools can be served.

“The governor’s executive order is a giant step forward in ensuring Texas’ at-risk students benefit from highly qualified teachers,” said Chris Patterson, research director fo the Texas Public Policy Foundation.. “This provides a model for a performance pay program in all public schools that benefit students and teachers alike. The governor’s order recognizes the critical link between teachers and student success.”

Perry also announced an additional $2.5 million in funding to help teachers pay for school supplies. This is on top of the $5 million already available to reimburse teachers for supplied. He is also granting an additional $600,000 for the Milken Family Foundation to expand their Teacher Advancement Program to six additional campuses. The Foundation employs performance pay principles for teachers at its schools.

Yesterday, Denver voters approved a tax increase for ProComp, a professional compensation plan for teachers that includes a performance component.
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by Scott Bennett    Wed, Nov 2, 2005, 08:38 PM

Kinky Friedman
Harvey Kronberg reports in the Austin political newsletter Quorum Report that sources tell him that a new Zogby poll will show incumbent Republican Rick Perry with only 42% compared with 25% for Democrat Chris Bell, and an amazing 21% for Independent songwriter and all around wild man Kinky Friedman.  (The Quorum Report requires a subscription but this information can be accessed through 'Daily Buzz.'  Scott Bennett was a co-founder of the Quorum Report in 1984).

If accurate, and Kronberg nearly always is, the governor should be shaking in his boots.  This means the anti-Perry vote, represented by an unknown Democrat and a cigar chomping country and western performer, receive a combined 46% of registered voters.  It is one year away from the election but for an incumbent to be this low is a bad sign.  Of course it is easy to tell a pollster you are voting for Friedman it is another thing to actually do so.  But serious candidates shrugged of Jesse Ventura until the day he was elected.

The poll also shows Bell's weakness.  It is reasonable to expect that any name with the word Democrat attached to it would get maybe 40%.  Of course we don't yet know if the word Democrat was attached and the poll may merely reflect Bell's lack of name ID. 

What the poll may show is that a serious and well-funded Democrat like Houston Mayor Bill White, Austin ad man Roy Spence, or even 2002 Democratic candidate Tony Sanchez (or even 2002 Senate candidate and former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk) could make a race of it.  The governor will no doubt say that Zogby is a Democrat (which he is) but he is also one of the more accurate pollsters in the US. 

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by Tom Pauken    Wed, Nov 2, 2005, 05:44 PM

That David Garrow (no conservative, he) would write a commentary for the November 2, 2005 edition of the Financial Times entitled "Why the Democrats will not go into battle over Alito" is an encouraging sign that Samuel Alito is well on his way to replacing Sandra Day O’Connor on the U.S. Supreme Court. Garrow predicts that "Alito will win U.S. Senate confirmation by a margin of about 65 to 35." He bases his conclusion upon his belief that "Judge Alito will profess respect for earlier precedents just as John Roberts did in winning Senate approval recently." Trying to attack Judge Alito for voting to uphold "spousal notification requirements" prior to a woman procuring an abortion won’t hurt him with U.S. public opinion, which overwhelmingly supports that view, as Garrow points out. Nor will Judge Alito’s strong belief that marriage is a central institution in our society hurt him with the American public.

Business leaders also are pleased with the Alito nomination in that his long record on the federal appeals courts in respecting contract rights gives business groups confidence that Judge Alito’s views will bring a sense of stability on business-related cases which reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

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by Carl Pellegrini    Wed, Nov 2, 2005, 11:28 AM

The Pied Piper of Hamelin is a folk tale that tells about a disaster in the town of Hamelin , Germany that supposedly occurred in 1284. A man came to Hamelin claiming to be a rat catcher and the people of Hamelin promised him payment for killing the rats. So the man took a pipe, attracted the rats by his music and made them follow him to the river, where they all drowned. Despite this success the people reneged on their promise and did not pay the rat-catcher. He left the town, but returned several weeks later. While the inhabitants were in the church, he played his pipe again, this time attracting the children of Hamelin. One hundred thirty boys and girls followed him out of the town, where they were lured into a cave and sealed inside.

Well, Alan Greenspan’s pied piper policies during his 18 year tenure have lowered the bar of moral hazard. You ask, “What is Moral Hazard?” Moral hazard is a term often used when analyzing the effects of insurance. It refers to the idea that the very provision of insurance raises the likelihood of the event being insured against taking place. This tendency of insurance to change behavior is called moral hazard. Alan Greenspan .is on record backing the Mexican bailout, the Asian bailout, the bailout of Long -Term Capital Management, despite the financial dangers all these bailouts create down the line.

When Moral hazard exists in financial markets, borrowers and lenders take current risks, based on the belief that they will receive support in the future if debts are unable to be repaid. We live in a world of rational expectations and learned behavior that is reinforced when the behavior of policy makers occurs as expected when a crisis happens. The recent FEMA experience with the hurricanes is a good example. Why take prudent action, when we all know that “it is the government’s responsibility” to solve all of our problems in real time.

The price has been paid to the pied piper- more and more credit and money has been created to affect an environment wherein a business may stumble but not fall- bailing out the airlines is the current example. The level of bond quality spreads and swap spreads is testimony to the faith the financial community in Alan’s siren message luring investors into a sense of risk free returns. How many times have we heard Alan say how good financial derivatives are for the U.S. economy?

Will the next head of the FED confirm or deny this past policy? The markets appear to not want to wait for an answer. Remember the old Wall Street adage of “Buy on the rumor, Sell on the news”? If the pied piper is not to be paid, our financial children are at risk from the forces of the dark side of moral hazard.

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by Marisa Trevino    Wed, Nov 2, 2005, 12:43 AM

Today’s release of the Center for Public Policy Priorities’ report “The State of Texas Children 2005” should be retitled “Texas Doomsday 2040.”

By that year, state demographers predict that 90 percent of the growth in Texas’ population means a higher likelihood that there will be more surnames like Martinez and Garcia rather than Perry and Miller.

And, according to the report, tomorrow’s Texas workforce is today’s Latino children who are experiencing the least gains in education and family and economic stability.

From being three times more likely to drop out of school than other students, comprising the majority of children in foster care and the most likely to live in poverty, Latino children are well on their way to what Texas state demographer Steve Murdock is calling the Texas Challenge.

Murdock says that if these trends continue, by 2040 the percentage of Texans without a high school diploma will rise to 30 percent. The prison population will increase by 124.4 percent; the tax base will shrink while demand for services grows.

What’s alarming, Murdock says, and something we all need to look at now, is that if the income differences and education gaps don’t change from where they are today among Latinos, whites and blacks, Texas will be a poorer and less competitive state in the future.

And all the baby boomers who think they can retire in ease in 35 years will have a rude awakening when the state’s economy will be dependent on a generation that have lived their lives believing the best they can do is flip burgers.

Today’s report needs to serve as a blueprint for what every city in the state needs to do to not only build towards the future development of a prosperous Texas but also to build upon the potential that exists within each child of color before hope is lost for both Texas and our future.

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by Scott Bennett    Tue, Nov 1, 2005, 11:46 PM

Perry3.jpgTexas Republican Governor Rick Perry sent a three page letter
today to the Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff to engage in a “candid” discussion about “the unique homeland security challenges facing our state.” Did he ever.

The Governor is angry that state and local leaders are getting conflicting instructions from FEMA. He is upset that “tens of thousands of Katrina victims” are about to be put out on Texas streets. He is very angry that Texas has yet to receive information on sex offenders and violent criminals fleeing Katrina. He is hopping mad that Texas is getting is not getting 100% of the costs for debris removal for Hurricane Rita while Louisiana is getting 100% for Katrina.

The Governor points out that Texas, in an act of mass compassion, is putting up 400,000 Katrina victims but cannot go on that way without Federal assistance. He points out that thousands are about to be booted out of temporary housing.

I have been getting calls for the past two week from friends and business associates in East Texas from Texarkana to Jasper to Tom Ball to Bonham. These folks are hopping mad, but not at FEMA. They are furious that the governor invited all these folks to come on over and they blame him for FEMA’s failure to act. They believe the New Orleans folks have come to stay and they want them gone. They are fearful of relocated gangs, drug dealers, criminals and sex offenders. I cannot count the number of times I have heard the phrase “no good deed goes unpunished.”

Any governor would be demanding the Feds do right by their state but for the Republican governor of George Bush’s home state to write this type of letter to George Bush’s Secretary of Homeland Security and share it with all Texas means he feels political tremors.

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by Special to    Tue, Nov 1, 2005, 08:36 PM

kevinbyhimselfjpeg 2.jpg

Like Jazz?  Meet a kindred soul:  Kevin Gillette.  Kevin has been a musician and music lover since a young age and knows as much about jazz past and present as anyone in Dallas.  If you want to keep with local performances, new artists, old artists, new CDs or what have you check Kevin out.  And be sure to join in his jazz discussion group.  Welcome Kevin.

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