I’m not sure if Dallas school trustee Ron Price actually brokered yesterday’s publicized (see Dallas News story) truce between some members of the rival Crips and Bloods gangs as part of a promise to end school gang violence, but he does deserve credit. He did bring the two sides together in a public forum and put them in the spotlight long enough to get them to say they’d try to stop their senseless fighting and killing.
The big question now is who will do the same for the Latino gangs?
Latinos comprise over 60 percent of the students enrolled in DISD. In a Dallas Morning News article, it was reported that from 2003-2004, the number of gang-related incidents in the Dallas school district was five times higher than Houston and every other large school district in Texas. It just goes to reason that the majority of those “incidents” are being perpetrated by Latino young people.
I realize the Latino gang problem is especially difficult to conquer because we just don’t have home-grown turf gangs or ones that have migrated from either coast, but we have an infiltration of some ruthless creatures who come from Central and South America where they’re accustomed to intimidating and even corrupting local law enforcement.
It’s all about power.
But it’s a power struggle the Dallas Latino community can help win if we unite in understanding that combating gangs is not just a matter of getting tough with them but knowing that gangs are a symptom of intense poverty, despair, unemployment and yes, racism.
We don’t have the luxury anymore of looking the other way or waiting for someone else to deal with this gran problema. Someone within the Latino community has to take the lead as Ron Price did.
Our futuro, the future of Dallas’ public schools and the future of the next generation depend on it.
Dozens of Dallas residents, upset at proposed changes to how Dallas Police respond to home and business security alarms, expressed their opposition at a Dallas City Council meeting on Wednesday afternoon.
The Dallas Police Department has proposed Verified Response as a means of reducing the amount of police resources wasted in response to false alarms. The department’s figures show that of 62,000 alarms in 2004, 97% were false. Under the proposed changes, police would no longer automatically respond to home and business alarms. Instead, they would wait for visual confirmation by the alarm security company, which would be responsible for sending a security guard to a location to ensure that any alarm is authentic.
In a presentation before City Council, Police Chief David Kunkle claimed that Verified Response will provide Dallas with the “greatest single opportunity to free up” officers’ time for important police work. He told Council that the program has worked in other cities, that it has the support of many police associations, that it would keep Dallas safer than it is now, and that “people will be satisfied” with it. Kunkle offered assurances that Dallas police would continue to respond to all 911 calls and all “panic button” alarms triggered by residents.
Opponents of the plan countered with a variety of arguments. In a series of presentations before City Council spanning 2 hours, many Dallas residents called instead for increased fines for false alarms. Some objected to the police “penalizing” responsible alarm users by refusing to respond to their alarms. Many others claimed that Dallas ’ crime rate would rise as criminals come to realize that police will no longer respond to an alarm.
Other residents disputed Chief Kunkle’s claim that the program has enjoyed success in other cities. District 13 resident Calie Stephens pointed out that Los Angeles rejected Verified Response. District 9 resident Keith James claimed that Milwaukee , a city cited by Kunkle as having successfully adopted Verified Response, is not comparable to Dallas because of Dallas ’ larger size.
Some speakers disputed Police Department concerns over the cost of false alarms. Charles Lee, a resident of district 9, claimed that that city could recoup the cost of responding to false alarms by charging for every one and raising the existing fine. Speaker Jim Smith noted that the number of false alarms has fallen substantially in recent years, from 135,000 in 1994 to less than half of that figure in 2004. Non-resident Kathleen Schraufnagel, a security industry employee, predicted that the false alarm situation would improve in the coming years.
A handful of residents spoke in favor of Verified Response. District 2 resident Dr Julian Peterson supported the proposal and also called for higher taxes in order to fund more police. Judd Bradbury of district 14 told Council that 86% of taxpayers don’t have home alarms and claimed that the cost of responding to home alarms amounts to a $750,000 per year subsidy by non-alarm residents to those with alarms. Non-resident Bob Kenney of Kensky Security Services countered claims that untrained security guards would be dispatched to respond to alarms. Kenney pointed out that all security guards tasked with responding to alarms are licensed and regulated by the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Dallas Mayor Laura Miller acknowledged that City Council is split on the issue and plans further work on it. A vote is expected by the end of the year.
State Comptroller StrayhornState Comptroller Carol Strayhorn has demanded that Gov. Perry call an immediate special session of the Legislature for the purpose of giving the state's $1.2 billion tax surplus back to the tax payers. Amazingly the governor has disregarded his opponent's demands.
Giving some of their hard earned money back to the taxpayers seems a good idea and I would be happy to get the check for $260 the Comptroller recommends be handed to all Texas homeowners. The problem is that homeowner's property taxes didn't contribute to the surplus because Texas has no state property tax. I am not totally sure what all goes into the state's general revenue fund these days but most of it is probably from the sales tax. My family paid a lot of sales tax too but a lot of families that paid sales taxes don't own homes and paid zero in property taxes. Whey should they subsidize my home ownership?
It just doesn't seem fair to take money paid by one group of people and hand it to another smaller group of people even if those folks did pay some of the tax paid by the larger group. It seems it would be more fair to cut the sales tax for a period of time thereby forgoing $1.2 billion in new revenue.
The fact that homeowners vote disproportionately in the GOP primary makes the Comptroller's idea smell more than a little of opportunism.
That seems to be the campaign philosophy of the opponents of Proposition 2, which bans same sex marriages. Republican household’s statewide received auto-dial messages from “Save Texas Marriages” The script reads as follows:
“I’m Rev. Tom Heger. Rick Perry and the legislature made a blunder in writing the gay marriage amendment. Don’t risk it. Vote against it. They left off words that would have made sure it applied only to gays. A greedy insurance company, tricky divorce lawyer or a liberal Austin activist judge can easily use these words to overturn traditional marriage and cause people to lose health insurance, tax breaks and pensions. The status quo protects everyone’s marriage. Don’t risk it. Vote against it. God Bless You. Read it for yourself at savetexasmarriage.com."
With phrases such as “liberal Austin activist judge,” this auto dialer is clearly designed to appeal to socially conservative voters. One problem: the people behind it aren’t social conservatives. Press contact number for “Save Texas Marriage” is the same as “No Nonsense in November,” the anti-Proposition 2 campaign run by former Rep. Glen Maxey (D-Austin), who is gay. Maxey also ran the Democrats’ turnout machine in Austin for the 2004 elections, which helped elect many of the “liberal Austin activist judge[s]” decried in the auto-dial messages.
The bill was drafted by attorneys at the Capitol and shepherded through the House by veteran Rep. Warren Chisum (R-Pampa). The advertising supporting Proposition 2 features three attorneys who are also state representatives, Bill Keffer, Ken Paxton, and Phil King. Rep. Will Hartnett (R-Dallas), also a Dallas attorney, was a joint author of the proposition. Dozens of legal minds in the legislature coauthored this amendment. If there was such a drafting error it is hard to believe they would not have found it. Or the opponents would have pointed it out. (The amendment barely received the 2/3rds vote needed to go to the voters.)
There is certainly room for legitimate debate and principled difference of opinion on the topic of gay marriage. But the opponents of Proposition 2 know a majority of the people of Texas oppose same sex marriage. This is why the auto-dial messages don’t address the issue directly but seem aimed at confusing, rather than convincing, the voters.
Dr. Michael HinijosaSix months ago, Dr. Michael Hinojosa, was selected as the superintendent of the Dallas Independent School District . The challenges that he faces are numerous. Out of 220 school campuses, 20 are low performing. As you look at the breakdown, the figures are alarming when you analyze the traditional middle schools and high schools of the district. Forty percent of the traditional high schools are low performing and twenty six percent of the traditional middle schools are also low performing. The elementary schools show very good improvement, but the district is still not out of the woods. The district is highly decentralized and therefore creating mini-independent school districts. It makes it extremely difficult for the superintendent to get a true and objective picture of all the schools’ needs.
In order for the superintendent to be able to implement true reforms and improve the academic achievement of the students from the elementary through the high school levels, principals and assistant principals in DISD must provide the resources needed by the teachers to do their jobs. That includes the elimination of all unnecessary paperwork. Principals and parents must become advocates for teachers to do what they were hired to do and that is to teach. Central administration must buy into this and eliminate all the bureaucratic obstacles and mandates. This can be achieved by the true involvement at every single campus of parents in partnership with the local principals and teachers in the quest for high academic achievement and standards of all students.
Dr. Hinojosa is going to have to encourage open dialogue and critical discussion with principals and teachers as to what is the best method to achieve the academic standards that are needed and required. He needs to eliminate job promotion in DISD by who you know instead of what you know. He is going to have to achieve tighter fiscal accountability in all schools and departments. Dr. Hinojosa also should assess and evaluate all departments to determine whether they reflect the ethnic composition of the community as a whole in areas such as teachers, principals, assistant principals, department heads, cafeteria, janitorial and maintenance personnel.
These are only a few challenges that Dr. Hinojosa faces that past administrations did not address. Past administrators also neglected to make appropriate changes to reflect the demographic transformation in the school district. There has been too much cronyism in DISD and too much willingness to accept mediocrity as the standard. That has to change – and soon.
Why would anybody subscribe to a newspaper when it can be read free on-line? OK. I'm one of those tree-trunkers or whatever they call people who prefer to hold and read a newsPAPER. My day is not complete without reading the DMN with my morning coffee. Now, some of you may head straight for the computer terminal and, coffee cup in hand, peruse a variety of news and opinion every morning. While I'm developing an appreciation for the on-line versions, I subscribe not only to the DMN but also to the NY Times and the Wall St. Journal daily. I will no doubt subscribe to a paper paper until my last breath is drawn.
Other oldtimers may concur. But the value of the traditional newsPAPER is lost on young people. They've grown up with the Internet and that's where they get their news -- to the extent that they pay attention to it. Most that I know obsess over entertainment news and celebrity gossip. Some are even addicted to the weekly celebrity mags and tabloids at the supermarket. They are the audience of the future, and they're not reading the daily newspaper. That may tell us as much about society and societal values as about journalism.
As for journalism, it has many definitions today. Those interested in what's happening to journalism should read Charles Madigan's "The problem with today's 'journalism'" in the Oct. 25 Chicago Tribune. It's starts with one new definition -- "journaltainment ."
A story in the ayem paper substantiates my supposition that Laura Miller's tirade over the tax abatement for Ray Hunt's new downtown headquarters will hurt the strong mayor proposition on the Nov. 8 ballot. Council member Ed Oakley says he'll vote against the proposal he helped to craft for that very reason.
My own opinion on the proposal has been evolving, but I'm clear on one element: The city needs a city manager, a professional administrator, whether or not it has a somewhat stronger mayor. The issue now seems to be whether a mayor should be able to overturn the will of the council and independently be able to fire the manager and police chief. Oakley and others are now saying "no."
The sky is blue. The sun is shining. The Longhorns are winning. And Carole Keeton Strayhorn and Rick Perry are feuding.
Gov. Rick PerryOnce again, Strayhorn is calling for a special session, which Perry once again is not inclined to call. Strayhorn called for a special session to use surplus revenue for a tax refund. “There are about 4.6 million homesteads in Texas,” she said. “If the $1.2 billion surplus were distributed to each homeowner, that would be $260 per homeowner.” Strayhorn added that amount would increase to $307 per homeowner if the state did not have the Texas Enterprise Fund. “Homeowners this month are getting their property tax statements and this money could provide immediate property tax relief,” she said. “The average property tax payment for homeowners is about $2,300 a year. A $260 rebate would be an 11.3 percent property tax cut and a $307 rebate would be a 13.4 percent reduction. That’s real money – that’s real relief.”
Perry and Strayhorn in happier times?“The comptroller is a walking contradiction," said Perry's press secretary, Kathy Walt. "Two years ago she said property taxes should be cut in half, and now she is short-changing that goal. Three months ago she didn't certify one cent of this $1.2 billion surplus in her constitutionally required revenue estimate to the Legislature, and now she says the money started arriving as early as June. In one month she has tried to spend the same pot of money three different ways in three different calls for special sessions. If she had her way one month ago, all this money would have been spent on the victims of Katrina, leaving nothing for the victims of Hurricane Rita and the property taxpayers of Texas. Her appetite for attention is a recipe for a lot of waffling.”
Roy SpenceHave you ever heard of Chris Bell? Probably not. How about Kinky Friedman? Probably so. Chris is a 46-year old Houston lawyer, former Houston City Councilman, Congressman and Democratic running for Governor of Texas. Kinky Friedman is a hell-raising, profane, cigar chomping country singer and erstwhile Republican who is also running for Governor of Texas but as an independent. Who would draw the most votes if the election were held today? Kinky by a landslide. That is why Texas Democrats continue to look for more viable candidate like Houston Mayor Bill White.
However, there is another name circulating in Democratic political circles that combines many of the best qualities of Friedman, White and Bell: Austin ad man Roy Spence.
While still in college Spence founded with a group of friends the Texas super-firm of GSD&M. Spence is a born pitch-man who quarterbacked the Brownwood High school football team to a state championship. A life-long Democrat Spence has Friedman's outsize wild-west charisma, White's business acumen and leadership skills, and Bell's Eagle Scout persona. Also like White he can write his own check. Unlike White he would not have just been elected to one job when he announced for a second.
Spence has long been active in Democratic affairs having done advertising for Walter Mondale and Ann Richards among others. Yet his business ability and creative skills are clear from his firm's client roster: Brinker International, Charles Schwab, Country Music Association, Dial, Lennox, Master Card, SBC, Southwest Airlines, and Wal-Mart among others.
Still Spence has never held public office and has mainly a University of Texas ex-students network to rely on in a campaign. Traditionally Democrats have risen through the elective ranks to challenge for top jobs. But the Democrat's bench is thin and they might be willing to follow the GOP play-book that won breakthrough elections with College Professor John Tower and businessman Bill Clements.