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A RIVER RAT PONDERS KATRINA By Jim Wright
by Jim Wright    Wed, Oct 19, 2005, 02:17 PM

A welcome to Jim Wright former Editorial Page Editor of the Dallas Morning News and long-time newspaper columnist.

Our prez let himself be stampeded by the PC Police up east on that “Refugee-Evacuee” nonsense. And so doing, he showed his fanny down home - at least among us river rats.

“River rat” is probably even less politically correct than “refugee” with such authorities as the New York Times. But as one who was born and bred a river rat -- in Osceola , Arkansas -- I know what I am talking about here. “Refugee” has ALWAYS been the preferred word along the Mississippi when the levees break and folks thereabouts have to make the big decision: Is it better to leave and live or stay and drown?

The word impressed itself on me strongly during the big floods in the mid-1930s. My mama was Western Union in our little town and her one-woman office was in the local depot. The depot was my playpen, because she took me to work with her. My day care was provided by mama and the six or seven railroad workers at the depot, who kept an eye on me and kept me from getting under the trains. It was a splendid place to be a kid, and I loved it. Then, one day, the place got all dramatic.

I was 3 or so that spring when the depot suddenly began to fill up with wet and bedraggled strangers, who huddled on the benches, slept on the floors and gratefully accepted whatever the local folks could bring them to keep them alive. In the ‘30s, nobody had much to spare, but they gave all the help they could and were thanked and appreciated by their flooded-out guests from upstream.

“Refugee” was the first word I had ever heard that did not apply to my normal life, i.e. “mama”, “daddy”, “Sunday school”, “pie” that sort of thing.

“What does that mean, Mama?” I asked. “People looking for higher ground,” she said, pointing out that any of us could become refugees ourselves. As the river kept on rising that year, I was soon to learn the truth of that definition.

Mama and Daddy both had jobs, and in the Depression, you didn’t lightly take off from a job, flood or no flood. But Mama decided her lone chick was far too precious to risk, so I was sent to higher, dryer ground. I was a new refugee.

My Aunt Em came and got me, and with our shoeboxes of fried chicken, we entrained and traveled to Granbury , Texas .

As a refugee, I do not remember cursing the federal bureaucracy, the welfare agencies, President Roosevelt, or the local and state authorities for my fate or the floods. I did not know any cuss words at the time; and, in truth, it sounded like a great idea, actually riding on one of those trains.

Once I reached Granbury and the bosom of my mama's big family, I discovered to my delight that I had never had it so good. Indeed, I became the pampered Young Prince of the Clark family, who were railroad people.

Hosted by my grandparents and aunts, I could do no wrong. Two older girl cousins instantly decided that I was a full-size baby doll to play with, and my feet hardly touched the ground for a month or so. I could eat everything I wanted, do what I wanted, stay up until all hours, 9 or 9:30 some nights.

My poor mama, back home, was suffering the tortures of separation from her only child, now a refugee waif far away. As THEY ALWAYS DO, ‘WATERS’ BEING THE PLURAL SUBJECT it always does, however, the waters of Big Muddy ebbed, and the folks in the depot were able to go back upstream to where they came from. And the Young Prince was summoned to leave my kind hosts and kinfolks and return to mama and daddy and river rat reality.

As I alighted from the train, Mama, all tears and cries of delight, rushed across the platform and swept me up. I was glad to see her, but my first response to all this joy and welcome was this line, forever more a part of family history: “I just came back for some clean clothes, Mama, I'm going right back to Granbury.”

I have always known I was loved, for otherwise, I would have been killed on the spot. The point of this is, our prez ought to recognize that HIS mama, who pays no attention to the PC Police whatsoever, was bang on when she pointed out that not all of the Katrina “evacuees” were horrified, despairing, and desperate to leave all the goodies and the role of victims of the cruel flood and return to where they came from. I know from personal experience exactly how they feel.

And so, Mr. President, in addition to my tip to avoid going along with the PC Police, I would also advise you to listen to YOUR mama.

As Mrs. Barbara Bush pointed out, and was consequently beat up by the PC media, when it comes to being a refugee, there is suffering, and then there is suffering. Not all those Katrina folks we are supposed to carefully call “evacuees” are going to leave their own Granbury after the waters drop back home.

I met a neighbor the other day, and as he waited in his pickup to let me drive my pickup through the gate, I noticed he had a passenger. He said, “This is my nephew from Port Arthur .” The young man, fresh from flight from Rita, leaned forward and added emphatically, “And I am a REFUGEE!” As opposed, I guess, to the more PC choice favored by those who care about that kind of thing.

Aside from the semantics of supposed PC self-esteem terminology, there are other odd sidelights of Katrina. Some poll or other the other day found that half those in Houston, who came there from New Orleans and Katrina, want to stay in Texas .

Could be that’s why those Democrat officeholders in Nawlins and Louisiana are sweating bullets. A big hunk of their power base may have crossed the state line and might not come back.

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GAMBLING COULD BE KEY
by Carolyn Barta    Wed, Oct 19, 2005, 11:42 AM

226177-192207-thumbnail.jpgCall it the "Aha!" factor.

Tucked away on the jump of the Laura Miller/Ray Hunt story in the DMN today is this note: If Reunion Arena stays under city control (as Mayor Miller would like), it could become a cash-cow casino someday if the Texas Legislature ever legalizes gambling.

So this is what her objection to the land swap is all about!

Miller opposes the land swap -- giving Hunt Reunion Arena for his parking lot -- because she envisions more than just an "entertainment center" in that area. She sees the possibility of turning Reunion Arena into a real live casino. If only the Legislature would cooperate, of course.

Conservative Republican legislators fought off efforts in the last legislative session to bring up casino gambling. But how long can they hold it off? With growing demands for more funding for public schools, if and when Robin Hood is overturned, will they be forced to cave in to the prospects of new revenue from gambling casinos -- to avoid other new taxes?

Wouldn't Mayor Miller love to say: "I told you so."

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Stakes grow on Wright repeal
by Carolyn Barta    Wed, Oct 19, 2005, 11:15 AM

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Southwest President Colleen Barrett and petitions
The latest headline about Southwest Airlines is that it might relocate its headquarters if it can’t expand flying from Dallas Love Field. At a news conference Tuesday, it also announced that it has collected 214,000 signatures on its “Right to Fly” petition to show lawmakers public support for dumping the Wright Amendment.

The surprise is that it didn’t collect more signatures.

Southwest launched the petition drive in June, spending three months collecting the signatures on flights, at ticket counters, rent-a-car and other vendor counters, and some of their employees even canvassed door-to-door. Southwest employs some 5,000 people at Love Field, so that would amount to about 40 signatures per employee.

Consider that Love Field served 5.9 million passengers in 2004, almost all of them Southwest customers. Add the other Texas markets, such as Houston, and the potential for collecting more signatures abound. One would have expected one million or more signers.

Southwest has presented the petitions to U.S. Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn, but Washington sources see little chance of any action on the Wright Amendment this year – unless the repeal is attached as a rider to some other bill.

That said, Southwest has made some progress in Washington by splitting the DFW congressional delegation and attracting some powerful senators as supporters of the repeal. The key chairmen, Rep. Don King (R-Alaska) and Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), however, seem to have zero interest in moving a bill.

As for the possibility that Southwest might move its headquarters from Dallas, that would be bad news. The company was born and raised here and is one that contributes to the area’s job and tax base. As Dallas’ fifth-largest taxpayer, it contributed $15 million last year and claims to create $2 billion to $3 billion in economic activity.

However, it might make good business sense to move if Love is shrinking relative to other markets and if company managers can’t get from here to their other big markets on Southwest planes.

The other side of that coin is that if American Airlines has to split its DFW hub between DFW and Love Field, its execs might not think this is such a good place for American’s headquarters, and have intimated as much.

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LET THE COUNCIL EARN ITS PAY: SELL ADS
by Scott Bennett    Tue, Oct 18, 2005, 11:59 PM

wrr_classical101fm.gifAs many of you know the City owned radio station WRR carries the City Council meetings live every Wednesday.  Former Mayor Starke Taylor once suggested that broadcasting council meetings was the worst thing that ever happened to the city:  not only were the citizens mortified but potential candidates for the City Council were mortified out of running.  That is probably true some of the time, but at others the Council is the best entertainment on radio.  The Council also draws the best audience for the station.  Yet, there are no ads.  Why?  If this show has real ratings the least the Council can do is earn their pay by letting WRR sell ads.  DallasBlog.com would certainly buy some.

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TRINITY CROSSING: JUDGE FOR YOURSELF
by Scott Bennett    Tue, Oct 18, 2005, 11:50 PM

There will be a City Council briefing today on the proposed Trinity Crossing project.  That is the project name for the entertainment district that Billie Bob (of Billie Bob's) is proposing for the infamous Lot E of the Dallas Convention Center.  This is the lot that Ray Hunt proposes to swap for the city's Reunion Complex.  And yes this is the deal that has Mayor Miller accusing Mr. Hunt of being a liar and, well, a greedy er, so and so.  Rather than summarize the details you can read them yourself and decide if there is a devil in the details.  (Trinity Crossing Briefing)

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HARRIET MIERS AND THE LAW OF UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES -- By John Collins
by John Collins    Tue, Oct 18, 2005, 01:13 PM
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John Collins

          By now, I’m sure Harriet Miers is wondering:  “With friends like these, who needs enemies?”  The President’s nomination of Ms. Miers has caused great consternation among certain conservatives who had been looking forward to a judicial Armageddon---Senate confirmation hearings where the forces of righteousness conquer evil, all played out on national television for the world to see. 
            One "law" that has been overlooked is this: the law of unintended consequences--will Miers' nomination produce the intended results expected by evangelicals such as Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and James Dobson?  It's worth pondering.
           The President has been on the campaign stump pushing his nominee, especially among evangelical ministers and their fellow travelers assuring them of her conservative bona fides.  

            Even Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht has been on the t.v. and radio talk shows touting her faith and that she, personally, and her church, are firmly opposed to abortion—the key legal concern of evangelicals.  In all fairness, Justice Hecht has been quick to add that he doesn’t know how she’ll vote on a particular case---even one involving Roe v. Wade.
            What is clear is that some in the conservative family dispute really want a “sure thing” --- not a judge who will look at the evidence and the law and make an independent decision.   The unvoiced question is basically this:  “We don’t know how she’ll vote.”
            But does any President know how his nominees will vote?  History, our only guide in these matters, says "No."  And there is a very good legal reason----it’s illegal and a violation of both state and federal law for anyone—including the President—to obtain binding commitments from judicial nominees to vote a particular way or in favor of a specific result.

            Thus, the public dance goes on about the lack of knowledge about how Miers will vote once arriving on the court.  In private, other assurances and tunes are being played by the White House staff.
            Of course, there’s another reason for judicial uncertainty touched on by Justice Hecht.  Basic honesty requires that judicial nominees can't commit in advance since they haven’t reviewed the evidence, studied the appellate record, read the briefs or heard the lawyers’ arguments.  This kind of hard work is what appellate judges do---they decide specific cases---concrete cases based on a specific record forged in the heat of legal combat in the trial court and the intermediate appellate courts.
            One valid point made by one of Miers' leading critics, George Will, is that the public should know what procedures she will employ in deciding cases.   In other words, how will she go about the difficult process of deciding tough cases?  What rules of construction will she employ especially when the evidence is evenly matched, the statutory or constitutional language ambiguous and the relevant precedents less than clear?  
            
If reports are correct that one of her judicial heroes is Warren Burger, then Ms. Miers may approach a case from a solidly conservative approach, giving great weight to the text and history of a particular constitutional provision, but not totally ignoring the realities of modern-day life.  This time-honored approach troubles the “litmus test” crowd since Burger voted with the majority in Roe v. Wade and did little or nothing to overturn it in his subsequent years as Chief Justice.
In an excellent new book, Radicals in Robes, Why Extreme Right-Wing Courts Are Wrong for America, University of Chicago law professor Cass R. Sunstein describes the various philosophical approaches taken over the years by judges deciding cases on our highest court.  He correctly points out that the law of unintended consequences can at times plague the court as an institution as well as the litigants battling out the abortion issue.  He notes the irony that the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision probably led to the defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment and, in essence, demobilized the women’s movement while at the same time activating the strongest opponents of that movement.
        Sunstein persuasively argues that if Roe were overruled, Democrats would almost certainly be helped and Republicans would almost certainly be hurt. If abortion really does become an active issue again – if abortion might actually be a crime - then countless Americans would likely vote for pro-choice candidates. In other words, if Harriet Miers (and a court majority) votes to overrule Roe this would immediately create a major crisis for the Republican Party.  Red states would undoubtedly turn blue or at least stronger shades of purple.  For faith-based Republicans, this would be both an "unintended consequence" and the legal equivalent of the dog catching the pickup.
        In the good news department for the President's nominee I count only two or three Republican Senators that have publicly expressed reservations about her nomination.  Most Senate Democrats are watching the ideological jousting from the sidelines.  If the vote were taken today, Harriet Miers would definitely be confirmed.  That is also the most likely result in any event.

        However, as that great public philosopher, Yogi Berra, once said: it's awfully tough to make predictions, especially about the future.

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CEVERHA BANKRUPTCY WILL HURT SPEAKER
by Scott Bennett    Mon, Oct 17, 2005, 05:52 PM

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Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick
The decision by former Dallas state representative Bill Ceverha to file for personal bankruptcy shortly before the tightening of the bankruptcy laws is the first major political fallout from the civil and criminal litigation surrounding Republican-led efforts to secure majority control of the Texas legislature in 2002. But it have much wider implications for those in political power down in Austin, particularly House Speaker Tom Craddick.

For those who have not been following Ceverha’s legal difficulties, Bill Ceverha was the Treasurer of the political action committee working to secure a Republican majority in the Texas House of Representatives in 2002 called Texans for a Republican Majority (TRMPAC). Ceverha was a defendant in a civil lawsuit filed by lawyer David Richards (Gov. Ann Richards’s former husband) on behalf of three Democratic candidates for the House. The suit charges that TRMPAC improperly raised and spent $600,000 in corporate contributions to help GOP candidates win election to the Texas House. Ceverha lost the case and was ordered to pay $196,000 in damages.

Ever since he served as a State Representative for the Richardson area, Ceverha has been closely aligned with Midland State Representative and House Speaker Tom Craddick. Ceverha and Craddick remained close political allies after Ceverha left the legislature and went to work for Dallas businessman and Republican power broker, Louis Beecherl. Beecherl made a fortune in the oil and gas business and has been a major financial backer of Republican candidates at the local and state level for over a quarter century.

As the gatekeeper in Beecherl’s office, Ceverha has had significant influence over who got Beecherl’s financial backing. When Beecherl backs a Republican candidate, other well-heeled Republicans usually follow his lead and the contributions can quickly add up. Ceverha was also key in getting Beecherl’s financial backing for Craddick’s political efforts as far back as the early 1990s. The Beecherl financial support was in turn crucial in Tom Craddick’s rise to power as Speaker of the Texas House. Indeed, the Speaker’s ability to raise and distribute large sums of money to Republican candidates for the Texas House from major donors like Beecherl was the determining factor in his election as Speaker.

While Craddick has been criticized privately by a number of House Republicans for failed leadership on the school finance issue, Craddick’s financial muscle has enabled Craddick to keep his Republican troops in line. Ceverha’s personal troubles, however, may well undermine Craddick’s fund raising-rooted influence. While Bill Ceverha avoided the financial hit of having to pay off the $196,000 judgment, it is likely this controversy will have a negative impact on Ceverha’s fund-raising prowess going forward and his ability to help his friend Tom Craddick.

Current redistricting makes it almost impossible for Democrats to regain control of the Texas House at present; but increasing numbers primary challenges to incumbent House Republicans could mean Tom Craddick’s days as a powerful Speaker will soon be done. It might even mean his days as Speaker will soon be done.

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HERE COMES THE BRIDE; THERE GOES THE SON By William Murchison
by Scott Bennett    Mon, Oct 17, 2005, 01:27 PM

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William Murchison

Dear Will,

You’ll recall (with clenched teeth, I shouldn’t wonder!) the letters to you that adorned the editorial page of The Dallas Morning News throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s. Every birthday a new letter from Dad: a new account of the progress of William Polk Murchison III ( born June 12, 1978) along the pathway of life.

Well, ahem…

Notwithstanding that your father stopped some years ago embarrassing you in this obnoxious manner; notwithstanding that he has since retired from The News and taken up other employment; notwithstanding all that…

You’re married! Hooray! Yippee! And like expressions of exuberance and joy over your union Oct. 1 with the lovely Carrie…the story of which I now unfold to readers who may not yet know you but deserve to. I think!

The story is one of, I guess, destiny: New family turns up next door back, oh, in the Jimmy Carter years, but let’s not get into that.

The John Langdon family has two cute little daughters: potential playmates for the quick, irrepressible little boy next door. The younger of the two is the one we’re going to focus on here: name of Carrie. Cute as a bug. Sweet as honey. Smart as paint. To coin a few elegant phrases.

Had you eyes for each other at the time? Your father is durned if he can recall. What he chiefly recalls is Carrie’s family’s departure to Houston after a couple of years, and the family’s consequent disappearance from our radar screen. It could have been the Sahara into which the Langdons disappeared, so utter was the separation of our tribes. Until, until…

I said the element of destiny might be involved. I mean, how else does it look when the two of you meet in the Capitol Hill office of the Hon. Pete Sessions – she leaving the office payroll, you signing onto it – and in the course of talking you discover that, ta-da!, you once lived next door to each other? This Carrie was once that Carrie! Imagine.

From there it’s off to the races: specifically, to the Meanwhile Ranch, Hood County, Texas. And to the Altar.

Oh, I don’t mean instantly. Romance, in the real world, as opposed to the world of the celeb mags, needs time to ripen. But when destiny takes a hand – Bogey’s phrase from “ Casablanca” – tender shoots begin to open. And what follows? A fine West Central Texas twilight, a languid sun yawning beyond a un-rippled lake; an aisle of neatly mown grass; Bach and Schubert on the still country air. And the blessedly familiar words – “Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God…;” and hordes of friends and family; and champagne and laughter and dancing; and a whole lot more “ands,” not to be enumerated now; most still to come -- blanks to fill in at leisure as years accumulate and love finds new channels of meaning and worth.

It was a staple of the old Birthday Letters that Dad, midway, would stretch out a paternal hand: admonishing, encouraging, forecasting, with you – such was the implication at least – thirstily drinking in every word.

I sort of think that’s off now. Carrie might get the notion your father was impeding the handover of power from our house in Dallas to yours in Arlington, Va., the house in which the two of you begin…everything.

Two. That would be the sum of one man plus woman. But here a mathematical mystery intrudes: You add the man, you add the woman, and the sum is one life, just one.

I take it all on faith, never having been good at math. But it was in accordance with the same ancient understanding that your mother and I set out together, 31 years since. The precedent served us so signally I believe it best now just to pull back, saying…

Yes. You’ve done it. You’ve done it well. As well as it could have been done. Onward and upward, the two of you.

No more plain old Will. Your mother and I speak now, and will speak from here on out, of Will and Carrie. I should add we speak gratefully, with more faith and pride and satisfaction and joy; yes and more love, just possibly, than the two of you can imagine.

With every blessing for the years ahead,

Dad

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DALLAS GETS GRILLED AT PUBLIC NUISANCE HEARING
by Christine DeLoma    Mon, Oct 17, 2005, 12:03 AM

by Christine DeLoma

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House Criminal Jurisprudence Chairman Terry Keel
DALLAS – The City of Dallas came under fire this week as several business owners alleged in a legislative hearing that they were the victims of selective enforcement of the public nuisance abatement law, official oppression, witness tampering, and civil rights violations.

The public hearing was a continuation of a series of meetings the Legislature held over the past six months to hear complaints that owners of businesses that call the police to stop illegal activities on their property, are having those same calls turned against them as proof that their properties are a nuisance.

Another common complaint is that some Dallas police officers have intimidated business owners, in some cases telling them to hire additional security – and recommending off-duty police officers for the job.

This session, lawmakers clarified the public nuisance statute to get the City of Dallas to stop misusing the law. The new law allows a city to take action if a property owner “knowingly tolerates” a crime that occurs on his property and “fails to make reasonable attempts to abate” the crime.

However, the allegations made against the City of Dallas were so serious that Criminal Jurisprudence Committee chairman Terry Keel (R-Austin) and General Investigating & Ethics Committee vice chairman Ken Paxton (R-McKinney) have vowed to hold more meetings in order to review all the allegations and evidence. The committees will then produce their findings in a joint report that they will present to the Legislature and the public.

“The sworn testimony merits further review,” Keel said. “I believe that there’s more than enough sworn evidence to indicate several considerations of possible criminal law violations, possibly civil rights violations, possibly official oppression, possibly witness tampering among others…”

Continued misuse of nuisance law?

According to Richard Clouse of Budget Suites of America, the City of Dallas is continuing to misuse the nuisance abatement law against his hotel on Stemmons Freeway. In the past, Budget Suites let the police use hotel rooms to conduct sting operations on drug dealers and prostitutes. However, Dallas used the arrests resulting in the sting against Budget Suites and cited the hotel for allowing a nuisance on its property.

The City of Dallas is suing Budget Suites for violations of the public nuisance law. Clouse testified that despite the lawsuit the police were conducting undercover sting operations in Budget Suites hotel rooms without the company’s knowledge.

“The city conducted undercover operations that were developed to create crime on our property,” Clouse said.

After a September 2005 meeting with Dallas city attorneys, Clouse said the city indicated Budget Suites would still be held responsible for the crimes that occurred during the undercover drug stings.

Budget Suites had also noticed increased incidence of criminal activity. They evicted what they thought were drug dealers bringing crime onto their property. But as it turned out, the evicted individuals were undercover police officers.

“In light of the consequences we face under the common nuisance litigation (with the city), this is bad faith at least and likely a deprivation of our due process of rights and possibly fraud… We have never been involved in litigation where the opposing party is free to continually and without inhibition take steps to undermine our business.”

Investigating allegations of civil rights violations

The joint committee issued subpoenas in their investigation of possible civil rights violations and official oppression due to the City’s application of the public nuisance abatement law.

The committee called on Ricardo Campbell, a Dallas police officer who was the subject of an internal complaint for writing a letter in support of Budget Suites.

“I believe it was unfounded,” Campbell said. “I can tell you as a 26-year veteran, I was pretty upset. I thought I was out doing my job but I was getting punished for it.”

Campbell wrote that the management was very proactive in preventing nuisance abatement.

When Keel asked Campbell who lodged the complaint against him, Campbell said he didn’t know. Keel pressed Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle for an answer. Kunkle said the City Attorney’s Office brought it the Department’s attention.

Keel said the conduct of the City Attorney’s Office was “official oppression.”

“City legal files a complaint on an honest officer whose only crime is that he spoke in favor of a business that city legal is harassing,” Keel said. “That’s incredible news… Chief, I’m sorry you’re not offended by it. You should be. I have serious concerns about City Legal doing that to a police officer.”

“I don’t believe that occurred,” Kunkle replied.

Dallas City Atty. Tom Perkins explained that his office notified the police department about the case because there was a question as to whether Campbell was living in a Budget Suites hotel room. The complaint was eventually dropped.

Budget Suites attorney Steven Stephani told the committee three officers lived at the hotel. However, only Campbell was the target of an internal investigation.

“Any objective person connected with this would see the common sense conclusion here is that this is an act of intimidation,” Keel remarked.

Dale Davenport , owner of Jim’s Carwash, has also been the target of the City’s aggressive application of the public nuisance law. Keel cited as an act of police “intimidation” an incident at Jim’s Carwash that brought 11 patrol cars to the scene.

Kunkle admitted such a response was inappropriate and “clearly designed to intimidate.” He said the act was in response to Davenport ’s testifying on behalf of an individual who was charged with resisting an arrest. “It should be embarrassing to every Dallas police officer,” Kunkle said.

Keel called the incident a possible civil rights violation or an instance of official oppression. Kunkle agreed, adding that all information relating to the incident has been handed over to the FBI.

Pay for security?

Several businessmen testifying at the hearing told legislators that some police officers said if they hired them as off-duty security guards, their public nuisance problems with the City would go away.

The City of Dallas has had a long-standing practice of allowing police officers to work after hours as off-duty security guards.

Stephani and Clouse testified they were told by a Dallas policeman in August 2005 that if Budget Suites hired a police lieutenant or sergeant as an off-duty security guard the hotel’s nuisance problems would go away. Kunkle said that the officer’s comments were misinterpreted.

Does “the City of Dallas rent out police cars or off-duty officers?” asked Rep. Terri Hodge (D-Dallas).

Kunkle explained that the city created the program in the early 1990s to allow neighborhood associations to rent police cars and hire off-duty officers. He said if he had been chief at the time, he would not have recommended it.

“Here’s what bothers me,” Keel said. “You’ve got those officers in the neighborhood that are paid by tax dollars to protect the citizens telling the citizens, ‘You need to pay us a user fee.’ I’ve never heard of that ever in my life.”

Hiring off-duty police officers or private security guards comes at a hefty price. Off-duty police officers can earn at least $30 an hour, and police vehicles can be rented for at least $1,500 a month.

“Our nightmare continues,” said Davenport , “because we are still under a permanent injunction… and we’re still having to provide our own security at great expense” to keep drug dealers and crime off of the property. The private guard service at the carwash accounts for 60 percent of the business’s expenses.

Dallas ’ new approach to nuisance

Dallas city officials announced last week they would take a new approach when dealing with public nuisance issues. “It became clear to me,” said Kunkle, “based on what happened in the Austin meetings and other meetings with apartment managers and other people in the community is that we needed to change how we engaged in nuisance abatement with the SAFE team… Our intent is to work in cooperation, try[ing] not to get into conflict or litigation with property owners.”

Kunkle said the nuisance abatement SAFE team, reduced from 16 members to eight, now reports under the police department’s operation command.

However, Hodge was skeptical of the City’s new system. “It’s been very difficult for this committee to work with the city. The city has no respect for the law, even the revision….” 

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THE STRAW MAN COMETH
by Scott Bennett    Sun, Oct 16, 2005, 11:52 AM

Convention-Center.jpgThere seems to be a consensus. Having canvassed a half dozen developer types around Dallas I found they are unanimous in asserting that it would be nearly impossible to make a bad deal with Ray Hunt so long as the city rids itself of Reunion Arena and its $1 million per year loss and unites the City's half of Parking Lot E with Ray Hunt's half of Parking Lot E. The fact Mayor Miller opposes almost any deal short of Mr. Hunt donating the land is given as an example of why ex-Muckrakers shouldn't run cities. Actually, there is a more practical side to the Mayor's anti-Hunt rant.

The Mayor put a lot of political chips on the strong Mayor election earlier this year and then rolled snake-eyes. The fact that half a dozen politically savvy, well financed, capable campaigners are lining up for her job is indication enough that she might be returned to muckraking come next election.

What the Mayor needs is to rally her base of angry taxpayers who are tired of so-called tax giveaways, pot holes and general governmental incompetence. In other words, she needs a "straw man." Now comes her favorite straw man: Ray Hunt. Look out Dallas she cries here comes another zillionaire trying to pick your pockets for fun and profit. Luckily, of course, the Mayor is here to defend the little taxpayer.

In this case the zillionaire is allowing the city to consolidate land that will garner $100 million in investment next to a convention center that is sitting idle all too often (yes, the same one where they Mayor is determined to build a hotel). It also unloads a White Elephant costing those Dallas taxpayers a million bucks. In a separate deal Mr. Hunt is asking for tax abatement on a new downtown office skyscraper that will keep his company downtown. Tax abatements are bad but if Dallas doesn't play this game it will evaporate in a few years. What kind of businessman would Hunt be if he spent a few million he didn't have to spend by moving to Irving ?

Even if the as yet to be fully disclosed deal could have been a better deal two-thirds of the Council has already said it cannot be a bad deal. It seems they see through the straw man.

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