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Good News Dallas
by William Lutz    Thu, Oct 20, 2005, 08:24 AM
equation.jpgThe State Board of Education got an earful from several mathematics educators at its meeting Tue. Oct. 19. Specifically, the math educators wanted the board to issue Proclamation 2005, which orders new elementary school mathematics textbooks. They also objected to a legislative proposal to replace traditional textbooks with laptops.

The board heard from several math coordinators or specialists at its meeting, including ones from the Denton, Coppell, Austin, and Houston school districts as well as a professor from Texas State University.

“It is important that the new textbooks have technology components. I do not believe it is wise to go to a technology only textbook,” said Michelle King, mathematics coordinator for the Coppell ISD. “If we get into a scenario where every child has to have access to a laptop, a desktop, or something in order to access their textbook, we are going to be putting many districts at a disadvantage. I do not believe that is what this board wants.”

The math coordinators also promised the board they would help make the case for paying for math books to the Texas legislature. In several versions on HB 2, the school finance bill, the traditional review and adoption cycle for textbooks was junked. Instead, school districts would be given a per-student allotment, with 40 percent of the allotment going to technology and the remainder can buy either books or laptops, whichever it prefers. In other words, school districts would not have to replace the math books, which are scheduled for replacement in 2007 for elementary school and 2008 for high schools.

Traditionally, the board would issue proclamations, which ask publishers to submit textbooks for state approval and purchase. The money for textbooks would come from the Permanent School Fund, an endowment managed by the board.

But Rider 78 of the Texas Education Agency appropriations bill asked the board not to issue any future proclamations. Several board members, however, are concerned that by not issuing a proclamation, lawmakers will take the proceeds of the Permanent School Fund and use it on things other than its original purpose – the purchase of textbooks.
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by William Lutz    Thu, Oct 20, 2005, 08:18 AM

Speaker Craddick
Speaker Tom Craddick today released the interim charges for the 79th Legislature. House committees will review and examine issues outlined in the interim charge in preparation for the 80th Legislative Session.

A few of the interim charges include:
Public Education - study the impact of successful school choice programs on students, parents and teachers; explore the structure and implementation strategies of successful performance-based pay systems for educational professionals in Texas and other states; research, review and investigate the expenditures of taxpayer money by local governments and school boards to lobby the Legislature.

Ways & Means - examine business taxes and other methods of finance designed to reduce the state's reliance on local property taxes to fund public education; evaluate the process used by the Office of the Comptroller and the Legislative Budget Board to evaluate and provide information on the impact of tax legislation.

State Affairs Committee - examine scientific advances made on stem cell research; monitor rule making of parental consent for the performance of an abortion.

Criminal Jurisprudence/General Investigating and Ethics - monitor the use of nuisance abatement authority by the city of Dallas and investigate unresolved issues pertaining to allegations of possible civil rights violations that may have been committed under color of law by local government.

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by Scott Bennett    Wed, Oct 19, 2005, 04:59 PM

226177-192228-thumbnail.jpgFocus groups are at best a hit and miss way to assess public opinion, but I have a focus group that has226177-180263-thumbnail.jpg never failed. It is bigger than most; about 24 people if they all answer the phone. They all live in Dallas north of I30. Demographically and geographically they are pretty representative of northern Dallas. There isn’t one politician in the bunch but they usually vote. I call up around election time and check their pulse. Two-thirds said “Strong Mayor” was history and it was.

About 80% said Laura Miller would be Mayor and it was so – twice. Even the few folks who said they were voting for Tom Dunning and Mary Poss predicted a Miller victory. Back then my focus group friends (who until now had no idea they were part of a focus group) used descriptive terms like “tough,” “kick-butt,” “breath-of-fresh-air,” and “no-nonsense” to describe the Mayor. Today the Mayor has not one sure vote in the group. They use descriptive terms like “power-mad,” “wing-nut,” “obsessed,” and “embarrassing.” The election is a year and a half away and there is much water yet to flow under our Calatrava bridge but these are surely not the descriptive terms any politician wants to hear.

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Municipal Wi-Fi. Why not Dallas?
by doug bedell    Wed, Oct 19, 2005, 02:18 PM

wifi.gifLast year city leaders allowed free Wi-fi Internet access to be installed in a downtown city green space. By all accounts, people loved the opportunity to plug into the Internet while munching lunch outdoors. As a city trying to lure business to its core, wouldn't it make sense to some sort of  permanent arrangement like that, if only in its downtown parks?

Well, Dallas hasn't made a move. And the 21st century keeps on rolling without us. In Philadelphia, Earthlink and city fathers have come to an agreement that might serve as a model to the rest of the country. Philadelphia agreed to set up a basic Wi-Fi network using utility poles, making sure that the lowest income areas are fully covered. Earthlink is fronting the city $11 million to set it all up. In exchange for access to that network, the provider has agreed to make its $20-per-month wireless subscription available to lower income families at half price.

Yes, the city will have to bear some administrative costs needed to screen applicants and oversee the installation. But, no, that's not unreasonable given the obvious benefits to all concerned.

As icing on this deal, consider Philadelphia's options for service expansion. If the Earthlink trial works as planned, the city has already said it will open its poles to other service providers like T-Mobile, freeing those subscribers from their Starbucks tethers. The fledgling eBay/Skype partnership might also be interested in providing wireless Internet telephone.

And, suddenly, you can envision a leasing system that covers the municipal administrative costs and, perhaps, even turns a profit.

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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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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

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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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. would certainly buy some.

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