Find a back issue

Leading Off (8/29/14)

Judge Rules School Finance System Unconstitutional. It’s the second time in 18 months that State District Judge John Dietz of Austin has decided in favor of the 600 local school districts that sued the state. Dietz ruled that, even after increasing school funding by $3.4 billion during the most recent session, the legislature has still left education statewide underfunded. He also cited inequities in the way state funds are distributed. The state (namely attorney general and GOP gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott) will appeal.

Dallas County Not Properly Tracking HIV. A state report found 209 adult cases and 139 pediatric cases went “unreported” by the county health department from 2009 to 2012. That’s the largest number of unreported cases in Texas. Failure to follow up to collect information makes it difficult to determine whether a patient’s contacts may have also been affected and means the department can miss out on federal funding to treat patients.

Cowboys Winless in Preseason. They fell to the Denver Broncos, 27-3, last night. It’s the fifth time in franchise history the team hasn’t bothered to win any of its meaningless practice games.

Bitcoin ATMs Open in Dallas. In case you want to exchange your money that’s backed by the full faith and credit of the United States for a crypto-currency backed by the self-assurance of libertarian utopians worldwide. Right now one Bitcoin will cost you about $507.

Full Story

How an Office Romance Went Off the Rails and Brought Down the NCPA’s John Goodman

Back in June, when the National Center for Policy Analysis fired its CEO for alleged “sexual misconduct and breach of fiduciary duty,” the free-market think tank had more than a dozen directors on its board. Chief executive John C. Goodman denied the charges at the time, you might recall, and said his dismissal was based on trivialities. Today the NCPA board is down to just five directors—and insiders say the Dallas nonprofit is struggling to survive.

So, what happened to bring all this about? The apparent implosion has come as the result of an office romance between Goodman and a staffer that went way off the rails, leading to an unusual “job promotion” that backfired badly:

Full Story

Middle-Class City Workers Don’t — Can’t? Won’t? — Live in Dallas

Because I know you all can’t get enough of talk about municipal worker salaries, this morning I read more interesting data regarding the residency of city of Dallas employees. It was contained in a memo packet that was distributed to Dallas City Council members on Friday.

You already know that a relatively small percentage of Dallas cops live within the city limits and that only 36 percent of all city workers are Dallasites. This new information points to the fact that, as City Councilman Philip Kingston noted to me, “We seem to do worst with our middle income earners.”

Full Story

Only 36 Percent of City of Dallas Employees Live in Dallas

As I wrote previously, yesterday’s post about the relatively low percentage of Dallas Police officers who live within the city proper got me curious about what those numbers look like for all city employees. So I asked.

According to the city public information office, as of last year (the most recent info they had) 36.2 percent of 12,316 city of Dallas employees are also residents. The city’s data claims a slightly higher percentage of cops (21.7 percent) than was in the FiveThirtyEight post (19.1 percent.) The fire department has fled the city at an even higher rate though, with only 17.2 percent of its uniformed personnel Dallasites.

The city charter requires only that the city manager, auditor, attorney, and secretary live in town. If you look at the department by department breakdown below, you’ll see that cops and firefighters are the least likely employees to be residents. Among the city’s civilian workforce, 48.6 percent call Dallas home. Sanitation Services boasts a 70.1 percent residency rate among its 321 employees.

See the full data below.

Full Story

Craig Watkins Needs a Chauffeur

By now, you’re aware that District Attorney Craig Watkins hit someone on the Tollway and then paid that someone to keep quiet about the accident. Read this Tod Robberson post from yesterday. The FBI is now looking into the matter. As Robberson points out, Watkins apparently did the old “Do you know who I am?” bit at the accident scene. Let’s go back to another accident involving Watkins, this one from 2007.

Full Story

Leading Off (8/22/14)

Another Shooting by a Dallas Cop. It’s the fourth involving the city’s police force in the last two weeks. Dallas officers have shot 10 people so far this year, and seven have died — one of those was unarmed. (Compare that number to 12 in all of 2013.) Thursday night’s incident took place near the Dallas VA Medical Center. The man who was shot reportedly had himself shot a woman in the jaw.

State Allows Waste Control Specialists to Bury More Radioactive Waste. Dallas’ most evil genius may no longer be in charge of the company, but his vision for bringing byproducts of nuclear power plants to a site in West Texas lives on. The Texas Commission of Environmental Quality has approved changes that will allow WCS to accept triple the amount they could previously.

TCEQ Cites XTO For Stealing Water. The state agency says the company, which is owned by Exxon Mobil, took almost 1.4 million gallons of water to which it was not entitled, which it used for fracking.

Cowboys Linebacker Suffers Career-Ending Injury. DeVonte Holloman left Saturday’s preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens with a spinal injury, and doctors are advising that he never again play football.

Cowboys to Break Ground on Frisco HQ. Construction will kick off Friday, and the team expects to officially move from Valley Ranch to its new home for the 2016 season.

Full Story

Only 19 Percent of Dallas Cops Live in Dallas

Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight site took the recent troubles in Ferguson, Mo., as a reason to look at how often police officers don’t live in the very community they’ve been hired to serve and protect.

Among the nation’s 75 cities with the largest police forces, on average 60 percent of cops live where they work. Laredo, Texas, has the highest percentage, with 94 percent of its officers Laredoans. On the other end of the spectrum, in Miami the number is only 7 percent.

Dallas is down near the bottom of the list, with 19 percent calling the big city home. In some cities there is a disparity between the numbers of white and non-white officers who are also residents, but that doesn’t seem to be a large gap in Dallas, which claims only 21 percent of black officers and 26 percent of Hispanic officers.

By contrast, Fort Worth can boast a higher percentage than Dallas of officers living within its limits, 43 percent, but it comes with a big difference among the races: 64 percent of black officers and 56 percent of Hispanic officers with only 31 percent of white officers.

I wonder what the breakdown would look like among all city employees.

Full Story

Will CPRIT Be Perry’s Achilles Heel?

Disclosure upfront: Despite thinking Zac’s series on Gov. Rick Perry is hilarious, I sort of like Perry, not least for his ability to make “enlightened” types see red. That said, I can’t help thinking that the governor’s defenders in the Travis County dust-up—including David Axelrod and Alan Dershowitz—are underestimating one aspect of the case.

That is, the implication that Perry vetoed the public integrity unit funds because the unit was investigating funny business at the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, one of Perry’s “signature accomplishments.”

That might be seen as a stretch—if the governor didn’t have a history of bigfooting in this manner. Remember how he delayed investigation of the Willingham arson case by replacing several members of the Texas Forensic Science Commission just before a key presentation? Just seems like the CPRIT angle might strike Jane and Joe Six-Pack as a little more troubling than Perry’s defenders are letting on.

Full Story

State Rep. Jason Villalba Calls For Investigation of Craig Watkins

State Rep. Jason Villalba (whom I’ve written about) has called for the Texas State Auditor’s Office to conduct an audit of the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office following the allegations that DA Craig Watkins (whom I’ve also written about) used more than $60,000 of county asset forfeiture money after rear-ending a car after a speaking engagement, while staring at his phone.

“It’s our responsibility to earn and maintain the public trust, that’s why this case demands an immediate review and audit,” Villalba said in a press release. “Public funds should never be used to cover up reckless driving or to pay personal settlements on behalf of public officials. If Mr. Watkins has violated the law, he should be held responsible.”

Prediction: it doesn’t get better for Watkins for a bit.

Full Story

Suggestions for Home Rule Commission: Student Trustees, Board Accountability, and Impeachment

The first three of my posts offering suggestions for consideration by the Home Rule Commission debating whether to rework the DISD charter. Come get a taste:

1. Should we have a student trustee?
2. How can we instill board accountability?
3. Should the board be able to impeach one if its own?

More to come. As always, read with your eyeballs.

Full Story

Can Texas Support a Privately Funded Bullet Train?

The Texas Tribune today has a piece about the proposed bullet train from Dallas to Houston, which we’ve mentioned before. The big question, of course, is whether the money for the privately funded project will materialize:

Richard Arena, a transportation and infrastructure consultant who sits on the board of the U.S. High Speed Rail Association, said he believes Texas Central’s project could become the first truly high-speed rail system in the country, but he has concerns about the project’s financing. In particular, he’s not clear how the Dallas-Houston line will manage to earn enough revenue to pay off the interest on the billions of dollars’ worth of bonds that will likely have to be issued to fund the construction. Such financial challenges are why some public subsidies are the norm for public rail systems, he said.

“I still have skepticism of where the funding is going to come long-term,” Arena said.

Full Story

Leading Off (8/15/14)

DA’s Office Paid Secret Settlement Following Car Crash. In February 2013, Dallas County district attorney Craig Watkins was driving up the Dallas North Tollway “reading information” on his cell phone when he ran into the back of a truck. Watkins was in a county-owned vehicle at the time but failed to follow the proper reporting procedures. Eventually the DA’s office paid the man that Watkins hit more than $50,000 and had him sign a settlement stating that he would not talk to the press. The settlement money also came from asset forfeiture funds, which seems to be questionable legally, especially since the spending never went before the county commissioners court for approval.

DA’s Office to Investigate Police Shootings. In the wake of the recent string of officer-involved incidents in Dallas, and the events playing out in Ferguson, Mo., this week, Craig Watkins announced his plan to create an investigative unit to look into any shootings involving cops. “I think it would be somewhat irresponsible if we didn’t address the fact that there is a lack of trust with the police,” Watkins said.

Cheating School’s Test Scores Plunge. An investigation last fall determined that students at Dallas ISD’s Umphrey Lee Elementary were being fed exam answers. So what happened after five teachers and an instructional coach were forced out? STAAR passing rates fell significantly during the last school year.

Cowboys Erect Party Tent Outside Stadium. The Corral, which was a feature at Texas Stadium back in the team’s 1990s heyday, is being resurrected starting with this weekend’s preseason game. Because JerryWorld isn’t big enough, I guess.

Corinth Doesn’t Want Beaver Nuggets. A crowd packed the Corinth City Council meeting last night before a hearing on granting incentives to bring a Buc-ee’s truck stop to Interstate 35E. Neighbors were concerned by the amount of traffic it would attract. At about 1 a.m. this morning, the council voted against Buc-ee’s.

Future Serial Killer in Lewisville. Hard not to reach that conclusion after reading this creepy story about 20 rabbits found killed in a “ritualistic” manner in the Castle Hills neighborhood.

Full Story

Museum Tower Shows Strong Uptick in Sales

Last night, I was leaving downtown shortly before 10 o’clock when I espied Museum Tower and what appeared to be about six of its residents still awake and with their lights on. “Either that tower is still very empty,” I thought, “or the folks who live there turn in early.” So, once again, I combed through the numbers in DCAD.

Full Story