Tuesday, March 30, 2010

What Color Is Pete Sessions' Sky?

Pete Sessions
Rep. Pete Sessions

It's a beautiful Spring day in north Texas. The temperature is expected to reach 80 degrees for the first time in over five months. The sky is blue. Health insurance reform is the law of the land. God's in his heaven and all is right with the world. But not on Rep. Pete Sessions' world. There, the sky is dark and the deluge is coming. According to one of Sessions' hand-picked experts from the medical industry, misquoting Mao, "It's always darkest before it's totally black."

I previously gave my initial reaction to Sessions' town hall meeting held Monday night at the Eisemann Center in Richardson. After the jump, I'll fill in some of the details of what was said.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Crazy Does Too Count

Pete Sessions
Rep. Pete Sessions

I said previously that Republicans will have a tough sell trying to repeal the recently enacted health insurance reforms. There are too many benefits to too many Americans. To repeal, Republicans would have to propose specific legislation. With that, the tables would be turned. Just like Republicans were able to club Democrats over the head with legislative language taken out of context, Democrats will be able to do the same with any proposed legislation by Republicans. Don't count on repeal.

After the jump, why that doesn't mean the debate is over.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Why Repeal May Be A Tough Sell

Republicans promised to repeal the recently enacted health insurance reforms. Then they promised to "Repeal and replace." Then, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) said the GOP is "not interested in repealing ... preexisting conditions." At this rate, soon the GOP will be taking credit for health insurance reform because of those 100+ GOP amendments in the final bill.

After the jump, why the GOP will have a hard time selling repeal.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Where Do You Put 50,000 Trees?

Spring Creek Nature Area
Spring Creek Nature Area

The City of Richardson recently announced a "Tree the Town" program, a 10-year plan to plant 50,000 trees in Richardson, using money and services donated by corporations and civic groups across Richardson. The total value of the program is estimated at $34 million. The Dallas Morning News Richardson blog has details.

After the jump, where will all those trees go?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

In God's Name We Pray

Richardson City Council member Amir Omar led the council in prayer before this week's city council meeting. He closed his prayer with, "In God's name we pray." Destiny Herndon (aka Lady__Madonna), who was in the audience, tweeted, "I heard at least 3 people whisper 'In JESUS' name' very indignantly after Amir's invocation."

How big a deal is this? Just how important is it that official prayer be to the God of your own personal belief? Because we don't all believe in the same god(s), how should it be determined in whose name we pray? Southern Baptist God regardless? Choice of the person chosen to lead? Majority rule? Rotation? And what about the atheists? Have we ever had an atheist chosen to lead a government body in prayer? What did he or she say? What was the response?

Personally, I'm willing to leave it up to the person chosen to lead and that honor should be rotated. By what logic do some argue indignantly that official prayer must be in Jesus' name?

Never Explain; Never Apologize

That old bit of arrogant advice for those in power came to mind this week reading two stories in the news. Both reveal weaknesses in how local government communicates with citizens. The City of Richardson and the Richardson school district (RISD) are both getting beaten up online. Neither is doing much, if anything, to clear up misinformation or refute allegations of misconduct.

After the jump, my own criticism of how local government fails to head off criticism before the fact.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Netbooks, The New Books

The Richardson ISD (RISD) recently announced a program of furnishing every student in certain grades at certain schools with school-owned netbook computers. The Dallas Morning News covered the news with a story on its main web site and another story on its Richardson blog. Your challenge, readers, is to guess what angle to this story was of most interest to the newspaper's readers. If you guessed tin-foil hat conspiracies and charges of government waste and fraud, you get a gold star.

After the jump, examples of why education's biggest obstacle to learning isn't the student, but his parents.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

First Full Day Of Spring

From 2010 03 Snow

To see more photos, click here.

Click the image after the jump to see a full-screen, interactive, 360 degree panorama (uses software from krpano.com).

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Law & Order: The Appeal

Richardson City Attorney Pete Smith

For the last several years, the City of Richardson has been defending itself from two lawsuits regarding, not eminent domain or taxes or even trash pickup, but how the city council conducts its meetings. One lawsuit charges the city with holding closed executive sessions prohibited by city charter. The city council implicitly acknowledged this (if not legally admitting to anything) by holding a charter amendment election in 2007, which passed, making the offenses alleged in the lawsuit moot today. The other lawsuit charges the city with unlawfully lobbying for passage of the charter amendment.

The lawuits have been making their way through the courts, slowly, as most such lawsuits do. In December, city attorney Pete Smith briefed the council, in open session about the status of the cases.

After the jump, an update.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Playing Us Off The Stage

As an aging Baby Boomer, I'm acutely aware of both my generation's outsized influence on American culture over the last fifty years and on its inevitable passing. It strikes home at events like the Oscar ceremonies where I found myself familiar with more faces in the "In Memoriam" tribute than with faces of the young presenters of the awards. Symbolically, I pictured the whole Baby Boom generation, standing on the stage, giving its acceptance speech for the "lifetime achievement" award, when the first faint notes of the orchestra begin to be heard, signifying our time is up, it's time to leave the stage.

After the jump, other signs of approaching obsolescence.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Wings Under Water

Jessica Cox is a normal, adventure-loving 27 year old woman with a bachelor's degree, a black belt in tae kwon do, a pilot's license, and scuba diving certification. But there's something she doesn't have -- arms. Born that way, she has demonstrated that determination and a positive attitude can result in great achievements. She carries that message around the world as a motivational speaker.

One group that she has motivated is a team of engineering students at Northwestern University who have used Jessica Cox's life as inspiration for their senior design project -- to design scuba controls that can be operated by armless divers like Jessica using their feet alone. Another group of Northwestern students, from the school of journalism, documented the engineering students' project:

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

If I Were On the Texas SBOE

By now, you are likely well aware of the brouhaha triggered by the Texas State Board of Education's proposed standards for the teaching of history and social studies to Texas schoolchildren. Everyone has weighed in on the subject. Today, The Dallas Morning News' Jacquielynn Floyd calls the SBOE a "whacked-out troop of underqualified ideologues ... [who] make us look like a bunch o' goobers in the eyes of the whole nation." Speaking of whacked-out ideologues, conservative talk radio host Mark Davis, in the guise of the "Textbook Ref", tells us how he personally would referee the disputes.

So, at risk of belaboring a point, after the jump I weigh in on how I would have behaved if I were on the SBOE.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Transit-Oriented Development in Richardson

Has DART been a boon to development in Richardson? Rodger Jones, in The Dallas Morning News Transportation blog, says no, or at least not yet:

"My observation, from my daily commutes on the Red Line, is that TOD [Transit-Oriented Development] has been slow to develop near DART stations. ... Because DART rail moves along former railroad right of way, it goes largely through warehouse, commercial and light industrial corridors where attractive development won't happen."

After the jump, my analysis.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Level 6 of the High 5: Cottonwood Trail

High Five
From 2010 03 High Five

No matter how many times I drive through the intersection of Interstate 635 and US 75, the engineering marvel never fails to impress. This modern Stonehenge is called the High Five, but few people know that there's actually a sixth level winding through that labyrinth of highways.

After the jump, more about the sixth level.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

And They're Off: RISD School Board Races

They are out of the gate. Monday was the deadline for filing to run for the Richardson ISD (RISD) school board in the May 8 election. Eight candidates filed for three positions.

After the jump, what the candidates have told us about themselves.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Cooperate With The Census

In the next week or so, every household will receive a census form in the mail. You can take the anti-government Tea Party position that the census asks too many questions and intrudes on our privacy and refuse to fill it out. Or you can take the practical approach and cooperate because it's in your self interest to do so. The census is used to determine everything from who represents you in Congress to how much federal money your state and county receive. Besides, not completing the census is against the law.

After the jump, my own argument for cooperating with the census.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Sex Education Could Get Interesting in RISD

Jennifer Najera Hague
Jennifer Najera Hague

Monday was the last day to file to run for any of the three seats on the Richardson ISD (RISD) school board up for election May 8. And all three seats drew multiple candidates. Three of the candidates look like they could make the election one to watch.

After the jump, a first look at our potential new trustees.

Friday, March 5, 2010

OTBR: Underneath a Prickly Pear Cactus

Latitude: 32.826301° N
Longitude: 111.248299° W

A child on a road trip with his family asks, "Where are we?" and the father answers, "Let's check the map. We're off the blue roads [the Interstate Highways marked in blue on the road atlas]. We're off the red roads [the US and state highways]. We're off the black roads [the county highways]. I think we're off the map altogether." It was always my dream to be off the map altogether.

After the jump, a few of the random places (and I mean random literally) that I visited vicariously last month that are "off the blue roads".

Thursday, March 4, 2010

David Smith Gives A Tea Party And Nobody Comes

David Smith
David Smith

Pete Sessions easily won re-nomination for his Texas Congressional District 32 seat in Tuesday's GOP primary with over 83% of the vote. Fifty points if you can name the opponent he defeated. ... Time's up. It was David Smith.

David Smith is a blogger for the Dallas County Republican Examiner. He's up with a post-mortem of his campaign. He calls it a wrap-up but he can't quite bring himself to admit it's really over: "Well, it began here, it ends here--or perhaps I should say, it continues here!"

After the jump, what Smith has to say about his loss.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

"Keep parents as far from the schools as possible"

That philosophy may soon be represented on the State Board of Education (SBOE). Two seats on the SBOE changed hands Tuesday as a result of the GOP primary election. In District 12, which includes north Dallas, Richardson and Plano, the challenger George Clayton beat long-time SBOE member, social conservative Geraldine "Tincy" Miller. In District 12, which includes northern Collin County and counties east of Dallas all the way down to Bryan, challenger Thomas Ratliff beat former SBOE chairman, young-Earth Creationist Don McLeroy.

Tincy Miller has been on the SBOE since 1984. She is a social conservative whose viewpoints have gradually come to be considered moderate as the SBOE has veered farther and farther right. Don McLeroy is leader of the far-right conservative faction on the SBOE who favored science standards that discredit evolution and social studies standards that promote his belief of America as a Christian nation.

After the jump, some lessons from the election results.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Races I've Been Watching

It's primary election night in Texas. I've been watching a few races. The polls are still open, but some of the results appear clear already.

After the jump, my last prognostications before the results are announced.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Only God Can Make A Tree

Heights Park
Heights Park

Well, God and Richardson City Council member Amir Omar. Omar revealed his long-teased secret project at Monday night's Richardson City Council meeting. "'Tree the Town' is a progressive tree planting initiative with the goal of adding 50,000 trees to Richardson."

You might think planting trees is a no-brainer. After the jump, let's look at the spectrum of reactions.