Thursday, September 30, 2010

Texas Open Meetings Act Strikes Plano

If you've read this blog any length of time, you know I'm no fan of the Texas Open Meetings Act. It's an example of the law of unintended consequences. The intent may have been to ensure that meetings of public bodies like school boards and city councils are open to the public. The effect has been to drive more and more deliberations underground or suppress them altogether.

After the jump, a case in point from Plano ISD.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Stefani Carter Struggles in Politics 101

Stefani Carter, the inexperienced, first-time candidate for Texas House District 102, has already stumbled more than once in her campaign to unseat incumbent Carol Kent. Earlier, Carter faced charges of padding her resume and plagiarizing from President Obama for her own campaign stump speech. Now, she's busy trying to explain away some more campaign missteps.

After the jump, still more resume padding and the endorsement that wasn't.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Gag Order Against Whistleblowing

It may be called a code of ethics, but its practical effect is a gag order on whistleblowing.

Who would have guessed, back in 2009 when Richardson voters clamored for more open and transparent government, when each and every candidate for city council promised just that, that the ordinance the elected council would pass this week will make it even harder for voters to learn of improper or unethical behavior conducted behind closed doors?

After the jump, Richardson's own Law of Omerta.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Since Your Town Elders Are Twitter Fans...

Each month, Wired magazine publishes a column titled "Dear Mr. Know-It-All" in which a Wired contributor helps readers "navigate life in the 21st century." In the October edition, Mr. Know-It-All explains the powers and limits of city councils regarding First Amendment rights when he answers one reader's question:

"My town council has banned me from attending its meetings because I criticized one of its members on Twitter. (OK, OK, I called him a "f*cking idiot.") Can they really do that?"

After the jump, Mr. Know-It-All's answer.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Skyline Downs Berkner in District Opener

From 2010 Football

In the stats sheets, it was a close game. Skyline edged Berkner in total yards, 277 to 260. In first downs, Berkner led 12 to 7. Even the final score, Skyline 27, Berkner 14, suggested a closer game than it was. But the outcome was never in doubt. Skyline had control throughout. Berkner never could put a drive together. Skyline led 14-0 at the half and 21-0 after three quarters, before Berkner scored a couple of late touchdowns, including a long touchdown pass as time expired.

The season is still young. This was the first game of district play for both teams. There will be a lot of football between now and the start of playoffs.

For a look at all the action, including the game, cheerleaders, drill team and band, look here.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Curtains for Blockbuster

Blockbuster store
Copyright © Google

Dallas-based video rental chain pioneer Blockbuster filed for bankruptcy Thursday. Blockbuster had been shrinking for years. There's an empty storefront in a strip shopping center at the corner of Plano and Arapaho Roads in Richardson that locals know only as the place where Blockbuster used to be for what seems like forever.

After the jump, remembering Blockbuster.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Texting and Tweeting by City Council Members

During last week's Richardson city council meeting, council member Bob Macy expressed his desire to ban the use of "pagers and cell phones" during council meetings. His suggestion was met by opposition from Amir Omar and silence from the rest of the council. Not willing to admit defeat, this week, Bob Macy took another pass at the issue, explaining his interest this way:

"I took some heat about my comment about external electronic devices. In all fairness to people who like to have open records, all of our communications is open records whether it comes through whatever media it is. All of communications during council is open records so that's the point on which I'm concerned."

I ask, but don't attempt to answer, just what did Bob Macy mean by that? Why is Bob Macy concerned about his communications being subject to the Texas Open Records Act?

John Murphy didn't try to answer those questions. Instead, he simply declared, "unless you guys threaten to hang me at the nearest light pole, I'm going to continue to put my cell phone on silent but I will continue to take pages and texts and things like that throughout the meeting..." Now, that sounds like a man who isn't afraid of having his communications be subject to the Open Records Act.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

RISD Wish List for 2011 Bond Election

The Richardson ISD school board held their first study session reviewing possible items to be included in a bond package to be put before voters in 2011.

Some of the items should be no-brainers, for example, renovating decades-old schools and replacing aging air conditioning units in many more facilities. Other items might need a little more background information, for example, refurbishing high school athletic facilities and providing resources to turn the STEM Academy ("Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics") within Berkner High School into a "New Tech High School".

After the jump, the one item in the proposal that's going to be the toughest sell.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Code of Ethics - Round 2

Monday evening, the Richardson City Council held another work session to thrash out a code of ethics for council members. The least significant change is a title change from Code of Conduct to Code of Ethics. The most significant development is that the council appears to be firmly behind this second draft and will likely approve it on September 27, after another public hearing.

After the jump, the actions taken to address my own concerns.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Wanting Both Teams to Win

From 2010 09 Northwestern vs Rice

How do you watch a football game when you want both teams to win? Other fans look at you funny if you cheer loudly for a first down on one play and then cheer just as loudly for a good defensive stop on the next. That's the situation "L" and I were in Saturday night.

After the jump, the details.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Who Needs a Code of Conduct?

The Richardson City Council has been deliberating a code of conduct for city officials (most recently discussed <a href="http://www.marksteger.com/2010/09/bob-macy-takes-responsibility_9311.html</a>). There have been three issues with the proposed draft that have received the most discussion: the statute of limitations, the confidentiality clause and the use of the city attorney as a so-called gatekeeper. But there's another issue that has been raised by more than one member of the public that hasn't gotten attention from the council - yet. That's the question of how far down the ranks of city officials and staff the code of conduct should apply. <p>After the jump, my thoughts.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Bob Macy Takes Responsibility

It's easy to lampoon Richardson City Council member Bob Macy. If superlatives are ever awarded for the 2009-2011 council, Bob Macy is a lock on the member most likely to say something unintentionally humorous or downright cringe worthy. So, it's only fair, when he stumbles onto a gem of wisdom, to give him credit.

After the jump, an example of both from Monday night's city council meeting.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What Hammurabi Says About Texas Open Meetings

What do you know of the Code of Hammurabi? You know, the set of ancient Babylonian laws dating to the second millennium B.C.? How many can you recite from memory? I'll spot you a few. Here, from Wikipedia, are some examples of the 281 laws that make up the famous code.

  • If a man puts out the eye of an equal, his eye shall be put out.
  • If a man knocks the teeth out of another man, his own teeth will be knocked out.
  • If anyone strikes the body of a man higher in rank than he, he shall receive sixty blows with an ox-whip in public.
  • If a son strike his father, his hands shall be hewn off.
  • If anyone steals the minor son of another, he shall be put to death.
  • If anyone commits a robbery and is caught, he shall be put to death.
  • If during an unsuccessful operation a patient dies, the arm of the surgeon must be cut off.
  • If a government official actually answers a constituent's question, he shall be smitten.

OK, I made up that last one, but you get the point. Not only does Hammurabi tell us what's forbidden, he gives us a kind of ancient equivalent to the US government's federal sentencing guidelines.

Quiz: Does Hammurabi's Code remind you of any other ancient set of laws? After the jump, the answer.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Does Two of Something Make it Common?

The proposed code of ethics for the City of Richardson has a six month statute of limitations. In Monday's council work session, a city staffer explained to the council why this was included. In a PowerPoint presentation, the number one reason given was:

"The inclusion of a time limitation is a common [emphasis added] feature of other area cities' policies."

After the jump, an analysis of whether the math is compatible with the language.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Trash Talk

The last time we visited the project to rebuild and enlarge the Lookout Trash Transfer Station, it was to say little progress is evident in the talks between the city, the North Texas Municipal Water District (NTMWD) and neighborhood groups opposed to the plans. In April, the city claimed that a deal was near. In June, a group called the Neighborhood Protection Alliance of Richardson last updated its website with a pessimistic outlook that any such deal was imminent. The NTMWD itself has not updated its website concerning the issue since September of 2009.

After the jump, what's new.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Thriller at Eagle-Mustang Stadium

From 2010 Football

The Richardson Eagles escaped with a thrilling 44-42 victory Friday night over their arch-rivals, the JJ Pearce Mustangs, at the stadium they both call home. The win wasn't assured until Pearce's 42 yard field goal attempt into the wind for the win fell short in the end zone as time expired.

For a look at all the action, including the game, cheerleaders, drill teams and bands, look here. Remember, without the band, it's just a game.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Report Card For Richardson City Council

The Richardson Coalition, a political action committee whose support helped all seven city council members win election to the 2009-2011 term, emailed an editorial about the PAC's view of how the council is doing. (Sorry, but I can't link to it, as the editorial does not appear on the neglected Richardson Coalition website.)

After the jump, my report card on the PAC's report card. (I know, it's kind of meta, but if that bothers you, don't click through.)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Row Over Brick Row - Round 2

Recently, I blogged about the request by the developers of Brick Row to make some changes in the planned mix of apartments and condos in this mixed-use, transit-oriented development under construction near the Spring Valley DART light rail station. I said that although I didn't have strong feeling on the issue, I was inclined to support the change in plans. I even wondered (partly tongue-in-cheek) whether I was turning libertarian, in that I couldn't convince myself that the rest of Richardson should be telling a landowner how many apartments and how many condos he should be building on his own land.

My blog post elicited a long and thoughtful email from a reader. After the jump, with her permission, the view from a neighbor in Highland Terrace.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

OTBR: Wild Raspberries In Estonia

Latitude: 58.311400° N
Longitude: 22.205400° E

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".

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Row Over Brick Row

Developers of Brick Row want to convert 300 unsold condos into apartments. You can imagine how that's going over with the crowd that never even wanted condos there, to say nothing of apartments (or any place else in Richardson, for that matter).

Me? I'm inclined to support the request. After the jump, why.

Monday, September 6, 2010

A Zoo Story

... in pictures.

From 2010 09 Dallas Zoo

To see all photos, click here.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Twitter Tracks: Heat Wave, Iraq, Football

Twitter tracks from August, 2010:

  • 2010 08 01 - Texans discussing weather: Him: "It sure is hot today." Her: "It's only 99."
  • 2010 08 02 - Headline: "Lindsay Lohan released from jail, goes to rehab." What, is that the name of some new trendy LA nightclub?
  • 2010 08 03 - News coincidence: Brett Favre says he's quitting football for the 3rd time. Same day, Bristol Palin says she's quitting Levi for 2nd time.
  • 2010 08 03 - You Can't Take It With You: Quirky 1938 Oscar-winning Frank Capra comedy. Tired of "It's a Wonderful Life?" Try this for the swellest time.
  • 2010 08 04 - Headline: "Google Bails on Wave" http://goo.gl/q3o3. Sometimes, my procrastination in picking up a new tool saves me time in the end.
  • 2010 08 04 - Cheering for today's Prop 8 ruling will be short. This SCOTUS won't uphold any ruling based on due process and equal protection clauses.
  • 2010 08 05 - Mark's Stylebook: When a column isn't worth the paper to print it, feature it online as a "Web Exclusive"
  • 2010 08 06 - Earmarks are "a symbol of a broken Washington." -- Pete Sessions. His own contribution to breaking DC? $50,965,500. http://goo.gl/KrEZ
  • 2010 08 06 - I correctly answered 11 out of the 11 possible questions, on the Pew News IQ Quiz! http://pewrsr.ch/9U8jNF

After the jump, more Twitter tracks.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

JJ Pearce Under The Friday Night Lights

From 2010 Football

The JJ Pearce Mustangs lost to the Irving Nimitz Vikings 35-31 Friday night at Eagle-Mustang Stadium.

For a complete look at all the activity, including game, bands, drill teams and cheerleaders, look here.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Surprise And Disappointment In House District 102

Not really. More like politics as usual in the election campaign for Texas House District 102 (representing part of north Dallas and part of Garland). Gromer Jeffers, in The Dallas Morning News, says challenger Stefani Carter makes a "misleading charge that state Rep. Carol Kent improperly took state housing reimbursements."

After the jump, Jeffers explains why the charge is misleading.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Traffic Woes

Have you ever thought that the traffic on US 75 couldn't get any worse? Does the fact that the HOV lane has no entrance/exit for Richardson bug you? How about those red light cameras? Did you ever wonder if there are parking meters anywhere in Richardson and, if not, why not?

After the jump, traffic news from around the state and beyond.