Friday, June 25, 2010

Schmoozing, Walking Forums And Open Meetings

Yesterday we had a pop quiz on civics. The two questions dealt with compensation for public employees. Today's question deals with government transparency. It is prompted by Jim Schutze's report of a Dallas City Council meeting.

"Before the council bit into [a contentious issue], [Mayor Tom] Leppert called a 10-minute recess. This is where the real stuff happens. The microphones are off; they've stepped away from the dais; and all we can see out here in the peanut gallery is who's shmoozing whom."

The Texas Open Meetings Act forbids government bodies from deliberating public business in private serial meetings of less than a quorum (so-called "walking quorums") then ratifying their actions as a quorum in a subsequent public meeting. The question is, why is the schmoozing described by Schutze not an illegal "walking quorum?"

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Nice Work If You Can Get It

Pop quiz time. Topic? Compensation of public officials. Get your blue books out. Use as many as you need. Take all the time you want. Open book. Consult with classmates. Whatever it takes to get the right answers.

After the jump, ... begin.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Good Luck, Amie Parsons

You'll need it.

Four months ago, GOP party primary voters denied nominations to two members of the State Board of Education (SBOE) representing north Texas. Don McLeroy in District 9 (northern Collin County and much of east Texas) and Tincy Miller in District 12 (much of north Dallas and Richardson) were rejected by Republican Party voters. McLeroy and Miller continue to hold their seats until the November general election. A month ago, the SBOE approved changes to the social studies standards used in Texas public schools. The lame duck far-right majority on the board dictated far-right changes, seemingly against the primary voters' wishes.

With the damage done, the SBOE has been out of the news lately and is likely to remain that way through the November elections. After the jump, why we should still care.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

New Candidate, Same Old Spin

Recently, first-time candidate for Texas House District 102 Stefani Carter was caught plagiarizing lines from Barack Obama for her own stump speech. The wording of Carter's speech was thoroughly covered by many, but today I want to look at her side's defense against the charges of plagiarism and resume padding. It exhibits just as much political spin as her stump speech that got her in trouble.

After the jump, a case of political spin deconstructed.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Early Summer In The Steger Garden (2010)

From Flowers

152nd Northwestern Commencement

There has been no news from Richardson since last week because Ellen and I were in Evanston, Illinois, to attend Northwestern University's 152th commencement ceremony. John received his Bachelor of Science degrees in Industrial Engineering and in Manufacturing and Design Engineering.

The weekend's activities began with sightseeing around the Evanston area. First stop was the Baha'i House of Worship for North America, one of only seven Baha'i temples around the world. Next stop was the Evanston Art Center, the Grosse Point Light House, and the nearby beach. We then strolled Northwestern's beautiful campus, stretched out along the Lake Michigan lakeshore, a gem of a setting.

Commencement day began with a President's reception on the lawn of the Norris Center. The weather, like the day before, was sunny, hot and humid, at least until mid-afternoon when a line of fast-moving thunderstorms moved into the Chicago area. Commencement, an outdoor event scheduled for 6:00 pm at Ryan Field, was threatened when the skies opened up at 4:30 pm with torrential rain and hurricane-force winds. Trees were uprooted in nearby neighborhoods and some windows popped out of the downtown Chicago skyscrapers. But by 6:00 pm, the storm had passed and commencement went on as scheduled.

Convocation of the McCormick School of Engineering was held Saturday morning, at which diplomas were awarded. The weekend's festivities were capped off with John's friend Armand's graduation celebration hosted by his parents, in the Skyline Room of the Trump Tower in downtown Chicago. The spectacular view was outdone only by the hospitality of Armand's family. A fun time was had by all.

For more photos, look here.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Garland's Answer To "Tree The Town"

Richardson might have its "Tree the Town" initiative to plant 50,000 trees in Richardson over the next ten years. Now, Garland ISD is thinking of going one step farther -- growing its own trees. School board member Larry Glick's idea is to to give students training in horticulture and, as a byproduct, provide shade on school playgrounds as well. Garland ISD would start a tree farm, run by students who would both grow the trees and transplant them to playgrounds. Win-win.

After the jump, a look back at an Richardson effort to shade those playgrounds.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Museum Tower vs Richardson's PGBT Station

Museum Tower site
Museum Tower site

Museum Tower, the long-envisioned condo tower in the Arts District in downtown Dallas, is on again. You might think that adding living spaces to downtown Dallas would be welcomed by all. Not so. WalkableDFW's Patrick Kennedy pans the planned tower, calling it a "cul-de-sac in the sky" due to the lack of walkability in the neighborhood. He has a point. Once you get past the glossy marketing brochures that show the downtown skyline and the nearby art museum, symphony hall and deck park, what will residents who actually move in be faced with on the ground? Look at the aerial view of the planned location -- it's the parking lot inside that strangling cloverleaf exit to Woodall Rodgers freeway. Just try to walk anywhere from your new condo and see how far you get. Big mistake?

After the jump, why I like it anyway and why I'm glad it's in Dallas, not Richardson.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Barack Obama Wannabe Stefani Carter

Barack Obama / Stefani Carter
Barack Obama / Stefani Carter

Young, bright, Harvard-educated, African-American candidate for the state legislature. What once described Barack Obama in Illinois is now being appropriated by none other than a north Texas Republican candidate for the Texas legislature. And if the biography isn't enough to get voters to see a little Barack Obama in you, how about lifting lines and ideas right from Barack Obama's keynote address to the 2004 Democratic Convention, the speech that launched his national career?

After the jump, look who's riding Obama's coattails?

Monday, June 14, 2010

116th Caltech Commencement

There has been no news from Richardson since last week because Ellen and I were in Pasadena, California, to attend Caltech's 116th commencement ceremony. Scott received his Master of Science degree in Electrical Engineering. The weather was ideal (the 75 degree days and cool nights were a welcome break from the Texas heat). The commencement ceremony struck just the right balance between seriousness and levity (and sometimes both rolled up together. For example, read Caltech professor Sean Carroll's take on the lyrics to the song Gaudeamus Igitur sung by the Caltech Glee Club). And the post-commencement luncheon in the Athenaeum was awe-inspiring (this private club on the Caltech campus hosted Nobel Prize winners Albert Einstein, Robert Millikan and A. A. Milchelson at its first formal dinner in 1931).

Besides glowing with pride during commencement, we also visited the outstanding Norton Simon art museum in Pasadena. Saturday turned out to be a full day at Universal Studios Hollywood after we discovered that you can't take just the studio tour without buying a ticket for the whole theme park experience, too. (For a more authentic studio tour, check out Warner Brothers instead.) Each evening was spent dining and strolling in Old Pasadena, the kind of livable city that Dallas and Richardson ought to study.

For more photos, look here:

Thursday, June 10, 2010

2010 World Cup - South Africa

2010 World Cup

The whole world is watching. Even Americans. From June 11 through July 11, the world will pause to watch the World Cup. Find a location in the Dallas area to join in. Ideally, a location where Brazilians gather to watch Brazil play, or where Slovenians, Slovakians or Serbians gather -- the more exotic the country, the better, if they have a critical mass of fans in the north Texas area. The enthusiasm is infectious. Catch it. Even if you never watched a soccer match before in your life.


Fox and Hound*
112 W. Campbell Road
*All locations will open early

Humperdink's Sports Bar and Restaurant
1601 N. Central Expressway

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Restaurants On Notice

Restaurant Scores

Below is a list of restaurants that I've eaten in that have received a rating below 90 (that is, less than "Excellent") on a recent inspection score by the Richardson Health Department. I'm putting these restaurants on notice. If their scores don't improve to 90 or above ("Excellent") on their next inspection, I don't be eating there anymore.

(Note that a score of 80-89 is still considered "Good." I just like to think I have high standards. And note that there are other restaurants with scores less than 90. These are just the ones that I have had the pleasure of dining at and the ones that have been inspected in the last couple of months. The full list of restaurant scores can be found here.)

05/27/10Funasia - Main (upstairs)1210 E Belt Line Rd74
05/27/10Funasia - Concession (downstairs)1210 E Belt Line Rd75
05/21/10Chick-Fil-A603 S Plano Rd87
05/13/10Twisted Root Burger Co.730 E Campbell Rd88
05/03/10Furr's Cafeteria350 S Plano Rd84
04/29/10Oriental Express1600 N Plano Rd 200086
04/28/10The Upper Deck Bar and Grill1403 E Campbell Rd79
04/27/10A Taste of Italy3555 Murphy Rd88
04/26/10Dos Charros108 Univ Vlg S/C81
04/26/10Canyon Creek Country Club Main Kitchen625 Lookout Dr89
04/22/10Spring Creek B.B.Q.270 N Central Expy83
03/29/10Chien Garden1144 N Plano Rd #12183
03/16/10Scalini's Pizza and Pasta3610 Shire Blvd 510888
03/15/10Boudreaux's Cajun Kitchen720 E Campbell Rd88

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Richardson's Walkability

Patrick Kennedy, on his blog WalkableDFW, has championed walkability as a necessary component of a city's livability. In a recent blog entry, he reports on an academic finding that intersection density is the number one predictor of walkability. He says:

"Intuitively this makes sense in that the smaller the blocks, the greater number of intersections, the more storefronts, the more choice of route, etc. We have also known that intersection density is an indicator of traffic safety."
Kennedy goes on to present a detailed analysis of the intersection density of downtown Dallas compared with Portland, Oregon. Read his blog to learn which city comes out ahead.

After the jump, what another walkability measure says about Richardson.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Bush Turnpike TOD

My first impressions of the developers' vision for the transit-oriented development around the Bush Turnpike DART station in Richardson:
  • It looks promising. Preserves creeks. Connects to trails and DART rail. Strives for mixed-use walkability.
  • I like how it uses Spring Creek trail to punch a hole in Central Expwy to tie east/west together.
  • It gets Cottonwood rail line across Central Expwy without blocking traffic at Plano Pkwy. Advantage Richardson over Plano.

OTBR: A Rapeseed Field In Germany

Latitude: 48.295399° N
Longitude: 11.999700° 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".

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Twitter Tracks: Baseball, Local Election, Oil Spill

Twitter tracks from May, 2010:

  • 2010 05 01 - Congrats to Berkner and Richardson HS baseball teams, co-champs of District 9-5A. One game playoff today to determine top seed in playoffs.
  • 2010 05 01 - Play In May! That's the goal of every high school baseball team in Texas. Two RISD co-champions went at it today.
  • 2010 05 01 - Thanks to the entire DMN team for coverage of today's rally for immigration rights. Add "si se puede" to the great American rallying cries.
  • 2010 05 01 - I'm just going to enjoy the spectacle of the Kentucky Derby and all its excesses and not once think of Sen. Mitch McConnell. ... Drats.
  • 2010 05 01 - The best thing about the Kentucky Derby and all other big betting events??? Despite the fact that my pick loses, I never lose any money. :-)
  • 2010 05 01 - I was for Richardson's bond election before, but now I've learned that my alley will likely get replaced if the bond passes. Woot!
  • 2010 05 01 - The Blind Side: good feel-good movie, more a family movie than a football movie. Sandra Bullock was good, not great. Compare with Precious.
  • 2010 05 02 - Richardson Echo letter to the editor: "Don't let Richardson become Bedford, Texas all over again." Ouch!
  • 2010 05 02 - Catch Conan on "60 Minutes?" You know how long that show has been on the air? It uses a mechanical stopwatch and a magazine as brand symbols
  • 2010 05 02 - RT @WalkableDFW: "Funny that my iPhone always uses it's and its incorrectly and imposes its will upon me." Yeah, that's my story, too.
  • 2010 05 02 - Headline: "Pope all but endorses authenticity of Turin Shroud." I detect a man desperate to change subject, even at cost of sounding silly.

After the jump, more Twitter tracks.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Route 66 And US 75 - ctd

Texola, Oklahoma
Texola, Oklahoma
Yesterday, I blogged about old Route 66 and the small towns along it that withered and died when the new Interstate Highway bypassed them. I suggested that the towns may have been doomed in any case, but the freeways played their role. I suggested that fear of the same thing happening again is what keeps city fathers worshipping at the feet of freeways today. No one wants to be the next Texola, Oklahoma.

I quoted Patrick Kennedy as claiming that freeways are sucking the lifeblood out of cities and are a lifeline for suburbs that the suburbs would be better off severing to enable much needed reinvention. I said there was something that didn't seem quite right about that argument, but I never did get around to saying what it was. That's because I wasn't sure myself.

After the jump, my rambling attempt to understand just what it is that bothers me about Kennedy's argument.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Route 66 And US 75

Texola, Oklahoma
Texola, Oklahoma

Recently, I've been thinking about how US 75, which bisects Richardson, is a blessing and a curse. Texas Instruments, a huge economic engine in Richardson's history, wouldn't be where it is without US 75 being where it is. More recently, Telecom Corridor wouldn't be here either without US 75. And yet those benefits come with a price.

Significantly, US 75 is also known as Central Expressway. The name has nothing to do with Richardson, but the name is fitting for what it does to Richardson, slicing it in two down the middle. In the past, I've argued that we need to punch holes in Central Expressway to knit east and west Richardson together again and make it whole. Patrick Kennedy, who runs the most excellent WalkableDFW blog, has been even more ambitious in his thinking. Rather than punch holes in the freeways, he wants to narrow the highways or rip them up altogether.

After the jump, where he and I talk to each other or through each other, I can't decide which.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Preservation Richardson

US Census of 1860
1860 US Census

"Time it was, and what a time it was, it was
A time of innocence, a time of confidences
Long ago, it must be, I have a photograph
Preserve your memories; they're all that's left you."
-- Paul Simon

That history project that Richardson City Council member Amir Omar has been teasing us with turns out to be an effort to collect and preserve our collective memories of Richardson, Texas. After the jump, Preservation Richardson.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Sports Roundup: Belton, Rice, Northwestern

Time to catch up on some sports stories I've been following. First up, it's high school baseball. Berkner lost to Belton. Then Lake Highlands lost to Belton. By that time, I was a firm believer in the Belton Tigers, winners of 11 straight games and unbeaten in their three rounds of the Texas UIL tournament. So, even though I had never heard of Belton High School before this year's baseball season, I was disappointed to learn that Klein Collins eliminated Belton in their three game playoff last weekend. I guess I should now cheer for Klein Collins, in turn. Never having seen Klein Collins play, it's kind of hard to work up much enthusiasm.

Next up, it's college baseball. We found in ourselves in Houston the day that the Conference USA baseball tournament was hosting its championship game at the University of Houston's Cougar Stadium and, coming as no surprise, Rice University was in it. So, off we went to hopefully watch Rice win the conference crown. For the last fifteen years, Rice has won either the regular season or conference tournament championship. Given that Rice won the regular season this year, maybe I shouldn't have been greedy and expected a tournament win as well. As it turned out, the University of Southern Mississippi took advantage of some critical Rice miscues and largely silenced Rice's big bats that had been so hot in the early games of the tournament. Rice fell behind 4-0 in the top of the first and never did quite catch up, losing 7-4. Now, it's on to the NCAA tournament, where Rice draws a big challenge in the regionals, facing four teams that include the University of Texas, #1 seed in the regional and #2 seed overall.

Finally, it's nice to see women's sports get some attention. The big NCAA tournament story this past weekend was the women's lacrosse championship game, played before a record crowd of over 9,000 fans. It was #1 Maryland facing the five time defending NCAA champions and this year's #2 ranked Northwestern University. Maryland ended Northwestern's streak 13-11. Every loss is a tough loss and every streak has to end sometime. Northwestern, not accustomed to athletic success, has had more than its share the last half decade thanks to the women's lacrosse team alone. Northwestern still has much to be proud of.