Monday, June 27, 2011

"The Wheel" is at Rest

While "The Wheel" is being rewound for another spin, enjoy one of the photos from our archives.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Steger Fest 2011

I wish I were going to "Steger Fest." Hey, I wish I knew something about "Steger Fest." Anything. Well, in fact I do know something. I know that Giggity was the headliner Friday night. And they do a nice cover of "You May Be Right (I May Be Crazy)". But that's all I know.

Come on, Steger, Illinois, get with the program and put up a webpage for "Steger Fest." I know I'm not the only person looking for information on the premiere summer festival for villages along the border of Cook County and Will County, Illinois.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Chinese History and Texas Education

Members of the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) lately have been making direct appeals to the public to rally support for their vision for education in Texas. Recently, for example, I blogged about Thomas Ratliff's appeal to voters to contact their state representatives to ask them to quit making our schools try to do more with less. Ratliff argued for more local control: "In my opinion, the term 'Independent School District' is misleading at best. In fact, I would argue there's hardly anything 'independent' about them."

After the jump, David Bradley's turn.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Redistricting Musical Chairs - The Appeal

When last we heard from the Dallas County Commissioners Court, lame duck Commissioner Maurine Dickey was quacking over a new district map. I said then, "Presumably, she was upset that the Democrats, newly holding a majority on the Commissioners Court, were drawing a new map that might result in one of the two previously safe Republican seats ending up in Democratic hands."

After the jump, some further thoughts on the subject.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Checking In With The SBOE

Let's check in with the SBOE - the Texas State Board of Education - you know, that government body that The Dallas Morning News's Jacquielynn Floyd once called a "whacked-out troop of underqualified ideologues ... [who] make us look like a bunch o' goobers in the eyes of the whole nation." That was thanks in large measure to SBOE chairman Don McLeroy, the Bryan dentist who once argued that the good fit between humans' upper teeth and lower teeth is evidence of Creationism (apparently, he never saw my children's orthodontist bills). Texan voters and their schoolchildren scored a rare victory at the ballot box in 2010 when McLeroy was defeated by Thomas Ratliff in the Republican primary, who went to win the general election.

After the jump, catching up with Thomas Ratliff.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Beth Van Duyne Elected Mayor of Irving

In Richardson, the city election may be a fading memory, but in Irving, it is still headline news. Saturday, Beth Van Duyne was elected mayor in a campaign described by KERA as nasty and expensive. The two candidates in the June 18 runoff spent more than $850,000 to win the mayor's office. It makes our little dust-up in Richardson, viewed as expensive here, now sound like a bargain.

After the jump, a look into the parallel universe of Irving.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Does Richardson Need An Independent Auditor?

Does the City of Richardson need an independent auditor? I'm sure some readers are already saying, "D'oh, yes." But bear with me as I think out loud. The answer is not self-evident to me.

After the jump, some pros and cons.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Tort Reform and Cost Control

Given that rising health care costs is a big component of our federal budget, and given that Governor Rick Perry is dropping hints that he'll run for President, it isn't difficult to predict that Perry will cite tort reform as an example of how Perry knows how to keep rising health care costs from bankrupting the country.

After the jump, a single graph that Perry will have a hard time explaining.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

How Investors See Richardson

In case you missed the news, Pillar Commercial bought Nortel's former campus in Richardson for $43.1 million. The property includes a 16-story office tower and a 3-story research and laboratory building with a total of 800,000 square feet. In other words, as our Vice President might say, it's a big, f*@#ing deal.

D Magazine's Real Points blog posted an article by the president of Pillar Commercial, Manny Ybarra, explaining his company's motivation for investing in Richardson. The whole article is worth a read.

After the jump, a choice paragraph ... and then a stop for barbecue.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Non-Profits No More

The IRS published the names of thousands of organizations throughout the US who have had their nonprofit tax exemption automatically revoked. There were 21,000 groups on the list from Texas alone. Most groups are defunct, but even active groups can make the list by failing to file an annual return for three consecutive years. The list of groups from Richardson ought to raise a few eyebrows, as I recognized some groups that are still active.

After the jump, the list of revoked groups from Richardson.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Sherrill Park Golf Courses Earn Honors

"A Jewish Grandmother loses her grandson at the beach when a tidal wave sweeps him away. The grandmother kneels in the sand and prays for the return of her grandson. Just as she finishes her prayer, a huge wave crashes back on the beach, returning the young boy to his grandmother's side. The grandmother is overcome with joy and gratitude. She begins to cry and hug her grandson, then looks up to the sky and yells, 'He had a hat!' "

What does this have to do with Sherrill Park, you ask? Bear with me. I'll get us back on the fairway and down to the green. After the jump.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


Sure it's disappointing to see the Dallas Mavericks lose to the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals. But, deep down, in your heart of hearts, you always knew it was going to end this way. Admit it. Here's what I tweeted a month ago, after the Mavs won the first two games in their series with the L.A. Lakers:

  • 2011 05 06 - Congrats to the Mavs and all, but it's hard to get excited knowing, even if they beat the Lakers, there's still the Heat in the Finals.
  • 2011 05 06 - By the way, I mentioned the Heat, not the Grizzlies or Thunder because, let's face it, those are made up team names, right?

Face it. We all knew the Miami Heat was going to win the championship this year as far back as last summer, when LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined Dwyane Wade in Miami to form the most-favored lineup since, when, Murderers' Row of the 1920s New York Yankees? Now that the inevitable has happened, and the team favored to win it all actually has won it all, it's good to recall the advice of the most gifted sportswriter of the 1920s, Damon Runyan:

"The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that's the way to bet."

Congratulations to the Miami Heat for winning the 2011 NBA championship.

Postgame update: Oops. I should have held up the presses until the series was over. Oh well, I'm not the first to prematurely declare a winner. My bad. ;-)

Early Summer in the Steger Garden (2011)

From Flowers

More photos after the jump.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

What Odds Would You Give on a Dirk Free Throw?

FrontBurner's Tim Rogers made a bet during Thursday's Mavs/Heat NBA Finals game. He won, but got to wondering if he had made a smart bet.

"I need help from someone who has a bigger math brain than I do. Last night, as Dirk was taking some free throws, I made a bet that he wouldn’t miss two in a row, and I gave 1,000-to-1 odds. I won a dollar. But was that a smart bet?"

After the jump, the answer.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Chasing Ambulance Stories

On Tuesday, the City of Richardson issued this press release:

Richardson Among Several Texas Cities Settling Dispute Concerning Medicare/Medicaid

(Richardson, TX) -- The City of Richardson is one of many Texas cities that contracted with Southwest General Services of Dallas, L.L.C. (SGS) to perform all aspects of ambulance billing services. SGS was selected based on its substantial experience and expertise in Medicare and Medicaid billing and compliance with state and federal laws, and those representations and obligations were included in Richardson's contract for services.

In 2006, SGS failed to incorporate changes in its billing methodology to comply with new federal rules regarding the standards for ambulance transport charges for Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement. The failure to change the billing method resulted in Medicare and Medicaid being over charged for some services. Billing for all other ambulance transports was not affected.

The City has reached a settlement agreement in the amount of $160,979.56 with the U.S. Attorney's Office to release the City from any claims arising from the failure of SGS to properly bill for services. Although Richardson disputes responsibility for any penalties, a settlement of the matter will avoid further defense expenses and exposure to higher damages and penalties.

The City has also put SGS and the contractor's insurance company on notice that the City's rights under contract indemnify the City from all claims arising out of SGS's performance of the contract and from any violation by SGS of federal, state, and local laws, ordinances, regulations and policies. The City also put SGS on notice that it will seek full restitution of damages that have come as a result of improper billing practices.

After the jump, interpreting the doctor's handwriting.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

No Backsliding on Transparency

In the 2009-2011 City Council term, Richardson took some significant steps towards improved transparency -- televising council meetings, posting checkbook register online, passing a code of ethics.

After the jump, how's that holding up?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Redistricting Musical Chairs

Every ten years, the whole country plays a game of musical chairs called redistricting. Congressmen, state senators and representatives, county commissioners, even city council members have to play the game. Depending on where the new lines are drawn, your future as an elected official could be enhanced or jeopardized.

State Representatives Angie Chen Button and Stefani Carter, State Senator John Carona, and Congressman Pete Sessions all look like they'll be able to hold their seats as long as they want because their redistricting is in friendly hands. Ambition might lead Carter to give up her seat sometime in the future when opportunity presents itself. Chen Button is more likely to stay put. Carona was once rumored to be interested in running for Dallas Mayor, but that obviously didn't happen. Sessions looks comfortable in Congress and has no other prospects on the horizon (with the possible exception of Vegas casino greeter, but that's down the road a bit).

There does appear to be one musical chair newly available, which caused one Dallas County Commissioner Tuesday to flip out. After the jump, how the game is played in the Dallas County Commissioners Court.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Chicago Expects to Feel Like Baton Rouge

A funny thing happened on the way to a world changed by global warming. While the environmentalists who seek to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are just as convinced as ever about the seriousness of the problem, and the climate deniers are just as determined as ever to stop them, there's a third group that is quietly at work, mostly out of the spotlight, trying to adapt to the reality of climate change.

"Cities adapt or they go away. Climate change is happening in both real and dramatic ways, but also in slow, pervasive ways. We can handle it, but we do need to acknowledge it. We are on a 50-year cycle, but we need to get going."
-- Aaron N. Durnbaugh, deputy commissioner of Chicago's Department of Environment
That's from an article in The New York Times describing Chicago's attitude towards the need to adapt.

After the jump, what adaptation looks like.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Does Richardson Need Term Limits?

If you said to yourself, doesn't Richardson already have term limits, then congratulations. It was a trick question. The Richardson City Charter was amended in 2007 to include term limits for City Council members.

3.01 (b). "No person elected or appointed to the city council at the May 2009 city officer election or thereafter, shall serve as a member of the city council in any place for more than six (6) consecutive terms until at least one full term shall have elapsed from the expiration of such person's last term of office."

So, why would I even raise this question? The answer, after the jump.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Coterie Pajama Party

From 2011 06 Coterie Pajama Party

"Coterie" is an organization of Richardson-area friends who get together three times a year for dinner and entertainment. The theme and activity for each occasion varies. The June 2011 Coterie party was a Pajama Party with Karaoke entertainment.

For a slide show of the evening, click here.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

OTBR: On a Qatar Sand Dune

Latitude: 24.9029 N
Longitude: 51.5220 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".

Friday, June 3, 2011

A Fourth Grade Texas History Lesson

Do Texas lawmakers not know the Texas Constitution? Or do they think Texans can't read? Or do they just not care?

After the jump, a lesson in fourth grade Texas history.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Repeat Tweets: City Council, Bin Laden, Mavs

Repeat tweets from May, 2011:

  • 2011 05 01 - In 2007, Sheryl Miller outpolled William Gordon almost 2 to 1 in a 5-way race for City Council. I didn't know that.
  • 2011 05 01 - Headline: "Houston Texans take Rice defensive end Cheta Ozougwu with NFL draft's last pick." Go Owls!
  • 2011 05 01 - Where to Live to Avoid a Natural Disaster. Avoid N. TX like the plague - but not because of plagues. Yay, Appleton WI.
  • 2011 05 01 - MT @brucetomaso: "Trump's reaction to jokes may be clue that he's not cut out for a natl campaign." Hell, he's not cut out for, say, Alaska.
  • 2011 05 01 - Thank you, Apple. Rumor is that Osama bin Laden just activated the new iPhone sent to him by the CIA.
  • 2011 05 02 - Headline: "MetroPCS expanding Richardson HQ." Richardson on the move. Keep it goin'.
  • 2011 05 02 - Headline: "Benning moves HQ from Dallas to Richardson." Richardson on the move. Keep it goin'.
  • 2011 05 02 - Headline: "CVS Caremark call center in Richardson lays off 250." Ouch! Two steps forward, one back. Pick up the pace.
  • 2011 05 02 - I'd like to learn how far a city council can change zoning laws before courts rule it an illegal taking without compensation. No I wouldn't.
  • 2011 05 02 - Steve Mitchell has the perfect situation. A legitimate reason to step aside from a vote that might come back to haunt him years from now.
  • 2011 05 02 - I want Spring Valley rezoning to go through but I'm not a property rights lawyer. I don't want city to lose a lawsuit or screw prop owners.

After the jump, more repeat tweets.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Are Richardson's Voting Districts in Need of Change?

The Richardson City Charter calls for a review of the city's voting district boundaries every ten years, making adjustments based on US Census results to ensure that the four districts have similar population size.

During the election campaign, one idea that all council candidates were open to was formation of a citizens' commission to review and make recommendations to update the Richardson City Charter. Some candidates were champing at the bit to do it; some were merely willing to go along with it if it's the will of the people. It is likely that *something* will have to be done.

If we already know we have to adjust the district boundaries in any case, and we're likely to open the Pandora's Box of a full City Charter review, should we consider making dramatic changes to how Richardson elects its City Council?

Let's discuss, after the jump.