Friday, August 31, 2012

Allen Eagles 24, Southlake Carroll Dragons 0

High school football is back in action. The Allen Eagles inaugurated their new stadium in style Friday night with a 24-0 shutout of the defending state champions Southlake Carroll Dragons. Attendance exceeded the 18,000 seating capacity of the stadium, as several thousand standing-room-only attendees lined the railings along the wide concourses of the new stadium.

What Does $60 Million Buy?

$60 million buys an 18,000 seat high school football stadium. That's the price tag approved by the voters of the Allen school district for a new stadium for the Allen Eagles football team. The Eagles' first game in their new stadium will be Friday night against the defending state champion Southlake Carroll Dragons. Naturally, it's a sellout.

After the jump, what $60 million does not buy.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Continental Inn Opens In Richardson

That's right. A new hotel. In southwest Richardson. And what a nice hotel at that. "Handsome." "Beautifully decorated." "Contemporary design." "Tropical surroundings." I don't know how I missed this news when it happened, but better late than never. Here it is. Enjoy.

October 12, 1960

The Dallas Continental Inn, recently completed in Richardson, opened to the public last weekend, and Texas-Oklahoma football fans quickly filled the handsome new Electronic City motor hotel and gathering place to capacity.

Dallas Continental Inn is located on the west side of Central Expressway off Floyd Rd., only a few minutes from downtown Dallas. There are 60 rooms now, with ground space for an additional 40. The rooms are beautifully decorated in either turquoise or

(continued on Page 2)
Source: The Richardson Echo.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Magnet Schools and Racial Segregation

Last week, I blogged about one person's fear that the Richardson ISD (RISD) is restricting enrollment at one elementary school to students who speak Spanish. (That person was misinformed, but it did prompt some good discussion about the RISD's enrollment policy.) Yesterday, I blogged about the efforts of the RISD to get out from under decades-old federal court supervision regarding racial segregation.

All this talk made me wonder about the effects of magnet schools in Richardson. After the jump, what I always thought the purpose of magnet schools was and what now has me questioning that.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Racial Segregation and Richardson Schools

That sounds like a headline out of the distant past, right? If you consider 1970 ancient history, then yes, it would be. But I'm talking about 2012. The Richardson Independent School District (RISD) is *still* under the watchful eye of the federal courts, as this news item from the RISD explains:
Richardson ISD has been operating under a federal desegregation order since 1970, which imposes federal judicial supervision on various district operations. Many school districts around the state and country have operated under civil rights-era desegregation orders.

Over the years, many of those districts have successfully sought unitary status -- which is the process through which a district asks the court to dismiss the desegregation litigation.

The RISD Board of Trustees authorized the district to begin the process of seeking unitary status in 2009, so that more local control would be returned to the district, which will enhance operational efficiency and flexibility.

To obtain unitary status, a school district must establish that it has eliminated the vestiges of past discrimination and that is has complied with the court's orders.

The federal court has set this matter for trial beginning June 11, 2012. RISD is hopeful that the court will agree that the district has attained unitary status and that federal supervision under the 42 year old court order no longer is necessary.
Source: RISD.
After the jump, what's new in the case and how it ties in with a recent discussion on these pages.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Guess the Park

Which Richardson park is this a photo of?
After the jump, another perspective of the same view.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Don't Speak Spanish? No School for You.

Overheard in the town square (aka Facebook):
I heard something this past week end that just appalled me if it is true, hope someone can answer it for me. I heard that if Spanish is not your first language you can not enroll in Richardson Heights Elementary, I certainly hope that is not true of any school in the United States of America unless it is a private school. Anyone know if this is true???
Source: Facebook.
Appalling, sure. If it is true. If. There's the Constitution and all that, right? Equal protection of the laws. So, of course it's not true. So, how can anyone believe that blatant discrimination by a government agency could possibly be true? Maybe because it is. Kinda. Sort of. Not really, but close enough for high dudgeon on Facebook, anyway.

After the jump, the possible source of the misunderstanding.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Happiness Is Lubbock, Texas, in my Rear View Mirror

Lubbock County Judge Tom Head and Commissioner Mark Heinrich went into great detail Monday night on FOX 34 News @ Nine about why it is necessary to raise the tax rate by 1.7 cents the next fiscal year.
Judge Head said he and the county must be prepared for many contingencies, one that he particularly fears, is if President Obama is reelected.

"He's going to try to hand over the sovereignty of the United States to the UN, and what is going to happen when that happens?," Head asked.

"I'm thinking the worst. Civil unrest, civil disobedience, civil war maybe. And we're not just talking a few riots here and demonstrations, we're talking Lexington, Concord, take up arms and get rid of the guy.

"Now what's going to happen if we do that, if the public decides to do that? He's going to send in U.N. troops. I don't want 'em in Lubbock County. OK. So I'm going to stand in front of their armored personnel carrier and say 'you're not coming in here'.

"And the sheriff, I've already asked him, I said 'you gonna back me' he said, 'yeah, I'll back you'. Well, I don't want a bunch of rookies back there. I want trained, equipped, seasoned veteran officers to back me."
Source: Fox34 News.
What's there to say? I understand what prompted Mac Davis to write the title to that classic song about leaving Lubbock.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Curious Public Hearing on the Budget

Gregory (Scotland Yard detective): "Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"
Holmes: "To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."
Gregory: "The dog did nothing in the night-time."
Holmes: "That was the curious incident."
Source: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
The Richardson City Council held a public hearing on the proposed budget for fiscal year 2012-2013 and the proposed tax rate of $0.63516 per $100 valuation.

Members of the public got their five minutes in the spotlight to come before the council and find fault. You know the drill. Taxes are too high. You're spending too much. You're spending on the wrong things. You're loading up our children with an unbearable burden of debt. You're corrupt. You're stupid. You're not listening to us (that is, to me).

After the jump, the curious turn that Monday's public hearing took.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Review: Absolute Monarchs

Absolute Monarch
From Absolute Monarchs: A History of the Papacy, by John Julius Norwich

Open quote 
The next two popes, Stephen V and Formosus, died in their beds, but on the orders of his successor, Stephen VI, the body of Formosus was exhumed in March 896, eight months after his death, clothed in pontifical vestments, propped up on a throne, and subjected to a mock trial on charges of perjury and of coveting the Papacy."

After the jump, my review.

Monday, August 20, 2012

A Bridge. A Trail. A Fail.

Recently, I talked about bridging some divides in Richardson. I focused on West Spring Valley Rd because there are good things beginning to happen in southwest Richardson. I talked about bridges and creeks and parks and pedestrians and cars. There's a place in east Richardson where these careabouts all come together in miniature, at the intersection of Yale Blvd and Apollo Rd, where Duck Creek flows under the streets.

After the jump, catching up at an urban planning fail that's so easy to solve, why hasn't it been fixed?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Chemical Warfare in Richardson

London Blitz
Source: Life Magazine.
If you're reading this, it means you survived last night's aerial bombardment in Richardson's escalation of chemical warfare against the lowly mosquito. Hallelujah!

After the jump, all I'm going to say about that.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Bridging the Divides in Richardson

Cottonwood Creek Bridge
A week or so ago, the City of Richardson announced they had bought the old Continental Inn and had begun demolition of it in anticipation (I presume) of reselling it to a private party for redevelopment. This week, the Richardson City Council reviewed plans for rehabilitation of West Spring Valley Rd, including designs for bridge renovations. This is all good news. After years of talk, this long-neglected part of our city is finally making visible progress towards redevelopment.

A back story to the bridge renovations also contains good news. The city appears to have engaged the neighborhood in the process. The result is a design that's modern and, more important, popular with nearby residents. The process for coming up with that bridge design highlighted a divide between city planners and local residents, a divide that's been bridged (pun fully intended).

After the jump, some of the divides that remain.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Taxation Without Representation in Richardson

In comments to a previous post, a reader charges that Richardson practices taxation without representation. Of course, that's the practice of the English Parliament that led to the American Revolution. It's not democracy. It's tyranny. In other words, it's pretty serious, tri-cornered hat kind of stuff.

After the jump, does our reader have a case?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Repeat Tweets: A Bake Sale for Science

Repeat tweets from July, 2012:

  • 2012 07 01 - "Bake sales can't fund the exploration of space"
  • 2012 07 03 - My theory why Texas GOP is on record against teaching "critical thinking skills." They mistake critical for faultfinding, not analytical.
  • 2012 07 04 - Mark's Stylebook: Be careful this year sorting the photos that accompany your stories. Don't confuse Higgs boson tracks with fireworks pics.
  • 2012 07 05 - Organizers of petition drive to force referendum on direct election of Richardson's mayor claim to have the signatures needed. Submit today.
  • 2012 07 06 - Texas. Dead last in adults with HS diploma. Now, dead last in health care. You get what you pay for.
  • 2012 07 06 - Richardson Public Library's new long-range plan includes the goal "Continue to dream and plan for the future." Dreaming is good.
  • 2012 07 06 - Kudos to David Morgan, new City of Richardson Deputy City Manager and winner of the Eddie Munster lookalike contest.

After the jump, more repeat tweets.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Richardson's Budget - Black or Red?

If you've been a regular reader of this blog for more than a year (I'm deeply sorry) then you know of my quest for a "balanced budget." Each year, Richardson claims to have a "balanced budget," yet often expenditures exceed revenues. What gives?

In 2011, when I last explored this subject, I came to two conclusions.

First, that Richardson considers the budget to be balanced if expenditures are less than revenues plus reserved fund balance, and other financing sources.

Second, that over a multi-year cycle that reserved fund balance sometimes has a surplus that can be drawn down, and sometimes it doesn't. So, even with the more common dictionary definition of balanced budget, one that doesn't consider reserved fund balances, Richardson's budget is cyclically balanced, even if year by year it might run slight deficits or surpluses.

Still, my hope each year is this will be a year in which Richardson doesn't rely on reserved fund balances to make up for an excess of expenditures over revenues. I vowed I wouldn't make a big deal of it again this year, but I confessed that I wouldn't be able to resist taking a sneak peek at those bottom line revenue and expenditure numbers.

After the jump, that sneak peek. Revenues vs expenditures. Black or red. Which is it?

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Online Clues to Election Politics

It's said that in 2008, the Wikipedia entry for Sarah Palin was modified, presumably by campaign staffers, dozens of times in the day or so before she was named by John McCain as his pick for Vice President.

So, this year, Wikipedia entries for Paul Ryan, Rob Portman, Tim Pawlenty and others have been closely watched. Then, Wikipedia itself put an end to this potential tip-off by locking those entries, supposedly to keep pranksters at bay. Way to mess things up, Stephen Colbert.

So, that set me to thinking. Are there any similar indicators, closer to home, that might be telling us something about the state of Richardson's own city council elections in 2013? After the jump, maybe a clue.

Friday, August 10, 2012

OTBR: A Ladybug by the Baltic Sea

Latitude: N 58° 34.662
Longitude: E 022° 27.960
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, August 9, 2012

What Are Roads For?

What are roads for? The Dallas Morning News's Michael Lindenberger prompts that question in a Transportation blog item that should be required reading for every urban planner in Richardson. (Is there such a job?)

Lindenberger's subject is the plan to tear down the S.M. Wright freeway in southern Dallas and build a six-lane parkway in its place. Some local residents want the city to go even further and narrow that road to four lanes. That would enable wonderful things:
Use the left over land to provide incentives to small business, community non-profits, shops and more to be built along the new road.
The movement is part of a bigger trend, and one that has taken hold in some corners of Dallas too. The idea challenges the prevailing wisdom in Dallas -- readily apparent in this project -- that traffic relief is the first and best reason for building roads. Slow the traffic down, some argue, and you give the neighborhood a chance to breathe.
After the jump, what neighborhood in Richardson needs that "chance to breathe?"

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

2012 Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP)

Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) refers to the federally mandated accountability system required by the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001 and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

All public school districts, campuses and the state are evaluated annually for AYP. A Texas AYP Workbook is approved annually by the United States Department of Education (USDE) and meets the requirement to evaluate all districts and campuses for AYP. Please refer to the AYP website for more in-depth information.
Source: TEA.
2012 AYP scores are out. Half of the state's schools did not meet the federal AYP requirement. The Dallas Morning News says that the Plano ISD (PISD) was "hit hard."

After the jump, Richardson ISD's scores.

Review: Life of Super-Earths

Life of Super-Earths
From The Life of Super-Earths, by Dimitry Sasselov

Open quote 
Today, two efforts have placed us on the verge of completing the Copernican revolution. One is the discovery of a new Earth. The other is the era of synthetic biology. These two milestones are going to teach us about our place in the universe in ways we could never have imagined."

After the jump, my review.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

In Southwest Richardson, It's Always Friday

Richardson Restaurant Park
Yesterday, I reported how I became owner of a hotel, namely, the aging Continental Inn in southwest Richardson, which the city bought (for $2.2 million) and has commenced tearing down.

After the jump, what the city plans to do with the property.

Monday, August 6, 2012

I Now Own a Hotel

Continental Inn

Perhaps you heard the news: "Richardson Purchases Property On Central Expressway". That property is home to the Continental Inn. That makes you, Richardson resident, a hotel owner. But not for long. The hotel is a drag on redevelopment and is being demolished.

We can hope that the city council has a plan that's unfolding here, maybe a developer waiting in the wings to step forward and buy that property from the city (and maybe others nearby) and announce plans to build a new hotel/shopping/restaurant/residential complex that will spur a renaissance for all of southwest Richardson. We can hope that, because otherwise, Richardson just spent $2.2 million for a vacant lot and a dream.

After the jump, a few questions about the deal.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Overheard at Chick-fil-A

"Being against gay marriage doesn't mean I'm anti-gay."

Um, yes it does. Just like being against inter-racial marriage means you're racist. It kind of goes with the territory, by definition. Don't deny the obvious. Instead, fall back on your next defense, explain why you're anti-gay.

"I'm just trying to live my life according to the Bible."

No, not really. Or only selectively. There are dozens of outdated rules in the Bible. Why are you so obsessed with the biblical comments about homosexuality when you don't give a flip about prohibitions against eating shrimp, crab, lobster, clams, mussels, etc., or any of the many other behaviors that are supposedly abominations before the Lord? For the answer, see above.

After the jump, more conversations overheard at Chick-fil-A.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

What To Do With Main Street

Richardson's Main Street is an unappreciated bit of living history, a sadly neglected town center that time passed by as Richardson grew up all around it. Maybe, just maybe, that's about to change. The city has initiated a Main Street/Central Expressway Corridor study to explore redevelopment opportunities for old downtown. The public's careabouts for the area are being gathered through public meetings and an online survey and questionnaire, available through August 30.

After the jump, my responses to the survey.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Richardson's Next Mayor: Alan North

Alan North
Artist's rendering
Too soon? Hear me out. The Richardson City Council put a proposition on the November election ballot that asks voters to approve an amendment to the city charter to provide for the direct election of the mayor. Now it's up to the voters. Who's going to vote against a populist notion like letting voters choose their own mayor? So, expect the amendment to pass. That will change the May, 2013, city council elections. Instead of electing seven council members, voters will elect a mayor and six council members. Who has to be an early frontrunner for mayor? None other than the man who organized the petition that forced the council's hand -- Alan North.

After the jump, considering the chances of Richardson having a Mayor Alan North.