Thursday, April 30, 2015

POTD: Young Friends

From 2015 03 11 Jakarta
Today's photo-of-the-day is from Jakarta, Indonesia, specifically the steps of the National Monument, a 433 foot tower in central Jakarta built to commemorate the struggle for Indonesian independence. I don't have a story to go with this photo. I just like the image. The white clothing. The green space in an urban setting. The photo is not even of the monument itself. It's of school children sitting together on the steps of the monument. Their backs are towards the monument. To me the image symbolizes the limitless possibilities of youth and the universality of friendship. Good things to contemplate after the discouragements of the last few days. Don't ask about those. I'd rather think about young friends.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A Very Bad Wizard

Dorothy: "Oh - You're a very bad man!"
Wizard: "Oh, no my dear. I'm a very good man.
I'm just a very bad Wizard."
Source: L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
First, let's dispose of the dry, legal matters. As widely expected, the report of the outside legal counsel, George A. Staples, Jr, to the Richardson City Council found no violations of the city charter, the code of ethics, or state law regarding the actions of Mayor Laura Maczka or the city council in the Palisades zoning case or in the mayor's decision not to serve another term.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Whiplash (2014)

Whiplash (2014): Young jazz drummer is tyrannized by a domineering teacher. One note drama. No character development. Awful pedagogy. B-

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Wheel Voter's Guide

The Richardson City Council election is Saturday, May 9, 2015. Early voting begins today, April 27.

The City Council has seven members. Four incumbents (Mark Solomon, Scott Dunn, Paul Voelker, and Steve Mitchell are running for re-election unopposed. One incumbent, Bob Townsend in Place 1, is being challenged by Rick Wilder. One incumbent, Kendal Hartley in Place 4, has chosen not to run for re-election. His place is being contested by newcomers Mabel Simpson and Claudia Tatum.

Mayor Laura Maczka is running for re-election unopposed, but has announced that she will not take the oath of office for a second term. That means, according to the City Charter, that whoever the new Mayor Pro Tem is, chosen by the new council, will become Mayor for the next term. So, even though there will be an election for Mayor this year, the electorate's choice will not actually serve as mayor. Call it Democalypse 2015 (h/t Jon Stewart).

Not that anyone should care, but here are The Wheel's recommendations for how to vote.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Misinformation Rampant on Facebook

I know the headline will inspire a reaction of "D'oh". Saying that misinformation is rampant on Facebook is like saying Catholics are rampant in Vatican City. But in this case, it's the source of the misinformation that is striking. It's not the usual anonymous Internet commenters, the ones who spout things like, "It is treason by any definition." Instead, it's people who are willing to sign their names. It's people who claim to be informed. It's people who ought to be informed, given how long they have paid attention to city government. That these people can be so wrong about basic facts of how government works is distressing.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

POTD: Four on a Bike

From 2015 03 11 Jakarta
Today's photo-of-the-day is from Jakarta, Indonesia. The motorbike is the workhorse vehicle of southeast Asia. It carries a driver, passengers, cargo, even animals. During our recent trip, it became a pastime to see who could spot the motorbike carrying the most number of people. Three on a bike was too easy. Four on a bike unusual but not rare. Five on a bike -- well, we saw it once but were unable to get a photo.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Review: All the Light We Cannot See

All the Light We Cannot See
From All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr:
Open quote 

At dusk they pour from the sky. They blow across the ramparts, turn cartwheels over rooftops, flutter into the ravines between houses. Entire streets swirl with them, flashing white against the cobbles. Urgent message to the inhabitants of this town, they say. Depart immediately to open country."

After the jump, my review.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Imitation Game (2014)

The Imitation Game (2014): Nazi code. Math. Homophobia. Bio-pic of brilliant but difficult man wronged by society. Same story, new angle. B-

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

What Have We Learned?

What have we learned recently about the burgeoning scandal in Richardson city government?

Monday night, we learned (h/t David Chenoweth) that WFAA's investigative reporter (*cough* yellow journalist) Brett Shipp was at the Richardson City Council meeting and allegedly asked ("confronted," intercepted, ambushed, choose your own verb) council members going in and out about alleged emails from Mayor Laura Maczka to JP Realty's Mark Jordan from before December, 2013, that suggest something more than a strictly business relationship between the two while the Palisades rezoning case was still a pending matter before the city government.

After the jump, what have we not learned?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

POTD: Worst Traffic in the World

From 2015 03 11 Jakarta

Today's photo-of-the-day comes from Jakarta, Indonesia. Cities take perverse pride in being known for having the worst traffic jams. After only a few minutes observing the traffic in Jakarta (the photo above was taken the first morning of our visit), I was impressed. I Googled "worst traffic in the world" and came up with a study that ranked Jakarta as the worst city in the world for traffic jams. Time gets no argument from me.

Monday, April 20, 2015

When Members of Congress Sleep With Lobbyists

"When Members of Congress Sleep With Lobbyists." I don't know why I'm even blogging about this. It's a headline in New York magazine, not The Dallas Morning News. The story says "member of Congress," not member of the city council. It says "lobbyists," not real estate developers. It says "sleep with." Well, ... there's no proof of that going on in Richardson either, although scandalmongers are sure that it not only does, but that it influences government decisions, too.

Still, while I read the story, my mind kept drifting back to goings on in our little town. Funny how the mind works sometimes.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Theory of Everything (2014)

Theory of Everything (2014): A soaring mind trapped in a wasting body. Heart-warming and heart-breaking. And real. A-

Friday, April 17, 2015

Claudia Tatum, Now It's Personal

Richardson Idol has already voted Claudia Tatum (candidate for Richardson City Council Place 4) off the island. Normally, that would be the end of it. But I'm driven to add a postscript by one particular answer she gave in the candidate survey conducted by the League of Women Voters of Richardson.
The new technological era has allowed our city to provide better services through the online and smart phone systems. For example, we have the Richardson Application which allows citizens and stakeholders to access information from the palms of their hands. I believe in a more efficient way of conducting business: less paper and moving to a more digital era without forgetting our baby boomers.
Source: Claudia Tatum.
Say what??? That's me she's talking about. I'm a Baby Boomer. Now it's personal!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Richardson Idol - LWV Edition

Tuesday night the League of Women Voters of Richardson held a city council candidate forum. Normally, regular viewers expect this to be the big finale of Richardson Idol, the night when the last loser is voted off the island (or stage or whatever metaphor Richardson Idol uses -- I forget). But this season, we have yet to vote off our first candidate, not because the ballot is so strong, but because it is...let's face it, a tad on the weak side. That changes this episode.

Anyway, on to the questions. Let's go out of order so we can get first to the questions on most voters' minds.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

POTD: Diplomatic Break

From 2015 03 11 Jakarta
Today's photo-of-the-day is from Jakarta, Indonesia, the nation's capital and home to foreign embassies. In this photo we see evidence that processing visa applications is not all that goes on behind an embassy's walls.

The embassy row across the street from our hotel included embassies for Poland, Singapore, India, Netherlands and Switzerland. All had guards and stout walls, often topped with razor wire (the walls, not the guards). Pro-tip: don't stand outside the Singapore embassy too long taking photos of the traffic. The guards will tolerate that for a while, but then politely ask you to move along.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Lack of Legal Basis for a Special Election

David Chenoweth, on his blog, does what Amir Omar failed to do: make a legal argument for calling a special election to fill the vacancy in the mayor's seat. It's not a very good argument, but it's something.

Richardson Citizens Deserve Better

"Richardson Citizens Deserve Better." So says Amir Omar in a letter to the editor of The Dallas Morning News. "A full two-year term served by a non-democratically elected leader is a gigantic leap backward that undermines the will of Richardson voters."

It's hard to argue otherwise. In fact, I haven't heard anyone say that Richardson residents have been well served by the mayor's decision not to serve another term, including any of the six remaining council members or three candidates seeking their first term on the city council.

I understand Omar's frustration. I sympathize with his desire for another outcome. But I can't sign on to Omar's proposed remedy. That would be another affront to democracy and constitutional government. Two wrongs don't make a right.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Richardson Republican Women's Candidate Forum

Catching up... There was a Richardson City Council candidate forum on March 31, 2015, at the Canyon Creek Baptist Church hosted by the Richardson Republican Women and the North Texas Republicans. The video of that forum is now available on YouTube (h/t to the unidentified party who recorded it). I wasn't in attendance, but I did watch the video. Two questions caught my attention.

Actually three questions. The first is my own question, not one asked at the forum. Where was Claudia Tatum? She told the Highland/Terrace Neighborhood Association Forum, "I go where they tell me to go. I have a consultant." Why isn't she her own candidate? Why did that consultant not tell her to face the voters in this forum? OK, I know that's two more questions...for a total of four if I add them to the two asked at the forum that originally caught my attention... Moving on...

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Birdman (2014)

Birdman (2014): Pretentious. Over-acted. Movie and theater-industry navel-gazing. Oscar mistake. C+

Friday, April 10, 2015

Apportioning Blame for City's Mess

Yesterday, when I wrote about the difficulties of using the Richardson City Charter's recall provision to force a special election for mayor, I came down hard on the unknown author of the charter amendments specifying direct election of the mayor. After I wrote that, I was privately chided for not apportioning any blame to the city council itself.

Guilty as charged, although let me say two things in my defense.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Recall: Solution or a Can of Worms?

In 2012, Bill McCalpin published a lot of editorials arguing that the proposed Richardson city charter amendments, calling for direct election of the mayor, are "inconsistent, incomplete, and full of unintended errors." He was dismissed by some at the time for attempting to scare the public into voting "no." Now, in just the second election since the charter changes were adopted, the city is in an uproar caused by some of those inconsistencies and ambiguities in the new charter.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Short Season of Richardson Idol Starts

Given that only two seats on the Richardson City Council are being contested this year, and all the focus has been on the mayor's decision not to serve another term, although she is running unopposed, this season of "Richardson Idol" will necessarily be an abbreviated one. That's not to say it won't be an exciting one.

The April 2015 edition of Richardson Today listed a "Highland/Terrace N.A. Council Candidate Forum" for April 7. I made plans to attend. Then I read this comment by Shelley McCall on Facebook:
We are holding a "Neighborhood" only Forum and [Mabel] Simpson never even had the courtesy to respond to our invitation. I suspect she was told she didn't need our votes.
Source: Facebook.
There were two things I found strange about that. First, that a candidate forum wasn't open to the general public. Second, that the president of the neighborhood association that was hosting the forum would make negative comments about one of the candidates and cast aspersions on her motives.

Luckily for me, Shelley McCall added later in the same Facebook thread, "our Forum was for our neighborhood only but we have opened it up to the rest of the city's residents." So, off I went.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

OTBR: Las Vegas Skyline

Latitude: N 35° 56.556
Longitude: W 115° 08.556

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".

Monday, April 6, 2015

Mayor Won't Serve. Is That the End of It?

Last week when I wrote about the "Local Government Officer Conflicts Disclosure Statement" filed by Mayor Laura Maczka, I said that her business relationship with the developer of Palisades demanded further explanation, sooner rather than later as she was running for re-election. Then, suddenly, she announced she won't serve another term as Mayor.

So, is that the end of it? I was inclined to think so. Forcing an officeholder out of office is often the end of most political scandals, and in this case, there wasn't even evidence that anything illegal occurred, so even the use of the word scandal is presumptuous. Richardson residents might be disgruntled, but with Laura Maczka gone, she's no longer available to punish.

But what about others? The above reasoning is premised on the assumption that the timing of Mayor Maczka's announcement was coincidental and based solely on issues in her personal life. It's possible but how likely you believe that to be probably depends on how likely you buy into conspiracy theories. So, with apologies in advance, let's indulge.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Force Majeure (2014)

Force Majeure (2014): Different reactions to skiing avalanche split family. Not a disaster movie, but OK psychological study of stress. C+

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Mayor's Conflict of Interest

Maczka conflict filing

Two documents have been filed with the City of Richardson that demand further explanation.
  1. Local Government Officer Conflicts Disclosure Statement by Mayor Laura Maczka
  2. Conflict of Interest Questionnaire by Mark Jordan of JP Realty Partners

In the first, filed March 19, 2015, Mayor Maczka discloses a business relationship with JP Realty Partners involving "leasing, marketing & communications." In the second, also filed March 19, 2015, Mark Jordan discloses that Mayor Maczka is "receiving or likely to receive taxable income" from JP Realty Partners.

Comet Town Is Coming

The long-planned Comet Town is finally getting close to ground-breaking. OK, it's not called that anymore (probably for the better). It's called Northside at UT Dallas (a mouthful; most will probably call it just Northside). Judging from the photo, it holds some promise of being mixed-use, just like the recently announced planned development west of the DART station at 75 and the Bush turnpike. That's all good.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Repeat Tweets: ISIS Bans Evolution

Repeat tweets from March, 2015:

  • Mar 2 2015: Headline: "ISIS Bans Teaching Evolution In Schools." I must have missed it. When did Texas SBOE join ISIS?
  • Mar 2 2015: MT @TexasTechMBB "I think the future is very bright." -- Tubby Smith. Well, d'oh. He's got Berkner's Keenan Evans!
  • Mar 3 2015: 3rd round playoffs. Final: Berkner 59, Skyline 53. It's a great time to be a Ram. #txhshoops
  • Mar 3 2015: Headline: "Congress approves Homeland Security Funding." 166 GOP reps voted not to fund border security. So much for that coming first.
  • Mar 3 2015: Headline: "Alabama Supreme Court halts same-sex marriage." Time for some federal marshals in Alabama again.

After the jump, more repeat tweets.