Wednesday, October 31, 2007

To the scary lady

I hope you enjoyed making an almost 3-year old cry. I hope you received some enjoyment from making him scared to go up to any other house until we reassured him that there were no scary people there.

If he has nightmares I may have to seek revenge. Perhaps you will wake up next to a dinosaur head. Perhaps I will truthify your Vote No sign. Watch your back lady.

Halloween was otherwise a hoot.


Happy Halloween folks! Tonight we take the dinosaurs out to beg for candy.

Tomorrow I can start dreading Christmas. (Long story involving uncooperative family who want to overload my kids with junk...)

But in the spirit of today, here is Dallas' Lady of the Lake ghost story. I love this stuff.
Back in the early 1930s, a doctor was driving home from a late night at Lakewood Country Club when he happened upon a girl in a wet gown beckoning for a ride.
She pleaded for him to take her home to a Gaston Avenue address. When the doctor arrived at the dimly lit destination, he turned to the girl, but she was gone. Water dripped from the empty seat.
The homeowner told the confused doctor: “The girl is my daughter, who drowned in White Rock years ago.”

Monday, October 29, 2007

Toll road tid bits

Did you know that the Trinity River has four forks? I always assumed it had three. Wonder why they don't call it the Amazing Quadrupal River?

Morning News watch
More good stuff in the Dallas Morning News, believe it or not. I'm more or less ignoring the goofy news items. On the other hand there is a good piece reminding us that there are ecological concerns with the wetlands that will be displaced by a toll road. I'm surprised the News ran this article amidst their misinformation campaign. Good for them.

The Viewpoints page continues to host some good guest columns. On Friday we had this piece from DMN alum Victoria Loe Hicks. Lots of good stuff here including some insight into how Dallas' wealthy elite approach public works projects like parks and toll roads. Here is a bit that I especially like:

The road-beside-the-river gang insists that building along Industrial would be far more costly than in the riverbed. That's because they're counting on us to give up a big swath of parkland for free. But the cost of building beside the river has skyrocketed and will continue to – precisely because building a highway in an area designed to carry floodwaters is, to put it mildly, very, very tricky.

And on Monday morning we have the question we should all be asking, which is not "where should we put this highway?" but rather, "should we build another highway through the middle of our city?" Great column by Eric Van Steenburg of Friends of the Katy Trail. Van Steenburg rightly points out that we are addicted to highways (and cheap fossil fuels I would add) and he has several suggestions for curbing the addiction. I find it interesting that both sides of the debate reference Portland, OR, as an example of a place that decided to invest in public transit rather than highways. It seems to me we would want to emulate them, but the pro-tollroad crowd is afraid of Birkenstock wearing, bicycle riding, and (gasp) walking(!) tree huggers that the comparison somehow works for their side too.

Neighborhood sign watch
I think the Tom "your taxes will go up" Leppert scare tactics are working on some folks. I drove through the White Rock Valley neighborhood on Sunday and saw lots of Vote No signs. It was rather disheartening. The only thing I can figure is that people really believe the city will lose $1 billion if we vote Yes on (or "FOR") Prop. 1. Even the DMN says this really isn't true (though they don't put it on the front page). Let's hope enough of the people at the polls are informed enough to know this.

Pegasus News has all the donors to the two PACs. No surpise here. The TrinityVote Yes side has lots of small donors (and hopefully voters) and the Vote No Pave the Trinity side has fewer but much wealthier benefactors.

Reverse psychology tactic? or something?
And in weird "news," Wick Allison of plastic surgery's favorite magazine has thrown in the towel and conceded defeat that the Vote Yes side will win. Because his mother said so.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Alright already - I give!

They wore me down. It is time to renew our KERA membership, which I have been reminded of every morning for the past week and a half. OK I did it. Give me back my radio station! (And send me that clever This American Life coffee mug.)

Friend who works for the station said that only 10% of listeners pledge. That is astonishing to me. I might more readily believe 40%-50% but only 10%! That's bad people. Step up and give in and get the drive done! (I think that's a good slogan for the drive - "step up and give in!") Sam Baker wills you to do it.

World Series notebook

Some advice for the Colorado Rockies organization
Maybe you would play better ball if you wore regular baseball uniforms. What are those things? Tank tops? Just a thought. You're welcome.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Uneventful early voting

I strolled over the Records Building downtown to cast my ballot early today. It was my first time to vote early. Pretty convenient actually, as I didn't have to be in my voting precinct or do it on a particular day.

Traffic was light but people were coming and going with regularity, probably due to the centrality and convenience of being downtown.

The fellow who greeted me was playing a killer game of computer solitaire, but he was happy to interrupt it to take care of me.

This was also my first encounter with the touch screen ballot, which was weird. In my precinct you color in your bubbles and then feed it into an optical scanner which counts your vote and then locks away the paper trail. Today I received no hard copy confirmation. I hit the vote button and my vote just went into the ether. Seems like a bad idea, but there it is. It still felt good to vote "For" (not "yes" or "no" despite all the signage) Prop 1.

The only downside to voting early: now I have to wait until November 6 for the results. I'll forget which way I voted on judge retirement and the inspector of skins and animals by then.

Mmmm... enchilada plate

I am so hungry after reading this.


Fortunately I had lunch at Tejano's in Oak Cliff yesterday so I have recent strength from sour cream chicken enchiladas. But this is going to make it really hard to eat the ham sandwich I brought to work today.

(By the way, go eat at Tejano's and thank them for supporting the TrinityVote campaign. They had multiple Vote Yes signs outside.)

Hat tip to Jeff Siegel at LH Advocate blog.

Stairway to Bluegrass

In news that conjurs the sounds of Hayseed Dixie (the hillbillie AC/DC tribute band), Alison Krauss and Robert Plant have an album out. And it's the same album. And they both sing on it. Together. Weird huh? I can't wait to hear the dulcet tones of Krauss's fiddle as Plant sings about squeezing his lemon.

Seriously, this sounds like a pretty cool album for one big reason. T Bone Burnett, producer of the O Brother, Where Art Thou soundtrack was in charge and it sounds like he really challenged the two musicians and wove a tapestry. I can't wait to hear the disc (said the thirty something who hasn't quite got used to the idea of downloading albums to the iPod yet).

I've heard Celine Dion and Joey Ramone will be opening the North American tour. Should be quite a show.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Let the voting begin

Early voting starts today. Here are the Dallas County locations. Vote early if you can!

The Morning News printed several guest columns in Sunday’s Points section related to the Trinity River toll road referendum. Writing in favor of the road were Mayor Tom Leppert, Metro columnist Steve Blow, and Wick Allison (publisher of D Magazine). Writing against the road on the Vote Yes side were city councilwoman Angela Hunt, dallasblog reporter Sam Merton, and Dallas Observer columnist (and polemicist extraordinaire) Jim Schutze.

This is a very balanced section from the DMN, as has generally been the case on the opinion page. It’s the slanted news stories that have aggravated me. But I’m pleased to see the balance of this section.

Schutze addresses a concern I’ve wondered about a little – namely is it advisable to put a park in this floodway? (Wick Allison writes about this too but somehow comes out in favor of both a road and a park in the floodway – I don’t get his logic but it’s the same old saw about everything in this project is connected and if you remove a piece the whole thing unravels.) Here is a snippet from Schutze’s column:

I hear people ask: If putting the highway in the floodway is a dumb idea, why is it smart to build a big, expensive park there with all sorts of high-maintenance features like kayak courses? Who will pay to clean up this new park when it floods with effluent from the upstream sewage treatment plants?
Common sense says that's a good question, too, but one to which we can find answers. Very little of the park has been designed yet to the level of actual engineering. The best park may not be what's on the drawing boards today. It may need to be gentler, more modest, better married to the land and less costly to maintain.
But once we put a highway in it, we will have to build more and more infrastructure – more "work-arounds" – to accommodate the road. The chance to create that better park will be gone for at least a century, maybe forever.

But that is really a question for another day. Today's common sense question is do we want a highway in between our flood control levees.

I don’t hear a lot of predictions of the outcome. I’m not going to venture there either. But I do hope that common sense prevails. Happy rainy Monday. Welcome fall weather! Exercise your right to make your voice heard.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Trinity Friday Wrap Up

Lots of ink and pixels have been spilled this week on the Trinity toll road referendum and the cast of characters involved in shaping the debate.

The must reads are the two background stories. Jim Schutze writes about the last ten years that he has been reporting on this story and how Angela Hunt made this crusade her own in his feature piece for the Observer. And Eric Celeste of D Magazine has a great cover story mostly involving Laura Miller, Angela Hunt, and Jim Schutze in the years leading up to this moment. The headlines describe this as a Gunfight and a War, respectively. Isn't that nice?

Lots going on in the blogosphere, too. Too much to summarize. Suffice it to say that dallasblog has published a couple of poorly thought out guest columns about why the city will dry up and blow away (I'm stealing this phrase from Jeff Siegel at the Advocate blog - thanks Jeff!) if we don't get a toll road in our flood control system. Sam Merton has written another good column for dallasblog about the NTTA's true dollar commitment to this project (note to Tom Leppert - it's not $1 billion). He also cracks a nut that should be obvious - this road is very expensive because it is being built in a floodway ($1.3B and climbing for nine miles of road). Leppert et al would have you believe it is cheaper because the land is free.

And Jim Schutze and Steve Blow had a nasty tiff in blog land. It is comprised of several posts, but this is the memorable one if only for the headline.

Finally, the Dallas Morning News published a hatchet job on Schutze attempting to paint him as a wacky conspiracy theorist. And the managing editor described him as looney and a polemicist. Sounds like you're getting to them Jim.

Busy week in media land. I'm ready to head to the polls for the real action.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Former Sen. Phil Gramm pushing TX lottery sale

Interesting story in the Sunday Business section of the NYT: Some states consider leasing their lotteries. I knew that Texas was contemplating a sale of its lottery, but I didn't know that our former Senator stands to make a bundle if it happens. Sen. Phil Gramm is now vice chairman at UBS. The investment banks are pushing these sales and leases as they stand to make millions in fees off of deals in the tens of billions of dollars. I'm sure Gramm would argue this is a win-win for Texas and UBS.

The money is very tempting to cash strapped states but I question the societal impact of privatizing these operations, which are in practice a voluntary regressive tax on the most vulnerable in our society. I actually agree with the social conservatives that tried to stop a state lottery when it was first proposed. They are bad for society. Add in agressive marketing by a private firm and they become even worse.

Gov. Rick Perry's spokesman is quoted in the article as saying the governor likes the idea of getting the state out of the gambling business. I guess that's OK, but the gambling business will only grow in a state that undertakes this, otherwise the investment bankers wouldn't be trotting out such huge figures (TX's lottery valued at $10-$38B). That's bad for Texans, no matter how much money they throw at us.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Irony, thy name is Madame Secretary

Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, quoted on Sunday in The New York Times, speaking about Russia:

“In any country, if you don’t have countervailing institutions, the power of any one president is problematic for democratic development.”

Ain't technology great?

Thankfully we don't have to rely on The Dallas Morning News for our, well, er, news about the Trinity River Corridor. Through the wonderful technology of the paper's own blog, readers are taking the newspaper to task for failing to report on the trucks that will be allowed on the tollroad according to various reports. Jim Schutze reported last week at Unfair Park that The Allen Group, which is developing the inland port, has donated $50,ooo to the Vote No effort.

Apparently the DMN was partially shamed into sort of reporting it. In an unrelated story about Mayor Leppert's retire my campaign debt fundraiser on page 2B, reporter Dave Levinthal writes that one of the "top named sponsors" of the bash is "The Allen Group, developers of Dallas' southern sector inland port and a top donor to pro-Trinity River Corridor toll road efforts" (emphasis mine).

I do have to give props to the editors of the Viewpoints page for printing a guest column from Sharon Boyd of Vote Yes which points out that the 50,000-90,000 voters who signed the petition are the mayor's constituents, and that these numbers should not be ignored. That is more people than voted for Leppert or the original 1998 Trinity River Corridor project.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Trinity quick hits

The best coverage of the debates I have seen by far is from Sam Merton over at Dallas Blog. Here he confirms that ex-councilman Bill Blaydes has agreed that trucks will be allowed on the highway.

I wonder if The Dallas Morning News plans to ignore the fact that trucks will be rolling down the Belo Tollway up through the election, which is the opposite of what we’ve been told since this project morphed into a tollroad and is an environmental disaster waiting to happen. I would think the EPA might have something to say about a truck route running through the middle of a non-attainment area; or through a nature preserve. Nothing like a major news daily sticking its head in the ground.

Signs signs everywhere signs
On my early morning run this morning I noticed that the signs have been sprouting up. There were four “Vote No Pave the Trinity” signs along McCree, a fairly well-traveled road in Lake Highlands. It appears that the Vote No folks hit McCree specifically because I saw no other “Vote No” signs in the neighborhood. Only counted two “Vote Yes” signs on my route (including mine), so by that measure it doesn’t look good. But there is a HUGE “Vote Yes” sign on Audelia just north of NW Highway. The town hall attendees and the blogosphere appear to be 99% on the Vote Yes side. The Advocate online poll had 77% on the Vote Yes side.

The Vote No people are smart. Their slogan is “Save the Trinity.” Remember that they want to build a big highway inside the levees. So they’re trying to save their vision of the Trinity Corridor Project, not the river itself. It’s a sneaky slogan and it might get some folks to unwittingly vote their way. But the people that are informed and motivated to go to the polls will know which way to mark their ballot. All the Vote Yes folks are smart enough to ignore the propaganda streaming from the DMN so they won’t be fooled by a slogan.

Floodin’ down in Texas
I don’t hear too much about the fact that this road project will take up precious cubic feet from our flood control system. The next time there is a big flood in Dallas, if there is a big road displacing water inside the levees, people will finally realize why this was such a bad idea. From the beginning this has been my major point of contention with this project. You don’t stick something that big in an area that is designed to channel flood water out of your city. So I was glad to see this on the talking point sheet provided to me by the Trinity Vote folks who left us our yard sign.

Ground control to Mayor Tom
The front page of the Morning News this morning had a huge headline about all the money that will be lost by the city if the referendum passes. They appropriately reported that all the flood control and much of the park is funded regardless of the outcome. There was no new information as far as I could tell with the exception of one thing. There is a contention that was printed as fact that Dallas’ contribution to the highway is “capped” based on the original 1998 bond referendum. I’m suspicious of this claim – perhaps someone with a more investigative bent than myself will challenge it.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

NAFTA trucks - welcome to Dallas

Here's another reason big business and their bought and paid for politicians are all lining up to pave the Trinity: the route is needed to carry truck traffic from the "inland port" thingy they are building in S. Dallas. That's right, big old smelly dirty loud tire-tread-shooting tailgating polluting 18 wheelers will be rumbling through Dallas' signature park. So much for the argument that this reliever route will help our pollution problem.

It seems to me that most cities would want that kind of traffic to go around the city and not right up through the middle of it. So now I'm against any alignment of this road that goes through Dallas at all, on Industrial Boulevard or elsewhere. We need polluting trucks rumbling through the middle of Dallas like we need a collective hole in the head.

It seems to me I read somewhere that my former City Councilman Bill Blaydes had recently admitted that truck traffic from the inland port was going to come through on this road (can't find it though). And now we have the Trinity pavers VoteNo being financed by a trucking company.

This gets more interesting every day.

(Incidentally, do you think the Fake Steve Jobs might have a problem with Dallas calling their inland port the IIPOD?)

Monday, October 8, 2007

Tom Leppert threatens Dallas citizens with higher taxes

After watching this WFAA story on Sunday’s Trinity debate, it became clear to me that there is no way this referendum will fail. The pro-tollroad (Vote No) people are going to have a hard time trying to mobilize people to go to the polls to vote for a road through the park. “Yes, I’m here to vote ‘No’ so that Tom Leppert can put a high speed tollway through the nice park.” There is no way they can convince enough people to go to the polls for that, so the mayor is pulling out the scare tactics. The nebulous threat that everything will surely fall apart if the referendum passes and Dallas will be irreparably wounded has failed. Nobody believes that, with the possible exception of people from Southlake and they don't get to vote on the land grab.

So now Mayor Tom is trotting out the threat of a tax hike (watch the WFAA clip), as if he’s going to ask the city of Dallas to pay for this road to carry commuters through our city – not to downtown but from the southeast to the northwest of Dallas. Out of the other side of his mouth, Leppert has pledged to lower tax rates next year (even though citizens seem to have said they would rather invest in than neglect our public infrastructure by voting for a huge bond election last year).

So which is it, Mr. Mayor? Are you going to change your mind on taxes and take it out on us dumb voters who just don’t understand your vision for paving the Trinity? Are you really going to try to make the citizens of Dallas pay for a tollroad through sales or property taxes? Give me a break! A tollroad is supposed to be paid for with – wait for it – tolls, and if anyone is going to kick in extra money to pay for this state road I don’t think it will be the city of Dallas.

But I don’t think anyone believes the mayor’s scare tactics. People seem to understand that the choice really is pretty simple: Do you want a highway in your nice new park and in your flood control system or don’t you?

By the way, the DMN isn’t making me mad anymore. They are so laughably in the pockets of the tollroad people it’s embarrassing. Read a couple of these “news” stories from Bruce Tomaso and tell me if you agree. I mean really, the referendum "is like asking a 14-year old if he'd rather have broccoli or a Dr. Pepper." Did Bruce really write that? The most telling thing in this analogy - the voters are the 14 year old.

Friday, October 5, 2007

This is going to be some school

Regular commenter at Jake's place, Harry, recently won a dinner with Presiding Bishop Katharine of The Episcopal Church at a clergy conference he attended with his partner. Harry is an amazing writer and I'm sure a fascinating dinner guest, and he recounts the experience here. Please go read it all - especially to understand the reference to toes. As a bit of backgound, TEC has been struggling with balancing the demands of the Anglican Communion Primates (the head pointy-hat bishops of the national churches) and the need to fully include GLBT Christians in the life of the church. Many see it as a choice between justice and unity. This recent compromise from the U.S. House of Bishops has not pleased many on either side of the issue - in true compromise form. This is the portion of Harry's post that I want to highlight:
Toward the end of my conversation with her I said, “Katharine, I’m a mature Christian. I’ve been about this for awhile, and I don’t need anything from the House of Bishops, the Primates, or my Rector—who does, by the way, turn out to be the Love of My Life. I’d like, at this point, for you to give me a charge, during this time of ‘fasting,’ to take away from this table. I want something to call my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters to do with me that has absolutely nothing to do with the Windsor Report.”

She looked at me quizzically for moment and then said, “Build a school in Central Tanganyika.”

She really heard my question and she really answered it.

I need help from all of you. Maybe moral support. Maybe a lot of money. Maybe fund raising. Maybe doing paper work. I don't know anything about building a school. I want gay and lesbian people and their friends to work on this, but I don't want it to be a gay and lesbian project. I want us to have an experience of being mission Christians without needing anything back from it at all. Including not needing the project to advance our cause. Perhaps it will, perhaps it won't. I turn that over to my Lord and Savior. I have a school to build. It seems almost crazy to be thinking I can do this-- but it isn't any crazier, really, when you think about it, than having toes.

FYI - Central Tanganyika is a diocese in Tanzania, where the Primates met in February to make their recent demands of TEC.

Since Harry is requesting help to build a school and I am a lurking member of Jake's congregation, I'm going to post updates to this endeavor. If any of you are inspired by this charge as I am please pitch in! Shalom!

Probably not shopping at Neiman's

Seen on the streets of downtown Dallas this morning: A man wearing matching burnt orange pressed shorts and button down shirt. It must be Texas-OU weekend.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

He Schutze he scores

Jim Schutze has an excellent post today about the Trinity River project. Apparently the people aren't buying what the politicos are selling out in the town hall meetings. And there are some e-mails vowing vengeance on the anti-toll road activists (Ron Kirk's e-mail grammar is atrocious). I could quote the whole post - why not just go there and read it for yourself. But this description of the Dallas Morning News (regarding yesterday's propaganda piece by Bruce Tomaso) is so spot on I have to quote it here:

The Trinity River debate is proving my long-held conviction. The Dallas Morning News can take any kind of propaganda dry-out pledge it wants, join any 12-step program it can find for recovering information abusers. Doesn’t matter. Next time it strolls by the Oligarchy Saloon, catches a whiff of that spilled Insider Brew, hears a few strains from the Old Boy jukebox, it’s gonna fall off the wagon again and start crankin’ out the bullshit again.
Poor old thang. It just can’t do no better.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The experiment: part three

An introspective update to our experiment in becoming a one-car family...

The deed is done. Or at least the advertisement is posted. I had trouble sleeping last night. It is true that our cars are a reflection of ourselves and, though I feel silly admitting this, it will be difficult to give this one up.

I was composing a playful blog post in my head over the weekend about the financial implications of selling a durable asset to my personal balance sheet and the mistake of buying a new car to drive for only 4 years. But of course we should not make our decisions based on sunk costs (the past depreciation) but on future cash flows. By that measure I’m doing the right thing today. I did the wrong thing 4 years ago - if I had a crystal ball back then I would not have purchased a new vehicle. I didn’t know when I was starting my job in New Jersey that I would get hooked on mass transit in Dallas in 2006.

But I’m not going any further into all that. I am struck by how emotional the decision is when logic tells me how smart it is. It’s a head versus heart decision. The head is winning but the heart hurts a little. For a thing. How can I be emotionally invested in an object? I didn’t really believe I was until I posted that ad. Perhaps this experience makes it that much clearer that it is not a bad thing to unshackle myself from it. I don’t think it’s bad to like your wheels. But it’s probably a good thing to be reminded that the car is not a part of who I am. And if that means that I am humbling myself in some way, then that can be a very good and healthy thing.

But we do this all the time don’t we? Our homes say something about us. As do all our shiny gadgets – our cell phones, iPods, flat screens, granite countertops, clothing, wrist watches, other assorted bling, etc. In some ways we are our stuff. Our stuff says something about us and what we value. And we choose our stuff based on our lifestyles. I need to try to live in a way that I am not my stuff. I need to live in a way that I am the people whose lives I touch; to be a living prayer. It is something to strive for.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Thomas breaks a promise -or- "Safety is our first concern"

RC2 Corp recalled more Thomas and Friends toys last week for lead paint. Among them was the wooden “Toad” train. The same Toad train that RC2 mailed to our house as an apology/thank you gift for the original lead paint recall. So it’s not enough that they’re selling toys with lead paint in the stores. Now they’re sending them directly to my door. Thanks, RC2.

Is it really too much to ask that they at least make sure the "we're sorry for the whole lead paint thing" gift be free of lead paint?

HIT Entertainment should pull the license for Thomas and Friends from RC2 immediately. RC2 appears to be all thumbs and incapable of managing this situation.