Hey, Dallas City Council, Instead of Lecturing DISD, Why Don't You Fund Your Libraries?

Categories: Schutze

If you could find a Dallas public library that's open -- fat chance -- you could read all about this painting called "The Parable of the Mote and the Beam." And then you could tell your City Council member about it.

Last week Dallas school board member Dan Micciche had an op-ed essay in The Dallas Morning News urging people to push their City Council members and the mayor about the chronic under-funding of public libraries in the city. The numbers he cited for the city's support of libraries were abysmal -- the worst in America for cities our size. But Micciche was too much of a gentleman to say out loud what the real political scandal is here.

Wait? Did I just say someone else was being TOO MUCH OF A GENTLEMAN? Isn't that my call to action -- the big letter S projected onto the skyline by searchlight? Yes, I think so. So please allow me to say out loud what Micciche is too much of a gentleman to say out loud.

Hey. Did the Dallas City Council not summon the school board to a public scolding last April so the mayor and council could take them to the woodshed for not teaching the kids good enough? Was this not the self-same solemn magisterial occasion when one City Council member asked school board members if the public school district intended to continue having public schools in it? As opposed to ... all pizza parlors? Switching from public schools to Ford dealerships? Yeah. This is that same City Council.

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Commissioner Mike Cantrell Continues Lonely Crusade Against Craig Watkins

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Sam Merten
District Attorney Craig Watkins
Mike Cantrell, it seems, got what he wanted again. He's never going to succeed in getting the County Commissioner's Court to appoint an outside attorney to investigate District Attorney Craig Watkins' use of forfeiture funds in an out-of-court settlement stemming from a February 2013 Dallas North Tollway accident for which the DA was at fault, just like he was never going to get John Wiley Price suspended from the court for the duration of his federal trial, now scheduled to begin in January 2016.

Cantrell didn't walk away from Tuesday's County Commissioner's meeting empty-handed, though. He had his say, forcefully and on the record, about a Democratic elected official.

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Texas High Court Rules Courts Can Scrub Defamatory Comments From the Internet

Categories: Legal Battles

What does the Big Lebowski have to do with a Texas Supreme Court decision in a defamation case? Everything.
After the Texas Supreme Court issued its opinion on Friday in Kinney v. Barnes, Robert Kinney's attorney declared victory. Kinney, an Austin businessman, had sued his former boss to force the removal of online postings accusing Kinney of taking bribes.

"This is a win for Robert and other people who are smeared online," appellate attorney Martin Siegel said. No longer can a person "destroy someone else's reputation online and have that stay on the web forever, as the other side wanted."

Funny thing, though. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which filed an amicus brief in the case opposing Kinney's arguments, declared victory as well.

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In a Dallas Courtroom, It's Big Pharma vs. Women over Vaginal Mesh

Categories: Legal Battles

Hal Samples
Read our May cover story, "Women vs. Big Pharma in the Battle Over Trans-vaginal Mesh," by Amy Silverstein
Few people outside of public health advocates and consumer groups used to pay much attention to the Food and Drug Administration's confusing, shadowy process for approving medical devices to the market. When patients find themselves suffering after a surgery that was supposed to help them -- like, say, a hip implant -- they often find that their doctors are at a loss and their only recourse is in the courts.

That's how Dallas District Court Judge Ken Molberg ended up overseeing two trials in six months over a device called vaginal mesh, which doctors have been using to treat prolapsed organs and incontinence in aging women before they understood all of the potentially horrific side effects. The earlier mesh trial, as I detailed in a May feature story, resulted in the jury awarding a woman named Linda Batiste $1.2 million from Johnson & Johnson. The second trial, currently under way, is against Boston Scientific, which, like J&J, appears highly disinterested in research that might hurt its bottom line.

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There Is Still No Gold in the Dirt at the Foot of Dallas' Fake Suspension Bridge

Categories: Schutze

Remeber when they were still building the Hunt Hill Bridge, they said it was going to generate huge instant real estate development. Remember that.
Saw in a local daily the other day there's a plan to develop a bunch of raw dirt at the base of the city's new fake suspension bridge downtown. Thought, "Hang on. Don't I know that dirt?"

Looked it up. Had to go way back. Yeah! I do know that dirt. Or I did. The land at the base of the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge was at the center of a very fun brouhaha I had with City Hall 14 years ago. That's right. Fourteen. Count 'em. This goes way back.

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DISD's Mike Miles Says School Finance Ruling Is a Call for Legislators to Fix a Broken System

Dallas ISD was one of more than 600 districts that sued the state over its massive budget cuts coupled with unfair allocation of funds and more curriculum requirements.

Last week's ruling by a state judge in Austin reaffirming that Texas' method of financing public schools is unconstitutional gives the Legislature a chance to repair a "resource gap" that's failing a growing population of impoverished children, Dallas school Superintendent Mike Miles says.

On Thursday, Judge John Dietz issued a written ruling confirming an earlier finding that the state doesn't provide enough money or distribute it fairly to districts across the state.

The latest round in Texas' decades-long battle over equity in school finance arrived in 2011 when the state cut more than $5 billion from the education budget. Over 600 school districts sued, saying that while the state cut the budget it was also raised curriculum requirements that caused districts to need more money. The system also disproportionately advantaged wealthier districts with a higher tax revenues. Many urban districts found that they ultimately received less money because of lower property taxes, causing a split between rich and poor districts.

While the current "Robin Hood" plan dictates that wealthier districts share a portion of their tax revenue with poorer districts, many districts claim this isn't enough to supplement state cuts, and residents in wealthier districts are frustrated that their tax money benefits schools outside their districts.

Dallas ISD was one of the districts that sued the state, and Miles praised Dietz's decision. "We have a district where we have a lot of student who come to us who are behind in proficiency, a lot of students whose second language is English, and a lot of students who are challenged by poverty," he says. "It would seem that districts that have those conditions would need more resources than the state is currently providing."

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Americans for Prosperity Conference Wraps Up with a Heartfelt Kiss for the Free Market

Categories: Politics

Sky Chadde
On message. All the time.

I'm sitting next to a well-dressed home-schooled high schooler from just outside of Lafayette, Louisiana, watching failed Senate candidate and former HP CEO Carly Fiorina talking about the dignity of jobs that don't pay a living wage. Why Fiorina is speaking at Defending the American Dream isn't really clear. She did an awful job at HP, has never held elected office and seems incapable of saying anything remotely incisive. Nevertheless, her performance distills Americans for Prosperity, and its conference, to its essence.

Fiorina was introduced as someone who worked her way from being a secretary to being the first female CEO of a Fortune Top 50 company (until she was booted out with a $21 million severance package). Like a lot of things said at this conference, that's technically true. Sure, Fiorina's dad was a federal judge and law school professor and her mom was a professional artist. She may have graduated from Stanford before getting a master's from MIT's Sloan School of Management, too, but she did do some secretarial work after dropping out of UCLA's law school before ditching and heading to Italy to teach English.

There's nothing wrong with any of that, of course. It's just that presenting Fiorina as a salt-of-the-earth, rags-to-riches story is disingenuous.

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Rick Perry Feels the Love at Americans for Prosperity Summit

Categories: Politics

Rick Perry (via Twitter)
Honestly? It was about what you would've expected.

The irony that Americans For Prosperity's Defending the American Dream summit is being held in a hotel paid for with taxpayer funds can be a little overwhelming. Everyone you talk to opposes regulation and taxes with a religious fervor while at the same time praising the setting and the glory of Governor Rick Perry's free market paradise.

Tim Phillips, American's for Prosperity's president, had the honor of providing the introductory hagiography for Perry and promised that everyone in the room stood with the indicted governor in his fight against an "overzealous prosecutor."

Then it was time. Little Texas' "God Blessed Texas" blasted over the public address system and Perry entered like a wrestler thoroughly prepped for scripted battle, full of bravado and wearing his ever-present grin.

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Americans for Prosperity's Defending the Dream Message: Don't Be Crazy

Categories: Politics

Sky Chadde
Americans for Prosperity sure know how to brand.
Friday and Saturday, the Omni Dallas hosts Americans for Prosperity's "Defending the American Dream" conference. Featured speakers include Governor Rick Perry, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Jeb Hensarling and Indiana governor Mike Pence. We sent two of our reporters to get the full experience.

Political rhetoric on both sides has the potential to get out of hand and send speakers down the rabbit hole of sounding crazy. Throwing red meat is fantastic if you want to whip up the base, but if you're trying to gain some converts, not so much. At Americans for Prosperity's summit, the panelists and session-leaders seemed to take this to heart.

With social media and the Internet, "everyone's voice can be heard, but there's some people we wish whose voices couldn't be heard," said Erik Telford of the Franklin Center.

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The Military's Insurer Has Been Refusing to Cover This Little Girl's Therapy for Four Years

Categories: Legal Battles

It's been more than two years since a federal administrative judge told Tricare, the Department of Defense-run healthcare program for military families, to pay for Kaitlyn Samuels' physical therapy. And for more than two years, Tricare has been stubbornly ignoring the decision.

That's Tricare's prerogative. The administrative ruling carries all the legal weight of a strongly-worded recommendation. The Samuels family responded earlier this month by filing a federal lawsuit against the Department of Defense that, if they prevail, will force Tricare to reverse itself.

Kaitlyn, now 17, is the daughter of Mark Samuels, a recently-retired Navy captain. She was born with crippling scoliosis that, left untreated, would eventually twist her spine so severely that her internal organs would be crushed.

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