County Commissioners Field Community Response to Undocumented Kids Plan

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Dallas County
Clay Jenkins

It's not every Tuesday that you see reporters from three Dallas TV stations live tweeting a Dallas County Commissioners' meeting, but that's just what happened today. Why the hubbub? This meeting was a de facto public hearing on County Judge Clay Jenkins' plan to house up to 2,000 undocumented minors in the coming months.

For the most part, those among the standing-room-only crowd who spoke agreed with Jenkins that providing aid to the kids was a matter of compassion rather than politics.


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Dallas County Health Director Disputes Misuse of AIDS Funds, Calls Media "Racist"

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Dallas County
Health Department Director Zach Thompson says there's no investigation into the department. But questions and concerns remain.
Dallas County Health Director Zachary Thompson gathered the media on Monday to address reports, from Unfair Park and others, that there was a federal investigation into the department's use of funding designed to treat people with HIV. To be clear, Dallas County Health Department Director Zach Thompson declared, there is no investigation into the department. And, he said, it was racist to report otherwise.

This began a couple weeks back, when NBC5 broke the news that federal health officials would look into how money is being distributed by the Ryan White Planning Council, a committee, appointed by County Judge Clay Jenkins, that distributes federal money to poor HIV patents.

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Dallas County Accidentally Approved a Resolution Calling for Slavery Reparations

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Dallas County Commissioners Court
The Commissioners Court passed a ceremonial Juneteenth resolution yesterday that included reparations for slavery.
When John Wiley Price took the microphone yesterday at the Dallas County Commissioners Court meeting, his fellow commissioners appeared appropriately remorseful during his monologue on African-American suffering throughout American history. But that doesn't mean they were paying attention.

Price took the mic to urge passage of a resolution commemorating Juneteenth, a holiday marking the day that word arrived in Texas that slavery had ended. It arrived, or course, two-plus years after Lincoln abolished slavery, raising questions about whether it should be celebrated at all. Regardless, Price used the holiday to speak broadly about the hardships African-Americans have faced throughout American history, delving into slavery, Jim Crow laws, civil rights, and contemporary issues of income inequality and predatory lending.

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Dallas County Sheriff Valdez Says Recruits May Have Flunked Certification Exams on Purpose

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Something weird and unsettling happened last year at the Dallas County Sheriff's Training Academy. Of 27 recruits that enrolled, a mere seven -- barely 25 percent -- passed on their first try. Weird because the wave of failures was unprecedented. The previous year, all 16 would-be deputies passed. Unsettling because as NBC 5 first reported on Friday, it put the academy in danger of being shut down by the state.

No wonder then that Dallas County Commissioners would demand answers when they met on Tuesday. Dutiful public servant that she is, Valdez gave them an answer: the recruits may have flunked their exam on purpose.

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Dallas County Pays Mom $350K Over Constable Who Declined to Chase Her Sons' Murderer

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When Naim Rasool Muhammad went on trial this spring for killing his two young sons -- an act for which he was sentenced to death -- local news outlets focused mainly on the brutality of the crime, and understandably so.

Muhammad kidnapped 5-year-old Naim and 3-year-old Elijah in August as their mother walked them to Naim's first day of kindergarten. He took the boys to a creek, where he ordered them to get into the water and "play like y'all swimming," then held their heads under until they drowned. Muhammad told the court he was scared that the boys' mother, Kametra Sampson, would take the boys away from him.

Hanging over that narrative, however, is a big "what if." Sampson, too, had been forced into Muhammed's car, but she jumped out at a red light after spotting a uniformed Dallas County constable. She explained the situation and pleaded for help.

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Payday Lenders Are Using Texas Prosecutors to Collect Their Bad Debts

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The payday lending industry in Texas has managed to wrap its tentacles around just about every level of government there is, repeatedly killing any move toward meaningful regulation on the part of the state Legislature, skirting rules set up by municipalities, Dallas included, aimed at curbing its worst abuses, and, now, getting county prosecutors -- the people Texans elect to lock up thieves and murderers and rapists and such -- to carry water debt-collection notices for it.

The practice was uncovered over the summer by the Texas Observer's Forrest Wilder, who has established himself as the bard of payday lending coverage in the state.

Here's how Wilder explains the situation.

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Dallas County Now Has Its Very Own Bulletproof, "Mine-Protected" Military SUV

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Dallas County
Soon to be outfitted with Dallas County Sheriff's Office livery.
Now that the war in Iraq is officially over and the one in Afghanistan winding down, the Department of Defense found itself facing a conundrum. It had just spent billions of dollars buying heavily armored personnel carriers designed to stand up to insurgent attacks only to find that it had run out of wars to use them in.

The initial plan was to shove the vehicles, called MRAPS (Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected) into a warehouse and let them collect dust. That changed when someone decided that, having served so admirably overseas, it would be only just to bring the MRAPs stateside and deploy them in the domestic war on crime.

And so, for the past couple of months, news reports have been popping up announcing that places like Murfreesboro, Tennessee and Ohio State University have been receiving their very own military-grade armored SUVs.

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Collin County's Kenneth Maun is the Only Thing Standing Between the NTTA and Your Car

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NTTA, meet Collin County Tax Assessor-Collector Kenneth Maun, aka your worst nightmare.
The North Texas Tollway Authority has had trouble in recent years of actually making drivers pay to use its roads. Hence the tens of millions of dollars in unpaid tolls and fees it says it's owed, hence its infamous list of the most egregious offenders, hence the lawsuits it began filing a few months ago.

The agency has had a much easier time navigating the Texas Legislature, where it persuaded lawmakers to ease its debt-collection efforts by giving it the power to impound the cars and block the vehicle registrations of unrepentant scofflaws. It's found equally compliant partners in Tarrant, Denton, and Dallas counties, where commissioners voted yesterday to allow NTTA's registration blocks.

With the taste of victory fresh, who knows what the agency might push for next? Garnishment of paychecks? Debtor's prison? Secretive NTTA black sites? The slope could get quite slippery.

See also: NTTA Will Soon Have the Power to Block Vehicle Registrations and Impound Cars

To do any of that, however, the NTTA will first have to reckon with Collin County Tax Assessor-Collector Kenneth Maun, who has established himself as the best friend of toll scofflaws since the agency did away with toll-booth arms.

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Dallas County Is Turning Its "White Only" Water Fountain Into a Multimedia Art Installation

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Dallas County
Dallas County had long since forgotten what the metal plate above the water fountain in the Records Building was meant to conceal when, in 2003, it fell off. Even then, you had to be looking for it to notice the faded remnants of the "White Only" sign on the marble wall, or you did until commissioners marked the spot with a commemorative plaque over the objections of some black leaders.

The sign is still visible today, a way "to remind us of this unpleasant portion of our history," as it's phrased on the plaque. And now, since there can never be too much reminding, the county plans to turn the water fountain itself into a multimedia art installation documenting the fight for equality.

The plan isn't actually new. Artist Lauren Woods first pitched it to commissioners way back in 2005, envisioning a functioning water fountain that, when a thirsty passerby stopped for a drink, would project a 45-second montage of scenes from the civil rights struggle onto the wall above.

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Craig Watkins, Master of Literary Technique, Is Misquoting Twain and Comparing Local Courts to North Korea's

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District Attorney Craig Watkins has escaped from the contempt-of-court allegations that have dogged him for six months like Charlie Brown's personal rain cloud. A specially appointed judge -- a Republican from Wichita Falls who is far removed from Dallas County political intrigue -- ruled that the hearing at which he refused to testify, like the one he feigned sickness to skip, never should have happened. The Dallas Morning News details why here.

With that, the absurd legal cloud hovering over Watkins and his prosecution of Al Hill III for mortgage fraud seemed to dissipate. Except it wasn't a storm cloud; it was, in Watkins' words, a "tornado of injustice" (more on that in a second), and the absurdity is far from over.

The Morning News reported this afternoon that a Dallas appeals court judge rejected one of Watkins' key filings because it was submitted to the wrong court.

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