UPDATEIn a press conference held by the U.S. Attorney’s office, the IRS, and the FBI, it was revealed that Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway has pleaded guilty this morning to tax evasion and conspiracy to commit honest services/wire fraud.

The councilman, who had been term limited out of office and then ran again against Carolyn King Arnold last year, also said in court this morning that he had resigned his seat, effective immediately.

U.S. Attorney Erin Nealy Cox told reporters that Force Multiplier Solutions’ Robert Leonard provided kickbacks, bribes, and other benefits to the tune of $450,000 to Caraway, all related to easing the way for Dallas County Schools’ school bus camera program. (more…)

District 14 Dallas City Council member was officially reprimanded by the council after using his office to post a video on Facebook about a fundraiser.

By Ashley Stanley
Special Contributor

Dallas City Council members engaged in a lengthy discussion on Wednesday about the so-called “Kingston ethical lapse.” The body was charged with voting on a recommendation from the Ethics Advisory Commission to reprimand Dallas City Council member Philip Kingston for using his city office to film a campaign video — a clear violation of the ethics code recently approved by Kingston and his colleagues.

I was there hoping to come away with a story about economic development and performing arts because I attended a presentation at The Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth the day before. I wanted to see how this meeting would go and what outrage might ensue, especially with the bond program vote concluded, which included funding to repair several cultural and arts facilities such as the Wyly Theater.  I missed the arts item, but I did hear enough to appreciate Dallas Observer columnist Jim Schutze’s bathroom-wall article posed early (4 a.m.!) this morning.

Schutze referred to his weekly paper as the dish. If that is true, then I write for the dirt! Councilmember Lee Kleinman called Kingston’s lapse “going too far” and said it was “just wrong,” according to a story in The Dallas Morning News by Tristan Hallman. I missed that part of the conversation, but I sat down in time to hear Councilman Adam Medrano (a personal friend of Kingston’s) say, “Philip made a dumb mistake.” Or did he? Who knows? Who cares? This meeting was all about Dallas City Council member Dwaine Caraway, and I heard every word from that dude. Council meetings with that guy in office are free, front-row tickets to the funny show.

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It’s true: municipal bonds can help Dallas catch up on long-neglected infrastructure upgrades and repairs, but they can make projects cost more in the long run. (Photo: Luis Tamayo via flickr)

By Ashley Stanley
Special Contributor

City Council members were briefed last week about the Citizens Bond Task Force’s and city staff’s recommendations for an $800 million bond program that will appear on November’s ballot.

Stop what you are doing and ask yourself this question: “Do I know what a municipal bond is?” Allow me a minute or two to explain what they are and how they work in layman’s terms.

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Dallas electionsFourteen Dallas City Council seats and three Dallas Independent School District trustee seats are up for grabs on May 6. I’ll start saying this early — as I always do: It can cost somewhere around $1 million to hold an election, and in most May Dallas elections, we see less than 10 percent of voters turning out to vote.

And it really couldn’t be much easier. Check and see if you’re registered to vote here.  If you’re not, you can click here to register. If you vote early, you can vote at any early voting polling location in the county – so on your way to work, during your lunch break, on your way home, or even on a Saturday. The last day to register to vote is April 6. Early voting begins April 24 and will continue through May 2 for all Dallas elections.

The last day to register to vote is April 6. Early voting begins April 24 and will continue through May 2. You can even vote on a Saturday or a Sunday.

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trashHonestly, the Dallas City Council spent the morning arguing about plastic grocery bags, what City Councilman Dwaine Caraway calls “single use” bags, even though myself and everyone I know uses them over & over to hold garbage or dog doo.

We now have joined 150 other U.S. cities as Dallas retailers will have to charge customers who want a plastic bag “an environmental fee” of five cents per bag. They will keep 10 percent of that money. The money raised from the fees, that is, the other 90% of all those nickels, will help fund enforcement and education efforts that are expected to cost the city around $250,000 and “necessitate the hiring of up to 12 additional staff members.”

So what if everyone starts using the bags they keep in their car for groceries, and the city doesn’t collect $250K to cover this? Let me guess: tax increase.

Oh and retailers who still hand out bags have to keep inventory of them and register the number with the city. That makes no sense, just another burden for the retailers who will pass it along to the consumer.

Who voted for this lunacy? Well, it was, as I told you, Dwaine Caraway’s baby from the get-go. And there was discussion that it might not even be legal because as I told you, the attorney general is already looking at whether city bans on plastic bags are in compliance with the state’s health and safety laws. A specific section of the Texas Health and Safety Code says that a municipal district may not pass legislative restrictions or charge fees relating to the consumption of a “container or package” for waste management purposes. Some of our smarter Council peeps brought that up today.

Attorney General Greg Abbott is going to weigh in on the legality of bag bans, following a request by state Rep. Dan Flynn of Canton on behalf of the Texas Retailers Association. Jerry Allen asked Dallas City Attorney Warren Ernst if the state allows bag bans.

“We are ready to defend that position,” Ernst said. “If it’s the will of the council to pass the ordinance, we’ll defend that as a legal action by the city.”

Sure he is ready, as long as the City is footing the legal bill.

The vote was 8 to 6. Vonciel Jones Hill was not there to vote, according to Robert Wilonsky. Jennifer Staubach gates is clearly a clairvoyant, and Jerry Allen was not a happy camper:

“Rick Callahan called it a “government intrusion.” Jennifer Staubach Gates said it wouldn’t do any good, because in five years the reusable bags supported by the environmentalists will end up in landfills too. And Jerry Allen said the three options being considered by council, including a full-out ban, represented “a lack of clear conviction,” which he found disappointing.”

My trusty councilman, Lee Kleinman, is my new hero, though I suspect he’s going to get some grief from this little speech on how people should try a little personal responsibility:

What he means, I think, is that we don’t have a problem with grocery bag litter (or any litter) in District 11. We somehow manage to be grown ups and recycle and re-use our bags and they do not end up in the creek behind Mr. Kleinman’s house or even our alleys. We even recycle Orange Crush cans! Lee is right: his job is to focus on and represent his district, and he did that today just fine. Thank you, sir. I’m going to order you this tee shirt:
Orange Crush tee shirtOrange Crush

Finally, I love me some Rick Callahan, who happens to be in real estate. Callahan brought in a 3 month’s collection of trash — not one plastic bag in there.

Why don’t we start enforcing existing city laws instead of making new ones that will be impossible to enforce? Sometimes the City of Dallas makes me want to shoot myself. Or move.

 

 

 

trashHonestly, the Dallas City Council spent the morning arguing about plastic grocery bags, what City Councilman Dwaine Caraway calls “single use” bags, even though myself and everyone I know uses them over & over to hold garbage or dog doo.

We now have joined 150 other U.S. cities as Dallas retailers will have to charge customers who want a plastic bag “an environmental fee” of five cents per bag. They will keep 10 percent of that money. The money raised from the fees, that is, the other 90% of all those nickels, will help fund enforcement and education efforts that are expected to cost the city around $250,000 and “necessitate the hiring of up to 12 additional staff members.”

So what if everyone starts using the bags they keep in their car for groceries, and the city doesn’t collect $250K to cover this? Let me guess: tax increase.

Oh and retailers who still hand out bags have to keep inventory of them and register the number with the city. That makes no sense, just another burden for the retailers who will pass it along to the consumer.

Who voted for this lunacy? Well, it was, as I told you, Dwaine Caraway’s baby from the get-go. And there was discussion that it might not even be legal because as I told you, the attorney general is already looking at whether city bans on plastic bags are in compliance with the state’s health and safety laws. A specific section of the Texas Health and Safety Code says that a municipal district may not pass legislative restrictions or charge fees relating to the consumption of a “container or package” for waste management purposes. Some of our smarter Council peeps brought that up today.

Attorney General Greg Abbott is going to weigh in on the legality of bag bans, following a request by state Rep. Dan Flynn of Canton on behalf of the Texas Retailers Association. Jerry Allen asked Dallas City Attorney Warren Ernst if the state allows bag bans.

“We are ready to defend that position,” Ernst said. “If it’s the will of the council to pass the ordinance, we’ll defend that as a legal action by the city.”

Sure he is ready, as long as the City is footing the legal bill.

The vote was 8 to 6. Vonciel Jones Hill was not there to vote, according to Robert Wilonsky. Jennifer Staubach gates is clearly a clairvoyant, and Jerry Allen was not a happy camper:

“Rick Callahan called it a “government intrusion.” Jennifer Staubach Gates said it wouldn’t do any good, because in five years the reusable bags supported by the environmentalists will end up in landfills too. And Jerry Allen said the three options being considered by council, including a full-out ban, represented “a lack of clear conviction,” which he found disappointing.”

My trusty councilman, Lee Kleinman, is my new hero, though I suspect he’s going to get some grief from this little speech on how people should try a little personal responsibility:

What he means, I think, is that we don’t have a problem with grocery bag litter (or any litter) in District 11. We somehow manage to be grown ups and recycle and re-use our bags and they do not end up in the creek behind Mr. Kleinman’s house or even our alleys. We even recycle Orange Crush cans! Lee is right: his job is to focus on and represent his district, and he did that today just fine. Thank you, sir. I’m going to order you this tee shirt:
Orange Crush tee shirtOrange Crush

Finally, I love me some Rick Callahan, who happens to be in real estate. Callahan brought in a 3 month’s collection of trash — not one plastic bag in there.

Why don’t we start enforcing existing city laws instead of making new ones that will be impossible to enforce? Sometimes the City of Dallas makes me want to shoot myself. Or move.

 

 

 

trashYou may have heard that the Dallas City Council is nearing a vote or a discussion or something on what to do about those thin plastic grocery bags some of use whenever we pick up groceries, drugs, sundries, whatever. They call them “one-time use” but I tend to use them a couple times. I don’t know about you, but I do carry my own bags (Lululemon ones are best) to the grocery but sometimes forget them in the car.

I know, that’s dumb.

More than 150 cities or counties across the U.S., including Brownsville and Austin, now have some sort of bag regulations, plastic or other. Houston city leaders have contemplated such a ban, but discussions died down last year and are expected to return. Dallas City Council member Dwaine Caraway is the man who started a series of debates wanting an ordinance banning the “single-use” plastic bags last summer. Caraway doesn’t like the way the bags litter the streets, creeks, and properties when disrespecting idiots let them fly instead of recycling them or placing them in the trash.

bag litterAccording to most reports, the council may lean towards restrictions or propose a fee on the disposable bags, which will be borne by the the consumer. For example, in Los Angeles, by ordinance, single use plastic carryout bags at stores are banned, retailers charge 10¢ for each paper carryout bag sold to a customer. So you forget to bring in a bag, you have to buy one. Same thing up north in the Peninsula and San Francisco Bay area where in January I had to pay for shopping bags at Pottery Barn.

This is funny: had I mailed my purchase, I would not have had to pay for the bag and the packing material which included those awful styrofoam popcorns and way more materials than a single-use bag.

Don’t forget this new ordinance will require signage, an educational program(s) series, staff training on how to tell people about the bag policy “NO TENGO BOLSAS!” and ask for the bag fee politely, foreign language requirements like how to say “no bolsas plastico” in Spanish, reporting requirements, a system for the retailer to collect the fees, which in Los Angeles they can keep, likely an accounting consult and oversee to see how those fees are treated — fee income? Other income? Bag income?

And to be fair to Dwaine Caraway, other Texas cities have already imposed bans on plastic bags, which came about in 1977, had a 4% share of the market in 1981, but by 1996 bagged up 80% of the market, probably more today. And since I was alive and breathing in 1977, I remember that we embraced the plastic bags because we were trying to save trees, hence reduce use of the paper bags.

They also did not disintegrate in the rain. Some people want us to get out of the car and walk everywhere, well how will be carry our groceries?

My late father-in-law was an engineer with International Paper Company and he hated the plastic bags with a vengeance, but not as much as he hated styrofoam packaging that he said could never biodegrade.

bag litter 2 Five Mile CreekSo here’s what other Texas Cities are doing:

–Austin: single-use plastic and paper bags are banned

–Brownsville: $1.00 fee per transaction for plastic or paper checkout bags

–Freer: non-compostable plastic carryout bags are banned

–Fort Stockton: single-use plastic bags banned

–Kermit: plastic checkout bags will be banned and a 10¢ fee will be placed on paper bags; passed July 2013, effective October 2013

–Laguna Vista: non-compostable plastic carryout bags are banned

–South Padre Island: single-use plastic bags banned

–Sunset Valley: single-use plastic and paper bags will be banned

-Houston: talking about it.

In January, Caraway seemed hell-bent on making Dallas as green as he could, not mint green, certainly not aqua, but GREEN like St. Paddys’ Day green:

“We thrive on being a green city and recycling and having a clean environment, and you can’t have it both ways,” he said. “If we’re going to protect the environment and celebrate green initiatives, then we can’t be kinda green or sorta green or mint green. Green is green, and if we’re going to be 100-percent let’s do everything we can to approach that goal.”

Other council members are not too keen on the city telling businesses and consumers what to do. Rick Callahan is against a ban for because “nobody in my district (is) knocking my door down” in support of one.

It seems like it would be easier to just fine the slobs who cannot pick up after themselves, no? Too bad a company like Poo Prints cannot run a plastic bag DNA test like it does on dog poop so you could nab the perps. Slobs who dump one-time checkout bags will likely also dump plastic cups, kleenex, tires, styrofoam containers, and more.

bag trash Lake CliffAnd if we are going to go as deeply 100% green as Dwaine Caraway wants us to go, why not ban other plastics like dry cleaner bags and oh dear, shopping bags at Neimans? (How will we protect our clean clothes?) I believe Jerry Allen is thinking along these lines: “Jerry Allen wanted to know why the ban didn’t extend to, say, Dallas Morning News delivery bags and dry-cleaner bags.”  Then why not plastic water bottles and plastic cups? What about newspapers and magazines? What about cans?

What about more lawsuits?

New Braunfels adopted a law in 2012 — known as the “can ban” — to try and keep the Comal and Guadalupe rivers free from trash. Tubers with soda cans apparently just dump them in the river when they are finished drinking, as if it were one big garbage pool.

But river outfitters filed a lawsuit against the ordinance, which has been pending since last year. Monday, State District Court Judge Don Burgess sided with a beer distributor and others in ruling that New Braunfels doesn’t have the jurisdiction to regulate disposable items like cans.

How about bags?

The Texas Retailers Association sued Austin over their no bag law, saying a Texas city may not ban bags, unless authorized by the state to do so, claiming harm:

  “The retailers will be harmed due to the loss of customers to stores outside of Austin (seeking stores providing bags) and the loss of customers because of increased prices (due to passing on the cost of new bags),” the complaint states. “Of course, the citizens of Austin will also be harmed by increased prices and health risks associated with reusable bags.”

The group dropped the lawsuit after Austin officials asked for specific information on the sales of plastic bags. Still, who trumps? Indeed, state Rep. Dan Flynn of Canton has asked Attorney General Greg Abbott for an opinion to settle this conundrum: are city bans on plastic bags in compliance with the state’s health and safety laws? A specific section of the Texas Health and Safety Code says that a municipal district may not pass legislative restrictions or charge fees relating to the consumption of a “container or package” for waste management purposes. And you know we all use those bags for pet waste management:

 

“At least nine cities in Texas have enacted bans on plastic bags and adopted fees on replacement bags in recent years,” the letter stated. “This appears to be in contravention of state law.”

And finally, how can our city be 100% green, Dwaine Caraway, when we allow people to build entire waterparks in their backyard? I’m just asking.

 

WRL DOG PARK

Photo: DogTipper.com

Great story from our favorite Dallas Observer reporter, Eric Nicholson, on the proposed $1 million makeover the White Rock Dog Park is getting.

It’s probably the most popular dog park in all of North Texas, considering that when I’ve taken my Great Pyrenees mix there, I’ve run into folks from Frisco and Murphy. It gets a lot of use, and some days it’s little more than a fenced-in mudhole, so it could definitely use some work. But $1 million worth of work?

Maybe the world is ending, but I’ve finally found something Dallas City Councilman Dwaine Caraway and I can agree on. Caraway, no stranger to colorful language, represents District 4, an underserved area of Southern Dallas.

“I just want to make it a point, we don’t have a dog park, and doggone it, if all these millions of dollars in these dog parks with air conditioned dog houses and all these other things that they got going, then give us something,” Caraway said. “At least put us in a plan for a dog park somewhere.”

Folks in Oak Cliff have been working to bring a dog park to their neighborhood, but roadblock after roadblock has kept organizations such as FIDO Oak Cliff from realizing their dream. Add the existing problem with stray and dumped dogs throughout Southern Dallas and … let’s just say I see what Caraway is getting at. It’s a quality of life issue. Until we really focus resources in underserved areas, Southern Dallas isn’t going to thrive no matter how many great-sounding initiatives Mayor Mike Rawlings launches.

“Our priority has been what? Stray dogs,” Caraway told Unfair Park this morning. “Well goddamn, that’s kinda unfair that we’re fighting stray dogs that we can’t pick up” and Greyson and Allen are suggesting they should pour their cut of bond money into dog parks.

“Our priorities are totally different from what they’re saying,” he says. “We’re already the ones that are under-recognized, for lack of a better word, economically.”

Dog parks are huge selling points in neighborhoods, and the White Rock Lake area has benefited handsomely from having a huge off-leash park in the area. It has permanently etched the neighborhood’s reputation as a dog-friendly area in the minds of all North Texans. If neighborhoods south of the Trinity had park facilities such as these, they’d benefit from that investment, too.

What do you think? Are dog parks amenities that add a significant value to a property’s location? Or are they more of a liability than we think?