By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Truth hurts: The city's chief municipal judge, C. Victor Lander, agrees to stop writing a column for the southern Dallas newspaper Dallas Weekly after he comes under intense criticism for a column about District Attorney Craig Watkins in which Lander wrote that "black folks have been cleaning up white folks' messes for hundreds of years, so why should we expect any different now?" Lander apologizes for column, and says he will stop writing because he doesn't want his words to be "misconstrued" as being the actual, literal truth. Lander vows to focus his attention on cleaning up the municipal courts, which have been plagued by a backlog of cases and unpaid fines, a mess that he says was created by decades of mismanagement by a "bunch of half-assed honkies."
Never say die: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issues a damning report on the state of the Trinity River levees protecting downtown, throwing a wrench into the city's plans to build a toll road between the levees as part of the massive Trinity project. An inspection by the Corps finds scores of problems with the levees, from severe cracking to encroachment by trees, utility poles and bridge supports built into the berms. The report questions the levees' ability to protect downtown from a 100-year flood. Despite the dire news, Mayor Leppert insists the controversial toll road will eventually go ahead. "Listen, I'll stop championing that road when the water flows out of the Trinity and covers my mouth," a defiant Leppert says. A Corps hydrologist notes, "that should probably happen sometime along about next spring."
TEA time: The Texas Education Agency announces it will investigate the beating of a Lincoln High School student by a coach, who used a canoe paddle to strike the boy 21 times. DISD prohibits paddling, although corporal punishment is allowed under state law. The TEA will determine whether the beating crossed the line into child abuse. "Look, 10 or 12 licks is a paddling," an agency spokesman says. "Twenty is a beating, and 21...well, at that point we figure you're pretty much into BDSM and should pay the kid for sex or at least buy him dinner."
Smoke gets in your eyes: A city council-approved ban on smoking in bars and pool halls goes into effect in April. Supporters hail the ban, saying it will stop bar workers and patrons from being exposed to second-hand smoke, though bar owners fear it will put a crimp in their business. "Once that blue haze of smoke clears and our dancers can get a good look at some of our customers, they might want to put some clothes on," a spokesman for XTC Cabaret says.
Rebel yell: Governor Rick Perry draws fire for expressing sympathy with "tea party" supporters calling for Texas to secede from the union. "We have a great union," Perry said, "[but] I understand how someone could feel that way" about Texas leaving the United States. Perry's remarks, however, boost his standing nationally as he takes to Fox News to tout his conservative credentials. A spokesman for the National Governors Association also expresses sympathy for Perry's stance. "We certainly understand where Governor Perry is coming from," the spokesman says. "We have 49 states that feel exactly the same way. About Texas, I mean."
By the numbers: The Dallas Police Department reports that overall crime fell 18.7 percent in the first three months of 2009, while violent offenses declined nearly 20 percent. Police Chief David Kunkle credits aggressive policing for the drop, though the Morning News will report in December that a change in the way the department classifies violent crime might have had something to do with the improvement. For instance, bludgeoning someone over the head with a baseball bat is no longer considered an aggravated assault by the department if the bat in question is aluminum. "Metal bats are for church-league softball and pussies," a department spokesman says. Also, shootings involving guns smaller than a .38 caliber are no longer classified as attempted murder. ("You gotta try harder than that," the spokesman says. "A .22? Pfft. Child's play.")
Help wanted: A job fair organized by local strip club company Burch Management draws hundreds of men and women hungry for work in the recession. "We've got people that are looking for a job that have been looking for jobs for four months," Steve Craft, vice president of Burch Management, tells the Morning News. Among those crowding the fair are three pickup loads of butt-naked day laborers from Mexico offering to "shake their moneymakers" for $80 a day plus box lunches.
Tally me banana: DISD trustees improperly voted last fall to extend the terms of three incumbent trustees, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott rules in an opinion issued in late April. Trustees had voted to cancel this May's elections and extend the terms for Edwin Flores, Ron Price and Leigh Ann Ellis from three years to four, citing cost savings and greater continuity in district management. The decision to cancel the elections came when the board's reputation already was at a low ebb following hundreds of teacher layoffs and an unexpected budget shortfall last year. The move unleashed a storm of criticism. "Where do they think we are, some sort of banana republic?" said an outraged spokesman for the local chapter of the National Education Association. The consul generals of Belize, Guatemala and Costa Rica filed an official protest with the union, claiming the comparison besmirched their nations' reputations.