Friends of Unfair Park: Your Morning Cup of Joe

Those who know me from my days at Dallas Blog might be familiar with a semi-regular segment I introduced called “Virtual Coffee.” The idea -- linking to stuff around the Web and providing commentary -- was hardly original, but I hoped it would provide an outlet to quick-hit items that either I didn’t have time to write separate blogs for or didn’t deserve individual attention. My plans to make Virtual Coffee a daily item disintegrated when I left to join the Observer in January, but your dose of Web-based caffeine is back, starting ... now.

You, Friends of Unfair Park, will determine whether the rebirth of Virtual Coffee is the start of something great or potentially a one-month failed bit. I’ll be here every Monday through Friday morning with a grab bag of items, including local and national news, sports, entertainment, photos, YouTube videos and pretty much anything else I find interesting. Your job is to stop by and join the discussion, and also make sure to tell me what you like about VC and what you think totally sucks ass.

So, without further ado, I bring you Virtual Coffee: Episode 1.

KDFW-Channel 4
Brett Inman, Cole Berardi’s stepfather

The first sip: As we were experiencing a power outage late Friday afternoon at Unfair Park headquarters, the parents of Cole Berardi were having a press conference ripping the Dallas Police Department for not allowing them to see video of the death of their 10-year-old boy before it was broadcast on television.

Chief Kunkle told me Friday that one of his deputy chiefs contacted the family prior to the release of the footage, but they didn’t want to see it and referred DPD to their attorney, Harry Jones. In the press conference, Berardi’s stepfather said putting the footage on TV was “probably necessary in the long run,” but “it probably could have been handled with better tact."

KDFW-Channel 4 showed the entire accident once again Friday night, which I thought was unnecessary. Having spoken with all four news directors, I originally believed Maria Barrs of Fox 4 used the best judgment by not only showing the unedited sequence, but also for not showing the reaction of Sr. Cpl. Michael Vaughn afterward as a couple other stations did. However, I cannot for the life of me understand why she broadcast it for the second night in a row.

I’ve read some comments from people accusing the parents of neglect because Berardi was crossing such a dark, dangerous road on his bike, but as WFAA-Channel 8 found out in a sit-down with Brett and Carrie Inman, their son had sneaked out of the house after being told he couldn’t go out. Additionally, he was just 100 feet from home.

Sam Merten
Wanna find out how much John Wiley Price is banking off his bobbleheads? Good luck sorting through Dallas County’s archaic record keeping.

The second sip: Former Observer writer Matt Pulle does a masterful job explaining the cluster fuck that happens when one seeks to acquire campaign finance information for county officials. The county is light years behind the City of Dallas in this respect, as I recently learned while researching my sheriff’s race story—it’s as if the county is unaware that the Internet even exists. Pulle does the work the county refuses to do, posting finance reports for both Sheriff Lupe Valdez and her opponent, Lowell Cannaday. Instead of focusing on selling bobbleheads in his likeness to raise money for an unopposed race, maybe John Wiley Price can help bring county record keeping out of the 1980s.

Sam Merten
With friends like Ray Hunt and John Scovell, raising nearly $150,000 is easy for Mayor Tom.

The third sip: Mayor Leppert has announced a November 8 “Dream & Dance” fund-raiser, which has $145,500 in sponsors so far, including billionaire Ray Hunt, Vinson & Elkins (Ron Kirk’s law firm) and political consultant Willis Johnson. Much has been made of the support that Leppert has received from the Hyatt Regency, which is where the event will be held, regarding his tireless quest to build a convention center hotel. But how genuine is that support when the owner of that hotel is donating to Leppert’s campaign and that same man’s employee (John Scovell, president of the Dallas Citizens Council) has also put money into Leppert’s pocket? Also, as a bidder in the process to develop the hotel, it would be hypocritical to change course at this point.

And no one seems to mention that, once Reunion Arena is demolished, Hunt has right of first refusal to purchase the land. A convention center hotel and ancillary development nearby would certainly make that prime real estate. And from what I’ve read into the contract between the city and Woodbine, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Hunt to make out like a bandit on the deal.

Sam Merten
Cuban may not be sweating the financial crisis, but he’s got a plan to help out folks swimming in credit card debt.

The fourth sip: I haven’t been a fan of Mark Cuban as owner of the Mavs (he’s way too into self-promotion for my taste), but he often has intriguing thoughts when it comes to matters outside the world of sports. If you can fight through his grammar and punctuation mistakes, he presents a strong case for creating a quid pro quo with banks regarding the bailout.

In exchange for government help, Cuban says banks should be required to cap credit card interest rates at six percent and eliminate late fees on balances below $1,000. As he points out, this county is saddled with $962 billion in credit card debt, which makes it difficult for people to make their mortgage payments. More problems could be on the way if the bailout is viewed as a one-size-fits-all solution to the nation’s economic crisis. Other steps need to be taken, and this is a good start.

The top political ad of the year, according to Politico. Find out what inspired it from former presidential candidate Mike Gravel.

The fifth sip: In response to Richie’s wildly successful top 10 list of the hottest female athletes in the history of ever, Politico posted 10 of the worst political ads from this campaign season. Making the list was Sen. John Cornyn, whose video produced for the Texas Republican Convention looks like a Wrangler jeans commercial gone terribly wrong. Prepare yourselves for “big, bad John” and nine other gaffes from around the country, along with the best ad of the year from former Sen. Mike Gravel, who ran for president first as a Democrat and later as a Libertarian before calling it quits in May.

The sixth sip: The Cowboys reached the halfway point in the season with an ugly win against the Bucs yesterday, and 5-3 definitely tastes much better than 4-4. Amidst boos at Texas Stadium, the offense managed just 172 yards and lost tight end Jason Witten, but the defense stepped up when the team needed it most. Dallas heads to New York next week to face the mighty 6-1 Giants, so, barring a miracle, it looks like the Cowboys will limp into their bye week at 5-4 before Romo is back for the Sunday night game in Washington.

The seventh sip: This op-ed proposes changing Election Day to the Saturday and Sunday after the first Friday in November. I’m a stickler for not messing around with the Constitution and maintaining our country’s history, but, as the story points out, this is not addressed in the Constitution. And the reasoning behind choosing the Tuesday following the first Monday of November more than 150 years ago is long outdated. I’m not in favor of changing Election Day into Election Weekend, but clearly it’s time for the day to be moved from Tuesday to Saturday to give more voters an opportunity to make it out to the polls. More people voting = good. We can all agree on that one, right?

The final gulp: The only electoral map I need to know which way the country is leaning come November 4. --Sam Merten

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