Archive for the ‘County Judge’ Category

Cutting the DA’s Budget is a Big Mistake

February 24, 2009

This article, which talks about the Dallas County Commissioners pushing Craig Watkins to cut money and staffing in his office, is quite troubling.

When crime goes up and families can’t get closure because violent offenders can’t get prosecuted, most of the commissioners will be AWOL and silent. They will let Craig take any heat for having to release violent offenders. Craig is doing work that is nationally recognized; why stop the progress?

Cutting back on essential needs like felony prosecutors is the wrong move. In the article Craig suggested cutting car allowances for himself and others; but will Commissioners cut their car allowances? No. Commissioners recently increased their salaries and car allowances. That’s the first thing that should be cut; they already make more than $120,000 per year. In contrast, the Mayor and City Council get zero money for car allowances.

There are so many quotable items in the article, but a couple really stand out:

The cuts, Watkins said, “would decimate us to the point where we would have to ask: ‘Which criminals do you want us to prosecute?’ ”

and this one:

County Commissioner Mike Cantrell suggested that Watkins begin his cost cutting by eliminating one of the three prosecutors from each of the felony courts. Those who remain, he said, can manage the jail population “the same as we’re doing right now.”

The 51 prosecutors assigned to the 17 felony courts each handle more than 300 cases a year, the district attorney’s office said. Other cases are handled in those courts by units that focus on crimes like child abuse, gangs, organized crime and family violence.

First Assistant District Attorney Terri Moore said in the article that prosecutors already work hours of overtime for free because the office is understaffed. “This place is a legal sweatshop,” she said. “How dare they talk about making it worse?”

Commissioners are always crowing about having the lowest taxes in the state; but at what cost to crime victims and the general public is this so-called accomplishment achieved? If you do that, you also should brag about the backed up courts, the lack of staffing, and the long length of time that it takes for a crime victim to get justice through the system. Doesn’t make much sense, now does it?

In my opinion, the District Attorney’s office and prosecutors are also a public safety component just like police and fire departments.

When talking about the potential deficit that the City faces, Mayor Tom Leppert and other city council members have said that they won’t support any cuts in police and public safety. It’s time for the County Commissioner’s court to do the same.

Dallas County Commissioners See through the Smokescreen

October 22, 2008

Yesterday at Dallas County Commissioner’s Court, the commissioners voted 3-2 to not fund their portion of the Inland Port Plan.

While I agree that there should be some sort of plan in place, I disagree that the county should have majority control in creating and enforcing it.

It’s not about being against plans for a given area; I do support proper area planning. On the City Plan Commission I chair a committee whose main function is to facilitate the planning process for more than 20 neighborhoods associated with the Trinity River Project. I also chaired the CPC’s ad hoc committee for the City’s Form-Based Zoning Plan, which is now the subject of much debate. But this “planning” effort coming from the County, and Price in particular, smelled like something totally different.

The whole thing smelled like a power grab from the beginning, under the guise of efficiently planning the area. According to the article, The Allen Group has already spent more than $6 million in infrastructure, engineering , and other studies. They also are a proven entity, having done this type of development in California with a high degree of success.

The neighboring cities, Wilmer and Hutchins, didn’t want the county running the plan. I’m not the biggest fan of the Allen Group either, so I’m really trying to look at this issue in an objective manner.

Why do I call it a power grab? Because it was reported in a news story in June that the City of Hutchins actually applied for and received the $290,000 in question via a grant from NCTCOG. The article says it was diverted to the county. Price retorts in that article that Hutchins would only have to pay $1,000 for their portion of the new plan, but doesn’t address what happened to the grant.

This issue is very similar to what has Price has tried to do over the years in southern Dallas. If history is any predictor of future behavior, the smaller surrounding cities would have zero input on this plan.

The grab is strikingly similar to the construction of a bridge that Price tried to block in Hutchins. Trains would block ambulances from servicing the residents at times of emergency, but fortunately Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson made sure that it was built.

The piece of big news that is somewhat lost in this issue is Judge Jim Foster actually stepped up and voted against Price. To which Foster received a threat from Price that there would be a new county judge within two years. REALLY? Really? No duh. Getting a new county judge has nothing to do with Price – there was going to be a new judge anyway. A lot of capable people will be running.

So now that the county is not part of the plan, will Hutchins actually get their $290,000? Only time will tell.

August 10, 2007

DA Craig Watkins Responds to the DMN Reporting

Last week, the DMN published an editorial that claims that the DA’s office didn’t prioritize or think through its funding requests when asking for 68 new positions.

Today, on DallasBlog, Dallas District Attorney Craig Watkins responds to the DMN Board. One quote sticks out:

What critics of our request fail to realize, is that with this new administration, it is not business as usual. Our current budget request reflects the bare necessities. Our office actually needs much more than we asked for, but in light of where we are fiscally, we asked for what we absolutely must have to operate efficiently.

Here is Craig’s response, unedited.

July 24, 2007

What’s Up with the Sheriff and County Judge?

From time to time I like to bring you a quick recap of recent happenings. But unfortunately most of them involve our Dallas County Sheriff and County Judge.

Most of the recent articles I’ve read on our Sheriff and County Judge Jim Foster have come from the Dallas Morning News.

Sometimes, I like to look at these types of issues two ways. The reason for that is more often than not, the Dallas Morning News (our only daily) writes stories about elected officials with a political agenda. Just like the hack on the DMN Editorial Board that openly complained about Dwaine Caraway handily winning his District Four Council Race, they sometimes ignore all of the facts and instead question the wisdom of the public.

That being said…

In the last several weeks, several troubling items have come out of the Sheriff’s and County Judge’s Offices.

  • The Sheriff hired a grant writer that submitted one, maybe two grant proposals in a year. One of them was turned in late to the funding agency. According to the DMN, Sheriff Valdez was the driving force for the grant writer. Therefore, you have to make sure the grant writer does a good job or else you have a situation like this.
  • The Dallas Police Department is being hamstrung by an intake process which ties them up at the jail for hours in some cases. Austin and Travis County have the same setup without the backups. Part of the problem is jail funding. County Judge Jim Foster promised a meeting with Sheriff Valdez and Chief David Kunkle to address this issue. Did the meeting happen? And what were the results?
  • The County Judge called in sick instead of voting against his buddy, the now-disgraced former constable Mike Dupree. However, he did find the time to have someone take down an exhibit in the Old Red Courthouse that displayed his predecessor.

We need proactive leadership, instead of one that changes policies after the newspapers write about an issue. And we need County Commissioners that provide the necessary funding for all of the processes to work.

To the Sheriff’s credit, jailers are being added at a fast rate. But to truly improve we need the aspects of the entire jail process to be assessed and addressed so that the system works for the entire county, not just to comply with Federal standards.

Most of this could be resolved by either having regular press conferences or by having the Sheriff and County Judge be more accessible to the public and the media. The public deserves to know what’s going on.