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January 29th, 2011:

Saturday video break: Let’s have a little talk about tweetle beetles

I give you Dr. Seuss’ “Fox in Socks”, read by someone who can read it a lot faster than I can:

She goes so fast I can’t really swear that she’s actually reading what’s on the pages in question. The loud reactions from the audience don’t help, either. It’s still pretty damned impressive. Those of you of a certain age may be reminded of this classic commercial:

You think maybe she could be his daughter?

Eversole’s trial set for February 22

Indicted County Commissioner Jerry Eversole got his wish for a speedy trial.

Eversole’s jury trial is scheduled for Feb. 22.

Thursday’s ruling by U.S. District Judge David Hittner is mixed news for the Eversole camp. Eversole’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, said in court this month that he repeatedly had counseled his client against a speedy trial because of the risk that his defense team would not be as prepared as it should be.

Hardin even had Eversole stand during a January hearing and asked him if he wanted to proceed quickly despite that risk, to which Eversole replied, “Absolutely.”

Eversole has said he wants to get the trial out of the way so he can get back to commissionering. You have to admire the confidence, I’ll say that much for him.

His co-defendant Michael Surface also got his wish:

Surface’s attorneys asked Hittner for a delay until October. Hittner has also granted that request.

Chip Lewis, an attorney for Surface, said he now will have adequate time to prepare his client’s defense. He also said the severance ruling was correct.

“All of these charges were very well-publicized before the indictment,” Lewis said. “The electorate saw fit to re-elect (Eversole). He is eager to illustrate his innocence and recognize that those voters’ confidence in him is well placed.”

Well, he was unopposed. And in the environment we just experienced, in the most Republican-friendly precinct in the county, he’d have beaten anyone who had opposed him by at least 30 points. So I don’t know that I’d draw too much of an inference from that.

Happy talk about Texas employment

2010 was a better year for employment in Texas than 2009 was.

Texas employers expanded payrolls by 20,000 jobs in December, the third straight month the state has gained jobs, according to data released Friday by the Texas Workforce Commission.

The state gained in most major employment sectors, led by construction, with 8,700 jobs.

“It’s a very positive picture on job growth,” said Mine Yucel, an economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.

The state unemployment rate edged up to 8.3 percent from 8.2 percent in November and 8.1 percent in October. But even that may be a sign of recovery, Yucel said.

To be counted as unemployed, a person without a job must be seeking work. As employers add jobs, some people who had given up looking for work are apt to start trying to find a job again.

“It means people are seeing more jobs out there, and they’re coming back into the labor market,” Yucel said, referring to the rise in the unemployment rate. “As the economy grows, we expect that rate to come down.”

[…]

During 2010 as a whole, Texas payrolls expanded by 230,800 jobs after shrinking by more than 350,000 in 2009.

[…]

“The monthly growth was strong in December, and the year-over-year growth is representative of a solid overall recovery in the Texas job market,” said Waco economist Ray Perryman.

That’s good, and I’m delighted for everyone who found a job this past year. But I wonder, is all this optimism truly warranted at a time when the Legislature is working on a budget outline that might result in 100,000 teacher layoffs, which would be on top of county and city layoffs? Sure, maybe these things won’t happen – maybe the Lege will come to its senses and use the Rainy Day Fund to blunt some of the impact of the shortfall, thus limiting teacher firings to the 10,000 range or so – but how can you not even discuss the possibility when assessing the outlook for 2011? That just doesn’t seem right to me

The cost to cities of being anti-immigrant

The Center for American Progress has a new report out called The High Price of Local Immigration Enforcement that tracks how much various anti-immigrant ordinances in cities like Hazelton, PA, and Farmers Branch have cost them. Most of those costs have been related to litigation, as they have had to defend themselves against multiple lawsuits, though they have also seen their tax bases erode. As someone who’s been following the Farmers Branch story since 2006, this was all familiar to me, but just to bring everyone up to speed, here’s the bit about where Farmers Branch stands now from the full report.

The city was hit with four separate lawsuits, including one from merchants claiming that the English-only provision had hurt their businesses. The lawsuits were eventually combined. In January 2007, after a court temporarily blocked implementation of the Farmers Branch law pending the outcome of the lawsuits, the city council repealed the original rental law and replaced it with a similar one drafted by [anti-immigrant activist Kris] Kobach that made adjustments for families of mixed immigration or citizenship status.

That ordinance was approved by voters in a May election but was declared unconstitutional a year later by a federal court on the grounds that it violated the federal supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution, similar to the Hazleton, Pennsylvania, case. Undeterred, the city council passed another Kobach-authored ordinance in January, 2008, that would require all renters of apartments and houses to pay a $5 fee and state their legal status in their application for an occupancy license, thus removing landlords from the verification process.

The third ordinance also was declared unconstitutional by a federal court in April, 2010. Among its findings, the court noted that the Farmers Branch ordinance applies federal immigration classifications for purposes not authorized or contemplated by federal law. “As a result, the ordinance creates an additional restriction on alien residence in the City. The direct regulation of private contract for shelter based on inapplicable federal classifications constitutes an impermissible regulation of immigration,” the court stated. Farmers Branch then followed the path of Hazleton by asking an appellate court to overturn the lower court’s rejection of its immigration control ordinance. The case is now pending before the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

All of this has cost Farmers Branch $4 million, with more to come as the current case proceeds. Read the report for all the details.

What this report doesn’t explore, unfortunately, is the potential cost to cities and the state of the various anti-immigrant bills that are pending in the Texas Legislature. I presume that the first thing that will happen after some form of one of Debbie Riddle’s bills is signed into law that Texas will be subject to similar litigation as Arizona. Even if you take lawsuits out of the equation, the so-called “sanctuary city” bills are designed to force local law enforcement agencies to do the work of immigration officials at the risk of losing some state funds, but no funding mechanism is provided to compensate them for that extra work. What would an honest fiscal note for these bills look like? Those are the questions I’d like to see addressed right now.

Where the SUPERTRAINs should be built

Via Infrastructurist, a group called America 2050 recently put out a report on high-speed rail corridors with the greatest potential to attract ridership in each of the nation’s megaregions. The full report is here, and the section on Texas and the Gulf Coast, which scores pretty well by their metrics, is here. The way I look at it is this: Taking a train would be faster, only a bit more expensive, and far less stressful than driving. It would likely be comparable in terms of cost and duration to flying, and speaking as someone who lives a lot closer to where a train station would be than to either airport, more convenient. Plus, no one touches your junk before you board. I would also expect that building a high speed rail network for Texas would also spur many of the destination cities to build out their own local transit networks more – light or commuter rail in some cases, shuttles or buses in others – so that it would be easier to make these trips without having to rent a car. I just hope it can all happen a bit sooner than 2050, so I won’t be too feeble to take advantage of it. See the Dallas Transportation blog for some related information.