Tarrant County commissioners will see their worst fears realized this week. The county elections department has been poring over a controversial petition signed by 43,702 residents.

If at least 36,796 of those signatures are verified, commissioners must allow a November election that could freeze property taxes for the disabled and those over 65. Nobody is sure of the impact on the county budget, but the amount of lost tax dollars is expected to grow substantially in future years as baby boomers reach their golden years – assuming “golden” is defined to mean failing eyesight and various leaky or creaky body parts.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the verification process showed the petition included more than the necessary number of verified signatures, which is good news for the small group of old-timers who spent months collecting signatures. But the battle is far from over. Former Haltom City Mayor Jack O. Lewis, who participated in the petition drive, has seen governments get sneaky in the past and use taxpayer money and resources to urge voters to kill such proposed tax freezes. He and his silver-haired hellraisers will be watching county officials like hawks (or far-sighted moles, but you get the point).

“An elected body cannot use taxpayer money to support or oppose an issue that is being voted on,” he said. “When it goes on the ballot, we’ll have to see that the people are truthfully informed and they get out and vote; we’ll have to counter the political rhetoric with the truth.”

Thin Line Fest Rectangle

You be the judge of which is which.

Diagnosis: A Bad Case of FEMA

U. S. Rep. Michael Burgess of Lewisville was so impressed by the charitable work of Norman and Frances Bermes after Hurricane Katrina that he honored the Woodhaven couple with a commendation entered in the Congressional Record. The Bermes headed an effort to place evacuees in Woodhaven apartments and provide them with free food, clothing, and furniture. Burgess said the couple’s work helped provide “hope, dignity and encouragement in the aftermath of a tragedy.”

Norman Bermes isn’t anticipating similar kudos from city officials, who snubbed him at every step. At the behest of former city councilwoman Becky Haskin, the city has been building nuisance abatement cases against Woodhaven apartments in a smarmy attempt to force them out of business and clear a path for “urban renewal.”

Back in New Orleans, where Katrina provided a much-too-wide path for urban renewal, the Federal Emergency Management Agency continued its own smarmy work. This time around, the agency was trying to enforce a policy preventing Katrina refugees living in FEMA-funded trailer parks from speaking to the press, unless an agency rep was there to intimidate them. Fortunately, the Society of Professional Journalists, assorted lawmakers, and local news media screamed bloody murder, and the agency backed down. Just in time to help celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Freedom of Information Act. File this in the Who. Do. They. Think. They. Are. folder. FEMA – gosh, doesn’t that sound like some disease you get from standing around in a flood of arrogant bullshit for too long?

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