Pet of the Week • 09.23.11

Shasta
Shasta is a snowy white shepherd mix. This sweet girl is about 6 months old and currently weighs 28 pounds. Shasta is friendly, alert and gentle. She should be good with other dogs, children and adults of all ages.

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Shasta and many other dogs, cats, puppies and kittens are available for adoption from Dallas Animal Services, 1818 N. Westmoreland at I-30, just minutes west of Downtown Dallas. The shelter is open Monday-Saturday 11 a.m.-6:30 p.m. and Sundays noon-5 p.m. The cost to adopt is $85 for dogs and $55 for cats and includes spay/neuter surgery, vaccinations, microchip and more. Adoption discounts are offered to senior citizens and those who adopt two animals at the same time. All dogs are negative for heartworms, and cats have been tested for FeLV and FIV.  For more information, visit DallasAnimalServices.org or call 214-671-0249.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 23, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Hunt draws another challenger in District 14

Chad Lasseter

IT Sales professional says differences of opinion with council incumbent led to candidacy

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Chad Lasseter said this week that he decided to run for the District 14 Dallas City Council seat after meeting with incumbent Angela Hunt in January and discovering he has “a basic difference in philosophy” with her.

While he called Hunt extremely gracious for taking the time to meet with him, he said he found that he differed from her on how to approach a number of issues.

“From that meeting, I found I would do things differently” in a number of areas, Lasseter said.

Lasseter said one of District 14’s biggest challenges has always been Lowest Greenville Avenue, where business owners are often pitted against neighborhood groups on questions of parking for area bars and restaurants, noise, litter and destruction of property by patrons.

While a solution for the area is in the works, Lasseter said that the problem has been around for years and that only after Hunt faced opposition in her re-election was anything done.

Lasseter also said he would have taken a different approach to solving the area’s problems, and that he would have chosen an approach that didn’t involve homeowners in the area giving up property rights.

Walking up and down Cedar Springs Road and talking to storeowners along the way as he talked to a reporter, Lasseter said he believes the gay entertainment district should be used as a model for the East Dallas area. But the gayborhood has issues, too.

Lighting in Oak Lawn on streets around the Crossroads area has been a problem. Lasseter wants to expand sodium arc lighting into the neighborhood to increase safety.

Lasseter said the deciding issue in his decision to run was property taxes. He called Hunt’s vote to increase taxes last year the deciding vote on the council and said raising taxes on senior citizens”criminal.”

“These are people who spent their lives paying into our system,” Lasseter said. “These people are, for the most part, on fixed incomes and we’re now running them out of their homes.”

He wants to freeze property taxes for seniors, look into rolling them back and implement a senior tax cap.

“I’d like to see a government that’s more responsive,” he said. “I’d like to see a government that’s more transparent and a government that’s more accountable.”

Lasseter called public safety the first responsibility of local government.

“We have mounting debt services and a budget shortfall,” he said.

With a billion dollar budget, 75 percent is for essential services, which doesn’t leave much fat, he said.

There are three ways to balance a budget, Lasseter said: Raising taxes and cutting spending are the first two, but he’s against tax increases and said that there’s little room for cuts that allow for maintaining the quality of life the city’s residents expect.

The third is to increase revenue and Lasseter believes there are a number of things the city can do in that area.

“Create additional revenue and grow the tax base,” he said.

Lasseter said that he’d like to make it easier to do business with the city by limiting the amount of paperwork and permits a business needs to operate in Dallas. And he called public-private partnerships like the Lee Park Conservancy another example of how the city can work with organizations to increase revenue.

Lasseter said he has been looking into the possibility of bringing the Texas Rangers to Dallas once their lease at the Ballpark in Arlington expires in 2018, a move he said would generate more revenue.

Creating incentives for businesses to return to the city from the suburbs and to move here from out of state would help the tax base grow, Lasseter said, pointing at the growth and development in downtown Austin as a model.

He mentioned a number of quality of life issues he supports including maintaining the parks, expanding rail and trolley lines and repairing roads.

Throughout the campaign period, Lasseter said he plans to issue platform position papers. The first will be about public safety and include his ideas on reducing crime and lessening the burden on the police force. Others will follow.

Lasseter, 37, is director of sales and services for NorthWind Consulting Services. He lives in the Hollywood Heights neighborhood of East Dallas.

He said that a number of public forums are being planned for the candidates to discuss the issues as the campaign progresses. •

Meet the candidate campaign launch party at Barley House, 5612 SMU Blvd. Feb. 19 from 2 to 5 p.m. For more information, visit ChadLasseter.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 18, 2011.

—  John Wright

ACLU sues Alaska over same-sex property taxes

MARY PEMBERTON  |  Associated Press

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit Tuesday, Aug. 3 challenging the way property taxes are assessed for households headed by same-sex couples.

State regulations as interpreted by the state and the municipality of Anchorage discriminate against same-sex couples by denying property tax exemptions allowed for senior citizens and disabled veterans, said Jeffrey Mittman, executive director of ACLU in Alaska.

“We are asking the court to overturn an unconstitutional practice of the state of Alaska. Lesbian and same-sex couples who are homeowners in the state of Alaska are discriminated against,” Mittman said at a news conference outside Superior Court in Anchorage.

The ACLU says some same-sex couples are being forced to pay more in property taxes on their homes than married couples, and that is a violation of equal protection rights under the Alaska Constitution.

The lawsuit asks the court to require the state and the municipality of Anchorage to apply the tax exemption to three couples represented in the lawsuit as if they were in marriages the state recognizes. Alaska does not recognize marriage between same-sex domestic partners.

Mittman said married couples can apply for a $150,000 tax exemption regardless if the home is jointly owned or not. Same-sex domestic partners, however, are allowed only half the exemption because the state considers them roommates instead of married couples, he said.

Department of Law spokesman Bill McAllister said it was too early to comment on the lawsuit because it had not been reviewed yet.

Julie Schmidt, 67, and Gayle Schuh, 62, have been together for 33 years. Their bank accounts and real estate holdings are jointly owned. After retiring from long careers in education in Illinois, they moved to Alaska in 2003 and four years ago bought a home in Eagle River. When Schmidt turned 65, they applied for the tax exemption for senior citizens.

Schuh said they have never been allowed the maximum exemption.

“As a retired couple, this hits us in our pocketbooks and we would like some fairness and equity. It would only take a little bit for the state of Alaska to recognize us and give us the maximum benefit of this tax exemption,” Schuh said at the news conference. “We would like all committed couples in Alaska to be able to say their state recognizes their commitment to each other and their state believes in equality for all of us.”

The other plaintiffs are Julie Vollick, 45, and Susan Bernard, 41, who have been together for seven years and are raising four children in a home they purchased in Eagle River. Vollick has a service-related permanent disability from her 20 years of service in the U.S. Air Force.

Fred Traber, 62, and Larry Snider, 69, have been together for 28 years and got married in California in 2008. They live in an Anchorage condominium that is in Traber’s name. Therefore, they have been denied any part of the exemption, the lawsuit says.

“If Snider and Traber were a married couple under Alaska law, the full tax exemption would apply regardless of whether the house were in Traber’s name, Snider’s name, or held jointly between them,” the lawsuit says.

Mittman said the same-sex couples are being penalized for being in relationships.

“They are not roommates. … They are family,” he said.

—  John Wright