Warning for 16 over the limit

A coworker got a warning this morning for doing 16 MPH over a 60 MPH speed limit. He was driving on the Dallas North Tollway at around 6:50 AM when this happened.

If the North Texas Tollway Authority bothered to follow commonly accepted speed zoning procedures, or even follow state law, then the speed limit would undoubtedly be the state legal maximum, 10 MPH higher than currently posted.

However, the state cannot create laws of science. Had the state not enacted an arbitrary speed limit cap, informal observations strongly suggest that the correct speed limit could easily be 75 MPH, perhaps higher. In that case my hapless coworker would have been going a screaming 1 MPH over the limit.

Texas School Finance Conundrum

A current proposal to “reform“ school finances in the Texas Legislature will transfer a substantial portion of school taxes from federally deductible property taxes to nondeductible taxes like sales taxes.

Dallas County Appraisal District says I will owe $2,410.07 to Dallas ISD for tax year 2004. At this time in my life I am able to deduct the full amount of this tax from my income taxes. The true cost of this tax to me is only $1606.71 due to the tax deduction.

If the $1.05 per $100 tax rate sticks, I will only owe $1543.50, or a true cost to me of $1029.00.

If I pay Dallas ISD $2,410.07 in year x but only pay $1543.50 in year x+1, the difference of $866.57 has to be made up with new taxes. I am not a fool; I know that no matter where the new taxes are levied—payroll, video gambling, additional sales tax, whatever—all this $866.57 is still coming out of my wallet in the end. Businesses will pass on the payroll tax in the form of higher prices or employ fewer people, video gambling will inevitably increase poverty and therefore increase the usage of social services and law enforcement (which Dallas already does not have enough of!), and sales taxes are just simply more nondeductible taxes. And that doesn’t even count snowball effects like the higher crime and higher ignorance that come from poverty, the increased poverty from potentially reduced payrolls, etc.

If that’s not bad enough, I lose the deductibility of this $866.57!

Because all these fancy new taxes will eventually hit me in the pocketbook anyway, and because I lose the deductibility of that $866.57, even if net receipts to Texas school districts stay exactly the same, my net school taxes will increase by $216.64 per year. In essence, removing the deductibility of our school taxes is a huge giveaway to the IRS because all of that $216.64 goes straight to Uncle Sam. And this $216.64 doesn’t even begin to take into account the snowball effects!

My high school band director called himself a “radical Republican.” He advocated ripping out the current school financing system and replacing it with an income tax. Back in high school I thought he was crazy, but now I completely understand where he is coming from. I am very willing to pay a well-implemented, simple income tax as a replacement for the current school financing system if that means I can deduct that tax.

Kansas Turnpike’s old 80 MPH speed limit

I finally found a picture of the Kansas Turnpike’s 80 MPH speed limit signs:

(This image is on http://www.route56.com/highways/photobrowse.cgi?photo=KTA1. The image is from page 31 of the Kansas Turnpike Authority’s Fifth Annual Report (1957), so any copyright is probably owned by the state.)

The Kansas Turnpike’s former 80 MPH speed limit is the highest numeric speed limit ever been posted on a U.S. road. The second highest numeric speed limit is the 75 MPH limit currently used in many midwest and western states.

Before the federal government’s 1973 arbitrary 55 MPH speed limit cap, Nevada and Montana had no numeric speed limit. After the 1995 repeal of arbitrary federal speed limit caps, Montana reverted to its non-numeric daytime limit until May 1999 when a legislated 75 MPH went into effect.

Kansas currently allows speed limits up to 70 MPH, but its legislature is trying to allow 75 to be posted on certain highways.

Until 1973, speed limits gradually rose to keep pace with roadway and vehicular technology improvements. Even though vehicles and roads are now profoundly more safe than 1973, most current speed limits are lower than 1973 limits due to arbitrary and capricious speed policies. The sad truth is that insurance corporations, the hysterical buffoons they fund (e.g., Joan Claybrook, IIHS, Ralph Nader), and inane politics have far more influence on speed limit policy than sound traffic engineering principles.


I am working on a Master of Science in Engineering Management. Since I already have a MS Computer Science degree from the SMU Engineering School, I only need 7 additional courses to complete this degree. (If I already had an appropriate statistics course, I could have done it with only 6 additional courses.)

I should complete this MSEM degree in fall 2005. That assumes I take a course this summer, two courses this fall, and one course each in spring and fall 2005.

There is also a Doctor of Engineering in Engineering Management degree. In my case that degree could only require five courses more courses beyond my MSEM plus a praxis. A praxis is a dissertation that’s useful in a practical sense. This is opposed to traditional PhD dissertations that are just “contributing to the body of knowledge.”

This DEEM degree is very tempting. I could probably finish it in fall 2006.

If I was to complete the MSEM and accept the degree, I would not be able to count those courses towards a DEEM. The DEEM requires that at least 18 hours of “course work“ (6 standard 3 hour courses) are not used for a previous post-baccalaureate degree. So what I want is to be simultaneously enrolled in MSEM and DEEM credits. I would satisfy all MSEM requirements as early as possible and then start on DEEM stuff. If at any point during my DEEM track I decide that I just cannot continue, I could dump the DEEM and stick with the MSEM.

I will meet with the Engineering Management, Information, and Systems department chairman to discuss this.

Does Dallas Suck?


The Dallas Morning News released a jaw-dropping but unsurprising review of the City of Dallas that it commissioned through the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton. The conclusions are disheartening: Dallas is a visionless city that is screwing up basic city functions like crime prevention, education*, and economic development.

This is disappointing. I put my reputation on the line when I encouraged my family to move inside of Dallas and Dallas ISD in September ’03. Even though I live in a stable area with a good elementary school and a reasonable commute to work, sometimes I wonder whether I made the right long-term decision.

Will Dallas change course? Does City Hall have the guts to concentrate on the big picture, stop micromanaging, and curtail its pointless bickering? City Hall’s response over the next few days will be interesting.

Should I dig in and fight for the city? Should I just acknowledge a mistake and plan my exit path?

*I know education is not run by the city, but the report shows how Dallas could do much better at helping Dallas ISD do its job.