Dallas City Hall Workers in Trouble/Treated for Too Much Facebook Use

Do you find yourself constantly looking at Facebook photos from your neighbor’s cousin’s 4th of July party? Or reading bios of friends of friends you’d like to ask out? Or building fences around your Farmville pig trough? If so, you may have a Facebook addiction. And while that may not seem as troublesome as substance abuse — or some guy who STILL can’t stop singing "Pokerface" (sorry, coworkers) — if you’re doing it at work, it’s an issue. The City Hall in Dallas, Texas recently discovered its staffers were spending way too much time on the site, and decided to handle it by offering counseling and reprimands:

Constantly checking Facebook at work may get you in trouble.

Two dozen Dallas City Hall workers received reprimands or counseling after a recent probe showed they spent too much time on the social networking site.

“It’s [Facebook at work] definitely on the ‘bad idea’ side,” said Dallas attorney Travis Crabtree. “You hear lots of horror stories out there about employees posting things about how they’re either playing hooky, or just fiddling around while they’re at the office and getting in trouble for it when their boss sees it.”

City officials are working on new employee guidelines for social media use. Dallas City Manager Mary Suhm says employees aren’t allowed to do personal business when they’re being paid by taxpayers.

“Computer equipment belongs to the company and technically your time belongs to the company too, while you’re there,” said Crabtree.

Cesar Baptista, an assistant director in the water department, had Facebook open for 68 hours during a three-month period. But Baptista said he often opened his Facebook page in the morning and didn’t close it while he did other things. He says he no longer opens the site at work.

And the Top Manufacturing City is …

No matter the math, Indiana still generally ranks as the most manufacturing intensive state in the nation. That means we have more manufacturing jobs based on our population/workforce. Wisconsin and North Carolina are typically in the same neighborhood.

Manufacturers News Inc. changed the scope recently and put out a top 50 list of most manufacturing jobs by city. Certainly population is a bigger factor here, but there are still some interesting numbers.

The top 10 (list below), lost more than 95,000 jobs between August 2008 and the end of 2010. Big movers included Detroit (falling from 29th to 45th) and Seattle (moving up to 34th from 46th). Five from California (L.A., San Diego, San Jose, Irvine and Santa Clara) made the top 50.

Top 10 Manufacturing Cities

  1. Houston: 228,226
  2. New York: 139,127
  3. Chicago: 108,692
  4. Los Angeles: 83,719
  5. St. Louis: 83,123
  6. Dallas: 81,626
  7. Cincinnati: 81,364
  8. Indianapolis: 79,566
  9. Phoenix: 77,322
  10. San Diego: 70,709

Education: Adding It Up (2 + 2 = $)

They’ve tried it in Dallas, Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C. among other places. The results have been mixed at best. Overall, in this writer’s view, there’s something that just doesn’t feel right.

It, in this case, is paying students for academic performance. And it, in this case, adds the twist of rewarding parents with cold, hard cash if their kids pass certain math tests and if the parents go "above and beyond" by attending conferences with teachers.

Shouldn’t parents already have an interest in the education progress of their offspring? Shouldn’t students take the responsibility, with the help of their parents, to try and perform to the best of their abilities? I know the answer and also realize what should happen doesn’t happen all the time. But high expectations, in my opinion, instead of high rewards, would yield more productive results.

Your thoughts? Here’s an excerpt from the Houston Chronicle:

The Houston school board signed off Thursday on the $1.5 million program, which is funded by the Dallas-based Liemandt Foundation. The incentives will go to students and parents at 25 elementary schools that rank among the lowest in math achievement.

The pilot program — thought to be the first that offers joint incentives for parents and students — will allow fifth-graders to earn up to $440 for passing short math tests that show they have mastered key concepts, according to the draft proposal. Parents will get slightly less money for their children doing the work, and they can earn an extra $180 for attending nine conferences with teachers to review the youngsters’ progress.

Combined, the students and their parents can pocket $1,020.

Parents can opt out of the pay program, which also is expected to include money for teachers – up to $40 per student – for holding the parent conferences. The Houston Independent School District already has the nation’s largest program that rewards teachers and school staff for boosting students’ scores on standardized tests.

Nationwide, public support is low for school districts paying students for specific behaviors, such as reading books, attending class or getting good grades, according to the 2010 Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll. About one in four Americans favor the idea. A similar number said they had paid their own children for academic accomplishments.

The Houston program appears to be based on the Dallas work. Second-graders in Dallas were paid $2 for each book they read once they passed a simple quiz to confirm they had done the reading. A study found that the students who were promised money improved in reading comprehension and language more than those who weren’t offered the reward.

The idea of paying parents intrigues Dan Ariely, a Duke University professor who studies human behavior, but he said he expects little long-term benefit from the cash rewards for students.

"The parents actually have some control over the kids," he said. "They can tell the kids to study."

For the students, he said, the monetary incentive will do nothing to instill in them a love of learning. "What is questionable is whether you could create short-term learning or not," he added. 

Are You Confident About National Security Choices?

I’m all for national security. Nothing like going out on a limb there. But when I read a rather inconspicuous news brief about three cities being upgraded to the hish-risk tier for terrorist attacks (providing them a combined $67 million in federal funding for 2010), my mind harkened back to the 2006 Homeland Security Department list that included nearly 8,600 terrorist targets in Indiana — more than any state in the nation.

It seems a bit more logical that Boston, Philadelphia and Dallas (the cities upgraded) would rank higher than the popcorn distributor in Berne, Indiana, (one of the 2006 target entries) but it still makes you stop and think. The three additions bring the top-tier category to 10. The total pot of money across the country is $2.7 billion.

The quote attributed to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano didn’t inspire a great deal of confidence. It read: "What it represents is an assessment of risk versus looking at some other factors, such as population densities and other things of that sort."

At the same time, Omaha, Nebraska and Bakersfield, California, were added to the second-tier list for the first time. A portion of the funding from two New York cites — Albany and Syracuse — was cut to make room for the additions.

Here’s another lackluster quote from a "lucky" recipient. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, who represents Dallas, said drug and gang activity in the city adds to its risk profile. "Of course nobody likes that but I’m glad to have the attention given to it."

Just makes you wonder how these evaluations are made and how the money is being spent. Security, yes. Government decision-making, I’m not so sure.