Moms

On way to vote, be careful of red lights

Today's column could save you money. (That's the perfect lead.) But first, let's get something straight.

Elections. There are two of them going on this month. That means a voter has to vote twice. I say "has to" because being a citizen of Watchdog Nation, which readers are, means you do not let others make important choices for you.

Saturday is the local election for cities and school districts. Then next week, early voting begins for the May 29 state and federal primary election.

If you don't know who the candidates are, no sweat. Visit the Tarrant County League of Women Voters website at lwvtarrantcounty.org. The site creates a sample ballot based on your address and even compares candidates on issues.

So yeah, vote twice. But unlike in Chicago, this time it's all right.

Saving money

OK, I promised. Watchdog Nation citizen Danny McCoy reports a beauty. Lowe's Home Improvement promises shoppers who use their store credit card a 5 percent discount on purchases. McCoy tried the same thing at Home Depot.

Turns out Home Depot will also give shoppers a matching 5 percent discount on all purchases with a store credit card. But there's a catch.

"You have to ask for it," McCoy said.

A Home Depot spokesman confirmed it: "We do match competitive offers if asked."

Remember Watchdog Nation's motto: Ask a bunch of questions.

Scam alerts

'Tis the season to take advantage of parents. In Lewisville and presumably elsewhere, too, someone calls saying he's from the school district and wants to sell a parent appreciation plaque. (My family fell for that a decade ago.) Hang up. The caller is not from the school district.

Barbara Hobbs warns about a computer scam. Someone calls saying he is from Microsoft Windows. He wants to help you remove a dangerous virus from your computer. He seeks to sell a computer protection program and also take remote control of your computer. Hang up.

Oh, and have you put a property fraud alert on your property in Tarrant County? When someone files legal papers at the county courthouse regarding your property, you get an e-mail alert. This helps prevent fake liens or other real estate scammers from working behind your back.

It's free. Go to tarrantcounty.com and click on "Property Fraud Alert."

Oasis Getaway

First, the Southlake-based travel club used the Carnival Cruise Lines logo in its mailed offer of "free" cruise tickets to entice customers to its sales presentation. After Carnival complained, Oasis Getaway switched to Royal Caribbean International's logo. Same thing happened.

Now invitations arrive in the mail with a more generic promise: "Fly a U.S. Airline."

Readers, thanks for keeping us up to date.

Insurance cover-up

Have you written to the Texas Insurance Department to protest a new state policy that disciplined insurance companies and agents will no longer automatically have their names posted for the public?

As I reported in Sunday's column, insurance Commissioner Eleanor Kitzman's department made it harder for consumers to learn who has violated state laws or rules.

Rep. Lon Burnam D-Fort Worth, called The Watchdog to express his displeasure with Kitzman. Others sent me copies of their protest letters.

E-mail your thoughts about the policy change to PIO@tdi.state.tx.us. Or write to TDI Commissioner Eleanor Kitzman, P.O. Box 149104, Austin, TX 78714-9104.

Opposite direction

Kudos to the Fort Worth Police Department for taking a big step in favor of open government. It's now possible to get certain police reports online.

Report Search allows users to obtain police records faster and more easily in many cases. Visit fortworthpd.com/Reports.

Cruise news

After my report on how cruise companies headquartered in the United States are not regulated like U.S. airlines, readers sent me two nongovernmental websites that report lots of cruise information: CruiseJunkie.com and CruiseLawNews.com.

Red-light ticket

Note to Crystal: I feel your pain.

You wrote: "I received a ticket in the mail, along with a picture of my license plate for supposedly running a red light. However, I did not run this red light. I was simply turning right."

I watched the video. The ticket is legit. Here's why.

With these cameras, there's only one correct way to make a right turn.

First, come to a complete stop at the wide white stop line. Then, with the turn signal on, slowly turn.

Crystal, you forgot to stop.

Good news

The Watchdog column is the winner of national, state and local awards.

At its Macon, Ga., conference last weekend, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists awarded The Watchdog second place for large newspaper general-interest columns.

Winning columns: reports on the North Texas Tollway Authority, the Bless 7 investment operation and a Fort Worth City Hall open-records attorney who lost his job.

The Texas Associated Press Managing Editors awarded an honorable mention for community service. The Fort Worth Society of Professional Journalists named The Watchdog the winner of its First Amendment Award for reporting on open government.

Citizens of Watchdog Nation, please keep your great story ideas coming in.

Sunday: A job search for a Fort Worth elementary school librarian raises questions about the district's hiring system.

The Watchdog column appears Fridays and Sundays.

Dave Lieber, 817-390-7043

Twitter: @davelieber

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