When John Moores gave the University of Houston $51.4 million last October, the donation was front-page news—the largest individual gift ever made to a public university. But when Texas A&M kicked off a $500 million fund drive in March by announcing an even larger gift—$52 million from a former student named Dwight Look—the news rated little more than a squib in most papers. What gives? Although the Aggies describe Look’s gift asa the biggest ever, they aren’t hyping it, because the exact amount is impossible to determine: The donation is in the form of one thousand acres of undeveloped land on the Pacific island of Guam. Indeed, one A&M spokesman says that the university doesn’t want people to “get the impression that A&M just go $52 million in cash.” The property will be transferred by Look, who is an engineer living in Guam to A&M’s development foundation over a seven-year period. So, how much is the lad really worth? A source at Century 21 Realty Management on Guam said that the property is not on the astronomically priced beach-front (where land can sell for $1 million an acre). That means at least $40 million for the Aggies, but unless A&M can get a top price for the land, the U if H give will still top it.
A tiny change in school-finance law has given school districts more leeway to hike taxes without facing a taxpayer revolt. Here’s what happened. In the past, if school districts raised their tax rate by more than 8 percent, taxpayers could petition for an election to determine whether the entire increase should be rolled back and disallowed. But last year the Legislature decreed that school districts can now raise their tax rate by 8 cents instead of 8 percent before facing the threat of rollback elections. The old ceiling would have allowed the average district to raise taxes by around 4 cents without running into a roll-back, so the new one is twice as liberal. If you multiply that 4-cent bonanza by the total value of property in the state, around $600 billion, the new threshold gives school districts the cumulative potential to raise taxes by an extra $240 million without having to face a taxpayer revolt.
Once Upon a Time
A few die-hard texas Democrats, such as Congressman Charles Stenholm of Stamford, still hold out hope that Lloyd Bentsen might become the party’s presidential nominee. Is there any chance? Try this scenario: The Democratic convention nominates Bill Clinton on the first ballot, as expected. In his acceptance speech, Clinton warns that Ross Perot represents an unprecedented danger to American democracy. He attacks Perot as a potential despot who doesn’t tell the truth, but he acknowledges that his own unfavorable media coverage has made Clinton victory all but impossible. Therefore he is declining the nomination and with-drawing—in favor of Lloyd Bentsen. Not only is Bentsen eminently qualified to be president, CLinton says, but Perot has said publicly that he would not run for president if Bentsen were in the race. The relieved Democratic delegates nominate Bentsen by acclamation. Bentsen in his acceptance speech asks Clinton to be his running mate. A beaming Clinton joins Bentsen on the podium. Clinton is instantly elevated to sainthood by the media and declared to be a certain presidential nominee in the future. Perot abandons the race and endorses Bentsen. And they all live happily ever after.
Back to the real world. Ross Perot may have vowed to pend what-ever it takes to be president, but he did not get to be a billionaire by acting as if money grew on trees. While the campaign is spending megabucks on the likes of Ed Rollins and Hamilton Jordan, it is watching pennies elsewhere. Consider this sign in his North Dallas petition-drive headquarters: “We need blank used and new VHS tapes to record Mr. Perot’s TV appearance so we can build a video library. Also—if you have a VCR you are not using, may we please borrow it.