The Watchdog was on vacation — er, staycation — last week. So let’s catch up on my mailbag.

These are actual letters, edited for space, that arrived in the past two weeks. I use initials because when you write to The Watchdog at watchdog@dallasnews.com, you write me in confidence.

Dear Watchdog: The face masks we bought in March for $5 per box of 50 are now $43 per box. This is from a medical supply retail store.

— L.W.

Dear L.W.: Shop around for a lower price. But more important, if you see what you believe to be price gouging, report it to the Texas Attorney General’s office. The Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act prohibits anyone from selling necessary items at an excessive price when a disaster is declared. So far, the A.G.‘s office filed a lawsuit for gouging against an auctioneer trying to unload 750,000 masks.

Dear Watchdog: I imagine you get a lot of emails about the Dallas Central Appraisal District debacle. Here’s another one. My relative has a lot of physical and mental health issues and is not exactly what we would call computer savvy. How in the world are people like him supposed to protest their taxes? You have to protest online, can only use certain document formats, can only upload documents that are so large.

The libraries are closed. If you don’t have a computer or the Internet how are you supposed to protest? The system is rigged against people who need help the most — especially the poor. I went to the appraisal district website to see who to write a letter to and could not find any names or email addresses. I guess they are not interested in making the system fairer.

— L.S.

Dear L.S.: I checked with DCAD. “People could always mail us their protest,” spokesperson Cheryl Jordan says. She adds that an appraisal protest “can be as simple as writing the pertinent information on a piece of paper and placing it in the U.S. mail.”

“This year we set up a special drop lockbox during business hours so people can hand deliver their protest or documents. ... We have a number of email addresses for the public’s use at www.dallascad.org/Contact.aspx.”

Dear Watchdog: I looked online for a particular used model car and found several. During a test drive, I learned there were $2,500 worth of extras added on. The lower digital price is to get people in the door. Didn’t they eliminate bait and switch?

— N.L.

Dear N.L.: According to the statelaws.findlaw.com website, that’s illegal in Texas. Some lawyers take these cases. Auto dealers could face financial penalties, the return of the car and attorney’s fees if you win a lawsuit. The law doesn’t only apply to car sales, but to most product sales that use false advertising to lure you in and then claim the product is not available and try to upsell you.

Dear Watchdog: I had an appraisal review board telephone hearing in Denton County. They claimed that comparable properties were emailed to me. I never received it. I ask for addresses and she starts giving me addresses that I don’t have enough time to write down. I felt like I was being interrogated. Finally, I start shouting, “Stop. I will accept the original appraisal.” It was horrible. I see why people admit to crimes they did not do just to make it stop.

— J.W.

Dear J.W.: Send this to your state senator and state representative. Part two of property tax reform in the 2021 Texas Legislature is expected. The system remains broken, but lawmakers promise to go back next year and try again. You shouldn’t be treated like that. The people running your hearing acted horribly. They should make you feel comfortable, not afraid.

Dear Watchdog: Well, I had my property appraisal protest hearing yesterday. The review board actually questioned the number of times I’ve gone before them. Like you are only allowed a certain amount? Not sure why they frown on it. My main reason for going through the motions this time was for the learning experience and more knowledge of how unfair and corrupt the process is.

— G.M.

Dear G.M.: You are a person after my own heart. Of course, you can protest every year, as I do. How dare they leave you with that impression! I hope you follow my idea shared above with J.W. that you contact your state rep and senator in writing so they can fix the law. We need to stop appraisal review bullies from playing mind games with Texans exercising their rights.

Dear Watchdog: I am 89 years old and get Social Security checks deposited monthly into my account. I haven’t received my stimulus check. What should I do?

— R.M.

Dear R.M.: Your first step is to go to the IRS.gov website and check your status. The IRS “Get my payment” site is www.irs.gov/coronavirus/get-my-payment. Or find it via a web search this way: IRS.gov and get-my-payment. After that, I suggest contacting a caseworker at the district office of your U.S. Congress member.

Dear Watchdog: I’ve recently taken a job in the [Dallas-Fort Worth] area and am moving to The Colony. I’m coming from a state where it’s required to have the same electric provider. Coming from that to Texas is beyond exhausting and confusing. I’ve spent almost two hours trying to understand and find rates and deals. Could you enlighten me as to how to choose a provider that is best suitable for me?

— G.S.

Dear G.S.: Welcome to Texas! I’m glad you contacted me. I’ve written two recent stories that may help you. I’ll show you how to find them on search engines using my name and headline words: 1) Search Dave Lieber and How should you shop for cheap electricity in 2019? Very carefully. 2) If you want to hire a company to shop for you search Dave Lieber and Here’s a guide to companies that help you shop for electricity in Texas. Who they are, what they do.

Dear Watchdog: As many times I have agreed and cheered The Watchdog, I must now take serious exception to your recent column regarding Confederate Heroes’ Day. It was established to remember the 250,000 Americans that gave their lives fighting for the South, for their states, for their homes. Many of them did not own slaves. Some say this observance bothers them. I’m very sorry, but not having it would bother me.

— C.H.

Dear C.H.: Let me put my cards on the table. As a columnist, I promise to do everything I can through this platform to see that archaic holiday removed from the list of state holidays. I intend to publicize efforts to eradicate it in the 2021 Texas Legislature. And I hear Republicans and Democrats support this. I surely appreciate your support on most matters; but with apologies, prepare to be bothered.

Dear Watchdog: I wanted to let you know that the Denton County Commissioners Court this week passed a first-time homestead exemption of 1% of a homestead property’s value, but not less than $5,000. We know that even a small tax break means a lot in these tumultuous times.

— Commissioner Dianne Edmondson, Precinct 4

Dear Commish: I’m identifying you because you’re an elected official who, in this case, didn’t write to me in confidence. This is the kind of note I’d like to get from all public officials. Thanks for letting our Watchdog Nation members know the good news.

 

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