There are three great stories in this week’s Dallas Observer, if you’re interested in Josh Howard, DISD’s budget problems and the taxpayer-owned convention center hotel.

Jim Schutze weighs in on DISD Supt. Michael Hinojosa and his culpability, or lack thereof, in the budget mess. I was standing next to Schutze for about an hour of last week’s board meeting (we were jammed together in four-by-five-foot area behind the chairs, pressed against the wall by all of the TV station camermen and reporters gathered for the meeting), and his account of the portions of the meeting he cited is correct. I don’t necessarily agree with his conclusion, but he persuasively argues that Hinojosa is more responsible for the mess than he seems willing to admit.

On the next page, under the creative headline "Sympathy for the Devil", (for some reason, I can’t find the direct link but here’s the general one) Richie Whitt writes about how Mark Cuban ingeniously turned Josh Howard into a victim by revealing racist, inflammatory and generally ignorant emails Cuban received from people upset about Howard’s dissing of the National Anthem. It’s a great read on a lot of levels: Cuban as sports team owner, Howard as insolent dummy, and people armed with email capabilities as the ultimate idiots.

And one page later is Sam Merten’s recap of the latest happenings with the finally-becoming-controversial taxpayer-owned downtown convention center hotel. I’m becoming more and more of a Merten fan as he continues writing for the Observer, because he does a good job of weaving lots of facts and figures into his stories, which still ultimately have a persuasive objective. It’s unfortunate that the hotel deal has devolved into an all-or-nothing watershed — the convention center could use an adjacent hotel, and that part of downtown could use a shot in the arm. But the referendum language, if approved, precludes the city from doing virtually anything to help build it, and given the choice between spending $550 million and $0, I’m willing to error on the side of caution this time, even though I believe there was a middle ground that would have been better for the city’s longterm vision if the project had been appropriately aired out in public.

Anyway, these are good stories worth reading, even if you ultimately disagree with the conclusions. After all, say you’re Mayor Tom Leppert, and you already know what you’re going to do downtown anyway: Wouldn’t you still want to know what the people who disagree with you think?

Then again, maybe that’s not the kind of guy Leppert is.