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The Watchdog: A favorite in-your-face moment and other sources of gratitude from 2017

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Dave Lieber, The Dallas Morning News

Yes, The Watchdog is grateful for family and friends this Thanksgiving. But I'm also grateful for honest roofers, identity thieves who get captured and older adults who don't fall for stupid scams. All those make The Watchdog's day easier.

This is my fifth Thanksgiving as your Dallas Morning News Watchdog. It's my favorite holiday because gratitude is my favorite trait. The Watchdog has so much to be grateful for in 2017. Mind if I share?

Out of the gate, I'm most thankful for amazing reader tips I receive every day, teaching me what's going wrong and right in almost every corner of our culture.

I especially liked the tip that someone sneakily changed a company's phone number on Google and stole all their business. I also loved one from a 90-year-old man who wrote me with his suspicions about the lottery, which led to my own suspicions about it.

My mail is an encyclopedia of humanity. The information is sometimes overwhelming, but never boring.

I'm grateful that the U.S. Justice Department announced this week it will try to stop AT&T's merger with Time Warner. AT&T leads The Watchdog's list of complaints each month, and it always has.

But that's likely not why Justice is going after AT&T. President Donald Trump hates Time Warner's CNN. This is done for the wrong reason.

Still, AT&T is too darn big, and one side of the beast doesn't know what the other is doing. This leads to frustrations, conflicting stories and broken promises. If anything, break up AT&T. Again. (And don't forget my hashtag #shameATT ).

In contrast, I'm grateful that complaints to me about Frontier Communications have slowed from a gusher to a drip-drip.

I'm grateful to the hundreds of people who joined The Watchdog's campaigns for a roofing licensing law and for a more transparent electricity shopping system. We were plugged in. Still, we failed at the 2017 Legislature, as did so many others.

Gratitude also to those of you who joined my mailing list (let me know you want to join by writing to watchdog@dallasnews.com) and to those who joined our "DallasNews Watchdog Posse" group on Facebook. (Come on in!)

Grateful to Dallas lawyer Steven J. Badger who made it his mission to get a roofers' bill passed. He impressed me by working tirelessly, though without success. He promises to try again. Good thing, because the Texas roofing industry is submerged in a crime wave.

Grateful to state Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake, who provided my favorite in-your-face moment. At a statehouse hearing, Gio listened to a roofer testify against his roofer registration bill by saying consumers could instead check Yelp reviews before hiring one. Gio stepped up to the microphone and read aloud the Yelp review of that roofer's work. It began, "This is someone you want to stay away from."

Grateful to electricity customers who send me examples of companies' latest deceptions. I'd have no way of knowing the new schemes otherwise. (I'm stuck in an electricity co-op and can't shop.)

Grateful that so many people participated in my suggested "Everybody File a Protest" property tax campaign. They learned about the quirky system and experienced its arbitrary nature and unfairness. In our largest Dallas-Fort Worth counties, more than 40,000 additional families protested this year, compared to the year before.

Gratitude to those voters in Denton County who pressured county officials to strengthen the elections department after the biggest election failure in recent North Texas history.

Gratitude to the U.S. Postal Service (yes, the post office) for bringing Informed Delivery to most ZIP codes in the region. We get emails each morning showing what's expected in that day's mail. Highly recommended.

Grateful to thousands of people I've met in the past year who've been trained in my Watchdog Nation consumer rights movement at forums. Especially grateful to the 200 people who showed up at The Morning News on a recent Saturday. What fun, and we'll do it again.

Grateful that, so far, The Watchdog isn't inundated with stories from victims of the Equifax breach. Fingers crossed.

Also, quite happy the IRS suspended its ridiculous no-bid contract with villain Equifax to verify the identity of taxpayers.

Grateful that state Rep. Tan Parker, R-Flower Mound, sponsored and helped usher into law The Protection of Vulnerable Adults from Financial Exploitation Act. The 2-month-old state law allows bankers and financial advisers to protect the elderly and disabled from financial scams. They can put a hold on suspicious transactions and alert authorities.

Grateful that while investigating one of the most dishonest political hit pieces I ever saw, I called former Irving Mayor Herbert Gears to ask if he was the anonymous person who did it. He admitted he was. End of story.

On a personal note, grateful that my 84-year-old mother-in-law didn't fall for that scam letter that promised her a $26 million inheritance from a relative she didn't know she had.

Thankful for Watchdog partners Marina Trahan Martinez and our editor, Dave Hiott, for keeping The Watchdog desk going.

Finally, I'm grateful that we'll continue to work together to improve Texas businesses and governments in the coming year. Stay in touch at watchdog@dallasnews.com. And visit our webpage at dallasnews.com/watchdog for all our stories.

Staff Writer Marina Trahan Martinez contributed to this report.

ABOUT THIS COLUMN

The Watchdog Desk works for you to shine light on questionable practices in business and government. We welcome your story ideas and tips.

Contact The Watchdog

Email: watchdog@dallasnews.com

Call: 214-977-2952

Write: Dave Lieber, P.O. Box 655237, Dallas, TX 75265