Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Do What You Can

OffTheKuff has a great post on the Many ways to help the victims of Katrina.

Check out this Dailykos diary, Lake New Orleans is Bush's Fault & I Can Prove It:
[In early 2001] the Federal Emergency Management Agency ranked the potential damage to New Orleans as among the three likeliest, most catastrophic disasters facing this country. The other two? A massive earthquake in San Francisco, and, almost prophetically, a terrorist attack on New York City.
Whether this is actually Bush's fault is debatable but it's obvious that this war of choice has had many unintended consequences.


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Blood Drive This Saturday



This has become even more important with this week's tragedy. Go to www.lonestardonor.com to setup an appointment, use sponsor code: DEM. Thank you.


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Great Editorial

From the Houston Chronicle, Perry's order on spending says more about own failings than about school districts':
Taken alone, the guideline of devoting most of a school district's resources to classroom instruction seems reasonable. In an ideal world, the state would fund schools so generously that 35 percent of the budget would cover construction, maintenance, debt service, buses, meals and all administration expenses, leaving 65 percent that could be lavished on teachers and classroom equipment. That is not the case in Texas, where pleasing campaign contributors trumps providing children an adequate education.

[and]

Under Perry's order, school districts would have to account for what they spend on lobbyists and lawyers to sue the state for a constitutional school finance system. If Texas had responsible leaders and legislators, the school districts would have no need to petition the government for redress of grievances.

Gov. Perry's order serves two useful purposes. It demonstrates his indifference to the plight of public education, and it draws a bold diagram of how desperate that plight grows in Texas' leadership vacuum.


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Charter Schools Exempt From 65% Rule

Today we find out from the Statesman that the governor's ideological fix for our public schools will not apply to the previous ideological fix for our public schools, New spending rule skips charter schools, Despite academic and financial woes, 65 percent standard won't apply
Charter schools, home in recent years to some of the best-documented cases of financial mismanagement in Texas public education, will not have to comply with a statewide rule requiring school districts to spend at least 65 percent of their operating funds on instruction.

The schools will not be included, at least initially, because the new 65 percent requirement was added to the state's overall financial rating system for schools, Texas Education Agency spokeswoman Debbie Graves Ratcliffe said.
Sen. Shapiro had this to say:
"I don't see a reason for them not to be included," said Senate Education Committee Chair- woman Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, who has pushed for more oversight of charter schools.
I do, and his name is Rick Perry:
"Charter schools, as a matter of law, have always been exempted from the accountability system, and the 65 percent requirement is part of the financial accountability system," Perry spokeswoman Kathy Walt said. "We don't know that there is an administrative way around it, but certainly if there is a way that Governor Perry administratively can achieve that, he certainly will do that."
There is no administrative way around it!? Just have Gov. Perry issue another edict making charter schools part of the 65% rule. The charter school scam has been a tremendous bust:
The state recently gave 2 percent of the noncharter school districts in Texas an "academically unacceptable" rating, the lowest mark possible in a system based largely on test scores. Yet 22 percent of charter school operators were hit with the "unacceptable" tag.

The schools' defenders often point out that they raise less money per student than traditional schools and often take in students who have failed elsewhere.

The Austin American-States- man reported last year that at Austin's now-closed Texas Academy of Excellence charter school, about $57,000 in taxpayer money was used to buy a Lincoln Navigator that was parked at former Superintendent Dolores Hillyer's home two months after the school shut down, according to the school's former accountant. A school bank card was used to pay for hotel rooms overseas.

The newspaper also found that the Eagle Academies, a statewide network of charter schools, had paid nearly $4 million to private school-management and curriculum companies founded by former school executives.
That is the future of public education if these people left in charge, the Enronization of our public schools.



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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Do The Republican Leaders Of Texas Believe In Public Education?

Back in June I wrote this post, Do You Believe In Public Education? Which finished this way:
Where we spend our money shows what our priorities are, whether it's in our personal lives or as a society. When we shortchange those things that we determine to be essential, we suffer--as individuals, families, and communities. If we continue to shortchange education in Texas, it's obvious that the problem will not get better. It's not just money. We--parents, grandparents and residents of this state--have to make this a priority. How? Well, when a politician shortchanges education, or any other important issue for that matter, make sure you let them know about it and definitely don't vote for them anymore. Inform your friends, family, coworkers or that person in the checkout line about the issues. I know one person who tries to inform phone solicitors about political activism when they call her. Remember what Thomas Jefferson said, "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be."

Our current leadership reveals their priorities by the way they handle the state's money, making it hard to tell whether, first of all, they believe in public education. Secondly, they make it hard to believe that they intend to fund it adequately. Do you believe in freedom? Do you believe in public education? Do those who are currently running this state believe in those things?
I was reminded of that Today when I saw this, Maybe legislators want our schools to fail. You think so? Here's a little bit of that one:
"We keep hearing that the House wants 'reform,' " Collier said from Pottsboro. "We've been 'reformed' over and over since the mid-'80s. I don't think the current leaders in Austin truly have public schoolchildren in mind."

He bluntly accused state officials of trying to "de-emphasize public schools and make us fail so much that they have to pass vouchers."

In other words, divert more money and support to church schools.

He's not the only public-school official or trustee who thinks that way.

I only wish more would speak up.
This one, Who's to blame for the Legislature's failure?:
I have a suggestion for these legislators. The next time you are called into session, why don't you actually listen to people who have dedicated their lives to educating children. Those of us who are in schools every day and work directly with students might have a little insight on what could be done to make our schools better. Instead of bashing us every chance you get and blaming us for your failures, why not work with us to write a bill that is good for ALL the children in Texas? How about a new "reform" that recognizes the importance of public education and provides equitable funding and resources to actually pay for the high expectations and standards you demand?
And this one too, School of thought, about a public forum:
A public forum entitled "School Funding Crisis in Texas" doesn't exactly sound like the platform for a heated political debate, but that's exactly what it turned into Thursday night.


[and]

After addressing the superintendents, including four who served as forum panelists from the school districts of Denison, Gunter, Whitesboro and Pottsboro in Grayson County, Phillips told the crowd that he sees school funding as "not a crisis, (rather) an opportunity to see that our children get the best education available." He acknowledged that it has taken one regular session and three special sessions thus far, and a conclusion has not been reached. However, he said that calling multiple special sessions to decide an issue is not uncommon in Texas.

Superintendents representing districts in varying sizes had an opportunity to discuss their concerns with the school funding crisis. Dr. Henry Scott, Denison ISD superintendent, told the audience that the legislature has "continually cut teacher benefits, but raised retirement for judges by 23 percent." He said that a poll conducted by Gallup showed that the majority of people polled cited lack of financial support as the number one problem with public education.

He said the results of the highly regarded poll can be viewed at the website pdkintl.org.
These articles and their actions and embrace of the 65% rule should make clear that their fight is against public education. It has nothing to do with property taxes. They will not even offer a plan that will adequately and fairly fund public education. Therefore it is right to conclude that the current leadership of this state is against public education.

"Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves.

By their fruits you will know them.

Matthew 7:16


Thanks to OffTheKuff and Burnt Orange Report for the links.



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Recent News

Williamson County approves budget
County Court approves $88 million budget
"I guess we have to say we've adopted this budget in the dark," Boatright quipped, before he joined three other commissioners in approving the $88,639,187 price tag for county services, costs met by $84,290,523 taken from revenues and $4,298,664 taken from the cookie jar.
OffTheKuff shows us that Barbara Radnofsky is finally getting press
Well, what do you know? Someone in the media has discovered that Kay Bailey Hutchison is not running unopposed next year
It's a good article but the end I think is bad when they mention that local officials are behind Hutchison and they quote Rep. Lamar Smith and the head of the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce. Why didn't they ask someone that's not a Republican?

Two from this weekend about Chris Bell's appearance at the Rural Texas Democrats Summit, Chris Bell Brings Down the House
and Democratic Governor Hopeful Rallies Party To Improve State.

The Statesman does an article on Gov.Perry's 65% voucher scam
Little-known group has run commercials backing rule
A First Class Education memo obtained by the Austin American-Statesman lists a series of "political benefits" of putting the 65 percent plan on the ballot. The memo says the plan will create divisions within education unions as dollars flow from administrators to teachers, and it says the plan will divert dollars away from other political goals of the "education establishment."
The more I see of this the worse it gets. This is a scam just like supply-side economics.




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Monday, August 29, 2005

The $64,000 Question About The 65% Rule

"How do you define direct classroom instruction?" This is a great article from the Lufkin Daily News and here's the full quote from the paragraph that includes the question above:
"How do you define direct classroom instruction?" Knight asked Friday. "What has people like me so anxious is that the first 65 percent proposal that was discussed in the Legislature was so narrow that school districts, especially those that are property poor, would be forced to cut essential services like building maintenance, security, basic custodial services and transportation.
The idea that many essentials will have to be cut to implement this is nothing new from what was previously known. Who's definition are we going to use? Well here is what the governor's executive order says:
The financial accountability and reporting system shall include an indicator establishing a requirement that 65 percent of school district funds be expended for instructional purposes as defined by the National Center for Education Statistics.
Searching their website I can't find their definition, I sent an e-mail to them asking for their definition and as soon as I get it I will post it. If anyone konws their definition already please let me know. The best I can find so far is from this article, School districts not making funding grade, which is about how Kansas is faring so far with the 65% rule and it's not good news:
Under federal guidelines, schools cannot count for instructional purposes, monies spent on transportation, administration, food service, construction, maintenance, repairs or support services such as nurses, librarians and counselors.
Now back to Texas. One of the problems with the 65% rule is the rise in gas prices which will drive up transportation costs. It also may make them rethink things like this:
Giving an example of a way Lufkin ISD may be forced to cut transportation costs, he (Mr. Knight) pointed to the school board's recent decision to allow Lufkin Middle School students who live on the west side of Timberland Drive to ride the bus to school, even if they live within the two-mile limit. He said school officials chose to go that route because of concerns about the safety of students having to cross a busy street.
Safety, schmafety! Not to worry though the governor has appointed a task force headed by Texas Education Commissioner Shirley Neeley and she is promising, "...there will be no secrets or surprises about the way Texas will measure direct classroom spending." We'll see about that. The task force has at least one problem though, it has no members from small school districts:
Smith wrote that one thing "jumps out" when one looks at the task force's members. He said Livingston ISD is the smallest school district represented, adding that according to the Comptroller School District Watch List, Livingston ISD is the 188th largest district in Texas. That means there are 843 districts in the state that are smaller than LISD, Smith said.
This plan has also been unable to pass the legislature:
Knight said from what he understood, the 65 percent rule was dropped from the Legislature's proposed school reform bills after state lawmakers looked into the issue and determined that such a mandate could negatively impact some of Texas' students.
That's not the 65% rules only problem though:
During his interview, Knight said many of the state's superintendents are raising questions about whether Perry's executive order is constitutional. He said that, eventually, someone in education may file a legal challenge on those grounds
So in an effort to get our state education system out of the courts the governor's plan will probably put us right back there. This is leadership? I don't think so.


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Sunday, August 28, 2005

The Hill Country News Needs Some Letters About This

As I was checking out the area papers I came across this article from the Hill Country News, Zimmerman stands for Texas, not taxes. For those of you that don't know Don Zimmerman - no not the former Chicago Cubs coach, that was Don Zimmer - announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination in state House District 50. The seat is currently held by Mark Strama. It's a very humorous article, especially the way it starts:
Don Zimmerman's campaign for the State Legislature's House of Representatives District 50 seat is officially only five days old and he's already sniffing out possible enemies and sneak attacks on the horizon.

The first few sentences out of his mouth in a telephone interview Wednesday evening were about the "communists" and "pinkos," his words for liberal Democrats, and their biting written attacks on "Left Wing" blogs this week.

So far, they've called him a nut - a right-wing nut job to be exact - among other jabs to his character and political agenda.
My first thought after reading this was, "Holy sh@#! Archie Bunker is running for the state house". The article then continues for quite a long time redundantly stressing how Mr. Zimmerman thinks that all taxes are bad. Blah, blah, blah with not concrete statements about what will happen after he's done away with all the taxes. I know it's early in his campaign and he probably doesn't even know yet what his plan is but this just seems ignorant to me. Now I'm not saying that this man doesn't have the right to feel and say what he has it's just not very realistic that this man will get much help and support from his fellow Texas Republicans and his agends much less in his own county and district. He is expected a primary challenger and a nasty, personal campaign to win the primary.

I guess my main problem with this article and my call to write letters to the Hill Country News is for a few reasons. First the papers slogan is this:
Proudly Covering Cedar Park, Leander and the U.S Highway 183 Corridor Since 1967.
District 50(.pdf) does not reside in Williamson County or in Cedar Park or Leander. It does follow 183 south of Williamson County for a little way but the majority of the district is well east of 183. I don't see why so much attention has been given to this Republican candidate in what is probably a tiny area of their circulation when you take into account that when I searched the archive of their paper there is nothing returned when you enter either "Jim Stauber" or "Karen Felthauser". These are two challengers that announced there intent way before Mr. Zimmerman and their districts cover considerably more of the circulation area than Mr. Zimmerman's. The only explanation I can come up with is that the Hill Country News is a right-wing newspaper. I surely hope that isn't the case but at this point I can't explain that any other way. Why else would they completely ignore the two Democratic candidates right in their own backyard? If I'm wrong please let me know but I say some letters asking these questions are in order.




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Friday, August 26, 2005

Toll Roads Back In The News

Yesterday the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA) gave thego ahead for it's latest toll project. No surprise here, if they didn't keep approving new toll roads they would have to pack up and go home. Here is the map of their grand scheme, er..plan. This is the East extension of U.S. 290 from IH-35 to, the hope, just past Manor:
Mobility authority officials would like to build the expanded road another three miles or so east to get it past Manor. But Thursday's action did not confer that authority, and the road east of Texas 130 has not yet been designated a toll road by the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization board.

"I would like to make the (construction) disturbance just once between here and Manor," said Mike Heiligenstein, executive director of the mobility authority.
Now there's a familiar name. This new road will also have this handy feature:
The U.S. 290 East toll road would be all electronic, that is, with no toll booths for cash customers. Drivers without electronic toll tags would have to use the frontage roads.
If you ever want to get on this stretch of road you'll have to have purchased one of these direct debit "easy tags" to drive on it. But the most interesting part is this:
The chance remains that the mobility authority could farm out the job to a private roadbuilder, much as the state has done with the Trans-Texas Corridor toll road alternative to I-35 and is contemplating doing with two San Antonio roads.

Doing so, however, would assure that at least a small percentage of the tolls paid on such a road would leave Central Texas in the form of profit for the private concessionaire.

Heiligenstein said the agency will have that element in mind should any private companies approach it about U.S. 290 East.

"We have marketed toll roads to the community as a long-term opportunity to sustain our local transportation system," Heiligenstein said. "In that respect, we feel we need to keep the money at home. Depending on the final financial arrangement (with a concessionaire), it would have to be a good deal for the community."
Right.That's interesting because here's what it says on the CTRMA About Us page:
The law creating Regional Mobility Authorities increases local control over local infrastructure projects. The CTRMA is run by and for local people, and allows us to keep locally-generated toll revenues for local transportation projects instead of projects in Houston or Dallas or other parts of the state.
Those in Round Rock should take a look at these two items: One from Sal Costello at the blog The Muckraker, Maxwell Dealership Boycott: Week two! and this one from Texas Toll Party BOYCOTT Maxwell Dealerships.


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Where Did The 65% Rule Come From?

While reading this Austin Chronicle article, Perry takes a weak stab at education reform, I figured I should start looking around a little. This looked like a good place to start:
The "65% rule" is actually a national campaign launched by Overstock.com owner Patrick Byrne, a fact that galls most education groups. They say it's an arbitrary figure based on whim rather than research.
Turns out Mr. it's all about the O, has gone off and created himself a think tank complete with glamour shot, First Class Education. Now it's got all the right endorsements. I mean who could reform education without the endorsement of Grover Norquist after all?
"The First Class Education Initiative allows taxpayer dollars to directly reach the children instead of school bureaucrats. Voters can AND will send a powerful message to union leadership. Opposition to this measure to increase funding for classroom instruction and more qualified educators will be detrimental to their general membership."
Turns out that this campaign has nothing to do with making schools better it's just another "conservative" campaign against unions. Here's how another great "conservative" describes the so called solution:
His idea -- call it the 65 Percent Solution -- is politically delicious because it unites parents, taxpayers and teachers while, he hopes, sowing dissension in the ranks of the teachers unions, which he considers the principal institutional impediment to improving primary and secondary education.
While it might do that it also does this:

Inherent in Perry’s spending rule is the faulty assumption that school districts waste their money on things unrelated to education. Like administrators. Or librarians. Or computer specialists. Or social workers. Or school nurses.
So it turns out the "65% solution" is not about schools. Turns out it's about...hang on...wait for it...school vouchers. I know you find that hard to believe. Ever heard of All Children Matter? Ever heard of Amway? Well Richard DeVos, billionaire and former President of Amway, who runs this pro-voucher PAC, is also running for governor of Michigan. And last year in Utah we got to see what happens when these two and a few other of these groups get together:
Certain Republican incumbents in the Utah House of Representatives were the targets of aggressive and sometimes vicious campaigns funded mostly by out-of-state donors.

Three Utah political action committees -- married by one issue -- were financed generously by All Children Matter (ACM), based in Alexandria, Va.

In fact, ACM's $ 252,000 combined with $ 50,000 from Overstock.com's Patrick Byrne accounted for 86 percent of the $ 355,000 taken in by Parents for Choice in Education, the main Utah advocate for tuition tax credits for parents who enroll their children in private schools.

The principals and major local contributors to Parents for Choice in Education overlap considerably with those involved with Education Excellence and Children First, which also promote tuition tax credits.

Those three organizations, made up mostly of Republican Party supporters and contributors, tried mightily to defeat Rep. Dave Hogue, R-Riverton, despite Hogue's credentials as a proven conservative and the support he received from most of his colleagues in the House Republican caucus. The reason? Hogue has voted against tuition tax credit legislation.
For our discussion the Orwellian "tuition tax credit" is a school voucher. Look out Republicans that voted against vouchers, the bell tolls for thee. This is a preview of what is going to happen in many Republican house primaries in Texas next year. The Houston Chronicle shows us some of their handywork in Texas already, and Williamson County's own Dan Gattis has taken $10,000 from All Children Matter. To see who they've given to in Texas just go here and next to Contributor type in All Children Matter and click search, it's quite an interesting list of names.

These groups along with those in Texas that already support vouchers will be spending millions in the Republican primary in an effort to take out those that are against vouchers and install those that are for them. As I pointed out earlier in the week, I don't believe that the last special session had anything to do with school finance. It was just about paying back big donors (Telecom bill) and highlighting moderate Republican house members to be challenged in the upcoming primary. If the Republicans get a majority in the legislature that will pass vouchers the defunding of our public schools will begin in earnest and 65% of nothing is nothing.


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Thursday, August 25, 2005

Cindy Sheehan Is Having An Impact

I found this article, Tennessee National Guard soldiers killed in Iraq, via this Dailykos diary. It is inconceivable that the relatives of these soldiers would have had outlet like this without the spotlight Cindy Sheehan is shining on the lies of the President and his administration. Be sure and read the whole thing but here are some highlights:
Spc. Joseph "Joey" Hunt, 27, of Sweetwater, and Sgt. Victoir P. Lieurance, 34, of Seymour, were members of the 278th Regimental Combat Team. Two other members of the unit on the same combat patrol were injured Monday afternoon southwest of Samarra when an improvised explosive device exploded near their vehicle, ejecting at least one soldier

[and]

Hunt had two sons -— 5-year-old Caleb and 3-year-old Josh.

"They don't have any idea what's going on," Hunt's aunt, Pat Thomas, told WATE-TV. "They went to be with their grandmother, Joey's mom, and she was just holding both of them in her arms. And they kept saying, 'Why are you crying, Mamaw? Why are you sad?'"

[and]

Andre Lieurance referred to Cindy Sheehan, the California mother of a slain soldier, who recently camped out in front of President Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, in opposition to the war.

"She didn't speak for me. Now she does," the father told The Knoxville News Sentinel on Tuesday. "I'm with her. I believe we were lied to. (My son) did what he was supposed to. Bush didn't."

"It's a bad war; it's a stupid war," said his mother, Karen Lieurance. "I questioned it from Day One. I think it's a lot easier to support the president when you don't have a family member over there."
Remember the Republicans are trying to turn this into Cindy Sheehan wants the troops out now and we think we should stay the course. While she also wants the troops home ASAP, that is not what this is about! Cindy Sheehan wants George Bush to answer a question, "FOR WHAT NOBLE CAUSE DID MY SON DIE"! That's what this is about and your President cannot answer that question.






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Flippity Floppity

For years and years we've heard this Republican sham argument that they are for local control, local control, local control. Well I guess they were for local control only when they didn't control the state government. Now, they've flip-flopped, Perry on Schools: Governor evidently doesn't trust local districts:
Meanwhile, it was odd to see a Republican governor telling local schools how they must spend their money. Only a few years back, then-Gov. George W. Bush made his mark arguing for local control of schools. Evidently, Mr. Perry doesn't share the same trust of them. His office says he's only calling for what those schools are saying themselves. But if that's the case, why give them one more mandate, particularly one that doesn't match the realities of managing a school district?

Buses face higher fuel costs. Health premiums keep rising. And there are the costs of personnel like librarians that don't directly connect to the classroom.

The best way to view the governor's move is through the prism of his re-election campaign. After four failed sessions on school funding, he wants to look like he's doing something about our schools. It's too bad he's out of touch with them.
It's not just the governor the Speaker's been doing it too, Perry joins Craddick in the blame game. That's two out of the "big 3". This is more evidence of why one-party government is bad, no checks and balances. Also it's just arrogance and a feeling that they can do whatever they want without consequence. Is this going to incense Republicans and make them vote against these people? Nope, they will go along with what these people and their campaign contributors tell them to do. The people that are voting for these people don't care that the schools are getting worse every year, or that we can't provide healthcare for children. All they care about is that gays can't marry!? The Republicans, in Texas and nationally, haven't had to pay for going back on their word at the voting booth or for what they've done to the poor and middle class, yet. That is what needs to change, now!


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Wednesday, August 24, 2005

BRAC Recommendations Came Down Today

Closure of Naval Station Ingleside recommended. Here is what Sen. Hutchison had to say about it:
Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison disagreed with the Ingleside vote, saying she didn't think the Pentagon was paying enough attention to security in the Gulf of Mexico, where several oil refineries are located.

"With the terrorist threats that we're seeing crop up in different parts of our country, the Department of Defense should be more of a partner in our homeland defenses," she said.
Well, I guess the Minutemen will have to work overtime Senator. What about Fort Hood?
Also Wednesday, the commission approved a Pentagon proposal to move the 4th Infantry Division headquarters and a combat brigade from Fort Hood to Colorado.

The 4th Infantry was headquartered at Fort Carson from 1970 until 1996. Even with the change, Fort Hood in Killeen will still have five combat teams. It's expected to have a troop strength of about 41,000.
Here's what John Carter had to say:
"We exhausted all avenues available to express to the Commission that the DoD recommendations were not justified and require the reckless spending of tax payer money," Carter said in a statement.
So much for the argument for that electing Republicans, and because they are in the same party as the President, Texas will be safe. That was back in LBJ's day, not Bush.



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Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Louis Repa To Run As A Republican, This Time, For County Commissioner Place 4

I missed these from a couple of weeks ago, Another try for Williamson seat, scroll all the way down to the bottom of article:
Two-time Williamson County Commissioners Court candidate Louis Repa intends to run again, this time on the Republican ticket. Repa, a farmer from Granger, said he is switching parties to help his chances of getting elected.

Repa ran as a Democrat against Precinct 4 Commissioner Frankie Limmer, a Republican, in 1998 and 2002 and lost both times. barrios
It just seems wrong to me to change your political party like this just to get elected. There is plenty of precedent for this in Texas (Gramm, Strayhorn, Perry). Also just above this one is the story of Drew Brees' Mom running for the 3rd Court of Appeals.
Austin lawyer Mina Brees, a Democrat, is running for the 3rd Court of Appeals seat held by David Puryear, her law firm announced in a letter to colleagues this week.

Brees, of Munsch Hardt Kopf & Harr, is a former president of the Austin Bar Association, formerly the Travis County Bar Association. She received the association's 2005 professionalism award for legal ethics and professionalism.

She specializes in reorganization, creditors rights and bankruptcy litigation, according to the firm's Web site. She is also the mother of two grown children, including Drew Brees, a quarterback for the NFL's San Diego Chargers.

The 3rd Court, one of 14 intermediate appellate courts, hears civil and criminal disputes from 24 counties, including Travis, Williamson, Bastrop and Hays.


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What The Governor Did Yesterday He Could Have Done In June

I am now convinced that the two special sessions were nothing more than a tool used by the Republican Party in Texas to shine a light on moderate Republicans in the legislature. At the beginning of this decade, as we all remember, the state house and senate districts were drawn to favor the Republicans. That is what gave them their majorities in both houses. Now that they have the majority they are still unable to get their radical agenda through the legislature. This is where the moderate Republicans come in. There are still enough moderate Republicans left that can do the right thing, and side with the Democrats, to keep the radical Republican agenda of under funding our schools and voting for school vouchers, to name a few, from getting passed.

Sunday I linked an article about the possible turnover in the legislature. Certain Republican legislators may draw primary challengers or just decide to retire. Most of those drawing primary challengers or retiring will be the moderates. When the districts were drawn to favor Republicans it also made it increasingly likely that in a primary fight or just the person that runs in these districts will be more further to the right. It's a party's base that votes in the primary and in these districts they will go for the more radical of the two Republican candidates. Knowing this, the Republican strategy for these two sessions, other than getting the telecom bill passed, was to put a target on the backs of the moderate Republicans left in the legislature. This means that if a Republican legislature is returned with the similar majority in 2006, and with a Republican governor, the radical Republican agenda that was not passed in these past sessions will sail through.

Yesterday the governor issued an executive order on school reform. (Response Chris Bell:
Perry took a shot from would-be foe Chris Bell, a Democrat running for governor. Bell spokesman Jason Stanford said the state needs more total dollars.

"Of course more money needs to be spent in the classroom," Stanford said. "We rank dead last on how much our state spends on education, and 65 percent of not enough ain't gonna get the job done.")
The governor's executive order just leads more credence to the fact that there was no need, other than political, to call the past two special sessions. He could have done this in June and saved the taxpayers of Texas a whole bunch of money. Instead politics got in the way. The governor needed to call these last two sessions in an attempt to change the makeup of the legislature in 2006. That being the case it's time for the Democrats to make sure that happens. To make sure that change is for more Democrats in the legislature and a new governor too. I like Chris Bell's response. The Democrats need to come out, as a party, unequivocally for more funding for our schools and to put a plan out for a fair and equitable way to fund our schools that eases the tax burden on the poor and the middle class.


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Monday, August 22, 2005

The Governor And His Pals

The Statesman today has an article on how Governor Perry has been using friendly radio stations and DJ's to get his excuses for failure out to the masses.
He jokes with drive-time hosts and talks as much sports as politics. Of late, he's been heard to say he's worn out from the Legislature's failure to advance school finance and tax plans despite his setting such a goal in three special sessions dating to April 2004.
But let's not forget they're politicians and they can't just go on any show:
Yet officeholders have to hunt for the "right environment — either a compatible talk host and/or station," Taylor said. "Putting a politician on the air in front of a hostile listenership could be brutal."
They wouldn't want to be asked any serious questions. So they pick out a few shows where the hosts are either friends or awed:
His hosts didn't inquire into legislative doings. Perry touched instead on his enjoyment of bicycling, his admiration for University of Texas baseball coach Augie Garrido and men's swimming coach Eddie Reese and his own adventures in the Air Force, where he said a big concern for him and other pilots spanning the globe centered on where they could cash a check once they landed.
Of course I'm sure that's really what the people of Texas need to know from the governor.
But there's something about radio, especially morning shows such as "Sam and Bob in the Morning" on KVET, that revs him up.

Cole, who calls himself a Perry pal and supporter, said such appearances are smart politics.

"The wise politico likes a talk-show format because it gives them an opportunity to use their sound bites and express their thoughts," Cole said, adding that when listeners "hear someone in a more casual environment" such as talk radio, "they're more willing to buy in."
Sounds more like a free campaign commercial to me. Sound bites or talking points? What I take from this article is that the governor likes going on radio shows, blaming others for failure, talking with his pals and not having to discuss anything of substance. Interesting.


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Need A Laugh?

Man, oh man is this Republican primary for governor gonna be fun! Check out this post, Oh No You DIDN’T Just Call Me a LIBERAL, from In The Pink it's hiliariuos:
In Texas, accusing a fellow Republican of accepting money from trial lawyers is like calling someone a liberal after calling their mama a whore.
That is good stuff. 6 months of that will definitely be fun.


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Sunday, August 21, 2005

Vulnerable Republicans, Is Rep. Krusee?

This article, School finance failure may spur turnover, is another in the long line of post special session #2 Republican excuse and blame articles. One thing different about this article is that Rep. Krusee is quoted in it. It's a good article and it brings up the fact that some powerful Republican legislators have already drawn primary challengers:
Emerging, like all of his Republican colleagues, bruised and battered from two years of failure to resolve the school finance issue, the popular House Appropriations Committee chairman faces a potentially dangerous primary challenger: the vice chairman of a school board in his district.

[and]

Mr. Pitts and other lawmakers predict that when the 80th Legislature convenes in January 2007, it could have as many as 40 freshmen. That's twice as many newcomers as this year
Like I said it's mainly about Republicans drawing primary challengers. Now as far as the "Run Everywhere" argument goes a district where an incumbent Republican gets beat would be a great opportunity for a Democrat. We need to get candidates ready in these districts. If the incumbent loses in a primary that would give a Democrat a better chance than running against an incumbent. Makes sense to me. Now back to Rep. Krusee. Here is the section of where he is quoted:
Some may quit

Some representatives could lose to strong opponents. Others, sick of spending so much time away from their jobs and families while fighting a fruitless battle in Austin, are simply burned out and considering retirement. Still others, including three House GOP committee chairmen, have announced plans to seek higher office.

With more than six months until the primaries, at least 11 House members have already drawn primary opponents who are current or former school officials in a perfect position to beat the drum on school finance. In Mr. Pitts' district, some superintendents are already showing support for his opponent, Duke Burge of Midlothian.

Dozens more members are certain they will draw opponents as well. And nearly a dozen House committee chairmen – most of them Republicans – are thought to be considering retirement.

"Without a doubt, everybody's vulnerable because we failed," said House Transportation Committee Chairman Mike Krusee, R-Round Rock. "It's hard to explain away failure."


Those dire predictions might just be fatigue and paranoia talking, some members and experts say. Fighting an incumbent who hasn't committed a crime or cheated on a spouse is no easy task, and lawmakers could yet find a solution to the school finance issue by the time the March primaries roll around.

But either way, Mr. Pitts and dozens of other House Republicans face what could be the fight of their political careers over the next six months, as frustrated voters – hearing only that lawmakers failed – seek to punish incumbents for breaking promises to cut property taxes while fixing the state's ailing public school system.

"There's some explaining that they're going to have to do, and in some cases there's going to be challenges that have to be dealt with," said Mike Baselice, an Austin-based Republican pollster. "They're going to have to define themselves like they haven't had to do in some time. And in some cases, and probably most of them, since they were first elected."
That's an interesting statement, "..everybody's vulnerable..", and so far he hasn't even tried to explain away the school finance failure. In his case is he referring to getting a primary challenger or to the general election next year? We already know he's going to have a challenger next November. It seems unlikely that the Republicans in Williamson County would back a challenger against Krusee in the primary or even stay neutral. Who knows, maybe since he's just got a pension raise and now has all those transportation contacts it's time to retire. Whatever the case is I thought it was interesting.


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Chris Bell's Got Some Company

Rep. Pete Gallego joins the Chris Bell campaign, Why I'm Endorsing Chris Bell:
My name is Pete Gallego. For those of you out there who don’t know me, I’m the Democratic state representative from the most beautiful part of Texas, Big Bend, but today I have the honor of telling the readers of the New Mainstream Blog that I have agreed to serve as the chairman for the gubernatorial campaign for my friend, Chris Bell. His campaign is putting out a press release tomorrow, but Chris wanted me to tell you about it today.

Chris and I have been friends for a long time, but I’m not backing his campaign just because we’re friends. I’m endorsing Chris for governor and plan to campaign hard for him because he "gets it." He understands what the world is like and where he wants to lead the state, and he’s fearless when it comes to talking about the world the way it is and not the way it polls.

His fearlessness goes further than his ethics fight with Tom DeLay. When he was on the Houston City Council, he helped pass the city's first property tax rate cut and wrote one of the farthest-reaching ethics reform laws for any American city.

Chris Bell also understands that the liberal and conservative labels don’t apply as well to someone who concentrates on solving problems. Like he says, he has no desire to spend the rest of his adult life stuck in a partisan ditch, never risking a move toward common ground.

I’m excited for everyone to hear what he has to say about solving the problems that Texas faces. Chris has always been the kind of leader who could appeal to both sides without abandoning his core ideals. He’s been telling me about the big ideas he wants to talk about during the campaign, I can tell you that not only are rank & file Democrats going to stand up and cheer, but Republicans are going to have an impossible time trying to marginalize him.

I think that’s the real point behind his New Mainstream ethos. We all have Republican and independent friends who tell us how worried they are that the cynical partisans who run the Republican Party are ignoring reality and putting politics before policy. There are more and more people pushed out of the Republican tent, and whether we are Republicans or Democrats, we are wondering when politicians are going to see the world like we do. We are the New Mainstream, and Chris gets it.

These are a few of the reasons I am proud to endorse Chris Bell for Governor, and what I’m asking you to do right now is free. Forward this message to a couple friends and invite them to join the New Mainstream by signing up for email updates. Trust me, you’re going to want to hear what he has to say without the media filter.


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There's Opportunity In Texas.

That's probably what people came here for all those years ago. Texas, and the west was a land of opportunity. Well, once again, like after the civil war, the Republicans have made a mess of our state government. Corrupt, inept, and unable to agree among themselves. It's sad and now even the Republicans are starting to realize their failures. Check out this editorial from the Dallas Morning News, Memo to Mehlman ...:
Your party's leaders are brawling like gunslingers. If word gets out that Republicans can't govern in the reddest of red states, how can they govern anywhere?

[and]

We recommended some of these leaders for office, and we're beginning to wonder why. If something doesn't change, Republicans are going to have a tough time explaining why they should govern here – and elsewhere.
They never say, specifically, what they want him to do. Do they want the former governor of Texas to get involved? He's got too many governing problems of his own right now. Does Mehlmen need to give everyone a stern talking to? Intimidate, bribe or otherwise encourage Republicans to play nice? Tell them to do what's right and also stop taking corporate money? I doubt it. There's really nothing he can do. It would be wonderful if the Republicans were forced to spend money and time in Texas defending these people and some Congressional seats a well. You can definitely believe they didn't think they'd need to do that in 2006. The editorial stops short of calling for the heads of the people it endorsed which leads me to think they still believe the current leadership can fix this problem, which is a mistake. Or maybe the DMN editorial board is just trying to distance themselves from their endorsements so they don't look so bad

For more go read this post from Kuff, Some special session wrapups. It has three articles from Today's Houston Chronicle, and I'll discuss a couple of them here.

First former Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff, he's a Republican, by the way
'Robin Hood' Ratliff says money's the answer
Q: Should Texas have a personal income tax?

A: My hat is off to Sen. (Eliot) Shapleigh for tackling that issue. (The El Paso Democrat is one of the Legislature's few outspoken income tax advocates.) But I fear it's jousting at windmills. I don't think this Legislature will ever vote to put an income tax on the ballot, and I don't think the voters would approve it. I think the ultimate solution to this is a broad-based business tax.

Q: Some legislators proposed a broader business tax this year but couldn't agree on how to structure it.

A: You can't make exceptions. Oil and gas partnerships, law firms. Everybody but charitable organizations would be my approach to it. Maybe I would exclude the smallest mom-and-pop operations, where it would cost more to collect the tax than it would raise.

[and]

Q: Do you believe many parents have been paying attention to the education debate?

A: The time when the Legislature finally addresses public education adequately will be when the mothers and teachers unite to make it happen. I don't think the PTAs know how much power they can wield if they wanted to get energized. A good example is Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), which got anything they wanted passed.
This interview points out several things. What they were trying to do with school finance and property tax reform had nothing to do with fixing schools. The Republicans are boxed in, they have to raise taxes on people with money, the wealthy, and they are incapable of doing that. And last that to fix the problem it's going to take a democratic uprising, meaning the people of Texas not necessarily the Democratic Party, but that would be nice. Which leads us to the next editorial, Blame Texas PTA for no school finance bill. The Texas PTA says, "We'll take the blame and there's plenty more where that came from" (My Words):
We are the Texas PTA 650,000 parents, teachers and others who care about children. And taxpayers. You can blame PTA if you want. But if you think there have been lots of calls, letters and e-mails in the past three years, just wait. Keep under-funding our children's schools, keep trying to disguise political agendas as "reforms," keep protecting the tax system that favors the business community, keep using textbook money for other purposes, keep squabbling amongst yourselves over your own petty agendas.

If you think you have heard from parents and taxpayers already, just wait. What you have heard before is a gentle spring rain of discontent compared to the ocean of disappointment and frustration that is ready to wash up on your shores.
That sounds like fightin' words. The only problem I see with all of this is that there has not been a coordinated Democratic attack of the Republicans around the state. Our state leaders have no intention of adequately funding our schools and to make it worse they can't. Why not? Well because the people and corporations that elected them, their real constituents, would freak out. That's the point they're not trying to do what is right for the schools in Texas they're trying to find a way to get by without alienating their money streams. And that means for Democrats there's opportunity in Texas, if we're willing to take advantage of it.





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More families rise to share grief

Many of us have wondered how the Crawford protest would fare without Casey Sheehan's presence. Three days ago, Sheehan left to be with her mother in Los Angeles. More families of Iraq war dead have risen to share their stories.

Carlos Guerra's column today encouraged me about the resolve of the protesters. His gripping interview with Juan Torres is a stark reminder of the suffering that the families of our fallen soldiers endure.

Here is John Torres' memorial page at Fallen Heroes Memorial.

Pictures from week two, including a sorrowful photo of Juan Torres with Cindy Sheehan are archived at Cryptome.

Finally today, from my email, I wanted to share a link to Deena Berg's report from Wednesday's vigil.


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Saturday, August 20, 2005

Mary Beth Harrell For Congress, District 31

Her website is up, Mary Beth Harrell For Congress, thanks, Kuff. As he points out, I also believe an important area where Mary Beth Harrell has a great opportunity is to take a significant portion of the military vote from Carter becuase of the credibility on military issues her life as a military wife and mother has given her. This from her bio:
Mary Beth Harrell embodies the mainstream values and middle-class work ethic of central Texas. As the wife of a retired military officer and mother of two active-duty soldiers in the war on terrorism, she is running to restore the kind of accountability, integrity, and faith in the future the citizens of Central Texas demand – and deserve.
Be sure and read the whole bio because I don't mean to imply, that those are her only credetntials to run for Congress, she is definitely about much more than that. Here are the questions she wants answered in the course of this campaign:
I will be asking some important questions:

• Are our elected representatives working and playing by the same rules they set for us, or do they consider themselves above those rules?

• Are special interests and big corporations paying their fair share of taxes or are they allowed to shift their profits and our jobs overseas as they please?

• Why is Washington breaking faith with middle-class families by seeking to privatize social security and public education?

• Why have our elected representatives effectively closed the courthouse doors to medical malpractice lawsuits and class action lawsuits that help middle-class families hold wrongdoers accountable?

• Has the invasion and continued occupation of Iraq at a cost of almost $200 billion and over 1800 American lives made us any safer here at home from the threat of terrorist attacks?

• Why are we paying record prices at the gas pump while Texas, a world-class leader in oil and gas production, continues to have a budget shortfall?

• Aren't clean air, clean water, and safe food the least you should be able to expect from the government you pay for with your taxes?

So I look forward to hearing your answers and best ideas as we middle-class families move forward – together.
Go here now and get involved, contrbute, volunteer and join her e-mail list.


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More On The Failed, At Least As Far As The Schools Are Concerned, Special Session

The Houston Chronicle has a good wrap-up of the session here, Top Texas leaders flunk their legislative achievement tests as second special session draws to a close:
The only people with reason to smile as the clock runs out on the second special session of the dismal 79th Texas Legislature are lobbyists who fought new business taxes and delivered a tasty telecom bill opening the cable TV market for SBC and Verizon. The Legislature also took care of its own, approving a judicial pay raise that also boosted lawmakers' pensions.
The Waco Tribune-Herald has this one, Politicians may soon learn failure to act has consequences. It even has Rep. Dan Gattis poking his head out - still no word from Rep. Krusee:
"It's frustrating to me that they could have a regular session and two special sessions and not figure out what to do with the schools," said Fred Bierschenk of Pflugerville. "That's close to criminal. They're being paid to do a job, and they're not doing it."

[and]

Like Baxter, Rep. Dan Gattis, R-Georgetown, voted for the school finance plan pushed by House leaders and now must explain why it or any other legislation did not make it into law.

"There is a percentage of this Texas House that will not vote on any school bill or any tax bill until the court legislates from the bench and gives them the cover to do it," Gattis said. "They want to be able to go home and say, 'I didn't really want to do this, but the courts made me.' And that's not leadership."
First, voting for the school finance plan pushed by the House leaders means he was for raising taxed on everyone that makes under $100,000/per year. Second Speaker Craddick is the one that wants to wait for the courts, and Rep. Gattis is right Craddick did not show leadership:
Craddick has repeatedly suggested the that Legislature wait to make changes until the Texas Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of the current school-finance system. That ruling is expected soon. The court ruling, he said, will let lawmakers and school officials know how much, if any, new money schools need.
The Waco Tirbune-Herald article, linked above, has this scorecard from the second special session:
Legislative scorecard

Republican Gov. Rick Perry called a second special session of the summer July 21 to change the state's school finance system and to address several other items. Here are some of the measures that passed or failed.

Passed


* Telecommunications: Allows companies that want to offer TV services to get a statewide franchise rather than go to each city to get a franchise.

* Eminent domain: Limits state and local governments from taking private property if the primary purpose is for economic development.

* Judicial pay: Gives state judges a pay raise and boosts the pension payments for legislators, whose retirement plans are linked to state district judges' salaries.

Failed

* •Education spending: Would have provided billions of additional dollars for education spending, including money for teacher pay raises.

* •Property taxes: Would have reduced Texans' local school property taxes and replaced that education money with changes to the state business tax and increases in other taxes, such as the sales tax.
Now that's leadership. Pass nothing the session was called to fix and pass a huge give-away to the biggest lobbying interest in the state, a retirement raise for yourself and a bipartisan eminent domain bill. See what I mean?




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Thursday, August 18, 2005

Second Special Session Is A Success, For The Telecom Bill, That Is

Have you seen this, Texas' No.1 Special Interest, SBC, Completes A Very Special Session. It starts with this interesting paragraph:
After Texas’ leading special interest suffered a rare defeat in this year’s regular legislative session, Governor Rick Perry called lawmakers back into a special session that accomplished little more than passing the telecommunications overhaul that SBC demanded (Senate Bill 5 or ‘SBC5’).
Then check out this:
Lobby records filed by the end of this year’s regular session tag SBC as Austin’s leading lobby force by far. Its army of 123 lobbyists—who reported up to $6.8 million in SBC fees—gave this giant well over twice the lobby clout of runner-up TXU. Verizon, the next-largest beneficiary of the new telecommunications bill, paid 38 lobbyists another $1.8 million. As such, SBC and Verizon lobbyists outnumbered the 150-member Texas House.
When I read this the first thing that popped into my head was, is it possible that the second special session was called for telecom and that school finance/property tax relief was just a smoke screen? That's a bunch of money and influence to wield and not get what you want.

[UPDATE]: I Think this says it better than I did, SBC lobbying fruitful in Austin:
Andrew Wheat, a policy analyst for the watchdog group, said that it's not surprising that one of the few things accomplished during the recent special legislative session was what he called a "big-donor giveaway" for phone companies.

"What does seem to be beyond the pale ... is that we have a special session convened ostensibly for the benefit of school kids, and the legislature does nothing for kids -- instead it gives this handout to SBC, the biggest lobby force in the state," Wheat said.




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An Overdue Introduction To Dembones

Hopefully many of you have noticed there is a new contributor here at Eye On Williamson County, Dembones. He's doing an excellent job of blogging from Crawford. He is another Williamson County Democrat, of course. Don't forget to let him know how you feel by commenting on his posts.

It all go started with an e-mail he sent to a group of us contained what became his first post, an invitation was extended and the rest, as they say, is history. This is another part of what this blog was always intended to be, a place for sharing information and ideas, as well as, another tool for (re)building the Democratic Party in Williamson County. Welcome aboard Dembones, and if anyone else would like to join in just get in touch.


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Congressman Carter's On Board With A Bad Idea & Dewhurst Blames The Oil And Gas Industry For Failed Special Session

Rep. Carter is for putting a militia on the Texas-Mexico border, Government inaction on border issues breeds a bad idea:
It would be easy to dismiss a proposal by U.S. Rep. John Culberson to create a border militia as ill-advised and irresponsible. It would be easy, but dismissing Culberson's bill out of hand would be a mistake. The idea is just lousy enough to take hold in the current atmosphere of inaction, emotion and frustration.

As bad an idea as it is, the fact that Culberson has attracted 46 co-sponsors, including Central Texas Republicans Michael McCaul, Lamar Smith and John Carter, is a symptom of the frustration over a seemingly endless stream of illegal immigrants coming across the Texas-Mexico border. Add to that the well-publicized violence gripping Nuevo Laredo, and the atmosphere is perfect for this kind of simplistic approach to a complex problem.
Give him a call and let him know what you think, (512) 246-1600.

After yesterday's stories of Speaker Craddick blaming the Republicans failure on local school officials, David Dewhurst says it's the oil and gas industries fault. Craddick, Dewhurst take potshots at each other over school finance
House Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, emphatically disagrees with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst's assertion the oil and gas industry is to blame for the legislature's failure to approve a new school funding plan.
This one, Fingers pointing as special session ends, is pretty interesting as well. It makes the casee that the Republican leadership's plan was too right-wing:
"The leadership wanted to take [lawmakers] where they didn't want to go -- and the leadership didn't want to take 'no' for an answer," said Kronberg, editor of the online Quorum Report. "[And] they started from the hard right and crawfished a little back to the center. It's hard to be ideological about schools and taxes when, for the most part, schools are fairly well regarded back home."
It's a good quote when the work "crawfished" is used.


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Tired Of High Gas Prices?

Representatvie John Carter has an editorial in the week's Hill Country News. It about the recently passed energy bill, A sound energy policy for America:
The energy bill passed by Congress and signed into law by the president has several highlights. The new bill seeks to wean Americans from a dependence on foreign oil by encouraging domestic production of oil and natural gas. These traditional sources of energy can be produced in our own backyard. This means we can add jobs and limit our use of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), proposing a win-win scenario for energy production and Americans.

The next step is to couple the production of cleaner-burning domestic energy sources, such as nuclear power, ethanol and liquefied natural gas, with our traditional methods. The benefits of such innovations include: cleaner-burning fuels that are good for the environment, utilizing our farmers and domestic crops, and providing jobs for our workers. A positive aspect of these new innovations will be their renewable nature.

Tax breaks, for businesses and consumers, will be paramount in spurring the next generation of energy development. In all, $14.5 billion in tax breaks will create the incentive needed to develop technologies and encourage their use among the population.
The Austin Chronicle has a little different take on it, Energy bill: it ain't all pork:
The Bush Energy Bill, signed into law last week, bestows the oil, gas, and coal industries with billions in far-reaching tax handouts - even as oil companies continue to break all-time profit records, and evidence of the ecological and social peril posed by fossil-based energy sources continues to mount. The law designates disproportionately less for renewable energy development and efficiency efforts, and takes some arguably counterproductive steps aimed at diminishing our insatiable thirst for imported oil.
From what I know of the bill it will not change anything in the near future and very little over the long-haul. It's no big surprise to anyone that it's nothing but a huge giveaway to the oil and gas industried. In my opinion the Apollo Alliance has the right idea:
The Apollo Alliance provides a message of optimism and hope, framed around rejuvenating our nation’s economy by creating the next generation of American industrial jobs and treating clean energy as an economic and security mandate to rebuild America. America needs to hope again, to dream again, to think big, and to be called to the best of our potential by tapping the optimism and can-do spirit that is embedded in our nation’s history.

In 1961, John F. Kennedy challenged the nation to send a man to the moon and return him safely home again within the decade. It was an audacious dare. The technology did not yet exist, but he marshaled the resources of a nation -- focusing public investment, research, science and technology education, worker training, and America’s industrial might on a common purpose. It was leadership toward a common positive goal and it worked. In less than eight years Neil Armstrong placed the first human footprint on the lunar surface, and President Kennedy to this day remains honored for his vision and as a leader of courage.

Now America has an Apollo project for the 21st century. Today the stakes are much, much higher. We face an economy hemorrhaging its highest paying and most productive jobs, cities falling apart with over a trillion dollars in unmet public investment in crumbling schools, transportation, and infrastructure. The middle class is increasingly insecure as career ladders are broken and not replaced in new service sector jobs. And on a global scale we face never before seen environmental disruption, rising social inequity, and the emergence of fundamentalist anger that threatens our very security. We need new leaders of vision, and a new unifying call to action.
Representative Carter along with the those currently running our country and our state are still rooted in 20th century ideas, mainly fossil fuels, to provide energy. The have no new ideas, just drill more. With the approach the Apollo Alliance is taking we can become energy independent.





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Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Hundreds attend candlelight vigil in Crawford

We arrived late, and without our camera; but we were moved deeply by the quiet, resolute ceremony near Bush's ranch. The details of the event have been widely reported, but I wanted to include a personal account here.

We parked several hundred yards down the road from Camp Casey. We walked past the gate to Larry Mattlage's ranch as a reporter was interviewing him. Recall that he was the gentleman who fired his shotgun during a prayer service Sunday. When he glanced our way, I waved warmly and he waved back. Ever since Larry Northern mowed down more than 100 of the crosses along Prarie Chapel Road near Camp Casey, Mattlage looks positively sane in comparison. I was also waving "goodbye". When Camp Casey moves to land owned by distant cousin Fred Mattlage's property a mile down the road; Larry Mattlage's moment of fame will end.

As we arrived, a procession of about 200 people had already formed around the triangular patch of land adjacent to Camp Casey. Many placed flowers on a white casket draped with an American flag as they passed it. Names of the soldiers killed in Iraq were announced as the sun set.

After dark, the procession ended and we stood in silence while others hummed hymns. Then Cindy Sheehan spoke:

"For the more than 1,800 who have come home this way in flag-draped coffins. Each one was a valuable human life. Each one was an indispensable member of his or her family, not playthings for the people who lust for greed and power."

Afterwards, we sang "Amazing Grace" and the ceremony was over. My wife and son had an opportunity to talk with Sheehan afterwards to offer our thanks and encouragement. She was very gracious and hugged each of us.

This moment has vividly brought to the world's attention the suffering of military families who have shouldered the heaviest load for Bush's illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq. For the first time in two and a half years, ordinary Americans are beginning to understand the real human costs of this war. As public support for the war crumbles, we are finally free to openly question whether it is worth the cost in blood and treasure. My opinion is that it is not. Others disagree. Thanks to Sheehan, we can finally have the debate.

As we left, we picked up Mary from Bisbee, Arizona; who needed a lift back to the Crawford Peace House. She heard about Sheehan's vigil on Amy Goodman's radio program. Afterward, she hopped on a bus and 24 hours later showed up in Crawford. We really enjoyed meeting her and admire her dedication to issues of peace, justice and dignity.


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It's Time For Leadership (I Know, I Sound Like A Broken Record)

I crack on the lack of leadership in the Republican Party in this state quite a bit, and deservedly so. As I read the first couple of paragraphs of this article form the Houston Chronicle, GOP collapse on Robin Hood: When promises to voters flop, it brought to mind a title of a book I remember seeing shortly after I got married, After Every Wedding Comes A Marriage. I always thought it was a good title that spoke to the fact that getting married is the easy part, staying married is the hard part. In the Republicans case it would be After Every Election You Have To Govern, getting elected is easy, governing is the hard part::
This was supposed to be the era of Republican triumph on some of the most core issues for the Texas party: ending the "Robin Hood" school finance system and cutting property taxes.

But through three special sessions in 2004 and 2005 and a regular legislative session, the only record that has been made is one of repeated failure. The current special session runs through Friday, but lawmakers already have admitted defeat
The rest of the article is just more Republican yammering about why none of this is their fault. Stuff like this is just comical:
"It's baffling to me. There's a total lack of leadership down there," said former Texas GOP Chairman Tom Pauken. "Lobbyists are driving the train rather than having a philosophically driven, policy-driven plan."

[and]

What they discovered was that promises are easier made than kept.

"It's not that we're not trying. It's just that the interests are so different it's hard to find common solutions," said state Rep. Beverly Woolley, R-Houston, who lives in the Robin Hood-paying school district of Spring Branch. "If there were an easy answer, we would have done it a long time ago."

[and]

Conservative activist Jim Cardle of the Texas Citizen Action Network said he thinks this summer's two special sessions have been "a plus" for Perry because he will get credit among voters for trying to get something done. Cardle said it is legislators who need to be running scared.

"These younger sophomore and freshmen legislators ran on one thing and one thing only: to kill Robin Hood, the Robin Hood school finance system, and they haven't done it," Cardle said. "They need to be held accountable."

[and]

But interviews with some Republican county chairs across the state indicate that the Texas Capitol is now regarded much like Congress: Voters hate the Legislature but not their local legislator.

"I don't see any major upheaval, like throw the baby out with the bath water and wipe the slate clean and start over without legislators," said John DeNoyelles, the Smith County chairman.
It's comical but it's sad too. Why? Well there are plenty of people out there willing to believe that the governor does deserve credit just for trying and wasting taxpayer money and forget he went back on his word not to do this unless he had a deal in place. It's has to be countered. They own every state-wide office and control both houses of the legislature and this is the fault of local school officials and the minority Democrats?! This is nothing new, the Republicans have been doing this on the national level since 2002. It's what they do, they are never responsible for anything.
With 63 Democrats in the 150-member House, a specific business tax could push enough Republicans into the opposition to make almost any tax bill impossible to pass.

DeNoyelles said he is convinced that Democrats opposed any plan just to make the Republicans look bad.

"The Democratic contingent down in the Legislature would like to do anything to cultivate an attitude among the people of Texas that the Republicans can't get anything done," DeNoyelles said
Once again, 63 Democrats control the house?! Well in Speaker Craddick's opinion, it seems, if you can blame local school officials for not allowing a deal on school finance then they are also to blame for the teacher's not getting a pay raise:
"If I was a teacher in the state of Texas, I would not be real happy with the school superintendents and administrators. . . . They could have had a pay raise," Craddick said. "Teachers in this state have lost a lot of money."
Not me! I wouldn't be real happy with you and the other two in the "big 3" if I was a teacher. Let me see if I got this right. The governor vetoes the school funding portion of the budget, for political reasons, which included a teacher pay raise. The legislature fails to pass bad public policy and then the governor won't include a teacher pay raise when he funds the schools, and it's the local school officials fault?! It's way past time for some leadership in this state. Every Democrat in this state should be yelling that from the highest mountain or the tallest tree in their district.


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It All Comes Down To A Lack Of Leadership

Today there are two articles out about Speaker Craddick lashing out and blaming school board members and superintendents for the legislatures failure to produce a school finance plan:
Craddick said he was unable to recruit enough support for education-reform and tax-cut bills because school board members and superintendents barraged members with opposition.

"All they want is money," Craddick said. "They're not interested in any reforms, any changes."
What do the school officials have to say about this?
El Paso-area school officials said lawmakers were using them as a "scapegoat." "I find it very offensive that (Craddick) would question the motives of educators other than commitment to fulfill our responsibilities and obligations to our children," said Hector Montenegro, Ysleta Independent School District superintendent.
It that seems like there is a little blame game going on here. But for years the Republicans have been telling stories about local control of school districts and how they, the locals, know better than the legislators in Austin or Washington. Now that they are in power, and like so many other things they used to say, that whole local control business is no longer something they care very much about. Especially when the locals are opposed to the Republican plan to dismantle public education in Texas:
"Those people — and the speaker especially — see public education as a liability, not as an asset," North East Superintendent Richard Middleton said. "They don't see it as something that's worth keeping and nurturing and developing. They want to find anything else that's cheaper."

[and]

Middleton, a veteran superintendent, highlighted school vouchers as one example of the House leadership's emphasis on changing public education.

"They weren't looking for reforms. They were looking at how to replace or dismantle the system," he said
This may seem a little harsh but it's also the truth. Why else would the Republicans be so opposed to making changes that actually benefit education in Texas? Well maybe it's because of their No Tax Pledge of course:
Many pollsters, politicians, consultants and civic leaders say that one central issue has caused the quagmire: the Republican no-new-taxes pledge. Funding schools, always a difficult task, and even the politically desirable effort to slash property taxes have been rendered all but impossible.

Dallas lawyer Michael Boone, an adviser to Republican leaders on school finance for 14 years, said that his party's leaders boxed themselves into a corner.
"The biggest problem was the governor said he would veto anything that raised taxes," Mr. Boone said.

"You cannot eliminate Robin Hood, keep equity, reduce property taxes substantially and adequately fund the schools back to the level where they need to be, and say there will be zero – neutral taxes – at the end. That's the fundamental problem," he said.

Thirty-five House members, including Speaker Tom Craddick, and four senators, all Republican, have signed a no-new-taxes pledge advanced by national anti-tax guru Grover Norquist. The governor has visited with Mr. Norquist on numerous occasions, even taking him on a retreat to the Bahamas.

Mr. Perry said there is a way to reduce property taxes and put new money into schools without raising the overall tax burden. The plan, which would increase sales taxes, would put $2.25 billion more into schools and $7 billion into property tax reduction. School officials have complained that the money they get is barely enough to cover inflation.

"If the critics say that's not enough money, I can't address that in an appropriate fashion," Mr. Perry told The Dallas Morning News in an interview Friday. "Those who say, 'We have to have $8 billion new dollars into the system before we're satisfied,' well, I can't make them satisfied."

Mr. Craddick and others have noted that when Democrats ran the state, they, too, needed a push from judges before changing school funding. Mr. Boone said Democrats deserve some of the blame for the current mess for refusing to adequately fund education when they were in charge of the Legislature, causing the costs to continually be shoved onto property owners. But now, he said, the bills are due.

"You've got to pay the piper," he said. "It's got to begin and end with leadership. Our schools are dying. It's a fact. They're suffocating them to death."
And sadly once again it comes back to a failure of the leadership in this state:
Republican chiefs will not tackle the antiquated state tax system because it would require a new, broad-based business tax, which Mr. Boone favors, or an income tax, which he knows is political kryptonite.

"They cannot lead and cannot be led. They've all been Norquist-ed," Mr. Boone said.
University of Texas political science professor Bruce Buchanan said the first session of all-Republican rule in 2003 was easier because lawmakers dealt primarily with ideological issues – redistricting, abortion restrictions and lawsuit limits.

"Nobody had to sacrifice anything, pay anything or raise any taxes," he said
If anything, Republicans relished a chance to demonstrate fiscal toughness by closing a $10 billion budget shortfall without new taxes. But the no-new-tax doctrine is in conflict with improving schools, limiting the share-the-wealth education funding system, cutting property taxes and paying for more accountability in education, Dr. Buchanan said.

"They're up against a painful reality here, and that is that you can't have a decent – let alone quality – education system without paying for it," he said.
All that above is from Republicans not Democrats. There is also an interesting audio article, Legislature Fallout, from KUT. Which speaks to the fact that Craddick may be challenged for his leadership position and that the governor may be looking for challengers to Dewhurst. It also highlights the fact that we are “living in an age without political consequences” and the current elected officials are “free to do what they want without fear of losing their jobs”. Anyone still think the “Run Everywhere” idea is a bad one? And I'll end with the Statesman putting the final nail in the Republican leadership's coffin:
But no court ruling will make it easier for Republicans — who ran for office promising no new taxes — to vote for a bill that, no matter how they slice and dice it, raises taxes for most Texans. Just as President Clinton and many Democrats finally had to face the need for welfare reform in the 1990s, so Republicans in Texas must eventually face the need to raise some taxes to meet the needs and demands of a growing state.

To do that, some Republican leaders are going to have to take on the business community — to recognize that what's best for businesses' bottom lines doesn't automatically translate into what's best for the people of Texas. The state's tax structure is clearly out of whack with the state's economy. Even if lawmakers continue to refuse to consider a state income tax, there's a need for a broad-based business tax to help carry the budget load along with property and sales taxes.

Unfortunately, for now, there's no sign of such effective leadership in Texas. So lawmakers might as well go home.
Leadership and the lack of it and the inability for them to make their campaign donors pay their fair share are why there was no deal. It's time for a change and the Republican Party and their leaders are unable to deliver it.


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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Adios, Well You Know The Rest

With a filibuster going on in the Senate and no calendar today for the House this special session is dead. The Red State has a post about, The reason why there won't be a 3rd Special Session. I think that's a good call. If Perry called another one now he might even get Republicans to start speaking out against him.

Harvey Kronberg from News 8, Making sense of school finance, gives us the "three impasses" to getting a deal done on school finance:
A key impasse is over the election date for school boards. The speaker believes that teachers’ groups dominate the low turnout school board elections in the spring and wants to have the elections in November when the GOP turnout machine is in full throttle. Critics, including many GOP legislators counter that slate cards, combined with lever-pulling Republicans, will simply replace current school boards elected by people who care enough about education to vote in the spring with evangelicals and right wing ideologues.

Well, according to the Texas Conservative Coalition, the typical November voter is an above median income white, with no kids at home or in school.

Another impasse. Under Robin Hood, a little more than three dozen wealthy school districts like Eanes and Highland Park in Dallas are shipping hundreds of millions of their taxpayers’ dollars to poorer school districts. Craddick is adamant that caps be placed on the amount of money those wealthy schools are required to export. While it may not be fair to the wealthy school district taxpayers to ship out so many dollars, it is also not a coincidence that those school districts are home to some of the Republican party's most prolific contributors.

A third impasse. Just about every legislator and most of the public want to see a real teacher pay raise. But like many Republican insiders, Craddick believes that the Supreme Court ruling due in the next few months will cost the state at least a couple of billion dollars. And he may be right. Rather than do a teacher pay raise, he wants to hold back those dollars to pay for likely court requirements.


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Monday, August 15, 2005

Make Time Tonight For This Meeting

Tomorrow night the Texas Democratic Women - Williamson County Chapter, will host John Stauber - candidate for State House district 20 and Mary Beth Harrell - candidate for Congress District 31 - at their meeting.

Here are the details from Gretchen Froehler:

TDW's meeting tomorrow night (Tuesday 16th) at the Round Rock Library (see link above for address) at 6:30 pm has turned out to be sorta special. Our own Jim Stauber and Mary Beth Harrell are both going to be there to give us pep talks and then, I hope, a sorta round table with the 2 of them leading. HOPEFULLY we will have some of our Precinct chairs there and any others who are interested.

Anyway, please all of you, pass the word that Mary Beth requested meeting with us -- she is a really neat lady!! I think it will be a fun evening with her and Jim both there!!


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A Few More Items

You'll Love This One
4 warring Republicans meet for routine bond approvals
A key difference between a prizefight and politics is that in boxing, the contestants shake hands before they start trying to flatten each other. In politics, they shake hands in the middle, too.

On Monday, four statewide leaders who have been publicly bashing one another for months came together in the same small room, greeted one another nicely and then all agreed for the first time in a long time.

Meeting as a committee to manage the state's money, Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, House Speaker Tom Craddick and Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn unanimously decided to issue short-term bonds to keep the state running. It took 10 minutes, and then the officers, Republicans all, retreated to their own corners.
Off The Kuff Has A Great Post On...
Strayhorn's strategy
Any casual glance at polling data would have suggested that this would be Carole Keeton Strayhorn's strategy for winning the Governorship.
The call came from a listener telling Carole Keeton Strayhorn he'd eagerly vote for her for governor in November 2006.

Strayhorn shot back Tuesday on Austin radio station KVET-FM: "November is great, but first I need you to vote on March 7. I want Republicans, Democrats, independents. All are welcome," Strayhorn said.

"And bring all your friends with you."

Strayhorn, the Republican state comptroller who is challenging GOP Gov. Rick Perry, has made few campaign forays since announcing her candidacy June 18, a tack that her office attributes to lawmakers remaining in special session to deal with school finance and tax issues.

But the former Austin mayor is well along in testing an unusual message: The March Republican primary is voters' only real chance to choose the next governor.

Her pitch asks voters to assume that the Democratic nominee will not prove to be a serious fall contender. Neither of the only announced Democratic candidates, former U.S. Rep. Chris Bell of Houston and educator Felix Alvarado of Fort Worth, has run statewide. And no Democrat has won statewide since 1994.
There's many reasons why this is an unlikely strategy, starting with the fact that "bringing new voters into the process" has a pretty unblemished record for being a loser. Another one is that most Democrats I know think that their best shot at winning next November will be against Rick Perry. Finally, as the article notes, there will be some high profile Democratic primaries on the ballot, in places like Travis County and CD28 in the Valley, all of which will contribute to keeping the flock in the fold.

It's not like Strayhorn has many options, of course. Given the lengths the State GOP went through to keep KBH out of the Governor's race, CKS can count on one hand the number of endorsements she's likely to get, and she'll have fingers to spare. Her policy positions, from toll roads to CHIP to gambling, are generally at odds with standard GOP dogma. What else is she gonna do?
Republican Legislators Are Struggling To Explain Back Home
Excuses don't fly with constituents
Rep. Bob Hunter, with a perpetual smile on his doughboy face, is known as an eternal optimist. But there was little sugarcoating when he talked to his own Abilene Rotary Club recently about school finance




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Make Time Tomorrow For This Meeting

Tomorrow night the Texas Democratic Women - Williamson County Chapter, will host John Stauber - candidate for State House district 20 and Mary Beth Harrell - candidate for Congress District 31 - at their meeting.

Here are the details from Gretchen Froehler:

TDW's meeting tomorrow night (Tuesday 16th) at the Round Rock Library (see link above for address) at 6:30 pm has turned out to be sorta special. Our own Jim Stauber and Mary Beth Harrell are both going to be there to give us pep talks and then, I hope, a sorta round table with the 2 of them leading. HOPEFULLY we will have some of our Precinct chairs there and any others who are interested.

Anyway, please all of you, pass the word that Mary Beth requested meeting with us -- she is a really neat lady!! I think it will be a fun evening with her and Jim both there!!




...Continue Reading!
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