Monday, October 31, 2005

Random News

This is a pretty horrible statistic, 16% of Texas homes at risk of going hungry:
A higher percentage of households in Texas were at risk of going hungry over the past three years than in any other state, according to data released Friday by the U.S. Agriculture Department.
What in the world are our state leaders doing about that? In a state of 22 million people that's over 3 million people going hungry. There is no doubt this should not be happening in Texas!

Congressman John Carter Shopping Death, PATRIOT ACT DEVELOPING DECIDEDLY UN-AMERICAN TILT:
Rep. Carter's measure would allow prosecutors to empanel a second jury and argue for death if at least one person on the original jury voted for the death penalty. Thus, an 11-1 vote recommending life in prison instead of death could be rejected in order to empanel another jury to give the prosecutor one more chance to win a death sentence. This measure would do little to actually help fight terrorism. Yet it would undermine a feature that strengthens U.S. jurisprudence and makes our system an international model.

Under U.S. law, prosecutors must prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt; and federal juries must reach unanimous consensus on imposing the death penalty. If some jurors object to imposing death, it means the case for death wasn't demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt. After all, only jurors who support the death penalty are allowed to judge death cases.
And this guy was a judge before he went to Congress? Click here to make sure he's not in Congress anymore either. More on this from the Washington Post, Measure Would Alter Federal Death Penalty System. You have to love this quote:
Carter spokeswoman Gretchen Hamel said the proposals are important because "the congressman believes capital punishment is a deterrent for all kinds of crimes, including terrorism."
I wouldn't steal any office supplies if I worked in that office.

Two on the latest in the Commissioners Court vs. Gary Griffin.

Constable's staff reduced by eight deputies

County mental health future uncertain


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Why Are Politicians In Texas So Afraid To Openly And Honestly Debate A State Income Tax?

I want to do something here that every Republican and most Democrats are afraid of doing, talk about a state income tax. I am going to point out some articles that have appeared over the past few weeks. These articles have brought up the subject but remember, by and large, despite these articles, other than state Sen. Eliot Shapleigh and state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, nobody else, of either party, will speak about a state income tax in public. I know, Republicans will speak out against it anytime, anywhere. They will, but not in an honest debate with a proponent. They will be quoted in a newspaper article or in a speech but that's about it. They will say they're against it or say that it just won't pass. They won't say specifically what's wrong with it. In either case if they're against it or in the "it-won't-pass" crowd they just leave it at that. It's like they're scared to talk about an income tax. I think the reason Republicans are scared to talk about it is because they don't want to have to say why they're against a tax that is progressive, treats everyone the same, no matter how much money they earn, and could bring down property taxes by as much as 90%, and will put more money into our public schools. That's why I want to know why every elected representative, excluding two, in this state are against or won't speak out in favor of those things?

For Democrats it's a perceived fear of political suicide that is keeping them from talking about and income tax and I hope to point out that even that fear is coming to an end. The Republicans also fear that if people hear about and understand how an income tax would work the public may like it and be for it. As I mentioned above it's the progressive and fair part of an income tax that Republicans have a problem with. A progressive tax means, the more you earn the, the higher your tax rate. Does that sound fair? Well someone once said, "To whom much is given, much is expected" (Luke 12:48), and how could a Republican argue with that? We all know that Republicans are against that because making the tax structure fair in Texas means the wealthy will have to pay more.

I'll show you how a typical appearance by Sen. Shapleigh is covered in the media with an article that appeared two weeks ago in the Star-Telegram, Lawmaker urges state income tax. The article was about some appearances Sen. Shapleigh made in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. He makes his case which is basically this:
Shapleigh said an income tax would reduce property taxes 90 percent because the state constitution requires that two-thirds of any income tax go into a property tax reduction.

He argued that would be a much fairer system than relying on sales and property taxes, which, he said, force people with low incomes to pay more in taxes over a year.
What usually follows is a long line of Republicans, right-wing think tank hacks and political analysts telling us why an income tax won't pass. They usually won't attack the substance of what Sen. Shapleigh says. (Political analysts are exempt from this criticism because that is what they do). In this case as in others we also get misinformation. I don't think Sen. Shapleigh feels he needs to answer the misinformation when it is supplied by the think tank hacks but when it comes from other elected officials he must and that is what happens in this LTE from Sen. Shapleigh, The case for a state income tax. I would encourage everyone to read his rebuttal to the misleading information put out by the Governor's and Speaker's office. Here is how he wraps it up:
We must continually fact-check myths about the state income tax, especially falsehoods perpetuated by those who benefit most from the current tax structure. If the governor told any group in the state that he had a plan to lower school property taxes 90 percent and increase education funding for schools so that they can hire motivated and certified teachers teaching a rigorous curriculum in state-of-the-art classrooms, and that his plan also would deliver net tax cuts to 70 percent of Texans, that governor would be the most popular in state history.

A state income tax does have popular support, with 55 percent of respondents showing support in a poll by the governor's own pollsters, Baselice & Associates.

It's time to openly and honestly discuss a state income tax for the future of our state and children.
The last line is the main point that needs to be made about a state income tax. Let's debate it, openly and honestly. But the political analysts are right too, the politicians in this state don't want to debate it because they perceive it to be a sure loser and/or political suicide. But is it political suicide and what do the people think? Well as Sen. Shapleigh pointed out, in the governor's own poll, 55% of the people said they are for it, Perry Pounded in the Polls:
The most intriguing responses in the Baselice poll came on revenue questions. Fully 69% oppose an increase in the sales tax rate – part of virtually every plan under consideration by the Lege – but 55% said they would support a "statewide education flat tax on income" dedicated to public education and deductible from federal income taxes.
And as Sen. Shapleigh says:
… most Texans are "ahead of the politicians" and favor an income tax when the benefits are explained to them.
I understand that Sen. Shapleigh and Rep. Rodriguez are doing this because they are in safe districts but that poll obviously shows that because of the fiscal mess we are in and with property taxes so out of control the people are willing to look at all the options, including a state income tax. But not the governor and John Sharp. It's back to the same old song and dance, business taxes, and it it ain't gonna work. It's been tried before - the last three legislative sessions - and it'll fail again. This is insanity defined - trying the same thing over and over and expecting different results. I guess what I hope is that this will start to signal to Democrats, or anyone else who might be for this, that it's not political suicide to talk about a personal income tax anymore. Especially with the way this state's tax structure is, and everything should truly be on the table including a state income tax. Am I starting to sound redundant, good.

For another back-and-forth on a Sen. Shapleigh appearance you can check out these two posts from The Jeffersonian, Oh How I Love Roddy Stinson and More Stinson. These two posts refer back to when Sen. Shapleigh made an appearance in San Antonio and how a right-wing San Antonio Express News columnist reacted to it. He first attacked the messenger and then when called on not saying anything about why an income tax is bad, by the readers of the paper, he went on to use the it will never pass defense, which is still a dodge.

The next sign that the income tax is not political suicide can be found here. Check out this quote from over the weekend from this article in the Houston Chronicle:
"Rather than have them tax my unrealized capital gains," he says, "I'd rather have them tax my income. Then the tax would be based on what I could actually pay."
That's from ".. a Republican precinct chairman and a skilled engineer who retired as a high-level executive with one of the big oil companies." This is another sign of how bad things have gotten in this state for the property tax. Even Republican precinct chair's can be swayed to vote for a state income tax.


A couple of more items.

Here is another article from today on Sen. Shapleigh's appearance in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, Is a state levy on income a good idea? This article starts out talking about whether a state income tax is a good idea or not. But quickly devolves into arguing about Sen. Shapliegh's other idea of putting more money into education.

Check out Sen. Shapleigh's web site for more.

And also Texans for Tax Relief to see how an income tax may work for you.


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Sunday, October 30, 2005

Mary Beth Harrell to speak at November WCDP EC meeting

Congressional candidate Mary Beth Harrell will speak at the monthly meeting of the Williamson County Democratic Party Executive Committee on Thursday, November 10, at the District 2 Courtroom in the Williamson County Cedar Park Annex, 350 Discovery Blvd. in Cedar Park. The Democratic social at 6:15 PM includes a meal for those making a $10 donation. The executive committee meeting begins at 7:15 PM and is free and open to any voter who would like to help elect Democratic candidates in Williamson County.


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Friday, October 28, 2005

An Excellent Argument Against Proposition 9

It's the unaccountability stupid!

Toll road backers' math doesn't add up:
We need to force the state to step back and look at this toll road mess that it created. This can be done by voters getting their state legislators to put a hold on any toll roads until the voters get their say.



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Thursday, October 27, 2005

What The Texas House of Representatives Will Be Doing This Interim

I've been meaning to post on this for a while and have finally gotten around to it. Last week Speaker Craddick released his agenda for the interim, Craddick issues interim agenda:
School vouchers, state spending limits, business taxes, election fraud, eminent domain, property taxes, stem-cell research.
As the subtitle of the article states this is a pretty good guide to what will be the next regular sessions agenda - that is if the Republicans are still have a majority. Full list here (.pdf).

I think the best part of this whole "interim charge" is the Speaker and his vendetta against who he perceives killed the school finance/property tax reform this year. Harvey Kronberg does the best job of describing this, Craddick: Limit local government from hiring lobbyists:
The Legislature dances to its own tune. Anyone that believes its primary concern is the citizens of Texas simply has not been paying attention. Its fundamental concern is to keep happy a simple majority of 600,000 Republican primary voters in a state of more than 22 million citizens.

So, some in leadership propose eliminating local control by prohibiting every other duly elected and appointed body in the state from using tax dollars to hire lobbyists to defend themselves from the Legislature. Those pesky lobbyists are apparently too effective in advocating on behalf of the other government entities.

When you can't win the argument out front, simply prevent the other side from speaking.

City councils, commissioners courts and school boards are much closer to the people than is the Legislature. Like the Legislature, these bodies have been vested with their authority by citizens voting in elections.

Were some of the proposals under consideration to pass, groups like insurance and homebuilders could continue to spend millions on lobbyists to protect and enhance their profits while school boards and city councils could spend nothing to represent and defend their voters.

Only about one in four Texans think the Legislature is doing a good job. No wonder some lawmakers want to shut down the argument.
Isn't it ironic when the Republicans want to blame the lobbyists for their loss?

More Analysis here:
Panel will re-examine slots
Legislature off, but watch the committees
Panel to examine financial aid
Craddick announces interim studies, via Texas ACLU
he Speaker of the House has released his list of interim charges to the House committees., via Texas District and County Attorney's Association (TDCAA).
Last two links via Grits For Breakfast


Some of my favorites that weren't mentioned previously:

  • Civil Practices(#5)Evaluate the liability risk associated with privatization of child welfare services and assess the benefit of limiting civil liability for noneconomic damages against a non-profit organization involved in substitute care or case management services. More Privatization
  • County Affairs(#2)Consider whether clarification or revision is needed to state statutes related to dormancy of office provisions and the abolition of local Constitutional offices. Attention John Bradley
  • Local Government Ways And Means(#4)Study the impact of unfunded mandates by state and federal governments on cities. That should be interesting in light of their education plans
  • Transportation(#3)Examine the transportation planning and coordination of land use, including planning for large transportation corridors. Large transportation corridors? Whatever could they be talking about?




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Semantics: Democrat Or Democratic?

I came across this post in my travels through the blogosphere, 'Democrat' Vs. 'Democratic' - Republicans Manipulate Language, Media & Democrats Silent. I'm posting this not to be overly serious about this but just to point out some of the "little things" that have been done in the language, or framing, department by Republicans over the years:
There are a number of reasons rightwingers prefer to use 'Democrat' (as in "Democrat Party"): for one, the word ends in "RAT." And this isn't a rare occurrence; all Republicans are trained to say it. You'll never hear a Republican or rightwinger say Democratic Party, not even faux-moderates like John McCain.

So wouldn't it be nice to have a member of the press confront one of these Republicans with the following question:b>"Excuse me, ____ , did you just say the "Democrat Party," and if so why did you intentionally neglect to say Democratic Party?"

A big problem for Democrats is that they fail to appreciate the profound effect of these subtle word games. Luntzian linguistic tricks are a central part of the rightwing attack machine, and it's disturbing that Democrats and Pre$$titutes continue to let them slide.
I believe this explains best which word should be used, democrat/democratic:
Certain Republican members of Congress have played the childish game in recent years of referring to the opposition as the "“Democrat Party," hoping to imply that Democrats are not truly democratic. They succeed only in making themselves sound ignorant, and so will you if you imitate them. The name is "“Democratic Party."
So it's always Democratic when referring to the party, as in Williamson County Democratic Party. The reference above comes from here, Common Errors in English (It looks like an excellent reference), just click on List of Errors.

You can find more of the discussion here, Democrat vs. Democratic.


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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Today In School Finance

John Sharp, as OffTheKuff calls it, and his Committee Of One has only been meeting with editorial boards so far. Today he is in the Houston Chronicle, Chairman sees fix for school funding. What all this boils down to is...politics, what a shocker. The gist of this whole "task force" is that Gov. Perry appointed a Democrat to come up with a plan to raise taxes on businesses. Maybe he just couldn't find it in him to do it? In the article Sharp admits that property taxes can be lowered "...by trading new state taxes fro local property tax cuts". That's a tax shift from property tax payers to businesses. Didn't we just have 5 sessions over the last several years trying to do just that? Once again there is no mention of the part of the ruling on the need for more money to be put into schools. It is irresponsible for the governor and this task force not to be looking at how to put more money into education. That was the other part of Judge Dietz's ruling or does Gov. Perry already know that his judges are going to shoot down that part of the ruling? The two questions that needs to be answered by this task force are, (1) Who is going to pay more so that property taxes will be lowered, and (2) what form will they take?

While were on the topic of schools and task forces it appears that the "65% Ruse" task force still doesn't have a definition, you have to love this headline, Educators wrestle with how to count 65 percent. Rep. Grusendorf gives the task force some guidance though:
"Honestly, really, it should be a no-brainer," House Public Education Chairman Kent Grusendorf, R-Arlington and a member of Neeley's 65 percent task force committee, said of the rule
But what does he know he's been trying to pass an education reform bill for 3 years now? This article wraps up by once again having a right-winger sum up what's wrong with school financing in Texas:
But Peggy Venable of Americans for Prosperity warned that threats of schools cutting counselors and nurses "are scare tactics." School administrators should be cutting the education bureaucracy, she said.
Remember the goal is to pitting teachers vs. administrators to break the union, she's just sticking to the plan.

At least the state is continuing to fund the schools while this game goes on, School payments made; ruling pending
October payments for school districts were sent out by the state on Tuesday, nearly a month after the Oct. 1 deadline set by a state judge to cut off payments if Texas' school finance system was not fixed by the Legislature.




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National Media Turns to Mary Beth Harrell, Not John Carter

When the national media wanted a straightforward opinion about a judge at the center of the Tom DeLay scandal, they turned to local leader Mary Beth Harrell, not DeLay lieutenant John Carter. Retired Bell County judge set to decide DeLay motion:
Colleagues say the judge is too seasoned and independent to bow to the political pressure that might come from a high-profile case like DeLay’s.

“He’s not inclined to put up with a lot of courtroom theatrics because he’s heard it all. I’ve never known him to be much of a political animal,” said Mary Harrell, a Killeen criminal defense attorney.

Since his 1988 retirement, Duncan took senior judge status, which means he serves as a visiting judge in courts around the state. Since he doesn’t have to run for election, he “doesn’t have an ax to grind politically,” Harrell said.




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Jockeying In HD 48

Greg's Opinion has a great post on the latest since Baxter announced he is resigning, HD48 Special Election Flash. There is some Democratic maneuvering but there is also the timing of this and the timing of coming(?) special election that makes this a little fishy:
One tangential thought that bears some reflection here ... why is Todd Baxter's resignation setting off what seems like a speedy, quick call for a Special Election when there's no sign of a legislative session between now and 2007? I mean, the folks in Houston's HD143 have been without a State Rep since, what? ... April or thereabouts. And that was when Rick Perry knew darned well he'd be calling a special session.
A quick special election would tend to help out the person with the most money on hand. Like Ben Bentzin, GOP PLAYS GAMES WITH ELECTION DATES TO GIVE EXTREMIST A HEAD START:
Bentzin is a Dellionaire who supports taking money out of public education to fund private-school vouchers at a time when figuring out how to finance public education is the top issue facing the Legislature.
Isn't that interesting?


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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Help "No Nonsense In November" in Williamson County



We have friends all over the state and Williamson County is certainly no different. We have discovered that many of our friends work during the week in Travis County and may be better suited for weekend projects that actually keep them in Williamson County. We have nearly 100 volunteers who have signed up to Volunteer in Williamson County and you are one of them.

We have a particular outreach project that involves leafletting key areas in the Cedar Park and Round Rock areas. Our lead volunteer on this effort is Mary Wells who, along with another good group is ready to shake things up in Williamson County. Even if all you have is two hours to give, we have a way for you to volunteer.

This is a special appeal to please call Mary and take a particular leafletting assignment. Our goal is to make sure voters understand that ALL KINDS of families are affected by this horrible language, not just gay families.

Mary Wells: 512- 259-4598

Thank you for all that you are doing!


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Krusee VS. Costello On Proposition 9

Sal Costello at The Muckraker has the link to the News 8 story and video on the Proposition 9 debate between himself and Rep. Mike Krusee. Rep. Krusee says that it's better to have unaccountable RMA board members than accountable RMA board members. Here is his case:
"Whether it passes or doesn't pass, doesn't mean that roads will be built or not be built. All that it means is, if it passes, the roads that we build will be cheaper. If it doesn't, the roads may cost more," he [Rep. Krusee] said.
You see? The only reason to do this is to make the roads cheaper. Well not the tolls they'll still cost same it's just that the interest you pay on the debt will be less. Hang on I thought that was one of the reasons to build toll roads is so that we didn't have to finance our roads anymore? The tolls would pay for future roads. Also notice the wording first he says, "...will be built cheaper" and then changes his tune in the next sentence to "...may cost more". Well which is it? But anyway back to the corrupt, unaccountable, RMA board members making our roads cheaper. I would rather have people on these boards for shorter terms and know they can be gone in two years than have people on their for six-years, be unaccountable and be lining their pockets in the mean time. To me that makes the cost about even. What we gain in stability we give up in corruption and vice versa. Here is what Sal had to say:
"The comptroller came out with this report and showed that the Regional Mobility Authorities create double taxation without accountability. And that these folks are giving no-bid contracts to themselves and their friends. They shouldn't exist, let alone get six-year terms," [Sal] Costello said.
That's about right. As I stated before I would feel much better about four-year terms than six-year terms but in reality if a road has public buy-in and its what the people want there will be no problem getting financing for it. Rep. Krusee ends with an childish either way I get my toll roads statement:
"It doesn't matter if this thing passes or not. It's not going to do anything about toll roads," he said.
Then why did you propose it? I recommend watching the video because the contempt he shows doesn't come out in print.


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Texas Media Bias

I woke up early this morning thinking about why none of the print media in this state, to use one of the President's new word, had opined yet about Sen. Hutchison for her perjury flip-flop over the weekend. As if on cue the print media in this state has finally begun to opine about her remarks, and today, finally, two of them are on the case. Now this may seem a little picky but the reason this came to mind was in relation to the way the media jumped on Chris Bell a couple of weeks ago when he made a minor mistake, that was quickly corrected, in his "Don't Mess With Ethics" speech. The media focused almost exclusively on the mistake and gave very little coverage to the substance of the speech. In contrast the print media in this state has taken it's sweet time in calling out Sen. Hutchison for her outrageous remarks on national TV.

It lead me to think about the treatment of Democrats in general in this state and why the media has focused very little on the governor's reactive approach to solving his self-proclaimed, number one priority - school finance/property tax reform. It's been over a month now since he appointed John Sharp to head a task force - to come up with yet another "broad-based business tax" solution to our problem - and nobody else has been named to join him. Chris Bell is pointing this out but where is the print media in this state on this? As the Bell campaign points out the governor has appointed quite a few people since announcing this task force:
Since Rick Perry has named John Sharp to the school tax panel, he's made a ton of other appointments:

* He'’s appointed 7 members to the Texas State Board of Public Accountancy.

* He'’s appointed 5 people to the Texas Medical Board.

* He'’s appointed 2 people to the Texas Commission of Licensing and Regulation.

* And he'’s appointed people to the Texas Growth Fund Board of Directors, the 11th Court of Appeals, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, the Texas Small Business Industrial Development Corporation, and the Texas Economic Development Corporation.

Apparently, he'd rather play games on school finance than take the lead.
Gov. Perry is purportedly waiting for the court to rule before moving ahead, that's reactionary at it's best or worst depending on your point of view. As I pointed out Sunday, in the Statesman article, no Democrats were interviewed or quoted for that article.

One other thing I would like to point out is that a couple of years ago one of the best political columnists in the state, Dave McNeely, retired from the Statesman. At the time I didn't think much of it but soon after he left I came to miss his writing. But several months back I became aware of writings again. I'm not sure if he always planned on doing this or he just couldn't stand not being involved anymore, but I am glad he's back. Here is his latest, Chris Bell may tap into a nerve on ethics, Delay. He can be found weekly in the Abilene Reporter-News (Registration required, go to BugMeNot for login).

The reason this came to mind, and woke me this morning, is what I find to be a bias in the media in Texas towards the right/Republicans. It looks like a purposeful plan to minimize the negative and maximize the positive when it comes to Republicans and maximize the negative and minimize the positive when it comes to the Democrats. It also manifests itself in just a total omission of the Democratic point of view from the stories published in the print media in Texas. I believe this is one of the major hurdles Democrats in Texas must overcome and is one of the reasons this blog was started.


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Monday, October 24, 2005

Anybody Want To Host A National Organizing Kickoff For The DNC 50 State Strategy?

To find out how go here, National Organizing Kickoff. From that link you can setup an event or find one in your area. If you set one up feel free to email me an email to let me know and I can post the information here.


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Did Kay Bailey Hutchison Jump The Shark Yesterday?

If you're not familiar with the term you can find out all about it here, jumptheshark.com. It refers to a point in a TV series when that show, but in this case we will apply it to a politician, has reached it's climax and there's nowhere to go but down. That's what came to mind when I read this, What Happened to the Party of Lincoln?:
My question for today is: Why are contemporary Republicans so full of shit? And a follow-up...How did the party of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and General Eisenhower get taken over by such lying, thieving, self-serving scoundrels?
Good questions.

Here is Barbar Radnofsky's statement on what Sen. Hutchison said, Radnofsky to Hutchison: Resign if you tolerate perjury:
Texas Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Barbara Ann Radnofsky called on her Republican opponent to resign if she tolerates perjury. “No elected official should tolerate or excuse perjury. I call on Kay Bailey Hutchison to renounce perjury. She should resign if she tolerates it,” Radnofsky said.

On October 23, Kay Bailey Hutchison said in televised comments concerning the Plame investigation that, “I certainly hope that if there is going to be an indictment that says something happened, that it is an indictment on a crime and not some perjury technicality where they couldn’t indict on the crime…”
More on her statement from Dailykos.


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Early Voting Starts Today

Here's all the Ealy Voting Information you need for Williamson County.



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Ben Wear On Proposition 9

Here is his article from today, Term limits of unendearment on Nov. 8 ballot. It appears he's trying to keep from taking a position on this proposition. He's laying out the arguments for and against. But near the end of the article he makes a case for the six-year terms:
County commissioners and the governor appoint the board members. Given the high-profile and controversial nature of toll roads, it's unlikely that board members are going to take actions that their overseers violently oppose. And if any of them do, it's a safe bet their six-year term would get shorter in a real hurry.
The only problem with this argument is that in a county like, say, Williamson and in Texas for that matter without, at least at this time, a strong opposition party the board members, nor the elected officials, are fearful of being unseated and therefore that six-year term just insures their unaccountability and their continued corruption.



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They Should Tell The Whole Story

This editorial, A poor lesson plan, in the Star-Telegram today does a good job of pointing out what a bad idea Perry's "65% Ruse" executive order is and the fact that it's probably not even legally binding. But the one thing it does a bad job of is pointing out who is responsible for this number being "picked" by Gov. Perry. If you've read this blog before you know what I'm talking about but if not you can check here to see what I mean. It's an idea brought to the consciousness of our governor by some right-wing, pro-voucher Republicans/conservatives like Grover Norquist. So for the writers of this editorial to leave out that part of the story is really negligent.



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Sunday, October 23, 2005

Mental Health Unit/Constable Wrap-Up

This is hilarious. Constable Gary Griffin gives commissioner Lisa Birkman what she wants and now she's mad about that but Mr. Griffin isn't taking it sitting down. Here is the story from the Hill Country News, Constable abandons mental health:
A press release issued by the county accused Griffin of "“abandoning this part of his duties"” and that his refusal to handle mental health "“created a crisis."

"“It's not a crisis,"” Griffin countered. "“Any peace officer can do what I can do - that's what they said in meetings. The sheriff's office has 80 officers trained in mental health, ready to go. Why would there be a crisis? And doesn't it make financial sense?"

Griffin stated his office has decided to focus on complying with a request by two commissioners that his deputies focus on warrants and civil process, their "constitutional duties,"” as identified by Lisa Birkman, Precinct 1 commissioner.
If you haven't had enough of this story here's more from the Taylor Daily Press, Sheriff gets mental health duties, its got one more great quote from Mr. Griffin:
"“It is small-town politics run amok,"” he said.
Yessir, that's a good quote but you got one thing wrong. Williamson County is not small-town anymore, it's big money now. This was a power play to transfer that money from the Precinct 1 constsables office to the sherrif's office and Mr. Griffin was, unfortunately, got caught in the middle.


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It's Karen Felthauser for District 52

The Statesman did an article today, Fed up, pro-education candidates step up, on the fact that there are quite a few educators, already, running for the legislature in 2006. Right off the top I have to say I had a couple of problems with this story, some might say they are minor, and I will leave that up to the readers of this blog. First problem they got Karen Felthauser's name wrong, they listed her first name as Kelly.(Statesman has corrected this in print, will link when I find correction online) -- (here is the link) Second, they interviewed none of the Democratic educators that are running and no Democrats in general.

That said, it does make a few good points like this one:
All this is more than name-calling. Control of the education agenda in the Legislature affects how much money schools have -- and who is going to pay more taxes as a result. The state ranks near the bottom nationally in high-school graduation rates and Scholastic Assessment Test scores, and it's in the bottom 50 percent in teacher pay and per-student spending. School districts are plagued by reports of cheating on standardized tests and concealing dropout rates, among other governance issues.

Long term, the health of the state economy rides on the quality of public education. The friction between legislators and educators raises questions about the chances for reaching consensus on the way forward.
Those are pretty bad statistics and that last paragraph makes a point I've made many times, that a good education for all our children is the best economic development project this state will ever have, better than another mall, that's for sure. They also do a good job of pointing out how the legislature focused on the property tax part of Judge Dietz's ruling and completely ignored the inadequate funding part of the ruling:
Legislative leaders entered 2005 trying to comply with the part of Dietz's ruling that told the school finance system to rely less on property taxes.

But they largely ignored his calls for huge increases in state funding, instead offering a smaller funding boost...
Next we get some fine words from Rep. Bill Keffer:
Rep. Bill Keffer, a Dallas Republican on the House committee, says he tuned out education lobbyists who said they would rather have no funding increase than what the House was offering. "After I heard about the 10th person say that, it almost became pointless for those folks to come testify before the committee, as far as I was concerned personally, because I didn't feel like they were participating in the process in good faith," he says.
That attitude really shows Rep. Keffer's good faith attitude. Remember Rep. Keffer you work for us, not the other way around. We don't care if you get tired of hearing the same thing over and over again, that's your job. The other thing he fails to realize is that the current system with no more funding is much better than the system they proposed with no more money. He then shows the utter contempt he has for teachers by referring to education groups as luddites:
"I imagine someone sitting around, hoisting a mug of ale after busting the printing press thinking, 'Well, we took care of that, didn't we?' " he says. "Well, that lasted for however long it lasted, but it didn't stop progress."
I don't think you can compare the two, I mean does he really believe the teachers are trying to destroy education by asking for more money to be put into the system? Well surely Rep. Kent Grusendorf will straighten this all out:
House Public Education Committee Chairman Kent Grusendorf, R-Arlington, says not all educators opposed the plan. House members behind the plan included former teachers Dianne Delisi and Glenda Dawson, former principal Martha Wong and Rob Eissler, a former school board member.
Wow, that really proves the point 4 former teachers, all Republicans were behind the house plan. Gee, with that kind of bipartisan support it's really amazing that it failed. But if that wasn't enough the real funny part comes next:
At least one of the educators now seeking a House seat says he, too, found the leadership plan "acceptable."

Republican Kelly Hancock has been on the Birdville school board near Fort Worth for 13 years; he also owns a chemical distribution company.

"I'm a businessman, strong conservative, that happened to be involved in education for 13 years," says Hancock, who is running for a seat being vacated by Bob Griggs, R-North Richland Hills.
Once again as you read this part of the article it's really amazing that with all these conservatives and Republicans for this plan that it failed. This goes back to the Republicans plan for the upcoming election. Like I showed from my post on the 65% rule they are going to target moderate Republicans in the primary so they can get more radical, pro-voucher Republicans elected to the legislature.

One other interesting this it points out is the group No Texas Teacher Left Behind, they seem to be doing some good work.


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Saturday, October 22, 2005

Good Statesman Editorial Today On DeLay

It's about how the hypocrisy, no surprise there, of the plan DeLay and his lawyer have of trying to get a new judge in the case, Tom DeLay can't have it both ways
DeLay wants the courts to move his trial from Travis County because of its history of supporting Democratic candidates; he complains that Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, a Democrat, is prosecuting him for partisan reasons; and he wants state District Judge Bob Perkins of Austin, a Democrat who is hearing the case, to turn the case over to some other judge.

...

As for removing Perkins, the public should consider whether the court system ought to start dismissing every judge accused of partisan bias, even in the absence of any evidence of it.

Perkins has made some campaign contributions to various Democratic causes and candidates, the largest apparently being $1,000 to the Travis County Democratic Party. But such contributions are not exceptional among Texas judges, who run for office as party candidates.

Despite that, judges are expected to apply the law impartially, even (especially) to members of the other political party. If they don't, their rulings are subject to judicial appeal and their jobs to official discipline.

Nevertheless, DeLay argues that, given the political nature of his alleged crime of conspiring to launder political campaign donations, Perkins should not preside over his case. Perkins has referred the request to an administrative judge, B.B. Shraub, a Seguin Republican who was re-appointed to that post by another Republican, Gov. Rick Perry, in 2002.

...

DeLay wants it both ways: bring partisan warfare to the court, then complain there's partisan warfare in the court. The courts should not allow it to happen.
This is the same kind of ploy that Mr. DeGuerin used to get Kay Bailey Hutchison off and it shouldn't surprise anyone that he's going to the well again.


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Friday, October 21, 2005

Gary Griffin, Constable Precinct 1, Cedes Control Of Mental Health Unit

Two stories on this one from News 8, Mental health shuffle (with video) and the Statesman, Williamson makes emergency ruling on mental health care.

From my earlier writings on this it seemed to me that this was probably an inevitability and that Mr. Griffin, I'm assuming, thought so as well. No matter how good of a job he was doing it didn't matter to the majority of the commissioners. All I can do is reiterate what I said before, no one had a bad thing to say about how Mr. Griffin handled the mental health duties. This was some kind of power struggle and let's just hope that the sheriff's office can provide the same kind of service.




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Baxter's Out, An Opportunity In Travis County

Our neighbor to the south is going to have an open seat come November 1st. Here is the Statesman article on this, Baxter to give up his House seat Nov. 1. The Burnt Orange Report has Rep. Baxter's statement linked. Baxter used the classic, "...spending more time with my family" excuse. This, obviously, is politics pure and simple and he was told/ordered/forced out by his party. He was a sure loser in 2006 with his DeLay taint. Here is the key paragraph from the Statesman article about the qualifications of the Republicans preferred successor:
The special election could play to Bentzin's advantage by disrupting the fundraising schedules of the Democrats, who were planning on running in the March primary and November general election. Bentzin can pour his own money into a special election -- as he did when he ran for office in 2002 -- and still have plenty to spend in November.
Ah yes, he's got his own money. That's the best asset for any Republican candidate. Will any other Republican in Travis County run for this seat with a candidate with that kind of resume on his side?

Here are the websites for the Democrats running for this seat:

Andy Brown

Donna Howard


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Thursday, October 20, 2005

Comments And Pictures From Last Week's Events In Williamson County

Comments and pictures by Theresa Cooper

From Mary Beth Harrell's Announcement

Making Her Case
Mary Beth Harrell with WCDP Chair Jimmy Rocha

The crowd was enthusiastically supportive of Harrell, coming to their feet in applause several times as she spoke about issues of concern to all Texans – health insurance premiums and co-payments that are not being eased at all by misguided TORT reform, the price of gas and no apparent commitment from those in charge to actually DO anything about it, the crippling War in Iraq and there not being any discernable plan for getting out, among other issues. Harrell spoke positively and reassuringly that America’s situation can be changed once we rid government of corporate and political cronyism and put people like herself who hold dear the idals of Integrity, Accountability, and Faith in America’s Future back in Washington!! There was also plenty of time allowed to talk one on one with Harrell who thoroughly enjoys speaking to constituents about what’s of most concern to them. It was a great kickoff to what will surely prove to be a positive, aggressive, and ultimately victorious campaign for Mary Beth Harrell and for U.S. Congressional District 31!!


From Saturday's Fundraiser

Jim Coronado, Candidate for the 3rd Court of Appeals Auctions an Item

The WCDP Blind Auction Fall Fundraiser, “Ready to WIN in ‘06”, was a rousing success! In all, 6 candidates of great interest to Williamson County/Central Texas spoke, including Barbara Ann Radnofsky, Mina Brees, Jim Coronado, Bree Buchannon, Karen Felthauser, and Jim Stauber. All were enthusiastically received by the large crowd in attendance. The dinner of home-cooked roast beef, mashed potatoes, green beans, rolls, and banana pudding dessert was repeatedly referred to as simply delicious. The crowd quickly warmed up to the new twist on auctioning items and had fun listening to teasers and checking their programs to guess which ‘blind’ item was up for bid. At the end of the evening, the event had garnered rave reviews and WCDP had a healthy increase of funds. A good time was had by all!!


Pictures and comments from Barbara Ann Radnofsky's visit Saturday at her blog, be sure and scroll down to see all the pictures.





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The Insanity Of The 65 % Rule Is Starting To Show

It's the classic conservative ruse. As any marketer would say, "one of the first things we need to sell this product is a catchy name". And in this case it's "The 65% Rule" or what I will from here on out call "The 65% Ruse". But as I showed earlier this year "The 65% Ruse" is nothing more than a plan to bust the teacher's union and bring school vouchers into full bloom in Texas. It has absolutely nothing to do with improving education in Texas. Just like everything else conservatives do their goal is to take your tax money and give it to corporations.

Yesterday Gov. Perry's education task force held it's first meeting. But before the task force even got underway the head of the task force's executive assistant, sent out an email with some information for the task force members to look over. No surprise that it directed them to of our old friend and CEO of Overstock.com Patrick Byrne's website, First Class Education:
The state education commissioner's office suggested last week that educators crafting a controversial new rule for classroom spending consult the Web site of a political group that quietly promotes private-school vouchers and creating chasms between teachers and administrators.
Wonderful, so now that the governor's corporate mandated strategy has been forced on the state we've got nothing but smooth sailing ahead. Not exactly. This article, School formula criticized from today's Dallas Morning News tells us all we need to know about what a ruse this plan already is in the first paragraph:
A rule that requires 65 percent of a school district's spending to go directly into the classroom sounds good, but the formulas being considered could allow districts to reach that goal by pouring more money into their football programs, education officials said Wednesday.
Yes it sounds good. Maybe some people can agree on that but like so many other things our current state leaders try it's the implementation that's the problem. The main problem the task force is having is defining what classroom spending is. So what does and doesn't constitute classroom spending?
Under the federal accounting system, classroom spending includes such things as the salaries of teachers and teacher aides, supplies, materials and regular, special and vocational education programs, as well as extracurricular activities.

Excluded are libraries, computer labs, guidance counselors, security, transportation and any administration.
More football coaches and less computer labs, that's just what I thought would fix the problems with education in Texas. Mrs. Neeley admitted yesterday that defining classroom spending is key:
Texas Education Commissioner Shirley Neeley, kicking off the task force meeting, said part of the challenge would be reaching a common, workable definition for what constituted classroom spending. And, she said, one formula might not work for everybody, especially in a state as large as Texas with more than 1,000 diverse school districts.

But the idea itself, she said, was a goal that everyone could rally behind.

"This is a golden opportunity," Dr. Neeley said.
It seems to me like she's saying, "Well, the way it's currently defined is bad for Texas but if we can define it the way we like then it will be good". The important thing to keep in mind about the definition is what the ultimate goal is - divide teachers and administrators to bust the union, and bring about vouchers. From there we can tell what about the definition won't change. Give teachers more money and starve the administrators and insure poor performing schools keep performing poorly. The next question is who will take the brunt of this?
Her association [Gwen Santiago, with the Texas Association for School Business Officials (TASBO)] also calculated that if the 65 percent formula were implemented, particularly hard hit would be rural districts with high transportation costs, small districts that might spend more on support services and bond debts, and districts with a high proportion of economically disadvantaged students, who require tutoring and other special programs.
Rural school districts were the biggest opposition to what the legislature was trying this pass earlier in the year. Is this payback? And of course like any good conservative plan the poor will get a large part of the burden. With Texas' unique situation because of size and diversity what works in Arizona and Minnesota probably won't work here:
Dallas school Superintendent Michael Hinojosa, a member of the task force, said the first order of business should be clarifying the numbers so that each district knows its starting point.

"One size does not fit all," Dr. Hinojosa said. "I don't want to mandate what they do in Dalhart."
That's a very good statement. As I've said before what things like "The 65% Ruse" are really good at pointing out is a long time conservative lie. For years, when they were out of power, they talked about local control and how important it was. Not anymore, as you can see, now that they control the state government. They are in favor of state control of how your local school district spends it's money. Here's my opinion, for what it's worth - instead of trying to fit Texas into a system we should be working to design a system that fits Texas.


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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Chris Bell Points Out Perry's Insurance Backing

One of the things I loved about Chris Bell's announcement speech was the part about insurance companies:
My Pact with Parents starts with doing everything I can to reform the most corrupt state government in a generation. Corporate cash is infecting our elections, and corporate lobbyists are stopping any chance of progress. We must demand political reforms to make our campaigns and our government more transparent and accountable. We can reclaim the courthouse square of state government, coming together in the public space that Rick Perry and his lobbyist friends have polluted with their cash-and-carry corruption.

We need to start with the insurance lobbyists. Insurance companies are ripping us off. They’re keeping about 70 cents of every dollar we pay them, overcharging us by about $4 billion a year, and covering less and less all the time. As governor, I’ll appoint an insurance commissioner who will make them lower their rates, putting $600 for each home and $200 for each vehicle back in your bank account where it belongs..
I learned from my Father early on that insurance companies are the biggest crooks there are. He taught me we are mandated by law in many instances to have insurance and that many lawmakers are in the insurance business and therefore if not always, most of the time, the laws are written in their favor. So Chris Bell taking on insurance companies really endears me to him and his campaign since politicians on either side are unwilling to take them on. Because it's dangerous and invites the big money to come after him. It's very good to see and I say keep it up! Insurance agents [heart] Rick:
Do you think Rick Perry has done a good job on insurance reform? We have the highest homeowners insurance rates in the country. Texas Watch has a study showing that when you look at homeowners and car insurance rates, we're being overcharged by $4 billion a year. So while you and I probably think Rick Perry has done (What's the phrase I'm looking for? Oh yeah.) a bad job, the Independent Insurance Agents of Texas think he's just peachy. One more reason not to vote for Rick Perry.

The full email from the IIAT president is after the jump, but I don't know what's funnier: the fact that Rick Perry's blog is "members only," or that someone is congratulating Rick Perry for "common-sense leadership".
Click the link above to read the email.



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Mike Krusee and The November 8th Election

State Representative Mike Krusee used his taxpayer funded franking privileges to send me and many of his constituents, I'm sure, a voter guide for the November 8, 2005 election. He was nice enough to highlight three propositions he is most concerned about. Those being Propositions 1, 3 and 9. It's not hard to see where his allegiances lie, taxpayer give-aways to corporations and unaccountable boards.

Proposition 1 is a microcosm of the whole Trans-Texas Corridor scheme. The idea has some merit but the implementation is horrible. Unlimited state debt obligations to pay to move corporate rail lines, into rural areas without their input, so the current lines can be used for some to-be-named-later transportation project. Sorry, it's too vague and unaccountable for me to vote for.

Proposition 3 is unnecessary and is an overreaction to a judges ruling about a shopping center in Bee Cave to protect tax incentives for developers. He also overreacts with his uber-protection of Dell as a excuse to make people think that someday a judge would take away Dell's tax incentives. I don't think so. More on this from my post back in April, Our Commons.

Proposition 9 proposes to increase the terms for Regional Mobility Authority (RMA) board members to 6 years and stagger them. 6 years is at least 2 years too long. The longer the term the less accountability there is. I would think about 4 years but no more.

He made no comment on Proposition 2, which more than likely means he knows that everyone in Williamson County knows his for it.

If you're wondering why Mike Krusee is for all of these toll road financing and RMA board protection schemes maybe this has something to do with it, SPEAKER ANNOUNCES HOUSE APPOINTMENTS TO THE STUDY COMMISSION ON TRANSPORTATION FINANCING:
(AUSTIN) - Today, Speaker Tom Craddick (Midland) announced the Texas of House of Representatives appointees to the Study Commission on Transportation Financing.

"For the past fourteen years the state's commitment to funding for transportation projects has taken a back seat to other funding priorities," Speaker Craddick said. "This commission should help identify new priorities and efficiencies in transportation planning for the state."

Rep. Mike Krusee (Round Rock) will serve as a Joint Presiding Officer of the Committee. Other appointees include Rep. Warren Chisum (Pampa) and Harris County Judge Robert Eckels
Mike Krusee in charge of state transportation funding? Participation payments for everyone!





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Why Won't Congressman John Carter Respond To Mary Beth Harrell About Torture?

One week ago Mary Beth Harrell called on John Carter to reject the efforts of former Majority Leader Tom DeLay and others to derail a legislative initiative that would ban the torture of prisoners in the custody of the U.S. military. Carter has not taken action. Today, Mary Beth faxed the following letter to Carter's office in Washington D.C.
The Honorable John R. Carter

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

U.S. House of Representatives

408 Cannon HOB

Washington, D.C. 20515

via fax: 202-225-5886



Dear Mr. Carter:

It has been one week since I called on you to reject the efforts of former Majority Leader Tom DeLay and others to derail a legislative initiative that would ban the torture of prisoners in the custody of the U.S. military.

Sponsored by Sen. John McCain and passed overwhelmingly this month in the U.S. Senate, the amendment would prohibit the "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment" of prisoners under U.S. jurisdiction. Yet, your political allies are preparing to block this amendment as part of the massive defense authorization bill.

Mr. Carter, you should know that this is a matter of great urgency to Ft. Hood soldiers defending our freedoms abroad and to their families back home.

Torture officially sanctioned by the U.S. would not just be morally reprehensible; it also serves no tactical purpose. Torture would place our own troops at even greater risk of retaliation if captured by terrorists and their allies. And all for a legal loophole that most experts agree would permit an ineffective tactic, since tortured prisoners invariably confess to anything and everything in order to make the torture stop.

Saddam Hussein’s trial starts today. I urge you to make it clear to your constituents and the voters of CD31 that you stand in favor of the McCain amendment and will oppose the efforts of DeLay and your other political allies to allow the U.S. to sink to the standards of a brutal ex-dictator.

Sincerely,

MARY BETH HARRELL



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WCDP Chair Jimmy Rocha's LTE On Proposition 2

Dear Editor,

Defend, don't amend, the Texas Bill of Rights. Amendment 2, the so-called "Marriage Protection" amendment, is unnecessary because Texas law already prohibits marriage between gay people. Passage would place the legal rights of contract, medical powers of attorney, and the rights of many adopted children at great risk; as well as possibly invalidating "Common-Law" Marriage. Why create second class citizenship?

Instead of solving the real problems of public education, health care, poverty and property tax relief, our current government chose to divide the community with this hurtful proposal. I agree with State Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) who stated on the floor of the Texas House, "I have never read the [Bible] verse where it says, "though shalt discriminate against those not like me." I have never read the verse where it says, "let's base our public policy on hate and fear and discrimination." Christianity to me is love and hope and faith and forgiveness-not hate and discrimination."

Live and Let Live----Please Vote Against Amendment 2.

Jimmy Rocha
Chair
Williamson County Democratic Party
www.williamsoncountydemocrats.org



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Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The Sharp Task Force, Where Is It?

John Sharp gave a speech on Friday at the Texas Taxpayers and Research Association (TTARA) annual meeting, excepting Sen. Whitmire it was an all Republican affair. As the Chris Bell campaign points out Perry's Sharp Task Force is using the "wait-and-see" approach when it comes to appointing members to the panel that will fix the governor's #1 priority. I guess they're waiting for the court ruling so they can tailor the groups membership to what the fix is going to be? The saddest part in all of this is what Mr. Sharp's fix is:
But he emphasized a need to change the current business franchise tax system, which most businesses are not obligated to pay.

"I believe that we have to have a tax system that everybody pays in the state of Texas," Sharp said.
This is the same thing that couldn't get passed through the sessions earlier this year! All of the sudden with a new court ruling all these businesses are just going to lay down and accept being taxed? If this is going to be the task force's focus then what's the point? And of course the easiest way to tax everyone evenly and lower property taxes won't even be discussed:
Perry and Sharp have ruled out the income tax as an option.

"I hope my grandchildren are dead and there's still not an income tax in the state of Texas," Sharp said.
If it's such a bad idea at least put it on the table and show us why. I should be easy, right?


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Sunday, October 16, 2005

Jim Stauber, Candidate For State House District 20, Statesman LTE on Toll Roads

Public doesn't want tolls:
My wife and I attended the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization meeting in Austin on Oct. 10. Most, if not all, of the CAMPO board members have been elected to represent what the majority of their constituency wants.

Since April, I have talked to hundreds of individuals in eastern Williamson County, including ranchers and farmers in the Granger and Bartlett area, and many more people from Milam County, including Thorndale, Rockdale and Cameron. No one from these communities want the Trans Texas Corridor.

Why, then, when the majority of people in Central Texas do not want this massive toll road, do officials keep on trying to shove it down our throats?

JIM STAUBER

jcstauber@sbcglobal.net

Liberty Hill



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Williamson County Mental Health/Constable Update

The two articles from the Taylor Daily Press last week have some very good information in them.

Cities may get mental health duties

Tensions high over mental health

One thing to keep in mind when reading about the mental health issue is the stigma attached to it and the need to keep those with mental health issues separate from criminals.


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Friday, October 14, 2005

Williamson County Democratic Party Fall Fundraiser, This Saturday

Also attending will be Senate candidate Barbara Ann Radnofsky and 3rd Court of Appeals candidates Judge Jim Coronado and Mina Brees. Williamson County House candidates Karen Felthauser and Jim Stauber will on hand too.

The Events Committee has done a great job putting together another great event so if you want to join the Democrats in Williamson County and have a good time please come join us.


Fall Into Some Fun!

Greetings!

Lots of Democrats and Lots of Fun -- So be sure to mark your calendar!

Please join the Williamson County Democratic Party for its Dinner and Blind Auction Fall Fundraiser.

* WHEN: Saturday, October 15th from 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm
* WHERE: The Fellowship Hall inside the main building of Live Oak Unitarian Universalist Church, 3315 El Salido Parkway, Cedar Park, 78613

For your generous donation of $20, each ticket gets you:

* A no-fooling delicious, home-made dinner including drink and dessert...
* A chance to win a door prize...
* The chance to bid on plenty of quality (and some...quirky!) Blind Auction items...
* The fun of mixing and mingling with other like- minded Democrats...
* The thrill of helping WCDP take back our local, state, and national governments from special interests and returning them to The People where they belong!!

For tickets, contact Jane Van Praag, WCDP Events Committee Chair, at 254-527-4694 or at jlvanpraag@sbcglobal.net.

Tickets will also be available at the door. Come and bring along a friend.



We look forward to seeing you there!



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Thursday, October 13, 2005

Mike Krusee Says, "Tolls are the American way"

Maybe in Mike Krusee's America but not in mine. He goes on to compare our current transportation system in America to a Soviet breadline:
Many Americans think congestion is inevitable; it is not. It is a breadline, it is un-American, and we should not tolerate it."
Of course his only fix for the breadline is the plan that will line his own pockets I'm sure.

Tip to the Muckraker.



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Mary Beth Harrell Calls Out John Carter On Torture

We have a great candidate for Congress for 2006 in Mary Beth Harrell and today she has started right where she needs to by drawing a stark contrast between herself and our current representative.
CANDIDATE CALLS ON INCUMBENT TO SUPPORT AMERICAN VALUES
HARRELL TO CARTER: 'TAKE A STAND AGAINST TORTURE'

(KILLEEN) Congressional candidate Mary Beth Harrell today called on her opponent John Carter to take a stand against torture by proclaiming his public support of a legislative initiative that would ban "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment" of prisoners in the custody of the U.S. military.

Harrell, the wife of a retired military officer and mother of two active-duty soldiers in the war on terrorism, said Carter should immediately assure voters in Congressional District 31 that he supports the defense authorization bill with the torture ban amendment.

"Looking for a legal loophole that would allow prisoners in U.S. custody to be subjected to torture and abuse is un-American and unacceptable," Harrell said. "Since when should we sink to the despicable standards of Al Qaeda?"

Harrell said an amendment by former prisoner-of-war Sen. John McCain to the pending defense authorization bill is threatened by Carter and other radicals in the House of Representatives. The measure, which passed the Senate last week by the overwhelming bipartisan vote of 90 to 9, is being jeopardized in the U.S. House by a group of radicals loyal to indicted former Majority Leader Tom DeLay. Carter is one of DeLay's chief defenders and has contributed thousands of dollars to his legal defense fund.

"We need to protect our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan," Harrell said, whose own son is scheduled to be deployed to Iraq at the end of the year. "Making sure this bill doesn't get derailed by a radical group of ultra-partisans is a top priority."

Harrell said Carter's opposition to the McCain amendment raises serious questions about whether he shares the mainstream values of Central Texans.

"Now more than ever, we need leaders who see America as a beacon of hope, justice, and moral values," Harrell said. "We must have a dedicated purpose and a carefully considered plan that implements and carries out that hope without exploiting fear at home or exporting it abroad. Condoning torture isn't a part of that vision. It is morally reprehensible and tactically ineffective."

A successful attorney specializing in criminal law, Harrell said her get-tough record in the courtroom and additional work on behalf of taxpayers as a city prosecutor in Nolanville and interim prosecutor in Temple reflect the mainstream values of Central Texas families and small businesses.

In addition to her legal work, Harrell operates the non-profit St. Francis Animal Sanctuary with her husband, a reserve police officer and Vice-Chair of the Bell County Bail Bond Board. The Harrells recently opened a second shelter, Assisi Animal Refuge, and continue to work in cooperation with the Killeen Chamber of Commerce on a wide range of humane education programs in the area.





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Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Mary Beth Harrell Officially Launches Campaign

Killeen Lawyer Takes Aim at Tom DeLay While Announcing Bid to Unseat Carter:
"It's time to send someone to Washington who will put our priorities first and Tom DeLay's priorities last," Harrell declared, promising to fight for "integrity, accountability and faith in the future" if elected to the Congressional District 31 seat, which stretches from Williamson County to Fort Hood and on into north Central Texas.
[UPDATE] Article from the Killeen Daily Herald, Harrell running for Congress:
The race for the District 31 congressional seat just got bipartisan, and Democrats are hoping to tip the scales of politics.

Mary Beth Harrell of Kempner threw her name into the ring Tuesday, stopping in Killeen and Round Rock to announce her candidacy.

“A lot of us do think the country is headed in the wrong direction,” she said. “We need to turn that around.”

Harrell, 48, said her interests mirror those of middle-class Americans like herself.

“I am just like anybody else,” she said. “Too many of us have stayed too silent too long.”

Concerns about why the war started, when it will end and how to avoid a similar conflict in the future were some of the issues the military wife and mother talked about.

She also expressed interest in helping create an affordable health care program, lessening the pressure of gas prices and questioning the tax breaks that major corporations are allowed.

“We pay our taxes. They need to pay theirs,” she said.
[UPDATE] Short article here but has video, Attorney announces her candidacy for District 31



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Chris Bell Ethics Reform Update

As I checked the reaction this morning and received a comment to my post about Chris Bell's ethics proposal yesterday it quickly became clear that the focus wouldn't be on the entire plan he laid out but instead on a minor, quickly corrected, mistake about veto lobbying. This has unfortunately given the media an out not to cover the rest of what he said. Ethics reform is always a tricky subject for politicians to take on, because it is an open invitation to everybody that gets political money from the current system to attack the reformer. Who benefits from the current system staying the same? Those that are already getting the money that goes to ethically challenged politician's campaigns and the media gets most of that for advertising. This article covers more of what Chris Bell actually said, Gubernatorial hopeful says Texas politics has 'culture of corruption.'.

OffTheKuff has more.


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Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Chris Bell, "Don't Mess With Ethics"

One of the themes Chris Bell has been hitting from the beginning is that ethics laws are no longer enforced. He does it again with his speech today, "Don't Mess With Ethics":
The problem with the culture both in Washington and Texas is an excessive tolerance for corruption. Whether it involves one's self or somebody else, everyone just wants to look the other way. There is an unofficial "don't mess with ethics" policy around here, and as often as not - whether it's taking millions of dollars before vetoing legislation or the results of the recent state audit of the comptroller's office - what they do that's illegal isn't as bad as what they do that's legal.
...

And I think the ethics reform goes to the heart of what I believe about the new mainstream. I sincerely worry about how Texas is heading towards class warfare, with the little people defending themselves from the big people. If we can make our campaigns and our state government more transparent and more accountable, then our capitol can be a place that brings us all together instead of creating winners and losers based on who has the best lobbyist and the biggest checks.
I recommend reading the whole thing and you can find the entire 8 point ethics reform package here.


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They Won't Even Discuss It

The Republicans Have A Big Problem. They have no plan other than raising taxes on the poor and the middle class and cutting services to the poor and middle class to attain their supposed school finance reform/property tax reduction goals. The plan, which is really just the defunding of our public schools and lowering taxes on the wealthy, it's class warfare at it's heart. Yeah I said it, class warfare. I personally believe that every option should be put on the table. And when I say every option, I mean every option, including a state income tax. We can see a microcosm of how the income tax debate has been playing out recently by two articles in the Express-News this week. It all started with this article on Saturday, State income tax favorable to some but unlikely, about Sen. Eliot Shapleigh's visit to the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA). While there he presented his plan for the adoption of a personal income tax in Texas to fix the school finance/property tax problem in our state. It was this quote from the article that stirred up a response:
"How can we have a debate in the state of Texas when one option that will lower property taxes by 90 percent, pay for certified teachers in the classroom and provide a great early education system can't even be on the table?" Shapleigh said.
Seems like a reasonable question to me. That's something no Republican plan has been able to even come close to on the governor's number one goal. Well it doesn't seem reasonable to Roddy Stinson, Students swallow income tax baloney served by Sen. Shapleigh:
"Income tax" has been on the Texas discussion table for decades. And state taxpayers have repeatedly examined it and determined that such promises as "lower property taxes" and "a better education system" are siren songs warbled by politicians skilled at waving yummy tax carrots while hiding very large spending sticks.
First I don't think an income tax has been seriously discussed since at least 1993 and we can speculate if it ever was. Second Mr. Stinson says many things in his column but nowhere does he refute Sen. Shapleigh's argument for an income tax. Instead we get this:
A personal income tax has been examined many times by Texans. It has been repeatedly rejected as a viable state-funding alternative. And there is zero chance that the anti-tax sentiment will change.

Every Austin insider privately says so.

Every credible political analyst agrees.

Even most of Babylon on the Colorado's slugabeds have figured it out.

Texas taxpayers don't want an income tax.

Texas legislators won't support an income tax.

And any serious candidate for a statewide office who even winks at an income tax will soon become a losing candidate.
I take issue with a couple of those statements. As I said earlier, I don't believe that in Texas an income tax has ever been fully debated. (You can go here to see there didn't seem to be much debate time spent on it in 1993). I think it's just always been a forgone conclusion in this state - and its never been challenged - that nobody wants one. I mean, if you ask someone, "Do you want a tax on your income?", what do you think they will say? Ask them, "How about a modest income tax and your property tax goes down 90%?", I'll be you get a different answer. When presented with the facts about an income tax most people react positively. Because it's fair and hits everyone the same, it's a progressive tax. That is the reason it's never been debated, fairness - if you poor you pay, middle class you pay and yes, the rich have to pay too. The Republicans and people like Mr. Stinson are afraid of an income tax getting a fair hearing because it would change people's minds. The inability of our current state leader's to fix this problem may already be doing this. He ignores these numbers from a poll done in Texas last month:
The poll shows that Texans are almost equally divided over whether a state income tax should be levied to pay for public schools.

Forty-five percent said they would support an income tax if it reduced property taxes and the revenue funded public schools. Forty-seven percent said that they oppose an income tax.
That's pretty much a 50/50 split. I also think that many on the "inside" are starting to realize that an income tax is the only thing that will fix our current problem. Mr. Stinson is correct when he says that no politician would admit this in public, for fear of their political lives. The other thing he makes clear is that we do not have a leader, or leaders for that matter, excluding Sen. Shapliegh, in the state that will speak the truth to the people of Texas and stick their neck out to do what needs to be done to fix this problem. Again, Mr. Stinson never refutes Sen. Shapliegh's assertions, he just tries to do the old he's a liberal, has ties to Hollywood and liberal groups, and of course the tired he's for taxes line. But the same could be said of Perry, Dehwhurst and Craddick, et al. They are all tied to every right-wing, anti-tax, anti-government group there is and he has no problem with that.

The point of all of this is an income tax is a viable option and the more these failed leaders show their inability to raise taxes on anyone other than the poor and the middle class - and especially not on those that contribute to their campaigns - the more attractive and income tax will become to the people of Texas. Mr. Stinson cannot attack an income tax on it's merits and that is why he is attacking the messenger.

Sen. Shapliegh should be given credit for being out front on this issue. He and Rep. Eddie Rodriguez are the only ones that have come out in support of this. There is something wrong, when every other option has been looked at and the problem still isn't fixed and there is a fair, viable option available and the leaders of this state won't even discuss it.

For more on this check out this post from The Jeffersonian.

Check out Sen. Shapleigh's The A, B, C's of School Finance.

For how a state income tax could work check out The Best Choice for a Prosperous Texas from the Center for Public Policy Priorities.


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MARY BETH HARRELL: 'LET'S RESTORE INTEGRITY, ACCOUNTABILITY, FAITH IN THE FUTURE'

(KILLEEN) -- Mary Beth Harrell, the wife of a retired military officer and mother of two active-duty soldiers in the war on terrorism, today formally announced her campaign for the U.S. Congress from CD 31, inviting voters to join her in a campaign "to restore the kind of integrity, accountability, and faith in the future that we demand ‹ and deserve."

"The current leadership didn't get the job done," Harrell said. "I will."

A successful attorney specializing in criminal law, Harrell said her get-tough record in the courtroom and additional work on behalf of taxpayers as a city prosecutor in Nolanville and interim prosecutor in Temple reflect the mainstream values of Central Texas families and small businesses.

"It's time to send someone to Washington who will put our priorities first and Tom DeLay's priorities last," Harrell said.

Harrell's opponent, incumbent Rep. John Carter, was one of the disgraced former Majority leader's top lieutenants. He has spent much of the past year defending DeLay, who was indicted last month by a Texas criminal grand jury and currently being investigated in Washington D.C. on multiple charges of violating campaign finance and ethics laws. Carter has also personally contributed thousands of dollars to DeLay's legal defense fund.

Harrell served notice that her campaign will be guided by a set of "middle-class rules" highlighting the common-sense values fundamental to families and small businesses throughout the district.

  • Paying our fair share: Mainstream families and businesses have little choice to pay their taxes, while special interests and big corporations regularly avoid their responsibilities. Shifting jobs and revenues overseas to avoid paying for the basic services that make our country great is unfair, unwise, and unacceptable.
  • Investing in America: Fiscal responsibility in Washington is apparently a thing of the past, and Washington has ground to a halt amid gridlock and greed. We need a new faith in the power of investment to make America stronger, our communities safer, our schools better, our air and water cleaner, our schools second-to-none, and our health care affordable and available for those who need it most.
  • Securing your retirement: The least our senior citizens should be able to count on from us is that we will keep our commitments to them instead of pushing privatization schemes designed to make Wall Street even richer.
  • Clean air, clean water: There is nothing debatable about our need to protect food supplies, preserve air and water quality, and conserve our natural heritage for recreation, hunters, and sports enthusiasts. Economic development and jobs depend on our ability to protect the quality of life in our communities for this and the coming generations.
  • Pain at the pump: We are told that Washington has spent the past three decades giving billions of our hard-earned tax dollars to big oil corporations so that they can research and develop energy sources and technologies that don't use fossil fuel and free us of our dependency on foreign sources. Yet, we're still paying record prices at the pumps while pouring tons of toxic pollutants into our air and water.
  • Affordable health care: In the name of lower insurance rates, the courthouse doors have been closed to ordinary taxpayers who have been injured by dishonest corporations and their big insurers. But have your insurance premiums gone down? Your homeowners' insurance, which are still twice the national average? Your co-pays? Can you now afford health coverage that you couldn't before? Of course not.


"You and I work, raise our families, pay our taxes, vote, and obey the laws of the land," she told supporters during stops in Killeen and Round Rock. "We send our sons and daughters off to fight in foreign wars defending our country. We play fair and don't try to change the rules in the middle of the game when it looks like we might lose. And we have a right to expect our elected leaders to play by those same rules."

In addition to her legal work, Harrell operates the non-profit St. Francis Animal Sanctuary with her husband, a reserve police officer and Vice-Chair of the Bell County Bail Bond Board. The Harrell’s recently opened a second shelter, Assisi Animal Refuge, and continue to work in cooperation with the Killeen Chamber of Commerce on a wide range of humane education programs in the area.



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Sunday, October 09, 2005

Last Week's Commissioners Court and DA Follow-Up

Some follow up on my post from earlier in the week on the Williamson County DA. First I would like to say that Patty Mullins of the Hill Country News has been doing some excellent reporting, not only the DA but the Commissioners Court as well. I found this article from Friday, Financing options discussed for county projects. It's on the doings at this week's commissioners court meeting. The first part of the article introduces us to commercial paper. I had never heard of it either. Apparently the commissioners have a "wish list" of spending projects for the county and they don't want to raise taxes to pay for them. So they will use any means necessary not to have to raise taxes, including extending debt as far as the eye can see, that's where commercial paper comes in. If the current wish list is approved Williamson County's debt will be over half-billion dollars. Check out this paragraph with the Orwellian phrase in bold:
"Williamson County faces major growth that stresses its resources so it must be innovative in its capital financing. The county must make its tax dollars provide more assets to maintain and provide needed infrastructure," state Weg-miller's presentation materials.
That is good stuff. That's why investment bankers make so much money. They really know how to turn a phrase. But the next paragraph tells us what commercial paper is really about:
"Commercial paper can be extended for as long as the county wishes or repaid as soon as the county wishes. This flexibility allows the County to better manage its tax rate," stated the proposal.
Wow! That sounds too good to be true. I'm not a financial whiz or anything like that but all I know is that if you borrow money to pay for something sooner or later that money has to be paid back, with interest. I think the main thing to keep in mind here is that those on the court now will more than likely be long gone when these bills come due. Does anyone know who is getting the contracts for all these projects?
Projects on Doerfler's 󈭨-Year Certificate of Obligation"“ list included the following: Central/Dispatch/Emergency Management Center, $10,000,000; equipment for center, $10,000,000; land, Round Rock Annex, $2,640,000; building, Round Rock Annex, $4,800,000; land, Hutto Annex, $331,760; building, Hutto Annex, $800,000; Williamson County Animal Shelter, $3,500,000; Williamson County Courthouse restoration, $5,250,000; TAC Building, $1,920,000; two 10-acre lots, $403,880 - for a total of $39,645,640.

Projects on Doerfler's "”Seven-Year CO"“ list include the following: CAD, $1,000,000; in-car computers, $1,500,000; Justice System software, $2,500,000; radio upgrades, $2,000,000; system upgrades - grant match, $1,850,000; implementation of Juvenile Information System, $100,000-for a total of $8,950,000.
Now on to the DA follow-up. The other thing the court did last week was approve and appoint the members of the committee to look into moving the mental health unit from the constable in precinct 1 to the sheriff's office. Check out who's on it:
Named to the committee are Cathy Grimes, assistant to Boatright and chair of the mental health committee; District Attorney John Bradley, who testified in favor of moving mental health before the last vote; County Attorney Jana Duty; and Hartley Sappington and Nancy Gettlefinger, both of Bluebonnet Trails Mental Health/Mental Retardation.
Just before that we had this from Commissioner Boatright:
Neither the sheriff's nor the constable's office will have representatives on the committee, because, as Boatright explained, the committee should remain "”unbiased."“
That's amazing. The guy already testified for moving the mental health unit and he hates constables. That's unbiased? Hmm, I wonder how he will vote? Not to mention, that from the article earlier in the week, we learned that those who will run the mental health unit once it is transferred to the sheriff's office have already been chosen:
"The supervisors (of the sheriff's department mental health unit) will be Sean Newsom and Mike Gleason," said Precinct 1 Commissioner Lisa Birkman.
It looks like the committee has already predetermined it's outcome and, don't forget, Mr. Boatright is the swing vote.

Don't know if you saw the Statesman article on our "Git-R-Done" sheriff yesterday, Williamson sheriff leads by example. The article goes a long way around to say that well...he 's doing better than the last guy, so far. But as we all know the last guy was fired for getting caught, drunk, urinating on the side of the road.


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