Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Late Night Updates

Williamson County settles suit with three female inmates, Commissioners agree to settlement in jail sex claims:
The Williamson County commissioners accepted a settlement offer Tuesday from three women who had threatened to sue in connection with sexual misconduct in the Williamson County Jail.

But the terms of the settlement - and how much it will cost taxpayers -— will not be released until the women sign the agreement, said Williamson County Attorney Jana Duty. That could be as long as two weeks, she said.
Katy Hubener loses special election in HD 106:
(D) Katy Hubener 2,438 46.23%
(L) Gene Freeman 48 0.91%
(R) Kirk England 2,788 52.86%
(-) TOTAL 5,274 100.00%
Less than 8% voter turnour. More from Kuffner.



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Tragic News

Williamson commissioner dies from sudden heart attack:
Williamson County Commissioner Tom McDaniel died Tuesday of a heart attack.

McDaniel, 61, was the county commissioner for Precinct 3 for more than a year. He was about to speak at the Sun City Rotary Club meeting when he collapsed.

McDaniel had just left commissioners court before arriving at the luncheon.

Funeral services will be at the Gabriels Funeral Chapel in Georgetown
Our prayers and thoughts go out to the family and friends of Tom McDaniel.


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A Few Items

Harvey Kronberg's latest at News 8, Which side is the Leininger 5 on? What I called the Clear Channel Model.

You can check the early voting numbers for Williamson County, and the 14 other biggest counties in Texas, here. So far R' outnumber D's 567 to 116 in Williamson County.

Get all your Williamson County voting info here, where to vote, when, sample ballots, everything you need.





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Class Warfare, Time For Democrats To Be Democrats Again

Democrats have allowed themselves to be forced to away from their strength. That strength being the theme of the Democratic Party being the party of the people. That theme and the Democrats shrinking and not taking on a Republican whenever they mention class warfare has gone on far too long. Why the Democrats cower when class warfare is mentioned I'll never know. Allowing this to happen means the game has been played on the Republicans turf by taking away this Democratic strength. Yep, class warfare, I said it.

It's time for the Democrats to start pointing it out, and NOW! Most economic indicators over the last five years show that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer – the middle class too. Try this, can you name one piece of legislation passed in the last 5 years to help or aid the working person, working families, or just plain ol' workers? I bet you could rattle off a whole list of those passed that help the wealthy! I know I can. The point, in a round about way, is that whether the Democrats want to play or not the Republicans have been playing the class warfare game for decades now.

Harken, no pun intended, back to the days of yore when our country's economy was run by Robber Barons. Back in the days before the eight hour work day, the five hour work week, child labor laws, and collective bargaining, and again the list goes on. Most of us have either forgotten or have never known that the middle class in this country didn't exist until after World War II. Yes, that's right, another New Deal creation that benefited the country.

There is an simple narrative, I'm sorry they're called frames now, to all this that the Democrats are missing and even the Republicans agree with. We have an unfair tax system in Texas. That is the reason property taxes weren't lowered last year. It's what John Sharp has been saying since he was appointed to head the governors “crony commission”. Hell, even Rep. Krusee said it. It's what the recently released Tax Foundation study shows. This unfairness manifests itself in the fact that most businesses, corporations, and wealthy individuals pay way too little in taxes and the tax burden falls way too heavily on the poor and the middle class. Fair Taxes, that's what we are for.

For all this study shows about which states have business friendly tax codes – why isn't there ever a well publicized study about which state have resident friendly tax codes? - one of the most interesting is the analysis on those huge tax-payer give-aways to corporations to entice them to bring their new boon-doggle to your city, Texas one of 10 best for taxes:
Low tax rates are attractive to business investments and help states like Texas lure new businesses and jobs, (Scott Hodge, president of the Tax Foundation) said. But corporate giveaways like tax abatements are not a good way to lure new business, he said.

Like steroids for athletes, tax abatements provide short-term gains but have no lasting value, Hodge said.

States must not rely on tax abatements and incentives to land new jobs and companies, but must instead create a sound tax structure, he said.
Oh yes, those give-aways to the corporate saviors are not all they're cracked up to be. To read more on this see this article, Tax Increment Financing: A Bad Bargain for Taxpayers.

The other interesting part of the story on the business taxes was this exchange between think-tanks on opposite ends of the spectrum:
The commission is looking at a broad-based business tax to replace the state's franchise tax, which many businesses don't pay, said Byron Schlomach, chief economist with the Texas Public Policy Foundation, an Austin-based organization that favors limited government.

"The tax structure is good the way it is," Schlomach said. "Right now what we run a risk of doing is looking at this relatively strong economy and thinking now is the time we can go out grab some of that money for public purposes. The main thing we need to do is keep control of government growth."

Most businesses, especially large ones, benefit more from having a skilled and educated work force than from what they might pay in state and local taxes, said Don Baylor, policy analyst with the Center for Public Policy Priorities, an Austin-based think tank that serves as an advocate for moderate-to low-income Texans.

"We think it's extremely important to stress that the study really only focuses on taxes," Baylor said.

A skilled work force and a top-flight post-secondary system — including community, technical and four-year colleges — is more important than the tax burden to most businesses, he said.
I've always said the best economic development is a well educated work force. You'll also notice the right-winger thinks our tax structure is fine, jus the way it is.

What all this means is that for too many years the Democrats have be too afraid of being accused of playing class warfare and scared away from pointing out the economic inequities arising in our country by Republicans that are doing just that. I'm sure there are more than a few Democrats that have been complicit and that is why they've been silent. I remember in 2000 election and Al Gore was behind going into the convention and went populist and even had some class warfare in his speech. He got a bounce out of that convention until the media started jumping on him for it and his consultants made him back down. Democrats are the party of the people, or were. That is the message that wins for Democrats and not were like a Republican only nicer. Fighting for the people over the powerful is what got Democrats to power and going back to fighting that battle, whether it's called class warfare or something else, is what will bring Democrats back to power.


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AAS Does Krusee v. Samuelson

Here's the article, Political newcomer challenges Krusee in District 52. Much of this article is what we already know Samuelson is anti toll roads and Krusee is pro toll roads, Samuelson tells her ideas and Krusee ties her to South Austin. But this is the part that I'd never heard before and caught my eye:
Krusee said he would support allowing counties to ask voters for zoning authority as a way to control growth, particularly around the future Texas 130 within the county. Counties are not able to control how land is zoned within their borders.
I remember the inability of the county to zone property being mentioned at one of the candidate forums. On the face of it this appears to be an attempt to move zoning from a town, city, local community, or whoever controls it now and put it in the hands of the County Commissioners. Once again taking the power of control away from a local community and putting it in the hands of an ever-growing, and currently unaccountable, central governing body. My initial reaction is against this but no matter before it could become a reality it will have to be looked into, passed through the legislature and then, I hope, be put on a ballot.

Go see what Karen Felthauser has to say on the issues.


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All DeLay Has To Run On Is Pork

That's what I get from this AAS article today, Unrepentant DeLay stresses pork:
Forget his national reputation as a fiscal conservative; DeLay in re-election mode is emphasizing that he can bring home pork. His handouts claim more than $1 billion in federal dollars to Houston-area transportation projects, the port, NASA, universities and law enforcement.

Forced from the majority leader's job because of a money-laundering indictment, DeLay tells constituents that his post on the House Appropriations Committee is the "perfect perch" from which to continue delivering federal money to the Houston area.

DeLay even emphasizes the use of earmarks: money designated by individual members for their districts with little oversight.

"Quite frankly," DeLay says of transportation dollars, we're "using earmarks to force dollars into this region."

His supporters at the Houston Realty Breakfast Club, where DeLay campaigned last week, picked up the refrain.

"You can't be replaced without hurting Houston or Texas," said Joe Slovacek of the HooverSlovacek law firm, introducing DeLay to an audience of about 200 real estate developers, lenders and lawyers. Jim Kollaer, a partner with the Staubach Co., joined in, "He's brought the bacon home."
That's his new campaign slogan, "No one brings home the bacon like Tom DeLay"! So after all his many years in Congress this is all that's left. If you don't reelect me the money train from D.C. will move on down the tracks and stop here no more. I'll give Houston, and Sugarland, a better choice. When the U.S. House changes to Democratic control wouldn't you be better off, under Mr. DeLay's scenario, if you had a Democratic Congressman?

It's also an ironic twist for DeLay. As a "Reagan Conservative" he ran for less government and government spending. Now is now fighting for his life saying he's the one that can deliver the government cash. Do you remember the from last year, DeLay declares 'victory' in war on budget fat?
"My answer to those that want to offset the spending is sure, bring me the offsets, I'll be glad to do it. But nobody has been able to come up with any yet," the Texas Republican told reporters at his weekly briefing.

Asked if that meant the government was running at peak efficiency, Mr. DeLay said, "Yes, after 11 years of Republican majority we've pared it down pretty good."
It certainly showe up after Hurricane Katrina. It's sad really. All he has left is an attempt to buy votes with government pork. How conservative is that?


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Monday, February 27, 2006

Candidate Forum In Coupland Tonight

TDP has the story, Coupland candidate forum Monday:
The forum is sponsored by the Coupland Civic Association (CCA) and will be at St. Peter's Church. A visitation period from 6:30 to 7 p.m. will allow citizens to talk with candidates, and the forum will follow immediately.

According to an announcement by the CCA, some or all of the candidates running for state representative from District 52 may attend. The incumbent is Rep. Mike Krusee, and he is opposed in the Republican primary by Barbara Samuelson. The winner of the Republican primary will face Democrat Karen Felthauser in the November election.

While the discussions with the candidates are expected to cover a variety of issues, the high-profile, front-burner issue for Coupland residents is the plan for the Trans Texas Corridor (TTC


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News Roundup

Congressman Carter said this last week at the Tom DeLay rally:
"Houston should be proud that they have the best member of Congress in America representing them.
If you want to hear it for yourself just go here, it's a decent analysis of his primary. If you don't want to listen to the whole thing just scroll to the 7:10 mark.

Common Sense has a great analysis of Leininger's AAS editorial last week, Leininger speaks. Nate's got it right. It's pretty much what I was thinking when I read it. What the doctor's saying is that if you put children in a school that is well funded, committed to education, and less crowded they will get a good education. Fully funding public education would take care of that and then there is no need for vouchers.

The Houston Chronicle has a good article today on the Republican primary races, Gloves have come off in GOP primary races:
"If Republicans are vulnerable, it is on education. Collectively, they have not been able to give us anything more than gridlock on this issue," said Greg Thielemann, a political science professor at the University of Texas at Dallas.
Grits For Breakfast has the poop on you governor's plan for more eavesdropping on the border, No border-based need to expand wiretapping:
Here's a non-solution searching for a problem: Currently wiretapping in Texas is limited to prosecuting drug trafficking and murder, so Texas Governor Rick Perry announced he wants to expand eavesdropping authority to combat border violence. But that makes no sense - aren't drug running and murder exactly the crimes we're trying to stop on the border? How much more authority could they possibly need to use wiretaps to combat smuggling rings? The whole thing seems like an odd non-sequitur - another idea promoted for show that doesn't make anyone safer.
And Greg has the analysis of why the Texas GOP, that controls every branch of the government in Texas, will not be trying to outlaw abortion anytime soon, "Phonies" Alert:
Seriously. For all the faux concern over the number of unborn children lost to abortion. Let's go back and question what it really means to be considered "pro life" shall we? I'll go out on a limb and suggest that "doing nothing" does not qualify a political party as being worth calling "pro life."

What's entirely curious is that there's a majority in the State House and State Senate who favor banning abortion in most/all situations. There's a Governor who's flaunted his desires to do the same. There's a court who, apparently, we can tell if they're pro-life based on what church they go to (hat tip: Nathan Hecht). There's every other statewide official who shares this worldview. So there's absolutely zero hurdles in the way of Rick Perry (a so-called Pro-Life Governor) getting such a bill passed.

Then, there's this quote from the Chron:

"I'm not saying we don't support a total ban. It's just not realistic at this point," said Elizabeth Graham, director of the Texas Right to Life Committee. "We would much more prefer to pass a law that saves 5,000 lives than go for something that will never be passed."

I'm sure what Mrs. Graham meant to say was "We would much more prefer to pass something that appeased a few meddlesome voters than pass something that would actually be viscerally opposed by the majority of Texans and likely cost the Texas GOP their majority."
Have they been playing politics with abortion far all these years?


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Saturday, February 25, 2006

What's Good For DeLay May Not Be Good For The GOP

Check out this from today's Under The Dome in the AAS:
Democrats should keep this in mind when the U.S. Supreme Court hears the Texas congressional redistricting case next week:

If the court eventually throws out the map inspired by U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay, the Sugar Land Republican might see his contested November election against former U.S. Rep. Nick Lampson evaporate.

If the Supremes force Texas to use its old congressional map, Lampson, formerly a Beaumont Democrat, might prefer to run in his old district that the DeLay plan eliminated in 2004.

That would leave Democrats hustling to find a replacement to take out DeLay, assuming, of course, he wins the March 7 GOP primary.
This is all speculation, of course. Would the GOP allow the whole plan to be scrapped just to save one man? Isn't it ironic that the only thing that could save DeLay is the map that he worked so hard to get rid of? Paging Mr. Morrison, Mr. Richard Morrison.


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Email Exchange Between Constituent And Rep. Krusee

Someone who regularly emails me tidbits about what's going on with the TTC in Eastern Williamson County sent me this email exchange they had with Rep. Krusee on SH 130 and the TTC (All Emails are posted as I received them):
1st email from constituent:
Mr. Krusee

I am appalled by the fact that you are responsible for the TTC 35 corridor.
I am also appalled that you feel that you can continue getting away with
what you, Gattis and Perry are doing. Shame on you and all your chronies,
money launderers, real estate developers, and schemers. I hope you can sleep
well at night and remember what you are doing to all the farmers and
ranchers and the poor people of Texas. I surely hope we can get rid of you
and all of your kind this year since none of you seem to have a soul.

Rep. Krusee's response:
I would like to see if we have any common ground.
The first part of ttc35 is called sh130. It's job is to relieve congestion
on I35. Although some land was condemed by the state, the project has
brought jobs and opportunity and a higher quality of life to the citizens of
Central Texas, and will continue to do so for our children. Do you support
the building of sh130? If not, what is a reasonable alternative
transportation policy?

This is just the beginning so click on Continue Reading to read the rest.

Constituent respone:
I supported the building of 130 however I do not support the way TxDot went
about how they managed it. I also would have voted for prop 1 and 9 but did
not due the fact I have done much research about the TTC 35 and 69 and was
very upset and stay upset about what I have found out about Texas and Rick
Perry, Tom Delay etc. several months ago even before the current scandal so
I voted against prop 1 and 9 which if you understand the statistics of what
happened was widely defeated in Hayes, Williamson and Travis counties. I do
not understand what the necessity is of this massive project called TTC 35
and do not like the impact it will have on the farmers and ranchers in
Williamson and Bell counties as well as everywhere else it will be. I have
caught Tx Dot in meetings mis representing information and also
representatives of the rail industry not being on the up and up right to my
face. I do not like the fact the our representatives can pass legislation
without our vote. I have never been a political activist but believe me I am
now and I have the money to back up my mouth. What jobs has it brought and
what oppurtunity?? I know someone who worked on 130 that job was short lived
and the crew now moved to the Seguin area. What about the people who worked
and lived here all of their lives and some for several generations? What
about the ranchers and farmers and the small folks? I am at the very least
pleasantly surprised that you responded. So tell me what is the reasonable
transportation policy north of 130 and what will they do about that? I am
in this with some other people that are not just impacted by 130. I commuted
on I35 for 8 years believe me I understand about quality of life why are you
taking so many people's quality of life away?

Rep. Krusee's final response:
sh130 is the first leg of ttc35, so the people of williamson county have
already felt the effect. for the most part, that effect has been one of
opportunity and, once the road is opened, of an improved quality of life.
you asked about jobs: the contruction itself has created tens of thousands
of jobs, and the road, when finished, will drive the creation of much more
than that. more importantly, it will allow employers to remain (and grow)
in texas rather than moving elsewhere, as dell did when it had to open a
plant in nashville due to the lack of roads in austin.
we in the austin area felt the impact of nafta perhaps more than anyone in
the u.s. the resulting traffic congestion cost the region tens of thousands of jobs,
lengthened our commute time every year, and made I35 the most lethal stretch
of interstate in the u.s.
the federal govt, when it passed nafta, promised to help texas deal with the
effects; however, they did not follow through with funds for
improving/expanding I35.
that is why we built sh130 the only way financially possible - with toll
bonds. i think, for the most part, people understand that - sh130 was
necessary..
long term, the same problems that beset us here in central texas will affect
everyone up and down the I35 corridor. that is why we are proposing to
expand sh130 north and south, up to dallas and south around san antonio.
so, you are right, bell county will be effected when sh130 goes north around
temple/belton, but i think that by the time that happens, it will be welcome
relief, as sh130 is seen as welcome relief by most people in the austin
region.
although, like any road, it will take some land to do the project (as it did
on sh130), the overall impact, i believe, will be good (and necessary) for
the communities located on I35. the alternative is the same death rate,
congestion and loss of jobs that central texas experienced in the decade
after nafta became law.
regarding prop 1, most people agree that our interstate system needs
upgrading, and it is only 50 years old. our rail system is over 100 years
old, and even more in need of improvement. though it is not as obvious as
our road system's shortcomings, the age of our rail system is costing lives
and harming our economy. prop 1 sought to create a fund which could address
that problem - thereby reducing the number of dangerous at-grade crossings
and increasing the speed of freight, which is slower now than 50 or even 100
years ago. now that it has passed, the fund still has no money - the
legislature must decide whether to fund it, and how much.
This is all being done for you. To help you and you grandchildren to have a better life. I wonder if anyone else's life's are being enriched by this?


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Friday, February 24, 2006

Mary Beth Harrell Responds To Carter Photo-Op

Link to photo-op, Congressman Carter Stands By His Man.

"Carter took time out of his busy schedule to show up one more time to defend and support Travis County Defendant, Tom Delay, but Carter could not find the time to come back to his own district to visit the veterans at the VA hospital in Temple for their Valentine's Day tribute to the vets.

I was privileged to be there and participate in that Valentine Day tribute to our veterans. Along with many other volunteers, I handed balloons, candies, and cards made by local school children, to the veterans at the hospital. The vets were surprised, pleased and touched by our individual expressions of affection and gratitude. A simple act that took very little time out of my day and very little effort, but offered a huge morale boost to these deserving vets.

As a veteran's wife, and the mother of two boys serving on active duty - the oldest is in Iraq, I was also very grateful to the wonderful volunteers who organized this Valentine's Day tribute to remember our veterans' sacrifice and service.

As an Army wife and mom, I'm fed up with the empty rhetoric of republicans like John Carter who claim to "support our troops" but can't even take the time to visit them. And more importantly, do not sponsor bills that increase health benefits and VA access for our veterans. In fact, Carter has yet to speak out against the pending proposal to increase the cost of health care premiums and co-pays for veterans.

Carter's office did send a representative to the VA event to speak for Carter. Carter's rep told us that the Congressman was busy in D.C. and couldn't be there. Carter's rep told us that he must be real busy because he wouldn't normally miss the opportunity to meet and escort Miss Texas on a tour of the VA hospital....

Sadly, John Carter's actions speak volumes about his priorities and values. He needs to quit fighting for Tom Delay, and to start fighting for our soldiers and veterans."

Mary Beth Harrell
Veterans For Harrell


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Congressman Carter Stands By His Man




Here's the story, Republicans rally to support DeLay in re-election bid:
U.S. Rep. John Carter, who represents the Central Texas Hill Country, likened DeLay to a World War I lieutenant who led his men out of a trench into battle and is "willing to have a target on front and back saying, 'shoot me first.'"
And
Tom Campbell, DeLay's primary opponent who set up an RV outside the GOP rally, said the event proved he was making inroads.

"I understand loyalty," Campbell said. "But it's important for us as a party to move through this fog of scandal."

DeLay hugged his wife, Christine, as he thanked the group.

"The Democrats are picking a fight with the wrong delegation," he told a small crowd.
He's got a primary opponent and his delegation in Congress voted against the "DeLay Rule". It's not just Democrats he's got plenty of problems with his own delegation. Where were the rest of the Texas Congressional Republicans?

If you'd like a change help Mary Beth Harrell.


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Thursday, February 23, 2006

A Few Items

The Austin Chronicle has this article on who paid for Ben Bentzin's campaign, and will be paying for the next too I'm sure, Bentzin's Tangled Web of Backers:
As it happens, many of the high rollers and power brokers who played a role in the GOP's legislative sweep of 2002 (along with tort reform, redistricting, and persistent efforts to pass school voucher legislation and expand gaming interests in Texas) had hoped to further their run of good luck with Bentzin, a wealthy former Dell executive. Bentzin outdistanced Howard by a long shot in fundraising, collecting more than $555,000 since last fall to Howard's $240,000. But he couldn't muster the votes to beat Howard in either the Jan. 17 special election or the Feb. 14 run-off.

[..]

Bentzin had previously told the Statesman that he wouldn't accept money from gambling advocates, but a fair number of his lobby contributors represent clients with gaming interests.
Click on the link above to see the list of names, I'm sure you'll recognize some of them.

TXU's in trouble, What goes up ...:
TXU and other electric power providers have justified large rate increases by explaining that soaring natural gas prices greatly increased their costs.

Indeed, natural gas is burned to generate much of the electricity produced in Texas. And gas prices skyrocketed to a record high of $15.78 per million British thermal units in futures trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange in December.

But gas prices have plunged since then as a result of increased supplies and milder-than-expected winter weather. Prices recently have been between $7 and $8 per million BTUs, or about half the peak price in December.

So why shouldn't electric rates be going down?
It's like at the pump when oil prices go up, that day the price starts going up. When oil prices go down, it takes a few days for the price at the pump to start going down.

Schools anxious about definition of the "65% Ruse":
School finance officials are wringing their hands over next week's expected unveiling of the Texas Education Agency's definition of instruction.

That definition will be used to tell public schools how much money has to be spent in the classroom. The goal is to redistribute money that otherwise would go to administrators' salaries and other noninstructional expenses.

But school districts say they will be forced to cut counselors, nurses and crossing guards to meet the state's standard, which was ordered by Gov. Rick Perry. Districts that don't comply, some fear, will suffer financial penalties or receive low marks on their accountability rating.

"It's a political move that takes away local control," said Arlington Associate Superintendent Steve Brown. "It's potentially devastating to some districts."
From what I understand the governor can't order this, the legislature has to:
But education law experts point out several problems with the governor's order.

One is that it is unlawful for the governor to order the education commissioner to adopt a particular rule. The commissioner's powers were delegated to her by the Legislature, not the governor.

Perry can't even fire Neeley without the approval of the Texas Senate. As a practical matter, of course, Neeley, who was appointed by Perry, is not likely to defy him.

[...]

And even if the commissioner eventually adopts a 65 percent rule, she apparently has little or no authority from the Legislature to punish those who come up short. In fact, the state already has a similar rule setting 54 percent of funds spent on classroom instruction as a benchmark for districts to meet in proving their financial accountability under the state law cited by Perry's executive order.
That makes it the "65% Suggestion".




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"Compassionate Conservatism" Brings Us A New Phrase..

.."The Working Poor". DKos has the story, The Hot New Place to Hang Out After Work: Soup Kitchens. Two reports out that show that family income has dropped 2.3% from 2001 to 2004. As a result, over the same time food banks usage is up 9%, with 36% using the food banks being employed. Therefore the term "Working Poor. This is the worst part though:
More than 25 million Americans turned to the nation's largest network of food banks, soup kitchens and shelters for meals last year, up 9 percent from 2001.

Those seeking food included 9 million children and nearly 3 million senior citizens, says a report from America's Second Harvest.

"The face of hunger doesn't have a particular color, and it doesn't come from a particular neighborhood," said Ertharin Cousin, executive vice president of the group. "They are your neighbors, they are working Americans, they are senior citizens who have worked their entire lives, and they are children."
This is happening in The United States of America?


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Coupland Residents May Get Information On TTC Route They Requested

On February 14th I posted on the plight of the Garry's, who live in Coupland, and their inability to get information from their state government pertaining to the route of the Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC). The article from the SAEN, linked in that earlier post ended this way:
"The corridor's Draft Environmental Impact Statement was due in December and it's not out," Garry said, explaining that it will more precisely plot the final route of the corridor. "My husband and I filed an open records request to see it," she says, "and TxDOT sent a letter saying they referred our request to the attorney general for an opinion on whether they must let us see it."

I know how frustrating that can be. And I hope the Garrys aren't too surprised if they don't see it until after the November election.
Today there was this story in the TDP, TTC route may be revealed:
The document sought by two Coupland residents and others that would show in greater detail the route of the Trans Texas Corridor (TTC) through Central Texas may be released in March, according to a letter received by Buzz and Susan Garry of Coupland.

The Garrys had sought the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and Cintra Zachry, the company which is under contract to build part of the massive toll road proposed by Gov. Rick Perry.
Susan Garry said she recently received a letter from TxDOT indicating that even though Attorney General Greg Abbott had ruled the DEIS couldn't be released, TxDOT is working with the Federal Highway Administration to get approval for release of the document sometime next month.
The title said MAY, this is not a done deal. The Garry's have TxDOT and the Federal Highway Administration on their side, who's on the other side?
Cintra Zachry filed suit in Austin last month to block release of its development and financing plans, which Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has said are not public record. Abbott made his ruling in response to an open records request from the Houston Chronicle.

In addition, TxDOT refused to make public its plans for the project, which includes a $7.2 billion toll road from Dallas to San Antonio and could include massive rail infrastructure through the Taylor and Coupland areas.
The state's Attorney General and a foreign corporation. Sound familiar? Who else is with and against the Garry's?
The TTC has become a front-burner topic in local political races. At a candidate forum held in Taylor on Monday, Republican Barbara Samuelson and Democrat Karen Felthauser, both of whom are running for state representative from District 52, stated their opposition to the TTC. The District 52 incumbent, Rep. Mike Krusee, was at the forum but didn't address the TTC or its local impact.
I hope the Garry's get the information they deserve about the property that's been in their family for generations.

If you're a fan of open government don't forget that David Van Os is running for Attorney General for the Democratic Party. Make plans to join him next weekend at the state Capitol Building for his Filibuster For Independence:
In 1836 the founders of Texas declared and won their independence from dictatorship and entered the community of nations. In our day the people of Texas must again win their independence from the modern dictatorship of corruption, cronyism, and corporate government. We have a Constitution to save!



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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Craddick's Dilemma

Did you see this, House speaker endorses Geren? That seemed a little odd to me. Why has Speaker Craddick come out in favor of one of his benefactor's enemies? Especially after Rep. Geren was instrumental in derailing the his ideological twin's pet project last session:
"Carter teed it up so good all I needed to do was swing," said Geren.

The first Geren amendment simply gave the Republican leadership some of its own medicine. If a voucher pilot program was so good for public schools in minority districts then it should also be acceptable to Republican suburban districts, such as the bill's sponsor Kent Grusendorf's Arlington district.

Geren's second amendment went right for the throat of the bill's voucher provision. The amendment shifted "school choice" funding from private schools to public schools, which isn't exactly what voucher proponents had in mind. Grusendorf's motion to table failed, and Geren's public school choice amendment was adopted by a vote of 74-70. That gutted the bill's private school voucher proposal.
If you'll remember Leininger had a pretty good vantage point to lobby legislators on this issue:
The doctor has spent some of the previous week and much of this Monday meeting with wavering Republicans in the suite of offices kept by the speaker behind the House chamber. Gov. Rick Perry and Craddick also met with members. Leininger gave Texans for Rick Perry $62,968 in 2004. The governor is going to need a lot more of that money if U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison challenges him.
The first paragraph in that Observer story reminds us of the risk legislators like Rep. Geren and, Texan Of The Year, Rep. Casteel were taking:
Rep. Carter Casteel (R-New Braunfels) stands before her colleagues to offer an amendment that could endanger her political career. "So, I'’ve made a decision," she tells them. "It may send me home"

The Texas Legislature is usually not a place for acts of political bravery, especially of late. Three years ago, a corporate-backed GOP campaign stacked the House with legislators selected, whenever possible, to be radical ideologues pliant to special interests. Republican representatives were defined by their fear of crossing a vengeful leadership ready to marshal lobby money against them if they didn'’t cooperate.
Oh how prophetic that was:
One thing you can say about conservative San Antonio businessman James Leininger: He's as rough on Republicans who disagree with him as with traditional Democratic foes.

Maybe even rougher. He has made almost $1 million in contributions to political action committees to fuel primary challenges to five Republican lawmakers who failed to back Leininger's pet proposal to issue state-funded private school vouchers to parents seeking an alternative to public education for their kids.
That's why I question the recent actions of the Speaker. I think he's just hedging his bets. This way no matter what happens in the primary he's doesn't lose control over the House, theoretically, no literally. Think about it if all of Leininger's five lose, he the has to try and get them to cooperate in the upcoming special session. And if you lead the charge to oust them, that's five lame duck Republican legislators that have nothing to lose. If they all win he still has to work with them for 2-plus years, at least.


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As Toll Roads Prepare To Open, Residents & Businesses Find Out The Hidden Costs

Here's the article from the AAS on closing ramps in Round Rock, Round Rock residents protest ramp closures:
A standing-room-only crowd of 250 frustrated residents and business owners packed City Council chambers Tuesday night to protest the impending permanent closures of four on-and-off Interstate 35 ramps near the shadows of Texas 45 North.

The closures could come by year's end to make room for the toll road's Round Rock flyovers, also tentatively scheduled to open at that point, Texas Department of Transportation officials said.
To a certain extent this is all our faults for allowing these people to represent us. I'm not saying we shouldn't try to fix problems with the current project. It's just that I wouldn't expect any help from TxDOT or our current elected representation on this. Here's what Bob Daigh, Austin district engineer for the Department of Transportation had to say:
"Unfortunately, for safety reasons, those four ramps must be closed," he said. "I will not find myself in a hospital with one of your kids because of a weave problem that we didn't prohibit because of a proper decision to close those ramps."

"I wish I were Santa Claus and could drop an infinite amount of money on this area, and I wish I could talk happy talk to you and make all the problems go away," he said. "But I refuse to do that. We have a safety issue."
Merry Toll Roads! Here's what a local business person has to say about what these "pro-business Republicans" - that's an oxymoron like "compassionate conservative" - are doing:
But Round Rock residents argue that closing four ramps at once will create nightmarish traffic jams on the frontage roads. And business owners say they fear losing money if shoppers find it more difficult to reach their doors.

Sean Greenberg, one of three owners of Pluckers Wing Bar, set to open in March near the McNeil Road exit on the east side of I-35, said he's dismayed by talk of ramp closures.

"Had we realized what the situation was, . . . we certainly would've chosen a different location within the Round Rock area," he said.
Don't worry Congressman Carter adds these words of wisdom:
U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, told the crowd that he'd help how ever possible. Away from the lectern, Carter said: "I'm here to say, 'Let's calm down.' Federal funds are always helpful, but they (state transportation officials) haven't asked for them."

Also attending the tense meeting were state Rep. Mike Krusee, R-Williamson County, and Williamson County Commissioner Lisa Birkman.
Calm down! You're daily life is about to be screwed up but just calm down. Oh they have a fix and in typical "non-Republican" fashion they're going to throw money at it:
To ease the pain of southbound ramp closures, Round Rock officials unveiled a $10 million plan to build an escape route, a new road, under Hesters Crossing Road. Drivers would stay on the southbound I-35 frontage road, go under Hesters Crossing and then re-enter the frontage road, thus avoiding the Hesters Crossing signal. Planned improvements include adding two lanes to the Hesters Crossing bridge.
Thanks for allowing and escape route out of my neighborhood for $10 million. Remember everybody, If you don't like the way these people are treating you there are excellent Democratic alternatives, Mary Beth Harrell and Karen Felthauser.



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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Do You Know A Good Place For A Felthauser Sign?



If you do drop her a line:
WE NEED YOUR HELP!

The Felthauser Campaign is proud to announce that our Big Highway Signs have arrived.

We need to get them up and let Williamson County’s District 52 know there are Democrats on the ballot. Please give Karen a call or an e-mail ( 512.218-4943 or karenfelthauser06@austin.rr.com ) and let her know if you either have a high traffic area which would warrant a 4 foot by 8 foot sign and/or if you would be willing to help put up some of these signs. Anybody with a big enough pick-up truck you could lend to the cause?

(We will NOT be getting small yard signs in until closer to the general election, so if you are willing to put up a lawn sign, we will let you know when they come in.)

THANKS IN ADVANCE !!!
Here it is in action. Looks good with the Jim Stauber sign.






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Taylor Daily Press Story On Last Night's Forum

The TDP has the write-up, Candidates address issues at forum:

All candidates made statements, and a question-and-answer session was held featuring candidates running for Williamson County judge and Pct. 4 commissioner, all of whom were present for the forum

[...]

"The precinct's population is growing, and that means more diversity,"” Mireles said. "“We have to work at reaching out and bringing people into the process."”

Mireles cited his experience as a board member on the Round Rock Independent School District in addressing the county's issuance of debt through certificates of obligation.

"You have to make proposals and build consensus first, then proceed,"” Mireles said.
An R even had to take a swipe at the TTC, is the pressure building?
Ron Morrison of Round Rock said he supports voter approval for issuance of county debt unless it's an extreme emergency, and he also addressed the plans for the Trans Texas Corridor (TTC), the large-scale, toll-based highway and rail system now on the drawing board.

"“I want to work with the powers that be not to let the TTC cover our best farmland,"” Morrison said
Look out if you don't have what Ron Morrison considers the "best farmland". From the story it seems like it was a good event. The Democrats showed up very well it looks like:
Also making brief statements at the forum were Republican John Carter, the U.S. Representative from District 31, and his Democratic party opponent Mary Beth Harrell.

Tony Dale, a candidate for the State Board of Education, was represented by Bill Fairbrother, the Williamson County Republican Party chairman. Martin Tomin, the Libertarian candidate for the position, gave a brief statement.

Jim Stauber, a Democrat who is running for state representative in District 20, spoke to the audience. He is opposed by Republican Dan Gattis.

Candidates in the Republican Primary for the District 52 seat in the Texas House of Representatives, Mike Krusee and Barbara Samuelson, provided remarks, along with Karen Felthauser, who is running for the seat in the Democratic party primary.

Also making statements were Jim Coronado, Democratic candidate for the Third Court of Appeals Place 2, and Democrats Bree Buchanan (Place 6), Mina Brees (Place 5), and Diane Henson (Place 3).
All the Democratic Court of Appeals candidates, that's impressive. If anyone was there and has more info on the forum please leave a comment, we'd love to read it.


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Strayhorn And Vouchers

OTG latest campaign strategy is to remind folks, even before she was the Mayor of Austin and sucked Austin deeper into the STNP, she was a school teacher:
Teachers unions typically back the Democratic nominee. But Strayhorn, a Republican with a son working in the White House, is a former Austin schoolteacher, high school tennis coach, school trustee and mayor running as a "Texas independent."
Not that she's one to switch sides or anything but it now appears she's stealing Kinky's message:
"I think this state is hungry for independent leadership. People are sick of all the politics. Texans want somebody who can get the job done."

That's almost exactly what novelist and musician Kinky Friedman said when he launched his independent campaign for governor last year. Back then, Strayhorn was still talking like a Republican who planned to challenge Perry early in the primary, railing loudly against his lack of leadership in the Legislature and calling him a "do-nothin' drugstore cowboy."
Then watch her flip-flop on vouchers:
Perry "is just systematically dismantling the public-school system" by not increasing the budget enough and favoring a pilot voucher program that would divert public money to private and church schools, she said.

Strayhorn has supported the same pilot voucher program in the past. She said that she still supports the idea but that now is not the time for it.

"I'm not saying that I would never support them," she said. "I'm saying that I would take vouchers off the table for discussion. No more talk until we address the needs of the public schools."
Correct me if I'm wrong here but weren't vouchers proposed in the first place because we weren't addressing the needs of public schools? Therefore, if we start meeting the needs of public schools why would there be a need to look a vouchers? Vouchers are how public schools will be defunded. How can she be allowed to talk about Perry doing this on the one hand and still support vouchers on the other? I don't know it just looks to me like a candidate trying to have it both ways. Leaving herself open in case she needs vouchers for political reasons some time in the future. To me you're either with the teachers and against vouchers or you're not. It still makes me wonder why the TSTA is backing OTG.


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DMN Poll On Taxes, Intelligent Design And A Border Wall

There's something funny about this poll, Most OK with tax hike for schools. Here's how the article on it starts out:
The majority of Texans, despite being tax leery and skeptical of government spending, are willing to open their wallets to provide more money for public education, according to a new statewide survey.
When you look at the About this poll toward the bottom of the article, which I will refer to more in this post, It says this:
Blum & Weprin Associates Inc. of New York conducted the random telephone poll of 1,482 registered voters Feb. 9-15. It has an error margin of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Taking that into consideration shouldn't the article open saying The Majority of registered voters in Texas in instead of a majority of Texans? This poll hits three areas: Raising taxes for education, teaching intelligent design as science in public schools, and building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. You can make of this poll what you will but to me it's not a good sample, again from the about the poll, I see this:
Blum & Weprin Associates Inc. of New York conducted the random telephone poll of 1,482 registered voters Feb. 9-15. It has an error margin of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

[...]

Of those polled, 301 say they are likely to vote in the Democratic primary. The error margin for those voters' responses is 5.5 percentage points.
The first question this raises for me that wasn't stated in the About this poll is, was the question asked and if so how many are likely to vote in the Republican Primary. There's also a bigger margin of error for the Democratic Answers. That leads me to believe this poll is heavily skewed to registered Republicans. And if we're getting these kinds of answers it probably means that Texans overall are probably more pro-tax for education than this poll states. It probably also means that the rest of these numbers are off. Here are the numbers:
52% would be willing to pay more in state taxes to put more money into schools (39% would not)

46% of Republicans would not want to pay more (44% would, making Republicans the only voter group unwilling to pay more)

44% think intelligent design theory should be taught in public schools as science (42% disagree)

49% of Republicans think it should be taught (37% said no)

38% of Democrats think it should be taught (50% don't think so)

47% oppose building a fence along the U.S.-Mexico border to stop illegal immigration (44% favor a fence)

Undecided voters and those who declined to answer are not included.
The writer should have correctly called it a poll of registered voters and not use "Texans" which infers all Texans, registered or not. And it's a very small sampling of Democrats, a little over 20% of those taking the poll. I think less than 38% of Democrats think intelligent design should be taught as a science.


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They're Shuddering, Let's Get Them Quaking

In Harvey Kronberg's latest commentary, Does lightning strike twice?, he tells us that:
Despite claims to the contrary, Donna Howard's decisive win over Republican Ben Bentzin in last week's special election sent shudders through GOP circles

[...]

Travis County Democratic Party Chair Chris Elliot may have nailed it when he said the voters are suffering Republican exhaustion.

In exactly one week, we get to see if the Howard win was a fluke or the beginning of a trend. Up in Irving, Democrat Katy Hubener takes on Republican Kirk England in another special election. This race is also in a 58 percent Republican district, but one far more blue collar than West Austin.

In contrast to Austin, early voting has been fairly light. But some Republicans in the district say Hubener has a real shot at a win.

If lightning does strike twice, all bets are off for Republicans incumbents being challenged by moderates in their primary a week later.
I'd call it Republican fatigue, but that's me. And the shuddering will turn into quaking. Help out Katy Hubener if you can.








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Monday, February 20, 2006

Today's Installment Of, "The Republicans Control Congress"

MyDD has today's installment, Our Message In 2006: Republicans Control Congress. Here's the possible ad script:
Do you disapprove of the way the congress is doing its job?

Republicans control congress.

In Washington, DC, Republicans have a majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Tom DeLay was the Republican majority leader in the House of Representatives for three years. Last year, he was forced to resign because he is under indictment for money laundering charges.

Do you disapprove of the way congress is doing its job?

Republicans control congress.
How about this question. Do you approve of the way Congress has handled Medicare.

Republicans Control Congress!



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Charles Kuffner Interviews Rep. Garnet Coleman

Like Kuffner says he is "one of the true good guys" in the legislature. The interview hits all the highpoints: The Trans-Texas Corridor, TTRC, school finance and much, much more. I highly recommend it, you can read it here, Interview with Garnet Coleman.


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Sunday, February 19, 2006

The Face Of The Right Wing In Texas

I always said that the Republicans loved Tom DeLay but they didn't want him to be the face of their party. I always thought that if and when Tom DeLay became the face of the Republican Party it wouldn't be a good thing for them. Some people operate best out of the limelight. The problem is when someone is responsible for success, sooner or later they are going to get public recognition for what they've done. The media will start to notice them and they will no longer shun the limelight. They won't necessarily search it out but they feel they've earned it and it's about time they get their attention they deserve. By this time they've become so powerful nobody's going to tell them to shun attention anymore.

I'm starting to feel the same way about James Leininger. He's starting to get noticed, a lot. I don't think the Republicans want this billionaire puppet master to be the poster child of the upcoming election. But they're gonna have trouble keeping him quiet and out of the limelight. He's been bankrollin' them for a long time and now is his time to shine.

He had given $550,000 and pledged an additional $250,000 to the Texas Republican Legislative Campaign Committee through Jan. 26, the last day of the most recent campaign-finance reporting period. That nascent committee has helped the challengers who are trying to take out incumbent Republicans Carter Casteel of New Braunfels, Delwin Jones of Lubbock, Charlie Geren of Fort Worth, Roy Blake of Nacogdoches and Tommy Merritt of Longview.

Some of the challengers, at least in their early fundraising, relied almost exclusively on Leininger's money. Nathan Macias, who is running against Casteel, received about $183,000 of his $198,000 from the committee or Leininger directly. Wayne Christian received almost $161,000 of his $185,000 from the committee or directly from Leininger in his race against Blake.

In a written statement, Leininger said every citizen has a right and a duty to "pitch in and make their government and their community work better."

"I support candidates for the Texas Legislature who share the concerns of me and many Texans that property taxes are too high, our borders need to be more secure and that Texas has the opportunity to do a better job educating our children," he said.

Some of the incumbents he is targeting have made Leininger's support of their opponents key issues.

Hopefully the candidates he backs will lose and he'll start to become a liability. This quote shows what's at stake for Mr. Leininger, these incumbents and the Democratic process in the state of Texas:

"If those people survive, others will be emboldened," said Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University. "If they don't, others will be intimidated."

You gotta stand up to a bully no matter how much money he has. So check him out in those two articles. He is the face of the right wing in Texas. He's proud of it and if he wins these races you can bet he'll be bankrollin' a right wing shill in your legislative district soon.


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Candidate Forum In Taylor On Monday

The Taylor Daily Press has the story, Candidate forum set for Monday.
A candidate forum for those seeking the county judge and Pct. 4 county commissioner posts will be at 7 p.m. Monday in the Taylor High School Auditorium.

The forum is organized by the Governmental Affairs Committee of the Taylor Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by the Taylor Daily Press.
Come out and support Brig Mireles.


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Teacher Rally Turns Into Campaign Event For OTG

That's sure the way it looks from all the media links I've found do far today. Granted she appears to have been the headliner. The media seems to be doing a great job of making forming her campaign message for her. Former teacher is peppered throughout all of these stories. The News 8 story is the only one that doesn't put OTG's name in the title, Teachers rally for better pay, benefits, it also mentions that someone other that OTG spoke:

Texas teachers rallied on the steps of the State Capitol this weekend to call for
better salaries and benefits.

Several different teacher agencies organized educators from around the state.

Speakers included gubernatorial candidate Carole Keeton-Strayhorn and newly elected District 48 Representative Donna Howard.

Teachers say they want pay raises, better health and retirement and a little more respect.

Those at the rally believe teachers can flex some political muscle in several elections planned for this year. "I think we're going to have a lot of weight.

There's a lot of teachers out there upset at what has happened, the way they've addressed us in the past, it's going make us come out," Tina Briones, a teacher said.

Most observers expect Governor Rick Perry to call a special session on school finance reform sometime this spring.

Like I said, at least as far as the media is concerned A teacher's rally broke out at a OTG campaign event.





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DMN Poll On Texas Governor's Race

The Burnt Orange Report has the analysis. The main thing I take from this is that there is definitely a reason for Democrats to vote in the Democratic Primary and not sit it out so they can sign a position. The governor's race is wide open. Get out and vote.


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Friday, February 17, 2006

Who's The Good 'Ol Boy? Culpepper Or Gattis?

It looks like a game of pin-the-check-on-the-good-'ol-boy broke out, Candidate forum turns joust
But the sass started when Gattis was asked what he would do to change the commissioners court's reputation of good ol' boy antics.

"I don't think there's any doubt that we've had a lot of the good old boy network," said Gattis, the father of State Representative Dan Gattis. "I'll bring a breath of fresh air. The way you solve that is make everything as open and transparent as possible."”

Culpepper found Gattis' response humorous, and was quick with a retort.

"“Look at who he's taken money from," Culpepper said. "“He's got contributions from every special interest group in the county. He may not be one [a good old boy], but he sure is beholding of them. That's all I need to say."”

The jab caught Gattis off guard.

"One-hundred and forty people have given me money; he's got about 20,"” he said. "Let's see who's got the big checks. My average is about $250. I'd be glad to talk about his average."

According to the list of contributions required by the Texas Ethics Commission, Gattis received $40,975 from 107 donations, an average of $382 each. Culpepper got $31,050, a $365 average.

Gattis admitted after the forum that he didn't fully study Culpepper's filing.

"“He just made me mad when he said that,"” Gattis said. "“And, yeah, there were probably some on my list who were a little shady, one or two you wished wouldn't have given. But I got money from a lot of people."
First there ain't nothing more funny than watching two Republicans trying to make the other one out as more corrupt. I also like how Mr. Gattis recovered from his erroneous statement. He didn't know what was in his opponents filing but he was mad and needed to make a point. Do you think he'd do that when someone makes him mad when he's judge? Oh yeah, he also admitted that he had some "shady" donors to his campaign. Who are the shady and non-shady donors on your list Mr. Gattis? If there "shady" and you knew it why did you accept the money? One of the things I hate about the media these days is there never seems to be any follow-up questions.

Other candidates were there too:
Unlike the candidates for county judge, the Precinct 2 commissioner candidates provided few fireworks during Wednesday's forum.

Republican candidates Melissa Beaudoin, Terry Davis and Cynthia Long, and Democrat Michael Hofmann introduced themselves, briefly gave synopses of their resumés, and then answered questions about budgets, law enforcement and the communications center.

CPA Valerie Covey and Lisa David, the assistant chief deputy for the Williamson County District Clerk, are vying for District Clerk, a position primarily in charge of spending and organization of the county's court system. Both are Republicans.
That's it, the other two races got three paragraphs combined. What is their stance on toll roads, constables, mental health, the shiriffs office, etc..? I'm sure the readers of the HCN would like to know the answers to those questions instead of who's more corrupt of the two judge candidates.


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Gov. Perry's Ship Of Cronies

Gardner Selby has an article in today's AAS on your governor's fateful trip to the Bahamas two years ago, 2 years after Bahamas powwow, school finance still on a slow boat. It's pretty much a rehash of what Bob Gammage said when he announced for his candidacy, Democratic Candidate Vows to Attack Corrupt GOP Political Machine:
Today there is a corrupt political machine which stretches from Washington, D.C. all the way to Austin. Tom DeLay and his cronies are at one end, and Rick Perry and his pals are at the other. The money flows both ways. It has corrupted our politics, corrupted our government and, more importantly, corrupted public policy and betrayed the public trust.
But back to today's AAS article. The only person to come to your governor's aid is Grover Norquist, yes he's the same one that's all wrapped up with Jack Abramoff:
"The governor is a very serious scuba diver," Grover Norquist, a Washington tax cut advocate who joined Perry at Elbow Cay, said this week. "I managed not to drown."

Norquist, like others there, insisted there was ample substance to the gathering.

[...]

Norquist, who heads Americans for Tax Reform, which champions state and federal tax cuts, said Perry came out of the trip comfortable with ideas that remain worthy of becoming law — including the view that school spending increases shouldn't happen without gains in educational accountability. Perry, he said, "took a lot of barbs and arrows from people who wanted to talk about half of it — money (for schools) without reforms. He became stronger politically because he hung tough with a good idea."
I can't wait for that commercial, "I'm proud of my scuba divin' for Texas schools, how 'bout you?" But lo-and-behold, Gorver is an advocate of the "65% Ruse":
"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."
I wonder where your governor got the idea for the "65% Ruse"? Remember, the "65% Ruse" is just a catchy marketing name to get the general public to buy into the usual Republican "easy fix" line , that actually does no such thing. The "65% Ruse" is being used to defund public education and build a wall between teachers and administrators, divide and conquer. Now that we know that the "65% Ruse" doesn't work and more evidence keeps coming out, let's see who was on the ship:
•Gov. Rick Perry

Anita Perry, first lady of Texas

Grover Norquist, Washington tax cut champion

James Leininger, San Antonio proponent of enabling disadvantaged public school students to attend private schools with government money

Brooke Rollins, president and CEO of the pro-small government Texas Public Policy Foundation

John Nau III, Houston beer distributor

•Mike Toomey, then Perry's chief of staff

•Deirdre Delisi, then governor's deputy chief of staff

Mike Morrissey, governor's budget and planning director

•Dave Carney, Perry's chief campaign consultant
It's easy to tell by looking at who was on the ship that this was a strategy session to come up with a plan to defund public education in Texas and bring on vouchers. As Mr. Selby says in the title, school finance has been put on a slow boat, and who benefits from that? Well it hasn't been public schools, that's for sure. We need to make sure it's not this governor and his cronies who benefit.


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Thursday, February 16, 2006

While Republican State Leaders Bicker Amongst Each Other And Settle Scores, The Least Among Us Suffer.

In this article from today's DMN, Nursing homes face shortfalls as Dewhurst, Craddick disagree, we find out a lot of nasty stuff about the Republican leadership in Texas - Perry, Craddick, and Dewhurst. Not that they don't like each other, we've known that for quite some time. What is amazing is the lengths they will go to because of it.
A last-minute budgeting error in last year's regular legislative session caused payments to the homes, already among the lowest in the country, to dip even further. The payments are made under Medicaid, the state-federal program that provides health care for the poor.

Lawmakers had agreed on a plan for the homes to pay a per-patient tax that would qualify them for increased state and federal reimbursements ‚– more than enough to make up for the "Granny tax." All but about 30 of the state's 1,100 nursing homes would benefit.

But Gov. Rick Perry intervened on behalf of homes with affluent residents who are not on Medicaid, who would have lost money. His opposition caused the provision to be killed during the last weekend of the session – leaving nursing homes with a collective $200 million budget hole.

In August, the governor proposed to use $200 million of surplus funds to patch the hole, but that had to be ratified by the Legislative Budget Board, the group authorized to allocate money when the Legislature isn't meeting.
Gov. Perry intervenes on behalf of the wealthy few and in turn hurts the least among us, funny how that works. Now Lerch and Shorty can't agree on how to give the funding back because they're not done punishing people from the previous special sessions. See what else has not been funded and also watch as Rep. Eissler first can't figure why this is happening and then explain why in the next paragraph:
Because the budget board hasn't met, other large items that haven't been funded -– even though they have the backing of Mr. Perry -– include hospital emergency rooms and rural ambulance services; a four-year medical school in El Paso; and South Texas' first professional school, the Irma Rangel pharmacy school in Kingsville.

Glistening new buildings for the school sit empty because the state hasn't given it $5 million a year in operating funds.

Rep. Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands, said the funding delays are puzzling. He noted that Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn estimated last week that the state has a surplus of $4.3 billion.

"Slow movement on money, especially when we've got a surplus?" Mr. Eissler said. "Why haven't the lieutenant governor and the speaker solved what would seem to be easy decisions? Maybe we don't know all of the parameters."

He said the two leaders may have stalled on some spending partly to gain leverage with certain lawmakers whose votes could help pass legislation to overhaul school finance and cut property taxes in a special session.
I'm sure they'll agree eventually, as long as the solution doesn't hurt the wealthy.


[UPDATE] The Money has been appropriated, via QR Buzz:
Press Release

Today, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst and Speaker Tom Craddick authorized the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) to draw upon funds to pay for a number of critical needs in the state.

The expenditures include: $4.3 million in general revenue and $4.3 million in federal funds to increase the personal needs allowance for long-term care facility residents from $45 to $60; $75 million in general revenue and $115.7 million in federal funds for nursing facility rate increases; $27.6 million in general revenue for EMS/trauma care; and, $13.4 million to expand the capacity of Mental Health state hospitals.

"There is nothing more important to me than protecting the most vulnerable in our society. By funding these services, we are one step closer to delivering the highest quality care to those who really need it—the elderly and the frail," Lt. Gov. Dewhurst said.

"The services set to receive these funds could potentially affect every citizen of this state," Speaker Tom Craddick said. "As a result, it is imperative that these agencies expedite action and facilitate expanded capacity and improved quality care. I am pleased we are currently in a situation to approve these much needed resources, and I trust that by doing so we are helping our most vulnerable Texans."

Notification was made via letter to HHSC Executive Commissioner Albert Hawkins. The authorization allows transfers to be made within HHSC services agencies to pay for the items listed by using Fiscal Year 2006 (FY06) appropriations, unexpended FY05 balances and, if necessary, funds slated for FY07.
See what a little media pressure can do.


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Krusee v. Samuelson. Is He Getting Worried?

Homemade Signs Go Up to Replace Krusee with Barbara Samuelson and Krusee runs a push poll,
It's come to my attention that Rep. Krusee is running a push poll. In the poll they ask if people, repub primary voters if they are familiar with (Mike) Krusee, Barbara (Samuelson) and Karen (Felthauser). They ask what the people think of these three people. Then he makes up lies about himself and Barbara.

What would you think about Krusee if you knew Krusee voted to raise teacher salaries? Lie?

What would you think if you knew that Barbara moved here from Canada just two years ago? Lie?
If you run a push poll I assume that means someone's pushing on you. These questions may not be lies. The questions are asked to make people believe things that aren't true by asking leading questions. Like, when was the last time you beat your wife.

Here's Krusee's record:
MIKE KRUSEE ON THE ISSUES (Votes are from 2003, 78th Regular Session)


Voted for Toll Roads, a Commuter Tax on our Commuter Community
(HB 3588)

Voted to cut teacher pay and rights
(HB 112 and HB 3257)

Voted to lower professional standards for our children’s teachers
(HB 318 &HB 2723)

Voted to Continue to underfund education and pass the burden to the local level
(HB 1)

Voted to Cut $15,786,000 from the HEALTHCARE budget of Williamson County for children,pregnant mothers, nursing home residents and the aged and disabled.
(HB 2292)


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A Different (Fundamentalist) Kind Of Politics

Former Speaker Pete Laney put off by today's Texas politics:
Former Texas House Speaker Pete Laney, D-Hale Center, spent more than 30 years engaged in the daily wrangling and haggling over legislation, but his last years to serve have never been more contentious, he said Wednesday.

Political campaigns waging war on the South Plains show the growing political partisanship in Austin throughout the last few years, said Laney.

"It didn't used to be that way," he said. "We take pride in the fact that we handled our business in Texas differently than they did in other states."
No need to name names, it's the usual suspects that are providing the money. He goes on:
"Right here in Lubbock, Texas, you're experiencing how people in other parts of the state want to involve themselves in things up here," said Laney, who currently holds the District 85 seat but plans to give it up, announcing his retirement in December.
This is more of the Clear Channel model I described yesterday, central/party control of local candidates. Do you think the candidate being backed by the usual suspects will do what's best for the constituents or their paymasters.
While Laney's speech before a Rotary Club meeting Wednesday carried a varied candor - perhaps more than he's allowed in his 30-plus years in the House - his demeanor indicates a hesitance to pull off the gloves. Describing political candidates as boxes of cereal, Laney said the packaging seems to play a major role in a candidate's success.

"You've got to open up the package and see what's inside."
That was Ben Bentzin's downfall. In the Austin area, where Democrats can still raise enough money to fight back, that can happen. In West Texas I don't think it can.

I remember hearing all kinds of things that were tried against Speaker Laney back in the late nineties when the R's were trying to get the majority. Mailings with pictures of dead fetuses and the like. Similar to things like this smear on Sen. Ratliff detailed here, scroll down to Feb. 14. I guess that's what's gotten Dave McNeely write this, Craddick's crony holds little promise.


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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Rep. Krusee Updates His Campaign Web Site

I check his site every so often and it's finally been updated. I don't think it had been updated since the 2002 election. Nothing special, I guess that's what a primary opponent did. One thing I did notice though was that there are three "flattering" quotes on the left hand side - same ones on every page. Whoever gave him the content couldn't find anything more recent then 2003? I wonder why?



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The Gov., Lt. Gov. & Speaker Aren't On The Same Page. I Think I Heard That Before.

The Houston Chronicle has an editorial today called Mixed signals. It's about the fact that the Gov. just wants to focus on taxes in the spring, the Lt. Gov wants taxes and school reform, and Craddick wants all that and vouchers too. Perry seems to be the only one that doesn't want to talk, at the least, about a teacher pay raise. Rep. Homer and Sen. Eltife are for getting teachers more money:
"There is no reason we can'’t address a teacher pay raise in the same special session," Eltife said. "“We have $2.5 billion in the bank from the last session that can be spent on an across-the-board teacher pay increase."

[...]

"“I think teacher pay raises are critical," Homer said, noting teachers are about $6,000 under the national average. "“This first hit needs to be across the board to get our teachers at least to the half-way point and then we can start looking at some form of merit pay next year."
My opinion is that your governor thinks he's already taken care of the teachers and education reform is on the way.

Also, can you guess why John Sharp won't forget his trip to Abilene yesterday for the TTRC hearing? Can't find much else on the hearing yesterday but it doesn't really matter after that.



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Leininger's Adopts Clear Channel Model

As I was reading Harvey Kronberg's latest commentary at News 8, A man with a plan, there was something very familiar about this part of the story, the part in bold in particular:
Apparently, Leininger doesn't trust these candidates to run their own campaigns. Very little of his money is actually going to the candidates. Instead, it'’s Leininger's PAC that is directly paying the consultants and pollsters. His PAC is bypassing the campaigns and directly buying the television and radio time, as well as paying the people doing the mail and producing the commercials. In fact, it'’s fair to say these five campaigns are run by the PAC and its consultants, with the actual candidates reduced to little more than figurehead or employee status.

So it'’s not surprising that the voters in Nacogdoches are seeing the exact same cookie-cutter advertising as are the folks in say, Fort Worth, Lubbock or New Braunfels.

When one man all but single handedly organizes, plans and funds five campaigns, local voters might reasonably question whether Leininger's candidates will represent them rather than the wealthy physician from San Antonio.
This is exactly like one of the tricks Clear Channel did when building it's radio empire. (To find out about how Clear Channel did this click here and scroll down to Stations On "Auto Pilot") Taking over local stations, eliminating the local control over the station, and programming them from a central location, all with the same content, which in turn cuts the costs and makes the corporation more porfitable. It's just that Mr. Leininger has taken that business plan and is trying to implement it in your statehouse. A bunch of local politicians, programmed by one central billionaire to do what profits him and not doing what's best for the constituents of these ditricts.

P. S. Clear Channel and Mr. Leininger both being from San Antonino, I did a cursory Google search of Mr. Leininger and Clear Channel from that there does not appear to be a connection. If anyone knows anything different feel free to comment.



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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Donna Howard Wins HD 48 Race 58% to 42%! Congratulations!

And the right-wing of the Texas Republican Party - Leininger, Craddick, Perry - lose! Another vote for their voucher scheme down the drain. BOR has the story- look at that smile on her face. Democrats winning sure is fun!


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More On Gary Griffin's Lawsuit

I'd mentioned in the previous post about the County meeting violation alleged by Constable Gary Griffin. This latest article is from the TDP. Here is the gist of what is alleged:
The filing quotes Doerfler as testifying in open court that during an executive session on Oct. 20 commissioners had a "“general consensus in the meeting" that Griffin had eight deputies for mental health purposes, and commissioners "figured that's what it was going to take for the sheriff to do a like job with that many people, and that all eight of them should go."

According to the filing, also attending the executive session were county budget analyst Ashley Koenig and Julie Kiley, the assistant county auditor, who provided budget and other information.

The amended lawsuit says commissioners held similar discussions about Griffin's budget in executive sessions on Oct. 25 and Nov. 8.

The filing says, "“Matched with the county judge's sworn testimony exposing that such budget discussions occurred in the executive sessions, this absence of any public discussion of the staffing level for Constable Griffin's office is further evidence that the deliberation occurred only in secret."

The filing says that prior to their votes ordering the budget-funding shift, no public discussion occurred about staffing levels in Griffin's office, which violated the open meetings act.
What does the judge have to say for himself?
Asked about the allegations in the amended filing, Doerfler said he hadn't received a copy.

"Even if I had seen it, I couldn't comment, based on instructions I've received from our county attorney's office, because the case is in litigation."” Doerfler said.
No Comment. What about the county attorney?
Asked about the amended filing, County Attorney Jana Duty said Griffin is "“a sore loser"” for authorizing the filing of the amendment.

"“He lost his temporary injunction and is just trying for another bite at the apple,"” Duty said. "“He's also seeking to try his case in the press and not in the courtroom."”

Asked whether Doerfler's testimony, which revealed the contents of the executive sessions, waived the county's executive-session privilege, Duty said, "I'd have to research that - I'm not an expert on the open meetings act."
If she's not an expert then how can she commnent in one instance - about Mr. Griffin being a "sore loser" and "try(ing) his case in the media" - and not in the other - "I'd have to research that"? The constable's whole case is about the open meetings act. This vendetta that county officials have against Mr. Griffin has always puzzled me. Why do they have it out for Gary Griffin?


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Precinct 2 Commissioner's Race & More On The Commission

Tomorrow's Precinct 2 Forum in Cedar Park provides voters an opportunity to meet and listen to the candidates before the primary. The HCN has an article about who's contributed to the commissioner candidates in precinct 2, Political backers keep race moving. Don't forget that there is a potential case pending against Williamson County for the un-accountable government the one-party rule of this county has brought about, Case shines light on county deliberations. The last couple few paragraphs of the article say it all:
Two hearings for temporary relief ended with no decision in Griffin's favor, leaving the Court's decision in tact, but were identified at the time by the judge and plaintiff's counsel as part of the entire lawsuit process.

Now that the petition for the lawsuit has been filed, interrogatives (written responses), depositions (oral interviews), and trial could be next. If the Court found that commissioners were in violation of the act, it would be up to the district attorney to press charges, (former Texas attorney general Jim) Mattox said.

The county judge, attorney and counsel could not be reached for comment.
Do you honestly believe a Republican DA will press charges against an all Republican commissioners court without pressure. If there was a Democrat or two on the court I'm sure they make sure this didn't just go away. If you want an end to secret meetings, pre-determined outcomes and unaccountable government you need to give serious consideration to Michael Hofmann and Brig Mireles for the court. Visit his web site to help out and contribute, www.votehofmann.com.



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David Van Os Has A Few Questions For Greg Abbott

This press release from the Van Os campaign:
Van Os to Abbott: Explain these connections!

Texans have a Constitutional right to uncorrupted government that serves and benefits the people instead of power-hungry political dictatorships. Texans most especially have a right to expect the state’s chief lawyer to be independent of any such taint.

Texans have a right to know that wheeler-dealer Republican political operative John Colyandro, a central figure in the Tom DeLay-TRMPAC money-laundering scandal that funneled large sums of corporate dollars into the hands of Texas Republican candidates in the 2002 general election, served on Greg Abbott’s campaign payroll during the same time frame in 2002.

Texans also have a right to know that Greg Abbott is one of the favorite candidates of Bob Perry of Perry Homebuilders. Perry is one of the biggest financiers of Karl Rove’s favorite political tactic of maligning their opponent with insults and lies. For example, he financed the so-called "Swift Boat Veterans" in their 2004 smear of John Kerry. Since 2001 Bob Perry and his wife have contributed over $570,000 to Abbott's campaign accounts. In the month of December 2005 alone, Perry gave Abbott $50,000 in one payment.

This might explain Abbott’s unswerving allegiance to the Rove-Bush-DeLay political machine, such as when he gave prompt legal clearance in 2003 to DeLay’s power-grabbing redistricting scheme -- from which the U.S. Supreme Court has accepted an appeal on constitutional and voting rights grounds and will conduct expedited argument beginning March 1.

No doubt Abbott’s cronies in the Rove-Bush political machine will give him the best hatchet men Republican money can buy to smear me with their usual lies in their desperation to stop me from restoring the Attorney Generalship to the people.

Greg Abbott would do better addressing questions he needs to answer, such as the still-unanswered inquiry I sent him over 3 weeks ago about his constitutional duty to investigate Rick Perry’s toll-road schemes. Abbott also needs to tell Texans about the connections that brought and kept John Colyandro in his employ at the same time Colyandro was taking care of Tom DeLay and TRMPAC, as well as why one wealthy right-wing Houston homebuilder continuously showers him with so much green. The people will await his answers, but they won’t be holding their breaths
I don't think he'll answer these unless we make him. Contact him or give him a call, (512) 463-2100
(800) 252-8011 or (512) 475-4413


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Citizens Being Denied Information On TTC

We are always being told by so many of our elected representatives in this state what a great thing the TTC is going to be. When you see articles like this, Some Trans Texas Corridor details are being kept very quiet, it gets the "boondoggleometer" spinning. It tells a story of citizens of this state, Coupland to be exact, trying to find out more about what will happen to the property the property that's been in their "family for generations" if the TTC comes:
And even though decisions are being made and deals are being cut, many important details about the project are very hard to get.

"The corridor's Draft Environmental Impact Statement was due in December and it's not out," (Susan Ridgeway Garry of Coupland) said, explaining that it will more precisely plot the final route of the corridor. "My husband and I filed an open records request to see it," she says, "and TxDOT sent a letter saying they referred our request to the attorney general for an opinion on whether they must let us see it."

I know how frustrating that can be. And I hope the Garrys aren't too surprised if they don't see it until after the November election.
And Republicans say they're for open government?




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