07.08.14

RNC Steers Clear Of Texas

Posted in Around The Nation, Good Stuff at 11:27 am by wcnews

Via the DMN, “It’s going to be in Cleveland” — Dallas loses 2016 GOP convention.

GOP chairman Reince Priebus made the announcement on Fox News, scooped by a few minutes on Twitter by a communications aide at the Republican Governors Association.

“We couldn’t be more excited. It’s a city on the rise,” Priebus said, heaping praise on a host city mocked until pretty recently as a “mistake by the lake.” “If you haven’t been to Cleveland lately, it’s a real surprise how beautiful it is down by that lake.”

He maintained that politics was secondary, though he readily conceded that going to battleground Ohio was attractive.

Politics secondary? Right. This is more likely the case.

In Austin, Texas Democrats used Dallas’ setback to tweak their rival party, asserting that Texas Republicans are too extreme for the rest of the GOP.

“The choice of Cleveland over Dallas to host the 2016 Republican National Convention shows just how toxic Texas Republicans are,” said Texas Democratic Party executive director Will Hailer. “By choosing Dallas, national Republicans would have essentially endorsed the Texas Republican platform and values, including reparative therapy for the LGBT community, repealing the 17th amendment that allows citizens to elect their own U.S. Senator, and repealing the Voting Rights Act.”

Texas is money in the bank for the GOP. There’s no reason to take the chance, and nothing good that could happen to the GOP, of showcasing the crazies in Texas in 2016. It must be pretty bad if you got beat by Cleveland.

06.30.14

Texas Democrats United and Ready After Successful Convention

Posted in Around The State, Democratic Events, Election 2014, Good Stuff at 11:57 am by wcnews

I didn’t pay very much attention to the Texas Democratic Party Convention in Dallas this past week.  But from what I did see it appeared the convention went very well.  Via Kuff, Convention Coverage.

 I’m not up in Dallas, though several of my blogging colleagues are. So far the reports I’ve heard are positive – lots of energy and excitement. One person even compared it to 2008, which is music to the ear. Obviously, the folks who take the time to go to a party convention aren’t the ones that need to be inspired to go vote, but they are the ones that will be doing a lot of the work to inspire others, so the more enthusiastic they are, the better.

As I said on Friday, the best thing you can do is work to help get the message out and get the voters to the polls. The next best thing you can do is pitch in financially. Democrats have done phenomenally well in grassroots small-dollar fundraising of late, which is both great and necessary since the other guys have a lot more megalomaniac billionaires on their side.

One of the most expected, and glaring, differences between Democrats and the GOP to come out of the convention was the differences in the party platforms.  Huge differences on the issues of immigration, LGBT rights, and women’s issues($).  It summarizes some of the other differences very well.

Whatever else, the two documents offer a clear sense of where each party’s head is at and the stark ideological differences between
what is now a very liberal Democratic Party and a very conservative Republican Party in Texas.

The Democrats call for investing more in education. The Republicans call for “reducing taxpayer funding to all levels of education institutions.”

Republicans want to repeal Obamacare. Democrats want to keep it and go beyond it to “Medicare for all.”

Republicans want to reverse Roe v. Wade and enact a constitutional amendment protecting the rights of the unborn. Democrats say the decision about an abortion should be left to a woman, her family, her physician, her conscience and her God without political interference.

Republicans want to privatize Social Security. Democrats don’t.

Republicans want to repeal the Voting Rights Act. Democrats want to restore the act’s section that required Texas to get federal approval before making changes in voting laws.

Republicans want to end in-state tuition for what they called “illegal immigrants.” Democrats want to keep it, and e beneficiaries “Texas undocumented students.”

The top of the ticket, Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte, gave great speeches on Friday night.

Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte shared the spotlight at the Texas Democratic Party convention on Friday night, promising to change the direction of the state, ripping their Republican opponents and imploring Democrats to break the GOP’s two-decade grip on state government.

Davis attacked her Republican opponent, matching his attacks at the GOP convention in Fort Worth earlier this month, and talked fighting insiders in Austin.

“I’m running because there’s a moderate majority that’s being ignored — commonsense, practical, hardworking Texans whose voices are being drowned out by insiders in Greg Abbott’s party, and it needs to stop,” she said.

Davis spoke about her background, her kids and her grandmother, all as a way of establishing her Texas roots and values.

She talked about what she would do if elected, promising full-day pre-K “for every eligible child,” less testing in public schools, less state interference with teaching, more affordable and accessible college. She also implied she would end property tax exemptions for country clubs as part of property tax reform, and end a sales tax discount for big retailers who pay on time.

She took some swipes at her opponent, too.

“Unlike Greg Abbott, I’m not afraid to share the stage with my party’s nominee for lieutenant governor, my colleague, mi hermana, Leticia Van de Putte,” she said. When the audience hooted, she cautioned them: “Now you guys don’t clap too much or Greg Abbott will sue you.”

The insider slam on Abbott was woven into Davis’ nine pages of prepared remarks. “You see, Mr. Abbott cut his teeth politically as part of the good old boys’ network that’s had their hands on the reins for decades,” she said. “He’s been in their service and their debt since he ran for office, and as a judge and a lawyer, he’s spent his career defending insiders, protecting insiders, stacking the deck for insiders and making hardworking Texans pay the price.”

Davis said Abbott accepts large contributions from payday lenders “and then clears the way for them to charge unlimited interest rates and fees.” She blasted him for taking contributions from law firms that handle bond deals approved by the office of the attorney general, and for saying state law does not require chemical companies to reveal what they are storing in Texas communities.

“He isn’t working for you; he’s just another insider, working for insiders,” she said.

Van de Putte, who spoke immediately before Davis, promised not to back down from the fight against Dan Patrick, her opponent for lieutenant governor. She said she would instead fight to “put Texas first.”

When she ran for student council president in junior high, she said, she was told she could not run because she was a girl.

“Well I did, and I won,” she said.

She said that lesson remains relevant now. “I need to run, not just because I am a girl, but because I want the responsibility. Because I know what needs to get done. And I know I’m the right person for the job.”

“I ain’t in it for the show,” she said. “I ain’t no pushover. I ain’t no East Coast liberal. I ain’t no West Coast Democrat. This grandma’s name is Leticia San Miguel Van de Putte from the barrio, and I am a Tejana.”

She spent a large portion of her address criticizing Patrick’s Senate voting record — sometimes, she noted, he was voting alone — against investments in roads and water as well as in favor of more than $5 billion in cuts to public schools in 2011.

“Patrick offers a vision of Texas with less opportunity than the generations that came before us,” Van de Putte said. “He would be the first politician to leave Texas with less for our children.”

It’s evident that the case has been made very well for the need for change in Texas. Now what’s needed is the work to be done to register new voters and get them to the polls in November. And that appears to be happening as well.

At its workshop Saturday, Battleground Texas trained delegates how to persuade undecided voters using techniques and approaches honed in President Barack Obama’s 2012 presidential race.

“These messages were actually tested, not just something that somebody thought sounds good,” said Laura Derrick, Battleground’s special projects manager who helped Obama win Ohio. “They did focus groups. They did message testing.”

For example, volunteers are encouraged to use the term “hard working” instead of “middle class,” which suggests economic division among some voters. The Battleground model developed for Texas found that voters respond particularly to someone who will “fight for them” and oppose Abbott if they see him as “an insider” — both phrases that Davis repeatedly used in her speech to the convention

“We didn’t have this before in Texas — now we do,” Derrick said.

Jeremy Bird, a founder of Battleground Texas whose Chicago-based consulting firm also works for Ready for Hillary, said part of the task of building a sustainable voter base is dealing with barriers against voting, especially among Hispanics who don’t vote in numbers reflecting their population.

“When you look at voting history in Texas and you look at the cultural barriers of several cycles of low voter turnout, we have to break that down,” Bird said. “We have to give people a clear articulation of why their vote matters and the difference between the two parties.

Rojas, the Dallas delegate, said he’s impressed with Battleground Texas’ focus on building a structure to win elections.

“They’re not saying, ‘Well, we’re definitely going to win this time.’ We’re building for 2016,” he said. “Every team we build for Battleground right now is for November, but also for the future.”

Zac Petkanas, a spokesman for the Davis campaign, says there’s no conflict between those focused on winning this year and those engaged in building for the future.

“The way to build infrastructure in 2016 and 2018 is to win in 2014,” he said. “Anyone who thinks otherwise doesn’t have the credibility of someone running for dog catcher.”

I think that last point is particularly poignant. Slater tries to make the fact that because Texas Democrats now have many more people involved with registering, identifying and mobilizing voters, that’s somehow a bad thing. I’m not buying that at all, this is all good news.

And as this article today points out the GOP is having trouble keeping it’s voters together, Voices from the lost tribe of Texas GOP moderates.

There might be a moment’s angry pleasure in pledging your vote to “none of the above.” There’s not much joy, though, in feeling abandoned.

And nobody feels it more keenly right now than so-called moderate Republicans, who have been shoved clean out of the GOP tent by the pure-D looniness of the ascendant uber-right.

Well, it’s not a surprise. The internecine war within the Republican ranks has been predicted for a while now.

Some people, of course, might profess not to care about Republican politics. If they care about the society they live in, they should.

Anti-government extremists aren’t just bellowing on the radio anymore: They are being elected to govern. What their brand of government is going to look like, I cannot really say, but I have a kind of jittery feeling about it.

This sentiment is coming to you not only from hectoring media robots (me), but from Republicans who say they have been disenfranchised without much warning. These include business-oriented fiscal conservatives, social libertarians who favor personal responsibility and privacy, even some of the early tea party adherents who embraced the goals of smaller government and a lower tax burden.

I’ve been fielding comments and messages from these folks for a while now. A year or so ago, it was Republican women alarmed at restrictions on reproductive rights and privacy. Now, with the right-wing race to crazy in full stampede, I hear from respected veteran legislators ousted in primary upsets by opportunistic ideologues. Or people who understand religious liberty is not limited to one theological flavor. Or people who support gun rights, but who also grasp that unlimited firepower for everybody, everywhere, the more the better, is not a sane policy.

A couple of weeks back, I got a fresh flurry of laments from the Lost Tribe of Moderate Republicans, appalled by a Texas GOP platform that endorsed discredited, homophobic “reparation therapy” that’s supposed to turn gay people straight.

This wasn’t necessarily the line-in-the-sand issue for most of the people I heard from, but more evidence of an abrupt takeover of the party by extremists who seem opposed to everybody and everything.

[...]

“The party which I once believed stood for opportunity for all left me,” one man wrote.

A retired gentleman told me he is contemplating voting — with distaste — for Democrats for the first time in his life. Says another: “Am I going to have to go to the dark side this November in order to make my distaste for the party known?”

But, as much as blue-state operatives might welcome this prospect, other conservatives say they can’t make that leap. They are left, they say, with no candidate, no party, nobody to vote for — and nobody to represent their philosophy.

Whether these former Republicans vote for Democrats (much preferred), or don’t vote at all, that’s a win for Democrats. The more former reliable GOP voters change their voting habits the better things will get for Democrats.

What all of this shows is that things are already changing. Whether Wendy Davis will win in November is still up in the air, but she’s saying all the right things.

“We’re going to have the resources that we need, and we are going to be competitive not only on television, but I can assure you this — there’s no way he can match us on the ground. We’ve already got 18,000 people volunteering on the ground for us in this campaign, and it’s only June,” Davis said. “And as we get closer and closer to the election, I expect that that number will increase dramatically.”

While trailing in the polls, Davis repeated what her campaign has said – that traditional polls aren’t reaching the people who normally wouldn’t vote but whom she is working to motivate.

“We are reaching out to so many people who have stayed home in gubernatorial election years,” she said. “I see them fired up, I see them enthusiastic and most importantly, I see belief. And in these elections, belief is half the battle.”

Things are shaping up better then they have in some time for Texas Democrats in 2014.

Further Reading:
John Coby, A tale of two conventions, Texas Democrats vs Texas Tea Party.
PDiddie, #TDP14 wrap-up.
McBlogger, Gringos & Other Assholes: Recollections From The 2014 TDP Convention.
BOR, The 7 Most Important Take-Aways From The 2014 Texas Democratic Party State Convention | TDP #2014.
Texpatriate, Convention recap.

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04.11.14

Pure Spite

Posted in Around The Nation, Good Stuff, Health Care at 8:05 pm by wcnews

The news regarding the ACA, aka Obamacare, has been really good lately.  But as Paul Krugman points out it could be better, if it wasn’t for a few bad “red state” apples, Health Care Nightmares.

At the state level, however, Republican governors and legislators are still in a position to block the act’s expansion of Medicaid, denying health care to millions of vulnerable Americans. And they have seized that opportunity with gusto: Most Republican-controlled states, totaling half the nation, have rejected Medicaid expansion. And it shows. The number of uninsured Americans is dropping much faster in states accepting Medicaid expansion than in states rejecting it.

What’s amazing about this wave of rejection is that it appears to be motivated by pure spite. The federal government is prepared to pay for Medicaid expansion, so it would cost the states nothing, and would, in fact, provide an inflow of dollars. The health economist Jonathan Gruber, one of the principal architects of health reform — and normally a very mild-mannered guy — recently summed it up: The Medicaid-rejection states “are willing to sacrifice billions of dollars of injections into their economy in order to punish poor people. It really is just almost awesome in its evilness.” Indeed.

And while supposed Obamacare horror stories keep on turning out to be false, it’s already quite easy to find examples of people who died because their states refused to expand Medicaid. According to one recent study, the death toll from Medicaid rejection is likely to run between 7,000 and 17,000 Americans each year.

But nobody expects to see a lot of prominent Republicans declaring that rejecting Medicaid expansion is wrong, that caring for Americans in need is more important than scoring political points against the Obama administration. As I said, there’s an extraordinary ugliness of spirit abroad in today’s America, which health reform has brought out into the open.

And that revelation, not reform itself — which is going pretty well — is the real Obamacare nightmare.

Things are going so well in Arkansas, where they expanded Medicaid, that an Arkansas Free Clinic [Is] Closing, Citing More Insured Through Obamacare.

A medical clinic in Mena, Ark. announced that it would be closing, citing a large drop in need for the clinic as people have signed up for health insurance under Obamacare.

“Because people are qualifying for insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, our free medical clinic will not be needed anymore,” Stacey Bowser, the director of the 9th Street Ministries Clinic, told the Mena Star.

What could have been in Texas, is all I can think.

09.18.13

Looks like Wendy Davis is….

Posted in Around The State, Election 2014, Good Stuff at 3:55 pm by wcnews

With the email that went out this morning it’s almost a forgone conclusion that on October 3rd Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis will announce that she’s running for Governor of Texas.

There’s one question I’ve gotten quite often in the past few months. I’ve heard it online, while I’m traveling around the state, from the media, and in my Fort Worth neighborhood: What’s next?

On October 3rd, I’ll be answering that question. And as part of my dedicated network of grassroots supporters, you will be among the very first to find out.

But today, I have a question for you – do you have any friends or family who would like to be among the first to know?

Share this on Facebook and tweet it to your followers to let your friends know how they can sign up to receive the news early.

I truly appreciate all the work that you — my grassroots team — have done for me thus far. And I’m excited about what we can do together in the future.

Thank you for all of your support — and thanks for spreading the word!

Your friend, and proudly your state Senator,

Wendy

Find out more and get involved at www.wendydavisforsenate.com.  BOR has more, Wendy Davis Will Announce Intentions For Texas Governor October 3rd.

09.11.13

Van de Putte seriously considering run for Lt. Gov., A Davis run will influence other Democrats

Posted in Around The State, Election 2014, Good Stuff at 1:24 pm by wcnews

BOR and Kuff have already covered the news from Jonathan Tilove that state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio) is seriously thinking about running for Lt. Governor of Texas in 2014, Van de Putte contemplates joining a Davis ticket.

When I asked her about running for lieutenant governor she replied, “I’m just so very honored and flattered that so many people from the grassroots, Democratic Party leaders and Texas business leaders have urged me, about the possibility. First and foremost my thoughts are waiting to see what my sister colleague, Wendy Davis, is going to do, and then visiting with my family. It’s not out of the realm of possibilities, but I have not made any decision.”

Van de Putte said “history will show that we have had 20 years of solid Republican rule and in those 20 years, I’ve seen our infrastructure needs (she cited water, transportation and education) ignored, until this very recent session, and what we’re trying to do, as the speaker put it, with our highway funding is a band aid. It becomes really easy for those in office to say `no’ and be so afraid of the next primary that they are very hesitant to say `yes’ to even an increase in fees or a gasoline tax, which we haven’t had in 22 years.”

“All I can say is I’m still in the thinking mode and my family has really been through so much this past year,” she said. “The biggest decision will be that of the heart of my family.”

The more quality candidates Democrats have on the statewide ballot the better. Van de Putte, unlike Davis, can run and still hold onto her state Senate seat. Hopefully some more Democrats will get in. I’d like to see former state Sen. Eliot Shapleigh run for a statewide office.  I agree with Kuff:

I’m so on board with this. The two Senators would make an excellent and energizing top of the ticket, and should have no trouble attracting ballotmates, volunteer energy, and fundraising support. Sure, they would face an uphill battle, but they will be as well placed to start out as any Democratic statewide candidate has been in a long time. We’re ready when you are, ladies.

If Davis runs the ballot on the Democratic side will look completely different then if she decides against running.

08.30.13

Great Labor news for Texas as Labor Day approaches

Posted in Around The State, Good Stuff, Had Enough Yet?, Labor at 10:21 am by wcnews

On Labor Day were supposed to celebrate the economic and social contributions of workers, not just mark the end of Summer. But since the pendulum has swung from labor to corporations, bidness owners, and the one percent, we don’t talk much about workers on Labor Day anymore.

Which is why this is welcomed news, Ahead of Labor Day, AFL-CIO president says it’ll target Texas like never before in next elections.

Just ahead of Labor Day, the president of the AFL-CIO, a coalition of 57 labor unions, said Thursday that it will target Texas “like never before” in the coming elections. It also will seek to boost union ranks in the famously pro-employer Lone Star State.

Richard Trumka told reporters at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor that immigration and worker safety are key issues that make Texas an important battleground for progressive groups like his.

He stopped short of saying the group, which represents some 12 million union workers, would specifically support state Sen.Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, whose national profile has risen since leading filibuster in the Texas Senate earlier this summer.

Trumka suggested boasts by Texas leaders about the fast-growing economy there ring hollow when examined more closely. The state’s insistence on keeping at bay regulators of all stripes has hurt the state, despite a job boom often touted by Gov,. Rick Perry and others.

“If you look at the quality of those jobs, if you look at the quality of the education, and look at a number of things, that hasn’t been true,” he said. “Also, if you leave employers to their own devices I know work sites can get pretty nasty. So the lack of regulation works to the detriment of a lot of people.”

“We are also very, very dismayed that there is only one state in the nation that doesn’t have a fire code, and that there is only one state in the country that prohibits its counties to have a fire codes. That would be state of Texas.

“One of my first roles in organized labor,” he said, “was to serve on the health and safety committee. The fact that there are no fire codes jeopardized worker safety.” (The Dallas Morning News has reported that state law prevents 70 percent of its counties from having a fire code.)

This is certainly great news.  Getting labor unions seriously engaged in Texas, along with Battleground Texas can only help as we head into 2014.   And no state’s workers need more help getting organized then those in Texas.  There are several other areas where they can focus, raising the minimum wage and wage theft just to name a couple. But the lack or regulation and worker protections is also a major issue, as the explosion in West showed. What is more troubling is that our current crop of legislators appear to be unable and unwilling to fix the problem, Texas lawmakers hesitant to add new regulations in wake of West explosion.

Texas lawmakers following up on the deadly April explosion in West hesitated Monday to support new regulations for storing, moving and insuring ammonium nitrate in the state.

The reluctance came amid testimony about concrete examples of how companies are allowed to rebuff state agencies, keeping officials and residents in the dark about potential threats.

Ammonium nitrate is a common ingredient in agricultural fertilizer. It fueled the April 17 explosion in West that killed 15 people, injured more than 300 and did an estimated $135 million worth of damage to private and public property. Officials said Monday that more than 140 facilities in the state have the chemical on hand.

Texas House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee members were told that five companies that have the hazardous fertilizer ingredient wouldn’t let the state fire marshal inspect their facilities.

They were also told that one railroad declined to share data about the dangerous chemicals it moves through Texas. The railroad told the state emergency department it already shares the information with the state Department of Transportation. Another railroad hasn’t responded to state requests for information.

Officials said Union Pacific, which runs the line by the West Fertilizer Co. plant, provided information.

West Fertilizer’s $1 million in insurance coverage won’t begin to cover the property, medical and emotional damage caused by the explosion.

Since the blast, the Texas Department of Insurance has asked 95 fertilizer companies and 32 insurers about the level of coverage for other facilities with the dangerous chemical. Ten fertilizer companies and four insurers responded.

Insurance Commissioner Julia Rathgeber testified that some facilities with ammonium nitrate are uninsured because their policies were canceled after the West explosion. Texas law doesn’t mandate the terms for an insurance company to offer policies to plants like the one in West.

But state Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Canton, said lawmakers should not add new layers of regulation and oversight as a knee-jerk reaction to the deadly West blast.

“If we’re not careful, we could get like the federal government putting diapers on cows,” he said.

State Rep. Kenneth Sheets, R-Dallas, a committee member, said burdening companies with more operating costs could affect Texans’ finances.

“It’s a very serious implication,” he said.

The Legislature’s next regular session isn’t until January 2015, so the committee can’t recommend any bills. Gov. Rick Perry did not allow lawmakers to debate chemical safety or oversight in any of the three special sessions he called since the West explosion.

Flynn and Sheets understand that there’s no reason to burden business, aka their campaign contributors, with the price of protecting workers and communities, when they know if something bad happens the taxpayers will pick up the tab.

Until those of us who earn a paycheck for a living start to organize, vote, and make our government hold corporations, bidness owners, and the one percent accountable, none of this will change.  The Cheap Labor Conservatives must go.  And that is what all of us workers must remember this year on Labor Day.

Further Reading:

Census: Texas has highest rate of uninsured in nation.

Texas leads the nation in the percentage of residents who lack health insurance, with more than 1 in 4 people younger than 65 without coverage of any kind, according to new census data released Thursday.

More than 5.7 million people, 26 percent of Texans younger than 65, were uninsured in 2011. The uninsured rate was higher — 31 percent — for working-age adults ages 18 to 64, the data show.

#829Strike: Texans Protest Low Fast Food Wages As Part of Nationwide Strike.

08.29.13

Williamson County news items

Posted in Commissioners Court, Good Stuff, Taxes, The Budget, Williamson County at 9:27 am by wcnews

Via THN, Freedom rings in WilCo, (click the link to see more pictures).

As civil rights organizations and leaders marched on Aug. 24 from the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C., a “Let Freedom Ring” rally took place on the south steps of the Williamson County Courthouse in Georgetown in commemoration of the 1963 march that was a key moment in the struggle for civil rights in the United States.

About 200 residents from various cities in Williamson County, including Hutto and Taylor, attended the event that focused on social equality and service to one’s community.

The rally included several inspirational hymns such as ‘We Shall Overcome,’ a touching reading of the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech by Taylor Rev. Wendell Hosey and closing remarks by Jose Orta, one of the event organizers, NAACP and LULUC representative and Taylor resident.

Orta, Hosey and others who spoke at the event reminded Williamson County residents that there is still work to be done in order to continue the fight for jobs, justice and freedom.

The WCCC moved forward with the budget on Tuesday, Williamson County adopts $236M budget.

The Williamson County Commissioners Court on Tuesday adopted a $236 million budget that calls for hiring 14 new staffers, distributing up to $1.9 million in merit-based civilian-employee raises of up to 4 percent and purchasing 22 new EKG machines for county ambulances.

Additionally, about 200 law enforcement personnel will receive raises averaging $10,000 to $20,000, based on a recent salary study a private agency conducted for the county.

The fiscal year 2014 budget, which takes effect Oct. 1, is about 11 percent more than the $216 million budget commissioners adopted last year at this time. Population growth and the staffing needs that go along with it are driving the increase, Williamson County Budget Officer Ashlie Koenig said.

“For the last few years with the downturn in the economy the court has been very conscientious of taxpayer dollars,” she said. “I think they recognized the needs but the funding wasn’t there. This was the year to come back and look at those items that had been on the back-burner.”

The tax rate is still not settled. There are two public hearings coming up on the budgtet.

Commissioners on Tuesday delayed adopting a tax rate. County Judge Dan Gattis said he favors setting the tax rate at the “effective rate” of 48.1 cents per $100 assessed valuation. The effective tax rate is the rate that would raise the same amount of money in the year ahead, as was raised in the year that’s ending, taking new property values into account. When property values go up — as they have — the effective rate comes in at a figure lower than the actual rate for the current year. This year’s county tax rate is 48.9 cents per $100 assessed valuation.

Because of those higher property values, Gattis said adoption of the 48.1 cent effective rate would raise county taxes by $21 for the average homeowner.

However, the other four members of the Commissioners Court favor setting the tax rate at the current rate, citing increased county spending.

Koenig said setting the tax rate at the effective rate would require taking $3.8 million from the county’s reserve fund, which is like a saving account. Assistant County Auditor Julie Kiley said the county anticipates having $73.8 million in reserves when the current fiscal year ends Sept. 30.

Leaving the tax rate at the current rate — which is what a majority of the Commissioner Court intends to do — will only require drawing $1.3 million from reserves in order to balance the budget, Koenig said.

However, since commissioners intend to set the tax rate at a rate higher than the effective rate, the county must hold a pair of public hearings Sept. 10 and 17 at the county courthouse in downtown Georgetown. Both hearings are scheduled for 10 a.m.

It would be much more fair and open if the commissioners would have one meeting in the evening.  That way working people in Williamson County could have a chance to attend one of the public hearings.

08.23.13

Cool Event tomorrow in Georgetown – A reading of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech

Posted in Good Stuff, Take Action, Williamson County at 4:48 pm by wcnews

Via the City of Georgetown, MLK, Jr. ‘Dream’ Speech Commemoration On Saturday.

An event to mark the 50th anniversary of the “I Have a Dream” speech by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. will be held at the Williamson County Courthouse on Saturday. The public commemoration begins at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, August 24. The event will be on the east steps of the Courthouse at 710 S. Main Street in Georgetown.

A reading of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech is planned as part of the program for the event. The public is welcome to attend and participate.

The Georgetown event will coincide with a daylong program on Saturday in Washington to mark the anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington and King’s “Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial. The speech was a key moment in the history of civil rights in the U.S.

The event at the Williamson County Courthouse is co-sponsored by LULAC District VII, the Methodist Federation for Social Action, and the Central Texas NAACP.

The Williamson County Democrats Facebook Page has more.

08.14.13

2014 is not 2010

Posted in Around The State, Commentary, Good Stuff at 10:29 am by wcnews

Yesterday the Wendy Davis for Governor of Texas train got rolling. Kuff has the details, The people want Wendy to run for Governor. Until she decides there will continue to be opinions from every corner. And many seem to think she can only win in a 2010-like scenario if she embraces well worn losing advice.

The bottom line is this is one big, uphill climb for Davis. She has star power, but she can’t win it going the traditional Democratic route. She has to run hard to the middle and even to the right. That could cost her with some Democrats, but that’s the only way she can win.

That’s unlikely to be how Davis would run her campaign. If she does run, she previewed her likely frame last week at the National Press Club.

Davis went to great lengths to portray her quest as one not rooted in partisan politics, even though the state is almost entirely in the hands of Republicans, and hasn’t had a Democratic governor since George W. Bush defeated Ann Richards, the late mother of Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards, in 1994.

During the question-and-answer period that followed her speech, Davis was asked what chance she thought a Democrat really had at being elected into office in her notoriously red state.

“You know, I think the question really is: What chance do new leaders have of winning elected office in the state of Texas?” she said. “I think the best way to talk about that is to talk about what Texans want to see in their government, and not to talk about it in party frames.”

In both her speech and the question period, Davis laid out her case against the current leadership, talking not only of the recent anti-choice bill that drew national attention, but also of the legislature’s 2011 bill that “strip[ped] $5.4 billion from our already underfunded public schools.” That attempt prompted her first, less-heralded filibuster, which despite the bill’s ultimate passage (which led to the layoffs of some 10,000 teachers), bought time for parents and teachers to travel to the capitol to voice their opposition, Davis said.

It’s not a message rooted in left or right, D or R, necessarily. It’s a message that says the people will be put first over the powerful if she is elected governor. Giving voice to the voiceless.

Granted Texas is different, but it’s hard to believe that voters in Texas want more of the same. Our infrastructure continues to be neglected, despite the minimalist approaches taken with regards to water and transportation funding this year. When it comes to education, health care and poverty, we are at or near the bottom in all of those. And on issues like the environment and income inequality Texas is lacking there as well.

But the other part is that 2014 is not 2010.  The heat is going out of the tea party.  So much so that the politicians they’re trying hassle this year are from the GOP, and they’re doing their best to hide from the tea party.

Representative Pete Sessions, a Texas Republican, is no stranger to town hall meetings and their political possibilities. Four summers ago, he helped his party use them to stoke opposition to President Obama’s health care bill. Across the country, forums like his fed a budding Tea Party movement and set the stage for returning the House to Republican control in 2010.

But when Mr. Sessions returned to his Dallas-area district for the August recess this year, a pause before Congress takes up an agenda that includes immigration, government surveillance, health care and budget cuts, there was something conspicuously missing from his schedule: a town hall.

One of his constituents, Katrina Pierson, 37, who describes herself as a “conservative grass-roots volunteer” and had hoped to press Mr. Sessions on his commitment to pulling financing from the health care law, is so exasperated that she and a group of like-minded advocates have offered to host a meeting for him.

“He can just give us a date,” she said. “We’ll set it up.”

Though Republicans in recent years have harnessed the political power of these open mic, face-the-music sessions, people from both parties say they are noticing a decline in the number of meetings. They also say they are seeing Congressional offices go to greater lengths to conceal when and where the meetings take place.

“The whole thing is very anti-democratic, and it’s classic behavior of entrenched insiders,” said Matt Kibbe, the president of FreedomWorks, a Tea Party group that in 2009 helped send legions of demonstrators to town halls. Now, it is trying to draw out seemingly reluctant members by staging public events like mock meet-your-lawmaker meetings with empty chairs. “We’ve lost that Rockwell image of citizen participation in democracy.”

With memories of those angry protests still vivid, it seems that one of the unintended consequences of a movement that thrived on such open, often confrontational interactions with lawmakers is that there are fewer members of Congress now willing to face their constituents.

Although local Congressman John Carter is still on board, he’ll be addressing the tea party on August 22nd.  There is much less GOP cohesion. Greg Abbott is not Rick Perry.  Although it’s only in the nascent stages the Democrats are beginning an organizing push that hasn’t been done in decades.  And most important of all, a Davis run may give Democrats what they’ve been missing most in recent years – hope.

But all of this begs a question. Will enough Texas voters, not just GOP primary voters, continue to buy the anti-everything message the Texas GOP keeps selling? If you’ve seen any of the ads for GOP announced statewide candidates in Texas there are several recurring themes. (if you haven’t seen the ads just go to the Texas Tribune they have them all).  It appears that the only way to appeal to a GOP primary voter is to prove your hatred of Obamacare, the President, and your belief that the federal government is evil.

Texas has money to spend on public education just not the right people in office to make it happen.  Texas also has the money for roads, for water, a generous offer from the federal government on health care, and  for many other needs.  There’s just not the right people in office that will make the needs of Texans a priority over the needs of the powerful.

That’s the choice Wendy Davis will bring to the voters of Texas.  If the last 40 years have taught us anything it’s that making the rich richer, doesn’t help everyone else down the line.  (Reagan’s “trickle-down” was snake oil).  It’s long past time we had a government that works for all it’s people.  Hopefully that’s what the race for Governor will be about in 2014.

08.08.13

Seniors are leading the way out of the GOP

Posted in Around The Nation, Good Stuff at 4:22 pm by wcnews

If this is true and voting patterns for seniors change it would hurt the GOP much more then any other demographic change. Why Seniors Are Turning Against The GOP.

There’s something going on with seniors: It is now strikingly clear that they have turned sharply against the GOP. This is apparent in seniors’ party affiliation and vote intention, in their views on the Republican Party and its leaders, and in their surprising positions on jobs, health care, retirement security, investment economics, and the other big issues that will likely define the 2014 midterm elections.

We first noticed a shift among seniors early in the summer of 2011, as Paul Ryan’s plan to privatize Medicare became widely known (and despised) among those at or nearing retirement. Since then, the Republican Party has come to be defined by much more than its desire to dismantle Medicare. To voters from the center right to the far left, the GOP is now defined by resistance, intolerance, intransigence, and economics that would make even the Robber Barons blush. We have seen other voters pull back from the GOP, but among no group has this shift been as sharp as it is among senior citizens:

—In 2010, seniors voted for Republicans by a 21 point margin (38 percent to 59 percent). Among seniors likely to vote in 2014, the Republican candidate leads by just 5 points (41 percent to 46 percent.)

—When Republicans took control of the House of Representatives at the beginning of 2011, 43 percent of seniors gave the Republican Party a favorable rating. Last month, just 28 percent of seniors rated the GOP favorably. This is not an equal-opportunity rejection of parties or government — over the same period, the Democratic Party’s favorable rating among seniors has increased 3 points, from 37 percent favorable to 40 percent favorable.

—When the Republican congress took office in early 2011, 45 percent of seniors approved of their job performance. That number has dropped to just 22 percent — with 71 percent disapproving.

—Seniors are now much less likely to identify with the Republican Party. On Election Day in 2010, the Republican Party enjoyed a net 10 point party identification advantage among seniors (29 percent identified as Democrats, 39 percent as Republicans). As of last month, Democrats now had a net 6 point advantage in party identification among seniors (39 percent to 33 percent).

—More than half (55 percent) of seniors say the Republican Party is too extreme, half (52 percent) say it is out of touch, and half (52 percent) say the GOP is dividing the country. Just 10 percent of seniors believe that the Republican Party does not put special interests ahead of ordinary voters.

—On almost every issue we tested — including gay rights, aid to the poor, immigration, and gun control — more than half of seniors believe that the Republican Party is too extreme.

No group votes at a higher percentage then seniors. They’re likely getting tired of being called greedy socialists just for wanting their Social Security that they paid for their entire working lives, and some health care. And the article also pointed to the issues seniors care about most.

—89 percent of seniors want to protect Medicare benefits and premiums.

—87 percent of seniors want to raise pay for working women.

—79 percent of seniors think we need to expand scholarships for working adults.

—77 percent of seniors want to expand access to high-quality and affordable childcare for working parents.

—74 percent of seniors want to cut subsidies to big oil companies, agribusinesses, and multinational corporations in order to invest in education, infrastructure, and technology.

—66 percent of seniors want to expand state health insurance exchanges under Obamacare.

They see that their children and grandchildren don’t have the same opportunities they had. That the needed investments for the future are being neglected and that it will only lead to more inequality. It’s not just seniors that care about those issues above, it’s damn near every American, that’s not in the top 1% of our country. Hopefully there’s a political party in America smart enough to take advantage of this.

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