11.20.14

Williamson County Elections Administrator Resigns (AGAIN)

Posted in Elections, Williamson County at 5:23 pm by wcnews

This is getting redundant to say the least, Williamson County election administrator Jason Barnett resigns. Kay Estes has been appointed as his interim replacement as Williamson County Elections Administrator.

The Williamson County Election Commission has named Kay Eastes as the interim elections administrator. Jason Barnett resigned from his position on November 13, 2014. Ms. Eastes will serve until a new elections administrator is selected. The elections administrator is appointed by the Elections Commission which is comprised of the County Judge, County Clerk, County Tax Assessor/Collector and the county chairs of the Republican and Democratic political parties. Anyone interested in applying for the position can go to http://www.wilco.org/default.aspx?tabid=2059 for more information.

There were some issues reporting results to Travis County during the last election.  Williamson County just can’t seem to hang on to an elections administrator for very long.

10.20.14

Williamson County Races On The 2014 Ballot

Posted in Election 2014, Williamson County at 8:22 am by wcnews

index

Anyone who lives in Williamson County can click here to access a sample ballot.

Below is a list of the races involving Democrats on the ballot in Williamson County in 2014.

US House of Representatives, District 31
Louie Minor – Democrat
John Carter (i) – Republican
Scott J. Ballard – Libertarian

Senate District 5:
Joel Shapiro – Democrat
Charles Schwertner (i) – Republican

Shapiro looks to be another candidate inspired to run by Wendy Davis.  Definitely a tough race against a well funded Republican incumbent, in a GOP drawn district.

House District 20:
Steve Wyman – Democrat
Marsha Farney (i) – Republican
Jarrod Weaver – Libertarian

Wyman is a perennial candidate.  Another uphill struggle in a GOP drawn district.

House District 52:
Chris Osborn – Democrat
Irene Johnson – Libertarian
Larry Gonzales (i) – Republican

Osborn is a former member of the Taylor City Council.  This was a swing district (Democrat Diana Maldonado won here in 2008), is it still? A race with a Libertarian where they could take 3 – 5% of the vote.

House District 136:
John Bucy – Democrat
Tony Dale (i) – Republican
Justin Billiot – Libertarian

Bucy is a first time candidate, but has been working very hard.  This is a race to watch, 136 is a district where a hard working Democrat could have a chance. Also a race where the Libertarian can make a difference. Dale appears scared since he’s been telling lies about his opponent.

County Judge:
Michael  Custer – Democrat
Dan A. Gattis (i) – Republican

Custer is a first time candidate, running against and entrenched establishment Republican.

County Commissioner, Precinct 2:
Eddie B. Hurst – Democrat
Cynthia Long (i) – Republican

Hurst has run for Mayor and City Council in Cedar Park previously.

County Commissioner, Precinct 4:
Tom Mowdy – Democrat
Ron Morrison (i) – Republican

Mowdy ran for Taylor City Council in 2013.  Many have thought in the past that Precinct 4 is winnable for a Democrat.

Justice of the Peace, Precinct 1:
Nick Lealos – Democrat
Dain Johnson (i) – Republican

Lealos is a first time candidate.  A local attorney running in what has been a Democratic friendly precinct in the past.

Democrats in Williamson County in 2014 have fielded a great slate of candidates.  This along with the candidates Texas Democrats have running statewide leaves no excuse for Texas wanting change to stay home.  If issues like education, health care, investment in the future, equality, and fairness are important to you then you owe it to yourself and future generations to vote in 2014.

Early Voting Starts Today – Where To Early Vote In Williamson County

Posted in Election 2014, Williamson County at 5:00 am by wcnews

earlyvoting

Early Voting Schedule General Election November 4, 2014                                                                                                                                                    

Williamson County Early Voting Schedule
Horario de la Votación Adelantada Del Condado de Williamson

Joint General and Special Elections– November 4, 2014
Elecciónes Generales y Especiales Conjuntas – 4 de noviembre del 2014

Dates for Full-Time Locations:
Fechas para localidades de tiempo completo

Monday, October 20 through Friday, October 31  
Del Lunes 20 de octubre al Viernes 31 octubre
7am to 7pm

Sunday, October 26
Domingo 26 de octubre
12pm to 6pm
            
Main Location: 
Localidad Central

Williamson County Inner Loop Annex, 301 SE Inner Loop, Georgetown

Branch Locations:

Otras localidades

Anderson Mill Limited District, 11500 El Salido Pkwy, Austin

Cedar Park Public Library, 550 Discovery Blvd, Cedar Park

Cedar Park Randalls, 1400 Cypress Creek Rd, Cedar Park

Cowan Creek Amenity Center, 1433 Cool Springs Way, Georgetown

Georgetown Parks & Recreation Admin Bldg, 1101 N. College St, Georgetown

Hutto City Hall, 401 Front St, Hutto

Pat Bryson Municipal Hall, 201 N Brushy St, Leander

Baca Senior Center, 301 W. Bagdad Ave, Round Rock

Brushy Creek Community Center, 16318 Great Oaks Dr, Round Rock

JB and Hallie Jester Annex, 1801 E. Old Settlers Blvd,Round Rock

Round Rock Randalls, 2051 Gattis School Rd, Round Rock

Taylor City Hall, 400 Porter St, Taylor

Mobile Temporary Locations, Dates & Times:
Fechas y horario de las Localidades móviles temporales:
Hours 10am -7pm
Horario 10am-7pm

Tuesday, October 21          Granger City Hall, 303 S Commerce St, Granger
Martes 21 de octubre

Wednesday, October 22     Clairmont Retirement Community, 12463 Los Indios Trl, Austin
Miércoles 22 de octubre

Thursday, October 23         Jarrell Memorial Park, 1651 CR 305, Jarrell
Jueves 23 de octubre

Friday, October 24             Seton Medical Center, 201 Seton Pkwy, Round Rock
Viernes 24 de octubre

Saturday, October 25         Liberty Hill Annex, 3407 RR 1869, Liberty Hill
Sábado  25 de octubre

Monday, October 27          ACC Cypress Crk Campus, 1555 Cypress Crk Rd, Cedar Park
Lunes 27 de octubre

Tuesday, October 28         Southwestern Univ McCombs Campus Ctr, 1010 McKenzie Dr. Georgetown
Martes 28 de octubre

Wednesday, October 29    Clairmont Retirement Community, 12463 Los Indios Trl, Austin
Miércoles 29 de octubre

Thursday, October 30        ACC Round Rock Campus, 4400 College Park Dr, Round Rock
Jueves 30 de octubre

SUBJECT TO CHANGE
Sujeto a cambios

09.19.14

Statesman Endorses Democrats Bucy and Osborn over GOP Incumbents

Posted in Election 2014, HD-136, HD-20, HD-52, Williamson County at 8:15 am by wcnews

In two Williamson County  house races the Austin American Statesman has endorsed Democratic challengers Chris Osborn (HD-52) and John Bucy (HD-136) over the GOP incumbents.  One big reason is the incumbents votes against public education, and continuing to neglect the needs of Texas, Change needed in some districts.

As the 28th fastest-growing county in the country, according to the latest census report, Williamson County faces significant challenges: from transportation to affordable energy; from education to job creation; and from financing infrastructure to maintaining a quality of life. Addressing those challenges takes strong leadership, and on Nov. 4, voters will have to determine whether the three incumbent state representatives in Districts 20, 52 and 136 have done enough for the area, or if it’s time for a change. In two of the three races, we believe a change is needed for Williamson County.

Both the GOP incumbents in these races voted for a voucher plan last session that ultimately failed.  Larry Gonzales (HD-52) went along with the extremists in the GOP in 2011 and “supported the massive education budget cuts”. They endorse Osborn stating:

Osborn, an attorney, wants to not only make public education a priority but also wants to help our state and local governments be more efficient and transparent, if he is elected. Though he is the underdog, Osborn understands planning for the future is the best way to address the issues of a fast-growing district. His willingness to work with both sides of the aisle should serve him well if elected.

In HD-136 they mainly take issue with Dale’s vote for a voucher program while leaving out his lying about his opponent. They endorse Bucy this way.

…Bucy has a vision to help fight for quality public education for all Texas children if he is elected. He has a multi-faceted approach for traffic solutions and understands that Williamson County needs to bring in more professional jobs to the area. He is a refreshingly strong candidate in a county that has struggled to mount a significant Democratic presence with viable candidates.

In the other district that includes Williamson County HD-20, (the reddest of the three districts), they endorse the incumbent Republican Marsha Farney over Democratic candidate Steve Wyman.  Farney may be the most sensible Republican of the three.

All three races include a Libertarian candidate.

09.05.14

Bucy Calls Out Dale For Lying In HD-136

Posted in Election 2014, HD-136, Williamson County at 8:01 am by wcnews

One local race that isn’t getting much attention, but may bear watching, is the race in  Texas House District 136.  It’s between Democratic challenger John Bucy and GOP incumbent Tony Dale. This is the friendliest house district for Democrats in Williamson County.

Bucy has been running and organizing for over a year and boasts an impressive number of doors knocked thus far – more than 41,000. That’s an impressive number considering that in 2012 around 60,000 people voted in district 136. In 2014, a mid-term election, turnout’s likely to be lower. And if Bucy can turn out a fair amount of those whose doors have been knocked on this could be a close race.

And it appears Dale may have figured that out too. This week it came to light that Dale’s been lying about Bucy. And from Bucy’s press release on the issue, it appears Dale continued to spread the lie even though he knew it was false.

Here’s the full press release (excerpted below):

The John Bucy Campaign is shocked and appalled that the current state representative is knowingly lying to his constituents to score political points, and the voters deserve better.

Two weeks ago, the Tony Dale campaign falsely accused John Bucy of having $160,000 in unpaid tax liens for over the past four years. But John Bucy has never had any tax liens placed against him, and he does not owe over $160,000 in back taxes, as falsely accused.
For the past two weeks, Tony Dale continued to push that lie; and for the past two weeks, John Bucy has chosen to take the high road and continue to focus on the issues that matter to the voters.

But John was deeply bothered to see Tony Dale take this lie to the next level today, and release these unfounded claims in a press release.
The Williamson County Democratic Party chair, on behalf of the Bucy Campaign, called on multiple occasions to speak with Tony Dale directly, in order to clear up these false accusations. Tony Dale never took the time to respond. Instead, he eventually had his hired consultant, Corbin Casteel, contact her. She informed him that this was the wrong John Bucy, and that John H. Bucy III, candidate for state representative, has never lived at the address attached to the lien.

Since the Dale campaign knew for over a week that this was not the same John Bucy, there is NO EXCUSE to use this information to mislead the voters, as he did in a press release today.

This is the dirtiest of dirty politics.

When a candidate knowingly spreads lie about another candidate that legitimizes the other candidate.  If Dale didn’t see Bucy as a legitimate threat tot his reelection, he wouldn’t go forward with such an egregiously false attack. Maybe that’s just “SOP” for the Wilco GOP.

This is a three person race, there’s a Libertarian running as well.  And considering the Libertarian candidate got 6% of the vote in 2012.  This was a new district in 2012 so there’s no performance data from a mid-term election in this district.  Bucy is definitely putting in the work needed to make it a race.  And if their turnout operation is a good as their organizing has been so far, they may just be able to pull this off.

This is definitely a race to keep an eye on.

08.28.14

Stubblefield Asks To Be Recused From Kelley’s Request For A New Trial

Posted in Criminal Justice, Williamson County at 9:33 am by wcnews

Via the AAS, Judge in Greg Kelley case recuses himself from request for new trial.

The judge who presided over the July trial of Greg Kelley has recused himself from considering Kelley’s motion for a new trial.

District Judge Billy Ray Stubblefield sent a letter Monday to the chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court asking that another judge consider the motion for a new trial.

“The interests of justice would be served by having another judge consider the Defendant’s Motion for New Trial and the State’s response thereto with fresh eyes and ears,” said the letter.

The letter provided no further explanation for Stubblefield’s decision to recuse himself. A judge has until Sept. 29 to decide whether to grant a hearing on the motion.

I’m not sure if this means anything or not. It seems it would make sense to have a different judge from the trial judge rule on the request for a new trial. With a new judge if the ruling goes against Kelley it would seem to bolster the case against him.  This is definitely something to keep an eye on.

08.13.14

Kelley’s Attorney Files Request For New Trial

Posted in Criminal Justice, Williamson County at 2:49 pm by wcnews

Via KXAN.

The new attorney for Greg Kelley, the Leander man found guilty of super aggravated sexual assault of a child, has filed the necessary paperwork to request a new trial.

Attorney Keith Hampton filed the motion arguing the state did not conduct a competent investigation and that one of the jurors was not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt.

“This case is a perfect blueprint for mishandling child accusations and producing wrongful convictions of innocent people,” Hampton writes in the motion, ” Only this court can set things right by ordering a new trial.”

The document goes on to say the child’s accusations were not thoroughly investigated to establish whether or not they are reliable. And, whether or not Greg Kelley was a likely suspect.

The motion calls the investigation into question saying the system got it wrong in the case of Michael Morton. Morton was wrongfully convicted in Williamson County for his wife’s murder and spent 25 years in prison before DNA tests freed him.

“Can we tolerate another Michael Morton?” Kelley’s attorney asks.

Williamson County District Attorney Jana Duty disputed the Morton argument in a news conference Wednesday.

I”‘m very familiar with the Michael Morton case, as it was a big part of my campaign. I cannot help but find irony in the fact that that one of the key pieces of evidence – other than the bandana – that freed Michael Morton was the testimony of his 3-and-a-half-year-old son,” Duty said.

“All of the testimony of that 3 1/2 year old boy was credible and helped free his father. So now, the irony to say that these two four-year-old little boys shouldn’t be trusted because they’re four is absurd. We tell our children to tell us when something’s happening to them. They did. And now we say – well, we can’t trust that,” she continued.

At this point there’s really no parallel to the Morton case.  But because of that case Williamson County has a reputation.  In the end we need justice and fairness to prevail.

07.25.14

The Case Of Greg Kelley

Posted in Criminal Justice, Williamson County at 11:55 am by wcnews

The aftermath of the Greg Kelley seems a little odd. For one thing, there’s usually not a post conviction rally for someone who is convicted of super aggravated sexual assault of a 4 year old.  The case had some twists and turns and,  it seems, could have gone either way.

From what I’ve been able to piece together it appears Kelley was living with another family, that ran an in home day care, because his parents had some medical issues.  It was during that time the assault occurred.  It was initially two children who made a claim of assault, with one later recanting. This article form the HCN is a good summary of what happened at the trial.

Still, the lack of evidence and the recanting of one boy’s testimony had Kelley’s family and friends feeling hopeful as the trial progressed. Defense attorney Patricia Cummings pointed out holes in the investigation performed by the Cedar Park Police Department, including a failure to interrogate Kelley when he was indicted, and detectives’ failure to seek out or interview other possible witnesses.

On the stand, detective Christopher Dailey admitted that he didn’t talk to any other possible witnesses, admitted to deleting emails about the case in violation of department policy, and said he took it upon himself to interview the second boy despite the training he received on investigating child sex abuse claims which teaches that detectives should not interview a child.

Cummings painted a picture of a detective who had already made up his mind about Kelley’s guilt and simply investigated the case in a way to confirm the detective’s own conclusions.

“As a result you believed you did not need to investigate the possibility of something else having happened?” asked Cummings.

“Correct,” said Dailey.

“Isn’t the policy in your department not to destroy documents produced in an investigation?” asked Cummings.

“Correct,” said Dailey.

Kelley’s defense presented an expert witness, Austin psychologist Stephen Thorne, who testified that children who are interviewed multiple times are much more likely to make false accusations in sexual abuse cases.

“There’s a reason why we want to get an interview done one time and put it on video so a child doesn’t have to do it anymore,” Thorne said.

Both of the boys who alleged that Kelley had abused them were interviewed multiple times, including the separate interview by Det. Dailey, which Dailey admitted to conducting on his own primarily because the second boy had backed away from his earlier claims when interviewed by trained counselors at the Williamson County Children’s Advocacy Center. Dailey, who had already testified that believed Kelley had abused the boys, wanted to talk to the second boy a separate time to see if he couldn’t get the boy to admit to abuse.

“You thought the first interviewer had not established a proper rapport?” Cummings asked him, and Dailey responded, “Correct.”

Dailey testified that he walked into the room as soon as the boy’s interview with counselors was over to question the child himself.

“When you do it you actually have a gun on your hip?” Cummings asked.

“Yes,” said Dailey.

“How many seconds do you think you spent building rapport with him before you started asking him about allegations against Greg?”said Cummings.

“I didn’t attempt to build rapport,” said Dailey.

In closing arguments last Tuesday, Cummings accused the Cedar Park Police Department of doing a lax job of investigating the case, ‘contaminating’ the testimony by improperly interviewing the accusers and having inappropriate conversations with the boys’ parents and then deleting email evidence.

Prosecutor Geoffrey Puryear said, however, that the defense’s case is based on the boys’ parents lying to the court and “planting ideas in their kids’ heads.”

After 11 hours of deliberation, including a brief question to the judge, jurors returned a guilty verdict on both counts of sexual assault involving the first child.

Faced with the possibility of life in prison, Kelley agreed to a plea bargain that would allow him to serve his two 25-year sentences concurrently.

Puryear characterized Kelley’s accepting the plea as proof of his guilt, and said prosecutors were satisfied with the outcome of the trial

However, before the trial commenced, Kelley turned down an offer from the District Attorney’s office that would have had him plead guilty to a lesser charge, and serve no jail time. Kelley said that rather than plead guilty to a crime he didn’t commit, he would go to trial and place his fate in the hands of a jury.

That jury wound up convicting him.

An interview with Kelley’s defense attorney, (see below), sheds some light on what the jury may have been thinking. Cummings spoke with one juror after the trial. The juror said in essence they were leaning for acquittal when the trial began and evolved to conviction. They threw everything out,except for the child’s testimony, and couldn’t get past the fact that the defense gave them no alternative scenario for who may have abused the child.

This AAS article has a good write up of the prosecutions case.

There’s an eerie familiarity with how vehement Kelley and Cummings are in his innocence and how certain the prosecutors are in his guilt – especially without any evidence.  This is a tough case for all involved, and it’s hard to see a way for this case to be reviewed or reopened without new evidence coming to light.

I hope and pray the jury got this right.  Because the alternative is unthinkable.  That an innocent young man took his chances with a Williamson County jury, lost, and will spend 25 year in jail for a crime he did not commit, while the person who molested this child is still out there.  After what the Williamson County criminal justice system went through over the last several years, it’s only natural that a conviction like this might be scrutinized more then usual.

Those who believe in Kelley’s innocence have set up a web site, fightforgk.com and have setup a petition at change.org.

Those who believe Kelley is guilty have posted an open letter.

 

07.08.14

County Commissioners Vote Themselves And Other Elected Officials A Raise

Posted in Commissioners Court, Williamson County at 2:43 pm by wcnews

Via the CI, WilCo elected officials get salary increases.

Elected officials will receive a pay increase for the 2014–15 fiscal year following a vote from the Williamson County Commissioners Court on July 1.

Commissioners voted for a 3 percent increase for county judge, commissioners, treasurer, sheriff and constables; a 4 percent increase for county clerk, district clerk, tax assessor and justices of the peace; and a $10,000 increase for county attorney.

Several officials spoke out in favor of increasing county employee salaries.

It’s good to be king.

05.14.14

Growth & What’s Needed In Williamson County

Posted in Growth, Williamson County at 1:02 pm by wcnews

122712 Wilco Growth

A recent summit in Williamson County raised some interesting issues regarding the counties future, WilCo summit explores challenges to growth.

Policymakers, nonprofit representatives and local leaders gathered April 22 for the Community Impact Summit that addressed how to meet the needs of Williamson County residents during a time of swift population growth.

Speakers at the event in Round Rock said social- and human-service agencies must work together to address the needs of their current and future neighbors.

“In the not-too-distant future, we’re likely to be twice the size or larger [in population] than Travis County,” Cedar Park City Councilman Don Tracy said. “And it’s also no secret … that those who are moving to Williamson County—not all of them are high wage-earners. In fact, life will be tough for many of our neighbors in the future.”

Brian Kelsey, principal at the Austin-based Civic Analytics research firm, told more than 200 summit attendees that Williamson County draws newcomers chiefly from other counties in Texas and not out-of-state.

“The county is growing by about 16,000 people per year, and you’re gaining about 30 residents every day,” Kelsey said. “Like it or not, Williamson County is starting to resemble Travis County in a lot of important ways.”

One difference between the two counties though is that most Williamson County newcomers earn less than existing county residents. Many of the new high-tech jobholders who are moving to Travis County earn a median annual household income of $240,000, he said.

“Living-wage job growth [is needed]—I cannot emphasize this enough,” Kelsey said. “This by far has to be the No. 1 economic development priority, in this county, in Travis County and every other county that’s experiencing the rapid rise in cost of living.”

Most working adults in Williamson County do not have college degrees and will have difficulty finding local jobs that pay at least $17 an hour—the living wage for one adult with one child, he said.

Such underemployment contributes to the growing nationwide problem of poverty in suburban areas, said Elizabeth Kneebone, a fellow in the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution and co-author of “Confronting Suburban Poverty in America.” Williamson County will need higher-paying jobs and must improve residents’ access to public transportation, workforce training and nonprofit resources, she said.

LeAnn Powers, chief professional officer for the United Way of Williamson County, which co-sponsored the event, said a half-million new neighbors with transportation and job needs should be a concern for all residents.

“We cannot neglect this reality,” Powers said. [Emphasis added]

The need for everyone to work together to solve these issues was stressed over and over. And the need for transportation and infrastructure were mentioned as well.

Councilmen Tracy’s statement that “life will be tough for many of our neighbors in the future”was amazingly stark.  Especially with all the rosy talk we hear from our elected officials in Texas about how great things are here.  It’s like he’s resigned to the fact that there’s going to be a significant part of the population in Williamson County that will be, what’s called these days, working poor.

While a living wage needs to be part of the solution, just the mention of  it is probably enough to make most, if no all, elected officials in Williamson County scream Socialism or worse.  Education wasn’t mentioned in the article, but that certainly needs to be a priority too.

With more people comes more needs and responsibilities.  We must have the leadership in place that can handle it.  Williamson County, from what was said at this summit, appears to be a place where those who can’t afford to live in Austin and Travis County will reside.  It means the affluent from out of state and around Texas will move there.  While those who can’t afford it, because of a lack of earning capacity, will move to Williamson County.

Raising wages, especially in a time when rising inequality is a major issue throughout the nation, should be an easy part of the solution.  Large majorities, across party lines,  support raising the minimum wage.  At the very least to $10.10, but likely higher.  And should be a no-brainer for anyone running for office.

To try and remedy this situation local governments, employers, social and human service agencies, and the people will need to work together for a solution.  It will also take assistance from the federal and state government as well.  But in Texas, (see Medicaid Expansion), the state is likely to be of little assistance.   Hopefully a summit like this will bring much needed awareness to these issues.

Presentations and materials from the summit are available here.

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