06.30.06

Perry Speaks To Teachers, Two Interpretations

Posted in Around The State, Election 2006 at 8:35 am by wcnews

It appears that Rick Perry’s campaign strategy for education is to run on the money he took from teachers a few years ago and gave back recently and calling it a pay raise on standardized tests. He apparently has no problem with our public schools being no more than a place to exam cram.

There were a series of articles on Perry’s speech yesterday but they mostly break up into two sides. There’s what Gardner Selby heard:

Members, poised to hear today from Perry’s principal opponents, welcomed Perry’s positive tone, though they said they’re undecided on whom to back for governor in November.

And there’s what everyone else heard silence on Perry’s major points:

But Perry met with silence when he defended the state’s standardized student testing program and took a swipe at Democratic opponent Chris Bell for advocating reducing the role for testing in public schools.[...]

The governor also got no audible response from the teachers’ crowd when he talked up a bonus pay plan that the Legislature passed and he signed that would give some teachers extra pay for improved academic performance by their students.

Silence is not very welcoming. Especially on the two major points of contention with your opponent. It has to make one wonder if he heard the same speech. But, maybe, no one else got to talk afterward with Gov. Perry either:

He said afterward that budgetary uncertainties make commitments to additional salary money “a little premature.”

“If people want to get up and say, ‘I promise I’ll give you an X number of dollar pay raise,’ they are welcome to do that. I am running on my record.”

That’s an interesting statement from Gov. Perry. Seeing how he and his party were more than willing to make “tax-swap” surplus-spending commitments in this time of budgetary uncertainty. Talk about premature.

Chris Bell, Kinky and ‘ol “whatever her name is now” speak to the teacher’s today.

06.29.06

Water For My Horses And Pay Raises For Everyone

Posted in Williamson County at 10:43 pm by wcnews

Pay Raise
Article courtesy of the TDP, County proposing pay raises.

“Our human resources department did a survey of salaries in counties comparable to Williamson County and recommended these salaries at the median,” Doerfler said. “That is to say, those salaries are not the highest but they aren’t the lowest.”

John Willingham, budget director, said the salary increases were recommended after the county compared the salaries of employees and elected officials in Fort Bend, Denton and Collin counties.

He said those counties were chosen because of their similarities to Williamson County.

“All of these counties have a relationship with a dominant urban center next to them, which makes these counties most like ours,” he said. “The analyses doesn’t just deal with employees and salaries, it compares housing cost, average wages, percent of college graduates, consumer price index and other factors similar to ours.”

He said the salaries recommended by his department are still below the salaries paid by the other counties.

Nothing like a study to justify a pay raise. You’ve got time to let them know about this, the final vote is not until the final budget meeting on August 22nd.

Also check out this from Wilco Wise on the “Gang of Four” lame ducks:

Looks like the Gang of Four has finally found an issue on which they can all agree. After years of contentiousness, what’s it take for the gang to finally pull together? Yep, our Gang of Four, which includes 3 lame duck commissioners and the lame duck county judge, have come up with a budget plan that gives themselves a cushy pay raise. According to our Fearless Leader, the county judge will get about a $470 per month raise, commissioners about $575 more a month.

Lots-o-snark, I recommend reading the whole thing.

The Voting Rights Act, John Carter & Redistricting

Posted in Around The Nation, Around The State, Commentary at 10:16 pm by wcnews

Last week, as the Austin Chronicle reminds us, Rep. John Carter made “jumbled” statements about his reasons for wanting to delay the renewal of the Voting Rights Act. It seems like just yesterday he made those remarks but since then he’s been doing he’s best to clarify his position. He, and his press secretary, have been saying he was “misquoted” and “taken out of context”. He also stated that there was a need to delay the renewal in order to wait and see how the Supreme Court rules on the Texas redistricting case.
But with a new week comes more time for John Carter to speak on the issues. With the Supreme Court ruling on the redistricting case this week, and with it the only problem being an issue with the VRA, I’m sure Rep. Carter will have something to say about that. Well, let’s just say one man’s “troubling blend of politics and race” is another man’s “slight caveat”. What’s meant by that is that what Rep. John Carter called a slight caveat was a ruling by the Supreme Court that Congressional District 23 in South Texas violated the VRA. Here’s what he said:

“The Supreme Court ruling is a huge victory for the people of Texas as well as the Republican Party,” said Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock. “We won on every major point of contention.”

“Today’s decision exonerates the Republicans of any wrongdoing. The majority opinion was that the current district map is a fair plan,” said Carter, who represents District 31, which includes Bell County. “In short, the Supreme Court ruled that the new map is an improvement over the old gerrymandered map that was drafted by Democrats.

“The only slight caveat to this victory is that the Supreme Court felt the Hispanic population in District 25 was not sufficiently compact and therefore not an acceptable majority-minority replacement for District 23.

“At this point, it is unclear what action the three judge panel will take in terms of a remedy to affect me or the other districts surrounding mine in Central Texas,” Carter said. “I believe, however, that the court should allow the Texas Legislature to exercise its constitutional authority in coming up with any necessary remedy.”

I’ll give him that it’s a victory for the Republican Party but the people of Texas? As long as you’re not one of the voters who happened to live in the illegal district. He’s basically saying that a violation of the voting rights of minorities in Texas is not a major point of contention and that the Supreme Court was just throwing a bone to those Texans down there.

This ruling affirms the need for the Voting Rights Act and preclearance in Texas because if a “right-wing” Supreme Court can still rule that it was violated then obviously there is still racism in Texas. John Carter should now do his best to quickly renew the VRA.

Read more on the VRA and Redistricting at Just Another Blog, Texas Redistricting Shows Importance of Voting Rights Act.

Karen Felthauser Garners Major Endorsements

Posted in Election 2006, Williamson County at 3:30 pm by wcnews

Karen Felthauser has received the endorsements of the Texas State Teachers Association, Texas Federation of Teachers, Education Round Rock and the AFL-CIO’s Austin Central Labor Council.

Karen Felthauser (D-Round Rock) has been stacking up major endorsements from the education and labor communities, for her campaign to unseat the Republican incumbent in Texas House District 52.

Click “Read the rest of this entry” or here press release (.doc) to read the entire press release
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Toll Road Vote Postponed Until After The Election

Posted in Central Texas, Williamson County at 9:45 am by wcnews

This article appeared in the AAS yesterday, Vote on more toll roads delayed, Support for pay-to-drive plan may be eroding; decision not expected before fall elections. What’s at play here, best I can tell, is that the elected officials on the CAMPO board want to postpone the “vote” on Phase II of the toll road plan until after the November elections. At this time the delay is being blamed on the fact that the officials want to see the completed “independent” study before they vote on Phase II.

But the underlying dynamic of the postponement is political. A growing number of the 23 board members — 21 are elected officials — want to wait for results of a study before making the politically ticklish vote. A $300,000 financial review by a Boston consulting company of the $1.4 billion project won’t be done until October or so.

That consulting firm is CRA, International. With an assist, of course, from one of the firms named in this Denver Post series “Truth Be Tolled”, URS. The series basically told the story of how three consulting firms (Vollmer, URS and Wilbur Smith) – which do almost all of the traffic & revenue (T&R) studies for these CAMPO type boards around the country – almost always overestimate how much traffic and revenue these roads generate. I bring this up because at the end of the AAS article yesterday Rep. Mike Krusee is quoted:

State Rep. Mike Krusee, R-Williamson County, the House transportation committee chairman and architect of the toll road plan, said it’s too early to conclude that Phase II is in trouble. The study, he said, is unlikely to be the political magic bullet CAMPO members are looking for.

“What I presume it will say is, ‘Is there any possible way to build these roads without tolling them?’ and the answer will be yes,” Krusee said. “And ‘are there serious consequences for the future of road building if we don’t toll?’ And the answer to that will also be yes. So you’ll still face the dilemma.

“When we do take that vote, I just want to make sure everyone understands the consequences of what we’re doing.”

Sounds like he’s in on writing the study or he knows what’s in it already. What he’s telling those elected officials on the CAMPO board is you can have all the “independent studies” you want but it isn’t going to change anything. If the elected officials want cover before the November elections on toll roads then they need to come out against them. Instead of trying to hide behind a jiggered study, showing how much money is to be made off these toll roads, will allay the public’s distaste for them.

The other thing I found curious about this article yesterday is why was it was written. There’s no “news” in the article. The last CAMPO board meeting was June 12th. My guess is, looking at this map (take special note of East and West and which projects are in and out of the plan), that it was a response to Rep. Eddie Rodriguez’s editorial in the AAS the day before. You’ve go to hand it to the AAS for their “fair and balanced” approach.

06.28.06

Mary Beth Harrell Responds To John Carter’s VRA Comments

Posted in Around The Nation, Around The State, Election 2006, Williamson County at 12:57 pm by wcnews

You can read it at the Burnt Orange Report, Daily Planet Extra: “Carter is from Mars”,  and it’s also at DailyKos as well.

Supreme Court Passes, Mostly, On Texas Redistricting Case

Posted in Around The Nation, Around The State at 9:03 am by wcnews

SCOTUSblog has the story:

Here is a key paragraph in Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s plurality opinion in the Texas redistricting case: “In sum, we disagree with appellants’ view that a legislature’s decision to override a valid, court-drawn plan mid-decade is sufficiently suspect to give shape to a reliable standard for identifying unconstitutional political gerrymanders. We conclude that appellants have established no legally impermissible use of political classifications. For this reason, they state no claim on which relief may be granted for their statewide challenge.”

The District that the Court found legally wanting is a huge Latino-dominated district that the state created in an attempt to salvage the political fortunes of a Latino member of Congress, Republican Henry Bonilla. He had been losing strength among Latino voters, so the state legislature drew a new district by including a largely Anglo, Republican area in central Texas. That, a Court majority found, was the product of a “troubling blend of politics and race — and the resulting vote dilution of a group that was beginning to achieve [the Voting Rights Act's] goal of overcoming prior electorial discrimination.” It “cannot be sustained,” the Court concluded.

Whether the state legislature can repair the problem found by the Court in that one District without redrawing the plan statewide is uncertain at this point. The Court majority found no legal flaw in any other part of the plan.

My quick thoughts are:

I agree with Kuff’s World that I would have like to see mid-decade redistricting rules unconstitutional, I’m disappointed in that decision. It’s open season now and states will be redistricting at every time the power switches early in a decade.

The court took a pass on gerrymandering, which this obviously was.

But, overall, I like our candidates, I think we have better candidates and I think we can win in November!

Now let’s renew the VRA!

The Lege solve this?  Give me a break!  Time for Perry to call another special on redistricting.

06.27.06

Think Progress Takes On Rep. Carter

Posted in Around The Nation, Around The State at 2:06 pm by wcnews

Think Progress is the blog for the Center for American Progress.  Here’s the link, FACT CHECK: There is Racial Bias in Texas.

Capitol Annex On John Carter’s VRA Comments

Posted in Around The Nation, Around The State at 9:41 am by wcnews

Vince Leibowitz at Capitol Annex has three great posts up on Rep. John Carter’s “jumbled” comments on the Voting Rights Act (see below). The most recent of his posts points to the fact that the MSM is picking up on a civilrights.org report titled, Voting Rights in Texas, 1982-2006. Here’s some of what they found:

The recent 2004 election offers insight into continuing voter discrimination in Texas. In conjunction with other organizations, MALDEF served as a resource center to address election irregularities. Fielding complaints throughout the voting period, MALDEF learned of several voting rights violations, including:

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Rep. Eddie Rodriguez Points To “Social Equity” Problems Concerning Toll Roads In Austin

Posted in Central Texas at 9:11 am by wcnews

Here’s a big chunk of his editorial from the AAS, A heavy toll; Almost all of the planned pay-as-you-go roads are in East Austin.

But designating those corridors creates immense opposition from affected neighborhoods — and those with political clout have been most effective in resisting toll roads in their area.

Residents in the eastern part of the city have tended to have lower incomes and be less involved in the political process. That helps to explain why CAMPO’s Phase II has scheduled almost all of the mandatory toll roads in East Austin’s back yard.

For generations, those residents have disproportionately endured power plants, landfills, tank farms, wastewater treatment plants and excessive industrial zoning. Now, we see plans for East Austin to bear most of the burden of funding toll roads — so the rest of the city can qualify for other state transportation money.

In the plan, only 37 toll lane miles lie west of I-35; a whopping 136 miles of toll lanes are planned east of I-35. With just a little math, you can see that the east side will fund about four times as many toll miles as the west side. The statistics within the city are even worse. Phase II directs the state to establish all toll lanes in East Austin.

In July 2004, the CAMPO board adopted eight resolutions detailing its intent for the implementation of toll roads. One resolution addressed fair and equitable treatment of all citizens in bearing the burden of the toll roads.

That intent was apparently abandoned. In fact, 46 miles of Texas Loop 360 had been planned as a future toll road in the first phase of this project. After a huge protest from residents in that area, CAMPO decided not to fund it — leaving East Austin to pay the tab.

I have a problem with that.

When CAMPO votes on Phase II in the next month or two, we could be in serious jeopardy concerning our own resolution to see that this toll plan is fair. The lack of social equity in the plan is a concern that will weigh heavily on my voting decision.

We Austinites care deeply about our city and the people who live on both sides of the I-35 divide. I’m tired of the East versus West debate. I want to see both sides treated fairly and equally. But I have an obligation to my district, and to all like-minded Austinites, to raise this issue of disparity in this toll road plan.

How do you kill a toll road – or any road for that matter – fast in Austin and Travis County? Just say you’re going to build it in the Western part and it’s dead.

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