05.31.07

Town Hall Meeting With TDP Chair Boyd Richie In Austin This Saturday

Posted in Around The State, Democratic Events at 11:45 pm by wcnews

The TDP Chair is making himself available to Democrats all across Texas via these town hall meetings and he wants to hear from you. It’s doubtful there will be on in Williamson County. But this is very close. Show up and be heard.

Here are the details:

“Texas Democrats accomplished a great deal over the last year, leading to a gain of six seats in the State House, the election of two new Democrats to Congress and a number of victories on the county level,” said Chairman Richie. “However, there is much more to be done. That is why I am traveling to every corner of the state to hear from my fellow Democrats on the ground about how we can continue to build upon our momentum and take the fight statewide.”

WHAT: Texas Democratic Party Town Hall Meeting

WHO: TDP Chair Boyd Richie

WHEN: SATURDAY, June 2nd

Media Availability 9:30am
Town Hall Meeting 10:00am – 12:00pm

WHERE: AFL-CIO Building

1106 Lavaca

Austin, TX 78701

Dewhurst Still Misleading On Voter IDiocy

Posted in 80th Legislature, Around The State, Elections at 11:07 am by wcnews

Still lamenting the fact that Voter IDiocy didn’t pass the legislature the Lt. Gov. is still saying misleading things like this about it:

“I was disappointed we did not get a voter ID program out there,” said Dewhurst, who asserted there’s evidence of “thousands and thousands and thousands” of non-citizens voting in Texas. “This is a no-brainer.”

There’s no evidence of that. His letter which quoted some bad statistics mentioned that their MAY thousands registered, but nowhere near that are voting. More like a hundred or so. He also admits it’s a partisan issue:

“There are some members of the Senate who do not want to see a voter ID bill pass for partisan reasons, and there are some members who want to see a voter ID bill pass for partisan reasons,” said Dewhurst, a Republican.

Some? Look Dave, the session’s over and it’s time to admit it. You lost this one because everyone who’s not a wing-nut realized this was a solution without a problem. And it’s hard to pass “bad public policy” when the curtain gets pulled back.

05.30.07

Toll Road Lesson In Denver

Posted in Commentary, Corruption, Privatization, Road Issues at 3:51 pm by wcnews

The Northwest Parkway, a toll road with a checkered historysee this EOW post – in Denver is being sold to a foreign corporation.

The board of the financially ailing Northwest Parkway toll road voted this morning to accept a deal with a Portuguese-led foreign group for a long-term takeover of the 11-mile roadway.

A partnership of Brisa Auto-Estradas of Lisbon and Companhia de Concessoes Rodoviarias of Sao Paolo, Brazil, will take over the parkway, which forms the northwest segment of the metro beltway. The agreement is to be finalized by the end of August.

The length of the deal wasn’t immediately disclosed but the parkway sought proposals for a minimum 50-year takeover.

While details of the agreement still need to be hammered out, it would allow the parkway to pay off its $416 million in bonds and much of the start-up loans made by Boulder County, Broomfield, Louisville, Lafayette and the Interlocken Consolidated Metropolitan District.

Local officials, in order to sell the bonds to build the road, used inflated traffic and revenue (T&R) estimates. When the T&R didn’t show up and they couldn’t pay the bonds, they made a deal with a foreign corporation. Here’s what the Parkway’s Executive Director said back in 2006:

Its director, Aurora City Councilman Steve Hogan, said that before seeking outside investors in the road, he didn’t believe the optimistic forecasts for its profit potential. But, he said, he treated those estimates as a tool to persuade bond experts to give the debt a favorable rating, not as a solid predictor.

“My personal opinion was that the numbers were probably a little high,” said Hogan, who thought the projections for the critical, early years could be as much as 25 percent above the mark. He expected bond raters to trim the revenue estimates and base their ratings for investors on more realistic projections, but they did not.

In the modern world of financing toll roads, those are the rules of the game, he says.

The numbers were more than a little high:

At The Denver Post’s request, DRCOG returned to its 2001 data and calculated that, had it been asked at that time to predict employment for the toll road’s corridor, it would have projected about 80,000 jobs in 2004. Bailey-Campbell’s colleague predicted there would be 109,654, or 37 percent more.

For 2010, DRCOG would have predicted about 110,000 jobs. The Northwest Parkway had said 190,370, or 73 percent more.

The present-day figures show neither projection was correct, but DRCOG was closer to reality: In 2005, DRCOG found that there were 65,243 jobs in the corridor.

One more quote from the article from today’s sale:

“This deal is complex and addresses all of the issue of concern to the authority,” particularly debt, said Steve Hogan, the parkway’s executive director.

The deal calls on Brisas to either retain or offer severance packages to the authority’s current employees except for Hogan.

“As of today I’m looking for a new job,” he said.

Well, that’s something. This community is now saddled with a toll road that will now, no doubt, have outrageous tolls on it so this corporation can make it’s money back plus a 12 – 15 % profit.

The lesson here is that our elected officials will do and say anything, and in this case go along with estimates they know are wrong, just to get the road built. Somehow in their eyes, the long-term cost doesn’t matter because they believe what they’re doing is right. One day the people will recognize their farsightedness in getting this road built, no matter the cost. Once the road is built though it’s the local communities problem, they’re the ones that have to pay for it.  Then all those responsible need to do is find another job and community to scam.

I wonder if this has happened anywhere else?

NASCO Annual Conference Starts Today

Posted in Around The Nation, Around The State, Privatization, Road Issues at 12:01 pm by wcnews

Big tip to Jobsanger for this.

A group calling itself the North America’s SuperCorridor Coalition (NASCO) is meeting in Fort Worth this weekend for its annual meeting. This group wants to build a super-highway from Mexico to Canada. They try to make their goals seem innocuous enough. To hear them talk, you’d think all they wanted was to help business along the I-35 corridor.

And they’ve created a strawman to knock down so they can convince us that they’re just trying to help. They say that the folks who don’t understand them think they’re trying to merge the U.S., Canada and Mexico into one giant North American country. Then they proceed to knock this strawman down by telling us they just want to prevent gridlock on I-35.

Big time strawman. As anyone knows that has studied this issue the TTC will do nothing to ease gridlock. This is a road to ship cargo through Central and North America. Just go check out the conference program (.PDF). Congressmen Kenny Marchant and Pete Sessions, both Republicans will be there. Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams is not only hosting a BBQ at his ranch (The Wingnut Gatlin Brothers will perform) , but he’s also a panel moderator and panel participant. Who knew our SOS cared so much about transportation? Of course, Ric Williamson is also moderating a panel. Jerry Jones and many, many corporations are represented. Didn’t see a panel on “Easing Traffic On Your Daily Commute”, any citizens panels, or anything like that. It’s obvious that this group and their plan has little to do with anything other than taking land and using it to feather their own nest.

Has the governor signed that moratorium yet?

Perry Vetoes HB 770 – Unseemly

Posted in 80th Legislature, Around The State, Criminal Justice at 10:10 am by wcnews

I meant to post sooner on Gov. Perry’s veto of HB 770. This bill would have mandated that when an inmate, parolee, or probationer is released form supervision and gets their right to vote back, that the state, who took that right away, let them know they have regained that right and give them a voter registration application form. There bill does not cost anything and was approved by large majorities in both chambers ([H] 120-21 [S] 26-5).

Grits For Breakfast
goes through the governor’s veto message on HB 770.

Perry’s veto message on this bill is a bit of mealy mouthed flotsam masking base political fears that more ex-offenders might vote. It reads like one of Terry Keel’s parliamentary rulings, avoiding the central questions and dressing up an unreasonable, politicized stance whose only real justification is political gain.

[...]

Indeed, Perry’s veto message is full of such red herrings and misreprsentations. Perhaps the biggest one: “the state does not currently provide this service to law-abiding citizens, such as high school graduates who are new to voting. I find it unseemly that the state would make a greater effort to register former inmates to vote than we would any other group of citizens in this state.”

Well, Mr. Perry, we do notify kids they can vote. I was handed my first voter registration application in a high school government class, and most kids get a driver license so the motor voter program gets them a registration card.

For ex-offenders, though, if they’re not “off paper” when they re-apply for a driver’s license, they won’t be eligible to register then like others would be. The main reason for the bill is that many ex-offenders don’t know what are the laws surrounding when they become eligible to vote again – a voter registration drive last year among ex-offenders found many people eligible to vote who believed they weren’t allowed to do so. The 18-year old voters the Governor describes don’t suffer similar misunderstandings.

This bill makes sense. I’m sure when someone enters the system, they’re given an orientation as to how the process works. It’s not “unseemly” that they be given an orientation, shall we say, that includes a voter registration application when their debt to society has been paid. After all, if we are trying to rehabilitate our criminals then registering them to vote should not be called “unseemly”, by the governor or any other elected official. The Texas Criminal Justice Coalition has much more on the bill here.

Why Perry really vetoed this bill is only speculation but it does follow nicely with the GOP’s plan to make voting more exclusive and less inclusive. This surely could have been overridden if we had veto override sessions which died late this session (HJR 59).

05.29.07

Perry’s Post Session Presser

Posted in 80th Legislature, Around The State, Election 2008, Privatization, Road Issues, The Lege at 4:42 pm by wcnews

Texas Politics has the podcast of Gov. Perry’s press conference today. He answered two questions about transportation. They’re transcribed below:

Q: “[Couldn't hear the name] said you made a promise to sign it. will you sign it?

A: I don’t ever make a promise to anyone that I’m gonna sign their bill. You go back over the six years that I’ve been the governor and the three legislative session and I’d be pretty hard pressed to find a place where I have said, I promise I will sign a bill before it ever gets to my desk and we’ve read it. We’re obviously going through that bill.

And with that said we worked very closely with them. I think we worked in confidence that if they would do certain things, we would do certain things. At this particular point and time it appears that that piece of legislation does what we were comfortable that the legislative intent was, and what our intent was in the legislation. So were continuing to make progress on building transportation infrastructure in this state.

That’s what I’ve always cared about. Frankly, I don’t care who builds roads. I want them to get built timely, I want them to get build effectively, I want them to be built as cheaply for the taxpayer’s and the users of the state of Texas as they can be. And that is what is happening in our state.

So he’s still not committing to sign SB 792. His 10 days are up on Thursday June 7th. That’s quite a few qualifiers and it’s not clear what’s left to “make progress” on. It’s time to either sign the bill or veto it. He doesn’t care who builds roads!? I had to clean my computer screen after that one. And if he wanted the “cheapest”, as in inexpensive roads, then he should stop with the corporate toll roads and raise and index the gas tax. It doesn’t get any cheaper than that. If you thought that was bad, wait until you hear his answer to the second question.

Q: Has transportation suffered setbacks?

A: Not at all. Not at all. I think what you saw was people all across the state of Texas standing up and saying, “We’ve gotta have roads built”. When you look at all the exemptions that were put in place, people are standing up across the state of Texas, are saying, “It’s OK if you don’t’ want to build a toll road in Washington County. But you know what we need them in Houston, and we need them in Dallas, and we need them in Fort Worth, and we need them in Travis, and we need them in Bexar”.

People where there are real traffic problems understand that they want every tool available, to be available, to build appropriate and speedy transportation infrastructure. For those that wanted to make a political statement, God bless them, they made it.

From this response it’s clear that the governor doesn’t believe the so-called moratorium puts any impediment in his way.  Just the way he refers to toll roads we can see he still doesn’t understand the problem the “people of Texas” have with this transportation agenda.  he’s lumping all toll roads together and blurring the line between traditional toll roads and toll roads for corporate profit, both foreign and domestic. Corporate toll roads cost much, much more than toll roads built by a local entity or roads financed with a gas tax. The “people of Texas” don’t want any of these roads to be built as toll roads, much less corporate toll roads sold off to foreign corporations. It was politicians like Rep. Vicki Truitt, Rep. Mike Krusee, and others that fought to for the exemptions. The “people of Texas” don’t want them and the politicians that didn’t get the hint in ’06 will in ’08. Again, governor, every tool available would include raising and indexing the gas tax, and you won’t even mention it. Thanks for the blessing and there’s more to come on the political statement front.

The rest is about how the session was good but could have been much better. I don’t know what legislature he was watching.

Session Wrap-Ups

Posted in 80th Legislature, The Lege at 3:15 pm by wcnews

AAS:

Editorial, Texas’ big three cut down to size during session.

Some state business gets done, but many at Capitol underwhelmed.

DMN:

Legislature focuses on the small stuff
.

The session scorecard.

In Spite of Themselves: Despite chaos, lawmakers notch victories.

Startleram:

Legislative scorecard.

The key players.

Consumers see mixed results.

Chron:

Texas legislative session comes to close.

Legislature review: What bills passed, what didn’t.

SAEN:

Session’s furious finale.

Clay Robison, ‘Tow-truck’ session didn’t give taxpayers their money’s worth.

A View From the Right
LST:

You Win Some, You Lose Some.

Texas GOP In Disarray; Lack Of Leadership, Unified Message Makes For Dismal Session

Posted in 80th Legislature, The Lege at 12:49 pm by wcnews

The Texas GOP is at a crossroads. This session marks six years since they took absolute control of every statewide office and every branch of government. They own it. For Republicans to rule as effectively as is possible for them, they must have a “Daddy”, a father figure, hence all the pining in the recent GOP presidential debates for Father Ronnie. When Dubya and his brain were running Texas all the Republicans knew who was setting the agenda. This session there were three wannabes, each with their own agenda: Perry (Legacy), Dewhurst (2010 Gov. Primary), Craddick (Survival).

Think back to Perry’s State Of The State speech when he mentioned selling the lottery. Members of his own party went, “Huh!! What is he talking about?” It was the same thing with HPV. They had no idea it was coming. (Not to mention the crony corruption involved with both). Not giving the members of his own party a heads-up that these initiatives were coming put him at a disadvantage, especially those programs which were unpopular with Republicans. It also made him and his party look disorganized. Surely some of them could have helped with damage control and to sell these policies. Was his office afraid of leaks, sharing the spotlight and/or credit, or were they just being arrogant (with 39%)?

Dewhurst got what he believed to be his signature issue passed through the legislature, Texas’ version of Jessica’s Law. It’s not exactly how he wanted it because the state’s prosecutors believed it was a bad bill that would make it harder to prosecute child predators. It was so bad in it’s original form, that even the Williamson County’s DA was against it. But to be an effective legislative leader, like the Lt. Gov, it’s best to do the arm-twisting, deal making, and horse-trading behind closed doors. It’s never good to embarrass your opponent(s) in public. That’s rude, makes them dig-in, and makes you look even weaker when you lose.

As for Craddick, this session ended worse than it began, and that’s hard to believe. He lost an early and usually routine procedural vote, that signaled what was to come. For him to survive it’s going to take a huge pile of money and a bunch of candidates that are willing to subordinate themselves to Craddick. They will have to run against other Republicans and know the only reason they have a chance is so they can get elected and be a vote FOR Craddick so he can keep his “lobbyist-remodeled” apartment. And if elected they will have a hand up their back and be told how to vote. In a primary that may be more base centered than usual, it’s entirely possible that the presidential nominees will already be decided by then, he will at least have a fighting chance. But he could just say he’s not running tomorrow and stop the bloodbath from happening.

Another sign of the disarray in the party was that there was no unity between these three leaders. We never saw these three guys together at a press conference, laying out what the Republican agenda was for the session. Perry and Dewhurst were mostly silent on the leadership battles in the House. GOP followers need and have been conditioned for a unified, unthinking message. They need to be told what to expect, by either a unified party message or a father figure mandating it to them. They had neither, and it showed. Three different agendas left the followers without direction. Look back to the five agenda items Perry laid out before session and how they did. It’s a mixed bag at best and there was little unity between the three on those issues.

Of any GOPer the best session was probably had by Texas Rush. This had nothing to do with him being legislatively effective, it was just image. He does what the GOP base likes (father figure), he was the most “Bushian” shall we say. Take a position, no matter what don’t change, and smear your opponents.

It may look bad for the Texas GOP right now but it’s no time for Democrats to relax or assume this will continue. The GOP is currently without a leader and it’s doubtful any of the “big three” will be able to lead this party effectively in the future. Things can change quickly in politics. This is not the end of the GOP or even it’s dominance in Texas. More like growing pains, like EOW said yesterday. They are moving from a party fighting to take power to attempting to become one that can govern and keep power. It’s ugly, and if they can’t learn then their dominance will come to an end. This session has done little to help them find their way.

What would speed the Republican decline is strong Democratic opposition. We’ll just have to wait and see whether an effective Democratic counterweight can be brought to bear before the GOP awakens. Exploiting GOP weaknesses for Democratic gains will be a major theme on this blog for the next 18 months.

05.28.07

The “Moratorium” – What Have We Got?

Posted in 80th Legislature, Around The State, Privatization, Road Issues, The Lege at 11:38 am by wcnews

As we wait for Gov. Perry to sign, we’re told, SB 792 I’m reminded of the question asked of Ben Franklin after the question asked of Ben Franklin after the Constitutional Convention:

“Well, Doctor, what have we got—a Republic or a Monarchy?”

“A Republic, if you can keep it.”

It’s obvious that Rep. Lois Kolkhorst and CorridorWatch believe we have a moratorium. But most everyone else affiliated with stopping the TTC and tolls for corporate profit believe otherwise – see this post from Sal Costello and read the comments.

The simple fact is SB 792, a so called 2 year moratorium compromise bill, doesn’t stop one toll road that’s planned in the next 2 years. Not one road! All the roads planned are exempted. And at the last minute, Wentworth, Uresti, Van De Putte, Zaffirini, and highway lobbyists dragged an amendment that would have saved San Antonio’s 1604 from 792!

The Governor is already bragging about 792, and the press is calling it something it certainly is not, a “Freeze on private toll roads”. And CorridorWatch is calling it a “Moratorium”. But, It’s A moratorium on nothing.

So what do we have? We’ve got a “moratorium” on corporate tolls on any future project that was not already in the works. We’ve got the word of politicians, “public representations”, that this bill does include the TTC. We have to trust their word, NOT the law, that this includes the TTC. Lois Kolkhorst had this to say about her decision:

Ms. Kolkhorst held her ground for several days before deciding that her amendment was not necessary to enforce a moratorium. She said she stayed up until 4 a.m. Thursday doing some “soul-searching” before she decided to sign off on the compromise.

“I’m one of those personalities that says, I want it all and I want it right now,” she said. “That was too difficult to get. It’s peeling back an onion and going through the layers. And we got through several layers this session.”

An onion is an apt metaphor, this deal has a pungent aroma and will bring tears to your eyes.

Here’s what CorridorWatch had to say for themselves:

Although it’s punched full of holes to accommodate a dozen pending toll road project across the state, SB792 still contains a two-year moratorium that will slow construction of the Trans Texas Corridor, particularly TTC-69. While we remain uncertain that the moratorium language of SB792 is tight enough to stop TTC-35 facility agreements from being executed during the next two-years. However, we have been given that assurance from others who are very involved in the process, including Senator Nichols.

It has also been put on the official record over and over that it is the intent of the legislature to halt any TTC construction contract from being signed over the next two years, including TTC-35. In response, public representations have been made to the legislature that no TTC construction contracts will be executed during the moratorium. Should that occur a certain firestorm will erupt with CorridorWatch leading a charge against TxDOT.

All that’s really been won is the ability for some elected representatives to be able to say to their constituents, that don’t pay close attention – which unfortunately are many – that they did something on th issue of toll roads and the TTC.

Keep in mind that Perry’s office has said this:

“Today’s action ensures that Texas will continue to have the tools needed to support the states booming population and economic growth,”

It’s obvious that they believe they still have all the “tools” they need. I also can’t find a public statement anywhere from Gov. Perry or his office where they admit that this “moratorium” includes the TTC, 35 or 69.

So what have we got? A moratorium, if we can keep it.

Perry can still veto it and then all bets are off.

The House Needs A Leader That Can Govern

Posted in 80th Legislature, The Lege at 10:24 am by wcnews

The whole Craddick Bruhaha boils down to a point made by Glenn Smith in this BOR post comparing Craddick to Gingrich.

Craddick has become the Newt Gingrich of Texas. His actions keep attention on government corruption and excess — Tom DeLay, Part II.

The DeLay/corruption is part of it. But the Gingrich comparison is more about the leader that was needed to attain power, and the leader that’s needed to keep power/govern effectively. The nasty, corrupt, strong-arm tactics that Craddick used all those years to get a Republican majority and bring himself to power, have not translated well to building coalitions and governing, especially as his majority shrinks.  And, like Newt, eventually he will be jettisoned, that is, if the GOP wants to keep control of the House.

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