01.31.08

EWCDC Presents Free Showing Of Who Killed The Electric Car? Tonight

Posted in Democratic Events, Good Stuff, The Environment, Williamson County at 2:45 pm by wcnews

The East Williamson County Democrats Club is putting on it’s third installment of free film series. This time it’s Who Killed The Electric Car?

When: Thursday, January 31, 2008 @ 7:00pm
Where: The historic Howard Theatre 308 Main Street, Taylor Texas
Admission: FREE

wkec2

A little about the movie Via Wikipedia:

Who Killed the Electric Car? is a 2006 documentary film that explores the birth, limited commercialization, and subsequent death of the battery electric vehicle in the United States, specifically the General Motors EV1 of the 1990s. The film explores the roles of automobile manufacturers, the oil industry, the US government, batteries, hydrogen vehicles, and consumers in limiting the development and adoption of this technology.

[...]

The film features interviews with celebrities who drove the electric car, such as Mel Gibson, Tom Hanks, Alexandra Paul, Peter Horton, Ed Begley, Jr., a bi-partisan selection of prominent political figures including Ralph Nader, Frank Gaffney, Alan Lloyd, Jim Boyd, Alan Lowenthal, S. David Freeman, and ex-CIA head James Woolsey, as well as news footage from the development, launch and marketing of EV’s.

The press release for the event is here.

Democratic candidate for HD-52 Diana Maldonado will be in attendance. Come out and see a great documentary and socialize with Democrats in Williamson County. Many thanks to the EWCDC for putting this together.

Abbott May Have To Explain His Partisan Voter Fraud Record

Posted in Around The State, Commentary, Elections at 2:27 pm by wcnews

Maybe something did change after all at last week’s House Elections Committee hearing. This post at Texas Politics, GOP leader wants General Abbott’s response to charges, has the testimony of a specialist in voter law, Gerald Hebert, who has long been a thorn in the side of the Texas GOP on voter law and redistricting. At issue is the fact that Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has only prosecuted Democrats and minorities for voter fraud, NO Republicans. The Lone Star Project pointed this out a while back. But here’s what Hebert said:

Hebert complained to Berman’s committee last week that Abbott has prosecuted Texans “who appear to have done little more than mistakenly help senior citizens by delivering already completed and sealed ballots to the post office or an elections administrative office.”

Of 13 voter fraud-related indictments, virtually all are African Americans or Hispanic senior citizens, Hebert noted.

He told the committee: “What is especially troubling is that while Greg Abbott’s office has prosecuted minority seniors for simply mailing ballots, he has not prosecuted anyone on the other side of the aisle for what appear to be open and shut cases of real voter fraud.”

Hebert told the committee about alleged voter fraud in heavily Republican Highland Park involving the mishandling of over 100 ballots and a memo from local prosecutors calling on Abbott to investigate the 2005 complaint. He explained that the attorney general’s office handed off the complaint to the Texas secretary of state “for evaluation of as potential criminal prosecution.”

He called that “a stalling tactic” because it is the AG’s office that evaluates criminal prosecution.

Nothing has happened, according to Hebert.

In the post it only says that Rep. Leo Berman plans to ask Abbott about this and Abbott’s spokesman has no comment because they have not received a request from Berman asking about this. Hebert then went on to decimate the Texas GOP leadership’s sensationalist and pathetic claims of a voter fraud “epidemic” in Texas.

Hebert told Berman’s committee:

“One can only conclude that Greg Abbott is using the official resources of the State of Texas to relentlessly pursue and prosecute minorities and Democrats who may have unknowingly violated a narrow, flawed and controversial provision in Texas law. None of the 10 persons prosecuted have been charged with or admitted to defrauding a single voter.

“At the same time, Abbott’s office has failed to seek prosecution of a single Republican or any individual involved with Republican election activities, even after being provided clear evidence that Republican office holders and Republican election officials engaged in improper activities that may have 100 or more ballots.”

Hebert said, “There is a fraud being perpetrated on Texas voters, but it’s not what you think. It is being perpetrated on Texas votes [sic] by Attorney General Greg Abbott, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst, and others who claim that voter fraud in Texas has reached epidemic proportions. Their false and unsubstantiated claims are the real fraud.”

So if Rep. Berman ever asks Abbott about this we may finally get him on the record about his partisan voter fraud prosecutions and that would be a change that came out of the hearing.

Here’s the AusChron’s coverage of last the hearing, Voter ID Bill Redux. Here’s an excerpt.

The star GOP witness was Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector Paul Bettencourt, who brought several boxes of files he said documented 381 “iron-clad” cases of voter fraud. “Fraud cases exist, period,” he said. “It shouldn’t be a debate for this body.”

“There are many types of fraud, aren’t there?” countered Anchía. “When you make the statement that there’s definitely voter fraud, it includes a pretty broad definition, right?” That was a theme that ran throughout the hearing – over and over, when examples of fraud were raised, Anchía pointed out that most involved mail-in ballots – a situation that a photo ID requirement would not ameliorate.

But Bettencourt did say he had found 24 examples of deceased voters who had a voting history after their deaths, covering a period from 1994 to 2000, and pointed to a Houston Chronicle story documenting 35 noncitizens who voted in the 2004 presidential elections. Anchía specifically challenged the latter number, saying his staff checked the names and found 23 were actually citizens.

The more that it becomes known that voter ID is a GOP ploy for partisan advantage and that it’s a solution in search of a problem, the better chance we will have of making sure this never becomes law.

01.30.08

Money And Tolls In Precinct 1

Posted in 2008 Primary, Commissioners Court, Money In Politics, Precinct 1, Round Rock, Williamson County at 3:25 pm by wcnews

Last week the RRL had an aticle about fundraising in the Precinct 1 GOP Primary races. Going through the list, incumbent county commissioner Lisa Birkman got many donations from engineers, engineering PAC’s and surveyors. Round Rock Mayor Nyle Maxwell and CTRMA Board of Directors chair Robert Tesch donated to Steve Laukhuf.

Also today’s RRL story regarding tolling the O’Connor extension between RR 620 and SH 45. Most of the article talks about the increased traffic this could bring to the neighborhoods in the area. But at the end the article gets back to the issue of tolling the extension. Birkman says this:

Birkman said many different route studies went into deciding which would be the most feasible way to give residents better access to the tollway and that county and mobility officials are still working on all the details – one of which is whether or not it makes sense to toll the extension.

“What we’re hoping to do is – if we do toll it – there would be some sort of arrangement where the county would get paid back over time,” she said.

According to Birkman, the mobility authority has begun a preliminary review of the project and the next step is to conduct a formal feasibility study, which will then go back to the commissioners court for review.

“Then at that point, I would like to have some public meetings and get some input and see what the public things about the idea,” Birkman said. “So it’s far from being a given. We’re just trying to find options to relieve the traffic in that area.”

She’s probably already heard from the people about her earlier statement in favor of tolling the extension and is trying to backtrack. What the financial statements show is that anyone opposed to the “toll everything” philosophy that both GOP, aka “tolling party”, candidates are members of, needs to vote Democratic for change and accountability in November.

A Preview Of The 2010 GOP Primary For Governor

Posted in Around The State, Commentary at 2:17 pm by wcnews

A few happenings around the state the last couple of days are more a preview of the 2010 GOP Primary for governor than a preview of the one coming up in March. One is the recent retirement announcement of state Senator Kyle Janek, and the other is Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst’s release of the Senate’s Interim Charges [.PDF].

This post from the conservative blog Professors R-Squared, Yet More On Jockeying To Replace Janek… , clues us in on the behind the scenes action regarding Janek’s resignation.

From the gist of our e-mail conversations, there seems to be a still-unsuccessful effort to try to attract a GOP candidate who can challenge and beat Gary Polland. The anti-Polland forces don’t think that they have anyone right now. Representative Dennis Bonnen is probably a no-go and Representative Charlie Howard is hesitant because of his House race.

Some tidbits:

Janek changed his resignation date to June 2nd, making the Special Election in November instead of May.

The official reason: Janek says that he wants to continue doing work on the interim committees.

The likely reason: At the moment, Janek’s people don’t have anybody who can beat Polland, particularly now that Polland has State Senator Dan Patrick, Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector Paul Bettencourt, and KSEV’s Edd Hendee backing him. We’ll see if Janek’s people can scrounge up a real challenger to Polland between now and June”

What this shows is that the Texas GOP is often time now breaking up into it’s moderate and wing-nut branches in selecting candidates.  As the Texas GOP comes to terms with it’s inability to govern, and attempts to hold onto power, this battle will begin raging.  Sen. Dan Patrick, aka Texas Rush, is already working to get one of his surrogates into office in the Texas House, it only makes sense he’d want a minion in the Senate too.

This, more than likely, is a preview of the 2010 GOP Primary for Governor. Of course KBH is pretty much guaranteed to be running, Texas Rush is trying to set himself up on the far right. There’s rumors of AG Greg Abbott running (more likely to run for Lt. Gov.,), and former SOS Roger Williams may give it a go too.  And, of course, Lt. Gov. Dewhurst will more than likely be in too.  EOW thinks it all points to a primary including KBH, Texas Rush, and Dewhurst.

Ever since winning his second term Dewhurst has been trying to tack back to the right in order to win back the right wingers in the GOP, for his run for governor in ’10. He, along with just about anyone else rumored to be running for the GOP nod in ’10, will have serious trouble trying to out wing-nut Texas Rush.  KBH is probably best positioned for the squishy middle/Republican moderate and with Texas Rush on the far right, it’s unclear what Dewhurst’s constituency would be in this three-way GOP primary.  Which is why Dewhurst is going to try and be the big man in the legislature in ’09, especially when there’s a new speaker.

Most certainly there will be a primary battle for governor in the GOP in ’10, which is something that’s never happened with the Texas GOP since they took power. Even if Perry runs again, there will be a primary. There is no heir apparent and it will be blood bath. It’ll be like a anti-Craddick v. pro-Craddick state house primary gone statewide.

01.29.08

History, Voter ID, And Partisan Advantage

Posted in Around The Nation, Around The State, Commentary, Elections, Right Wing Lies at 5:29 pm by wcnews

It’s key to know history to put things in proper context. If a person doesn’t understand that there once was a poll tax, among other things, that excluded certain people from voting, it’s hard to understand why so many people are against the proposed voter ID law. That why this poignant commentary from Harvey Kronberg, Voter Identification requirements at the poll, on the Voter ID hearing from last week is a must read.

While going through my fathers papers a few years ago, I found the receipt for his $5 1963 poll tax payment.

It was a dramatic moment.

In my hand was a 40 year old document that was less about giving him permission to vote than it was about preventing poor African Americans and Hispanics from having a say in their government.

That was the last year of the poll tax. In 1964, LBJ signed the Voting Rights Act into law. Pre-1964, southern states were particularly creative in finding ways to keep African-Americans from voting.

My father’s poll tax was actually fairly benign.

Some communities instituted literacy tests, other required blacks to pass a civics test.

The first hundred pages of Joseph Caro’s LBJ biography, Master of the Senate, is a heart-breaking chronicle of the lengths to which whites would go to keep some in their community from voting.

In those days, election judges at polling places had the ability to capriciously deny some Americans access to the voting booth.

The Voting Rights Act now explicitly guarantees the right to vote.

All very true. But he finishes with some very good clarifying comments about fraud and the proposed ID law.

And pretty much everyone does agree there is a problem with mail-in ballot fraud and voter registration lists that include non-citizens and the dead.

But a photo ID wouldn’t deal with those frauds.

The only problem a photo ID solves is someone impersonating a voter at a polling place, something that every one agrees is all but non-existent.

While race and illegal immigrants may be a subtext of the argument in 2008, it’s really mostly about partisan advantage.

Again very true. To reinforce what a non-existant problem this is just read these irrational comments from Rep. Dwayne Bohoac, via Kuff’s analysis of this past Friday’s hearing:

Bohac, who sounds to me to be conceding the point that fraud-by-impersonation is anything but common, is saying that he’s prepared to disenfranchise up to 400,000 people in Texas in order to ensure that five cases of fraud-by-impersonation don’t occur. The point about this being an extreme overreaction to a nonexistent problem could not be made more clearly than that.

I’d add one caveat, Boahc’s only willing to do that as long as most of those 400,000 people are likely Democratic voters.

There’s one more thing to keep in mind form last session’s debate that I’ve been meaning to add to this debate. While the issue, as most state it, is about showing a picture ID at the polls that is not what the bill last session would have mandated. Many forms of ID without a picture would have been accepted.

House Bill 218 was amended to allow voters to present other forms of identification such as a military ID, valid employee ID, citizenship certificate, passport, student ID card issued by a public college or university, handgun permit, utility bill, bank statement, pay stub, mail from a government entity, marriage license, birth certificate, adoption certificate, pilot’s license, hunting license, or even a library card.

Of course that wouldn’t have gotten any press, and the GOP robocalls and direct mail certainly wouldn’t mention it when trying to scare voters without ID away from the polls.

It just goes to show what a pointless the voter ID issue really is, especially once a our country’s history in taken into account. It’s clear that the fraud fight should be focused on securing mail in ballots and shoring up voter registration lists. And until it can be proven that there are more then a handful of instances of polling place fraud, it’s not worth chancing disenfranchising up to 400,000 people.

TXDOT Hiring Of Lobbyists Illegal

Posted in Around The State, Bad Government Republicans, Corruption, Cronyism, Privatization, Road Issues, Uncategorized at 12:16 pm by wcnews

First a follow-up on yesterday’s appointment of an “interim” chair of TxDOT. This from a comment at The Muckraker, regarding whether the governor can make an interim appointment.

The Gov can appoint who he wishes, BUT state law limits the term of that appointee, AND the appointee must be approved by the Ledge for that position.

So I ask, how is an “interim” appointment to expire whenever the Gov wants even legal?

The Gov. can either appoint someone for the term or not at all.

The Gov has no authority to make “interim” appointments, which I assume was fabricated to run an end-around on the Ledge. After all, The Ledge can’t approve or disapprove an “interim” appointment, can they?

Perry went the interim route to fill the TxDOT slot and now we know why, the fear of a Senate confirmation hearing, and he’s sneaking behind the legislatures back and playing a shameful political game. Will the legislature and the Texas Senate in particular stand for this? Dewhurst? Carona? Bueller?

Now to the illegal lobbyists. Texans United for Reform & Freedom (TURF) broke this story last week, Kens5 News: TxDOT caught red-handed, admit to hiring lobbyists, (be sure and watch the video, Abbott looks taken by surprise), when TxDOT commissioner Ted Houghton admitted that they hired a registered lobbyist.

“Let me talk about the lobbyist in Washington, DC,” Houghton said. “We hire a lobbyist up there to represent the interests of the state of Texas.”

While most people are shocked, and rightfully so, at the illegal admission, the second part of that quote is just as bad, “..to represent the interests of the state of Texas.” I don’t think so. The lobbyists are paid to make sure these TTC’s (35 & 69) get built and that’s not only bad for Texas’ interest, but the people of Texas don’t want it. The lobbyists are up there representing Gov. Perry and the interest of the money that supported his campaigns, and nothing else.

As Sal points out this is in direct violation of state law:

This action is in DIRECT VIOLATION OF THE LAW:

Texas Government Code:
§ 556.005. Employment of Lobbyist

(a) A state agency may not use appropriated money to employ, as a regular full-time or part-time or contract employee, a person who is required by Chapter 305 to register as a lobbyist. Except for an institution of higher education as defined by Section 61.003, Education Code, a state agency may not use any money under its control to employ or contract with an individual who is required by Chapter 305 to register as a lobbyist.

This is what the TURF’s lawsuit against TxDOT, that AG Abbott wanted dismissed, is all about.

Activists targeting a Texas Department of Transportation toll-road campaign got some extra time to develop their case from a state judge Thursday.

The state attorney general’s office, representing TxDOT, wanted state District Judge Orlinda Naranjo of Travis County to dismiss the case, which seeks to stop state spending on the Keep Texas Moving campaign and on any toll-road lobbying efforts by the agency.

It’s also interesting to see what other’s are saying about this.

Sen. John Carona:

“They may well have crossed a legal threshold,” state Senate transportation committee Chairman John Carona told Express-News reporter Peggy Fikac. “The even greater issue is just why they would continue with an agenda that is so unpopular with the public.”

Ben Wear:

Houghton’s tongue got him and the department in hot water last week when he acknowledged at a community meeting in Hempstead that the agency hires lobbyists in Washington. That would seem to violate state law.

I’m sure we’ll get this all cleared up at the Joint Senate hearing of the Senate Transportation and Finance committees on February 5th.

Noriega News

Posted in 2008 Primary, Election 2008, US Senate Race, Williamson County at 10:48 am by wcnews

MYSA has a good article on Rick Noriega’s bus tour through South Texas, Senate hopeful aims to raise his profile.

Democratic senatorial hopeful Rick Noriega introduced himself to South Texas on Monday by telling audiences that the region has not had representation in the U.S. Senate since Lloyd Bentsen left office in 1993.

Noriega accused Republican incumbent Sen. John Cornyn of failing to fight for the region on issues such as funding the repair of flood levies and the construction of a Veterans Administration hospital in South Texas.

But it also was clear that the Democrats who attended the Noriega gatherings had come to find out who he is. The five-term Texas House member from Houston who is married to Houston City Councilwoman Melissa Noriega is barely known south of the Nueces River.

“I came out here to meet him because I didn’t know who he was,” said Robert Tapa, a member of the Robstown school board.

Noriega cousin Armando Gonzalez of Robstown was asked whether people in South Texas had ever heard of Noriega. Gonzalez replied, “Not really, but they’re going to find out.”

[...]

“South Texas has not had a United States senator in years, since the time of Lloyd Bentsen,” Noriega told about 40 people at Lena’s Filipino Restaurant in Kingsville. “When was the last time you saw John Cornyn here, fighting for the people of Kingsville, Kleberg County and South Texas?”

In other news the month-long kerfuffle in the traditional media regarding whether or not Rick Noriega would debate the three other candidates for the Democratic nomination for US Senate appears to be over. (More than likely only two other candidates will show, Gene Kelly hasn’t campaigned for years). From the MYSA article above the details are being worked out.

Also Monday, Noriega’s campaign entered serious negotiations with McMurrey to hold a debate. Noriega has been criticized for refusing to rise to McMurrey’s debate challenge.

McMurrey spokesman William Pate said Noriega’s campaign at first agreed to a Feb. 13 debate and then wanted it moved to Feb. 28. Pate said both dates would be good with McMurrey. Noriega said campaign manager Sue Schechter was negotiating the details.

I think it’s best that Noriega debates his opponents. Dave McNeely had the best article on this, .

Noriega must be thinking that having already raised $1 million, he can afford TV ads when they can’t. But it does look a little odd when a lieutenant colonel in the Texas Army National Guard, who served 14 months in Afghanistan training police, refuses a political debate.

And, presuming a debate would be on neutral turf, like at a public television station, Noriega is passing up an opportunity to put the Senate race on the public’s radar screen. He might take some punches, but it could give him free media exposure for himself and the Senate race, but show he can handle himself against opponents.

He’ll certainly need that if he’s the Democratic nominee against Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. John Cornyn.

Noriega, now in his fifth term in the Texas House of Representatives, is no stranger to debate. He’s bright and articulate, and has a sense of humor he hasn’t demonstrated much on the campaign trail. He should consider that exposure might hurt rather than help his opponents.

[...]

While it’s understandable that Noriega would duck the debate, it could do him more harm than good. It certainly will give Cornyn, who has indicated he’s willing to debate primary opponent Larry Kilgore, an excuse to refuse to debate Noriega in the fall.

I’m glad he chose to debate, it’s the right thing to do, and he will show himself to be the best candidate for the Democratic nomination. He should also debate for the two reasons McNeely mentions: free exposure, and to take away any excuse Cornyn might have not to debate in the fall.

01.28.08

At The Pleasure Of The Governor

Posted in Commentary, Privatization, Road Issues at 10:24 pm by wcnews

That is the term of office as set out by Gov. Perry for his newly appointed interim chair of the Texas Transportation Commissioner, to replace the recently deceased Ric Williamson.

Gov. Rick Perry today named Esperanza “Hope” Andrade of San Antonio interim chair of the Texas Transportation Commission for a term to expire at the pleasure of the governor.

That could also be said of our state’s current transportation policy. While no one could replace Williamson she’s not even supposed to, more than likely just a place holder that will do whatever Perry wants, until someone else can bring pleasure to the governor. Or as Sal put it:

Andrade is expected to continue to ignore Texans and the Texas ledge, to force freeway to tollway conversions (as well as the TTC land grab) just as Williamson did.

Don’t screw up what Rick and Ric put into place, that’s her job.

Supreme Slackers

Posted in Around The State, Bad Government Republicans, Had Enough Yet? at 4:27 pm by wcnews

AP story about the GOP slackers of the Texas Supreme Court, Texas Supreme Court backlog reaches record level.

The Texas Supreme Court left a record number of cases pending at the end of the 2007 fiscal year, even as it agreed to hear more cases.

The court heard arguments but didn’t rule in 111 cases during the fiscal year that ended Aug. 31. The backlog included 36 cases that were more than a year old and 13 others more than two years old.

The delay is drawing fire from at least one candidate for the Supreme Court.

“Texans don’t need to be told they need to take a number and get in line and wait,” said Jim Jordan, a Democrat challenging Republican Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson. “These kinds of delays create a distrust in the legal system.”

Jordan, a Dallas trial judge, said parties that reach the Supreme Court have already spent considerable time and money in the legal process.

But Justice Paul Green, who wrote the fewest opinions during the fiscal year, defended the time he and others spend outside the office, speaking to groups and doing other appearances outside the court.

“If, all of a sudden, I said I’ll just stay in my chambers and work on opinions, I don’t think people would like that,” Green told the San Antonio Express-News on Friday as he was driving to Corpus Christi to speak to a group of appellate lawyers.

Sure they would. They’d much rather the court do it’s work first and then spend their time “outside the office”. But Republicans are much better at making excuses then doing their job.

RRL Profiles Mike Grimes, Democratic Candidate For County Commissioner Precinct 1

Posted in 2008 Primary, Commissioners Court, Election 2008, Precinct 1, Williamson County at 2:10 pm by wcnews

Here’s the story, Longtime attorney makes bid for Wilco commissioner. Long-time Williamson County resident Mike Grimes wants to bring accountability back to our county government.

Round Rock Democrat Mike Grimes knows he’s got an uphill fight in his bid to become Williamson County Precinct 1 commissioner. He just hopes people don’t write him off because of that “D” that’ll be by his name on November ballots.

“Williamson County needs to be a two-party system,” Grimes said. “Travis County needs to be a two-party system. Travis County is almost singularly Democratic. Williamson County is almost singularly Republican. One-party systems almost never work as well as two-party systems.”

In this cycle the D by his name will be a welcomed change for many. Grimes also has vast experience in the county.

Grimes said he currently specializes in civil litigation, but in the past was a criminal defense attorney.

Grimes and his wife of 37 years, Sharon, are the parents of three adult sons and have three granddaughters.

Sharon Grimes is, like her husband, a UT graduate. She was formerly a speech pathologist with RRISD.

Mike Grimes has previously served as president for the Williamson County Juvenile Board, Round Rock Kiwanis Club, Round Rock Soccer Association and Pflugerville Chamber of Commerce.

He is also a charter member of the Morning Round Rock Sertoma Club and the Sam Bass Theatre Association.

Grimes along with Gregory Windham, running for commissioner in Precinct 3, would bring some needed accountability and balance to the court. And much needed leadership.

“I think I can be a better leader than Lisa’s been,” Grimes said, noting he believes the county has suffered under ‘crisis’ leadership from the Commissioners Court.

Grimes cited three examples – each of which was often in the headlines this past year – the regional animal shelter in Georgetown, the landfill in Hutto and the immigrant detention center in Taylor.

All three have been handled poorly, to say the least. Getting Grimes on the court would insure that decisions are no longer rubber stamped behind closed doors.

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