02.29.08

Early voting is finished

Posted in 2008 Primary, Election 2008, Elections, Presidential Election at 10:46 pm by dembones

The results from today are not yet available, but there’s already plenty of data to analyze from the first 10 days of early voting.

2,814 voters with Republican voting histories cast ballots in the Democratic primary. They made up 15.66% of the vote. 194 voters with Democratic voting history cast ballots in the Republican primary. They were 1.89% of the R vote.

15,979 voters have no history of ever voting in a primary before 2008. They were 56.59% of the total primary vote. Those wanting to know why turnout in the primary doubled this year can look to this group for an answer. New voters made up substantially more than half the vote. Those new voters broke 74% to 26% for the Democratic primary.

To put that into perspective, consider this: More than 65% of the Democratic primary voters have no prior primary voting history. That is nearly two-thirds!

By the end of the day Thursday, 13.46% of Williamson county voters had turned out. Another 3% probably voted today, for a early voting turnout rate of nearly 17%. EOW is predicting a turnout on election day of about 27%, which will bring the overall primary turnout to about 44%.

If you missed early voting, you may vote only at your assigned polling location on Tuesday. Williamson county has the list of election day polling locations here. Polls are open from 7:00am until 7:00pm.

The same polling location will be the site of Republican and Democratic precinct conventions. (Yes, the Republicans have precinct conventions, too.) Report to your precinct location and wait for the Temporary Precinct Convention Chair to begin signing people in at 7:15pm, or whenever all the last-minute voters have submitted their ballots, whichever is later.

Williamson County, Resources For The Precinct Convention/Caucus

Posted in 2008 Primary, Elections, Williamson County at 2:11 pm by wcnews

The Texas Democratic Party has a page setup that contains Precinct Convention Information. With links to convention and informational documents.

Sent to me via email, it’s also linked at BOR, is this Precinct Convention Procedures site prepared byt the Bexar County Democratic Party. It’s an online training and a really great resource for getting familiar with the process.

If anybody knows of anymore resources or would like to share prior experiences, tips, tricks, etc… regarding the precinct convention please comment below.

Democratic Candidates Weigh In On Unaccoutable GOP Elected Officials

Posted in Bad Government Republicans, County Attorney, Had Enough Yet?, Precinct 3, The Budget, Williamson County at 1:27 pm by wcnews

Precinct 3 Democratic County Commissioner Gregory Windham has a blog, DaWord of Windham, and posted this in response to an email he received.

I received this e-mail today from a future constituent of mine. I felt it appropriate to post it on the BLOG and respond. Here they are.

“Get ready. These people and they are a select few, will be doing the very same thing they did to Jim and now to Griffin and Laukhuf, to you. We all now who they are, but I’m hoping their days are over.

Tell me what you plan on doing and promise to do for PCT3?

What do you think of our current DA and CA?”

My dad used to tell me, “There are SOME PEOPLE you just don’t $%^& with.”
Pardon the four letter word, but I think this will be a sticky situation for the Republicans of Williamson County in November. Many of them are keenly aware of Ms. C’s arrogant and presumptuous behavior. They are aware that she has lied on her resume.

They may try to placate the public with a centrist Democrat instead of trying to push me around. I am very well connected with the Democrats in this state that want to make a serious change. I need funds but refuse to accept donations from corporate donors and will not accept individual contributions over $200. I will not ask for money. If people give, they give. I will charge $20 to anyone wanting to display one of my yard signs. This campaign for commissioner is a ‘testing’ ground for our campaign as it is my intention to unseat one of the Mr Gattis (not the pizza.) in 2 years.

Now, the ONLY promise I make is to be a voice of the people. I am a student of history and understand the concept of representative democracy. I will respond to all citizens and make the court aware of all Precinct 3 citizens concerns. No other promises…zero. I am for controlled growth, a real estate transfer tax to aid in the building of roads and infrastructure and lowering of property taxes. I am for conservation and environmental issues and anti-corporate development. I am anti-toll roads and trans Texas corridor.

I am a seventh generation Texan, my dad played for Darrel Royal and won a National Championship, my uncle played for Cliff Gustafson and won a National championship. My uncle was also the head coach of the Round Rock Dragon baseball team for twenty years, winning a State Title with my cousin on the mound. Most all the members of my family are UT graduates and educators in and around Austin. My Grandfather was born to a sharecropper with ‘forty acres and a mule’ in the small west Texas town founded by C.W. Post, the cereal magnate. He insisted that all progress and success were a result of a liberal education. He is still alive and riding horses today. If these ‘people’ mess with the bull, they’ll get the ‘HORNS’. I am also a pet owner; a sickened and ashamed Wilco citizen.

I am angered at Val Covey’s handling of Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter. I am shamed of T Don Hutto and the county profiting on the imprisonment of innocent kids. I am ashamed at the landfill expansion contract. The list goes on and on. Williamson County has been governed for too long by a brigade of self-righteous, right wing elitists. They presume the ignorance of the proletariat. They presume they are wiser. They are pro war…and pro Jesus. I, on the other hand, am fairly certain that the proverb ‘love thy enemies’ doesn’t mean ‘KILL EM ALL.’

As for John Bradley and Jana Duty — they are what they are. Mr Bradley believes he is Judge Roy Bean and Ms Duty — I am not sure she does much thinking at all.

I am working on breaking the story today of a recent land purchase the County made behind closed doors. Hopefully I can solicit the help of local reporters to get a handle on this. Today is a good day to sit and talk as well.

In response to yesterday’s post, County Elected Officials/WMI Attached At The Hip, Democratic County Attorney Candidate Jaime Lynn posted this in the comments, in reply to his opponents statement:

Once more, Ms. Duty decides to demonstrate either her complete lack of understanding of who the parties were in this case, or her belief in the gullability of the citizens of Williamson County. She again elects to view this decision as a victory over the people of Hutto, when the County Attorney’s office directly contributed to the problem that caused these citizen’s involvement in the first place. Even the judges commended the legitimate concerns presented by the people of Hutto. Ms. Duty’s exhibited disdain for the people who put her in office, demonstrates a real problem for this county.

The County Attorney states ” the concerns weren’t from ordinary citizens, but from rival landfill owner Bob Gregory, who intervened in the case as owner of a property company that buys land near landfills.” Nothing could be further from the truth. She further“ blamed confusion among opposing groups on Gregory for disseminating misinformation to citizens…”

It would seem as if Ms. Duty is the one who is still confused. Had she just chosen to examine the ruling and available public records, she would have discovered that Hutto Citizen’s Group and Mount Hutto Aware Citizens are separate from Bob Gregory. HCG and MHAC are the ordinary citizens of Williamson County. Like myself, one doesn’t have to be backed by Mr. Gregory to figure this out. All anyone has to do is read the decision, easily available on line. The judges clearly said that Mr. Gregory’s limited involvement was through Texas Justice For All, LP, only one of five intervening parties.

Is it too much to ask that an elected official choose to be fair when explaining things to the people who hired her? What is Ms. Duty hiding by continuing to inaccurately report the terms of this decision to the people she represents? Williamson County deserves better.

Yes, Williamson County does.

Today Is The Last Day To Early Vote

Posted in 2008 Primary, Elections, Williamson County at 9:30 am by wcnews

Today Friday, February 29th is the last day to early vote.

The Williamson County Elections Department has all the early voting information you need here. Or this handy printable schedule [.PDF].

Today’s single day rural voting is in Florence.  Remember, early voting is all electronic and any registered voter can vote at any early voting location.

For election day information, polling locations, and sample ballots the county Elections department setup this handy search tool, just type in your address and it will do the rest.

02.28.08

Turnout Gone Wild

Posted in 2008 Primary, Around The State, Commentary, Elections, Good Stuff, US Senate Race, Williamson County at 5:44 pm by wcnews

Here’s the latest updated early voting numbers for Williamson County, through Wednesday:

2004 2008
Day R D Total R D Total
Monday 711 145 856 - - -
Tuesday 698 159 857 715 1085 1800
Wednesday 577 154 731 838 1416 2254
Thursday 672 172 844 908 1359 2267
Friday 711 179 890 1041 1767 2808
Saturday 725 250 975 1022 2334 3356
Sunday 153 57 210 271 679 950
Monday 797 211 1008 1083 1731 2814
Tuesday 815 286 1101 1203 1914 3117
Wednesday 887 239 1126 1373 2493 3866
TOTAL 6746 1852 8598 8454 14779 23233

These numbers are so astonishing that Paul Burka has taken notice and now thinks that Rick Noriega can beat Sen. John Cornyn.

These numbers are so overwhelming, and the fifteen counties have such a large fraction of the state’s registered voters — 7,815,906 of 12,607,466, or 62% — that what happens in other 239 counties is unlikely to alter the trend. These numbers have made me a believer. Rick Noriega could defeat John Cornyn. The Democrats can win a majority in the Texas House of Representatives. The consummate irony is that George W. Bush, who made Texas a Republican state on his way in to the presidency, may make it a Democratic state on his way out.

Also Harvey Kronberg says, “OK, I agree, this is the most remarkable political campaign cycle in decades”. He even gives Williamson County a shout-out:

But this year, Democrats are substantially out-voting Republicans in the all important GOP strongholds — the suburban counties like Williamson, just north of Austin.

There’s lot of explanations posed by Republicans. Some say their voters are crossing over to vote for Hillary because she will help Republicans in Texas this fall. Some Republican friends tell me they crossed over to vote for Obama because they believe this is a Democratic year and while they ultimately plan to vote for McCain, if it is going to be a Democrat in the White House, they prefer Obama.

Party activists say the primary numbers are misleading and Republican voters will come home next November.

What I do know is this:

Nationally, people who self-identify as Democrats now exceed self-identifying Republicans by 20 percent, the biggest lead for either party since pollsters started asking the question. While I don’t know what the comparable Texas spread is, I would suggest that Governor Perry’s 39 percent win in the last election is probably the size of the unshakeable GOP base vote.

Maybe it’s little more than an aberration driven by an exciting race, but if Democrats do start competing successfully in hard core Republican suburban counties, Texas may actually become a two party state more quickly than most of us expected.

A two party state is what Texas deserves.

Who Should Be The County Budget Officer?

Posted in Commentary, Commissioners Court, The Budget, Williamson County at 3:57 pm by wcnews

Attorney General (AG) Greg Abbott’s opinion of November 2007, (can be read here [.PDF]) regarding who can and cannot be the county budget is very clear. There are three subchapters that a county can operate under – chapters A, B, and C. Because of Williamson County’s population (approx. 350,000) it can no longer operate under subchapter A, limited to counties of 225,000 or less. Subchapter A is also the only one that allows a county judge to serve as a county’s budget officer.

From the ruling it can bee seen that Williamson at the time operated under Subchapter B which applies to a county which is in excess of 225,000 but chooses not to operate under subchapter C. And in such a county the budget officer is the county auditor. If a county operates under subchapter C the county commissioners can appoint a budget officer but it cannot be one of it’s members, and the county judge is a member. From the AG’s ruling:

..we conclude that a county that chooses to operate under subchapter C of chapter 11, Local Government Code, may not appoint its county judge to serve as its county budget officer.

After reading that it’s baffling why there’s still confusion. From today’s AAS article on the subject, Commissioners start planning new budget:

As Williamson County commissioners begin to discuss the county’s upcoming budget, they’ll first need to decide who oversees it.

For now, it’s County Judge Dan A. Gattis, but there’s plenty of confusion (even among the county’s attorneys) about whether he should keep the job.

To clear up the issue, County Attorney Jana Duty requested an opinion from the state attorney general’s office in June.

The attorney general’s office agreed with Duty that the county judge shouldn’t serve as the budget officer because the county’s population exceeds 225,000 people. The opinion says either the county auditor should act as the budget officer or a new position should be created.

The county has about 350,000 residents, and the county judge historically has acted as the budget officer.

The opinion, however, has only muddied things.

“It raises a lot more questions than answers to me,” Commissioner Lisa Birkman said.

Birkman has said she and other commissioners considered giving that authority to the auditor over the summer, when commissioners appointed Gattis, but in her view it created an “uncomfortable position.”

“In my experience, the auditors aren’t involved in setting the budget — they audit what we do,” she said last month.

My reading of the opinion it says the county judge cannot be appointed, not shouldn’t be appointed, as the budget officer. Again where’s the confusion? Gattis to close:

Duty said the opinion is not binding.

[..]

Regarding the budget officer opinion, Gattis said he has asked Duty’s office to better explain the opinion to commissioners. From there, he said the court could possibly appoint the county’s current budget analyst, Ashlie Koenig, as budget officer.

“We’re certainly not trying to ignore the opinion,” he said.

It seems to me that this should be a pretty easy one for ever Duty to explain to the commissioners. It’s either the county auditor, if operating under subchapter B, or they have to appoint a budget officer if they’re operating under subchapter C. And if operating under subchapter C, it can’t be a member of the commissioners court, and that includes the county judge.

AusChron On Precinct 1 Constable Race

Posted in 2008 Primary, Constables, Precinct 1, Williamson County at 1:30 pm by wcnews

Today the AusChron has a piece up on the latest happenings in the WCGOP race for Constable in Precinct 1, WilCo Officials Close Ranks in Constable Race. As usually happens when elected officials involve themselves in a primary against an incumbent, it’s getting dicey.

The article reiterates the fact that many elected officials have come out in support of incumbent Gary Griffin’s opponent, because Griffin has stood up to them on several occassions. Nothing wrong with that. It also goes through the history of the county and their issues with Griffin, (see more here from EOW), and that the resentment of Griffin all goes back to his involvement in the investigation of former Sheriff John Maspero.

As for Griffin, his own trouble with law enforcement started when he began documenting evidence that would support the removal of former Sheriff John Maspero for public drunkenness and misconduct. Griffin says Maspero, who resigned in 2003, had warned him at the time, “If you slap a king, you better kill him.” Bradley was reportedly strongly opposed to the investigation of Maspero. “My Achilles heel is that I strive to hold others to the same standard I hold myself,” Griffin said at a recent campaign debate. “I’m a peace officer. I put my hand on a Bible to uphold the Texas and U.S. constitutions. We are all mandated … to follow the rules.”

Broadly speaking, Griffin believes his independent streak is what most irks WilCo officials. “I never go along just to get along,” he says. In that spirit, dozens of survivors of the 1997 tornado in Jarrell credit Griffin for ignoring a law-enforcement communiqué to stay away from the area. He and other constables at the time were subsequently recognized by the governor’s office for their heroic efforts before and after the tornado struck. Griffin was the first to arrive, which allowed him to lead some residents to safety.

The article also had this little nugget, an oh so rare felony reduction in Williamson County, for opponent Robert Chody’s mother:

Meanwhile, Chody may have received another assist from elected law-enforcement officials in a criminal case involving his mother, Marisia Chody, who in May 2006 was charged with passing a fake prescription for a controlled substance. She ultimately entered into a felony plea agreement. Months later, as Chody’s campaign was revving up, defense attorney Marc Ranc requested sentencing continuances so he could consult with an immigration attorney regarding an “immigration issue,” according to records. Next, the D.A.’s office, which ordinarily prides itself as being a “zero-tolerance” crime-fighting operation, initiated a “felony reduction” on Marisia Chody’s behalf, which allowed her to re-enter a plea to a misdemeanor on Oct. 1. In a voice mail, Assistant D.A. Jana McCown offered this explanation of the do-over: “Initially, that defendant pled guilty to the offense in the felony [case]. … Then, at some point after that, when she came back to be sentenced, the defense attorney had come up with some issue regarding immigration, and the judge allowed her to withdraw her plea. … It was subsequently renegotiated and sent to the county attorney’s office to be prosecuted as a misdemeanor.”

By most accounts, such plea deals involving immigrants are very rare. Asked what the immigration issue concerned, defense lawyer Ranc responded loudly, “It’s none of your business!” Indeed, Pat Reilly, of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of Public Affairs, confirmed that U.S. immigration agencies must keep such records confidential. “But it does sound like she had a lot at stake,” Reilly offered. What little information the Chronicle could glean on this front is that in 1956, Mrs. Chody entered the U.S. as a tourist named Marisia Stepien, arriving here from Paris.

The result of this race will give some an interesting insight into the current state of the GOP voter in Precinct 1 and how willing they are to follow the county leadership’s advice.

County Elected Officials/WMI Attached At The Hip

Posted in Bad Government Republicans, Commentary, Commissioners Court, Cronyism, Landfill, Williamson County at 12:27 pm by wcnews

When delving into the landfill issue in Williamson County it became clear that the elected county officials have been, throughout this process, bending over backwards to placate Waste Management, Inc. (WMI) at the expense of the taxpayers. That’s why several citizen groups felt the need to get involved with the landfill, more specifically with it’s new contract and possible expansion. Why the county officials are so obedient to WMI’s demands is understandable when it’s known that County Attorney Jana Duty has been moved aside, and WMI’s lawyers are instead “assisting” the county in these matters. The fox is watching the hen house.

While both the citizen groups and the county have claimed victory in the recent SOAH decision it’s the taxpayer that’s still the loser. Even though the citizen groups have done great work it’s obvious the county is undeterred from doing what WMI wants. In today’s AAS there’s this article detailing both sides reactions to the recent ruling, Dueling press releases about Williamson County landfill. Here’s how Democratic County Attorney candidate Jaime Lynn reacted after the ruling:

Democratic candidate Jaime McCain Lynn, who is challenging Duty in the November election, offered his own take on Duty’s release.

“Ms. Duty’s obvious disdain for the involvement and legitimate concerns of ordinary Williamson County citizens directly affected by the landfill is perplexing,” he wrote.

Unfortunately it’s not. Duty is only a spokesperson now since the WMI attorney’s are advising the county on the landfill. The county has long tried to play the innocent victim, trying to say they are stuck in a bad deal, and place the blame on a previous commissioners court. While all that may be true it’s no reason for them to abdicate their duty. Their job is not to whine and complain but to solve problems. Let’s hope the county is vigorously fighting for their petition to have a new landfill contract put out for bid and stop shunning the citizens help. Which wold go a long way to remedy this situation.

The county will always whine about legitimate complaints to their horrendous landfill contract, aka the “Limmer Lemon”. Trying to paint anyone who doesn’t buy their boondoggle as a agent of WMI’s rival. But from all appearances it’s pretty obvious why county officials are quick to counter any arguments against WMI’s “sweetheart” deal in Williamson County.

It’s hard to believe that our county government would allow a corporation and it’s law firm to hijack this process. And with that it shouldn’t surprise anyone when what’s best for the taxpayer is completely disregarded. After all a corporation only exists to make money, protect it’s bottom line, and doesn’t care at whose expense. Our elected officials are supposed to be looking out for our interest and not cede their duty to a corporation. Anyone who is willing to dig a little deeper will see this really about much more than a landfill. and garbage collection.

02.27.08

Report On HD-52 Candidate Forum In Coupland

Posted in 2008 Primary, HD-52, Williamson County at 6:21 pm by wcnews

This past Monday evening the Coupland Civic Organization sponsored a candidate forum for all of those vying to be the next state representative in HD-52.

From the TDP report on the forum, Coupland questions Dist. 52 hopefuls, it appears all the GOP candidates are attempting to renounced their party’s and Mike Krusee’s toll road boondoggles. They must think voters in Williamson County have real short memories.

Although one GOP candidate said that RMA board members should be elected and not appointed, that won’t be changed as long as we keep electing Republicans to the legislature, which is where the change would have to be made. And county commissioner Lisa Birkman’s recent “pro-toll” statement shows the GOP in Williaimson County is still for tolling our roads. With all these GOP candidates likely to support another term for Tom Craddick as Speaker of the Texas House it’s doubtful any of them would be willing to stand up to whoever is Speaker, or leader of their party on issues like this.

Democratic candidate Diana Maldonado on the other hand is for giving local communities more control of the own transportation future. From the TDP article.

Democrat Diana Maldonado said the project would not serve the interests of the community.

“I don’t need a super highway to drive from Canada to Mexico. All I want to do is get to H-E-B or the Friday night high school football game,” Maldonado said.

Electing a Democrat like Maldonado, who would help bring about change in the Texas House, we could then look forward to having a representative in Austin that truly cares about the people of HD-52.

EWCDC Free Film Series Continues In Taylor Tomorrow

Posted in Democratic Events, Good Stuff, Immigration, Take Action, Williamson County at 12:07 pm by wcnews

This part of the series will focus on immigration.

Again the film is completely free and will be at the historic Howard Theatre in downtown Taylor at 7:00 pm. From the press release:

With the exception of indigenous populations, the United States is a nation made up of individuals who have left their native countries with the dream of a better life for themselves and their future generations. There has been a mix of both welcoming and less than welcoming attitudes from those previously settled here, once immigrants themselves., and many changes to immigrations laws as well over the years. Early in our history, there were restrictive laws such as the “Chinese Exclusion Act” of 1882, the national – origins quota system adopted in 1921, and an even more strict quota system was included in the” Johnson-Reed act” of 1924. In 1965, a more inclusive attitude prevailed and racial criteria were eliminated from our immigration laws, which led to a greater diversity of culture and language. In 1996, once again a more restrictive act was passed “The illegal immigration reform and Immigrant responsibility act”, and then in 2000 a more inclusive “Legal Immigration Family Equity Act” was passed. This is by no means a complete list of immigration laws, but an overview of how trends have shifted over the years.

In a civics lesson provided by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, to help those people who are eligible for citizenship prepare for the test they take as part of the process, a question is posed: Whose rights are guaranteed by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights?” The answer given is “All people living in the United States.”

Our country continues to struggle with the complex issues of immigration. The public is invited to a film screening examining some of these issues, ranging from employment, to varying solutions that Governments have implemented. There will also be an opportunity for a post screening discussion, and a chance to meet with one of the film’s two talented filmmakers.

An additional treat will be that representatives from the state and county campaigns of the democratic presidential nominees will be conducting a brief workshop on the caucus process in the state of Texas.

View the flyer here [.PDF].

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