That’s right, shocking isn’t it?! Here’s the HChron story, Perry bypassed business people for transit post, (via Sal). Here’s a few excerpts:
State documents back accusations of political cronyism
When Gov. Rick Perry chose his former political aide to head the Texas Transportation Commission, he bypassed prominent business people who some legislators say were better equipped for the job, state documents show.
Perry’s selection of Deirdre Delisi led to claims of political cronyism. But Perry’s office and Delisi herself say she has the policy expertise and legislative experience needed for the transportation hot seat.
Before appointing her in April, along with non-controversial pick William “Bill” Meadows, Perry received resumes and recommendation letters for at least eight potential transportation nominees, according to records obtained by The Associated Press under the Texas Public Information Act.
One businessman who came heavily recommended but wasn’t selected for the commission was Erle Nye, chairman emeritus of Dallas-based TXU Corp. Political and business leaders in the Dallas-Fort Worth area united in recommending Nye and Meadows, a former Fort Worth city councilman.
Others expressing interest in the commission were Dallas attorney Alan Wade Tompkins; Houston attorney Felix Chevalier; Southlake Mayor Andrew Lee Wambsganss; Livingston businessman Benny Leon Fogleman; and Snyder civic official Jay D. Burns, records show. Some of the applicants listed multiple state boards they were interested in.
It isn’t clear whether Perry considered any additional candidates, either informally or those who submitted applications before this year.
There’s the usual banal blathering from two GOP legislators, (Good ‘ol Sen. John Carona, and newcomer Linda Harper Brown), about how this is cronyism, but it won’t matter in the end and they’ll wind up accepting her. But Texas TURF founder Terri Hall says it all:
“The governor realizes he has a political problem on his hands,” said Terri Hall, founder and director of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom, a group critical of Perry’s transportation policy. She said her organization didn’t recommend any potential appointees.
“We could have put forward twenty names, and it would have made no difference with this governor,” she said.
And that’s it. Transportation is, and has been for some time, a political issue for the Gov. Perry. He didn’t need a person that knows the ins-and-outs of transportation to head this agency. He needed someone who knows how make his bad idea, (the TTC and toll roads), palatable to malleable politicians like Carona and Harper-Brown. It’s doubtful a business person would have been any less against toll roads and for raising the gas tax than Delisi.Â But they probably wouldn’t have been as politically savvy, and wouldn’t have been in Perry’s pocket.Â Again, as Ben Wear’s article today on last week’s Lyceum poll on transportation shows, Build roads and rail without taxes, tolls, until we get some new leadership in Texas nothing is going to change. Electing more Republicans, that will appoint their cronys who favor nothing but toll roads, won’t change anything.
The Hutto Citizens Group (HCG) is hosting a COMMUNITY MEETING regarding the proposal to SELL the Williamson County landfill will be held on Monday, June 30, at 7 p.m. at Hutto Lutheran Church [MAP].
The HCG has also posted their latest newsletter, Still stalling [.pdf], regarding the Williamson County Commissioners Court’s (WCCC) lack of action on the landfill.Â Especially since the deal to bring 100,000 tons of trash annually from Killeen to the Williamson County’s landfill was announced. The county commissioners won’t be doing anything this week either since they have canceled this week’s meeting so they can take a long holiday weekend, via RRL, Commissioners court meeting cancelled.
It’s Monday, and that means it is time for yet another edition of the Texas Progressive Alliance‘s weekly blog round-up. Posts included in the round up are submitted each week by Alliance member blogs. This week’s round-up is compiled by Vince from Capitol Annex.
Maybe PDiddie at Brains and Eggs was wrong about Obama and Texas. Decide for yourself.
Off the Kuff has one last belated interview from the state Dem convention, with CD32 candidate Eric Roberson.
There is a new email scandal in Harris County. XicanoPwr writes about the offensive emails discovered at the Harris County Sheriff’s Office by a local media undercover investigation. One email has Osama bin Laden urging folks to vote Democratic. In another email, a top commander suggested that alligators should be put in the Rio Grande to cut down on illegal immigration.
Big Drunk at McBlogger points out, again, the flaws in the R’s “Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less” strategy. Which really isn’t hard to do since the R’s don’t exactly excel at critical thinking, are in love with fantasy and are (to a large extent) willfully ignorant.
refinish69 of Doing My Part For The Left is delighted to announce that the Texas Medical Association Rescinds their endorsement of Box Turtle and shares Rick Noriega’s response to Big Bad John.
WCNews at Eye On Williamson posts on the cracks forming in the Texas GOP in A Cooling Off Period For The Texas GOP.
Vince Leibowitz at Capitol Annex takes a look at the Texas Supreme Court’s recent opinion declaring, essentially, that if you are injured by a church, you are screwed, which stems from the case of–get this–an exorcism gone horribly wrong.
North Texas Liberal reports on the charge that John McCain and his wife Cindy have defaulted on four years of back taxes for their La Jolla, Calif. residence.
The Texas Cloverleaf helps expose the fact that oil companies are not drilling on 3/4 of the land they already lease, because it will cost them too much. Corporate greed, anyone?
Over at Texas Kaos, it is Kenneth Foster all over again, as it looks like Texas’ law of parties is fixing to execute another man, Jeff Wood, who didn’t kill anyone.
CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme notes John McCain shows his true colors by choosing Phil ‘Enron’ Gramm as a close associate.
NyTexan at BlueBloggin tell us how the Bush administration has hit the pinnacle of security chaos. We can rest easy now, knowing that we have outsourced the outsource; Department of Homeland Security Outsources National Security
Bay Area Houston writes about State Senator Kim Brimer keeping campaign cash for himself.
On Thursday Willco Wired posted about a meeting between the Williamson County Commissioners and Waste Management (WMI), Commissioners take no action on landfill contract. It was an executive session, meaning it was behind closed and secret. Little if anything was divulged about the meeting afterward, and it appears even less was accomplished.
Williamson County Commissioners disussed the countyâ€™s contract with the operator of the landfill north of Hutto today but took no action, Judge Dan Gattis said.
The contract, which took effect in 2003, has been criticized by some Hutto residents and some county officials who say it is a bad deal and that the county has little control over the landfill.
Gattis would not provide details about what the commissioners discussed, other than to say they discussed the contract with Waste Management of Texas.
The HCG has released it’s latest newsletter busting the myth [.pdf] that the county has no control over the landfill contract. A myth they say that has been put forth by the commissioners and been bought – hook, line, and sinker – by the media.
It’s a well-established fact of the communications process: if a myth is repeated or published often enough, before long it is regarded as being accepted as truth. Unfortunately, this principle has taken root and created the false perception that Williamson County has no control over its landfill north of Hutto.
The issue of landfill control surfaced again recently with the revelation on May 29 that Waste Management of Texas (WMI), the landfill contractor, is in the process of negotiating a contract with the City of Killeen to bring 100,000 tons of waste from Killeen to the Williamson County landfill each year, beginning in October. Despite strong talk from some members of commissioners court on June 3 opposing WMI’s proposed plans for the Killeen waste, after three more meetings (June 10, 17, and 24) and a special meeting with a five hour executive session attended by five of the county’s lawyers (June 26), commissioners court hasn’t taken any action regarding the Killeen matter, and Precinct 4 Commissioner Ron Morrison said on June 26 that the county has no plans to take action in the near future.
The apparent driver for this lack of action is the perception created by the mythâ€”that the county is powerless to do anything about the Killeen problem because of the 2003 contract with WMI now in effect. In recent media reports, the myth has been perpetuated as reporters state, sometimes without attribution, that the county simply has no control on what WMI might do.
However, the 2003 contract is actually very clear regarding the county’s control over its own landfill. The first paragraph under Section 17 (on Page 8) says, â€œThe Premises shall remain under the ownership and ultimate control of the county, including such additional parcels as may be acquired for expansion pursuant to this Agreement and deeded to the County except that Contractor shall have exclusive recycling rights at the County landfill.â€ (Emphasis added.)
The rest of the 2003 contract is completely silent regarding the volume of waste that can be brought to the landfill from outside the county. (Emphasis added.) At the commissioners court meeting on June 3,
Both media and members of commissioners court should wake up and smell the coffee. Media
shouldn’t report a myth as fact, and members of commissioners court shouldn’t hide behind the myth. The conclusion is clear, so why does the county fail to act?
Reading the AAS post on Thursday there didn’t seem to be anything newsworthy in it. The two arties met and decided nothing, big deal. But looking at Precint 4 Commissioner Ron Morrison’s comment in the HCG newsletter it appears something was decided. The commissioners have agreed to allow WMI to continue operating the landfill as they have been, or as they see fit.Â And for how long?Â It’s not sure how long “in the near future” means, but we can assume it’s until one side or the other gets tired of the arrangement. Â In other words, it’s business as usual.
The Texas GOP is floundering. With the same tired message and nothing to show for it they’re in a bind. Â But as Harvey Kronberg says in his latest News 8 commentary, it’s nothing the average person would notice from the outside.
Texas Republicans held their state convention in Houston a couple of weeks ago and to all outward appearances, everything was fine.
He goes on to point out what he looks for at a convention is “the temperature of the activists” and states that “this convention did feel different”.Â The problem is with the workers of the party, the grassroots/activists, the lack of enthusiasm in their candidates, and for their future.
Since 1994, our state Republican conventions have been buoyed by conviction that they were part of a broader conservative movement that had history and popular support on their side.
Republicans might fault their leaders on the margins but they never doubted the forward motion of their cause. At this convention, speaker after speaker took shots at their national leaders. If this convention was any indication of how Texas Republicans feel, the party’s presidential candidate has a lot of work to do.
Speaker after speaker noted that while McCain was not their first choice, they had stuck to uniting behind him.
Not the most ringing endorsement.
The relatively subdued State Republican convention is probably not symptomatic of much in either the Presidential or United States Senate race.
But this year, the battleground is four Texas Senate seats and more than a dozen House seats.
If Republican malaise persists and Democrats remain excited, we could have a very different statehouse when the Legislature reconvenes next January.
Which plays right into the strategy that Barack Obama will be employing in Texas, Obama plots to reverse DeLay’s plot.Â State and local races is where there is the best chances for change and where Democrats will win in November.Â Especially if the Democrats outwork the GOP.
But it’s key to remember what has brought this malaise over activist Republicans and “conservatives” in Texas. Their party controls every branch of government in Texas and our government is functioning worse than when they took over. Public schools are worse off, energy prices for our homes and cars are much higher, home insurance rates have skyrocketed, college tuition is way up, more Texans are uninsured, and the Governor’s mansion burned. And I didn’t even mention transportation. It’s the reality of the Texas GOP’s inability to govern, much less govern well, that’s caused the temperature change.
The other problem is that the one “win” they had recently was tenuous at best, and has irked the far right/activist wing of their party. Yes, the new GOP business tax. Most are running away from it, or want to tweak it, or kill it. Tweaking it will, more than likely, only make a bad idea different. This back-and-forth between Paul Burka and Texas Rush is worth a read, (the comments too). And Burka’s final comment sounds familiar.
But I think we have to recognize that the reasons the tax became law are (1) the Supreme Court was holding a gun to the Legislatureâ€™s head, and (2) this tax was, to paraphrase Churchillâ€™s observation about democracy, the worst possible system, except for all the others.
In essence, without a state income tax, there will have to be some form of corporate/business tax in Texas or a highest in the nation sales tax, if property taxes are to be lowered. But that’s not the snake oil they’ve been selling all these years. That was we can pay no taxes and have everything, the free market will take care of us.
What the Texas GOP’s failure has done is really put off the grassroots/activists of the party. Many of them have been working there “roots” off since Goldwater. They finally attain what they’ve been aiming for all these years, controlling every branch of government in Texas, and this is the thanks they get? It’s no wonder they’re mad. You can read more on their reaction to the GOP convention here and also The Real Story
of Kyle Janek’s Resignation.
The Texas GOP may have “topped-out” in 2002. Since then their political gains have stopped, and began to wane. Whether it was the blatant power grab of the 2003 redistricting, the budget cuts of 2003, their terrible policies, the inability to govern, the arrogance of power, or all of those combined, that has slowed the momentum we can only guess. But it’s understandable that the grassroots/activists will stop spending their free time working for a party that has givens little, if anything, to show for it.
Over the last year or so since Rick Noriega started thinking about a run for US Senate in Texas many didn’t, and still don’t, think he has a chance against John Cornyn. For the reasons of money, name ID, money, Texas is a big state, and money, those in the know gave him little chance. While polling has been all over the place the last several months – ranging from a very tight race to a not so tight race – most of them have Cornyn polling under 50%, a scary number for an incumbent. And it likely means many voters are willing to look at another option.
Noriega may not be that well know outside of Houston yet, but Texans are getting to know him better. His opponent, who’s been elected statewide several times, is well known and, judging from his poll numbers, not well liked. But what all the polling doesn’t tell us is what does Cornyn and his campaign think. For that let’s look at their reaction to what they perceived as a “gaffe” which the Noriega campaign is saying was a joke. To be following that closely and to go after Noriega in that way shows they feel the need to attack. Or, maybe they’re just trying to get people’s minds off the Big John video?
But if we’d compare this race so far, to the 2006 race between Kay Bailey Hutchison and Barbara Radnofsky, there’s obvious differences. Hutchison’s campaign hardly ever acknowledged she even had an opponent. And would never have gone on the attack against Radnofsky, there was, in their estimation no reason to do so. Hutchison was way up in all the polls taken in 2006 always polling well over 50% in not 60%. She was very popular, well liked and much more moderate that Big John. So with Cornyn’s camp going on the attack, it shows that they’re worried. But that attack will also help with Noriega’s name ID and that’s part of the risk the Cornyn campaign in taking with the attack. And a campaign doesn’t take that risk unless they feel they have to. Which means that Cornyn’s campaign must think this race is close.
And anyone who looks at yesterdays’ Texas Lyceum poll, especially the numbers on the political environment in Texas, should be able to see right off the bat that a 70% wrong track number is not a good climate for Republican incumbents. The poll also includes state numbers on the Presidential and the US Senate races.
The Cornyn campaign’s attack will also hopefully be a reminder to the Noriega campaign that they’re in a race now, and that everything he/they say is being monitored closely. With Conryn’s willingness to attack Noriega, and the fact that he is consistently polling below 50%, points to the fact that Cornyn’s campaign is worried. If they weren’t they wouldn’t even acknowledge they had an opponent, much less attack.
There’s more commentary on yesterdays poll from Kuff and Burka. The other thing with polling is that it’s becoming increasingly hard to get an accurate model, (as Burka pointed out above).Â But especially this year with all the new voters that showed up at the polls.
Also this week we found out that Obama’s campaign lending a hand in Texas, which will help up and down the ballot.
Yesterday the Texas Lyceum released a poll on Texans’ opinions regarding “rethink[ing] how to get around”. From the press release [.pdf].
The results reveal rising fuel costs are seriously causing Texans to re-think how to get around, and many are considering staying close to home this summer.
The press release also state this:
..the survey of 1,000 Texans, selected randomly and interviewed via telephone, contains evidence that Texas drivers are looking for alternatives to the status quo. For example: 66% would strongly consider buying a hybrid car or a more fuel-efficient vehicle; almost two-thirds, (63%) said they would strongly consider carpooling; and over half, (53%) said they would strongly consider taking public transportation to work or to school.
As we know with most transportation issues around Texas, whether it’s carpooling or public transportation, it’s not the wanting or needing it that been the problem. It’s been the plans and implementation that have been the problem.
The Texas Lyceum boasts of it’s mission and purpose this way.
1. to identify and develop the next generation of top leadership in the State of Texas
The Texas Lyceum Association is comprised of a Board of Directors from across the state. These 96 men and women have demonstrated leadership abilities not only in their own community, but across the State. They are active, involved and interested; they are eager to contribute their talents and time to the betterment of Texas.
But their transportation poll [.pdf] only goes to illuminate the lack of leadership there has been, and continues to be on the issue of transportation in Texas. Specifically on how to pay for our state’s transportation infrastructure. Here’s the part of the poll that’s getting all the buzz.
The poll also tested how Texans feel about increasing taxes on gasoline to pay for new transportation projects and road maintenance, showing that most (60%)
â€œThis may give policy makers pause as they look to using the gas tax to either generate revenue or encourage conservation,” said Professor Jim Henson, Director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas, who assisted in the survey.
â€œWhen it comes to paying four bucks for a gallon of gas, Texans appear more likely to consider buying a hybrid, carpooling, or taking public transportation than they are likely to approve of increasing gas taxes at the pump,â€ Henson continued. â€œThis seems to make the resurrection of any legislative proposals to increase the gas tax, already pretty unlikely, dead on arrival in the next legislature.â€
No surprise that when asked if they rather pay more in taxes or more in tolls most people chose none of the above. It’s hard to tell from the poll and press release exactly how the question was asked regarding tolls and the gas tax, and “free roads”. But, more than likely, it wasn’t asked to give the respondents a way to discern which would be a better option for paying for new transportation infrastructure.Â Since those are the only two options we have right now.Â You know, how the gas tax is always cheaper than tolls, and that 25% goes to public education.Â And yes some elected official will have to step out and take on this DOA project so we can build new roads.
It sure seems like one of those leaders with demonstrated abilities could use some of that demonstrated leadership ability and go out and educate the public on why raising the gas tax, as opposed to tolling everything, is not only the best option, but the least expensive.
Yes I know gas is high. But I’d much rather pay an extra 8 – 10 cents a gallon as opposed to 15 cents/mile. In other words if the question was asked this way I’m sure they would have gotten a different number.
Most Texans agree we need more money to build and maintain roads across Texas. Would you rather pay an additional 10 cents/gallon of gas, 25% of which goes to fund public schools, and have toll free roads or would rather pay an extra $3/gallon and have toll roads?
In other words if people are asked in general if they want to pay a higher gas tax or tolls on roads, it’s not surprising that a majority don’t like either one.Â If a leader would step forward and educate the public on the issue, and point out the best, fairest, and least expensive way to pay for new roads, enough support – public, business and media – for a gas tax would come.
And as far as all that carpooling and public transportation goes, if we want people to actually use it, it needs to be convenient and go where people need it to go.Â But in this discussion we have to remember it not like politicians and our current state government are listening to what the public wants regarding transportation anyway.
His latest column is titled, Mansion fire raises question: Does government work well? In it he asks this question.
Does state government consistently work?
Of course the obvious answer is, not when Republicans are in charge! Republicans believe government can do no good and they’re doing everything they can to prove that’s right.
[Update]: Via Postcards more on the disaster of Republican governance in Texas, Mansion Fire Sparked by Crisis of Leadership.
As noted here last week, it appears that a couple of RRL readers noticed it too.
From June 24th:
Regarding U.S. Congressman John Carter’s recent guest opinion, which appeared under the headline: “America must increase exploration for the sake of energy independence.”
Perhaps Mr. Carter, in his rush to push a less than credible GOP agenda, seemingly at the expense of the facts, might like to recheck his statement that “China and Cuba are setting up off shore drilling rigs just 50 miles off the coast of Florida.”
It took me all of two minutes to refute this baseless assertion and I believe Mr. Carter’s saying this simply reflects a norm of, at a minimum, the GOP’s playing fast and loose with the facts.
Like Vice President Cheney, who started this rumor, it seems as though Mr. Carter also has ‘”erred” in this assertion.
The way things go in government these days, I’m not expecting a retraction.
Nothing new here, folks.
From June 25th:
The representative from Exxon, John Carter, tells us in his latest spin “China and Cuba are setting up off-shore drilling rigs just 50 miles off the coast of Florida.”
This myth, apparently made up by Carter’s leader, “Dick (“We will be greeted as liberators.”) Cheney, has been disputed by U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez, Republican of Florida, and by petroleum industry experts at the University of Miami.
Senator Martinez opposes drilling (not in my backyard) off his state’s coast, but is for drilling in Alaska’s Artic National Wildlife Refuge(ANWR)
Generally speaking when the accused accepts a plea deal it’s for a lesser crime, a decreased sentence, then they were accused of or indicted for, and in return the prosecutor gets a guaranteed conviction. It’s assumed that the prosecutor does this to make sure that the accused pays something for what they did, and in return taxpayer money is saved because there is not a trial. And the accused takes the deal in order serve a reduced sentence.
In reality there are many reasons a deal is made. Maybe a deal was made because the evidence was thin, or the allegations would be hard to prove, or the ambition of the prosecutor, just to name a few. But whatever the case we can assume that the accused is getting a significantly lighter sentence then they would have gotten had the allegations been proven in court.
Yesterday in Williamson County a just such a prearranged deal was rejected by 368th District Court Judge Burt Carnes. Neither side was surpirsed a the rejection. (via the AAS).
Prosecutors â€” and Fennell’s defense attorney â€” said they were not surprised by Carnes’ ruling.
From that we can infer that both sides thought this punishment didn’t fit the alleged crimes.Â The deal was worked out between Williamson County District Attorney John Bradly and former Georgetown police officer Jimmy Fennell’s defense attorney Bob Phillips, and many saw it as extremely lenient for the crimes he was indicted for. (Via RRL.)
What prosecutors can use against Fennell, though, are any and all of the charges for which a grand jury indicted him Dec. 4: aggravated sexual assault, aggravated kidnapping, improper sexual contact with a person in custody and official oppression.
The aggravated sexual assault and aggravated kidnapping charges are each a first-degree felony, punishable by five years to life in prison.
Improper sexual contact with a person in custody is a state-jail felony, punishable by six months to two years incarceration.
Official oppression is a Class A misdemeanor – punishable by up to a year in county jail and a $4,000 fine – and is one of the few misdemeanors heard in the felony court system.
In the AAS article Finnell’s attorney Phillips mentions that the alleged victim recanted her story.
Bob Phillips, Fennell’s attorney, said he’s looking forward to the jury trial, in which he said Fennell would have a chance to “be vindicated.”
“This may be the greatest blessing in disguise to have a jury of 12 impartially decide who they want to believe in this case,” Phillips said outside of the Williamson County Justice Center.
After the court proceedings, Phillips said for the first time that the alleged victim had recanted her story, and that he was confident in winning the case.
He also for the first time said that the woman was a stripper, and said that he will question her credibility. The woman’s name has not been released. Case documents refer to her only with an alias.
It’s illogical that Finnell would still have been willing to accept this deal if the victim had recanted. It’s also illogical that the DA would have allowed the judge to reject this deal if that was the case – taking away a sure conviction.Â Without the victim’s testimony, if Phillips is telling the truth, it would seem there would be no case.Â Another interesting development.Â One thing is for sure, the alleged victim will be on trial as well if this gets that far, via the TDP.
Fennellâ€™s lawyer said the rejection of the plea agreement was not completely surprising because of its lenient terms. The agreement effectively eliminated the two most severe charges against him, both first-degree felonies carrying a possible penalty of five to 99 years in prison. Fennell accepted the plea because he did not want to risk being found guilty for the more severe charges, Phillips said.
â€œHe was staring two life sentences right in the face,â€ Phillips said.
Phillips said the favorable conditions of the settlement speak to the lack of evidence against Fennell. He also immediately went after the credibility of Fennellâ€™s accuser, saying that she recanted statements made previously about the event. Phillips also pointed out that she is an exotic dancer, even though he said that her job was not relevant to her credibility. Currently, the victim has not been identified and is being referenced using an alias.
When asked, Phillips said that other complaints from women had been logged against Fennell, though he would not elaborate.
Fennell was named as a suspect in the murder of his fianc/e Stacey Stites in 1996 in Bastrop County, where he was also a law enforcement officer. That investigation led to the conviction of Rodney Reed, who is currently on death row for the murder and is appealing his conviction.
This is a long way from over that’s for sure, again via the RRL:
Neither Phillips nor Bradley would comment on whether Fennell’s trial will actually take place the week of Sept. 8, or if one side or the other might ask that it be put off until a later date.
When asked, Phillips said he will not comment on whether he plans to ask Carnes for a change of venue to another county because of pre-trial publicity in Williamson County.
Why the deal was first struckand then struck down we can’t be sure at this time. What we can glean from this is that for whatever reason Judge Carnes and the DA didn’t, in the end, agree on this plea deal. Whether it was because of political fallout after a lenient plea deal was announced, or because the Judge actually thought a jury should hear the case, we’ll just have to wait and see. Yesterday’s ruling seems to have raised more questions than it answered.
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