Quorum Report is reporting on a new poll by Opinion Analysis, Inc.
After testing some issues, Democratic pollster Jeff Smith says “there is a message path to a Democratic victory”
The snippet form QR shows that there’s quite a bit of undecided voters still out there, with both candidates polling at 35%:
New polling by a Democratic polling firm indicates Dems’ confidence that they can be competitive for the HD 52 seat being vacated by House Transportation Chairman Mike Krusee (R-Round Rock).
The poll, conducted by Opinion Analysts, Inc., showed the Democrat in the race, Diana Maldonado, tied with the Republican Bryan Daniel. They each drew 35 percent with the Libertarian Lillian Simmons drawing 3 percent.
As BOR points out in there analysis this is a huge change in Maldonado’s direction since a June IVR poll was released:
Diana Maldonado, TexBlog PAC’s first endorsed candidate, has made significant ground since an IVR Poll in June. She has had momentum, and now finds herself in a dead heat.
This is wonderful news. In an obviously crucial race, we clearly stand a good shot. If the momentum stays, Maldonado will win. Now is as good of a time as any to contribute or help out in any way. Because we can win. We need five, and this should be one of them.
With “undecideds” breaking overwhelmingly for the challenger, along with the demographic changes in HD-52 and the problems of the Republican brand, added to the momentum the Maldonado campaign has, HD-52 becoming a Democratic seat in the Texas House is looking better and better each day.
In their latest newsletter, the Hutto Citizens Group (HCG), has made it clear that Precinct 4 Commissioner Ron Morrison will be responsible for the outcome of the next incarnation of the landfill contract with Waste Management, Inc (WMI). Giving him Dubya’s moniker of the “decider”, they’ve let him know that his future, as a commissioner is in his hands, and they’re watching.
Using a word from the vocabulary of President George W. Bush, it’s clear that Williamson County Precinct 4 Commissioner Ron Morrison is now the “decider” regarding what will transpire regarding the county’s landfill north of Hutto.
The reason Morrison now has that status and authority is because three other members of
commissioners court — Pct. 1 Commissioner Lisa Birkman, Pct. 2 Commissioner Cynthia Long, and Pct. 3 Commissioner Valerie Covey — have stated that they look to Morrison to take the lead regarding what the county will do on the landfill contract and permit, and they also have said that they will follow his lead. And Morrison has said nothing to indicate otherwise, thereby accepting the point-man status.
Morrison has been the “decider” for quite awhile now, at least since August 28, 2007, when
commissioners voted 4-1 to table the proposed, renegotiated landfill contract between the county and Waste Management (WMI). Apparently County Judge Dan Gattis doesn’t hold the same view as Birkan, Long and Covey regarding following Morrison’s lead, inasmuch as Gattis cast the sole dissenting vote on that motion to table and, in the opinion of the Hutto Citizens Group (HCG), appears to be acting in a ham-handed manner to get a majority of commissioners to approve a new contract with WMI. Based on media reports, it appears that a draft of the renegotiated contract will be brought up for a vote in commissioners court in late September or early October.
While this is Morrison’s “territory” and the other commissioners will, more than likely, follow his lead the other commissioners deserve blame too, because this is a county issue. And Judge Gattis, Sr.’s actions need to be seriously scrutinized because of the deep connections to statewide GOP players regarding this landfill contract from the beginning. How this all plays out will have a bearing on those players willingness to involve themselves in future Gattis family undertakings.
More than likely, as long as the current make up of the court is intact, any new contract that’s concocted for the landfill will be largely, if not entirely, beneficial to WMI. Of course it will include a few minor concessions to the citizens in hopes of placating them long enough, which is extremely doubtful, so that by 2010 they’ve forgotten about it and will again vote for Ron Morrison or some other Republican.
If the proposed contract which emerges is bad for the county’s citizens, taxpayers, the City of Hutto, and residents of the Hutto area, Morrison knows that to properly represent his constituents, he must vote against it and take the lead in stopping it from being passed.
If he does, then Birkman, Long and Covey will have some serious explaining to do if they don’t follow Morrison’s lead.
On the other hand, if Morrison, as the “decider” votes for a bad contract, he also should know that Gattis’ gag scenario no longer applies, so he’ll be able to look forward to a long and intensive public discussion regarding why he voted the way he did.
That’s the kind of accountability which accompanies being a “decider“.
Ron Morrison is on notice. We’re all watching now, and what he does from here on will directly impact his future.
The Austin Chronicle is now reporting on the IRS complaint filed against the Greater Round Rock Charitable Foundation (GRRCF) for a possible violation of its non-profit status:
Political friction is growing over the role played by a Williamson County’s chamber of commerce in the House District 52 race between Republican Bryan Daniel and Democrat Diana Maldonado, and it’s all to do with Daniel’s address.
Eye on Williamson originally reported on this story August 12.
The GRRCF has been quite successful at raising funds, building up more than $1 million in assests; and to their credit has been modest in their office accommodations. According to the Williamson County Appraisal District, the building at 206 East Main has only 704 square feet. If the building’s frontage on Main Street is any indication, Daniel is a prominent tenant. Lacking separate entrances is an indication that this property was not built to be sub-let. The arrangement appears as cozy as taking on a boarder in a one-bedroom apartment.
Yesterday the Williamson County Commissioners Court (WCCC) approved buying 1,011 acres of land for a future park in the Western part of the county at a cost of “roughly $10.6 million”, via the AAS.Â A purchase of a large tract of land in this area, for a future park, first came to light in early July.Â The initial deal was brought to the county by developer Joe Birdwell, Williamson County takes steps to buy land for biggest park yet.
The property was appraised at $13.2 million by a private appraiser, Long said, but Birdwell told the county that he would be willing to sell the land for less. At an online real estate site, the land was offered for $16 million.
By early August another large piece of land had come to the WCCC’s attention, New park site for Williamson examined.
[Commissioner Cynthia] Long and attorney Charlie Crossfield, who is negotiating for the county with real estate brokers, would not say how much the southern land would cost. But a private appraisal of that land, conducted at the request of the owners, estimated that the 1,011 acres were worth more than $10.8 million, or more than $10,000 per acre, county spokeswoman Connie Watson said.
The new land being considered is owned by Andrew Williams and his two siblings. They inherited the land, which their father bought in 1940.
Along the way Precinct 1 Commissioner Lisa Birkman had to recuse herself because she is a “distant relative” of the owners of the 1,011 acre Williams tract, (See WCCC Minutes 08/12/2008). The Williams tract is actually three properties, as far as the Williamson County Appraisal District is concerned.Â (Go here, on the left side click on Owner Search, the type in Last Name (Williams),Â FirstName (Andrew) click search and you should see three properties).Â There are a few lingering questions on the deal, as this comment to today’s AAS article on the deal states:
I am a bit confused. According to the Williamson CAD there are 3 parcels of land that equal 979 acres and are appraised at less than 5 million. Why are the taxpayers having to pay for 1011 acres when there is 979 according to the tax public records. And why are we having to pay more than double for the property. Are the owners related or good friends to the people making this ridiculous decision? Why waste all the bond money on this one park? And why pay double what the value is worth? The bond money should be split between several parks in various area to enable many people from various areas of Williamson County to enjoy the parks. But I would really like to find out why the acreage doesn’t equal the amount that the owners are paying taxes on. Something smells fishy with this decision. But then what else is new in Williamson County but smelly back room deals?
ThoseÂ three appraisals add up to a total of $4,970,370. Once it hit the streets that the county was looking to spend 8 figures on a piece of land they started coming out of the woodwork.
But after commissioners voted in early July to negotiate buying the land for up to $12.5 million, they were contacted by other landowners, who offered their land for less money per acre.
But there was also this comment to the AAS, article when the Williams tract was first mentioned.:
No surprise that after the Birdwell deal became public that other such offers began pouring out of the woodwork. Given its location, one can assume that the Williams’ tract is good parkland, but not terribly well suited for agriculture, yet still valued at more than $10,000 an acre. Which brings up another little nugget buried in this story. Study real estate prices everywhere in the county and you find that there appears to be only one place where real estate is worth $10,000 an acre–next to a new road the county is building. The $10,000 price is what several landowners have been offered along the Chandler Road extension by the county. Folks living along SH 29 should be aware of this–this is your future when the county comes slapping six lanes of asphalt through Liberty Hill.
It’s an interesting deal, and when the WCCC is involved it usually makes it even more interesting. Parks are nice, and I don’t think anyone really has a problem with the county having more parks. But the devil’s in the details.Â It has costs.Â A park in the Eastern side of the county, will be losing much of it’s funding from the county that it was promised.Â And if the comment above is correct, $10 million for a $5 million tract of land, that must mean that the SH 29 corridor planned by Valerie Covey, Cynthia Long, Lisa Birkman and the rest of the WCCC is headed that way.Â That’s not going to make Liberty HIll happy at all.Â Accountablility comes in November.
Natasha Chen has just completed a video feature on Texas state politics for the fellowship program News 21. It’s called, Texas Two-Step: No Longer a One-Party State. It’s about the changing politics in Texas and focuses on Williamson County. The HD-52 race in particular between Democrat Diana Maldonado and Republican Bryan Daniel. Also in the documentary are some local voters, As well as Jake Bernstein and Wayne Slater. It’s a little more than 12 minutes long, is a great piece of journalism, and is full of excellent information.
Pay special attention to the part where Democratic County Attorney candidate Jaime Lynn is interviewed. He’s referred to as a “new Democrat” in the documentary, and tells why he became a Democrat, flipping the Ronald Reagan quote, “I didn’t leave the Republican Party, the Republican Party left me”. Also stating that, “He couldn’t stand by and watch the incumbent Republican [Jana Duty] continue with such incompetence”. But the part that brings ties it all together is how he says he was welcomed in by the Democrats, “The Democrats made a concerted effort to draw in more moderates, more disenfranchised Republicans, more Independents”. And that’s a big reason why there’s a better chance then there’s been in 14 years for the Democrats to win in Williamson County.
Williamson County Volunteers for Obama ’08 are dedicated to helping Barack Obama carry Williamson county and Texas on November 4th. It’s a group of volunteers who are raising money to distribute Obama/Biden campaign signs, stickers, buttons and shirts throughout the county. One of its members, Alice Ortiz, has organized the biggest Convention Watch Party in the county, perhaps ever.
The party is Thursday night at the Williamson County Old Settlers Association Main Hall, 3300 East Palm Valley Blvd. (US Hwy 79) in Round Rock. The hall is in Old Settlers Park, adjacent to Dell Diamond. Doors open at 6:30. Coverage from the Democratic National Convention in Denver will be on the big screen, featuring Barack Obama’s acceptance speech and former Vice President Al Gore.
The volunteers have commitments from local Democratic candidates to attend and speak: Brian Ruiz, Diana Maldonado, Jaime Lynn, Woodie Jones, Mike Grimes and Greg Windham. A $10 donation is requested, and snacks and soft drinks are free. A $2 donation for beer is requested.
There’s only room for about 350, and space is rapidly disappearing, so please RSVP now.
The Dallas billionaire who made a fortune as a corporate raider and financed the 2004 swift boat ads has paid $2.88 million to air a 60-second attack ad against Barack Obama that asserts a linkage to a 1960s radical antiwar group’s founder William Ayers. Last Friday, New York Times reporter Jim Rutenberg wrote about the link:
Mr. Ayers, now a professor of education in Chicago, was a founder of the Weather Underground, which bombed government buildings in the early 1970s. He was indicted on conspiracy charges that were thrown out for prosecutorial misconduct.
He served with Mr. Obama on the board of the Woods Fund of Chicago, a charitable organization, and, along with his wife, the former Weather Underground member Bernardine Dohrn, hosted Mr. Obama at their home in 1995 when he was running for state office.
Mr. Obama has called Mr. Ayers “somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago, when I was 8 years old.”
Saturday, Los Angeles Times reporter Dan Morain wrote:
Simmons was No. 43 on the 2007 Forbes list of richest Americans, with a net worth estimated at $7.4 billion. Known as a corporate raider, Simmons has been nicknamed “the Ice Man.” He acquired his wealth by investing in drugstores, steel, garbage collection and other entities.
The anti-Obama ad that Simmons funded notes that the Sept. 11 hijackers failed to crash one of the hijacked jets into the Capitol but that 30 years earlier the Weather Underground detonated a bomb in it. “Why would Barack Obama be friends with someone who bombed the Capitol and is proud of it?” the ad asks.
Ayers was never prosecuted for any of the Weather Underground bombings; charges were dropped because of prosecutorial misconduct.
Daily Kos blogger Hesiod reported that Harold Simmons has been accused of raiding his daughters’ trust fund and attempting to exploit a loophole inserted into the tax code by politicians on the receiving end of his largesse that would have helped him avoid paying $100 million in taxes.
Harold Simmons business venture Waste Control Specialists is applying for a license to build a radioactive waste dump in West Texas.
Speaking of radioactive, Simmons’ stable of politicians includes Texas House of Representatives district 52 Republican nominee Bryan Daniel. According to Texas Ethics Commission filings (PDF), Simmons is Daniel’s largest individual contributor. So if you like radioactive waste dumps and dubious smear ads, then Bryan Daniel is definitely your candidate.
This commentary in today’s HChron by Clay Robison, A builder, a commission, a lot of cash, describes what is a microcosm of how “conservatism”, as practiced by the Texas GOP, is racket for their campaign donors. It shows how a “consumer protection” agency, created by the so-called “small government” proponents, is the exact opposite. It’s an agency created to forestall lawsuits against homebuilders, including a homebuilder – the infamous “Swift Boat” Bob Perry owner of Perry Homes – that’s been bankrolling GOP candidates in Texas and nationwide. And it provides little, if any, protection whatsoever for the consumers it was created to protect.
This particular agency, the Texas Residential Construction Commission (TRCC), was created in 2003, at the height of the Texas GOP’s dominance of state politics. And as this part of the DMN article on the Sunset Commission’s recent recommendation to abolish the TRCC, its creation was straight out of the GOP playbook.
The original legislation was backed by Houston homebuilder Bob Perry, who is also the largest political donor in the state. His spokesman, Anthony Holm, said it was a rare case where the industry came to the Legislature and asked to be regulated.
When an industry goes to the government to ask to be regulated that should set off alarm bells immediately. That the industry did it at the height of its backers political power is logical. In other words the industry wrote the rules on how it wanted to be regulated. Therefore it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the TRCC has been of no benefit to consumers, and been a boon for the industry, and the Texas GOP’s big money donor Bob Perry. (See this DMN article on a recent Texas Supreme Court Ruling in Perry’s favor). And reading this recent HChron article on the Sunset recommendation more alarm bells should be going off.
Created in 2003, the agency does not have the trust of the consumers to protect them from unqualified builders, according to staff of the Sunset Review Commission, which reviews state agency performance and makes recommendations to lawmakers.
The creation of the commission was backed by homebuilders. It was praised by the industry for establishing standards and warranties for home construction, and for creating a process to resolve disputes between builders and buyers out of court.
Consumer groups have argued the agency did more to protect builders than consumers and limited homeowners’ legal recourse in disputes.
If the agency being regulated is happy about its future oversight, it’s probably not a good omen. And as Robinson’s commentary today points out the Sunset action is only the first step in this process. A process that is sure to full of roadblocks to abolish Perry’s pet agency, put in place by his deep pockets and long political reach.
It remains to be seen what will happen to the recommendation to abolish the Texas Residential Construction Commission, but it is no sure thing, thanks largely to the money with which Houston home builder Bob Perry continues to shower lawmakers.
Although the proposal was applauded by consumers, who view the agency as little more than a protective haven for home builders, the first of several potential obstacles is the Sunset Advisory Commission itself, which must decide whether to endorse or reject its staff’s work.
And that is a $446,000 question.
But the sunset staff has concluded the agency is doing homeowners more harm than good.
More than half of the money, $272,500, that Perry has given to Sunset Commission members has gone to Sen. Bob Deuell, R-Greenville. Sen. Glenn Hegar, R-Katy, the vice chairman, has received $64,500; Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, $35,000; and Sen. Kim Brimer, R-Fort Worth, who is in a tough re-election race, $22,500.
Perry has given lesser amounts to other commission members.
That amount doesn’t include the $2,500 Perry has given so far to Bryan Daniel, Democratic candidate Diana Maldonado’s opponent in HD-52 race . This is just another example of how, if elected, Daniel would be essentially the same as reelecting Mike Krusee. It’s extremely likely he would be in favor of keeping Perry’s protection commission since he took his money. Being a “proud conservative” as his web site states, this is how they govern – protect the corporations at the expense of the consumer.
It’s examples like this, along with this, that show how much new leadership, the leadership that’s been lacking for so long, is needed in HD-52. Leadership that will protect the consumer, the people in HD-52, and no longer give big money donors, and corporations a free ride. Whether you’re a new home buyer, or would just like your opinion to matter again concerning a landfill, a proposed road, or power lines, change and leadership is needed. And there’s only one person running in HD-52 that can provide that kind of leadership, and it’s Diana Maldonado.
I couldn’t agree more with Paul Burka’s latest post, Investing pension funds in toll roads is an irresponsible and “immoral” idea.
The issue here is not toll roads per se. It is toll roads built with pension funds (and probably other investment funds as well, such as the Permanent School Fund and the Permanent University Fund). These are trust funds. They belong to the members. It is morally wrong to require fund managers to invest them in risky ventures like toll roads. Does anybody doubt that there will be pressure on the pension funds to invest in certain projects that favor certain people and certain contractors and certain areas? We all know what kind of people we are dealing with here. Rick Perry can’t resist it. He appointed the members of the boards that oversee the pension funds. These deals will be neck-deep in politics.
I have said this before, and I will say it again. There is a sensible way to finance roads. It is to increase the gasoline tax and index it to inflation in the highway construction index.
While the resistance to tax increases is formidable, so is the resistance to toll roads. If you can persuade the public that a gasoline tax increase will reduce the need for toll roads, I think that proposition could be sold. Anything is better than insisting that the savings of retired teachers and state employees be invested in risky ventures like toll roads.
It’s a very good post even though he leaves out the obvious, that the current trio – Perry, Dewhurst, and Craddick – won’t do it. And the gas tax can’t be raised until at least two, (Perry and Craddick), of the three are gone – three of three being preferable.
McBlogger adds his, ahem, 2 cents, The Transportation Daisy Chain.
The reality that no one on the R side wants to admit is that their ideology is fundamentally flawed. In the real world, privatization does not always work to the benefit of consumers, especially in the absence of substantive GOVERNMENT oversight. An old school economic conservative can you tell you that. In fact, I’ve done it several times. We, unlike the ideologues running the government who’ve never really worked in business, know from first hand experience that private enterprise can be every bit as wasteful as big government.
And to back all this up is this latest item from The Newspaper on the Grim Financial Outlook for Toll Roads.
A major credit rating agency on Wednesday warned investors that toll roads no longer make a great investment choice. In a special report entitled “U.S. Transportation Assets: Facing a Temporary Decline or a Permanent Change?” Fitch Ratings cautioned that a number of economic factors challenge the creditworthiness of tolling projects, including the current state of fuel prices, currency exchange rates and sluggish economic growth. In its report, Fitch changed the outlook on toll roads to “Negative” after having issued an outlook of “Stable” as recently as March.
“Small but frequent toll increases will likely be necessary over the next several years to maintain credit quality if current conditions persist,” the report explained. “Fitch’s ratings for airports and toll roads reflect the relative ability of each credit to deal with some volatility in revenue and the expectation that management will take appropriate actions to deal with such developments.”
And at least as far as 183-A is concerned, going “cashless”, will make those necessary frequent tax increases almost invisible. And that just means the “something for nothing conservatives” plan is working as designed.
Immoral is right, but it can be stopped. I would recommend that anyone who is a teacher or state employee call Perry, Dewhurst, and Craddick and tell them what a bad idea this is. Also call State Sen. Steve Ogden, whose brainchild this is. And don’t forget to call your own state senator, state representative and the board members of either ERS or TRS. Surely they’d all like to hear what you have to say.
It’s Monday. Do you know what the Texas Progressive Alliance blogs and bloggers have been up to this week? Well, our weekly round-up will tell you. This week’s round-up was compiled by Vince from Capitol Annex.
refinish69 explains why Travis County and Texas doesn’t need another Keel at Doing My Part For The Left.
Two White guys in Houston want each others’ jobs. Former Gov. Mark might run for for mayor, and current Mayor Bill may run for governor. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs has the Frick-and-Frack report.
Prepare yourself for a shock when you visit Bluedaze and see the BILLIONS in handouts given to Big Oil. TXsharon shows how these handouts, paid with our taxes, enable Big Oil to buy influence, work against our best interest, blatantly ignore laws and keep the US dependent on hydrocarbons rather than moving forward.
Mayor McSleaze at McBlogger wonders why, if Washington is broken as McThuselah’s campaign says, McThuselah himself hasn’t done something to fix it since he’s been there more than, you know, 25 years.
The major media outlets may be arguing about whether experience, the war or the economy is the most important issue in this year’s presidential election, but jobsanger says there is only one issue that matters , and it’s not any of those three.
The Texas Cloverleaf exposes the plan by Congressman Michael Burgess and the Bush DOT to make I-35 from Dallas to Denton a toll road!
BossKitty at TruthHugger is concerned about WATER and what our fearless leaders plan to do about it: “Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink.”
Justin at AAA-Fund Blog wonders when Houston will find good leadership â€“ in government, in corporations looking for good PR, anywhere â€“ for recycling.
Off the Kuff criticizes State Sen. Dan Patrick and State Rep. Frank Corte for their request for a ruling from AG Greg Abbott that the Lege can require cities to enforce federal immigration laws.
Texas Liberal says that he is not a bridge builder.
Before she took off for the DNC convention in Denver, and the Big Tent, Texas Kaos frontpager SCCS took a look at the state of the Central Texas Congressional races.
The rich get Visas while the poor were asked to self-deport notes CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chimse.
WCNews at Eye On Williamson posts about Perry, Dewhursts, and Craddick’s new toll road plan, Texas GOP Leaders Want To Use Public Pension Funds To Build Corporate Toll Roads.
Vince from Capitol Annex takes a look at Republican State Representative candidate Van Brookshire’s stupid press release about immigration and the incorrect facts he based it on.
North Texas Liberal shares a stunning tribute to Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, penned by a great friend of the late congresswoman.
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