Mandated study on private toll roads to be released soon

Posted in Around The State, Commentary, Privatization, Road Issues, Transportation at 10:31 pm by wcnews

The Legislative Study Committee on Private Participation in Toll Projects, created as a provision of the so-called toll moratorium bill – SB 792 – from the 80th legislative session, it’s being reported has finished and will soon release it’s report, (which was supposed to be ready no later than December 1, 2008). From Quorum Report yesterday:

QR has obtained a draft of the soon to be released interim report of the Legislative Study Committee on Private Participation in Toll Contracts:

An interim report on public-private partnerships to fund roads – probably the first objective review of Texas toll road policy that shuns the rhetoric of last session’s debate – recommends a more limited scope for Texas public-private road-building partnerships and the end of up-front concession payments. It also dismisses some of the solutions suggested by lawmakers to fill the money gap for road construction.

If you’ve followed the toll road policy debate at all, this 128-page report is a fascinating read. Not only does the report capture many of the arguments presented during the interim on financing road construction – would indexing the gas tax, for instance, make a significant difference in Texas road funding? – it also makes some specific recommendations to attempt to smooth the state’s progress on P3 (Public-Private Partnerships) toll roads.

Not all recommendations were met with enthusiasm. In fact, a number of letters – voicing various points of dissent on the interim committee on the issue – were included with the report, indicating the strength of feelings on the issue.

And today Ben Wear had more at Short Cuts,  Mixed verdict on public-private partnerships:

Among the conclusions in the report:

  • Although the transportation money crunch could be help through some “conventional” ways to raise funding — raising the gas tax and then indexing it inflation, ending or reducing “diversions” of gas tax money to other state uses, getting more of Texas’ federal gas taxes returned to the state — some use of private toll road contracts will be necessary.
  • However, very few road projects are 100 percent “toll viable” — meaning, profitable and thus enticing to the private sector — so “toll roads and (public-private partnerships) will not take over the state.”
  • Private toll roads are more likely to be done on-time and on budget, and are more likely to be managed more efficiently once they open.
  • So-called “non-compete” clauses, which trigger payments to private companies when government expands roads nearby and thus cut toll road traffic, are necessary in order to enable toll road operators to borrow money to build them.
  • Setting an up-front amount for the state to buy back a profitable toll road might diminish or eliminate the private sector’s interest in Texas tollways.
  • Large up-front payments to the state “can over-leverage a project and set it up for failure … revenue sharing mitigates these problems and is a more financially sound option.”

It’s key to remember that this committee was not charged with figuring out how to fix our state’s road financing problem.  But instead with determining whether or not PPP’s are worthwhile, and if so how they should be done.  From the six conclusions presented above there appears to be some major clashes.  Those listed fourth and fifth, would have been deal breakers for PPP’s last session.  The “non-compete” clauses the private entities need had to be removed last session if a bill was to have any hope of passing.  The  “buy back” provisions were also important to a bills passage if it was to include PPP’s.  So it’s not surprising several of the legislators are dissenting from the report.

The committee, let’s remember, is comprised of 7 Republicans, a Democrat, and a Randian.  Of those nine members three are from the Texas House, three are from the Texas Senate, and three are private citizens.  Three of the six legislators quoted in Wear’s post are not in agreement with the upcoming report.

State Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, and state Rep. Wayne Smith, R-Baytown, submitted a joint letter talking the committee’s “irreconcilable disagreement on some matters.” The report’s tone, they wrote, could be interpreted to say that because measures such as raising the gas tax and ending funding diversions would not solve the entire funding problem, “they should be deemphasized. The only solution that is presented is that the state must embrace private finance to close the funding shortfall.”

Furthermore, Williams and Smith wrote, the report “appears to overstate the advantages of private finance” and unfairly characterizes aspects of government-run toll road operations.

Williams and Smith carried the main toll road legislation in the 2007 session.

State Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, a former member of the Texas Transportation Commission, also had problems with parts of the report. His three-page letter said that the report implied that giving local toll authorities first-shot at toll road projects (known as “primacy” in the debate) is a bad thing. He disagrees. Furthermore, Nichols said, the report is incorrect in arguing that private toll road operators would do a better job of maintaining roads.

That this committee will not recommend against PPP’s altogether in the final report is not a surprise.  But it seems odd from what’s being reported that as many as two-thirds of the members of the committee will dissent from the report.

No less than six of those members submitted what amount to dissents from at least some of what the report itself has to say.

It makes one wonder whose point of view, or ideology, took precedence when the report was written. Toll roads, and not necessarily private toll roads, can be a solution in a specific circumstance.  Toll roads, public or private, are not the solution to our state leadership’s neglect of Texas’ transportation infrastructure for the past 15 years. That, hopefully, appears to be one of the main takeaways from the report. I have not read the full report, and am looking forward to it.  Should be an interesting read.

People were starving and they did nothing

Posted in Around The Nation, Commentary, The Economy at 10:46 am by wcnews

At this time, with our nation in a bad economic situation, it’s key to have the facts about what really happened the last time something like this occurred. Via Bondad, The Great Depression, Pt. I:

This article is the first in a series on the Great Depression.  I am writing this with the help of New Deal Democrat (who blogs over at Economic Populist).  The purpose of this series is simply to talk about the Great Depression.  The reason for writing this article is the emergence of the “FDR made the Depression worse” talking point from the Right Wing Noise Machine — econ division.  While none of the stories using this line have any facts to back them up — no charts, no graphs no data — they continue to spew this talking point.  So, let’s get some data — as in facts — to see that actually happened.

Of course one the GOP and wing-nuts in particular have been trying to tear down what FDR and our leaders accomplished in the 30’s and 40’s economically since they took office in March of 1933. So their effort to change history is not new, but just more shameful now. Especially taking this into consideration, another excerpt from Bondad:

So the short version is pretty clear.  From 1929 – 1933 the US economy experienced the worst economic slowdown in its history:

[By 1932,] National Income which had been $87.4 billion in 1929, fell with the value of the dollar to $41.7 billion in 1932.  Unemployment rose:  4 million in 1930, 8 million in 1931, 12 million in 1932. …  Net Investment in 1931 was minus $358 million (in 1929 prices); then next year it fell to a disheartening minus $5.8 billion.  .. Wage payments [went down] from $50 billion to $30 billion.  And, as prices and income fell, the burdens of indebtedness — farm mortgages, railroad bonds, municipal and state debts — became unsupportable.

(– Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., “The Crisis of the Old Order”, p.248)

In case you were wondering:

The President was a Republican

The Senate was controlled by Republicans

The House was controlled by Republicans from March 4, 1929 – March 3, 1931.  From March 4, 1931 to March 3, 1933 the House was tied.

And one thing the Republicans and the plutocrats of the day were sure of, was that government should do absolutely nothing to help its destitute citizenry.  When in 1930 a long summer drought killed cattle and crops in the southwest, Hoover asked Congress to appropriate money for government loans to enable farmers to buy seed, fertilizer, and cattle feed.  But when Democratic senators sough to apply the same program to human beings in addition to livestock, Hoover “reaffirmed his unwavering opposition to such proposals.” (Schlesinger, p. 170)
Hoover appointed Walter S. Gifford, president of AT&T, to the “President’s Organization on Unemployment Relief.”  Appearing before a Senate committee,

“Gifford disclosed imerturbably that he did not know how many people were idle, that he did not know how many were receiving aid, that he did not know that the standards of assistance were in the various states, that he did not know how much money had been raised in his own campaign, that he knew nothing of the ability of local communities to raise relief funds ,, that he did not consider most of this information as of much importance to his job….
But on one question Gifford was clear:  he was against federal aid.”…that it would reduce the size of private charity.”  His “sober and considered judgment” was that “federal aid would be a ‘disservice’ to the jobless.”

Gifford was hardly the only precursor of the malign right wing ideology of today:

Albert H. Wiggin of the Chase Manhattan Bank said, “There is no commission or any brain in the world that can prevent [business downturns].”  Senator La Follette asked “whether he thought the capacity of human suffering to be unlimited.”  “I think so.” the banker replied.
“The fact that we have let nature take its course,” said Richard Whitney of the Stock Exchange, “may augur well for the ultimate prosperity of the country.”  And if recovery were inevitable, then the state must take care to do nothing which might hold it back….
Of all the threatened forms of governmental interference, the most sinister, in the judgment of many businessmen, was the dole for the jobless.
“If this country ever voted a dole, said Silas Strawn, now head of the United States Chamber of Commerce, “we’ve hit the toboggan as a nation.”…[M]any conservatives affected to regard federal aid to idle men and women as spelling the end of the republic.”

(Schlesinger, pp.177-180)

It is worth re-reading the first vignette from Schlesinger above.  Republicans today, just like Republicans then, believe that the appropriate response in the face of the ultimate failure of the economic system to provide jobs, housing, or even to prevent a large percentage of its citizenry from starving, was to DO NOTHING.

There’s much more in the post and this and subsequent parts of the series are required reading. The part about the Great Depression that needs to be kept in perspective is that the stock market crash came in October 1929 – Hoover’s first year as president. It was his and his party’s inability to deal with it over the next three years that made the depression so “Great”.  We can only hope with their descendants now in the majority so early in this economic decline, that this economic downturn will only be historic because it did not become as great.  It was avoided by doing something, what was needed, much earlier and we didn’t sit idle.


Posted in Around The State, Blogging, Commentary, Good Stuff at 9:07 am by wcnews

From the press release.

Harris County Coordinated Campaign Takes Top Honors; TexBlog PAC, Texans For Obama, Late Jim Mattox Named “Gold Stars” For Year

AUSTIN, TEXAS—The Texas Progressive Alliance Tuesday announced that the Harris County Democratic Party Coordinated Campaign had been named its “Texan of the Year” for 2008.

Also earning honors from the Alliance were Texans for Obama, TexBlog PAC, and the late Jim Mattox, who were each named “Gold Star Texans” for 2008.

Winning 27 of 34 countywide races in Texas’ most populous county didn’t happen overnight, and the Harris County Democratic Party’s Coordinated Campaign managed not only to win seats with quality candidates, but to increase Democratic voter turnout and revive the Democratic Party in Harris County.

“The Harris County Democratic Party Coordinated Campaign is a shining example of what is possible with the help and support of thousands of grassroots Democrats and a well-run party infrastructure,” said Texas Progressive Alliance Chair Vince Leibowitz. “Every person who knocked on doors, made phone calls, and volunteered in Harris County should be very proud of what they accomplished in 2008,” he continued.

The Harris County Democratic Party Coordinated Campaign is the Alliance’s fourth recipient of its “Texan of the Year Award.” The campaign joins former State Rep. Carter Casteel of New Braunfels, who won the award in 2005; Carolyn Boyle of Texas Parent PAC, who took home the honor in 2006; and the trio of State Reps. Garnet Coleman, Jim Dunnam, and Pete Gallego who shared the honor in 2007.

Also honored this year were the organizations Texans for Obama and TexBlog PAC along with the late Jim Mattox, the former Texas Attorney General who passed away on November 20.

The Texan of the Year Award is voted on annually by the members of the Texas Progressive Alliance, the largest state-level organization of bloggers, blogs, and Netroots activists in the United States.

Click “read the rest of the story for more in depth on the Texan of the Year and the “Gold Stars”. Read the rest of this entry �


First one to 76 wins…a couple of notes

Posted in 81st Legislature, Central Texas, Commissioners Court, Speakers Race, The Lege at 10:02 am by wcnews

From yesterday’s first Postcards post on the Speaker’s race yesterday, the denial of t the Democrats 64 names, it’s interesting to see Tom Craddick’s spokesperson Alexis DeLee say two different things about the Speaker’s support, Craddick camp rebuts Democratic list:

“It’s an inaccurate list,” said Alexis DeLee, Craddick’s communications director. “We continue to have the largest and most solid support of the House.”

DeLee offered no examples as to where the list is wrong. In recent days, however, Craddick has focused on wooing more Democratic support as a dozen Republican members have publicly broken with the speaker.

The 64 Democrats and 12 Republicans would be able to block Craddick’s re-election. However, DeLee said Craddick continues to have the support of a majority in the 150-member House.

“We’re not backing off that,” she said.

The way the post is written first, she says the have the more support than any other candidate, at that point and still that may be true.  But then later she say they have the “support of a majority”, at least 76 House members.  In the later post after Gattis and his three names are mentioned she reiterates the “largest and most solid support” comment, but there’s not mention of a majority anymore.

This was also interesting on today’s AAS article on the race, Craddick foes claim numbers that would end his reign as Texas speaker:

Before it became known that 15 Republicans had abandoned Craddick, he switched his focus last week to wooing Democrats. It’s a strategy he used in 2007. Craddick used 15 Democrats to offset 14 Republicans who supported his opponent, Rep. Jim Pitts of Waxahachie.

Dukes was among those 15 “Craddick D’s,” as they became known, who helped elect him. But she paid a price.

She was challenged in the March primary because of her support of Craddick. Dukes won, but it was a tough campaign that brought up problems with her consulting business, tax payments and campaign finance reports.

Dukes said Monday that she remains uncommitted to a candidate although she refused to sign the pledge to oppose Craddick. She left her options open because “things change drastically. My decision will be how I can best be effective for District 46.”

The rest of the Central Texas delegation, except newcomer Tim Kleinschmidt, a Republican from Lexington, are opposed to Craddick’s re-election.

The “Central Texas delegation” from includes the 10 districts in and around Austin and Travis County. Eight Democrats (Rose, Dukes, Bolton, Howard, Naishtat, Strama, Rodriguez and Maldonado) and Two Republicans (Kleinschmidt and Gattis). Only Kleinschmidt and Dukes are not committed to opposing Craddick at this time. Hopefully that will soon become nine out of 10.

The thing that is differnt this time around, as opposed to two years ago, is there are more Republicans on record acknowledging that there’s a problem with Craddick.  They also seem fearful of the damage that could be done to them, and their majority, if they allow themselves Texas to endure another session with Craddick as the House leader.  Whether the number is 64 or 74 Democrats, they cannot elect a Speaker.  Ultimately it’s the GOP members that have to decide.  If a new speaker is elected in two weeks it will be because the GOP house members finally see the majority in that chamber as something they want to have a chance to keep in two years.  It’s hard to believe any member that had a close race in 2008 would want to have to defend themselves against Craddick and and another disastrous house session in 2010.

Texas Blog Round Up – Year End Edition

Posted in Around The State, Commentary at 8:53 am by wcnews

Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind…and, if you remember the rest of the song, you’re doing one better than we are. At any rate, it is the last Monday of the year and that means it is time for the Texas Progressive Alliance’s End-Of-Year Round-Up For 2008.

2008 was a heck of a year for Texas Progressives. The Presidential Primary came to Texas (for real), we caucused, conventioned, challenged, credentialed, voted, elected, counted, re-counted, brought Netroots Nation to Texas, watched Tom Craddick fight for his life, said farewell to legends, got a head start to on the race to replace Kay Bailey Hutchison and more. A lot more.

It is in that spirit that we bring you the final round-up of 2008. Enjoy.

jobsanger has posted on a variety of subjects, including the popularity of George Bush in 11% Of Americans Are IDIOTS, the Ku Klux Klan in The Klan Is Still Stupid, a plan to steal water from the Panhandle in The Coming Rape Of The Ogallala Aquifer, the fall of a county sheriff in Potter County Sheriff Indicted On Felony Charges and Potter County Sheriff Convicted, and the 2010 governor’s race in Who’s The Dem In 2010 Governor Race?

John Coby at Bay Area Houston has blogged on a number of issues concerning Bob Perry’s home building industry, the Texas Ethics Commission, insurance deregulation, electricity deregulation, and including some humorous posts. One of his favorites series is Spending Campaign Cash which has resulted in a number of stories in the news and contributed to a bill to be filed by State Representative Senfronia Thompson.

South Texas Chisme covered such entertaining South Texas stories from the original
DA Hissy Fit
to his poor imitation, various ethics problems including a
few felonies to helping Republicans recover and Democrats to prosper. And, we
never forget about that Republican monument to racism and fear otherwise known as that d*mn fence!

As he approaches his seventh anniversary as a blogger, Off the Kuff decided to look forward rather than back on the year. My thanks to my TPA colleagues for all they do, and my best wishes to all for a great 2009.

The Texas Cloverleaf looks back on 2008, as it’s first full year on the blog scene comes to a close. The DNC kicked off the year by picking the Jewish named donkey over the black one for it’s mascot, in what would become the ultimate irony of the political season. Adding to ironies, cash strapped TxDOT gave away $20 million for a Dallas park. We were introduced to GOP family values: 16 US Senators, including our own from Texas, voted against funding for HIV/AIDS prevention, leading to more deaths, and the Palin clan popped out more replacements as part of God’s will. Don’t forget to carve the backwards B on your face for posterity. 2008 was a whirlwind and couldn’t have been more dramatic. Here is to a 2009 with the same kind of flair!

Neil at Texas Liberal wishes everyone good luck in the New Year. Here is my post on controversy regarding what may or may not be the world’s largest potato. Please visit Texas Liberal in 2009. I work hard to make the blog worth reading.

As 2008 comes to a close, circumstances have limited Refinish69’s access to his own blog, Doing My Part For the Left. He’s nonetheless written a compelling series hosted on various national and local blogs that shares what it is to be homeless in Austin. Homeless in Austin-An Insider’s View is a four part series so far and Refinish69 wants to thank all those who’ve helped him get this story more attention. Part 1 at Momocrats. Parts 2, 3, and 4 at Texas Kaos.

Texas Kaos frontpagers have covered a wide variety of issues both national and Texan. Krazypuppy wrote a cautionary tale of how far Republican hubris can go inAll Southerner’s Should Know Don Siegalman’s False Imprisonment Story” Refinish69 shared one man’s story of unexpected impact of the historic Democratic extended primary in A Trip to the Gas Station: No it’s not a Curious George book Lightseeker reported on the convention for SD 15 and the contrast between previous years. He also gave great pointers on political discourse with the neighbors. SCCS did a series on the congressional races all over Texas, and was our correspondent in the Big Tent at the Democratic National Convention in Denver. Txsharon’s contributions keeping us abreast of what Big Dirty Oil and Gas are up to are so valuable it’s hard to pick only a few, but proving that a picture is worth a thousand words, Barnett Shale Sludge Pond Pictures is a must see (and read).

BossKitty at TruthHugger sees no other options … Retirement or Exile, Show Bush The Exit.

At Eye On Williamson this year the election took up much of our time on the blog. From candidate filings, to the massive turnout for the Williamson County Democratic Party primary and convention, all the way through to electing the first Democratic state representative in Williamson County since 1992Diana Maldonado. There were still the same local issues popping up like road projects that are bad deals for the taxpayers, the county landfill, and the T. Don Hutto family prison in Taylor.

It’s been a year of excitement at McBlogger. We’ve looked deeply at medical tourism and James Dobson’s fear of homos. We’ve also, occasionally, talked about the meltdown in the financial sector. And Mr. The Plumber.

WhosPlayin shared his experience working the Democratic Primary and then the Denton County Democratic Convention back in March. In May, the Earth
opened up and
swallowed part of Daisetta, TX. In September, WhosPlayin suggested how a financial industry bailout could work and be transparent. Over the Christmas holiday, WhosPlayin rolled out a new Congressional Campaign Finance research website.

Over at Capitol Annex, Vince Leibowitz had a difficult time trying to select his favorites out of 2,470 posts published (so far) during 2008, but finally settled on a few. After a long PrimaCaucus season and hair-raising state convention, he posted some Random Thoughts on the 2008 TDP Convention. As the election cycle went on, he pondered why anyone would want to re-elect State Rep. John Davis (R-Clear Lake), and told the world about a racist mailer that had been sent out against State Rep. Allen Vaught. After the election season, he memorialized “The People’s Lawyer,” Jim Mattox, and noted that Tom DeLay’s wife was trying to quash a subpoena in a civil lawsuit related to the now-defunct Americans for a Republican Majority.

Mean Rachel started off 2008 with An Open Letter to Whom She Was in 2007, and proceeded to write open letters to just about everyone, including Mark Strama and Elliot Elliott Naishtat. She met Barack Obama, got Obama license plates, and subsequently had her tires slashed because of them. She also wrote for the Texas Observer in Denver and daydreamed about Republican pornography. Finally, in June, Mean Rachel asked for serenity now, and wondered if Americans would ever have the wisdom to change. By November, she had her answer.


First one to 76 wins….

Posted in 81st Legislature, Around The State, Commentary, HD-52, Speakers Race, The Lege at 4:51 pm by wcnews

Today the Texas House Democratic Caucus released it’s list of 64 names [.pdf] (HD-52’s incoming Rep. Diana Maldonado is on tha tlist), that are committed to vote for anyone but Craddick (ABC), as they say.  There were already 12 Repbublicans in the ABC groups as well.  From the press release:

Today, the fact that there will be a new Speaker for the 81st Texas House of Representatives is established, there being at least 76 House members publicly committed to change.

As Texans first, House Democrats have worked and continue to work to bring change to the Texas House of Representatives. Moving Texas forward for all Texans with policies that improve the lives of our constituents has been our overriding goal. Allowing each House Member to represent their constituents to the best of their ability, and allow ideas, bills and policy to be dictated by the merits is the best way to achieve that goal. We are eager to
work with like-minded Republicans in a bipartisan manner.

Attached are the signatures of 64 House Democrats who are publicly committed to this future. Their mutual trust, resolve, unity and commitment to one another is to be commended.

Now that there are at least 76 members committed to voting for a speaker other than Craddick, it takes 76 to win a speakers race, more are beginning to jump off the Craddick list.  The AAS is reporting that three previously unmentioned GOP members have come forward supporting Dan Gattis:

Gattis said today that Reps. Mike Hamilton of Mauriceville, Patricia Harless of Spring and Lois Kolkhorst of Brenham have switched sides.

Wow, Kolkhorst jumping ship, and she’s one of the better R’s on transportation issues.  Whether they are just for Gattis or part of the ABC coalition we do not know yet. All the while Craddick’s mouth piece is doing her best “Baghdad Bob” impersonation.

The opposition, however, is not united behind one candidate.

Craddick’s spokeswoman, Alexis DeLee, said the speaker’s opponents are just trying to create the impression of momentum.

“It’s an inaccurate list,” she said. “We continue to have the largest and most-solid support of the House.”

If Craddick had 76 names we’d know them by now. Kuff has more.

Two more years of T. Don Hutto

Posted in Commentary, Commissioners Court, County Judge, Immigration, Precinct 4, T. Don Hutto, Taylor, Williamson County at 4:08 pm by wcnews

With the Christmas season taking up much of our time over the last week or so blogging has been a little slow. Unfortunately, short shrift was given to the December 23rd decision of the Williamson County Commissioners Court (WCCC) to continue imprisoning Mothers and their children at the T. Don Hutto (TDH) facility in Taylor. The AP article on last week’s vote, Texas county renews contract on former prison, has this quote from Precinct 4 Commissioner Ron Morrison:

“If I thought kids and adults were being mistreated, I’d run backwards from it,” said Commissioner Ron Morrison, whose precinct includes the facility. “What I’ve seen is very humane treatment. As much as possible, they’ve converted it to a user-friendly facility.”

While it’s comforting to know Morrison’s thoughts on mistreatment, it’s not likely any mistreatment would get noticed since changes were made, and a county sheriff was posted at TDH, after the last time mistreatment happened at the prison. And trying to soften the image of a remodeled prison by calling it “user frinendly” is odd.  (Not sure what makes a prison user friendly?)

From the TDP and the RRL stories on the vote it appears one of the five commissioners has turned the corner on this issue.  From the TDP,  T. Don Hutto facility to continue holding illegal immigrants.

Precinct 1 Commissioner Lisa Birkman was the lone dissenting voice, remarking, “no matter how you look at it, it’s still a prison.”


Public speakers accused the county of acting as a “bagman” between CCA and Immigrations Customs Enforcement. While the facility’s tax value is fairly lucrative for the county, City of Taylor and Taylor Independent School District, the contract offers little to no operational oversight.


Birkman’s vote against the facility was greeted with applause in the most energetic commissioners court meeting recently. Hardly a seat was empty at the outset of the meeting and public comments against the facility extended for about an hour.

However, outspoken critic of the facility and former Georgetown Mayor Mary Ellen Kirsch said Birkman’s vote was nothing more than caving to the pressure of her community. Kirsch said Birkman’s vote was in response to her former Methodist Bishop, Joe A. Wilson, speaking out publicly against the facility. Birkman said Wilson had not previously contacted her about the facility. Wilson is retired.

“They ought to be ashamed of themselves,” Kirsch said after the vote.

Calling it a prison is very strong language, since the rest of the court seems to think it’s a fine place. And Commissioner Valerie Covey showed she was not well informed about who can see inside TDH. Via the RRL, Protest at county court:

“There’s more medical care at this facility than many of our own children in the United States have,” Covey said. “To hear the children are being mistreated … I’m considering what you’ve said and what I’m seeing and it doesn’t match up.”

Likewise, Pct. 2 Commissioner Cynthia Long of Cedar Park said comments about prison-like deprivation were “not at all like what I saw.”

“Many of the children there are in school for the first time,” Long said.

“I’d be curious,” Covey said, “how many who spoke today have been inside the facility?”

“We can’t!” Kenneth Koym of Austin shouted back from the audience.

T. Don Hutto is one of just two facilities of its kind in the United States.

Several speakers – as well as County Judge Dan Gattis – said the facility’s status could change once the Obama administration takes office next month.

And from the TDP article some folks had some other suggestions for Covey about the medical care at the prison.

Precinct 3 Commissioner Covey’s remarks prompted shouts of disapproval when she compared the conditions of immigrant children housed in the facility to that of her own and promised to “put in a good word” for media and critics who have been repeatedly denied access to the facility. One critic asked when Covey would put her children in the facility.

“There’s more medical care at this facility than what’s available for many U.S. citizens,” she said.

There’s still an air of contempt coming from the WCCC to those who are against this prison being run like it is in Williamson County. Those that are against this are not ignorant fools and are well aware of the facts. Which oftentimes seems to be totally beyond comprehension to many of the commissioners. The commissioners need to be well informed as well.  Covey’s question about who has been there, is just plain silly.  It’s been known since TDH started imprisoning children that the media and public are not welcome.  Statements like that do not reflect well on her.

Whether it was Birkman’s former pastor, her recent close reelection, or just her conscience finally catching up with her, that got her to change her mind it’s a welcomed change.  We are stuck with T. Don Hutto imprisoning children for two more years unless something bites Judge Gattis.


First one to 76 wins, the latest installment

Posted in Around The State, Commentary, HD-20, Speakers Race, Uncategorized, Williamson County at 4:40 pm by wcnews

It was only a matter of time, I suppose…Dan Gattis, Jr. files for speaker.

Rep. Dan Gattis said Sunday he is running for speaker of the Texas House of Representatives.

The Georgetown Republican is the twelfth candidate challenging Speaker Tom Craddick, a Midland Republican seeking a fourth term as House leader.

Gattis was one of Craddick’s lieutenants during the 2007 session but has been uncommitted since the November election.

The House Republican majority has shrunk from 88 to 76 since Craddick was first elected speaker in 2003. This year Democrats showed a net gain of three seats, a factor in Craddick’s difficulty in holding onto the leadership post.

This just might be the way for Gattis to solidify his statewide chops. Gattis has always been thought to be a rising star in the Texas GOP and with Daddy about to deliver on the landfill the time may be right. Running as a compassionate Craddick may be just what’s needed to woo those wayward R’s back into the fold. Then he can use his experience in a session or two to run for Lt. Gov., Gov., or beyond.  BOR has more.


A holiday break

Posted in Blogging at 4:23 pm by wcnews

EOW is taking some much needed time off for the Christmas season. There may be a post here or there but normal blogging will resume on Monday December 29th.

In the meantime check out Kuff’s piece on the latest in the race for Speaker.


WCCC votes to continue profiting form T. Don Hutto

Posted in Commentary, Commissioners Court, County Judge, Had Enough Yet?, Precinct 1, Precinct 2, Precinct 4, T. Don Hutto, Williamson County at 1:05 pm by wcnews

It was a 4 – 1 vote with Precinct 1 Commissioner Lisa Birkman being the only dissenting vote, thank commissioner Birkman. via the AAS, Willco renews contract with detention center.

Williamson County commissioners today extended a contract with a private company to run a much-criticized immigrant detention facility north of Taylor.

Commissioners voted 4-1 to renew the contract for the T. Don Hutto Retention facility, a 512-bed facility that holds families who are awaiting hearings.

Precinct 1 Commissioner Lisa Birkman voted against it, saying that although she agrees with the need to enforce immigration laws and the need for the jobs created by the facility, it is still a prison. The facility is a former medium-security prison.

Birkman’s announcement garnered applause from residents who attended the meeting in opposition to the facility, 23 of whom spoke before the court. Corrections Corp. of America will continue to operate the facility for another two years. The company has had a contract to operate the facility since 2006. Williamson County and Corrections Corp. can terminate the contract within 120 days.

MaryEllen Kersch, a former mayor of Georgetown, said she thought the vote was “reprehensible.”

“they didn’t respond to the basic business issues or that the county is being maligned around the world for participating in the holding of children.”

She said opposition to the facility is “not going to go away and is only going to grow.”

At least it’s not a unanimous vote anymore. Maybe that close race this year had some effect on Birkman, maybe not. But there are two races commissioner’s race coming in 2010 and the incumbents in Precinct 2 and 4 will have to answer for this vote.

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