This Week’s Landfill Wrap-Up

Posted in Bad Government Republicans, Take Action, Landfill, Had Enough Yet?, Williamson County at 3:26 pm by wcnews

The Hutto Citizens Group (HCG) has weighed in with their latest newsletter [.PDF], regarding not only Tuesday’s Commissioners Court meeting, but also the Hutto City Council Meeting that night. I appears that Judge Gattis has changed his tune a bit.

Following a suspense-filled meeting of commissioners court on Tuesday morning, in which commissioners decided to postpone any vote on the landfill contract until at least August 28, County Judge Dan Gattis told the Hutto City Council Tuesday night that he would have sought to “get out of the 2003 landfill contract” with Waste Management if WMI had not agreed to renegotiate that contract.

A major item of discussion in commissioners court in Georgetown on Tuesday morning and in Hutto on Tuesday night was the so-called “two-option limit” the county says it has regarding what to do with the 2003 landfill operation contract which has been repeatedly acknowledged
by county officials as a “terrible contract.”

According to both Gattis and Steve Ackley, the assistant county attorney who provided a sketchy synopsis of the revised contract draft in commissioners court, the county believes it only has two options regarding the bad 2003 contract: (1) leave it in place so it can continue, or (2) renegotiate it in order to get a better deal for the county.

Gattis’ statement to the Hutto City Council on Tuesday night was a major shift in that position.
Now Gattis is saying, in essense, that the county’s options were to renegotiate the contract if that is possible, but “get out” of the 2003 contract if that isn’t possible.

Essentially, Waste Management’s failure to agree to terms acceptable to the county is no different than refusing to renegotiate the contract at all, since both positions achieve the same result—no acceptable new contract.

This whole landfill issue and the disaster the county has turned it into comes down to two things the Judge and Commissioners have done wrong from the beginning: (1) the county has not negotiated effectively with WMI - allowed WMI to set the terms of the negotiation - and should have used their power to open up the bidding on the landfill to force WMI to agree to the most beneficial terms for the county, and (2) the commissioners and judge have ignored the citizens of the county, their constituents, and not involved them in the process.

Granted many of those on the court now were not around when the negotiations started, but they all promised to fix this Limmer lemon when they ran. I doubt any of them would have won if they’d have run on what they’re doing now. Everyone knows a project like this will turn out much better when those that live in that community are involved in the process of determining the course of action. Community buy-in is key to an issue like this and the county has done a poor job in that area. Jeff Maurice, the HCG Lanfill Committe Chairman, had this to say at the end of the newsletter that sums up pretty well what’s needed.

Maurice continued, “It should be abundantly clear that during these long and detailed discussions, we have sought to work with the county to cure the problems with the permit and the contract, and to end up with a project that is as beneficial as possible to county residents and the landfill neighbors. Unfortunately, the proposed permit and contract fall
far short of that goal, and we have worked long and hard to cure those situations, but we never have said that the entire landfill project should be shut down, and we want the judge, the commissioners, the public and the media to take notice of that fact.”

Duly noted. They don’t want the landfill stopped, but if they have to live next to a dump they deserve to have some input into how it will be administered. That’s not too much to ask and why these citizens are so upset. Williamson County residents understand that very well too, and ignoring their input is wrong and looks bad. This isn’t going away and the longer this goes on the worse the commissioners and judge look.

Judge, Commissioners Still Going After Constables, Griffin

Posted in Bad Government Republicans, Commissioners Court, Take Action, Election 2008, The Budget, 2008 Primary, Williamson County at 12:04 pm by wcnews

It’s A long story, goes all the way back to the Blogspot version of EOW, Why does Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley want to abolish the constable’ office? Mr. Griffin, not wanting to “play ball” with the commissioners, but mainly Lisa Birkman, back then decided to accept the inevitable defunding of his office.

Today the AusChron has an article, Constables: The Rodney Dangerfields of Police Work, about how sparse the funding for all commissioners was in the current budget process until they decided to speak up. They’ve since remedied the situation a bit, except for Precinct 1, Gary Griffin’s precinct.

At first blush, it seemed that all Williamson Co. constables would end up as empty-handed casualties in the annual county budget war. But as the meat-grinding process has played out over the past two weeks, only one constable, Precinct 1’s Gary Griffin — long a political thorn in the side of the Commissioners Court — was left with the emptiest pockets. The commissioners’ tightfisted fiscal strike against Griffin likely stems from his ongoing legal battle against the court for cutting his budget by 70% in mid-2005. The lawsuit is pending in Austin’s 3rd Court of Appeals.

I guess that’s what the people of precinct 1 deserve for electing Griffin as their Constable. It continues:

For a while it looked as though all the constables would end up in the same boat as Griffin. County Judge Dan Gattis’ initial recommendations, discussed at a July 24 budget hearing, would have denied the constables any increases in personnel or operational funds.

The constables each told the court they desperately needed increases in resources because a “tsunami” in their workload, as Precinct 3 Constable Bobby Gutierrez put it, will hit once a monetary cap on lawsuits handled by justice courts doubles from $5,000 to $10,000, effective next month.

As in previous budget battles, each of the four constables again appeared before the court to define and defend their elected positions. “I’m proud to be a constable. If not for us … victims would go without justice,” Precinct 2 Constable Dale Vannoy told the court. (Commissioners might also wish to consult the Texas Constitution, the Texas Statutes Code of Criminal Procedure, and their own website, www.wilco.org/constables, for further understanding of the office.)

In justifying his proposed cuts in surveillance equipment, Gattis seemed to question the legal powers given constables, when sheriff’s deputies are equipped to handle law-enforcement matters. “The court needs to decide — do you want to equip the constables to do traffic?” But then he added, “I haven’t any argument you are a full-fledged police officer.”

Constable Gutierrez testified next, saying: “It’s unreasonable to assume Sheriff James Wilson can handle everything in the entire county. … If we can catch it, we need to be able to clean it.” Commissioner Lisa Birkman responded, “I’ve never, ever seen a constable write a ticket in my neighborhood.” But Griffin quickly corrected that assumption. “We do write tickets in Precinct 1,” he told Birkman. “In fact, I think your husband was stopped, Lisa, as was Judge [John] Doerfler, by a deputy constable.” Birkman brushed off his response, noting that the traffic stop was “only a warning.”

Griffin continued, “I don’t come to your office and talk about the landfill … or the dog pound,” he said of the county’s current trouble spots. “I don’t tell the judge how to judge. You’ve gotta give us some trust. The voters did,” Griffin said. “Why are constables perceived as second-class?”

Nice shot Constable. From what Judge Gattis says and by the actions of the previous court there’s little understanding of what constables do and that Constables are elected by the people and are a mandated by the Texas Constitution. From what I understand in Harris County the Constables Office is the main “law enforcement” agency, the Sheriff’s department only runs the jail.

For all we know this could just be some internal WCGOP political or personality struggle that’s being played in our county government. Ignorance, incompetence and pettiness is no way to run a government. If the current Bush administration has taught us anything it’s that. It’s not clear yet if Constable Griffin will run again, or if he’ll have a primary challenger. That should not dissuade anyone from joining this race on the Democratic side.


More Problems At The WCRAS

Posted in Bad Government Republicans, Animal Shelter, Take Action, Had Enough Yet?, Williamson County at 12:33 pm by wcnews

From this article at KEYE-TV, Williamson Shelter Temporarily Closed, (link via Shelter Concerns), it’s safe to assume there are still major issues at the Williamson Count Regional Animal Shelter (WCRAS).

Since opening in March, the Williamson County Animal Shelter has been plagued by controversy over cruelty allegations and overpopulation — and claims of understaffing.

That understaffing could explain what happened on Sunday.

No one answered the door at the county-run shelter, where posted signs say an “unforeseen emergency” that forced the shelter to shut down.

A county spokeswoman says one of the front desk workers had to leave yesterday — when she suffered a minor injury on the job. And the shelter is just too shorthanded to handle any clients for the day.

The shelter is supposed to have a staff of 12. They’ve been operating with just eight. Still, the closing was disappointing for some.

There was staff in the shelter caring for the animals, they just didn’t have enough staff to allow the public in, the article goes on to state.

This will be on the Commissioners agenda tomorrow morning. Not only can a citizen come speak out about the landfill, they can also voice their concerns about the animal shelter as well.

New No-Bid Contract For Landfill Ignores Citizens Concerns

Posted in Take Action, Landfill, Had Enough Yet?, Commentary, Williamson County at 10:21 am by wcnews

The draft contract released last week by the county has now had time to be perused by the groups opposing, the now years long negotiations, of a new landfill contract. An analysis of the new draft contract and a list of 14 key problems with the new contract can be found here.

On Tuesday, July 31, 2007, Williamson County posted a draft Operating Contract with Waste Management for the Wilco landfill. In response to the recent pressure on the county in favor of a 30-day period for the public to review the contract, the county provided half a loaf, allowing about 13 days before the actual vote (on August 14) and about 6 days before the first opportunity for public input at the commissioners court podium. The contract can be downloaded from the main page at the county’s website: www.wilco.org

Unfortunately, the draft contract does not come close to addressing the many concerns that have been raised by Williamson County residents, and in some ways the draft contract is WORSE than the EXISTING contract.

The Texas Campaign for the Environment has a Take Action! page setup. The best action to take is to familiarize yourself with this issue using the links above and come to tomorrow’s Commissioners Court Meeting and voice you concerns. Here’s tomorrow’s agenda [.PDF], Item #52. Here’s the details about the meeting:

Concerned Williamson County residents should attend the August 7th meeting of the County Commissioners Court to show their opposition to the draft contract. The meeting starts at 9:30 am at 310 S.E. Inner Loop. You can make a comment or just come and show that you are opposed to this stinky deal.

Tessa Moll has an article up on this at the TDP, County sticks with Waste Management. While it goes through much of the same stuff already mentioned above, particularly about citizens concerns about the landfill being ignored, she does remind us of how this bad deal came about.

Despite the more than yearlong renegotiations, the county is still under the previous contract with Waste Management and could not simply break that agreement without facing litigation from the country’s largest waste disposal corporation, Ackley said.

“Everyone thinks we can just put this out for RFP [request for proposal] or request bids,” he said. “We can’t do that because there is a contract now, and if we try to do that, the county’s going to get sued.”

A lawsuit against the county could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue over the life of the landfill, according to Ackley.

The county is using as it’s excuse, for not opening the contract up to bidding, the horrible contract former Commissioner Frankie Limmer originally negotiated for the county. They purport they can’t open the contract for bids as long as it’s still under contract with WMI. Since neither party has violated the terms, all they can do is renegotiate, and take whatever concessions WMI is willing to give them. The Hutto Citizens Group has knocked down that claim [.PDF]. WMI has graciously allowed the county to renegotiate the contract, and thrown the county a bone or two, and now the citizens of Williamson County are expected to accept this as a much better and done deal.

It would seem the county would have used the threat of opening up the contract for bidding as a bargaining tool for much better contract consideration. As the people’s representatives they should have tried to present their constituents case and not been so adversarial with them. The county seems to be on much friendlier terms with WMI than with their own constituents. It almost seems as if the county is using WMI’s line of reasoning not to open the contract up for bidding, instead of challenging them. I wonder which lawyers are telling the county this, and if that may be something that contributed to Jana Duty filing her brief with the AG? Calling WMI’s bluff, opening this contract up for bidding, would be the right thing to do.

It appears that the Commissioners are afraid to make the corporation mad. Our elected officials would rather keep us in a bad deal for 40 years and please a corporation and instead disappoint and incense their constituents. We’ve got more elected officials in Williamson County than these. It’s always seemed a little curious that all through this process Sen. Steve Ogden, and State Representatives Mike Krusee and Dan Gattis, Jr, (County Judge Dan Gattis, Sr. son, if you didn’t already know), have been non-existent. Their absence makes it appear like they’ve ceded this issue to the local “Mayberry Machiavellis” here in Williamson County to take care of this issue and don’t want to sully their reputations with this issue.

No matter whether they believe there’s a legal issue with this contract or the myriad of reasons there could be for these elected officials for siding with a corporation over their constituents it’s hard to deny the fact that ALL the elected representatives in our county are Republicans. That they side with business and corporations over their constituents is is a well-known, well-won, and well-deserved stereotype of the Republican Party.


New & Improved Texas Democratic Party Website

Posted in Take Action, Democratic Events, Around The State at 12:08 pm by wcnews

Click here, www.txdemocrats.org, to check it out.

Great job!! New design looks great. Go and sign up if you haven’t already.


A Great Read About The Predicament We’re In

Posted in Take Action, Commentary, Around The Nation at 1:04 pm by wcnews

Glenn Greenwald, an excellent writer/blogger, uses JFK’s former speech writer Theodore Sorenson, and A 1957 JFK speech to show us what, ” A real leader, truly devoted to reversing the disasters of the Bush presidency”, should be telling us. Here’s the post, Recovering from the Bush legacy, from OpenLeft. In it he takes on former Kennedy speech writer Theodore Sorenson’s statement that we’re a “We remain essentially a nation under siege.”

The United States is not a “nation under siege.” That is a ludicrously melodramatic description of the terrorist threat and it is precisely the failure to challenge such fear-mongering sloganeering that has enabled so many of the destructive policies of the last six years. Any political figure who is authentically interested in the type of real debate which Sorensen touts will challenge, not bolster, this misleading premise. More importantly, a genuine debate regarding how to recover from the last six years (soon to be “last eight years”) will require a fundamental re-examination of America’s role in the world and, most of all, whether we want to continue to maintain imperial dominance. Contrary to conventional Beltway fears, this is plainly a debate which the American public is not only willing, but eager, to engage.

There’s a lot in that paragraph, it boggle the mind that Sorenson is playing in the neocon frame like that, and much more in the rest of the post. Nothing wrong with Sorenson who’s a great Democrat and was an excellent speech writer. But other than Ron Paul, no candidate of either party, is willing to mention the word Blowback. If we ever want to “fix” what’s wrong with the Middle East and many other foreign policy problems we are currently facing as a result of imperialism, we must be accountable to for our actions if we want to be able to hold others to account.

Freaks like this don’t’ help the discussion.

Happy Blogosphere Day!

Posted in Take Action, Democratic Events, Commentary at 9:28 am by wcnews

What’s that you say? What the heck is “Blogosphere Day”?

The tradition we now know as Blogosphere Day began in 2004 when, in a surprise statement, incumbent Rep. Jim Greenwood (PA-08) announced his retirement. Democratic challenger Ginny Schrader, with $7000 in the bank, came to the attention of the nationwide blogosphere via the
front page of DailyKos, and over $30,000 poured into her campaign that day. Just three weeks earlier, a brand new fundraising platform for Democrats — ActBlue — was launched, and quickly adopted by those raising who were raising funds for Ginny Schrader.

Much more on Blogosphere Day below the fold.

Read the rest of this entry »


Rick Noriega Announces Today

Posted in Take Action, Election 2008, 2008 Primary, Around The State at 10:22 am by wcnews

Today Rick Noriega will officially announce he’s exploring a run for the US Senate to defeat Sen. John Cornyn, aka Stop Cornyn. Rick Noriega is the best hope for the Democrats to defeat John Cornyn in 2008. But his vast experience and record of accomplishments, while impressive, can’t do it alone. We will need an army of volunteers across the state and in this day and age enough money to get the word out. So please if you can’t make it today please go to his website and register and there’s more below on how to donate to his campaign.

Lt Col. Rick Noriega is our candidate and we aren’t asking for big money; we are only asking for an expression of your support.

800 donors in 4 weeks. 200 donors a week. 29 a day. That’s our lofty goal. What we have — you have — is an opportunity to change the equation. And power a political revolution.

800 donors is a statement that we are tired of politics as usual in Texas.

You are invited to be one of the first 800 to change Texas forever. Donate any amount today.

Candidates should not be able to buy elections or allow special interests to buy the nomination $1,000 at a time. “800 donors” sends a message that we are ready to crash the gate and take back our party.

You can tell Texas, and the powers that be, that you are ready right now for a change by donating any amount. We are joining forces to say that, when it comes to people-powered politics, one dollar is as important as one thousand.

Donate today.

Texas progressive bloggers throughout the state are working together to support Rick Noriega, not by raising hundreds of thousands of dollars, but by declaring their support for a populist revolution.

Now all we need is you.

Change the equation with any donation.

We’re asking you to sign up with the team, not buy influence. Campaigns should be about people and ideas, not bank accounts and millionaires. With your donation in any amount we can not only stop Cornyn, but we will change Texas forever.

Donate today.


Let Us Begin - Follow Up

Posted in HD-52, Take Action, Election 2008, 2008 Primary, Williamson County, Had Enough Yet?, Uncategorized at 4:22 pm by wcnews

I would like to invite everyone to read the comments to the earlier post, Let Us Begin - The End Of Republican Dominance. The last comment in particular offers some great historical information on how the change took place in Williamson County; going from a Democratic to a Republican dominated county.

In an AAS article from December of 1994, “Election turns tide for Williamson County politics,” the transition didn’t happen overnight.

When Melvin Pfennig of Taylor was chairman of the Republican Party in Williamson County in 1978, he purchased ads in the local newspapers announcing a meeting of all conservatives in the county.

“I had seven people show up. We met in the library in Round Rock. We could’ve met in a phone booth. That was in January. We kept meeting, and by June we had enough to fill a whole courtroom for our first real county convention.

“I never thought I’d see an election like we had last month,” Pfennig said.

From a phone booth to dominating the county in 16 years. They did it mainly by outworking the Democrats, a demographic shift among the incoming population and a national tide. A scenario that mirrors our present situation.

Though the shift may not be as radical, due to the overall size of the county, there will be a leveling out over the coming years. Those moving to Williamson County are more likely to support Democratic candidates, and long-time independents are warming to the Democratic party as they tire of droning Republican failure.

Ideally, no one party will dominate county politics the way the Republicans have recently and Democrats had in the past. A system with two nearly equal opposing parties produces a government with more accountability, competence and responsiveness.

In answer to the comment:

Go from 90% Democrat to 90% Republican, the Republican party notices.

Whether the Democratic party would notice if we switched back, I’m not so sure.

You better believe they would. They took notice after we almost took out Rep. Mike Krusee. I guarantee both parties noticed that.

And that former DA that tried the “Orange Socks” case with Ed Walsh with now Congressman Carter presiding.


Coalition Emerges In Landfill Fight - A Better Wilco

Posted in Take Action, Landfill, Had Enough Yet?, Williamson County at 3:05 pm by wcnews

A Better Wilco is a coalition of groups that want to insure community involvement in the landfill expansion and contract renegotiation in Williamson County. Or, as Zac Trahan of the Texas Campaign for the Environment says:

“Since the county owns this landfill, all county residents and taxpayers have a stake in these discussions,” said Zac Trahan of coalition member Texas Campaign for the Environment. “Citizens in Williamson County should have a right to review any new contract for a minimum of 30 days, and they should have a voice in the decision-making process.”

Again the Williamson County Commissioners Court wants to keep secrets from the citizens. Here’s a list of the groups involved.

Organizations which have passed resolutions requesting public input include the Hutto Citizens Group, Hutto Independent School District, the Jonah Water SUD, the Hutto Chamber of Commerce, the Hutto Economic Development Corporation, and the Mount Hutto Aware Citizens.

The full press release can be read here (.pdf). Their recent mailing can be viewed here. Also, be sure and check out this page - New Coalition Emerging to Fight for Improved Landfill Contract, Expansion - at the Texas Campaign for the Environment. It’s has a bunch more information on this issue.

It’s important to remember that this is not just a NIMBY issue. Not only does the landfill have county wide repercussions for taxpayers but also because of its potential/probability as a regional facility - see CAPCOG - for 10 Central Texas counties.

Next Wednesday is the next meeting of the Hutto Citizens Group.

The next meeting of the Hutto (TEXAS) Citizens Group will be held on Wednesday, July 18, at Carmine’s Pizza in Hutto, beginnng at 6:30 p.m. The meeting is open to the public.

These are groups and an effort worth supporting. Attempting to bring sunlight to our county government and holding our elected officials to account is the American thing to do.

« Previous entries · Next entries »