The Silly Season Is Upon Us - The WCGOP Machine Makes It’s Choice

Posted in Precinct 1, Constables, 2008 Primary, Commentary, Williamson County at 1:57 pm by wcnews

Last week the WCGOP machine made it’s endorsement in the Precinct 1 Constable’s race. Making what the RRL called an “unusual” move, several GOP elected officials came out in favor of incumbent Gray Griffin’s challenger. Griffin essentially sealed this fate back in 2005 when he resisted attempts by DA John Bradley and Precinct 1 Commissioner Lisa Birkman working in cahoots, to wrest control of the Williamson County’s mental health duties from his control and give it over to the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office. (See EOW’s reporting on this issue here, here, and here). Not obeying the machine has it’s consequences.

Griffin has since filed a lawsuit against the county over the constitutionality of having his budget cut by the Commissioner’s Court. Despite being ruled against he is continuing to press his case, which only goes to irk the WCGOP machine even more.

The silliest part of the RRL article is when Bradley has to answer for his disparaging remarks made not only against conastables, but deputy constables. This is especially funny considering the fact that he is now backing a reserve deputy constable for promotion to constable, (how much worse a reserve deputy constable is than a deputy constable, in Bradley’s eyes, we can only wonder). It would $eem that Bradley’$ had a change of heart regarding the need for con$table$.

Some have questioned whether constable offices are still even necessary in Texas.

Griffin sent the Leader a question Bradley posted in 2004 on the Texas District and County Attorneys Association’s Web site.

On Feb. 4, 2004 Bradley wrote: “Is anyone else out there in favor of abolishing the office of constable?”

Griffin argues Bradley should not be making an endorsement for an office he doesn’t believe in.

Bradley is not alone in his opinions, though.

Bell County Attorney Rick Miller responded to Bradley’s posting, stating: “I do agree that the office of constable is an outmoded one. The commissioners could save additional staffing for the sheriff for process serving and attending the J.P. courts …. ”

Since then Texas voters have amended the state’s Constitution, allowing commissioners courts to do away with constable offices.

Griffin pointed out Chody is a reserve deputy constable, noting in 2004 Bradley posted: “The only thing worse [than a constable] …. A reserve deputy constable.”

Bradley told the Leader this week he should not have made that generalization four years ago.

The RRL didn’t clarify that while “some may question” if constables are still necessary, and the constables office can be abolished by a Commissioners Court, the office cannot just be eliminated at the whim of the Court, and the wish of the DA. The office of constable is a constitutionally mandated office, that has historic significance in Western democracies. For there even to be a question of eliminating a constable, the office has to have been empty for 7 years. Then a constitutional amendment must be passed, and ratified by county voters, to do aways with the constable. So there’s little chance of that happening any time soon.

Texas Blog Round Up (February 11, 2008)

Posted in Commentary, Around The State at 12:48 pm by wcnews

It’s Monday, and that means it is time once again for the Texas Progressive Alliance Weekly Blog Round-Up. This week’s round-up, compiled by TXsharon from Bluedaze.

Gary at Easter Lemming Liberal News
urges Texans to NOT give to veterans by mail. At least not without some investigation. Read about the fake veteran’s charities scam supported by Republicans in Cheating Charitable Givers and Veterans.Mayor McSleaze at McBlogger takes some time out of his busy schedule to ask a few important questions of Michael Moore and our friends at MoveOn.Org.

What is Congress to do?! The Texas Cloverleaf looks at how the Bush administration continues to ignore the US House and hurt Texas, in it’s blatant disregard of the Congressional order to end the DOT’s plan for Mexican trucks in America.

Plastic bags are now extinct in Ireland. TXsharon at Bluedaze wants to know why the U.S. can’t do the same.

How much was the Katy Freeway expansion in Houston supposed to cost? Off the Kuff digs through some story archives to show that what TxDOT is saying now about initial cost estimates is not what it was saying then.

Open Source Dem at Brains and Eggs comments on the possibility of brokered conventions in both Austin and Denver this summer, and how the March 4 primary in Texas will clarify — or muddy — the outlook.

CouldBeTrue at South Texas Chisme cautions reasonable people to be wary about arguing over that d*mn fence! Republicans are building a monument to racism and fear not trying to solve any problems with a coherent policy.

Hal has a a couple of postings this week at Half Empty, this one is the main event, a new theory on whether there is a new canary about to sing to the Feds about Tom DeLay’s past indiscretions, and this one is about some motivation for that.

WCNews at Eye On Williamson has this wrap up from last week’s hearings on TxDOT at the capitol, Without Williamson, TxDOT Becomes Scapegoat.

Phillip Martin at Burnt Orange Report has done an exhaustively comprehensive analysis of how Texas hybrid primary/caucus system works, as well as looked at some of the politics of each of Texas’ 31 Senate Districts that will award delegates on March 4. Read the two-part series here: Part 1 (caucus explanation) and Part 2 (delegate analysis).

BossKitty at BlueBloggin looks into Customs: “Hand Over That Cell Phone, iPod & Laptop” and just how intrusive the government has become putting travelers and their company’s private information at risk.

As we get ever nearer to the most important Texas primary in recent memory, The Texas Blue thinks potential prognosticators should keep five things in mind when it comes to making predictions.

In addition to a ton of Texas presidential race coverage, Vince at Capitol Annex reveals that State Rep. Phil King (R-Weatherford) has taken an illegal contribution from an energy lobbyist.

Fleshing Out The Creek Bend Extension

Posted in Round Rock, Precinct 1, Commissioners Court, Election 2008, Road Issues, 2008 Primary, Williamson County at 12:35 pm by wcnews

After posting last week on the candidate forum with the Commissioner candidates in Precinct 1, EOW received this email:

What the News 8 report apparently failed to mention is that both other candidates in the Pct 1 commissioners pointed out during the forum on Tuesday night that Commissioner [Lisa] Birkman voted for an interlocal agreement between Williamson County and Round Rock to participate in the Creek Bend extension, and that the county gave Round Rock $3 million for the project. That county resolution was passed in November of 2007, and Mike Grimes had a copy of it at the forum. Birkman continued to insist that she didn’t vote for the extension and that no one told her not to vote for the interlocal agreement.

In effect the comment above is correct, but there is some “wiggle-room” for Birkman, but local residents don’t appear to be buying it. The Creek Bend Extension, referred to above, is actually two separate projects, although they are inseparably linked:

  • Improvements to Wyoming Spirngs Dr., from RR 620 to Creek Bend.
  • Extending Creek Bend Blvd. from Creek Bend Circle to Wyoming Srpings Dr.

These two taken together will provide a seamless path between Sam Bass road to the north and RR 620 to the south. When viewing the project map it’s pretty clear that there would be no reason to improve Wyoming Springs if the increased traffic, that will ultimately come with the Creek Bend extension, does not occur. Here’s some background from a KVUE report back in October 2007:

The project has two parts to it. Both have been on the books since the mid-1980s, but some residents are just now finding out about it. It will bring a lot of change to the Fern Bluff area. That’s why a group of residents wants city leaders to put the breaks on the project.

Most of the traffic rolling up and down Wyoming Springs and Brightwater Drive is limited to those who live in the area. Gina Warrington wants to keep it that way.

“We feel very run over,” said Warrington.

Warrington is part of a group worried this area will become a congested western highway bypass for the city of Round Rock.

“We are opposing it because it is a huge public safety issue for us,” she said.

Right now Creek Bend Blvd. is a dead end road. But, in less than two years, the barriers will be gone.

The construction project fills in a missing part to what will be a major transportation artery. It will link Old Settlers Blvd. and Sam Bass Rd. to RR 620. Along with a lot of new pavement, a new bridge over Brushy Creek will be built. Wyoming Springs will be wider — from two to four lanes.

That increased traffic is what has gotten local residents incensed about this project. Especially since an elementary school, Fern Bluff, is on Wyoming Springs Dr. and is causing many parents to question this project.

The vote in question occurred at the October 16, 2007 Williamson County Commissioners Court meeting. The WCCC voted unanimously vote for an interlocal agreement with the the City of Round Rock for the Wyoming Springs Dr. improvements, and according to the minutes Birkman made the motion, (see WCCC minutes 10/16/07, pg. 11, [.PDF]). Then on November 8, 2007 the Round Rock City Council voted to accept the interlocal agreement. In the minutes it was stated that the Wyoming Springs Dr. improvements are “In conjunction with the City’s project to extend Creek Bend Boulevard..”, (see RRCC minutes 11/08/07, pg. 14, [.PDF]).

Although these are two separate projects, for all intents and purposes, they are, as anyone can see above, one project. And one does not make sense without the other. Those with intimate knowledge of the project(s) tell EOW that there is no question that Birkman’s vote for the Wyoming Springs expansion, and the $3 million from the county, is the same as voting for the Creek Bend extension. Residents in the area certainly see it that way. But Birkman’s statement that she hasn’t “voted for the extension” is technically true. She’s only voted for the Wyoming Springs improvements. Even though it’s clear that one without the other makes little sense. Birkman’s concerns these days appear to be more about getting roads built than about how the roads that are built will effect the local communities where they will be built.

The email above points out the fact that News 8 did not report on this issue. That’s true, and it should have been. But in EOW’s opinion, News 8 deserves much credit for showing up and reporting on this forum, which is more than can be said for any other local media.


Thoughts On 30 Day Out Filings In HD-52

Posted in HD-52, Election 2008, 2008 Primary, Williamson County at 2:09 pm by wcnews

Bryan Daniel again raised the most and has the most cash on hand (COH). He’s on the BOD of the Agricultural Workers Mutual Auto Insurance Company, with a few of his contributors, as well as, Williamson County Judge Dan Gattis, Sr. Would seem to be a candidate that would work well for with Speaker Craddick. Most of his contributors are from West Texas and interested in, but not limited to, cattle, water rights/water (some say the next big commodity), and OIL. Which are all issues that are near and dear to Speaker Craddick. Only one thing that was kinda toll related and that was this hilarious toll flop tied to contributor Guillermo”Memo” Benavides. More than likely will follow the Craddick, Perry, Texas GOP push for toll roads.

Dee Hobbs again came in second in fundraising and COH. Appears to be getting most of his donations from every trial lawyer, some are even personal injury lawyers, he can chase down. Which is hilarious since lawyers, trial lawyers in particular, are anathema to Republicans. At least when they’re not in trouble with the law.

John Gordon, the grassroots old timer of the WCGOP, his filing consisted entirely of personal loans.

Vivian Sullivan, the RRISD trustee, had $650 in contributions.

Next report is 4 days out. Most think this will come down to a run off. Should be fun to see which two make it.

Unconstitutional Culture

Posted in Criminal Justice, Commentary, Williamson County at 1:33 pm by wcnews

The KXAN report last night, “Tough on Crime”, was nothing new. All the report did was recycle the “hangin’ jurdge” image of Williamson County. It did little, if anything, to shine a light on what the real problems are with the criminal justice system in Williamson County. The problems are not an issue of being tough on crime, or doling out harsh sentences for the worst of criminals. It’s about having a fair, consistent, and constitutional criminal justice system, and that is what, too many times, is lacking in Williamson County. Not to mention the consequences of that on real people’s lives. There was nothing about the Texas Fair Defense Project (TFDP) lawsuit that has been brought against Williamson County for denying constitutional rights to indigent misdemeanants. It would have been good to hear DA John Bradley’s comments on that. But the report ended with what may be the most worthwhile part of the whole undertaking.

Read the rest of this entry


What Is Williamson County Known For?

Posted in Criminal Justice, Williamson County at 2:14 pm by wcnews

Watch KXAN tonight to find out, Williamson County: Tough On Crime:

Ask anyone who has lived in Central Texas for a good long time: “What is Williamson County known for?”

Don’t be surprised if the answer comes back: “Tough on crime.”

KXAN Austin News’ Jim Swift will present a special report at 6 p.m. Thursday on the county’s reputation and the people behind it.

The current Williamson County district attorney, John Bradley, is the latest in a long line of county officials who push for heavy prison terms for the county’s most serious offenders.

“There are some knuckleheads out there who don’t get it and who are dangerous and need to be kept away from society as long as possible,” Bradley said. “And we focus upon those, and for about 50 people a year, they get sentences of 20 years or more.”

But there are those who say Williamson County’s approach to criminal justice often leaves out the “justice” part.

“The measure of a good district attorney is not how tough he is, but how fair he is,” said Austin lawyer Keith Hampton.

Hopefully this report won’t be so much about making sure “knuckleheads”, as our esteemed DA put it, serve long prison sentences. But about the injustices that are happening.

News 8 Reports On Precinct 1 Commissioners Forum

Posted in Commissioners Court, Precinct 1, Election 2008, 2008 Primary, Commentary, Williamson County at 11:46 am by wcnews

Commissioner’s race heats up in Williamson County:

About 150 people gathered at the Fern Bluff Community Center to hear Republican challenger Steve Laukhuf, Democratic challenger Mike Grimes and current Republican commissioner Lisa Birkman address the issue that hits home for them.


The members of this community are concerned about the Creek Bend extension project that’s going to plow right through their neighborhood.

“The current commissioner’s court, we feel like they have not represented us in the Creek Bend issue, resident Jimi Miller said. “We feel like they gave away the farm for those of us that don’t live in city limits.”


“So this is a very, very important race to them,” resident Gina Warrington said.

It’s an important race to a lot of people who live in Precinct 1. And two hours of questions lead to some surprising answers.

“The campaign funding situation surprised me. I think it’s interesting that some of the candidates are being backed by the very people that are building the road we don’t want,” Warrington said. “I don’t think I like that idea. In fact, I hate it.”

“I did not like hearing that Mrs. Birkman got so much of her financing from people who directly benefit from doing business with the county,” Oak Brook resident Chris Tiemann said.


Grimes said he refuses to accept more than $250 in campaign contributions from any one person or group. He said doing otherwise compromises the position.

To see who gave to Birkman go here. This is not surprising to anyone who’s been paying attention to the way things work in Williamson County. No matter who wins to uphold the status quo on the GOP side, the only candidate that can bring accountability back to the court, and provide what’s needed for democracy to flourish, a check on one-party government, is Democratic candidate Mike Grimes.

Sen. Carona Comes Out For Raising The Gas Tax

Posted in Good Stuff, Privatization, Road Issues, Commentary, Around The State at 10:15 am by wcnews

It’s been a long time coming, too long, but a Republican is finally on the record for doing the right thing when it comes to transportation in Texas.

Texas needs to put the brakes on toll roads in Dallas-Fort Worth, he said. “There are 14 toll projects under consideration in this area, versus only six in Houston,” he said. “Don’t overload us. We just want balance.”

So how should roads be paid for? In 2009, Carona will propose raising the state gasoline tax by 10 cents a gallon to 30 cents, which would generate an additional $1 billion a year.

This is a great first step and Sen. Carona needs to be applauded and encouraged for doing this. If he were to ask, and it’s doubtful he will, there are a few things EOW would mentions. First we don’t want balance between non-tolled roads and tolled roads. We want the large majority of roads not to be tolled, we want tolls used sparingly and only when feasible, and with the people’s approval. Second he didn’t point out how much cheaper it is to pay for roads with a broad-based gas tax and that 25% of the gas tax money goes to funding public education, an added bonus. And, of course, it needs to be indexed. While Carona’s not known for sticking to his words when it comes to transportation in the past, EOW’s hopeful that he’s finally gotten the message this time.

With Williamson no longer leading TxDOT, Rep. Mike Krusee no longer running the Transportation Committee in the House, and with more and better Democrats in the House and Senate next session, Carona may finally get the help he needs to follow through and slow down the rush to toll roads. Hopefully now that Carona has come out for raising the gas tax, he will start selling it by showing what a better alternative it is to tolls.

And speaking of Krusee…

Carona said he has been told that Gov. Rick Perry will appoint former Chief of Staff Deirdre Delisi to the Texas Transportation Commission. The governor’s office declined to comment.

Carona said it would be a bad move.

“We don’t need political hacks in that position,” he said. “We need people who understand the business. We need people who understand transportation. We don’t need someone who’s unpopular with the Legislature.”

Also under consideration are Rep. Mike Krusee, R-Round Rock, who isn’t seeking re-election, and former Fort Worth Councilman Bill Meadows, now a North Texas Tollway Authority member.

Carona isn’t high on Krusee, a Perry insider. But he likes Meadows.

Don’t worry Senator, few are “..high on Krusee..”. And if you don’t want the a political hack of the governor’s running TxDOT you’d better be ready to reject one or two for confirmation. Until you, and the Senate, stand up to him he’s not going to respect your opinion when it comes to who serves at this pleasure.


Wrap-Up From Yesterday - Without Williamson, TxDOT Becomes Scapegoat

Posted in SD 5, Bad Government Republicans, Privatization, Road Issues, Commentary, Around The State at 11:23 am by wcnews

TxDOT’s first public performance without Ric Williamson didn’t go so well. Without the former chair’s ability to keep legislators in check, it was open season on those left behind to clean up his mess(es). For Texas lawmakers, and GOP lawmakers in particular, to act so surprised at TxDOT’s gamesmanship and “incompetence”, seemed hypocritical. Most lawmakers have been willing participants, until recently, in defunding our transportation system in order to privatize it. As mentioned yesterday, and many times throughout the years here at EOW, it’s long been the GOP/Perry-led TxDOT’s plan to defund Texas’ highway system to force corporate toll roads on Texans as the only way to build highways in the future.

That TxDOT is now claiming incompetence, and that Senators like Steve Ogden, John Carona, and Kirk Watson are acting outraged, is shameful. Ogden and Carona, especially, have been in the legislature, and in powerful positions, long enough to have known what’s going on. Sen. Carona even figured it out before this past session only to be cowed by the smooth talking Williamson in the end.

But it’s the neglect of our transportation infrastructure and the unwillingness to do what was needed long ago, raise the statewide gas tax, that’s gotten us into this mess. Elected officials, like Steve Odgen, instead of making sure our transportation infrastructure was adequately funded all these years, was instead a willing participant in defunding it. As long as the no-tax mantra kept getting more of his GOP buddies elected and reelected, he didn’t much mind that our infrastructure was withering and falling behind.

As long as voters didn’t see to mind building toll roads he was happy to go along. But now that the public has noticed what a bad deal toll roads are, and his buddies are starting to pay for it, he’s found Jesus on transportation funding. (This is not to single out Sen. Ogden in particular. Because excepting a few, pretty much any powerful GOP senator, representative, and statewide officeholder name could be substituted for him. And several Democrats as well. And many are changing their tune on this issue.)

What every traditional media outlet is reporting is that TxDOT double-counted $1.1 billion, and because of that will willingly submit itself to an outside audit.

The Texas Department of Transportation made a billion-dollar error, officials of the agency admitted Tuesday under stern questioning from legislators, a mistake they said contributed significantly to TxDOT’s sudden cash crunch.

TxDOT officials say agency planners inadvertently counted $1.1 billion of revenue twice, a mistake that caused them to commit to more road projects than the agency could handle.


State Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, pushed for a third party to look at TxDOT’s books.

“It’s important to me that we get the state auditor’s office in there as quickly as possible,” said Williams, who carried legislation last year that substantially curtailed TxDOT’s authority to agree to long-term leases with private companies to build and run tollways.

TxDOT’s executive director, Amadeo Saenz, said he would welcome an audit.

The question is, who, if anyone, will be held responsible for this? Apparently accounting for transportation money is very complicated.

How state and federal money goes into and out of TxDOT has long been a puzzle, one made only more complex by the addition of toll road financing and a growing practice of delegating road building to local agencies. Lawmakers, gazing at balance sheets gray with numbers and listening to Bass’ clarifications of them, said the opaque nature of how TxDOT presents its finances makes it hard to trust the numbers.

“This is screwed up,” said state Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, chairman of the Finance Committee, brandishing a revenue-and-expense table. “This is really bad. I heard your explanation. But based on the data, it doesn’t match.”

It’s important that the current state of our transportation system in Texas not be pushed of on TxDOT’s incompetence only. Allowing TXDOT incompetence to be the scapegoat solves nothing and allows blame to be placed where it doens’t belong. Our current dilemma is not because of a one-time $1.1 billion dollar accounting error. It’s years of negligence that’s caused it. Elected officials in Texas are as much, if not more to blame for underfunding TxDOT for many years. The gas tax hasn’t been raised since 1992, the last time Texas has a Democratic governor. Since then the Texas GOP’s no-tax mantras has held the political sway in Texas. They’ve been telling us for years about their fiscal conservative ways, that government is bad, and how the free market will save us, and it hasn’t come to pass. The choice is clear, raise and index the gas tax, or it’s toll roads everywhere. If Texans keep electing Republicans it’ll be toll roads everywhere.

Texas Matters

Posted in Election 2008, 2008 Primary, Commentary, Around The State, Williamson County at 10:17 am by wcnews

That’s what I take away from yesterday’s results. Texans votes will finally matter in a presidential primary. Like will be written many times, by many Texas bloggers, this is the first time in my lifetime that my primary vote, in the presidential race, will actually count. We will be getting the Iowa/New Hampshire treatment for the next 27 days. I’m sure all the media corporations are salivating over the money that will be spent on advertising in Texas between now and then.

As Vince points out there have already been some Texas politicos make endorsements and, of course 39% has already had to change his.

It’s exciting to have a competitive primary coming to Texas and hopefully we’ll see record turnout because of this. Some interesting thoughts from this DKos diary, I’m tired of waiting. It’s TEXAS TIME. I was for Edwards but at this point can be pegged as a leans (heavily) for Obama. Who are you for, let us know in the comments! Get out and vote, your vote matters.

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