The Latest On The WCRAS

Posted in Commissioners Court, Bad Government Republicans, Animal Shelter, Williamson County at 10:54 pm by wcnews

The county will pay a former shelter employee almost $30,000 even though the settlement “does not indicate wrongdoing on the part of the county”. From this we can assume that the county just pays huge sums to former employees that hire a lawyer after leaving. Via AAS,

A former Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter employee who was fired shortly after raising concerns about its conditions will receive $20,625 in a settlement with the county.

Former veterinary technician and staff supervisor Kathy Abdella was fired July 16, less than a week after she called 911 and spoke to the American-Statesman about concerns at the shelter, including the potential spread of disease.

She filed a grievance with the county, saying her termination violated the Texas Whistleblower Act and her rights of free speech.

The $27,500 settlement includes $6,875 for legal fees.

News 8 has a story on last night’s animal shelter board meeting and hoped for improvements. Commissioner Covey certainly isn’t treating her constituents like an elected official that wants to be reelected.

Everyone involved said they would just like to see improvements.

“It’s not about pointing fingers, it’s not about blame. What it’s really about it changing things for the positive for the animals,” Panipinto said.

Former volunteer Panipinto wants to make sure the board is following the law.

“The advisory committee required by the state has not been formed yet. Ms. Covey suggested in a flippant manner perhaps they could meet three weekends in a row and that would suffice,” she said.

But with a new shelter director and more funding in the works, even the toughest critics admit, things seem to be improving.

Shelter Concerns has more on the meeting and an old Republican friend is being brought on board with the WCRAS to make it more efficient. None other than former 2008 Precinct 4 commissioner candidate Gary Coe.

[Precinct 4 Commissioner Valerie] Covey also announced that the cities are aware of the increased budget costs for the shelter for the 2007-08 budget. Williamson County would like to hire Gary Coe, a Business Consultant, to help run the shelter. Leander representatives present at the board meeting were not aware of this. Covey stated that Coe would “get things moving, and would look to make processes efficient. He is able to get a handle on operations out there.” Clarke noted he would “improve efficiency which would impact staffing.” No fee was discussed for his services. The County will vote on at tomorrow’s meeting.

I wonder if the new director is aware of this? I thought that’s the reason they hired a new director. Why does the county need a consultant to look over the new director’s shoulder? Looks like an attempt to get a fellow Republican out there to oversee the new director. Who would be Mr. Coe’s boss and what accountability is there on him? Many, many questions arise with Mr. Coe in the picture. No to mention for all of Covey’s skittishness to spend money she sure doesn’t mind throwing some cash Mr. Coe’s way.

We’re lead to believe that things are looking up at the shelter but only time will tell. Commissioner Covey needs to remember that being cheap and not giving the shelter adequate resources, not just money but workers too, is what go them into this mess in the first place.

County Hires New Director For Animal Shelter

Posted in Animal Shelter, Williamson County at 12:37 am by wcnews

As is the MO of the county government they won’t tell us, yet, who the new director is. Shelter Concerns speculates as to who it might be. AAS has this story, mostly on the new kennel supervisor, Williamson hires new leaders for struggling facility.

Williamson County officials have hired a new director and a new supervisor to run the struggling regional animal shelter, County Judge Dan A. Gattis said Monday.

Ethel Spence, previously an animal control supervisor for the City of Giddings, will oversee kennel workers and starts work Friday. County officials would not release the name or background of the new director Monday.

“Both ladies have a lot of experience in animal shelters,” Gattis said. “I think they’re going to make a good team.”

Officials hope the change in leadership will be a turning point for the 5-month-old shelter, which has faced high turnover, animal health concerns and a criminal investigation.

They hired a very competent director to begin with. Let’s hope this time they will let the professionals make the decisions, and allow them the resources they need to run the shelter as it needs to be run. .


Good Thing The Small Government Republicans Are In Charge Of Williamson County

Posted in Commissioners Court, Bad Government Republicans, The Budget, Had Enough Yet?, Williamson County at 11:06 pm by wcnews

How can Williamson County’s Property tax bills [be] expected to rise with Republicans in charge?

The owner of the average-value home in Williamson County probably would pay about $64 more in property taxes for 2007-08, based on the proposed tax rate for next year and a significant rise in property values.

Aren’t Republicans supposed to be the party of less government and lower taxes? Didn’t see this coming. Generally speaking, like with Bush, when taxes or deficits go up Republicans don’t pay a price at the voting booth. Because of their professed, although false, allegiance to “fiscal conservatism” their supporters must believe - just guessing since I’m not one - that they will only raise taxes because they have to be raised. This allows Republicans to campaign against taxes but are then able to raise them without retribution. Just more of the games Republicans play on their base.

The moral of the story is that Republicans can raise taxes and get away with it and the Democrats can’t. Ron Morrison doesn’t care because he can vote against the tax increase and get political cover. The Republicans will still get their tax increase and Ron Morrison gets political cover.

Precinct 4 Commissioner Ron Morrison said he would vote against a tax rate increase.

‘I feel like we’re all trying to be just as lean and mean as we can,’ he said. ‘Nobody wants a tax rate increase, and I think you’re going to see us try to at least keep it stable.’

He must be trying to build up chits with his constituents. Because Morrison’s got a bigger problem than tax increases. He’s got a disaster of a landfill contract to deal with in his backyard. See the latest newsletter from the Hutto Citizens Group [.PDF].

The four members of commissioners court other than Pct. 4 Commissioner Ron Morison have said that they are looking to Morrison to lead on this issue, and that they will follow his lead. We’re confident that Morrison will see what a bad deal the draft contract really is and vote the will of his constituents in Precinct 4, and when he does, the other members of commissioners court already have committed that they will follow.

We’ll see. It’s pretty shaky ground to ask a Republican to choose their constituents over a corporation. If Mr. Morrison and his cohorts on the court would work out a better landfill deal they might not need to raise taxes to pay for their government expansion. If this deal goes through in his precinct the Democrats will win Precinct 4 in 2010 for sure, it’s already trending that Democratic. The Republican Party has grown government more than any other party over the last 30 years. Next time a Republican says they stand for smaller government and lower taxes do what I do, laugh and laugh and laugh.

You can read the proposed budget here.

Rick Noriega’s Latest YouTube Video

Posted in US Senate Race, Take Action, Election 2008, 2008 Primary at 4:13 pm by wcnews

Texans deserve better than John Cornyn. Democrat Rick Noriega’s latest YouTube Video shows what an excellent alternative to Cornyn we have.

I you like what you see drop him a few bucks.

A Corporate Toll Road Is A Corporate Toll Road

Posted in Bad Government Republicans, Privatization, Road Issues, Around The State at 3:28 pm by wcnews

No matter what Ric Williamson and the corporations that toll want to call it - this time it’s availability payments - it’s still selling out our infrastructure to a private corporation so that they can profit off of the neglect of the last 35 years. Ben Wear at the AAS tells us all about it, ‘Availability payments’ are TxDOT’s newest idea for bringing the private sector into the toll road game.

Availability payments — you gotta love the perfect bureaucratic inscrutability of that name — are an attempt to split the difference between government-run tollways and the privately financed and operated toll roads that had the public and Legislature steamed up earlier this year. In theory, it would be a best-of-both-worlds thing, tapping the private investment sector’s purportedly bounteous piggy bank while leaving full ownership and operation of tollways in public hands.

In theory, this would stand in contrast to concessions. With those, a private entity (like Cintra-Zachry, which is building the next 40 miles of the Texas 130 tollway) gets a long-term lease from the government to finance, build and operate a tollway, including the right to set the tolls (within contractual limitations). Concessions can be accompanied by upfront payments to the government, money that can be used for other transportation projects.

The Legislature said it didn’t like concessions and put a two-year moratorium on them, although the promise of those upfront payments and quickly getting critically needed roads built moved lawmakers to allow about a dozen exceptions across the state.

How would availability payments work? The private entity (probably some sort of consortium) would use its own money to design, build and maybe even maintain the road. In return, its contract with the state or a local toll authority might guarantee minimum and maximum payments.

The size of those periodic payments would be based on how well the toll road performs, fluctuating based on the money “available.” Thus, the name.

They can play semantic games all they want but it’s still a duck.

Texas Blog Round Up (August 13, 2007)

Posted in Commentary, Around The State at 1:07 pm by wcnews

It’s Monday, and that means it is time for this weeks Texas Progressive Alliance’s statewide round up. Matt Glazer over at Burnt Orange Report is giving Vince a break this week and has the best of the left from over a dozen progressive blogs.

Charles Kuffner at Off the Kuff is suffering from a little Kinky fatigue.

Gary at Easter Lemming Liberal News has a local digest this time: In the event of a WMD attack our librarians will be sent in.

McBlogger special correspondent and legal counsel, Harry Balczak, enjoys a trip to the AFL-CIO Democratic Presidential debate…and interviews the candidates!

North Texas Liberal reports on the rumor that Tarrant County Democratic Party Chairman Art Brender and Ft. Worth City Council Member Wendy Davis are going to square off for a chance to face unpopular Sen. Kim Brimer, R-District 10, in 2008.

Marc also shows us the Democrats have set their sights on SDD-10 and Tarrant County Democrats have reason to be optimistic.

Matt Glazer at Burnt Orange Report is working for change. Bloggers and activists across the state have launch TexBlog PAC to usher in a new majority—a Democratic Majority.

What do Republicans do when whistleblowers reveal their evil secrets? South Texas Chisme let’s us know they go after the whistleblowers, of course. Fixing the problem? Not an option. TYC goes after employees who report to the Texas legislature or to newspapers.

Stace Medellin from DosCentavos is added to the Texas Kaos family. But never fear, DosCentavos will still be around for your reading pleasure! Stace begins his association with TK on Monday, August 13!

Speaking of TexasKaos, this week the Presidential candidates sat down and answered questions from the LGBT community on Logo. Texas Kaos’contributor Refinish69 writes just how far the LGBT rights fight has come in his post, GLBT History was Made Tonight & My Part in That History.

Stop Cornyn highlights John Cornyn’s low lights. Sad thing is just how many bad votes he has made just this past week.

“Republicans For Rick Noriega?” Half Empty explores the origins of this movement.

Musings reports on Rick Noriega’s visit to The Lake – firedoglake, that is!

WCNews at Eye on Williamson asks What Did Senator Carona Expect? After caving to Ric Williamson during the legislative session Sen. John Carona can’t believe Williamson isn’t showing courtesy to him.

Vince at Capitol Annex brings us news about protesters-who happened to have been paid operatives hired through a temporary agency—who tried to make noise at a fundraiser for Texas Supreme Court candidate Susan Criss.

Who’s more corrupt, Republicans or Democrats? Find out at Bluedaze, with TXsharon’s Corruption in Government: Comprehensive List. Hint: Republicans = 204 – Democrats = 3.

John Coby at Bay Area Houston simply calls the Republican Texas Ethics Commissioners incompetent after the disclosures of millions in undisclosed campaign expenditures.

PDiddie at Brains and Eggs wrote the tongue-in-cheek advance of the Democratic presidential front-runner’s visit to the Bayou City with The Nutcracker comes to H-Town.

Steve at WhosPlayin? takes Congressman Michael Burgess (R - Lewisville) to task for fear-mongering about the trace amounts of mercury in energy-saving compact fluorescent bulbs.

More On The Corporatization Of Your Government

Posted in Cronyism, Around The State at 12:39 am by wcnews

DMN has the story on Gov. Perry’s TexasOne “economic development initiative” that some call a “glorified slush fund”, With private funds, governor entertains, entices companies to Texas.

Bringing big business to Texas means spending big bucks.

Skybox seats at the Super Bowl and the NBA All-Star Game. First-class flights and hotel suites at the Ritz Carlton and the Four Seasons. And $15,000 worth of personalized cowboy boots and belt buckles, according to a Dallas Morning News analysis of top-dollar spending habits at TexasOne, Gov. Rick Perry’s nonprofit economic development initiative.

Critics call the organization a glorified slush fund that wines and dines wealthy executives to persuade them to bring companies and jobs to Texas. And while it’s funded by private donations and millions in corporate membership fees, some ethics watchdogs fear TexasOne allows corporations, which can’t legally donate campaign funds, to buy face time at such events with the governor, his aides and others who make the state’s economic development decisions, while getting a hearty tax write-off.

“What they’re getting is extraordinary access to the governor by donating to a nonprofit,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of the Texas office of Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group. “This is one of the new loopholes emerging as a way corporations can wield influence.”

State officials argue it’s par for the course when you’re marketing the state’s business climate to some of the nation’s biggest or most promising companies. Clinching a deal often means courting executives with expensive attractions and luxury accommodations, they say, and giving them a chance to talk shop with Texas’ best salesman – the governor.

TexasOne also gave our news Secretary of State, Phil Wilson an $80,000 check on the way out the door, Board voted to reward manager as he became secretary of state.

On the same June day Gov. Rick Perry named him Texas secretary of state, Phil Wilson received an $80,000 check from TexasOne – the nonprofit economic development organization that he managed as the governor’s deputy chief of staff.

That’s in addition to the tens of thousands of dollars Mr. Wilson has accepted in monthly salary supplements from the group, Mr. Perry’s key business recruitment initiative, since 2004.

That’s a big chunk of corporate money he’s been making over the years.


Children’s Health Care Will Cause Problems For Cornyn

Posted in US Senate Race, Election 2008, Health Care, Had Enough Yet? at 11:58 pm by wcnews

Children’s health care could be an issue that the GOP hangs themselves with. As this article by Clay Robison shows, CHIP could affect well-being of Cornyn’s re-election campaign, that even Bush back in the days when he was still trying to run as a “uniter”, and fooled many people into believing he was a compassionate conservative, knew that he couldn’t mess with children’s health care if he wanted to be president. It’s a simple issue that everyone except the far-right wing-nuts can agree, we should make sure ALL children have health care.

In the words of Democratic political consultant Kelly Fero, the 1.4 million Texas children without health insurance are “the gift that keeps on giving.”

He wasn’t talking, of course, about the personal suffering that many of the kids endure or the huge economic and social losses they pose, both now and for the future.

He was talking about the politics of health care, and how Texas Democrats have increasingly been putting Texas Republicans on the defensive since state GOP leaders orchestrated deep cuts in the Children’s Health Insurance Program to avoid raising state taxes four years ago.

The cuts were believed to be a factor in the unseating of several incumbent legislators — mostly Republicans but also a couple of conservative Democrats — during the 2004 and 2006 elections.

The bleeding was enough to prompt Speaker Tom Craddick and other Republican lawmakers to support legislation last spring restoring some of the reductions in the CHIP program, which insures children of working parents who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but can’t afford to buy their own health coverage.

But, with Texas’ rate of uninsured children still the highest in the country, Democrats promise to hammer away at more Republican state legislators next year. They also will use the health care issue — most likely in a double-barreled assault — to try to unseat U.S. Sen. John Cornyn.

It’s the right thing to do, even Kay Bailey is for it. But now that Bush will never stand for reelection again, he’s changed his tune, and his rubber stamp John Cornyn is right by his side. Whether is brings about his demise, we’ll just have to wait and see, but Cornyn has definitely ceded a lot of ground for his vote against insuring more children.


Texas Democrats Challenging Electronic Voting System In Federal Court

Posted in Elections, Around The State at 12:15 am by wcnews

Thank you chairman Richie and the TDP for pursuing this.

From QR:

Democrats assert that the software used with the eSlate voting machine manufactured by Hart InterCivic confuses a class of voters that attorney Chad Dunn called “emphasis voters.” Those voters choose the straight party option on the ballot but then they also vote again beside specific candidates who they wish to emphasize further. That could present a problem when voting with the eSlate system because when a voter chooses the straight party option, all the party’s candidates are automatically selected on the ballot. If a voter taps the candidate’s name again, he deselects the choice. In other words, the most enthusiastic voters could end up not having their votes count.

DMN also has a story, Texas Democrats push suit targeting electronic voting equipment.

Attorneys for the Texas Democratic Party argued in federal court Friday that its lawsuit against the state over the widely used eSlate electronic voting equipment should be heard.

Democrats say the equipment doesn’t properly record straight-party votes if a voter marks an individual candidate’s name. In those cases, a straight-party vote wouldn’t be fully tabulated, party officials say.

Also, the equipment doesn’t collect and record votes the same as other voting systems in the state and thus violates the U.S. Constitution, the Democrats allege.


“Obviously with an electronic voting system, there’s no paper, there’s no pencil,” said Kathlyn Wilson, assistant attorney general. But, she said, “the [voter] disenfranchisement that they’re claiming just doesn’t happen.”

Wasn’t it Rumsfeld that said, “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”? If the voter can’t verify their vote when they finish voting then how in the world do they know how if their vote was cast the way they intended it to be cast? That’s the question Ms. Wilson. Let the them print their finished ballot when they’re done voting, look it over and then put it in a ballot box. That will go a long way to solving this.


WCRAS Euthanizes Family Pet, Being Investigated For Cruelty And Neglect

Posted in Bad Government Republicans, Animal Shelter, Williamson County at 11:57 pm by wcnews

(To keep up with all the latest on the WCRAS the Shelter Concerns site is the place to go).

The bad news just keeps coming from the Williamson Count Regional Animal Shelter (WCRAS). Last weekend a family pet was euthanized at the shelter. Video here from MyFoxAustin. News 8 has more in this story, Family says shelter euthanized pet after 3 days.

Toby the dog used to be part of a pair.

“Toby’s a different dog now. When Reba was here they used to wrestle and run around. Now all he does is sit on the porch,” owner Gilbert Angelle Jr. said.


“She came out and said ‘Daddy, Reba’s not there. I said ‘What? How could she not be here, she’s checked in here,’” Gilbert said.

After hours of searching, Angelle was given some bad news.

“She lost eye contact with me, sat down, and she said ‘I hate to tell you this, but we euthanized Reba this morning.’ And I couldn’t believe it. I said, ‘You euthanized a pure bred black lab that is totally adoptable. That doesn’t make sense,’” he said.

Shelter procedures say that stray animals without identification should be held for a minimum of three days, not counting the day of impoundment.

By these standards, Reba had technically only been there two days.

The WCRAS is also be investigated for animal cruelty and neglect, Attorney hired for Willco animal shelter investigation.

A group of concerned citizens hired a well-known Austin attorney to do a separate, more vigorous investigation. Austin attorney and former Travis County Judge Bill Aleshire is fired up.

“This is not a well-funded and well-operated shelter. This is a death trap for pets,” Aleshire said.


“I do worry about if they’re putting far more energy into covering this up than they are to fixing the problem,” Aleshire said.

He said the only fix is to make sure the truth is known, admitted, and faced up to. After all, it’s not just about holding the county government accountable and also about ensuring humane treatment of the county’s helpless animals.

The employee who was fired for reporting animal cruelty reached a settlement with the county Tuesday. Aleshire said his next step is meeting with the sheriff to see where he stands.

That sounds like our Mayberry Machiavellis. Shelter Concerns has more on the settlements.

County Commissioners approved a settlement Tuesday with a former animal shelter employee who was fired last month after raising concerns about shelter conditions to the American-Statesman. Terms of the settlement were not released Tuesday because the former employee, veterinary technician and staff supervisor Kathy Abdella, had not signed off on the deal, said Stephen Ackley of the county attorney’s office. In a letter to county officials, Abdella claimed that her termination violated the Texas Whistleblower Act and her right to free speech. Commissioners said Tuesday that the settlement in no way signified wrongdoing on the part of the county.

It’s always better to admit a mistake right away. It’s time for the county officials to come clean and fix this mess once and for all.

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