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.

City Council Meetings Tonight, Cedar Park and Round Rock

Posted in Animal Shelter, Williamson County at 4:21 pm by wcnews

The WCRAS will be a hot topic I’m sure, more information at Shelter Concerns:



THURSDAY, July 12, 2007, AT 6:30 P.M.


The Regional Shelter is on the agenda. PLEASE be there to show your support for change. People will be allowed to address the Council.


City OF Round Rock

Regular Schedules City Council Meeting

THURSDAY, July 12, 2007, AT 7:00 P.M.

City hall 221 E. main street round rock

PEOPLE will be allowed to address the council during citizens communications at 7 pm and will have 3 minutes to speak.

UPDATE: the board has been working on a report on the first three months of operations that will be presented

for the first time to the Round Rock City Council by Board President Lt. Bob Drawbaugh on Thursday, July 12.

John Carter Votes Against Cutting Student Loan Rates, Again

Posted in District 31, Election 2008, Had Enough Yet?, Education, Around The Nation, Around The State at 12:39 pm by wcnews

As he did back in January, John Cater and Student Loans, Rep. John Carter (R- Round Rock) again voted against an overhaul of the student loan program. He voted against the “little guy” or as Sen. John Cornyn called in the “mythical little guy”.

The House approved far-reaching changes in student aid programs Wednesday, voting to slash $19 billion in federal subsidies to student lenders over five years while increasing grants for needy students and halving interest rates on federally backed loans with the savings.

The bill passed 273-149 in a sometimes-raucous debate, with 47 Republicans joining Democrats, who took control of Congress this year on promises to help the middle class with the escalating costs of higher education.

The bill marks a stark reversal of fortune for the student loan industry, which for more than 10 years had largely enjoyed unflagging support under the Republican majority.

Investigations by Congress, the media and the New York attorney general bruised the standing of lenders, exposing systems of paying commissions to colleges to win business and offering college officials free trips and other perks.

The University of Texas at Austin’s former financial aid director, Lawrence Burt, was fired in May after it was found that he had invested in a company and then placed its student loan subsidiary on a list of recommended lenders.

Though President Bush opposes some elements of the bill, it is widely expected that a broad overhaul of student aid will become law this year. Bush himself has proposed cutting government subsidies to lenders by $16 billion.

The Senate is expected to pass legislation this month that would reduce the subsidies by $18.3 billion while increasing the maximum Pell grant, the nation’s major assistance program for low- and middle-income students, more swiftly than the House bill does.

Reps. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, and Michael McCaul, R-Austin, voted in favor of the House bill; Reps. John Carter, R-Round Rock, and Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, voted against.

Also interesting to see McCaul vote with the Democrats on this one, attempting to distancing himself from the extreme right. Speaking of the extreme right, Rep. Carter will try and explain this away that he did it to protect jobs and that it’s too much spending, yadda, yadda, yadda. It’s his ties and campaign contributions from the lender Sallie Mae and the possibility that this change will scuttle a buyout deal of the company, that are driving his opposition:

Student lenders, who had lobbied heavily against the bill, predicted that it would drive some lenders out of business and reduce services and discounts offered to borrowers. A group of private bidders planning to buy Sallie Mae, a publicly traded company that is the nation’s largest student lender, warned the loan company that both the House and Senate bills might cause the $25 billion deal to fall through, according to a news release from Sallie Mae.

The release also said Sallie Mae “strongly disagrees with this assertion” and would move to close the deal as rapidly as possible.

Of course they’d say that, they’re trying to sell the company. The Center for American Progress has an informative page up on this bill, Dealing With Debt, excerpt below the fold.

Read the rest of this entry »

Cornyn Avoiding Rick Noriega, Attacks Mikal Watts, Preview Of General Election

Posted in US Senate Race, Election 2008, 2008 Primary, Around The State at 9:53 am by wcnews

This SAEN article today, Cornyn comes out swinging let’s Rove do his dirty work ahead of a fundraising jaunt, more than likely is a preview of how a general election campaign will go involving Sen. John Cornyn and the two announced exploring Democratic candidates, Rick Noriega and Mikal Watts.

Cornyn has scheduled a series of fund-raisers for the weekend of July 20, featuring presidential adviser Karl Rove. But an invitation letter for the Harlingen event also plays off Republican reactions to trial lawyers.

“We will also have the opportunity to help the senator begin preparing for what appears to be a wealthy, self-financed personal injury lawyer opponent,” said a Cornyn campaign committee letter signed by James G. Springfield, CEO of Valley Baptist Health System in Harlingen.

A Cornyn fund-raising letter sent out last month by John Nau of Houston noted: “Unfortunately, John appears to have drawn a very wealthy personal injury lawyer Mikal Watts as a potential opponent.” (see text of letter here [.pdf].)

Of course Sen. Cornyn says nothing about Rick Noriega because he can’t smear him with any tried and true GOP talking points. With Cornyn and Rove never having served there’s nothing they can say to attack Noriega that will work to bring in the money donors in with Cornyn’s low approval ratings. He’s a veteran, worked on the border, and has a proven record of getting things done. That will make things much harder for Rove and Cornyn.

But with Mr. Watts it’s business as usual for the Texas GOP. Attack a rich trial lawyer who has millions of dollars, a “wishy-washy” stance on the issues, where he seems to be trying to be everything to everyone, which never works out. Let me say that the rich trial lawyer gambit that Republicans use is not something that EOW believes, but will be lapped up by the GOP base, on the fence supporters and contributors, and the so-called Texas liberal media will be trumpeting it free for the GOP the whole campaign if Watts gets the nomination. I’m not sure that all of Watts’ money can counter that.

That’s what we’re looking at. The same ‘ol GOP campaign we’ve been seeing in Texas for 30 or so years with Watts, or a new kind of campaign where the Republican incumbent may actually have to be held to account and answer for the record of he’s responsible for with Noriega.


Lady Bird Johnson, RIP

Posted in Around The Nation, Around The State at 11:09 pm by wcnews

I’m not a native Texan but my parents are. My first memory of Lady Bird Johnson is of my Father attempting to mimic her accent when she urged Americans to “to plant a tree, a shrub or a bush“, in her beautification campaign. My fraternal Grandmother had a reverence for the Johnson’s and what LBJ did for rural Texans/farmers. I remember how awed she was when we vistied LBJ’s Ranch and the Presidential Library.

What I know of Lady Bird Johnson is that she was a gracious women who married into a life of politics that, even though it wasn’t what she may have dreamed of, she made the best of it and made politics better for her having been involved in it.

I’ve always thought of her when driving the roads of Texas in the Spring with the wildflowers in bloom. Thank you Lady Bird Johnson for a life lived.

AAS has a special section remembering her life. BOR has more as well.

One thought I had is that three great Texas Democratic women have passed away in less than a year - Ann Richards, Molly Ivins and now Lady Bird Johnson. No more for a while please.

[UPDATE]: Rick Noriega has postponed his announcement out of respect for her passing via OffTheKuff.

More on Lady Bird from Rick Perlstein, Lady Bird is gone. Here’s the beginning:

I loved her. They’ll tell you about the wildflowers and the crusade against unsightly billboards. They won’t tell you about what a great liberal she was, what a brave warrior against racism she was - that she risked her life for these principles. After the jump, my tribute to her, from my book Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus. Read this astonishing story to honor a great American - and a great Southerner.

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.

“Insight” premeire on KNCT tomorrow

Posted in District 31, Williamson County at 1:01 pm by dembones

Former Democratic congressional candidate Mary Beth Harrell will be hosting a 12-episode public service television series named “Insight”. The program premieres tomorrow (Thursday, July 12) evening at 7:30 p.m. on PBS affiliate KNCT-TV (channel 46 in Belton). Viewers in Williamson county should be able to pick up the broadcast with a roof-mounted UHF antenna pointed north. A re-broadcast will air Sunday at 10 a.m.

More On Rick Noriega’s Announcement Tomorrow

Posted in Election 2008, 2008 Primary, Democratic Events, Around The State at 1:01 pm by wcnews

Gardner Selby has his post on the event at PFL, Noriega going exploring

Houston Rep. Rick Noriega won’t have mariachis playing, but he plans to launch his formal exploration of a U.S. Senate bid at a press conference outside the Capitol on Thursday.


Fifty-plus Texas House members, all Democrats, have urged Noriega to enter the race. Now that’s not 50-plus endorsements, Noriega’s camp concedes, but it could reflect wide and deep support, at least among fellow legislators.

Every Austin Democrat in the House, except Rep. Dawnna Dukes, committed to a letter urging Noriega to go for it.

Come on Dawnna “Don’t Wanna Vote Against Craddick” Dukes, join the fun. The support letter can be read here (.pdf) and was originally announced at 49 members, which means he has gained more support since then.

Also the full press release can be read here (.pdf).

Update: Out of respect for Lady Bird Johnson’s passing, Representative Noriega has postponed the announcement of the formation of his U.S. Senate exploratory committee until Monday morning, July 16, 2007, at 11:00 a.m. CDT. Full updated release here (.pdf).

NTTA Executive Director Finalists

Posted in Privatization, Road Issues, Around The State at 12:12 pm by wcnews

I guess it should be expected that all the candidates are from transportation consulting firms, investment firms, or engineering firms.

The five candidates are:

•Rick Herrington, interim deputy executive director at NTTA. He recently spent two years at the private engineering consulting firm HNTB Inc.

•William Dillon, an engineer and a national manager for professional services firm PBS&J. He is a former employee of the Texas Department of Transportation.

•Jorge Figueredo, who is responsible for PBS&J’s toll road business in the central United States, including Texas.

•Stephen McCullough, who was Irving city manager for 12 years. He is now a principal at Dallas-based Public Werks Inc., an investment firm that focuses on public infrastructure construction.

•Douglas Wiersig, an engineer and transportation programs manager for Jacobs Engineering in Houston. He previously worked in transportation for the city of Houston.

Seems incestuous. PBS&J has had issues in the past. From the Denver Post series we know there have been many issues around the country with consultant traffic and revenue (T&R) projections.

The Congestion Pricing Scam

Posted in Privatization, Road Issues, Around The State at 11:06 am by wcnews

(As you read this remember this is what some want to do to Mopac in Austin).

Off The Kuff has a post up on the continuing saga of toll congestion fees, aka “Lexus lanes”, in Harris County, More on tollway congestion pricing. In theory he he has no objection but…

the more I read about the “thinking” behind HCTRA’s recent botched attempt at it, the more I think that the powers that be here don’t have a clue about how to implement it.

Like so many scams, *cough* Amway *cough*, in theory they sound great but in reality…not so much. Via Sal’s link to the HChron article above, that was marked up by CorridorWatch, we learn about what’s really behind congestion pricing.

“Toll roads can’t compete without the presence of congestion and motorist inconvenience on the public highway system,” National Motorists Association president James Baxter wrote on the group’s Web site recently.

The group advocates against various regulatory measures on driving and opposes congestion pricing and toll roads in general.

“Are congestion problems going to be corrected if they threaten the income of the toll road?” Baxter wrote. “Not in our lifetimes!”

It’s a simple as that. Muck up the free roads and force drivers to the toll roads where they can be gouged.

“If you have a commute that should take 18 minutes, and it takes 48, think of the wear and tear on your car, and you may use up half a gallon of gasoline. It reaches a point where it becomes revenue-neutral,” [Harris County Precinct 3 Commissioner Steve Radack] said.

“You pay Exxon or you pay the toll.”

The National Motorists Association (NMA) also has this article up on it’s site on tolls and congestion fees, Toll Roads: The Slippery Slope. Here’s a nugget from that:

Anyone who has used the Illinois toll road system knows how badly a toll system can be operated. Traffic jams, toll booth collisions of epidemic proportions, and continual delays as motorists are forced to stop and deposit forty cents every few miles down the road. I marvel that Illinois motorists don’t demand this system be legislated out of existence. The Illinois tollway serves as a towering example of just how much abuse motorists will endure, without demanding rational change. But, like other toll roads, the more obvious shortcomings may not be the most important. State transportation agencies will universally deny this, but the evidence is there for everyone to see. Toll roads retard the development and increase the deterioration of the rest of the highway system. Upgrades and improvement to any highway viewed as “competing” with the toll road are postponed or ignored. Unnecessary congestion, underposted speed limits and arbitrary enforcement on alternative roads are silently condoned by transportation officials and elected officials. Think about it, toll roads can’t compete without the presence of congestion and motorist inconvenience on the existing highway system. Are these problems going to be effectively addressed if that hurts the income potential of the toll road? Not in our lifetimes!

The withering of non-tolled roads was what Sen. John Carona (R - Dallas) was so concerned about before session, with CDA’s, before he lost his will to turn back the tide on toll roads. The scam is to “voluntarily” force people to drive toll roads, by making the non-tolled options a unpalatable as possible. To maximize toll road receipts, or corporate profits, whichever the case. As always don’t forget that raising the gas tax by a couple of cents and indexing it to inflation can end all of this insanity. We just need some politicians with leadership ability to get it done.

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