Corona v. Williamson - Update/Video

Posted in 80th Legislature, Road Issues, Around The State at 1:10 pm by wcnews

Sen. Carona is quickly becoming the stand-up guy in the Texas Legislature for the people of Texas when it comes to transportation issues. What happened today, when Sen Carona was invited to the House Transportation Committee by Rep. Krusee, will only help his cause:

Granted the floor, Carona said that he’d tried to get on Williamson’s calendar and had been told it was full into March. So, he asked Williamson, will you commit here and now to meet with me this week?

“You are a clever guy,” Williamson said, trying to keep the moment light. “I look forward to meeting with you.”

Yes, but will you meet this week, Carona pressed? Williamson was non-committal. They went around the track a couple more times in this way, then Carona dropped the pretense of collegiality. Williamson was “arrogant,” he said, and engaging in “artful dodging.” A final time, he asked for a meeting this week.

Williamson paused. “Frankly Senator,” he said finally, “I’m speechless.”

What does Rep. Krusee do? He protects his man of course.

Carona left shortly thereafter and the hearing continued. Krusee and state Rep. Fred Hill, R-Richardson, later offered words of apology to Williamson for the episode, and Krusee quickly called Carona to set up a meeting. A meeting between Krusee and Carona, that is.

“I think we’re all better off when we’re discussing policy, and not personalities,” Krusee said after the meeting. He said that would be his message for Carona.

Gee Mike that was nice of you to apologize to your buddy like that. It’s very wrong that the Chair of the Senate Committee has to go through Rep. Krusee to get a meeting with the head of TxDOT. Now we know who’s running the transportation show in our state. After this it’s obvious that Ric Williamson thinks he doesn’t have to talk to a Senator until his minion sets up a meeting.

[UPDATE]: Sal’s got the video of the back-and-forth.

The Unintended, But Expected, Consequences Of Bad Public Policy

Posted in Public Schools, The Budget, 80th Legislature, Had Enough Yet? at 12:26 pm by wcnews

There’s always unintended consequences. In this case they may have been unintended but they definitely weren’t unexpected. Last summer when the legislature passed it’s “temporary band-aid” policy for school finance it was clear that this was not a long term fix for public schools in Texas. If you’ll remember this plan was passed because something had to be passed, or schools would not open on time, not because it was good public policy. And as Garnet Coleman told us way back in ‘05, “.. it’s hard to get an agreement on bad public policy, it’s easy to get an agreement on good public policy”.

This bad public policy was passed because of the weak leadership (Perry, Craddick, Dewhurst) we have in Texas. But when attempting to fix something, and a “quick fix” is applied, things don’t necessarily turn out the way they were supposed to. Which brings us the the problem currently facing our weak leaders, increasing the spending cap. Their “bold” plan has now forced these leaders back into their shells and they don’t feel so “bold” about what needs to be done to fix their “quick fix”.

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It Just Looks Bad

Posted in Corruption, Had Enough Yet? at 9:02 am by wcnews

Gov. Perry’s son hired by firm consulting on lottery.

UBS, one of two large financial firms consulting with the governor’s office over the possible sale of the Texas lottery, hired Gov. Rick Perry’s son to work in its Dallas office about two weeks ago.

The governor’s office said that there is no relationship between the two events and that Griffin Perry, 23, is a bright young economist who is pursuing a career on his own merits.

Even if it’s on the up-and-up they had to know that this wouldn’t look good. Daddy’s the governor who’s trying to sell the lottery and his son goes to work for the company that’s trying to broker the deal. That just looks bad.


Amazing Survey, Shows Overwhelming Bipartisan Support For Public Schools In Texas

Posted in Public Schools, 80th Legislature, Around The State at 10:23 pm by wcnews

Texas Politics has the story and the link to the PowerPoint file of the survey results.

A big majority — 71 percent — agreed that “the school finance plan was only a temporary band-aid because all of the new state tax dollars were dedicated to property tax relief,” according to the poll conducted by Republican, Ed Goeas of the Tarrance Group and Democrat Paul Harstad of Harstad Strategic Research. Lawmakers apparently don’t understand public support for education.


“The message from Texas is clear — last year, the Legislature’s school finance plan represented, at best, a first step,” said Donna New Haschke, president of the Texas State Teachers Association, which commissioned the poll. “Should the Legislature adjourn this year without taking a second or third step toward addressing public education funding as a top priority, they will have failed to meet the needs of the school children of Texas and the expectations of their constituents.”

This survey shows that what was done by the legislature in the summer of ‘06 probably had more to do with the Republican loses in the Texas House than anyonel realized. It also shows that Texans - there’s a lot of bipartisan support in this survey - expect more to be done for public education this session and in the near future. I don’t think there going to get much help this session, school finance fatigue. Except for the voucher wing-nuts, see below.

Why Is This News?

Posted in Vouchers, 80th Legislature at 3:10 pm by wcnews

From the AAS’s lege blog, Vouchers could improve dropout rates, supporters say.

More private school vouchers could lead to lower dropout rates, according to a study from groups that support school choice.The study was commissioned by the National Center for Policy Analysis, Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options, and the Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation, an Indianapolis-based nonprofit started by the late economist dubbed “the nation’s leading voucher advocates” by The Wall Street Journal.

Wing-nuts support vouchers and will say anything in support of them. We already know this. It’s not news.

DMN too. It had the support of Rod Paige of Texas Miracle fame shame.

“This research brings into sharp focus the disastrous results of not embracing bold steps to reform our public education system,” said Rod Paige, former U.S. Secretary of Education. “No society can long prosper under the weight of so many children lost.”

Yes bold steps. Bold steps like fully fund public education, now that would really lower the dropout rate.

Vigil Tonight At T. Don Hutto In Taylor

Posted in T. Don Hutto, Around The Nation, Williamson County at 2:49 pm by wcnews

The vigil starts at 5:30 this evening, more details here. Here’s a map to T. Don Hutto.

Over the weekend this article about the lock-up was published in the Los Angeles Times, Immigration’s net binds children too.

Congress did not have Hutto in mind when it directed Homeland Security in 2005 and 2006 to stop separating families and house them in nonpenal, homelike environments. It suggested methods such as electronic monitoring, which is being tested in eight cities. Advocates for immigrants point to a San Diego family shelter run by nuns as another possible model.

Concerns about Hutto are rising. A government commission issued a “report card” Thursday that gave Homeland Security a failing grade on its treatment of asylum seekers. A Texas legislator has introduced a resolution condemning the jailing of children, local groups have held vigils outside Hutto, the American Civil Liberties Union is considering a lawsuit, and a Latino advocacy group has demanded an investigation.

“We want to know what’s going on there,” said Rosa Rosales, president of the League of United Latin American Citizens. “Putting immigrants in concentration camps should not be happening in the United States.”

Officials play down the complaints. “I don’t think the criticisms are fair,” said Gary Mead, assistant director for Immigration and Customs’ detention and removal operations. “This is run as a family shelter; it’s not run as a jail. There is medical care; the meals are nutritious. Do people complain? They probably do — they’re being detained. They were here illegally and now they’re facing, in some cases, certain removal.”

This is getting much more attention than ICE, CCA and the Williamson County Commissioners ever thought it would. Also it would seem that this is something the people of Taylor would rather not have their town getting national headlines for, jailing children. Please comment here if you go tonight and let us know how it went.

Support The Georgetwon Young Democrats This Saturday

Posted in Democratic Events at 2:29 pm by wcnews

Be there this Saturday and support the Democrats of the future in Williamson County:

We’re having a Pancake Breakfast at the Georgetown Applebee’s, Saturday FEB. 17, from 8-10 am. The cost is five dollars, and tickets can be purchased at the door. The money is going to our trip to Hammond, Louisiana, where we’ll be building houses with Habitat for Humanity for people who lost their homes during the Hurricane.

If you could really encourage people to come, it would be so appreciated. Sometimes it’s necessary to be direct, so I’m just going to say that we really need people to come to this fundraiser.

What Toll Roads Are All About

Posted in Privatization, Road Issues, Around The Nation, Around The State, Uncategorized at 1:29 pm by wcnews

From Pat Driscoll’s blog Move It!, Profits over motorists?

A national push to privatize roads will help ensure profits for private companies and quick cash for governments, but motorists will be the losers, says a new coalition of highway user groups.

Americans for a Strong National Highway Network sent a letter dated Feb. 8 to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters, raising concerns about a recent federal blueprint to make it easier for state legislatures to jump into privatization.


“The companies investing in our roads want to induce congestion on the roads they profit from, not reduce it. Their profits are derived from high traffic volumes and high tolls,” Todd Spencer of the Independent Drivers Association is quoted as saying. “We recognize elected officials are confronted with difficult funding decisions, but these deals are akin to a pawn-shop mentality of hocking your assets for cash now.”

It’s all about money, and has nothing to do with easing congestion? Say it isn’t so.

Toll Roads And The Cost Per Mile

Posted in Road Issues, Williamson County at 11:38 am by wcnews

Ben Wear’s article in today’s AAS, Toll roads: Paying a lot to drive a little, details for us that the most heavily traveled areas of the toll roads have the highest tolls. Put another way if you travel the roads for convenience or in the most populated areas you will pay a premium price for that. If your one of the few who use these roads from one end to the other, you’ll pay a more reasonable rate. In case you forgot when we were sold these roads Rep. Krusee and his ilk told us the tolls would average 12 cents a mile. Now read this.

So, what does it cost you to drive on Central Texas’ emerging toll road system?

Well, about 12 cents a mile. Unless it’s 18 cents, or 40 cents, or 64 cents. Or, in one notable spot near Lakeline Mall, a cool $1.50 a mile.

Mike Heiligenstein - member of Williamson County’s revolving door club - former Williamson County Commissioner and now ED of the CTRMA tells us why this is:

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Lobbyists As Policymakers For Governor

Posted in Privatization, Corruption, Around The State at 9:46 am by wcnews

The scariest part of the revelations that came out this weekend about Perry and the former elected and appointed GOPers - these are the revolving-door people that are spoken about so often - is the matter of fact way it’s being dealt with. It’s seems that it’s no big deal anymore that the governor’s former employees, and his friend, the former US Senator, are the ones spearheading, and would eventually profit from, this latest privatization scheme he’s come forward with. Here’s the HChron article, Perry’s lobbyist contacts cloud lottery-sale plan:

Gov. Rick Perry’s ties to lobbyists have drawn scrutiny in the days since he proposed selling the Texas Lottery to a private company.

Former U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm, a friend of Perry’s, is handling discussions for the proposed lottery sale, a spokesman for Gramm’s company acknowledged.

Gramm is vice chairman of UBS Investment Bank, which has been advising the governor on the proposed privatization of the state lottery. Gramm was a federally registered lobbyist for UBS last year.

Ray Sullivan, a lobbyist registered with the investment firm in Texas, worked as a spokesman for Perry several years ago. Sullivan is now in business with Michael Toomey, Perry’s former chief of staff.

Cloud plan?!! That headline should read, Perry’s lobbyist contacts make plan To sell lottery DOA. The ho-hum, matter-of-fact way corruption is dealt with in the media these days is really astonishing. As Kuff points out there are similarities in this deal to Perry’s other latest “policy” initiative (HPV vaccine). But there’s another similarity that is going unnoticed. The lobbyists are the one’s coming up with these policy initiatives - HPV vaccine and selling the lottery - not the governor’s office. Which tells us a lot about who is really running our state government.

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