Just Wondering?

Posted in Commentary at 12:45 pm by wcnews

Does anyone else find it interesting that Congress can pass a $150 billion more for a war that a large majority of Americans no longer support without batting an eye, but are having trouble rounding up votes to override a veto of a $35 billion SCHIP bill that an even bigger majority of Americans favor?


The AusChron And Tolls

Posted in HD-52, Privatization, Road Issues, Central Texas, Commentary at 11:51 pm by wcnews

The AusChron has not taken a side regarding the upcoming CAMPO vote on more toll roads in the Austin/Central Texas area. They seem to have washed their hands of the whole tool road issue. They see anyone opposing tolls as a cynic who thinks all politicians are on the take. They see the pro-tolling politicians as afraid to ask citizens to pay for their infrastructure the conventional way — through taxation. Full disclosure: EOW is still a little put out with them for their non-endorsement in HD-52 in 2006. That non-endorsement was, in essence, an endorsement of Mike Krusee in 2006.

This week’s article, CAMPO Poised to Pass Toll Plan – Despite Uneasiness, is more of the same. The story captures thoughts from the 5 possible “no votes” on the CAMPO board. They stake no position regarding what they think should happen. EOW had hoped that Austin’s alt-weekly would have had some editorial comment on the upcoming CAMPO vote. It would be interesting to know their thoughts on the go-along-with-the-Chamber-of-Commerce mentality of the “progressive” Austin Senator Kirk Watson. He has demonstrated a complete lack of leadership on this issue through his inability to push for a fairer and economically sensible way to pay for transportation infrastructure in Central Texas, and Texas as a whole.

One of EOW’s fears regarding the upcoming CAMPO vote is that this issue may be thrown into the Democrat’s lap in Central Texas. With Rep. Mike Krusee fading into oblivion on this issue and the toll torch being passed to Democratic Senator Kirk Watson, the Democrats may get saddled with much more of the blame in the future for the “toll everything” concept.

The opening paragraph of this 2006 column from Austin Chronicle publisher Louis Black, Texans need to hear the truth about taxes and tolls raods gives some insight into what may be driving their coverage of this issue.

The current toll-road wars are profoundly depressing in so many ways. Not only have they brought out the worst in so many, but even the best aspect – citizen involvement – is tainted because, although this state has passed so many egregious, unconscionable laws, this is among the least of issues.

They see it as depressing and a minor issue. That being said there is some great analysis in the rest of the article.

Americans don’t want to pay for the government that exists. Texans want to pay even less, and they certainly have no interest in paying for the quality of government they demand. Texans are overtaxed. This is because we are one of 11 states without an income tax. Revenue is generated by a range of taxes – particularly property, gas, and sales taxes. These are regressive taxes – so called because a disproportionate share of the tax burden falls on those on the lower end of the income scale.


Now I’m not being disingenuous; the road lobby supports toll roads. This is because they don’t think there is any other way to get Texans to pay for them. They know Texans don’t want to pay tolls, but they want roads. Most politicians understand that toll roads are going to happen, and they know how empty any promise is that, as soon as the road is paid for, tollbooths will be taken down. But it sells.

Politicians who defend toll roads are attacked as selling out the people and being corrupt. They are just trying to get voters to face facts. Those who oppose toll roads are just going any way the wind blows, knowing that, practically speaking, there really isn’t much they can do about them.

Politicians who support toll roads and then publicly come out against them are playing to the voters. The anti-toll gang calls them heroes! What for? Lying, taking a bogus stand, and pandering to voters?

The thing that voters in Texas so desperately need to hear is that established truth: “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch!” One way or another, you are going to pay for it – unless, of course, you have the immoral genius of the Bush administration and leave it as debt for your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

Much more of this please, Louis Black. We’ve got a bunch of chicken@$#% politicians that want to raise your taxes, without telling you they’re raising your taxes. And they’re doing it with toll roads that are much more expensive, and better for those that bankroll their campaigns, than raising the gas tax. We need the AusChron to rejoin the fight, particularly since voters have begun to wise up to the ruse.

Again, EOW is not against toll roads as a piece in an overall transportation infrastructure plan. They just shouldn’t be the whole and only plan. The AusChron sees it as a lesser issue and they know their readership much better than anyone else, maybe that explains it.

(S)CHIP Misperception And The Working Poor

Posted in District 31, Health Care, Election 2008, Bad Government Republicans, Congress, Had Enough Yet?, Around The State, Around The Nation, Commentary, Williamson County at 11:16 am by wcnews

There’s a misperception regarding (S)CHIP. The misperception is that this is a program for poor children and poor children only. (S)CHIP is an acronym for (State) Childrens Health Insurance Program, in case you didn’t already know. As you’ll see the word poor is nowhere to be found. The program was created to help children that were not poor enough for Medicaid but not wealthy enough to afford to buy private insurance. To bridge-the-gap, for those whose parents have jobs,but don’t have employer provided health care. Meet the Working Poor, a new phrase that has entered the lexicon since “conservatives” began taking power in this country.

There are 35 million people in the country living in poverty. Most of the adults in that group work nowadays; many of them work full time. And while there are heavy concentrations of African-Americans and white single women in the mix, the group is every bit as diverse, and diffuse, as the nation is.

That was from 2004. Paul Krugman’s column today about how Conservatives Are Such Jokers is dead on.

On Wednesday, President Bush vetoed legislation that would have expanded S-chip, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, providing health insurance to an estimated 3.8 million children who would otherwise lack coverage.

In anticipation of the veto, William Kristol, the editor of The Weekly Standard, had this to say: “First of all, whenever I hear anything described as a heartless assault on our children, I tend to think it’s a good idea. I’m happy that the president’s willing to do something bad for the kids.” Heh-heh-heh.

Most conservatives are more careful than Mr. Kristol. They try to preserve the appearance that they really do care about those less fortunate than themselves. But the truth is that they aren’t bothered by the fact that almost nine million children in America lack health insurance. They don’t think it’s a problem.

“I mean, people have access to health care in America,” said Mr. Bush in July. “After all, you just go to an emergency room.”


What’s happening, presumably, is that modern movement conservatism attracts a certain personality type. If you identify with the downtrodden, even a little, you don’t belong. If you think ridicule is an appropriate response to other peoples’ woes, you fit right in.

And Republican disillusionment with Mr. Bush does not appear to signal any change in that regard. On the contrary, the leading candidates for the Republican nomination have gone out of their way to condemn “socialism,” which is G.O.P.-speak for any attempt to help the less fortunate.

So once again, if you’re poor or you’re sick or you don’t have health insurance, remember this: these people think your problems are funny.

The (S)CHIP debate is about getting more children health care is this country. We should be having a debate about getting all children covered but were not. That, hopefully, will come next. Sen. Cornyn is having trouble explaining his side of it, as is the President, and that’s as it should be. Our Congressman, John Carter (R-Heartless), will most definitely have this used against him if he continues to side with the president.

The bipartisan coalition that passed this bill in both chambers so far says there will be no compromise with the President. This bill was already a compromise. The Senate Majority Leader had this to say:

“We’re not going to compromise,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told reporters in the Capitol. He called Bush’s compromise overtures “an insult.”

“You cannot wring another ounce of compromise out of this,” Reid said. “The president, what he has done with his macho pen, is really hurt children. He thinks he can waltz in here with his secretary of Health and Human Services, and sweet talk us — he can’t. This is a man who is out of touch with reality.”

And last a little more on the working poor. In 2004 Democratic Congressman Chet Edwards was able to hold onto his seat by pointing out the heartlessness of his GOP opponent, Arlene Wohlgemuth, who was instrumental in cutting CHIP benefits in Texas. In the video below a working mother says this:

“You know, there are many people out there that work so hard. I don’t want to be on welfare, I just want good insurance for my child. And I’m working hard. Yeah, I could quit my job tomorrow and she’d be set, but I’m not going to do that, and there’s a lot of people out there that aren’t going to do that, and why that group of us has to get hurt, I don’t know.”

That is, in essence, the working poor and that’s who this program helps. If a person has a job they, and their family, deserve the dignity of having affordable health insurance. If Carter decides to stand by the President, like he did Tom DeLay, he shouldn’t be surprised if a commercial like this winds up on TV around here.


More On The OMA Complaint Filed Against The Williamon County Commissioners

Posted in Commissioners Court, Bad Government Republicans, Williamson County at 4:45 pm by wcnews

So far the only traditional media to report on the complaint filed against the Williamson County Commissioners Court is KLBJ AM, Open Meetings Violation Complaint Filed Against Williamson County. The complaint was filed on September 21st.

A complaint has been filed against the Williamson County Commissioners Court for open meetings violations. The complaint on file with the District Attorney’s office centers around the public comment section of the commissioners meetings. The allegations are from former Georgetown Mayor MaryEllen Kersch, who has frequently spoken during the public comment section about the T Don Hutto Residential Center.

Kersch alleges the court treats the public comment period haphazardly, and is inconsistent with providing a sign up sheet, allowing County Judge Dan Gattis Senior to pick and chose who speaks. Since June, residents have frequently come to voice their opinions on T Don Hutto, the county landfill and the regional animal shelter.

EOW’s has obtained a letter [.DOC] (text of letter in “rest of entry”) from the complainant, MaryEllen Kersch, that she sent to Williamson County DA John Bradley on October 1st. It seeks to clear up any ambiguity regarding whether this is indeed a complaint and not just “informational”. In the letter Kersch also addresses the lack of action thus far and a possible conflict of interest which may lead to the Texas Ranges investigating the complaint.

(More regarding problems with this past weeks’ agenda posting and Kersch’s letter to Bradley in the Rest of the entry..)
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Welcome To The Fight Corpus Christi

Posted in Privatization, Road Issues, Around The State at 9:06 am by wcnews

Crosstown Expressway may soon see toll road.

Plans are in the works to take Crosstown Extension further south, but drivers will have to pay to use it. Texas Department of Transportation officials showed plans for a new toll road to the public Tuesday night.


Drivers who don’t want to pay the toll will have to get off on frontage road to travel for free. From SPID to Saratoga, an additional inside lane would also be added for toll paying customers.
Wednesday night, TxDOT officials met one-on-one to clear up any confusion and answer questions.

“I think it’s great,” Toni Galloway said. “I think it’s a good way to move the traffic.”

Others were in favor of expansion.

“I think we need better infrastructure, and if toll is the proper method to finance it, then I’m all for it,” Bill Brown said.

TxDOT officials said that in order to come up with the $70 million it will take to complete the project, a toll road is necessary. Not everyone plans on paying to use the pricier pavement.

“I’m not opposed to tolls,” Scott Downey said. “I probably wouldn’t pay it. I’d probably just stay on the feeder road.”

It’s a decision we’ll all have to make if we get to that road. A toll amount has not been discussed yet. TxDOT officials said they are still crunching the numbers, but if the plan moves forward and the funding is there, they said construction could get underway in three years.

I’m positive that everyone in and around Corpus Christi is not that naive and trusting of their local officials. If you live in and around Corpus Christi and need to get up to speed, shall we say, on toll issues just search this blog, go to The Muckraker or McBlogger and you’ll have all the information you need. And make sure that toll/mile charge is etched in stone before inking a deal.

Simply stated raising and indexing the gas tax statewide is a much fairer and cheaper way to build roads in our state. Don’t wait, start now, the sooner it’s made clear to your local elected officials that tolls are not the answer and that they will pay at the voting booth, the better off you’ll be. Welcome to the fight.


Blogs Across Texas Riled Up Over Despicable SCHIP Veto

Posted in Health Care, Bad Government Republicans, District 31, Congress, Had Enough Yet?, Around The State at 9:43 pm by wcnews

President Bush today vetoed an important and widely supported bi-partisan expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) ( H.R. 976).

WhosPlayin takes a look at what the blogs of the Texas Progressive Alliance are saying about this terrible move:

Adam at Three Wise Men writes: Bush uses veto pen to strike health care for kids

Blue 19th takes Randy Neugebauer to task for being willing to send billions to Iraq, but not to help children at home.

Blue 19th has uncovered a transcript of a secret press conference featuring the President, the Governor, and Rep. Randy Neugebauer. Put your sensibilities on hold and enjoy.

In examining President Bush’s veto of the SCHIP reauthorization and expansion, Vince at Capitol Annex notes that this is one of the President’s worst actions in office and also points us to statements on the veto from a pair of Texas Legislators: Mike Villarreal (D-San Antonio) and Ellen Cohen (D-Houston).

Muse interrupts her outrage at Bush’s SCHIP veto to send him a Bible verse, remind him that his approval numbers are half of the percentage of Americans who approve of the legislation and wonder if next up is clubbing baby seals and drowning kittens

Eye On Williamson calls Bush and Rep. John Carter on their votes against children, for private insurance corporations and urges the people to get involved, Bush Vetoes Childrens Health Care & John Carter Is Right By His Side.

Matt Glazer of Burnt Orange Report notes that the non-partisan Center for Public Policy Priorities urges Texans to encourage Senator Cornyn and the 18 Texas Congressmen who voted against it to change their votes to override the veto. Matt also suggests that Bush, Perry, Cornyn, and McCaul hate children and encourages us to show our outrage at a rally for kids health

Charles Kuffner of Off the Kuff notes that Bush is acting ashamed of this veto and explores the numbers needed for an override.

Bush Vetoes Childrens Health Care & John Carter Is Right By His Side

Posted in District 31, Health Care, Bad Government Republicans, Had Enough Yet?, Commentary, Around The State, Around The Nation, Williamson County at 4:34 pm by wcnews

Click here to see the face of a man that’s helping insure children continue to go without health care. They will screech that they’re doing this because of fiscal “conservatism”, as if such a thing ever occurred. If they were concerned about being fiscally responsible they have just added another $150 billion dollars, for this year alone, to our Iraq and Afghanistan credit card. This bipartisan bill will provide health insurance for 3.8 million uninsured children and only cost $35 billion over five years.

The reason they’re doing this is because if the government was able to provide these people with inexpensive, quality health care that many have been without for so long, more people would want it to. And that would irrevocably damage the Republicans “everything government does is bad” mantra, It would also damage one of their biggest financial constituencies, the insurance corporations.

The vote is scheduled for October 17th and it’s not too late to override. If there was ever a time to flood your Congressman’s mailbox, phone line, and email it’s between now and then. Here’s his contact information:

Washington, D.C. Office
408 CHOB
Washington, D.C. 20515
(202) 225-3864

Round Rock District Office
One Financial Centre
1717 North IH 35
Suite 303
Round Rock, TX 78664
(512) 246-1600

Bell County Office
6544B S. General Bruce Drive
Temple, TX 76502
Located next to the DPS office

Click here to send an email

Keep in mind the snail mail letters and phone calls make the most impact.

Put On The Brakes, T. Don Hutto Not Closing In A Year

Posted in Commissioners Court, T. Don Hutto, Commentary, Williamson County at 3:39 pm by wcnews

The RRL has an article about yesterday’s action regarding T. Don Hutto (TDH) that helps EOW understand a little more about what’s at play here. Here’s the article, Wilco may sever T. Don ties. Two things about that title, (1) the word may is used which means they “may not”, and (2) it says ties may be severed not that T. Don Hutto is closing.

The T. Don Hutto holding facility for undocumented immigrants isn’t going away, as protestors want it to, but it looks like Williamson County government will sever ties with the modified jail on Oct. 2, 2008.

Commissioners stated its legal liability - not politics - drove their decision..

Not closing, it just may not be the county’s problem anymore. Makes EOW wonder what would have to occur for that to change? Let’s keep reading.

“I think it’s better for us to be out of the middle,” Precinct 1 Commissioner Lisa Birkman of Brushy Creek said. “If the federal government wants to run the facility, that’s their right.”


County Judge Dan Gattis said he and Hawes have had several discussions regarding the county’s legal exposure at T. Don Hutto.

[Assistant County Attorney Hal] Hawes said Williamson County’s thinking is this: Since county officials don’t know much about how a federal detention facility ought to be run - and since anybody can sue anybody - maybe Wilco’s risk isn’t worth the $16,000 it makes every month off the relationship.

“We want to see [T. Don Hutto] continue,” Gattis said. “But it is our job to take care of Williamson County.”

“This is one of those contracts and projects that we inherited and are trying to grapple with,” Precinct 2 Commissioner Cynthia Long of Cedar Park said.

Another “Limmer Lemon” the current court was left to deal with. But let’s not forget it was this court that voted earlier this year on renew the contract with CCA that they’ve now decided to end just before next year’s election. They’re also making in perfectly clear that they have no problem with the facility or what’s being done there. Gattis’ comments make it seem like the county could be taken care of, so to speak. Which makes EOW think that if CCA was to take the whole liability burden away from the county, then the contract would be able to continue with the county as the “middle man”.

In one of the many posts here at EOW on TDH a question was asked of the two GOP candidates for the Pct. 1 Commissioners seat, “Is $1/inmate/day worth this? What do you say Mrs. Birkman, Mr. Laukhuf?” Only Mr. Laukhuf responded and here’s what he said.

I for one am deeply concerned about T. Don Hutto, and it’s effects on our county resources. For the past 10 years I have held a Texas Peace Officer License. All Law Enforcement deserve our respect, our support, and the resources necessary to provide security for ALL our citizens. $1/inmate/day doesn’t provide much in regards to the above.

Which leads EOW to believe that there’s battle going on between GOP candidates about the share of CCA’s money the county is getting, or not getting as the case may be. The GOP candidates are making a campaign issue out of what a bad financial deal this is, nothing else. It’s as if Birkman believes if the court is able to get more money our of CCA it will blunt right-wing criticism of her regarding TDH and bolster her campaign. In essence the only problem Republicans see with this deal is that the county is being shafted financially. Not moral or human rights qualms, human dignity or anything like that. Show them the money CCA and the contract will, more than likely, continue.

The RRL goes on to describe Rep. John Carter as being instrumental in “..paving the way for the facility’s present use.” They also detail the mere pittance the county is receiving per month ($15,872 at capacity), which pales in comparison to the $2.8 million that CCA receives on a monthly basis. Despite citizens concerns about imprisoning families no matter who the “middle man” is the county still supports what the facility does.

The center has been picketed several times and last month a federal judge in Austin sided with a civil rights group that had filed a lawsuit, regarding living conditions for children. Initially, 10 children were named in the lawsuit. Their countries of origin include Haiti, Honduras, Lithuania and Somalia. Illegal immigrants from Mexico have typically been detained at facilities closer to the U.S./Mexico border.

On Tuesday, Jane Van Pragg of Bartlett spoke out against T. Don Hutto.

“I continue to protest against the contract you have with T. Don Hutto …. that incarcerates children and some of their parents … I want it closed,” she said.

But commissioners defended the federal government’s policies in general and the T. Don Hutto facility in particular.

It ends with this erroneous statement by Precinct 2 Commissioner Cynthia Long of Cedar Park.

“The other option - if we are gong to detain the parents and not the children with them - is to put them into foster care. I think that is much more damaging.”

The case has been made, over and over again, that the least expensive and most humane alternative would be to use ankle bracelets for the families. She can try and rationalize this however she wants but if Commissioner Long isn’t aware of ALL the alternatives it’s way past time for her to become informed on this issue.

Odds are that if the county can’t be finagled into a more lucrative deal with CCA and the prison stays open it will be up to the City of Taylor or the state to become the new “middle man”. Looking over the TDP wrap-up article on this issue, it appears that Taylor is being non-committal, at this point, regarding what they’ll do.

Taylor City Manager Frank Salvato said the city has not yet considered taking over the lease for CCA and will have to discuss the option further when the time comes.

If Taylor declines the contract it will be up to the state of Texas to take over the leas

It also appears that the commissioners blind-sided CCA with their actions.

CCA spokesman Steve Owen said they are still unclear why the county chose to end their contract.

“This was not something we anticipated, and we were not given any notice in advance,” he said.

the final vote will be at next Tuesday’s meeting. We’ll just have to wait and see until then if it becomes “did sever ties”, or CCA makes a them an offer they can’t refuse.

Commissioners Motives On T. Don Hutto Contract Becoming Clearer

Posted in Commissioners Court, T. Don Hutto, Commentary, Williamson County at 9:54 am by wcnews

It appears they acted more out of fear and greed and did not do this for moral reasons. Via the HChron, Williamson County to sever detention center contract.

“Our action today was not about immigration because we support the federal government’s stance,” said Commissioner Cynthia Long. “The action was regarding the county’s liability for a facility that we don’t operate.”

The commissioners also want CCA and ICE to renegotiate the terms of the final year of the contract, to give the county greater protection from potential litigation and improve staffing levels to make sure all standards are met, Long said.

More like what EOW alluded to on Monday. Try for more money, if not close it down. And it will conveniently close just before the 2008 election.

Comments below from an activist involved in getting T. Don Hutto shut down:

After nearing 24 hours in which to reflect, I see that while we still have not reached our ultimate goal, just as with the major and minor improvements to the TDH facility itself, none of yesterday’s developments would have occurred if it had not been for our individual and collective persistence.

I also bear in mind that what finally got the Williamson County Commissioners Court to act was not the moral issue but the possibility of financial liability. Dang, if these aren’t still two truths:
1. Money talks
2. Follow the money.

When CCA (et al.) is no longer profitable…private prisons will cease. I wish we had the means to shame them publicly, and maybe that’s where more church activism comes in…just thinking out loud.

That about sums it up.

Austin Toll Party Says Public Comments Over 75% Against More Tolls

Posted in Privatization, Road Issues, Central Texas, Williamson County at 9:30 am by wcnews

In a press release the Austin Toll Party states that:

According to the Capitol Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) report [.PDF] just released, 75% of the public oppose more toll roads in Central Texas, according to the “Tolling” category of CAMPO’s public comments (1,446 Opposed - 358 For). The public gave comments to CAMPO, over a six week period, via community meetings, public hearings, fax, email and letters.

That number may be a little higher than actual public opinion on tolls but not much, maybe 5 percent. But as Austin Toll Party founder Sal Costello says despite the Austin Chamber of Commerce’s wild spending to change public opinion, it’s done little, if anything, to actually change public opinion.

“Even after the Chamber of Commerce (Take on Traffic) spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on a misleading campaign, that never once mentioned the “Toll” word, the public is still saying no to tolls,” said Sal Costello, founder of AustinTollParty.com, “Sen. Watson has also not been honest with the public. CAMPO chair Sen. Watson, a former Chamber president, uses the same Chamber strategy of not using the “Toll” word, which has been deemed radioactive. Watson, has been pushing the freeway toll plan for months, while telling the public via email and public appearances, he’s opposed to toll roads.”

The next CAMPO Board meeting is this Monday, October 8th at Anderson High School. Be sure to get there early before the “fat cats in white hats” do. Full press release in the rest of this entry.

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