TDP Has More On Yesterday’s Vote To Close T. Don Hutto

Posted in Commissioners Court, Criminal Justice, T. Don Hutto, Commentary, Williamson County at 9:06 am by wcnews

Again, bravo for the commissioners finally coming to their senses and agreeing to close this moral black mark on the county. I have heard rumblings that the city might try to strike a deal with CCA. I hope the people of Taylor will let them know how they feel about that possibility. County moves to cancel T. Don Hutto contract.

Williamson County is planning on delivering a 365-day termination notice on the lease agreement for the T. Don Hutto Residential Facility, according to a vote by the County Commissioners Tuesday.

The contract agreement had been on agenda for executive session for the last few months, drawing attention and speculation as the two-year lease agreement was just re-signed in January.
“I do not believe that this court has been as open and as honest as it could have been with this contract,” said Taylor resident and activist Jose Orta at an August meeting of the county commissioners. “We will not stop until this contract is null and void.”

Of course, Jose Orta has been instrumental in bringing this issue to light and keeping the pressure on the commissioners. Thanks for all you’ve done Jose, as well as the many, many other protesters, letter writers and active citizens that have helped bring this about.


Williamson County Commissioners Vote To End Contract With CCA For T. Don Hutto Within A Year

Posted in Good Stuff, Commissioners Court, Criminal Justice, T. Don Hutto, Williamson County at 1:38 pm by wcnews

AAS has the story, Williamson commissioners vote to end contract with immigration center operator.

Saying that the facility has become a liability for the county, commissioners voted to give notice to CCA that the county will end the contract within one year, effective today.

Amazing!! All the protesting and attention that was brought to this travesty appears to have paid off. I hope this is what it seems to be and not a negotiating ploy of some kind. I’d also like to believe this was done for moral reasons and not business reasons. Either way, it will be great day when Williamson County will no longer be the home of a prison for innocent mothers and their children. More to come as the details emerge.

Traditional Media’s Take On Q3 Fundraising Misses The Story

Posted in Money In Politics, US Senate Race, Election 2008, 2008 Primary, Around The State at 1:00 pm by wcnews

The traditional media’s take on Rick Noriega’s fundraising in the quarter that ended Sunday has been predictable W. and R. G. give us the theme. Never mind, it would seem, that Noriega’s goal was not to raise as much or more money than Watts, but to show that he can raise significant money. And by showing that ability it will allay any fears regarding fund raising and, as well, take that argument away from his detractors. That was the campaigns goal and the goal was accomplished. That’s the story the traditional media didn’t cover yesterday.

The traditional media has set an impossible and unattainable goal for the Noriega campaign, match Watts’ money, and seems intent on driving that home at every opportunity. Hopefully now that the quarter is over, and Noriega has shown what he can do, they’ll start concentrating on the issues. That’s probably not going to happen but that’s why blogs have become what they are, so keep coming around.

The focus on how much the candidates are raising should be discussed in along with the considerable difference in how Noriega and Watts raise their money, via Stop Cornyn:

Yesterday Rick Noriega’s exploratory campaign announced he had raised an impressive $570,000. Close to $159,000 of that was raised online from nearly 1,100 individual donations, which is an average donation of $145. These people will donate again.

In the second quarter, the Watts exploratory campaign raised nearly $1.1 million online from 800 donors, with an average donation of $1,345. This quarters fundraising numbers are still being processed as I write this, and the campaign has only given a brief statement attesting to Watts’ track record of being able to raise and produce money. Watts’ third quarter numbers will be interesting because his individual donors are already close to hitting the donation cap.

Comparing the two campaigns, it is clear Watts has a money advantage, but Noriega has proven he can raise money in one of the hardest quarters to raise funds. These numbers also solidify the two reputations—Watts is institutional with big money support and Noriega is a grassroots candidate with political support.

Noriega is getting his money from the people and not just the powerful. There’s also a post from the Observer, Noriega ‘On Target’; Watts’ Wallet Bursts. Which brings up a little history regarding “big money candidates” and their inability to win elections in Texas in the recent past.

Money sure helps but it ain’t everything. One should keep in mind the lesson of Tony Sanchez (and of countless candidates like him). If the mighty dollar was the only trump card in politics, Sanchez and his personal fortune would have beaten Rick Perry for Texas governor back in 2002 — instead of leading a whole squadron of Democratic candidates off a cliff. Republican Ben Bentzin is another example of a guy whose money just couldn’t get him elected, either in 2002 against Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos or in 2006 against Rep. Donna Howard (D-Austin).

But as far and the traditional media is concerned, all they care about is the money race. Money is important but they’d be better off putting the fundraising into context instead of using misleading headlines - Spinning gold, Noriega finds bright side, and Noriega’s funds far behind rival Watts’ in Senate race. There’s no way Noriega can compete with Watts’ personal fortune and W. and R.G. are well aware of that.

Noreiga’s fundraising will come from less traditional, insider, machine/party boss driven type of fundraising. While, of course, those people are more than welcome to donate, we’ll assume, it won’t be just those donors financially backing his campaign. Noriega appeals to as wide swath of supporters from all over the state that want to see fundamental change in the leadership of this state.

(A quick note. One thing I made a mental note of when reading the Texas Observer piece on Ralph Yarborough was the fact that the office where the Republicans in Texas were able to start winning was a US Senate race. Against an incumbent who had purportedly veered too far out of the mainstream with what the public wanted. Sounds like John Cornyn to me.)

While the traditional media will continue to focus on the money, and leave out the fact that big money candidates often lose, keep checking in on the blogs where the issues in this campaign will be discussed in detail.


T. Don Hutto, Back On The Agenda

Posted in Commissioners Court, Bad Government Republicans, T. Don Hutto, Williamson County at 10:28 pm by wcnews

Since the ACLU settlement with ICE there’s been little mention of the T. Don Hutto facility. That hasn’t stopped many who are still working to close the facility. There was a protest this weekend and there will be another one later this month. From the TDP, Protest calls for closure of T. Don Hutto.

Following a walk from Heritage Park downtown to the T. Don Hutto Residential Center, a small group of protesters gathered Saturday to speak out against the detainment of immigrants and their children at the facility.
This was the first vigil following a settlement late August in a lawsuit against the federal government that callled for improved living conditions for immigrant children being detained at T. Don Hutto.


“These people have not committed crimes,” [Jose Orta, a Taylor resident and member of the League of United Latin American Citizens] said. “They shouldn’t be held like prisoners.”

But the ultimate hope, he said, would be to see the facility shut down. That is why, on Oct. 16, protesters from several grassroots organizations will be walking from the facility to Georgetown to address the commissioners of Williamson County.

Speaking of the commissioners they’re taking up T. Don Hutto at tomorrow’s meeting, County mulls over T. Don contract. Don’t worry, they’re not mulling closing it. Looks more like they don’t think they’re getting a big enough cut.

Williamson County Judge Dan Gattis says county taxpayers are in sort of a no-man’s land concerning the T. Don Hutto immigrant residential center - one that leaves the county with little control and lots of potential liability.

With that in mind, Gattis has placed T. Don Hutto contract discussions on today’s Commissioners Court agenda. Since May 2006 the county has served as a conduit, contracting with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (the agency that used to be called Immigration and Naturalization Services) and Corrections Corporation of America, the private jail firm that operates the facility.

The arrangement pays county government almost $16,000 every month, but on Friday Gattis told the Leader he’s not sure the relationship, in it present form, is worth the potential trouble.

“We’re going to be looking at the contract and possible amendments,” Gattis said. “More our direct involvement and supervision.”


Gattis said the issues specifically surrounding detainees and their living conditions are a concern - but they are not the county’s primary concern.

It is being out of the loop in the business relationship, between ICE and CCA, which has county officials worried.

“It’s more a liability case in our situation,” Gattis said. “We’ve had a lot of discussion from attorneys back and forth. The idea is to get it on the agenda … to get commissioners to talk about this and what we want.”

Gattis mentioned liability twice and county officials are worried about being left out of the loop in the, ahem..business..ahem, relationship. Sounds like the county’s trolling for more compensation. More than likely an amended business relationship, that would allay the counties liability worries, would leave them caring little about more control over the facility. See tomorrow’s agenda here [.PDF].

Rick Noriega’s Campaign Exceeds Fundraising Benchmark

Posted in Good Stuff, US Senate Race, Election 2008, 2008 Primary, Around The State at 4:47 pm by wcnews

Rick Noriega’s exploratory campaign to unseat John Cornyn was able to raise $570,000 dollars in the quarter that ended yesterday. That eliminates any doubt as to whether he would be able to raise enough money to compete in this race. The Texas Netroots for Noriega was also able to reach our goal of 800 contributors by the end of the quarter and brought in over $140,000 via ActBlue, (will post exact numbers when received). As the press release says more than 1,100 contributions and $158,000 total online. Don’t fret, it’s never to late to join in, just click here to help bring an end to GOP rule in Texas.

Our goal was to show we could add to the support that Noriega had already accumulated through his service to our country and our state. We believe that’s been done. It’s still a long road ahead to getting our current Bush-lackey senator out of office but this is a very good start.

Full press release can be read here [.DOC] and can be read by clicking “Read the rest of this entry”.

Read the rest of this entry »

Open Meetings Complaint Filed Against Williamson County Commissioners Court

Posted in Commissioners Court, Bad Government Republicans, Williamson County at 3:01 pm by wcnews

EOW has learned that A complaint has been filed with the Williamson County District Attorney’s Office against the Williamson County Commissioners Court for a violation of the Open Meeting Act (OMA). Here’s the rule that was violated as stated on page 16 of the AG’s publication Open Meetings Made Easy [.PDF]

“If a local entity allows members of the public to speak on an item at a meeting, the governing body may adopt reasonable rules regulating the number of speakers on a particular subject and the length of time allowed for each presentation. However, the body must apply its rules equally to all members of the public”

Citing the Commissioners Court’s arbitrary actions regarding it’s agenda items and public comment on those agenda items at it’s public meetings an OMA complaint has been filed against the Williamson County Commissioners Court. Here are the specifics:

RE: Continuing violation of Texas Open Meeting Act by Williamson County Commissioners Court

A. Under the Act, while the Court is not required to take public comments in general, if they do allow public comments, “(h)owever, the governing body of a city may adopt procedural rules for its meetings that are not inconsistent with the state or federal constitution, state or federal statutes, or with local …provisions.” ( http://www.oag.state.tx.us/opinopen/om_easy.shtml#N_52)

B. Per the standard, “If a governmental body allows public comment, it may set reasonable rules regarding the number, frequency, and length of presentations, but it should not discriminate against speakers.” (TML training. OMA)

C. The Court allows public comment.

D. The Court has no publicly announced and/or published policy re. any restrictions of public comment.

E. The Court has acted arbitrarily and with discrimination in procedure and restrictions on public comment in at least the following instances and manners:

1. Sometimes there is a sign up sheet, sometimes not.

2. Sometimes the sign up sheet is collected by the Judge and followed, sometimes not.

3. Sometimes the judge allows speakers on one topic and not another.

4. Sometimes the Judge limits the number of speakers on a given topic, sometimes not.

5. Sometimes the Judge changes the order of the agenda items at the beginning of, or during, the actual meeting, in a manner that results in citizen comment being restricted by that very change in time/order and does not allow comment when public planning to speak on that item appear to do so at a time in accordance with the published agenda order.

Apparently these kinds of shenanigans are what prompted the complaint. As stated above public testimony is not required but if it is, then rules apply and those rules must be applied “equally to all members of the public”. The OMA and the rules that it produced were put in place so that public meetings would be fair for everyone including the elected officials.

TxDOT, The Lege, And The Mess We’re In

Posted in Election 2008, Cronyism, Bad Government Republicans, Privatization, Road Issues, Around The State, Commentary, The Lege at 10:09 am by wcnews

TxDOT, as it is currently staffed, is no longer trustworthy. EOW knows those that are paying attention to transportation issues in Texas already know this to be true, but it needs to be made clear for anyone that’s not familiar with TxDOT. But more important than the fact that they can’t be trusted is that they’re working directly against the interests of Texans. They have instead become a conduit for our tax money to road construction corporations, investment banks, and many other corporations. TxDOT is committed to a “toll everything” philosophy for building new rorads. They also know their philosophy, if it was put to a vote, would go down to a crushing defeat.

A sign of how big the defeat would be and how huge a political loser the TTC and the “toll everything” philosophy is, we just need to look at Perry’s reelection numbers. He received 39% of the vote in a partisan election. Many Republicans stuck with him because, well he’s a Republican. If it’s just Perry’s road scheme on the ballot many of those Republicans would wind up voting against it. 30% voting for the TTC on a referendum would be a major victory for Perry.

TxDOT is trying to put all of the blame for their financial situation on the legislature. While the legislature deserves the a great deal of the blame the governor and TxDOT deserve as much if not more. TxDOT has known this was coming for some time, and more than likely Perry did too. But they decided to allow the problem to get to a point where it was so dire that the public could be scared into accepting tolls on every new road. Or so they thought. Call it the selling the Iraq War strategy for Texas highways. Perry and TxDOT have known for quite a while tha this was coming. Their only recommendation and focus has been on toll roads and toll roads only. Their ideological commitment to getting the government out of the road building business so they could funnel tax money to the corporations that pay for their campaigns should now be obvious. As stated before at EOW they’ve defunded our transportation infrastructure in order to make tolling the only option.

Our mostly GOP controlled state government since the late ’90’s has been an all to willing accomplice with TxDOT in allowing this to happen. Being hyper-reactionary to any raise in taxes, no matter how justified, is what has caused this. The Grover Norquist, TABOR wing of the GOP has caused this. And for TxDOT to now say it’s our way (toll everything) or no new highways is reprehensible. To try and blackmail the public by saying we either toll everything or there will be no highways is a complete abdication of their duties. No, get back to the drawing board and come up with a much more acceptable solution.

TxDOT’s inability to see past tolling, since Perry’s buddy Williamson took over, is what has caused the mess Texas is in now. Until 2010 the legislature is the only thing that can save us, scary thought EOW knows. There are many elected Representatives and Senators running for reelection in 2008 and they all need to have this question posed to them: Will you vote to override a Perry veto on transportation? Anyone running for Texas Senate should also be asked: Would you vote to confirm Ric Williamson for another term as Chair of TxDOT?

Elections are about accountability. And those in the Dallas area, Sen. Carona’s constituents, remember that accountability means making him responsible for his actions, not what he has said. Our current state elected officials Republican mostly, and some Democrats too, ahem..Watson..ahem, are responsible for this disaster. Those that are responsible, need to be voted out now, because it’s too late to trust a change in rhetoric. Voting out the pro-toll elected officials will be a powerful sign to those left in office that this is an issue that will cost them their office. By 2010 it will most likely be too late, if it’s not already. (More from McBlogger, Tolls: Big news.)

Texas Blog Round Up (October 1, 2007)

Posted in Commentary, Around The State at 8:56 am by wcnews

It’s Monday and that means it’s time for another installment of the Texas Progressive Alliance’s Blog Round-Up. This week’s round-up was complied by Vince from Capitol Annex.

Blue 19th wonders: Can someone ask Randy Neugebauer why he hates college students?

Evan at the Houston GLBT Political Caucus Blog asks where’s Human Rights Campaign as leaders in congress are considering leaving transgender works out of ENDA because, unlike other GLBT political organizations, H.R.C. has been silent so far, and that’s unacceptable.

In How are these alike? Fort Worth and Wise County TXsharon of Bluedaze warns Fort Worth residents about the dangers of Barnett Shale drilling, conflicts of interest and good old boy politics.

McBlogger goes all medieval on the Texas Transportation Commission’s derriere… Like toll roads? Not McBlogger!

Texas Kaos community member Carol Gee gives a primer on terms we’re all going to need to become much more familiar with in 50 Ways to Understand the Protect America Act.

Managing diabetes is a real pain, according to PDiddie at Brains and Eggs.

WCNews at Eye on Williamson analyzes the latest actions regarding HD-52 in Krusee’s Influence And Credibility Are Gone, Time For HD-52 To Start Over.

BossKitty at Blue Bloggin notes that Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin), representing the 25th District of Texas, hits Bush in the nose again, and this time its on SCHIP. She also tells about some of the antics of Pete Sessions (R-Dallas) on the vote-and how that’s all about earmarks.

In a pair of posts, Nat-Wu at Three Wise Men asks if the city of Irving is practicing racist law enforcement.

Off the Kuff takes a look at State Proposition 2, which an education bond issue that should not be confused with the Houston ISD’s more controversial referendum.

Over at Stop Cornyn, Matt tells us how John Cornyn has once again voted against Texas Children. Another post at Stop Cornyn notes just how out of touch Cornyn’s vote was.

Texas Toad at North Texas Liberal talks about the Project Farm Team meeting, with guest speaker Vince Leibowitz, and how that organization can turn Denton County blue.

The Texas Blue, one of the recent additions to the Texas Progressive Alliance has an audio interview with State Representative Kirk England, who discusses his background and what motivated his recent decision to switch from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party.

Vince at Capitol Annex tells us how Rick Perry’s decision to order the state’s two largest retirement systems to divest in Iranian-related investments could cause a special session.

Refinish69 at Doing My Part For The Left gives his views about people saying elect any Democrat and why he thinks that is total BS in Rick Noriega, Dan Grant and John Edwards 3 Great Democrats To Get Elected

Half Empty’s coverage of a presentation by Hank Gilbert makes note of what a huge issue the Trans Texas Corridor is. Hal attended Hank Gilbert’s informative discussion on Saturday and reports.

B and B posts to Stop The Border Wall.


A Couple That Caught My Eye

Posted in Health Care, Congress, The Budget, Around The Nation at 12:11 pm by wcnews

David Sirota’s column this week, Tyranny Of The Tiny Minority.

In the Karl Rove age of base politics, this Senate setup means that most domestic reforms will not come from D.C., no matter which party controls Congress or the presidency. Change will come instead from the arenas that are more democratic and have no filibuster: state legislatures.

This isn’t wishful thinking. As energy, universal health care and consumer protection initiatives face Senate filibusters, legislatures are acting. For instance, California already passed one of the planet’s most far-reaching clean energy mandates and may soon enact a universal health care plan. North Carolina passed predatory lending laws that are setting national standards. Such examples could fill a phone book.

Of course, foreign policies like the Iraq War are federal issues and legislating those policies must involve the Senate. But the filibuster hardly means the campaign to end the war is pointless — it just means it requires a new strategy making the Senate’s drawbacks the campaign’s strength.

Specifically, Senate Democrats whine about not having 60 votes to pass Iraq-related legislation. They pretend they are innocent bystanders with no means to act, and some anti-war groups give the charade credence by echoing these excuses. Yet, if properly pressured, those Democrats might be able to muster 41 votes to stop war funding bills.

It is all about comprehending power. Geoghegan’s book exposes the mechanics permitting a tyranny of the tiny minority — one that makes most of us feel disenfranchised. But the numbers also explain which arenas will likely deliver results, and which will not; where we should expend resources pushing for change, and where we should not; and what strategies are appropriate, and what strategies are not.

The question is, will we heed the lesson?

There’s more than one way to skin a cat.

A Progressive pastor’s take on what could have been, What Happened to You, Mr President (?)

Yet you lingered and kept asking questions. I remember you asking me, Jim, I don’t understand poor people. I’ve never lived with poor people or been around poor people much. I don’t understand what they think and feel about a lot of things. I’m just a white Republican guy who doesn’t get it. How do I get it? I still recall the intense and sincere look on your face as you looked me right in the eyes and asked your heartfelt question. It was a moment of humility and candor that, frankly, we don’t often see with presidents.


What happened to you, Mr. President? The money needed for expanding health care to poor children in America is far less than the money that has been lost and wasted on corruption in Iraq. How have your priorities stayed so far from those children, whom you once agreed were so central to the soul of the nation? What do they need to do to get your attention again? You will be literally barraged by the religious community across the political spectrum this week, imploring you not to veto children’s health care. I would just ask you to take your mind back to a little meeting in a Baptist Sunday school classroom, not far away from where you grew up. Remember that day, what we all talked about, what was on your heart, and how much hope there was in the room. Mr. President, recall that day, take a breath, and say a prayer before you decide to turn away from the children who are so important to our nation’s soul and to yours.

Onbly a miracle can stop a veto.

Krusee’s Influence And Credibility Are Gone, Time For HD-52 To Start Over

Posted in Election 2008, HD-52, Privatization, Road Issues, Williamson County, The Lege at 10:14 am by wcnews

Last week EOW linked to a post about Rep. Mike Krusee getting fundraising help from House Speaker Tom Craddick and Gov. Perry, who’s extremely toxic in HD-52 because of his TTC scheme. Craddick will help him with his right flank but Perry won’t help him with any flank. With the likelihood of Krusee keeping his seat diminishing by the day I guess he needs to build up his retirement campaign fund to a very substantial figure. And if the governor can at least help on that front then so be it, it seems.

But yesterday lame duck Speaker Tom Craddick announced his house member picks for a joint “study committee” on trasnportation and Krusee was not on it. Ben Wear has the story, Committee missing a notable name.

Absent from the trio: state Rep. Mike Krusee, R-Williamson County, who since 2003 has been chairman of the House Transportation Committee. That would seem to make him more than a bystander on this issue, which roiled the Legislature this spring and is at the core of the evolving transportation funding debate.


But Krusee said today he understands the logic of why Craddick named others, and that his feelings aren’t hurt.

“Not at all,” Krusee said. “For the obectives we’re trying to reach, for the public to perceive the process as far and open, I thikn these are good appointees… . Many people do not regard me as objective because I’ve been at it for so long.”

Wrong! The reason people don’t regard you as objective is because you’re not objective. You’re for tolling everything, no matter what. It’s the right thing to do to leave Krusee off of this is this committee. It will at least look like, without him on the committee, that there may be a chance to study this issue from a different approach. It’s doubtful that much will change because the house members on this committee are two Republicans and a Craddick D. Meaning there’s little chance they’ll talk much about the neglect and defunding of our transportation infrastructure in Texas and using the gas tax as any part of a solution.

But back to Krusee. Having his vice chair, Rep. Larry Phillips, R-Sherman, on the committee is probably a foreshadowing of who’d be chairing this committee if lame duck Craddick is somehow able to cling to the gavel for another session. Krusee has absolutely no credibility left on the transportation issue due to his single vote against the toll moratorium bill in the house last session and his being owned by construction and transportation interests. Another reason for his credibility problem is the aforementioned “toll everything” stance. But Krusee’s main problem is he’s just become too toxic on this, his signature issue.

If Krusee were to somehow survive it seems pretty clear, from these recent occurrences, that his influence has already diminished considerably. If Craddick is back as Speaker, Krusee won’t be as chair of Transportation. It’s also doubtful he’d get that chair back with a new Speaker, who’d probably want someone with much less political baggage on this issue than Krusee. Of course if, and it’s becoming more and more likely, the House changes back to Democratic control he won’t be around anyway so that wouldn’t be a concern. It’s clear from all of this that it’s time to start over in HD-52 and that means it’s time for Diana Maldonado to become our new representative. Much more on that in the near future.

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