Conditions Still Bad At WCRAS

Posted in Animal Shelter, Had Enough Yet?, Williamson County at 12:08 am by wcnews

From this AAS article today, Shelter struggles with disease, turnover, we learn that there are still major problems at the Williamson County Animal Shelter.

Cedar Park City Council Member Cobby Caputo said he has questioned the shelter’s size and staffing from the beginning.

“I just have the sense that there’s not enough staff there,” he said at the council’s meeting Thursday, later questioning why the interim director is charged with hiring staff members on top of her other duties. “Why isn’t (the county’s human resources department) filling those positions?”

And at least one shelter employee raised concerns about the potential spread of disease. Kathy Abdella, a veterinary technician and staff supervisor at the shelter, said conditions were so bad Thursday that the only solution is to close the shelter for several days, monitor illness and consider a mass euthanization, if necessary.

There are no plans to take such measures, county officials said.

“We have no intention of shutting the shelter down,” said Commissioner Valerie Covey, the county’s representative on the shelter board.

The shelter has temporarily closed on Thursdays to train new workers.

Abdella said she found several highly contagious animals when she reported to work Thursday after two weeks of medical leave.

As soon as she entered the building, she said, she could smell parvovirus, a highly contagious malady that attacks an animal’s digestive system. Abdella said she found one dog in the isolation area that was suffering from parvo but wasn’t being treated. Abdella said other dogs in the hallway had “kennel cough,” a highly contagious upper respiratory illness.

Interim director Dana Boehm confirmed that two dogs with parvo were euthanized and said that potentially infected dogs were isolated and tested negative for the disease.

On Friday afternoon, most animals were clean, had food and water, and appeared healthy during a visit by the American-Statesman. However, in the adoption areas, one dog was coughing heavily and two others were panting and shaking, despite the air-conditioned room. The isolation area was not available for examination, the staff said, to prevent the spread of disease.

The towns - Round Rock, Cedar Park, Leander and Hutto - that got suckered are involved in this deal are not happy either.


Governer Perry Uses Fuzzy Math In Letter To Congress

Posted in Privatization, Road Issues, Commentary, Around The Nation, Around The State at 8:47 am by wcnews

QR is reporting on a letter that Gov. Perry sent in response to a Congressional letter he received in May:

Gov. Rick Perry recently sent a defiant response to Congressional leaders who criticized the use of public-private partnerships to underwrite transportation projects, but the state’s actual position remains undefined until a 9-member legislative study group is named to determine the best way to proceed with alternative transportation funding.

Congressional leaders of the new Democratic majority, critical of the Bush administration’s push for private funding of public infrastructure, sent out a letter to all state leaders in May. The letter was critical of the use of public-private partnerships and declared that the new majority would move swiftly to protect the public’s interests under such arrangements. Perry’s four-page response, sent in early July, was critical of the federal governments failure to address the transportation gridlock of donor states.

“I should note that the State of Texas has no interest in rushing into any transportation agreements with the private sector,” Perry wrote in his letter to Congressmen James Oberstar and Peter De Fazio. “Our state’s contracting procedures are thorough and transparent. Our goal with every PPP is to create as much sustained benefit as possible for our driving public by meeting transportation needs that would otherwise go ignored.”

Transparency of public-partnership agreements on road projects - or the lack thereof - was a key issue during the recent legislative session. One key component of Senate 792 was a nine-member legislative study group - the Governor, Lieutenant Governor and Speaker of the House appointing three members apiece - that is intended to make recommendations on the state’s future public-private partnerships.

Progress in this area is critical, especially given Texas Transportation Commission Chair Ric Williamson’s recent announcement to reporters that at least one leg of Trans-Texas Corridor 35 - the segment between Georgetown and Waco - should be ready to go out to bid by the time lawmakers return to the Capitol in 2009.

When is that 9-member commission going to be appointed? Perry also uses previously debunked numbers on the gas tax:

Some have suggested that our state should raise our state gas tax to pay for new raod construction, but the tax would have to be raised to a $1.40 to pay for all the transportation improvements our highway system needs over the next 25 years.

That $1.40 claim was debunked (more here):

Raise the motor fuels tax, currently 20 cents per gallon, to 51 cents. Interestingly, a Tx-Dot engineer had previously told the committee that the motor fuels tax would have to be raised to $1.40 per gallon to pay for the needed new construction. Needless to say, the Legislature is not going to raise the tax by 31 cents, much less a buck twenty.

the governor goes on to say that the legislature did not have the will to index the gas tax this session. He’s right and he didn’t have the will either. What we need to get these toll road schemes stopped is a leader, or leaders, that will tell the truth and are willing to bring Texans the information needed to bring them to the point of agreement on raising the gas tax. The gas tax is a cheaper, fairer, saner way to fund our highways. It will also take a legislature and a state leadership that is configured differently than it currently is. That means we need new representation, at every level, that’s committed to using the gas tax, as opposed to toll road schemes, to fund our transportation infrastructure.


Bloggers On The Passing Of Lady Bird Johnson

Posted in Commentary, Around The Nation, Around The State at 10:26 pm by wcnews

Vince at Capitol Annex has a collection of many bloggers memories and remembrances of Lady Bird Johnson, IN MEMORIAM: Texas Bloggers Remember Lady Bird.

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.

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