Rick Noriega Announces Today

Posted in Take Action, Election 2008, 2008 Primary, Around The State at 10:22 am by wcnews

Today Rick Noriega will officially announce he’s exploring a run for the US Senate to defeat Sen. John Cornyn, aka Stop Cornyn. Rick Noriega is the best hope for the Democrats to defeat John Cornyn in 2008. But his vast experience and record of accomplishments, while impressive, can’t do it alone. We will need an army of volunteers across the state and in this day and age enough money to get the word out. So please if you can’t make it today please go to his website and register and there’s more below on how to donate to his campaign.

Lt Col. Rick Noriega is our candidate and we aren’t asking for big money; we are only asking for an expression of your support.

800 donors in 4 weeks. 200 donors a week. 29 a day. That’s our lofty goal. What we have — you have — is an opportunity to change the equation. And power a political revolution.

800 donors is a statement that we are tired of politics as usual in Texas.

You are invited to be one of the first 800 to change Texas forever. Donate any amount today.

Candidates should not be able to buy elections or allow special interests to buy the nomination $1,000 at a time. “800 donors” sends a message that we are ready to crash the gate and take back our party.

You can tell Texas, and the powers that be, that you are ready right now for a change by donating any amount. We are joining forces to say that, when it comes to people-powered politics, one dollar is as important as one thousand.

Donate today.

Texas progressive bloggers throughout the state are working together to support Rick Noriega, not by raising hundreds of thousands of dollars, but by declaring their support for a populist revolution.

Now all we need is you.

Change the equation with any donation.

We’re asking you to sign up with the team, not buy influence. Campaigns should be about people and ideas, not bank accounts and millionaires. With your donation in any amount we can not only stop Cornyn, but we will change Texas forever.

Donate today.

Texas Blog Round Up (July 16, 2007)

Posted in Commentary, Around The State at 8:58 am by wcnews

Last week, member blogs in the Texas Progressive Alliance premiered a new feature, the Texas Blog Round Up, modeled after the 50 State Blog Round Up. We plan to bring this to readers every Monday. Without further ado, here is this week’s installment, brought to you by Vince from Capitol Annex.

Lady Bird Was Ours

Among many Texas blogs authoring poignant posts about the passing of Lady Bird Johnson was Fort Bend-based Musings. In Lady Bird Was Ours, Muse offers personal reflections about the former first lady and reminds us that, though Lady Bird now belongs to the ages, she still belongs to us.

Deja Vu All Over Again

Can you see any progress in Iraq? Chances are you can’t, but Texas Senator John Cornyn can (evidently through rose-colored glasses). In Cornyn Sees Progress In Iraq, Texas Toad of Denton County-based North Texas Liberal explores how Rubberstamping Republican Cornyn’s recent votes fail to support our troops.

Who Is For Whom?

Though we’re months away from the Democratic primary, the race to determine which Democrat will take on Cornyn is already heating up on the blogs. In Watts v. Noriega In The Blogosphere, Hal at Fort Bend-based Half Empty explores the various blogs to determine which ones are supporting Rep. Rick Noriega’s exploration and which are in support of attorney Mikal Watts. And he asks the important question: “where are all the pro-Watts bloggers?”

Need Birth Control? Better Have Cash.

Could Be True at SouthTexas Chisme explores difficulties Houston-area female college students (and others around the state) may be having when it comes to obtaining birth control from their college health services department, thanks to changes in Medicaid reimbursement policies in Stupid, Stupid, Stupid. College Health Centers To Charge More For Birth Control.

Craddick Stands By His Man

Austin-based McBlogger tells us that House Speaker Tom Craddick is standing by his man and keeping former state representative Terry Keel (R-Austin) on as House Parliamentarian… all the while trying to find a challenger for Travis County Constable Richard McCain, who defeated Keel’s brother for that post in 2004. Check it out in Speaking of People We Don’t Like.

Even Right Wingers Know When To Pull Out

Bay Area Houston explores the fact that, according to a recent poll, even the listeners of one of the most right-wing radio stations in Houston are in favor of pulling out from war-torn Iraq in Right-Wing Radio Listeners Want Out of Iraq.

What Can You Buy With $900 Million?

Though Harris County is proposing a $900 million bond package for various courthouse and jail projects, Charles Kuffner at Houston-based Off The Kuff has serious concerns about whether the bond package will do anything to alleviate a serious guard shortage at the county jail. Though it is now being discussed in the media, Charles says he’s still not satisfied the issue is being addressed in County Bonds and Staffing Issues.

A Closer Look At Terry Keel

Matt Glazer of Burnt Orange Report takes a closer look at some ethical issues facing new House parliamentarian Terry Keel, such as potential conflicts of interest concerning Keel’s future rulings as well as maintaining a private law practice while working for the state. Matt also closely examines the timing of Keel’s Capitol ID card in Keel’s Conflict Of Interest.

Rick Perry v. Community Colleges

Few of Rick Perry’s recent vetoes have garnered more attention than the one of community college employee health insurance appropriations. Marc G. at Marc’s Miscellany explores the issue further, and takes issue with Perry’s accusation that community colleges have essentially falsified their appropriations requests in More On Perry’s Battle With Community Colleges.

Perry’s Defiant Response To Congress

WCNews at Eye On Williamson takes a closer look at a letter Texas Governor Rick Perry recently sent to Congressional leaders who criticized public-private partnerships to build transportation projects such as the Trans-Texas Corridor in Governor Perry Uses Fuzzy Math In Letter To Congress.

TYC Still Plagued With Difficulties

Vince Leibowitz at Capitol Annex takes a look at the fact that the Texas Youth Commission remains plagued with difficulties concerning a recent incident in which violent juveniles were set for release with little or no review in Texas Youth Commission Can’t Seem To Get Its Act Together.

‘I Couldn’t Make It’ Is No Excuse

Matt Glazer at Stop Cornyn reveals the excuse the junior senator from Texas offered for missing the funeral of Lady Bird Johnson in Cornyn Refuses To Honor Lady Bird.

And lastly, women’s health services are under perennial assault here in Texas — but it’s not just Dan Patrick, Warren Chisum, and the odd mad bomber who want to control women’s health choices. Texas Kaos‘ Moiv is keeping an eye on them, and in Operation Rescue’s Back-Not a Secret Anymore she covers just how widespread is this open conspiracy against women — involving politicians, fringe religious figures, and Ricky Skagg’s “shofar.”


Cedar Park City Council On WCRAS

Posted in Animal Shelter, Had Enough Yet?, Williamson County at 11:23 pm by wcnews

Great report here from Shelter Concerns on the July 12th Cedar Park City Council meeting which included much discussion on the Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter. Here are a few excerpts:

Dr. Boehm, Interim Animal Services Director addressed the city council. She spoke about “moving forward.” Dr. Boehm spoke about adhering to rules and regulations. She mentioned the backlog of spay and neuters and that it is an ongoing issue. Dr. Boehm said it would be posted on the shelter website that people could take their pets to their vet or Emancipet to be altered and that the shelter would reimburse them. She further stated that then the animal would receive one-on-one care versus being part of a group of 40-50 animals being altered (at the shelter) and it would be more convenient.

Dr. Boehm addressed the efficiency of cleaning.

Dr. Boehm noted that the Board of Directors had met several times and was addressing the staffing issue.

Dr. Boehm said that the animal care employees are motivated.


Councilman Caputo stated that the right people may not be on the Board of Directors. He further stated “I blame myself. I am not sure where to apply pressure.” People are needed who are going to do this. “All I have is the current situation.”

No one wanted to volunteer to be on the Executive Committee. Eventually Councilman Mitchell agreed to serve as the Cedar Park representative.


Kathy Springer addressed the council. Ms. Springer is in animal rescue. She asked that the next qualified Director hired has shelter experience. She stated that the shelter needs approximate staff to run properly. She also demanded that Williamson County Commissioners, Board members and city representatives meet the needs of the shelter. Ms. Springer requested that a regular audit of the shelter take place and the results be made public. She asked that an open line of communication with rescue groups be made. She further stated that she has seen sick and healthy animals housed together, i.e. sick kittens with healthy ones, which is breaking Texas law.

The audience voiced tremendous disapproval of the job that the Board of Directors is doing. People specifically want Williamson County Commissioner Valerie Covey taken off the Board.

Is Freedom Of Speech Under Attack In Leander?

Posted in Had Enough Yet?, Commentary, Williamson County at 10:57 pm by wcnews

What is it with Williamson County? Americans participating in Democracy causes the Leander City Council to consider curtailing freedom of speech at meetings. From the AAS last week, Leander council to decide on citizen communication rules.

A proposed ordinance that would limit the number of people who can speak during City Council meetings is raising free speech issues in Leander.

The ordinance, which was prepared by the city attorney’s office, would allow a maximum of 10 people to speak on agenda items at council meetings. Five of those could speak in support of the issue; five could speak against it.

The ordinance would also allow a maximum of five people to speak during “citizens comments” time, when people can discuss issues not listed on the agenda.

Some council members say the proposed rules would harm free speech rights.

That’s right. Democracy can be very, very difficult at times. Makes one wonder what these people expected when they ran for office.

Council members agreed in early June to limit the number of speakers during public meetings. But they also agreed that they wanted to keep a record of how many people at the meeting were actually in support of or against an item — even if they were not one of the 10 people called on to speak, Council Member Kirsten Lynch, said.

That was not included in the proposed ordinance.

“I would definitely want people on record. I want to make sure everybody has a voice,” Lynch said.

Some members also say they think the draft of the ordinance is too long and imposes too many restrictions. The city attorney’s office is expected to bring a revamped ordinance to the council in early August.

That’s better. But in my experience from watching many committee hearings, etc., when many people sign up at one of these, many will wind up not speaking - especially when everyone’s saying the same thing - and if given the chance to be put on the record or submit written comment will do that instead. But the most sensible thing is to allow them to talk but limit their time, give them 2 or 3 minutes. That’s what is done at most hearings.

Joe Larsen, an attorney and board member of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting and preserving the state’s open meetings and open records laws, said he has some concerns about the proposed ordinance.

Larsen reviewed the nine-page ordinance and said it follows the law, except for the part that limits speakers based on their viewpoints.

“In other words, if 100 people sign up and 90 want to talk for and 10 against, this allows a 50-50 distribution of who can talk when clearly, in the example, 9 out of 10 would speak in favor,” Larsen said. “I’m not opposed to efforts to regulate public comment, but it cannot be done according to what a person has to say.”

Larsen said that cities are not required by law to allow citizen comments but that most do. Cities often have to establish rules for meetings to keep them from running late and to keep them running properly, he said.

He said the best way to do that is to limit the amount of time people can speak or to restrict the number of speakers based on when they sign up.

Hopefully cooler heads will prevail and they’ll do the right, and the American thing on this issue, and allow citizens their right to speak.


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.


Governor 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 »

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