TPJ Reminds Us That Craddick Has A Ton Of Cash

Posted in HD-52, Election 2008, 2008 Primary, Around The State at 1:48 pm by wcnews

Speaker Craddick’s Money Balked Instead of Talked. The subtitle asks, “Did he keep his powder dry when he needed it most?” He’s got $4 million plus, the question is how is he going to use it?

If Speaker Craddick is loaded, the question becomes how—or if—he will discharge this weapon. Will he open up on fellow Republicans? Will he leave the dirty work to loyal surrogates? Or will he abandon the struggle and safeguard his jackpot for some other end?


As he has done in the past, Craddick may be tempted to hold onto his campaign booty. He could enlist the lobby and his top donors to suppress his rivals. Yet the mutiny now facing Craddick is much more pervasive and threatening than what he confronted previously. So if he refuses to let his money talk this time, Craddick faces a greater risk of losing the Speaker’s gavel that he coveted for decades.

If Craddick cedes the podium, he could tap his war chest to complete his political career in style, enjoying the finest meals, wines and hotels. Finally, he could leave the House and have six years to distribute these funds to candidates, think tanks or even a charity run by his friends, family or Tom Craddick himself.

There are many of the usual suspects on the list, Bob Perry, James Leininger, Wal-Mart, telecom, lobbyists, etc.. The question is will he start a bloodbath in the Republican Party or, with even Rep. Warren Chisum, his buddy, thinking about running against him maybe he’ll just take the money and run? It’s hard to believe that Craddick would go quietly.

Texas U.S. Senate News

Posted in Election 2008, 2008 Primary, Around The Nation, Around The State at 9:24 am by wcnews

Our two Texas Senators are continuing to rubberstamp the Bush disaster in Iraq, Cornyn, Hutchison say troop surge needs more time to work.

Don’t expect Texas’ senators to join the growing Republican revolt against President Bush’s Iraq policies. Both remain committed to giving the troop surge more time, even as violence escalates.

“It ought to be based on conditions on the ground rather than an arbitrary timetable.” Sen. John Cornyn said Monday. “We need to give this a little bit of time to see if it can work, and I hope that it does.”

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison also has no intention of joining the anti-war chorus.

“Absolutely not,” said spokesman Matt Mackowiak. “She’s been against a date certain for withdrawal from the beginning. … We need to give the surge time to work. The full complement of 30,000 troops has only been there three weeks. We’re seeing good signs in al-Anbar province. There’s an offensive going on in Diyala province as we speak. We need to wait and see.”

There are several Republican Senators shooting their mouths off about the war and that Bush needs to change course. Most appear to be up for reelection. And there’s a big difference between shooting off their mouths and actually voting against the president. I would assume that Kay and John will do whatever the president tells them on this issue. If you want to stop the war we have to Stop Cornyn first. There’s no better way to Stop
Cornyn than to Draft Rick Noriega.

In other Senate news the blog JobsAnger has endorsed Rep. Rick Noriega for US Senate, Climbing On Board The Noriega Train.

It’s now starting to look like it’s coming down to a choice between Mikal Watts and Rick Noriega. Quite frankly, being a North Texan, I didn’t know much about either one and I’ve never been able to jump on the bandwagon of a candidate I don’t know anything about.


But slowly, my fellow left-wing bloggers began to help me see the light. Blogs that I really respect such as Boadicea, Dos Centavos, South Texas Chisme, Texas Liberal and McBlogger (among others) let it be known that they supported Noriega. This forced me to take a closer look at the man, and the more I found out, the more I began to like and respect him.

Couple this with the fact that the more I find out about Watts, the more I am scared of him. He seems to be the real DINO in the race. He’s already let it be known he doesn’t support a woman’s right to govern her own body. I suspect he probably wouldn’t help poor people very much either.


So today, I’m proudly getting aboard the Noriega for Senate train. It is my fervent hope that Rick Noriega can drive that train all the way to Washington, where I have no doubt that he’ll make an excellent senator.

Welcome aboard.


And Muse has a link to an article in The Hill about Noriega v. Watts, Watts puts primary marker down as Noriega enters Texas Senate race. The more ink this primary race gets the better. It only adds to Cornyn’s vulnerability. The more the MSM talks about his challengers the more name recognition they get.


Filching - More Republican Incompetence

Posted in Privatization, Had Enough Yet?, Road Issues, Around The State at 1:38 pm by wcnews

The only thing really left to discuss is whether Republicans really are this bad at governing or if it’s on purpose. Is it just their plan to make government look incompetent/bad so they can drown it in the bathtub. In the long run it really doesn’t matter because the result is the same.

Check out this article in by the SAEN’s Patrick Driscoll to see what I’m talking about, Highway shortfall is worsening. (Emphasis mine).

State lawmakers did plenty of bellyaching about toll roads in the spring legislative session, yet curiously were bent on hamstringing transportation funding more than ever.

House members torched an effort to index the gas tax to inflation. The tax has been frozen since 1991 and is now losing ground to construction costs in annual double digits.

They also eagerly offered motorists a summer gas-tax holiday, which would have cost the state up to $700 million, though Senate members quietly let that flash of generosity die.

Then, after the session, news trickled out that lawmakers filched another $243 million from the State Highway Fund to plug budget holes, despite bold talk about stemming such bleeding of the fund and a $14 billion state surplus to play with.

In all, a tenth of the highway fund, $1.6 billion, will be diverted from building and maintaining roads over the next two fiscal years, up 15 percent from this biennium. That doesn’t include a fourth of the gas-tax funds that go to schools.

Toll-road critics say the diverted money is just one way state leaders have created a self-fulfilling funding crisis, which is hyped to justify tolling.

All filching aside the last paragraph is pretty much what our transportation debate in this state has become. A state created crisis. Are the highways and byways of our state an boon to the economic development of the entire state, as the Governor and his pro-TTC minions are fond or saying, or aren’t they? If they are then then the cheapest, fairest, and easiest way to fund them is by raising and indexing the gas tax. (One-fourth goes to schools, it would seem that could go to lower property taxes). If they are we shouldn’t be just taxing - with tolls, and tolls are taxes - all the major metropolitan areas of the state. The whole state should participate in funding this economic development, if they’re going to reap the benefit. It seems the reason that the cheapest and fairest way to fund roads won’t be done for exactly that reason. If Republicans can’t kick-back “profit” to those that finance their campaigns then there isn’t any economic development, if you know what I mean.

Can’t leave Rep. Mike Krusee out of this discussion. In this article he insults his legislative brethren in that condescending, elitist tone that his constituents are so used to hearing:

But lawmakers in the thick of a labyrinth of transportation bills last session put it this way:

“The Legislature as a whole is just not a very sophisticated animal,” said House Transportation Committee Chairman Mike Krusee, R-Round Rock.

Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, chairman of the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee, agreed.

“There’s still a severe lack of understanding as to how critical the transportation shortfall in Texas has become,” he said.

Even Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, a hero of the toll moratorium bill, joined the House stampede to thwart indexing the gas tax to consumer inflation. The vote was 122-19 to stifle the measure, which Krusee had tried to tack on a bill.

The only reason Rep. Krusee even put that bill up is because he knew it had no chance of passing. Otherwise it never would have gotten through his committee. We can’t expect a political party that thinks government is the problem to use government to fix problems. All they want to do is outsource our infrastructure, health care, etc., to corporations and that usually causes more problems than it fixes.

Make no mistake the transportation disaster confronting our state is wholly owned by the Republicans. It will take a fundamental shift of the political landscape to change this. Without political leaders willing to do what needs to be done, raise and index the gas tax, this will not change.

Let Us Begin - The End Of Republican Dominance In Texas

Posted in Take Action, Election 2008, 2008 Primary, Had Enough Yet?, Around The State at 12:14 pm by wcnews

Over the weekend Opinion Journal had an interesting article on the state of Republicans in Texas, The Troubled Texas GOP. The main idea of the article is explained in the subtitle, Will Lone Star Republicans blow it on immigration like the California party did? Meaning, is the GOP in Texas headed back to the minority because of the angry, intolerant stance they are taking on immigration? The answer is like so many things yes, but.. With this intolerant stance on immigration and the “inevitability of demographics” it is definitely possible. BUT it takes is an opposition that is willing to take advantage of this opportunity. If Democrats take action to paint the Texas GOP into the corner they’ve already started moving into then it will happen. But if they wait for the inevitable to happen, “..depending on voters to reject the other party is a losing strategy”, then it won’t. Democrats must take the opportunity not just to highlight the ugliness of the Texas GOP’s stance on issue but must show the difference between that ugliness and the restoration of the American Dream.

Make no mistake this is an opportunity for Democrats and many are realizing it, as evidenced by the amount of interest there is at the opportunity to take out the vulnerable John Cornyn. There are many more vulnerable Republicans all around the state, in local races too, that only need good Democrats to run against them to send them home. EOW wrote about this last week - at least as it pertains to Williamson County - but it’s true for the entire state. (Everywhere you see Williamson County substitute Texas).

My gut tells me there are many Democrats in Williamson County Texas that have been voting Republican and working with the Republicans because that was the only game in town. Well, that’s changed and it’s time to come home. If that was the case, there’s no reason anymore to wait in line for someone to decide not to run again and continue to keep quiet and aid the other side. Your needed to run as a Democrat, run a campaign for a Democrat, fund raise for a Democrat, block walk for a Democrat, NOW. Opportunity is knocking with the Democratic Party in Williamson County Texas.

Many factors are moving in the Democrats favor, not the least of which is the Republicans inability to govern. But without an opposition party that will hold them accountable for their mistakes they will, more than likely, stay in power. If that happens then the Democrats have lost a huge opportunity to take this state back and will have no one to blame but themselves. So let us begin.


HChron on Rick Noriega

Posted in Election 2008, 2008 Primary, Around The State at 2:38 pm by wcnews

Here’s the article, Noriega moves closer to run for U.S. Senate.

Noriega has neither statewide name identification nor personal wealth to match Watts’ potential campaign. But that does not dissuade him from running.

“Mikal’s a friend of mine. I appreciate that he’s given financial support to candidates and the party, but Texans don’t judge candidates by the size of their wallet,” Noriega said.

Noriega plans to create his own exploratory committee for the Senate race this week.

Read the whole article and get to know Rick Noriega a little better. He’s the one we need to make John Cornyn a former Senator.


TEA v OIG Squabble Continues

Posted in Cronyism, Education, Around The State at 10:54 am by wcnews

This is squabble seems to be boiling down to whether or not a more open bidding system should be used with TEA contracting no matter how competent for the job those who received these no-bid contracts are. The TEA’s response to accusations of cronyism are this:

The “management response,” written by agency Deputy Commissioner Robert Scott and other senior staff members, claims that much of agency Inspector General Michael Donley’s report is inaccurate. The response also seeks to dispel the notion that some people received contracts because of personal ties, and it calls inaccurate Donley’s claim that some at the education agency systematically manipulated contracting procedures.

“The individuals in question all possess the necessary skills needed to complete the tasks they were contracted to do,” the response says.

As South Texas Chisme says that explanation is lacking:

Sounds like the ‘My nephew can tie his own shoes’ defense.

The TEA’s full response to the OIG report can be read here (.DOC) via QR. Yesterday’s issue with the name game aside there still were issues with contracting at the TEA.

Among other issues addressed:

•Donley’s report says that an Austin service center gave a contract to recommend ways to make students more prepared for college and that subcontracts for the project went to three people recommended by Wynn without an interviewing or selection process. One was Miller, Wynn’s ex-wife, and one was Scott’s former executive assistant.

The agency responded that the three subcontractors had “the necessary skill sets to complete the work.”

•A former employee of Jones’ retired from the agency in April 2006 but the next month received a subcontract from a service center to lend technical assistance on financial matters, Donley reported. The head of the service center said Jones, the education agency’s chief operating officer, told him to hire the former employee.

Donley also points out that agency employees are not allowed to return to work for a year after retiring.

The response from management points to an internal rule that allows the agency to contract with an entity that hires a retired employee.

•Donley’s report says that the head of the regional service center in Austin says Christi Martin, a former senior policy adviser at the education agency who now works for the Gates Foundation, directed the center to give a subcontract to a former speechwriter for Neeley. Donley’s report says the former speechwriter assisted an agency official in writing some of the terms of the contract before it was issued.

The agency response says Neeley recommended her former speechwriter, who is no longer working on the project.

•Donley’s report repeatedly notes that contracts were given to regional centers without bids, but agency staff responded that bids were not required by law.

The management response complains that Neeley released Donley’s report without a review by Scott or a written response from anybody implicated in it.

Donley said in an e-mail to top agency staff last week that Scott canceled meetings they set up to go over the report. Scott said Friday that he did not want to respond in private meetings.

“The way to respond to these things is in writing and above board,” Scott said.

First they complain they weren’t allowed to respond and when it comes out they declined to respond they say they wanted to wait for the report to com out to respond. Then what’s the problem?

More On The Animal Shelter (WCRAS) And Our County Commissioners

Posted in Animal Shelter, Take Action, Had Enough Yet?, Williamson County at 12:00 am by wcnews

They’re hiring, no surprise there.

But from the comments to EOW’s earlier post on the shelter it’s recommended everyone check out this site, Shelter Concerns. Also be sure and check out the blog and especially these two posts on the commissioners court meetings (here and here).

We went inside the courtroom at 9:30 am. The Commissioners were friendly with each person who addressed them. They were even laughing about planting some bushes and helping water them. When it came to agenda item #36 I made eye contact with County Judge Dan Gattis and nodded my head that I would like to speak. He immediately allowed a man from Hutto to speak who showered the Commissioners with praise. He added a few comments at the end. Then Judge Gattis immediately went to item #37 on the agenda. I raised my hand to speak and he would not acknowledge me. I then stood up and said that I wanted to speak on the shelter. He said they had moved on and I had lost my turn. I stated that I came to address the Commissioners and waited until the man from Hutto was done speaking. Judge Gattis begrudgingly allowed me three minutes.

While I spoke to the Commissioners, Ms. Birkman appeared to be nodding off. The Commissioners’ body language spoke volumes. I found their tone and demeanor to be rude and quite unprofessional. I was really taken aback by their reactions to the problems at the shelter. Unlike every other person who addressed them that morning I was cut off after speaking for three minutes.

Ms. Birkman proceeded to ask me a question and Judge Gattis instantly cut her off and said they were moving on. Ms. Birkman again attempted to ask me a question and Judge Gattis said “no, not right now.” Lisa Rogowski wanted to speak next and Judge Gattis would not permit any further discussion or statements on the shelter.

Well we know what this court has done with women and children, therefore it really should be no surprise the way they’re treating animals. Or as an email EOW received said:

This pathetic, shameful event should make citizens aware. In God’s name the Commissioners can’t even run an animal shelter. How can we expect them to run Williamson County. AMAZING!!

Not amazing, just how our county officials run our county, that’s all. It’s time for these people to go, they’ve done enough. The only way to “wake up” our court is to vote some of them out. Be sure and give them a call or send them an email letting them know how you feel.


Two Robert/Rob Scott’s Cause Confusion In TEA Report

Posted in Public Schools, Education, Around The State at 10:32 am by wcnews

Last week when the TEA’s OIG report was issued on contract complaints It was reported in many newspapers and at EOW that interim Director, and candidate for that position permanently, Robert Scott was implicated for steering no-bid contracts to individuals he had ties to. From today’s AAS there appears to be two Robert/Rob Scott’s tied up in this and it brings into question which one did what involving no-bid contracts. It’s not clear yet whether the TEA Scott, is in the clear or just less of a factor than originally thought.

Both men go by Rob and Robert, Ratcliffe said, and the Waco Scott used to work at the education agency.

“The inspector general’s staff are all pretty new to the agency and have probably never encountered the guy before,” Ratcliffe said.

She said the mistake came to light when someone contacted Miller after the report became public and Miller said she negotiated the contract with the Waco man.

Tom Norris, executive director of the Waco service center, said that Scott in Waco “did the legwork” on the contract with Miller but that the legwork did not include negotiating the dollar amount because it was set by the education agency. .

Norris said he did not know of any involvement with the contract on the part of Robert Scott in Austin.

Scott from Waco did not respond to a phone message Thursday.

No matter the final outcome this mistake has brought this report into question. EOW will keep continue watching this and report back when more details become available.

Two On Roads - UPDATED

Posted in Privatization, Road Issues, Central Texas, Williamson County at 12:04 am by wcnews

Sen. Kirk Watson (D - Austin) pens an editorial on transportation in today’s AAS, We’ll pay for problems with more than tolls. While he does make a valid point that something has to be done, he doesn’t really offer any suggestions or say what he believes we should do, other than stop bashing toll roads. He just says that “warring over those tools should no longer be acceptable”, whatever that means.

What Sen. Watson does is what so many politicians do, he lumps all tolls together as if they’re all the same. Most people, and I say most, myself included, are not against all toll roads. We are against corporate toll roads, and while would still not prefer toll roads to those financed by a much more broad-based tax, can accept those if that’s what the people want. I won’t go into that here, again, if you want to read about that search the archives. It’s an important distinction because toll roads done without corporate profit as the goal are much cheaper for the taxpayer/driver/consumer.

I would hope that Sen. Watson will make that distinction in the future and stop doing what so many try to do, paint those of us that are against corporate toll roads as being against all toll roads, no matter the particulars

Now that that’s cleared up, of course not matter the toll plan, raising the gas tax is always the cheapest, fairest, sanest way to pay for our roads. And when Sen. Watson says this:

If the environment was ever ripe for the creation of tools other than toll roads, it was during the past six months.

And then a couple of paragraphs later says this:

There was talk about raising the gas tax, or at least indexing it to inflation, and reducing the need for toll roads. But tax bills must start in the state House of Representatives, and a potential increase never made it to the floor.

He sounds naive. As long as Republicans make the decisions there is no environment to fix our neglected transportation financing other than corporate tolls. Sen. Watson is a smart politician, surely he knew all along that with Speaker Craddick and a Republican majority in the House the environment was poisonous toward any bill raising and/or indexing the gas tax. What this editorial needed was not an end to the warring but a new warrior in the battle to raise the gas tax. What we needed was a courageous, up and coming leader to lead on this issue. That’s what we needed and we didn’t get it.

[UPDATE]: McBlogger has more.

I told you two and here’s the second. Ben Wear tells us how well the scam the CTRMA setup is working out, 183-A’s toll-tag-only section has more than 30 percent violation rate.

More than 30 percent of people who drive on the 183-A tollway’s anomalous toll-tag-only section are doing so illegally, an abnormally high violation rate that has the road’s operator pondering alternatives to the confusing setup.

Ya think? Another toll working it’s magic.


The Governor Has Done A Great Disservice To Rural And Urban Property Owners

Posted in Privatization, Road Issues, Around The State at 11:11 pm by wcnews

Calling the veto of HB 2006 “astonishing” Texas Farm Bureau President Kenneth Dierschke responds to Gov. Perry’s editorial on the subject, Governor’s explanation of veto misses the mark. Hopefully some papers around the state will print it.

Governor Perry’s explanation of his veto of the eminent domain bill on editorial pages statewide was almost as astonishing as his decision to strike down House Bill 2006 in the first place.

The governor has done a great disservice to rural and urban property owners. Governor Perry has said a great deal about private property rights, yet he rejected the opportunity to sign the most significant property rights legislation in more than a decade. HB 2006 passed the Texas House with 125 out of 150 votes. The Senate passed it unanimously. Few bills get through the Legislature with that kind of support.

Despite reports that he intended to veto the bill, many of us could not square that with what the governor has often said about property rights protection. The governor knew that many of the groups supporting HB 2006 have been his supporters. Yet, we were never contacted by the governor’s office about his concerns. In fact, our request to meet with him late in the session and prior to the veto fell on deaf ears.

Read the rest of the editorial below the fold.

Read the rest of this entry »

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