Tuesday, April 15, 2014

We Know Carlos Salinas by the Company He Keeps

One way in which Democrats often attempt to gain a foothold in Republican areas is through so-called 'non-partisan' offices.  We've seen this repeatedly through the local school board in Round Rock, but highly partisan 'non-partisans' are also a problem on the City Council.

Round Rock City Councilman Carlos Salinas has tried to reassure the city's Republicans that he is really not that partisan, but his recent re-election campaign efforts are telling a different story.

Salinas kicked off his campaign (at his possibly illegal  downtown headquarters,) with a whole slew of Democrats from out-of-town.  Until last weekend, his Facebook page proudly displayed photos of himself with some rather surprising characters.  Most notably, former State Senator Gonzalo Barrientos (D-Austin,) Democrat candidate for State Senator Joel Shapiro, and Democrat Congressional Candidate Louie Minor have all journeyed to Round Rock to help re-elect their Democrat comrade. 

Former State Senator and staunch Democrat Gonzalo
Barrientos drove up from Austin to attend Salinas'
campaign kick-off.

Now retired from the legislature, Senator Gonazalo Barrientos is well-known not only for being allowed to stay in office after his DWI arrest and conviction, but for his 100% Pro-Abortion voting record from the National Abortion Rights Association (NARAL).  He also stinks on 2nd Amendment Rights and received an overall "D" rating from both the TSRA and NRA.  Barrientos' ratings on Budget, Spending, and Tax issues ranges from a low of 5% to a high of 25%.  I'd say he is pretty darn partisan, but gosh he sure seems to like Carlos Salinas.

 Democrat Congressional Candidate Louie Minor
 drove down from Bell County to help Salinas.  This
photo has now disappeared from Salinas' page.

Also helping out with the Carlos Salinas campaign is Democrat Congressional Candidate Louie Minor.  Mr. Minor joined the demonstrations in Austin last year in support of late-term abortions, and favors expanding the government takeover of healthcare.  He is running against Round Rock's Congressman John Carter on the November 2014 ballot.  These aren't exactly moderates showing up here to help Salinas.

Interestingly enough, shortly after my post last week on how Salinas is benefiting from the $400,000, 5-year, interest-free loan he voted to give to a local developer, someone has 'scrubbed' Salinas' re-election page removing embarrassing photos like the one above of Louie Minor.  The only photos available from last Saturday's fundraiser are of...the food.  Now why wouldn't Salinas want everyone to know who his powerful friends are?

Salinas is also a member of the Democrat Municipal Officials association, a national group whose stated goals include building a "Democratic future," and "capitalizing on America's cities and towns as laboratories for policy innovation."  (emphasis added.)   The group also provides members with sample press releases and statements that will make them sound reassuringly conservative to those pesky Republicans in their respective districts.  According to the Democrat Municipal Officials' promotional video, as a member Salinas gets to network with other municipal Democrats from 'successful' cities like Newark and Chicago

Swell.

The problem with these hardcore Democrats holding local 'non-partisan' seats is that local offices are the launching pad for higher office.  In fact, the above-mentioned Democrat Municipal Officials video specifically states that they are teaching folks like Salinas to "run for other offices."  You would think Round Rock residents would have learned their lesson after the Diana Maldonado disaster of 2008-09.  Serving on the 'non-partisan' school board led to her election to the State House, where her pro-abortion, anti-business, pro-tax partisan stripes became painfully apparent.

Democrat Carlos Salinas will face local businessman Will Peckham in the May 10 Election.  A Round Rock native, Peckham has been active in the community and unlike Salinas, isn't trying to fool anyone into thinking he's something he's not.  He has served in many non-partisan and partisan roles on behalf of the Republican party.  (Disclosure-He and I have been fellow delegates to the State GOP convention on several occasions.)  Most recently, Will Peckham served as chairman of the Organization Committee at the Williamson County Republican Party Convention.  

Early Voting begins Monday, April 28 and concludes on Tuesday, May 6.  Election Day is Saturday, May 10.  The Williamson County Elections website has a full list of times and locations.  

Friday, April 11, 2014

Round Rock Councilman Salinas Violating Law With Sweetheart Deal? Updated


Salinas Campaign Headquarters in the Historic Nelson Hardware Building
whose owner received an interest-free loan from the city to purchase and
 is now leasing the space back to Salinas at an estimated 80% reduction from market value.

UPDATED:  This post has been updated to include "Exhibit A."  See bottom of page. 

Although the City of Round Rock is notorious for canceling elections due to a literal lack of interest, this year there are actually two contested seats on the city council.  This is a good thing in that it invites citizens to scrutinize the activity of the council and its respective incumbents.  It may, however, be a really, really bad thing for incumbent Councilman Carlos Salinas.

Salinas has sat on the Round Rock City Council for some 9 years unchallenged and appears to be benefiting from his position in a way that violates both city and state codes.
 
According to official City Council Meeting Minutes from October 25, 2012, Councilman Salinas (and other council members,) voted to approve a development agreement [Resolution Number R-12-10-25-H3] for the City of Round Rock to provide a $400,000, 5-year, interest-free loan to a local developer in order to complete the purchase of the historic Nelson Hardware Building.  Supposedly this transaction was to further the City Council’s goal of making the “Main Street area an authentic dining, entertainment and retail shopping destination for local citizens and tourists alike.”  While we can certainly argue the merits of government choosing economic winners and losers in this way, there is an even more disturbing aspect to this story.

Rather than an attractive new restaurant or shop, now it appears that the Nelson Building's main tenant is...Councilman Carlos Salinas.  During the first week of March 2014, Councilman Salinas' re-election campaign began occupying ground floor space at 201 East Main Street.  Since then, Salinas has held numerous campaign meetings and fundraisers with his out of town Democrat allies (like Travis County's Gonzalo Barrientos and Democrat congressional candidate Louie Minor of Bell County, who is running against Round Rock's John Carter.)

Is this the dynamic downtown development Round Rock taxpayers are supposed to be subsidizing?

Photo posted on Salinas' website of Austin Democrat former State Senator
Gonzalo Barrientos
with Councilman and Mrs. Salinas in Round Rock.

The real kicker is that, according to Salinas' financial reports, he is 'renting' the Nelson Building space for a mere $1,000 per month.  Based on the advertised price of the lease space and estimates by local brokers, the market value for this location is estimated to be approximately $5,500 a month, making this a sweet $4,500 monthly financial benefit for Salinas.

Not only does this apparent 'gift' seem unethical, it is also clearly illegal. 

Such a gift would be in violation of Section 2-118(a)(2) of the City of Round Rock Code of Ordinances, which states:
Gifts. No city official shall intentionally or knowingly solicit or accept any contribution, gift or economic benefit with actual or constructive knowledge that is given in consideration of the favorable exercise of such official’s judgment or discretion in the past.
Even more serious than the city ordinance is Councilman Salinas' possible violation of state statutes, specifically Section 39.02(7) of the Texas Penal Code, which states:
An offense...is a felony of the first degree if the value of the use of the thing misused is $200,000.00 or more.  
Salinas voted for the $400,000 interest-free loan, and therefore cannot claim he did not know about the agreement with the city.  Since a campaign office is clearly not a part of the original development agreement, Salinas could be guilty of official misuse of city subsidized property.  Legally speaking, some $400,000 of that building is government property, which would make abuse of the building a first degree felony

Councilman Salinas’s use of the Nelson Building does suggest an abuse of the city development agreement’s intent and stated purpose, which violates both City Ethics and State Abuse of Official Capacity laws.  Furthermore, Councilman Salinas’s below market lease rate could constitute an illegal gift, which violates both City Ethics and State Abuse of Official Capacity laws.

If you’d like to go see the Nelson building and the benefits of incumbency for yourself, Mr. Salinas is holding a fundraiser in his totally awesome taxpayer-subsidized digs this Saturday, April 12 from 11:30-3:00pm.  (201 East Main Street)  Admission is only $10, unless of course you're counting your taxpayer-funded loan to the owner.

This entire situation demonstrates the importance of holding elections, vetting candidates, and electing individuals who aren’t afraid to ask questions.  Our local leaders manage huge amounts of money and wield tremendous power over the community.  The last thing we need are a bunch of officials sitting around a dais holding hands and singing Kumbaya instead of delving into the implications of their decisions.  As the recent arrests of Leland Yee, Patrick Cannon, and Ron Calderon demonstrate, corruption is rife in politics.   It’s time to start paying attention to your local government and local elections.  Now.

This year Salinas has a worthy challenger in Will Peckham.  A local small business owner, Peckham has long been active in the community and has served in a variety of volunteer and leadership roles.  His campaign website is here

Early Voting begins Monday, April 28 and concludes on Tuesday, May 6.  Election Day is Saturday, May 10.  The Williamson County Elections website has a full list of times and locations. 

Update:  In my original posting, I left off the below document:  "Exhibit A,"  which details the problematic agreement between the City of Round Rock and"Lewis".  I do not know if other developers were invited to apply for this 'super special' loan. 


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Matt Stillwell's Bizarre Report to RRISD Board in Question

In the Fall of 2012, I wrote about how the Round Rock Independent School District had run afoul of the law in the way it was 'handling' the School Health Advisory Council, or SHAC.  At that time, an attempt was made to alter the district's sex education curriculum without following state-proscribed procedures.  The RRISD board was forced to dissolve the illegal SHAC and create a new one, which has been meeting since February 2013.  In accordance with the law this time, RRISD Trustees and the Administration appointed volunteers to serve.

One such appointee is our old friend Matt Stillwell; the perennial candidate who claimed he wasn't a liberal when he ran for school board in 2011 but proudly claimed to be a liberal when he ran for State Representative in 2012.  (He is now running for Austin City Council in the newly-created District 6).  Appointed by Trustee Diane Cox, Stillwell was elected chair of the RRISD SHAC in a curious chain of events that seems to have allowed election before the approval of the SHAC bylaws.  In early 2013, it appeared that Stillwell would have firm control of the RRISD SHAC.

However, later in the year, the SHAC vice-chair resigned, and the committee was called upon to elect a replacement.  At the November 12, 2013 SHAC meeting, Stillwell's favored candidate lost the election to Kyle Swartz.  Apparently this was very upsetting for Mr. Stillwell, because he subsequently appeared at the November meeting of the RRISD Board to give an unofficial 'report' to the Trustees.  In his report (video of which can be viewed here,)  an emotional Stillwell complained that his committee can't accomplish anything because the meetings are so contentious.  At times almost tearful, he implies that certain SHAC members are just mean trouble-makers because they dared to ask the vice-chair candidates about their respective philosophy regarding SHAC issues.  At the Board meeting Stillwell very nearly received permission from the board to remove members of the committee (which seems a clear violation of state law regarding SHAC composition.) 

Following Stillwell's controversial 'report' to the board, it seems that his committee members were not in agreement with his statements; the approved minutes of the November SHAC meeting convey a different story, as does a letter sent to the board by Vice-Chair Kyle Swartz, the latter of which is available to the public via open records, (you can see what RRISD sent me here.)

In his letter Mr. Swartz states that SHAC Executive Committee members were not given prior notification of Stillwell's report, were not asked to help prepare the report, and were not invited to attend the Board meeting.  He also notes that the SHAC had discussed and progressed on a number of key items, including those related to the sex education curriculum. More importantly, Swartz states:
Mr. Stillwell indicated the Vice-Chair candidate was asked about their stance on abortion. This is false. The question was, if the candidate felt that a Christian curriculum provider is unacceptable, would the candidate feel there would be a conflict of interest if an abortion provider, or affiliate, provided human sexuality curriculum or instruction. (Emphasis added.)
Perhaps what Mr. Stillwell is really upset about is that he is not able to control the SHAC and implement his agenda. According to his 2012 campaign website, he was affiliated with the Texas Freedom Network, which teaches volunteers to advocate for radical sex education.  Despite the agitation from TFN, note this significant statement in the November RRISD SHAC meeting minutes:

Discussion focused on who is asking for changes to the curriculum. The Trustees are not asking for changes to the curriculum. Parents are not asking for changes to the curriculum. Georgetown is asking RRISD what we are doing because statistics are so good. Question was raised as to where the call for a change is coming from.Member pointed out that perhaps we don’t need to change the curriculum but make changes to the execution.
Regardless of his possible agenda, clearly Stillwell is not particularly adept at providing leadership to his committee.  It appears that when the November SHAC meeting didn’t go his way, he sought to have the board of trustees aid him in circumventing both state law and the bylaws of the committee.  Had he been successful, RRISD would have found itself embroiled in yet another controversy and this time with more serious legal implications.  Now it seems that Stillwell, along with Board President Catherine Hanna (also a TFN volunteer,) and Diane Cox, have fed their version of the story to the Austin American Statesman.  Citizens should be sure to read the official posted meeting minutes as well as Kyle Swartz' letter so that they will have all of the relevant information on this situation.

Update:  Wow, so much interest in this story and messages wondering who besides Mr. Stillwell is running for Austin City Council District 6.  Check out Jay Wiley & his website here

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Nouveau Republicans: Agricultural Comissioner Edition: Updated

While we love to welcome converts to political Right, it is always a good idea to question the sincerity of new candidates who 'suddenly' became Republicans.  It is common in Texas and more conservative counties like Williamson to find a number of 'newbies' filing to run in the GOP Primary; unfortunately, it seems that some of these nouveau Republicans are less than enthusiastic about the party platform.

One contest drawing concern is that for Texas Agricultural Commissioner.  Four 'Republicans' have filed: J Carnes, Tommy Merritt, Eric Opiela, and Sid Miller.  Opiela just received the endorsement of the Texas Alliance for Life PAC, Miller is a State Rep with some good conservative credentials, and Merritt is also a former GOP State Rep, but hasn't gotten much love from conservatives, and up until last Fall it was rumored he might run on the Democrat ticket. 

Uvalde Mayor J Allen Carnes is a bigger problem.  According to his voting records, he voted in the Democrat Primary in 2008 (Hillary or Obama?) and in 2010 (Bill White or Farouk Shami?) only switching to the Republican Primary in 2012.  Carnes has also donated to Texas Democrats Pete Gallego, Henry Cuellar, and Ciro Rodriguez.  Unsurprisingly, Carnes has been reluctant to discuss issues important to key Republican voters like, abortion or Obamacare.

For those of you who naively argue that the Ag Commissioner (or Williamson County Treasurer) won't have anything to do with most GOP platform issues, don't be stupid.  Every elected office is a potential launch pad for higher office.  Why should we care about the political philosophy of the Agricultural Commissioner?  Because Rick Perry.  Yes, another party switcher, but one that proved to be sincere.  I'm not seeing such sincerity from Mr. Carnes at this point. The last thing we need right now is a bunch of wishy-washy Republicans who can't be counted on to stand strong for core values.

I haven't endorsed anyone, but I'm a definite "no" on J Allen Carnes. 

Jeff Maurice in 2010- another party-switcher for a season.  
Ran as a Republican for County Attorney in 2012.

UPDATE:  Oh dear, while this was not intended as an endorsement piece, some have interpreted my choice of words as downplaying Sid Miller's credentials.  This was completely unintended.  For those unaware, Miller has been endorsed by several groups, including Texas Right to Life, Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, and the Young Conservatives of Texas.  And of course, Miller has garnered the essential Ted Nugent vote too.   Rock on.

UPDATE:   And Tallion Taylor, "Republican" for Judge of the Williamson County Court at Law #3 is also a 'recent convert' with no evidence to suggest he much cares for Conservative principles.  Stick with Doug Arnold on this one.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Williamson County GOP Primary Update

The filing period for the 2014 Elections closed this week, and we have an interesting assortment of  GOP candidates in Williamson County.  Some qualified, some trying to use shiny Red Herrings as qualifications, and some might have filed with the wrong party?

Here's a quick run down:

Judge Stacey Mathews, newly appointed by the Governor to replace disgraced Judge Ken Anderson , has been challenged by Ryan Larson.

Judge Rick Kennon, newly appointed by Governor Perry to fill Judge Burt Carnes' unexpired term, is being challenged by Donna King.

County Court at Law Judge Doug Arnold has been challenged by GOP newcomer Tallion Taylor (Taylor used to vote Democrat, but recently switched to the Republican party).

Three candidates have filed to replace retiring Williamson County Treasurer Vivian Wood: Leander City Councilwoman Michell Cantwell, Jerri Jones, and Ralph Pruyn.  As I've previously written, Jones is an alleged Republican who publicly supported a Democrat for District Attorney in 2012.  (Yes, I have a problem with this.)

Williamson County Commissioner, Pct. 2 Cynthia Long has been challenged by unknown Michael Sorenson.

Williamson County Commissioner, Pct. 4 Ron Morrison has been challenged by Round Rock attorney Rick Guzman. (Unrelated I know, but the latter is married to Round Rock author Lila Guzman who writes good stuff for junior readers.)

Entertainingly enough, Justice of the Peace, Pct. 3 Bill Gravell is being challenged by Robert Lloyd.  Lloyd is suing Williamson County because he doesn't think it fair that he was asked questions about his political philosophy when seeking a political appointment to a political office.  Not sure Mr. Lloyd has filed with the correct party... pass the popcorn on this one. 

Pct. 3 Constable Kevin Stofle will face Jeff Eckert.

County Surveyor Joe Baker is challenged by Shane Shafer. 

Unopposed:
Congressman John Carter (HD-31)
State Senator Charles Schwertner
State Reps Marsha Farney (HD-20), Larry Gonzales (HD-52), and Tony Dale (HD-136).
Chief Justice, Third Court of Appeals Jeff Rose
County Judge Dan Gattis
County Court at Law Judges Suzanne Brooks, Tim Wright, and John McMaster
District Clerk Lisa David
County Clerk Nancy Rister
Justices of the Peace Dain Johnson, Edna Staudt, and Judy Hobbs

Will try to provide readers with more information after the holidays.

Updated on December 14 to link to Stacey Mathews' (one "T"!) website and to correct Pct 3 Constable (It's "Kevin," not "Ken"). 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Attorney Who Bankrolled Williamson County Democrats Sentenced to 20 Years in Prison

Austin attorney Marc Rosenthal, who was convicted on charges relating to racketeering, conspiracy, bribery, extortion, tampering, and mail fraud last March, has been sentenced to twenty years in prison.  Prior to his 2011 arrest, Rosenthal played a prominent role in funding Democrat candidates in Williamson County. 

In both 2008 and 2010, Rosenthal gave generously to State Representative Diana Maldonado (HD-52) and other Democrats.  According to Texas Ethics Commission reports, Maldonado received $51,000 in cash and another $7,000 in "air travel."  Allegedly, the latter consisted of Ms. Maldonado's use of Rosenthal's private jet.  (Although Texas District 52 is entirely contained within Williamson County). 

Maldonado eked out a win in 2008, partially due to support from naive Round Rock "Republicans" who ignored her liberalism because they thought that she would represent their geopolitical interests.  After a disastrous single term, Maldonado was soundly defeated in 2010 by Republican Larry Gonzales. 

Unfortunately for local Democrats, Rosenthal won't be able to fund any campaigns for quite some time. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Why It Matters

Throughout my years of political activism, I have been challenged by those who do not believe the core principles I cherish have anything to do with certain political offices.  Yesterday I wrote of my concerns over Jerri Jones' 2012 support of Democrat candidate Ken Crain for District Attorney.  One reader asked me if it really mattered since the Williamson County DA wouldn't be prosecuting any abortionists.  I do not condemn this question; it is legitimate, and I am very happy to have the opportunity to address it.

True core principles and beliefs are not those which can be kept in isolation.  I do not pull out my views on unborn children only in cases involving abortionists.  The belief that parental rights supersede government rights must by nature permeate school board decisions.  Principles of private property rights vs neo-marxist collectivism are at war in our courts constantly.  These things cannot be set aside for only the 'big' cases, but play a role in every decision. 

That is not to say that every Republican adheres to these core principles either.  There is no shortage of Machiavellian Republicans who are more than willing to set aside core conservative principles in favor of crony capitalism, patrician socialism, or a warped sense of geopolitics.  (Like those who want to make sure that all our district's elected officials are from Round Rock, core beliefs be damned- see the 2008 race for State House District 52 where local "Republicans" supported liberal, pro-abortion Diana Maldonado because she was from Round Rock while the Republican Bryan Daniel was from Georgetown.)

Yes, there are times when we do not like the GOP nominee, but does that mean we then actively work to elect someone who has adhered to the Democrat Party's values?

Consider:
  • Parental Rights vs Government Rights over our children,
  • 2nd Amendment Rights vs citizens without the power to protect themselves,
  • Right to Life vs least costly option,
  • Property Rights vs Government Management of private property,
  • etc., etc., ad naseum.

On any given day, one or more of these issues will be at play in the courts, even those small courts right around the corner.  No, not all Republican office holders will always adhere to conservative core principles, and they must be held accountable.  But the 21st Century Democrat Party worldview is destroying this country already, and we must hold the lines where we are able. 

UPDATE:  You can also add Tallion Taylor to your list of 'moles' on the Williamson County GOP ticket:  Taylor has traditionally voted Democrat & recently switched parties.  There is zero evidence to suggest that he is conservative.  Stick with Judge Doug Arnold on this one.